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June 30, 2006

Making Sense of Sunday's Election in Mexico

Or . . .Turbulence on our Southern Border as Walker calls it.  Walker at his blog, Choosing Hope, has a nice explanatory post up on Sunday's once-every-six-years election in Mexico.  I'm putting the entire thing up, it's that good:

Mexicans this weekend face a difficult choice as they try to read the tea leaves as to what a radical change of course would really mean. Those who genuinely long for reforms aimed at supporting the aspirations of the poor and weakening the grip of the wealthy and powerful on the purse strings of the country must be tempted by the populist promises of López Obrador, candidate of the Party of Democratic Revolution. But concerns that his numbers don't add up, and that his programs would wreck the economy, or that his messianic message would usher in a cult of personality damaging to democratic ideals are giving pause to many.

In 2000, Vicente Fox came in and ended 71 years of rule by the PRI, ending an era dominated by corruption. His business friendly policies were hardly welcomed by populists or the left. Felipe Calderón is the standard bearer of Fox's party, PAN, and promises stability. Recent polls show him trailing Obrador, but only by a few points. PRI candidate, Roberto Madrazo, is painting himself as the moderate between extremes on the right and the left, but trails the leaders in the polls by 8 or 9 points. PRI remains Mexico's largest party, but years of corruption have earned them plenty of distrust.

The possibility of an Obrador victory is at once the most exciting outcome and the scariest. Who can reliably predict how such changes will play out? When Robert Mugabe was elected President of Zimbabwe 26 years ago on the strength of a populist message there was great celebrating, but it took very little time for his rule to betray signs of tyranny, and today Zimbabwe stands in ruins while Mugabe lives in walled splendor as was sadly reported on last night's Frontline on PBS. My guess is that Obrador is genuine in his pronouncements now, but is he realistic or would his policies work?

The right will no doubt reflexively pull out the standard repeated failure of socialism meme and declare that Obrador would be a disaster, but as ever it will depend on the details, not on the putative ideology of the leader or his party. For now, anyway, there does not seem to be the fear and loathing from the usual quarters in U.S. politics against Obrador as we have seen against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Evo Morales of Bolivia. Of course he hasn't been elected yet.

An additional fear that hangs over this Mexican election is that Obrador is already accusing the ruling party of attempted fraud, so even if Calderón prevails, some see the likelihood of unrest in the wake of such charges.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 30, 2006 at 09:48 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

What Dan Says

This is a critical time to give money to Darcy.  Dan wraps up the reasons

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 30, 2006 at 08:13 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

If You Didn't Get Enough of YearlyKos

Here are three new video-clips of YearlyKos which give a visual sense of what it was like being there.  They came from Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC.  It is very clear that Warner's staff, including the blogfather of the liberal blogosphere, Jerome Armstrong, get it.  Not only did they know to make a splash while at YearlyKos, they know to make these available to us afterwards. 

The first two are general.  The third, as the name implies, highlights Warner.

Putting Names to Faces   

The Power of the Blogosphere  

Governor Mark Warner    

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 30, 2006 at 08:06 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 29, 2006

Clean Money, Clean Elections in Washington State

It seems everyone has an opinion how to "fix" democracy in America.  But most intrepid repairmen agree: when it comes to writing laws and public policy, big donors and lobbyists rule the day; the average voter has nearly no voice.

There are proposals and movements afoot seeking to change that.  Bill Moyers, David Sirota ("Hostile Takeover") and others point to Maine and Arizona, where by recent citizen initiatives, voters adopted laws providing full public financing of election campaigns.

In election cycles since in those states, more and more candidates are choosing to run "Clean" - to forego private fundraising in favor of abiding by modest restrictions and thereby receiving full public financing for both primary and general election campaigns.  There are even provisions to increase the funds allotted a candidate if an opponent using their own money outspends the candidate running "Clean", or matching the dollars spent for attack ads by an opponent or by an organization backing an opposing candidate.

In Maine, 83% of the state house and 55% of the state senate is now made up of candidates who ran Clean.  In Arizona, 10 out of 11 statewide officials, including the governor, were elected through Clean Money and Clean Campaigns.

Craig Salins of Washington Public Campaigns wrote this piece for Evergreen Politics.  He, like many Washingtonians, has been drawn to participate in making elections in our corner of the country saner. Feel free to contact him if you would like to join in. 

More recently, North Carolina adopted public financing for judicial races, and New Mexico is breaking new ground with public financing for that state's powerful Public Regulation Commission, which regulates corporations and utilities.  California has just recently qualified a similar proposition for the November 2006 ballot.

And now in the Evergreen state, a local organization proposes a similar system:  Washington Public Campaigns, perhaps somewhat timid in the past, is raising its profile and raising the question:  Why should candidates for statewide and district office be beholden to large campaign donors or to lobbyists keeping score for future campaign donation requests?  WPC says public financing of campaigns is essential to breaking the link between big donors and public officials and to restoring the voice of the average citizen in our democracy.  It needs to happen on the federal level, but perhaps state by state is a way to build pressure, the group says, and to show it can work.

WPC is training and fielding a growing army of speakers on their plans and this topic - speakers available to any civic, church or neighborhood group, and the group is seeking to organize local chapters around the state.  (For speakers, or to get involved, visit the website.)  The organization is drafting a proposed law, modeled after Maine and other states but tailored to Washington, which it will offer to the upcoming legislative session, but which may become a citizen initiative if necessary, perhaps in 2007.

Recent lobbying scandals in Congress certainly are fueling interest in this idea.  Is this hapless idealism or a potential political prairie fire?  It may be too soon to know, but wise to pay attention.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 29, 2006 at 05:09 PM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (2)

The War Tapes - Coming Soon

Here's the trailer for a new movie due out in July/August. Zack Bazzi was a National Guardsman in Iraq. Along with two buddies, he filmed the year he spent there and it has now been made into a full lenght feature. Zack was at YearlyKos. I missed the screening but my sister saw it and says that the movie was wonderful, as is Zack.

Beware. This is a tear-jerker. Just watching the trailer, I bawled. As much as I've been against the war since it was first a twinkle in Dick Cheney's eye and force myself to watch footage on the news, I was not prepared for my reactions just to the trailer. It's one thing to recognize the damage we are doing there - to the Iraqis, to our own soldiers and to our future foreign policy. It's another to watch what it is like for those people who have to take part in it.

And don't bother checking to see when it will be in Seattle. They don't have those dates up but I'm guessing August. July looks pretty filled up.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 29, 2006 at 04:55 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Brings in New Blood for 50-State Strategy

An email from Howard Dean and the DNC this morning details the results of a massive two-week fundraising drive, designed to pull new people into supporting the incredibly important 50-state strategy.  Dean reports that the DNC raised $500,000 from 11,000 people, 67% of whom donated for the first time.  That is huge.  It is putting people back into the political process. 

It is also making a big difference in the red and swing states especially.  Our friends in Idaho report an upsurge in on-the-ground activity that makes the possibility of winning Democratic seats (well one anyway - ID-01 where Larry Grant is running against one of the biggest nut jobs in the country, Bill Sali) thinkable.  Reports from other states that have not seen Democratic Party activity in decades abound. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 29, 2006 at 10:24 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

Maria Stands With Us

On net neutrality, Maria stands with us; McGavick stands with his buddy, telco-loving Ted Stevens of Alaska.

There has been a stalemate this week on net neutrality in the Senate.  Yesterday, the excellent Snowe-Dorgan net neutrality amendment failed to make it out of the Senate Commerce Committee to the floor for a vote.  The committee voted 11-11 with all 10 Democrats, including Maria, and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe (my one and only favorite Republican) voting for it.   

However, the bill they were trying to amend, a Ted Stevens-sponsored overhaul of the federal telecommunications legislation that might as well have been written by the telecommunications industry, is also stalled.  This bill, which could easily be called the non-net neutrality bill, does not have the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.  Yeah!

Josh Feit at the Stranger got both Cantwell and McGavick to go on the record on net neutrality, although he had to ask McGavick’s staff for clarification since their initial response was incomprehensible.   Here’s what he got from McGavick:

I called back and said, that sounds like a ‘No,’ but I’m not sure. Soooo, 1 more time: “Yes or No on the amendment? If you were on the Committee—like Cantwell is—how would you vote?” Here’s what I got back:

As he said, Mike remains very open to new ideas as we move though the legislative process, supports continued innovation, consumer choice, equal access to the internet and investment in infrastructure. However, he does not feel that the Snowe-Dorgan language as currently drafted offers the correct balance on all of these issues, and accordingly would not support it at this time.

That was difficult.

Maria's comments on supporting net neutrality and more, after the fold.

Here’s what Cantwell said:

Look, its about the future of the Internet. The telecom companies have no business stifling innovations and serving as gatekeepers, getting between consumers and the content they want -just because they are used to wielding monopoly power. That’s why I have cosponsored strong net neutrality legislation [Snowe/Dorgan]-to make sure we maintain the open architecture of the Internet that will promote innovation and freedom of expression of the net.

A Democratic Party Press Release reminds us that our Washington-based technology companies are strongly in favor of net neutrality (as is all the netroots):

In addition to numerous consumer advocacy groups, two of Puget Sound's Fortune 500 companies – Amazon and Microsoft – have both been vocal advocates of net neutrality as a key legislative priority, arguing the legislation is critical to continued innovation and regional job growth.

I did some research a while back on the porky Alaska delegation, at the time of McGavick’s entrance into the Senate race, highlighting the out-of-control binging of McGavick's friends in the all-Republican Alaska delegation.  McGavick is a big fan of Stevens’ and Stevens has returned the favor by sponsored at least one huge fundraiser for McGavick in Alaska.  The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has additional details which make clear that a vote for McGavick is a vote for continued corruption in Washington D.C.

Stand with Maria.  She stands with us.  We need those Democratic votes in the Senate.  Maria is also asking us to sign a net neutrality petition so that the folks in the other Washington can see how many of us care about net neutrality.  It's here.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 29, 2006 at 09:39 AM in Candidate Races, Media, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

Balancing the Scales

Dean Ritz, citizen activist and Democracy School organizer, has a nice article in this week's Real Change entitled Balancing The Scales, in which he muses on the importance of seeing judicial races as the political races that they are.  Ritz writes:

... the public efforts to fund the elections of judges by organizations such as the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Washington Association of Realtors, the Washington Farm Bureau, and the Washington Restaurant Association speak to this single truth: The judiciary — particularly the judicial branches with jurisdiction over constitutional issues — is a political body. Judges get political scrutiny because judges make political decisions.

Ritz concludes with a call for active democratic participation in this fall's judicial races.

the most effective means of control is in our own minds. It is when we accept the myth of judicial infallibility. A belief that they know better. That they are objective. That judges are above politics. The Federalist Society, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Building Industry Association of Washington know better. We should, too.

Judicial decisions and their written opinions (from majority or dissenting judges) may inform us, inspire us, or awaken us to action. One of those actions is to secure judges who would advance the ideals of legal equality for all human beings. We can do this only when we forgo the illusion of judicial infallibility and instead treat constitutional courts and the justices on those benches as the political animals they are.

Good stuff.  In all the furor about Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, and the various ballot initiatives, it's important to keep an eye on the judicial races that will determine what laws stand in Washington.

Posted by Jon Stahl on June 28, 2006 at 09:09 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

End of Quarter Push

We helped Darcy counter the impact of Bush's visit two weeks ago. Now it's the end of the quarter and time for another push for dollars for this important national/regional/local campaign. Chris Bowers over at MyDD says,

These are the final days where fundraising totals matter to the overall narrative. The Q2 fundraising deadline ends at midnight on Friday. That is only 75 hours away. The next quarter will end on September 30th, and the reports on that quarter won't be out until mid-October. Buy then, all targeting and media attention will already be in place. That makes this the final deadline where totals will signal to the media and to the political establishment that a candidate is for real. To make that national difference, you need to donate now.

He lists the 10 candidates from around the country that have been selected as "Netroots Endorsed" by the major national blogs. This includes Darcy. Here's what he says about this race:

Darcy Burner, whose campaign has been propelled nearly into top tier status almost entirely by the amazing netroots scene in the Northwest. Facing a Republican freshmen in a district that is trending blue, we can't win a real majority in Congress unless our movement candidate in the northwest can bring this one home.

So, let's keep up our support for Darcy. Contribute here.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 28, 2006 at 07:47 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2006

To Africa with Micro-Loans

A delegation of Washington State women and men are headed to Mali this next week to provide public, governmental and business relations support to the Fabric of Life foundation, a Washington based organization, that is opening trade routes and providing micro-loans to African women to reduce global poverty.  The trip is being documented by the World Trade Center of Tacoma, which is hosting a web journal of the group's meetings in Mali.  There will also be a community debrief at the University of Washington, Tacoma in August.

From their website:

While in Africa the delegation is tentatively scheduled to meet with the World Bank, Embassy of Mali, and President of Mali whose wife will preside over a ceremony to honor the micro-credit, development work of Schillios at the opening of the HEREMAKONO COOPERATIVE CENTER she founded. This center provides micro-loans and training for young women that at age 13-17 were found living on the streets of Bamako begging.

The young women receive literacy, healthcare and traditional arts training at the center. At their graduation, during our visit, they will be given micro-loans to start their own businesses creating traditional African arts and fabrics to be sold to tourists in Africa and resold in the US. The money is recycled back into their economy when interest on the savings of the business accounts generates a second round of micro-loans for new graduates.

My contact in the group, Jamie Chase, a lovely young woman, is still looking for tax deductible contributions to assist her in making the trip, which is entirely self-paid for all the participants.  If you wish to assist her, you may reach her through the above website.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 27, 2006 at 01:08 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (2)

Listen to the Governor On-Line

The Governor's office has made podcasts of some of her Q&A sessions with the media available on-line.  So far there are two on long term health care, one on government priorities and the Town Hall meetings being planned around the state and one on the new little puppy the Gregoires recently acquired. 


Posted by Lynn Allen on June 27, 2006 at 01:04 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 26, 2006

Jim Hansen on The Threat to the Planet

In the NYT Book Review this week, there is an article that details the state of global warming, drawing on two critical books and Al Gore’s book and movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”.  Jim Hansen is the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University's Earth Institute.  He is the guy whom presidential appointee, aka the old Chinese Communist Party minder-type, George Deutsch tried to silence when he began talking about the “Big Bang”.  Deutsch wanted him to say it was “just a theory”.  Deutsch himself was forced to resign when it was discovered that he had lied about graduating from Texas A&M.

Hansen is also the scientist who first publicized our global warming challenge, saying outloud at a 1988 government hearing that scientists were “99% in agreement” about the “greenhouse effect”.  He knew back then that scientists had to speak out in a language that the public could understand.  He was roundly criticized back then and it did not deter him.  He is still at it.  For more on Hansen himself and his determined outspokenness, read the article in the Boston Globe by Bill McKibben. 

In the NYT book review, entitled “The Threat to the Planet”, Hansen leads us through the thicket of scientific evidence on global warming in this great review.  He discusses The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert in addition to the book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. 

Tim Flannery talks about the speeded up migration patterns of animals and what it might mean for their survival and what it might mean for those species who are not able to migrate as quickly.  Here’s how Hansen describes what Flannery writes about:

During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails ("isotherms") have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. That is the size of a county in Iowa. Each decade the range of a given species is moving one row of counties northward.

<snip>

If emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase at the current rate—"business as usual"—then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade. If we continue on this path, a large fraction of the species on Earth, as many as 50 percent or more, may become extinct.

<snip>

In the Earth's history, during periods when average global temperatures increased by as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit, there have been several "mass extinctions," when between 50 and 90 percent of the species on Earth disappeared forever.

In introducing Kolbert’s and Gore’s book (and movie), Hansen puts in his own thoughts, which are backed up by these two books:

The greatest threat of climate change for human beings, I believe, lies in the potential destabilization of the massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. As with the extinction of species, the disintegration of ice sheets is irreversible for practical purposes. Our children, grandchildren, and many more generations will bear the consequences of choices that we make in the next few years.

<snip>

In order to arrive at an effective policy we can project two different scenarios concerning climate change. In the business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of CO2 continue to increase at the current rate for at least fifty years, as do non-CO2 warming agents including methane, ozone, and black soot. In the alternative scenario, CO2 emissions level off this decade, slowly decline for a few decades, and by mid-century decrease rapidly, aided by new technologies.

The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century, while the alternative scenario yields an increase of less than two degrees Fahrenheit during the same period.

<snip>

How much will sea level rise with five degrees of global warming? Here too, our best information comes from the Earth's history. The last time that the Earth was five degrees warmer was three million years ago, when sea level was about eighty feet higher.

Hansen describes what the world might look like and the number of people impacted.  It’s not pretty.   Here’s the summary of the choices that face us:

The business-as-usual scenario, which could lead to an eventual sea level rise of eighty feet, with twenty feet or more per century, could produce global chaos, leaving fewer resources with which to mitigate the change in climate. The alternative scenario, with global warming under two degrees Fahrenheit, still produces a significant rise in the sea level, but its slower rate, probably less than a few feet per century, would allow time to develop strategies that would adapt to, and mitigate, the rise in the sea level.

Hansen then goes on to describe the changes needed to implement the alternative scenario and the resistance from the automakers, in particular, and the current Executive branch.  He discusses what happens if we delay:

Delays in that approach—especially US refusal both to participate in Kyoto and to improve vehicle and power plant efficiencies—and the rapid growth in the use of dirty technologies have resulted in an increase of 2 percent per year in global CO2 emissions during the past ten years. If such growth continues for another decade, emissions in 2015 will be 35 percent greater than they were in 2000, making it impractical to achieve results close to the alternative scenario.

Hansen contrasts the successful collective reversal of the ozone layer depletion caused by CFCs with the need to both slowdown CO2 emissions and absolutely reduce the principal non-CO2agents of global warming, particularly emissions of methane gas.  He cites the active refusal to engage of the Bush administration, the flawed media policy of “balance” that allows nit-picking talking heads to counter real scientists, the inability of scientists to speak in a language and with an urgency that people can understand, and the corporate apologists who argue that our economy is at stake. 

Then he talks about the consequences of refusing to participate in the Kyoto Protocol and charts a possible course for us to now follow:

The responsibility of the US goes beyond its disproportionate share of the world's emissions. By refusing to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, we delayed its implementation and weakened its effectiveness, thus undermining the attempt of the international community to slow down the emissions of developed countries in a way consistent with the alternative scenario. If the US had accepted the Kyoto Protocol, it would have been possible to reduce the growing emissions of China and India through the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, by which the developed countries could offset their own continuing emissions by investing in projects to reduce emissions in the developing countries. This would have eased the way to later full participation by China and India, as occurred with the Montreal Protocol. The US was right to object to quotas in the Kyoto Protocol that were unfair to the US; but an appropriate response would have been to negotiate revised quotas, since US political and technology leadership are essential for dealing with climate change.

It is not too late. The US hesitated to enter other conflicts in which the future was at stake. But enter we did, earning gratitude in the end, not condemnation. Such an outcome is still feasible in the case of global warming, but just barely.

As explained above, we have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions. Our previous decade of inaction has made the task more difficult, since emissions in the developing world are accelerating.

There is much more.  Long as my post is, it is a summary of a much longer, and wonderfully written article.  He saves his discussion of Al Gore for the end:

Indeed, Gore was prescient. For decades he has maintained that the Earth was teetering in the balance, even when doing so subjected him to ridicule from other politicians and cost him votes. By telling the story of climate change with striking clarity in both his book and movie, Al Gore may have done for global warming what Silent Spring did for pesticides. He will be attacked, but the public will have the information needed to distinguish our long-term well-being from short-term special interests.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 26, 2006 at 09:22 AM in Media, Policy, The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 25, 2006

Great News: Youth Vote Increases; Trends Democratic

In the 2004 election, the youth vote was a whopping 11% higher than it had been in 2000.  Forty-seven percent of young people, aged 18-24 across the country voted vs. 66% of eligible voters 25 and older.   That means there is still plenty of room for growth.

This is great because young people in 2004 voted very clearly for John Kerry over George Bush.  According to Music for America, which crunched the numbers right after the 2004 election, if only votes of the 18-24 year old group had counted, John Kerry would have received 375 electoral votes compared to George Bush’s 163.  That is huge. 

New data out of the U.S. Census Bureau provides additional details on the youth vote in the 2004 election which the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement has compiled with some great charts and graphs.   

The details: the youth vote was 9.3% of the total vote in 2004.  There is a gender gap and an education gap similar to that in the overall population.  Fifty percent of young women voted vs. 44% of young men. Fifty-nine percent of young people with some college voted vs. 34% of non-college aged youth. 

In digging into the numbers and checking out additional research on the changing voting habits of the 18-24 year-old crowd, I found some great news and a place of concern for this fall.  First, the good news. 

The New Voters Project has analyzed the raw data from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, which indicates that young people voted in much higher numbers in last fall’s gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia over what they did in 2001. 

The number of votes cast in precincts with a high concentration of college students increased by an average of 15.1 percent above the 2001 election in Virginia, and by an average of 19.9 percent above the 2001 election in New Jersey.

However, historically, in mid-term elections, the numbers of voters in the 18-24 year-old age group is very small.  In 2002, only 24% of young women and 21% of young men voted and only 26% of young people with college education voted and only 13% of young people without college education voted.   The youth vote estimates out of New Jersey and Virginia may mean this is changing but it is still a key place for campaigns to focus on.  When they do, there is data that indicates that reaching young people is very peer-dependent.  Again from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement:   

Young people are the best GOTV resource available. A young person (aged 18-25) asking another young person to vote raises the likelihood of turnout by 8-12 percentage points.

Personal contact is a more effective method of persuading a young person to vote than either direct mail or telephone calls, and is much cheaper.

The average cost per new vote by door-to-door canvassing is approximately $8; the average cost-per-vote for direct mail is approximately $40; Partisan mail is the most expensive voter outreach strategy with an average cost of $400 for each vote gained.

So, a call to young people who vote and pay attention to politics: Get on your friends!  The election this fall is critical to the future of this country, your future. 


Posted by Lynn Allen on June 25, 2006 at 02:02 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

Howard Dean Calls for Bush to Bring Troops Home

Dean called the war in Iraq a failed strategy and asked the Bush Administration to bring our troops home.   In yesterday’s Democratic Radio Address (listen here), DNC Chair Howard Dean laid it out as clearly as it can be explained.  Here’s the entire talk:

Good morning. This is Governor Howard Dean.

Nearly four years into the war in Iraq, over 2500 brave American soldiers have been killed, more than 20,000 brave American soldiers have been wounded, and $2.5 billion dollars are being spent every week as sectarian violence continues. Corruption and fraud are rampant, and the overall quality of life for the Iraqi people has not improved. Religious fanatics harass women and business owners just yards from the green zone in Baghdad and renegade militia within the Iraqi army are fomenting civil war.
In the meantime, the Bush Administration has left Afghanistan exposed to a resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda; and taken its eye off the ball in places like North Korea and Iran which have now become greater threats.

Those are the facts on the ground.

The bottom line is that the Republicans don't have a plan. 'Stay the course' is not a plan. Saying the problems in Iraq will be left to the next President, is not a plan. Our troops deserve better.

Democrats are determined to set a different course for our Nation, to tell the truth to the American people, to save the lives of our American soldiers and keep America safe. We want to act now rather than let political wrangling lead to more dead and wounded Americans.

We will defend America, but we will be tough and smart.

A majority of democrats have called upon the President to change course in Iraq. Democrats have also offered a plan that asks the president to responsibly redeploy our troops. We believe that we ought to focus on training, logistics, and counter- terrorism, and we can do that with a redeployment of our troops.

The phased re-deployment strategy proposed by Democrats this week calls on the President to do the following:

-- First, work with the Government of Iraq to begin a phasedredeployment of United States troops from Iraq by the end of this year;

-- Second, submit a plan to Congress by the end of 2006 with estimated dates for the continued phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq;

-- Third, we have also told the President that we demand accountability for the resources being spent in Iraq. The cost of the Iraq war will be at least one trillion dollars, enough to finance a health care program for every single American - including our veterans coming home from the war.

-- Fourth, expedite the transition of United States forces in Iraq to a limited presence and mission of training, providing logistical support, protecting United States infrastructure and personnel, and participating in targeted counterterrorism activities.

-- Finally, our plan recognizes that during and after the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq, the United States will need to sustain a non-military effort to actively support reconstruction, governance, and a durable political solution in Iraq.

The Iraqi leaders themselves have set a six-month goal for assuming their responsibility for security. Our proposal for the beginning of a phased redeployment by the end of this year fits the goals of Iraq's leaders very well.

We have asked Republicans of good will to come forward to support a policy that is good for America and good for our troops. And some have.

Democrats will continue to offer America a real change, a new direction for our country. We see a country in which honesty, openness and respect is restored to our government. We see an America where we are all on the same team again, working together to deal with problems American Families face, Defense, Security, Health Care, Jobs. We see an America where the Government does not question the patriotism of any American if they disagree with the President.

The parallels between the mistakes being made today in Iraq and the behavior of our government a generation ago are striking. Troops are sent to fight by an administration that refuses to listen to the advice of military leaders. The Administration decides it's ok to conceal information from the Congress and the American people. Promises like "stay the course" "Peace is at Hand" or "the insurgency is in its last throes" are made by an increasingly desperate Administration.

A majority of the American people don't believe the President is telling the truth, while the Administration and its supporters question the patriotism of veterans who disagree with them, accusing them of "cut and run".

And among the victims are brave American soldiers who are the targets of an insurgency because of failed political leadership and a lack of foresight and planning. We don't want another wall with 55,000 names of courageous Americans who were let down by their Government.

The words "cut and run" don't belong in this debate. That's a disservice to our courageous soldiers. This debate is about not making the same mistakes our Government made a generation ago.
Democrats believe it's time for a new direction in Iraq that's tough and smart, and we offer America a security strategy that's tough and smart.

This is Gov. Howard Dean, proud of our troops, and proud to be part of a party offering America a new direction.

And, if you have not yet done so, investing in Democracy Bonds is about as good an investment in rebuilding our democracy as you can do.  A monthly contribution of $10, $20, $50 will assist Dean to continue funding his critically important 50-state strategy, a strategy that is making a huge difference on the ground all over the country.

Hat tip to Howie Martin.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 25, 2006 at 10:04 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 24, 2006

New Publication: The Democratic Strategist

Big-picture thinkers may want to check out the premiere issue of The Democratic Strategist, a new publication on, umm... Democratic strategery, co-edited by Ruy Teiexeira, William Gallston and Stan Greenberg. 

Their fine print says:

The Democratic Strategist will be clearly focused on developing political strategies for promoting Democratic candidates and issues. It will be proudly and avowedly partisan, aimed at achieving an enduring Democratic majority.

The Democratic Strategist will be firmly and insistently based on facts and data. It will seek strategies rooted in empirical research from the fields of public opinion research, political demography and other social sciences and will avoid empty rhetoric and abstract theorizing.

The Democratic Strategist will be emphatically open to all sectors and currents of opinion within the Democratic Party. It will actively seek to be a meeting ground for both centrists and populists, readers of The Nation and The New Republic, professional political consultants, grassroots activists and every significant candidate and perspective within the Democratic Party. The Democratic Strategist will strongly encourage discussion and dialog and will not limit itself to any specific current of thought or point of view within the Democratic community.

Their first top-of-the fold article is by none other than uber-blogger (and consultant) Jerome Armstrong, who argues in favor of... (drumroll please), a "mapchanger" strategy that contests every race in every district, rather than a consultant-dominated fight over "battleground races."  Armstrong gets in a few slightly hypocritical but nonetheless on-target digs at Beltway-bound media and polling consultants.

Good stuff.

Posted by Jon Stahl on June 24, 2006 at 09:40 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Marianne Craft Norton – Activist and Iowa Sheep Farmer

I have been away for a couple of days at a Gathering of Women and will be away for a couple more.  It’s a lovely group that has been going for 20 years and that I had the honor of being invited to join last year.  The group of 25-35 meets once a year for 3 days for retreat, refuge, play and thoughtful discussion.  These are women who have been leaders in various fields who first came together to share their experience of being women in mostly men’s fields, to look at how to balance their work and personal lives and to think about how to take leadership in the larger world. 

This year I met a woman who had not been there last year because she moved to Iowa in 1989 and only occasionally makes it back for the Gathering.

Older activists in Washington State will know Marianne Craft Norton from her work in open government, the environmental movement and promoting citizen involvement.  She was instrumental in preserving Pioneer Park on Mercer Island, working to involve citizens in the planning for the Mercer Island and Seattle portions of 1-90, and putting Initiative 276, the Open Government initiative on the ballot in 1972.  After the initiative passed, she spent years lobbying the legislature and fighting in court to preserve the tenets of that Initiative.  She also worked with her husband in the Washington Environmental Council.

She moved with her husband, Bob Norton, from Washington State to Iowa in 1989 to preserve and protect family farms that had been in her family for 100 years.  And she continues to focus on land use planning and community-building in a very different setting.  She works with people in a three-county area of Northeastern Iowa to learn about what each of the various farmers and craftspeople are growing and producing so as to help people take advantage of what they have locally and to plan for the possibility of economic dislocation.  She says that as a result of what she and others have been doing, people are waking up to saving community and preserving local farming. 

The interview with Marianne is after the fold.

Q: What started you off on the path of activism?

MCN:  One day in the mid-60’s, I woke up to read that the federal government wanted to put a 14-lane highway across Mercer Island.  I knew that would tear up our community. I had already worked on preserving Pioneer Park on the island. A lot of citizens had come together and formed the Mercer Island Environmental Council in the mid-60’s so we   had a nucleus of people working together.   A local artist, Ted Rand, made a drawing of a large dragon choking Mercer Island and that was a wonderful call to action.

We got a lot of citizens involved and monitored all the Highway Department meetings and city council meetings. We elected two members of our council, including my husband, to the Mercer Island city council.  That way we were able to Were able to negotiate directly with the federal government. 

People in Seattle in the affected areas of Mt. Baker and Rainier Valley worked with us and we were able to slow down the process and get more citizens involved.  Working together, both groups got more. 

Q:  After you were successful with that, where did you put your energy?

MCN:  Then I got involved with the AAUW where we realized the state needed more citizen input into highway construction.  Dan Evans was Governor.  He also wanted citizen input and, with our help, he formed a Department of Transportation that replaced the Highway Department.  We started talking about public transit in our state. 

That led me to work with the WEC and a group of Seattle people involved in transit to put Initiative 276 on the ballot. We came together as the Coalition for Open Government (COG).  At the time, citizens were left out of legislative meetings where votes were taken.  In secret, under the influence of corporate lobbyists, a small group voted down an environmental bill that citizens and most legislators and the governor clearly wanted. It called for disclosure of campaign contributions, public information of how much lobbyists were paid, open meetings and citizen input into the legislative process.  We worked to communicate the need in meetings all over the state.

Q:  And it passed?

MCN: This was right after Watergate so the Initiative passed.  However corporate interests challenged the Initiative after it passed.  A state judge appointed me to represent the citizens of state of Washington in the case so we got the attorneys working.  Everything was upheld at the Superior Court level except term limitations.  US Supreme Court did not rule on it, effectively upholding the other aspects of the Initiative.

Q: What else did you do between then and the time you left to go to Iowa?

MCN:  From 1972 to 1989, we lobbied to defend Initiative 276.  The WEC had other items before the legislature.  I was active in the AAUW.  In 1980, I directed the John Anderson campaign in Washington State.  And I was on several state boards.

I also began going back to Iowa because my father was ill. 

Q:  You grew up in Iowa.  What about your family?  How was it for them?

MCN: Bob Norton liked the farm.  He was a good sport and very supportive.  He liked open spaces.  By the time we left, our three children were out of the house. 

Q:  So how did you continue your activism?

MCN: It was just in a different form.  I was still focused on land use policy.  We lived in
Northeast Iowa and the land there is not fertile.  It’s hilly and rocky.  We went back because we didn’t think we could trust renters to care for it in the same way.  It was an issue of saving family farms.  My father had acquired a total of 4 small farms, for a total of 400 acres.   He believed in family farms, a variety of animals, the use of animal fertilizer, and rotated crops. 

When we she went back, we decided to raise sheep, alfalfa hay and pasture.  We decided that sheep would be the best use of the land and the least detrimental.  We selected a rare breed, called Jacob sheep, which we raised for wool.  The advantage of rare breeds is that we were able to save those genes.  We became very active in the Jacob Sheep-breeders Association.  For 16 years, I edited and put out the newsletter for the Association.  We held national meetings at our farm.  We took the sheep to churches and schools and had college classes coming out to see what we were doing.

Q:  I also hear you talking about the community-building aspects of what you are doing.  Talk about that.

MCN:  We are members of a wonderful food coop in town.  We talk about the importance of community and land use planning. 

We also meet as part of a three county coalition of different groups.  We learn what products each location produces.  We want to support each other, to buy strawberries locally rather than from California or Mexico.  It’s important to keep our own economy going.  Then, in case of crisis or economic dislocation, will know how we can barter and trade.  It’s our way of being more sustainable and saving the land.  There are a few larger dairy farms in the area and one huge hog farm.   The dairy farms are interested in what we are doing because more people want dairy products produced using purer methods.

People in the area see the need for this community building.  We work with professors at Iowa State and Drake University.  We get both support and opposition. 

Q: What do you see as the results of what you are doing there?

MCN:  People are waking up to saving community and understanding the need for local farming.  More people catching on.  When people come to her farm, they come to look at sheep, but we always talk about land use planning as well.

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 22, 2006 at 10:22 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 20, 2006

No Time to Play it Safe, Indeed

Howie Martin has a great set of articles on what a few courageous Democratic Senators are doing - rallying to figure out a way out of Iraq as quickly as is feasible. They may need a little help to get heard properly.

No time to play it safe, Howie says, over at his new blog, Howie in Seattle.

I'm going to steal the punchline. Tell your Senators: Support the Kerry-Feingold Amendment on Iraq


Posted by Lynn Allen on June 20, 2006 at 10:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Jon Stewart on George Bush in Iraq

"[President Bush,] you were in Baghdad for six hours. You weren't even in the real Baghdad. You were in the Green Zone. That's like going to the Olive Garden and saying you've been to Italy."

---Jon Stewart

off DailyKos, earlier today

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 20, 2006 at 09:49 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Denying Funds for Illegal Electronic Surveillance

Congressman Jay Inslee, Democrat in the 1st CD, will be introducing an Amendment to HR 5631, the DOD Appropriations Bill, this afternoon that would deny the Administration funds to conduct illegal electronic surveillance except as authorized under FISA or chapters 119 or 121 of title 18, United States Code.  Were this to pass, it would be huge.  It would say that Congress is not going to fund an illegal action.

Inslee and co-sponsors Flake (R-AZ), Inglis (R-SC), Schiff (D-CA) and Van Hollen (D-MD), are saying you can’t use tax dollars to break the law.  President Bush and his administration have to obey the law like all the rest of us. 

This Amendment would use the power of the purse to cut off the President’s illegal behavior.  This is the role of the House.  And, according to Inslee, speaking on a conference call yesterday to David Goldstein and me, if the House doesn’t make this type of surveillance of US persons illegal, “We might as well kiss off the Constitution.”

Inslee, a stanch progressive, has some unlikely bedfellows.  Former Congressman Bob Barr, now with the Liberty Coalition, has been out campaigning for this Amendment.  Inslee thinks he will have a few conservative House members with him on this vote. 

The President has argued that when Congress voted to authorize the Afghanistan and then the Iraq War, they gave him the power to do whatever it takes to “win those wars”.  Inslee says that he doesn’t think there is a single member of Congress who would agree that they were authorizing the President to do anything he wants.  It is unprecedented to allow this type of unrestricted, unrestrained executive power.  The Executive branch argues that they have the right, under Article II of the Constitution, to set aside any law.  “It is an amazing act of bravado that undercuts everything we stand for in this country”, Inslee adds.

A law that makes it illegal not to follow the law?  That’s what we asked Inslee in the call.  Yes.  If the law were to pass, it would mean that neither the NSA nor any agency of the government would be able to use any federal funds for it. The full resources of the professional bureaucracy would be deployed to detect and prevent that.  This is how you get oversight and stop an out-of-control President.   

If you vote against this Amendment, you are voting against the rule of law. That is the message that needs to go to our Congressfolk.  We will be watching you.  And, when we get control of the House, we can do some oversight. Inslee cites last year’s Amendment to HR 3199, the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, which did permit libraries and booksellers to challenge the legality of orders to comply with Homeland Security Department search requests as a reason to be hopeful that this Amendment too might pass.

I think it's a long shot that it will pass but I think it's wonderful to get them on record one way or another.  This post is up on DailyKos as well. 

UPDATE: The Amendment failed in the House by a close margin - 207-219.  A sad commentary on the state of our country.  Also, final sponsors of the Amendment were, in addition to Jay Inslee, Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

From a Press Release from Inslee's office:

"It's bad enough that congressional leaders have abrogated oversight responsibility, but this is a new low," said Inslee.  "Now they've actually given their blessing to spend federal funds on illegal spying."

It's been reported that in the wake of Sept. 11, the president secretly authorized the NSA to listen in on international communications involving people in the United States without court-approved warrants.  FISA, however, only allows exceptions in the 15 days after Congress declares war, and for up to 72 hours after electronic surveillance has been initiated.

"This would have ensured that we assertively and aggressively track terrorists the American way - by following the law," lamented Inslee.  "It should have been a no-brainer."

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 20, 2006 at 11:07 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006

Why Netroots Contributions are So Important

With the Burner/Reichert race, we are in the midst of a contest between the local netroots/grassroots communities and the national Republican leadership that is absolutely critical to the future of this country.

Goldy talks about this on his post at Huffington Post yesterday.  He says that this fundraiser that Bush did for Dave Reichert’s campaign on Friday “will mark the first time uber-advisor Karl Rove trains the full force of presidential firepower against a "Netroots Endorsed" challenger.”  Goldy goes on to tell us that Rove understands the importance of the race in iconic as well as real terms.  It’s a good read.

Here’s My Take on Why This Race is So Important

Darcy is the first national “Netroots Endorsed” candidate (a somewhat formal process initiated by the national bloggers at DailyKos, MyDD and the Swing State Project) who attained that status as a result of first being a locally endorsed netroots candidate.  Indeed, when they announced that she had won that early round of endorsement, they each said in their own way, “She has the support of one of the most robust local blogging groups in the country”.  That’s us – readers as well as writers – on our blogs.

Any regular reader of this or other Washington progressive political sites knows we have all been pushing Darcy consistently since January.  That’s when we got our first really good look at her at our regional Blogger’s Convention, where she took the time to come talk with us for an hour and a half.  Since then, she has attended a couple of our Seattle Drinking Liberally events to talk with us.  We have been massively impressed with Darcy, her background, her integrity, and her ability to both speak to a crowd and to communicate one-on-one.   We are also aware that this is the race that we can influence; this is the place that we the people can help tip the balance back toward a Democratic House and sanity in our government. 

So, on behalf of all of us, I apologize if you readers are getting tired of hearing about Darcy.  However, it won’t stop.  This is too important.  Our job is to get you to support Darcy by volunteering on her campaign and giving her money (until it hurts, Jim McDermott reminds us) so that she can blast that silly Reichert out of his seat.  And we will add Peter Goldmark and Richard Wright to the mix as well.

The Way to Beat the Republicans

Karl Rove, national political strategist for the Republicans, knows what happens in every county in this country.  He plays at the local level, working through the state Republicans in every state.   As long as the Blogosphere, as we on the progressive/liberal/left are called, is a force only at the national level, we are not a sufficient challenge to Rove and his political manipulations. 

But once we take on the Republicans and wed the local netroots to the local grassroots progressive organizations, which we are starting to do from both sides, watch out.  We will be unbeatable and we will take back and rebuild our democracy. 

There’s Another Reason to Provide Darcy with Strong Local Netroots Support 

In addition to taking on the Republicans, the netroots also take on the tired old Democrats on the national and local levels because we need a robust Party that is not too tied to old ideas, old strategies and tactics and to the corporations. (I know some of you question whether we are too close to the state Democrats and too willing to support candidates like Cantwell who differ with us on support for the war but that’s another discussion.) 

The more Darcy is supported by small donors and has an army of volunteers to help her communicate her message to the voters, the more free she is of the national Democratic apparatus.  She can take money from the DCCC but not be overly dependent on them.  She can take money from John Kerry and Emily’s List and still be fully her own person and run her own campaign.

I had a brief conversation with Zach Silk, Darcy’s campaign manager, yesterday and he reported that Darcy’s campaign is the buzz of the Democratic Party.  She was at a San Francisco fund-raiser with John Kerry at Nancy Pelosi’s house raising some big-donor, out-of-state money (a drop in the bucket compared to what Reichert raises from out of state) and they were all asking her how she is getting so much local buzz and support.  They want to replicate what Darcy, with our help, has done around the country.

What we are doing with Darcy’s campaign is big.  Let’s keep doing it.      

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 18, 2006 at 09:01 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (2)

Discussion with Peter Goldmark

Noemie writes up a recent talk with Peter Goldmark, Democratic candidate for Congress from the 5th CD over at Washblog.  They, along with Rob Holland, who is on the King County Agricultural Commission, talk about the issues of rural folks and the needs of people in that district.  It's a wonderful discussion and something we all need to be thinking about no matter what part of the state we live in. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 18, 2006 at 08:47 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Summary of Key Issues Facing the Legal System

I had the privilege of hearing Ralph Neas, President of People for the American Way, speak at the YearlyKos convention last weekend.  He spoke about the Supreme Court and the implications of the recent changes in the Court on the law and the challenges of the near-term. 

Neas began by saying that the two best, recent developments affecting the law have been the explosion of grassroots power in the Latino community and the power of the blogging community to build a progressive movement and to hold the feet of the Democratic lawmakers to the fire.

He reminded us that the quality of the judiciary is the single most important factor in what this country will look like in the next 10-30 years.  We are at a perilous moment in the history of our country.  Neas says we are coming very close to a 5 vote control by very conservative lawmakers, precisely what the right-wing has been trying to do for 30 years.  If they get control of the courts, right-wing policies could rule for decades, no matter who controls the Congress and the Presidency. 

History

In 1937, Roosevelt Democrats got control of the Supreme Court and inaugurated a new era in our country.   What the earlier populists and progressives had proposed beginning in the 1890’s was not widely implemented because of the conservative nature of the Courts.  For the first four years of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, everything he tried to do was vetoed by the Court.  As FDR was able to select the Justices, a massive changeover to a fairer, juster society was initiated.  The last 70 years have seen a new era in civil rights, women’s issues, the environment, privacy rights, and rights for gays and minorities growing out of that turnaround. 

There has been some erosion since 1995/1996 but there has not been a wholesale overturning of these more progressive policies.  Yet.

The Bush Era

Neas went on to say that “Bush vs. Gore” may have been the worst vote in US history.  Bush had made his views clear.  “I want Supreme Court justices in the mode of Scalia and Thomas.”

What if they get a Scalia-Thomas majority?  What would it mean?  Most rulings have been close, either 5-4 or 6-3.  Neas says that his organization has looked at the implications of a solid 5 vote conservative court.  What they see is that over 100 key decisions of the last 70 years will be overturned, decisions on privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, executive power and property rights. 

He says that the Court would not only be overturning the past 70 years but would also try to checkmate the progressive movement for 2-3 generations into the future.  He sees:

  • Massive permanent tax cuts so that there would be no money to fund progressive politics
  • A take-away of the rights we have
  • The Court would be comparable to the Courts of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s
  • A frightening freedom on the Executive branch that would allow the President to hold detainees, wiretap citizens and torture prisoners

The Response of Congress

On the positive side, the Democrats in the Senate have changed public opinion about the use of the “nuclear option” and 70% of the American public now favors use of a filibuster to prevent bad justices from being nominated.  The filibuster is still alive so the right did not get to take that option off the table.  Yet.  2 million Americans contacted the Senate on that issue and the Senate was in shock. 

It was hard to make a big deal of the Roberts nomination because he was replacing another conservative Justice, Rehnquist so there was no changeover in the voting pattern.  Neas says, however, that Roberts is not just conservative, he is right-wing.  We know that from what he and Alito did and said in the Reagan years.

Neas said that Harriet Miers deserved a hearing.  She probably was fair-minded and that is why the right opposed her.  She had far more experience than Thomas did.  She was undermined by the right-wing rather than by the Republican leadership. 

This proves the power of a movement and points again to why we have to build that movement.

O’Connor, Neas said, was the decisive vote on about 20 different occasions although she went with progressives only about 1/3 of that time.  She is not a winger.  Alito, however, is a winger as his writings from the 80’s prove.

Signing Statements

Neas says that in the near-term, what happens with the theory of a Unitary Executive – the idea that the Executive is more important than the other branches – will be very critical.  He brought up the signing statements that Bush has signed in conjunction with over 750 laws that have been passed.  The statements say something to the effect that the Executive will not enforce the law if it is different that what he believes is right. 

The entire issue of signing statements is absolutely frightening, Neas says.  It can be applied to anything. For example, John McCain was finally able to get an anti-torture bill through Congress and Bush signed it.  But he attached a signing statement to the bill that essentially negated the purpose of the bill.  Neas did say that the ABA has signed up a cadre of attorneys around the country who are investigating all the signing statements and will assess their constitutionality in a report due out in August. 

The Bush Administration claims that signing statements have been issued routinely by other Presidents.  Reagan was the first to issue a few that were constitutional in nature and therefore undermining the nature of the law.  So did George H. W. Bush.  President Clinton used signing statements only for purposes of clarification or to point out places where he thought the law would not hold up constitutionally.  No President has ever used them in the manner in which this President it using them.  It is unprecedented and a qualitative difference from what other Presidents have done.

The Senate and Supreme Court Nominations

Neas says that what is happening with the Judiciary in this country makes him ask over and over again, “Why can’t our side fight?”  He sees the same thing happening with Supreme Court appointments that he saw with “Bush vs. Gore” in Nov./Dec. of 2000.  No fight.  He wants the Democrats to give the American people something to root for.  If we’re going to lose, we should at least fight as hard as possible.  He says that the Democrats in the Senate did not rise to the occasion when presented with the nominations of Roberts and Alito.

The odds are that George Bush will have the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court Justice.  Senator Spector, the Republican Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, does not have the courage to go against the right-wing. The Democrats have been trying to act as judges, to be fair and wait to hear what the nominee says. They need to fight this.  They need to have a 3-month strategy ahead of time, as the Republicans do.  They need to have 75-100 staffers organizing support groups and communicating with the American public.  We need to win the hearts and minds of the American people.

This is one of the places he sees the bloggers having such an impact.  Bloggers eliminate the filter of the MSM.  Bloggers are the best hope for the democratization of the American people.

A change of 1-2 seats in the Senate would make a big difference in the prospects for defeating the next nominee.  A change of six seats, with a subsequent Democratic majority, would change the landscape.  That is why this fall’s election is so important.

Q&A

Q: Why did we lose the nomination battles?

RN: We lost the fight in messaging.  The Right has simple messages.  We don’t seem to have that, except on choice.  I wish I could say the Democrats had any message at all.  We don’t have Democratic leaders who are out there.  We are fighting on the Republican’s turf.  I have been conveying the magnitude of what we could lose.  They are trying to remake the laws.  A good judge does look to the Constitution.  What we have to do is distill what I have said over this hour into 8 seconds and, at most, a few paragraphs.  Those who define the issues, win.

Q: What happened to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee? 

RN: They didn’t develop a story line that put a human face on these issues.  Fighting for a good story line would have been a win for Democrats.  They didn’t do it. 

Q: What about Lindsay Graham’s role?

RN:  There was significant evidence that he was at the White House coaching Roberts and then Alito.  We need to have an investigation of this.

Q: What about this tactic of refusing to answer that both Roberts and Alito used?

RN: The Hearings for Bork lasted 14 days and Bork himself testified for 43 hours.  He was voted down.  As a result of that loss, the Republicans decided that nominees shouldn’t talk about their views. Arlen Spector said something 17 years ago in his biography that he unfortunately doesn’t stand by.  He said, “If they don’t answer questions, they shouldn’t be confirmed.”

Q: Which Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are doing anything right?

RN:  Durbin is good on cross-examination.  Feinstein ended up doing the right thing but she agonized too much.  She epitomizes the timidity of the Democrats on this issue. 

People for the American Way

Ralph Neas is President of People for the American Way, which was founded 25 years ago by Norman Lear and Barbara Jordan, among others, to affirm “the American Way” and to pass our liberty onto the next generation.  They have over 900,000 members determined to stand up to right-wing extremism and to preserve our “pluralism, individuality, freedom of thought, expression and religion, a sense of community and tolerance and compassion for others.” 

People for the American Way has a website.  They publish books and booklets, including a cool 50-page booklet they gave us entitled “Courting Disaster 2005”.

UPDATE

Since Ralph Neas spoke at YearlyKos, there has been one key Supreme Court ruling that I believe illustrates exactly what Neas was talking about – the No Knock ruling of a couple days ago.  The diarist Devilstower over at DailyKos had a good post on this.  In it he pointed to an article from the Houston Chronicle which said:

The case of Hudson v. Michigan illustrates how much Supreme Court decisions are affected by the so-called judicial philosophy of each justice. Had Sandra Day O'Connor continued on the court, the case would have gone the other way. O'Connor's replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in voting to throw out almost a century of Supreme Court precedents. (Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the majority but would not go along with ending the knock and announce requirement.)

The court's decision in this case blurs the image of traditional conservatism. Is it conservative to depart from long precedent and to rule that official conduct once thought to be intolerable can now be tolerated? Is it conservative to increase the power of the police at the expense of individual rights? Do conservatives want to hand government the power to intrude upon residents' lives and property without notice?



Posted by Lynn Allen on June 18, 2006 at 02:24 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 16, 2006

The Significance of Net Neutrality to America's Future

The Technology Formerly Known As Phone does not want you to know about the significance of Net Neutrality for the future of America’s ability to develop and produce innovative products and services on the Internet.  How did we get to this place, and what can you do to change it?

Back when telephone exchanges were still being built across America, the U.S. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1934. 

The bill had five titles.  One of the titles (Title II) created the FCC.  The purpose of the FCC was to regulate telephone, which was a new technology that served the public interest by improving communications between towns, cities, regions, and states. Because telephone services were valued as a public benefit, Congress designed the 1934 Telecommunications Act to ensure that all citizens had COMMON ACCESS to telephone technology. Under Title II, telephone was regulated as a Common Carrier – everyone was billed at a standard rate, even if their home was 20 miles off the main phone line.  Throughout the 20th century, telephone was regulated (by the FCC) as a Common Carrier.

This extensive and informative post is written by someone who, by her own definition, "has strong public policy and software interests, who posts as readerOfTeaLeaves, enjoys Open Source  technologies, works on Macs, and likes Flash, Dreamweaver, and digital video. Reads software code, legislative statutes, sci-fi, New Yorker profiles, Scientific American, and anything else that captures her interest at any given moment".  I thank her for the research and thoughtfulness she put into this and pass it along for you.

More after the fold plus an entreaty to call Senators Murray and Cantwell, who have not made their positions on this important issue clear yet.

Fast-forward to the 1990s, when the sound waves that pass along phone lines were captured and converted to digital sequences like: 0011010110101001010100011.

The methods through which sound waves are converted into sequences of 0’s and 1’s (i.e., “digits’) are a topic for a different post.  The relevant point for this diary is that once  sound waves were converted digitally, and encoded as sequences of 0s and 1s (i.e., 001110101001000…), then powerful interests were ready to claim that The Technology Formerly Known As Phone should be legally redefined as an “information service”.

Which leads us to the brouhaha over Net Neutrality

An “information service” is not subject to Common Carrier legislation.  “Information services” are not regulated. If you own the pipes, wires, and cable through which “information services” are delivered, then you just got yourself a river of gold.

Where sound waves once traveled across wires in the air, data packets of digitally encoded ‘data’ speed along networks of cable, wire, and broadband.  ‘Digital data’ is designated as an “information service.”  But there’s a catch that the telecoms are not explaining to Congress – in order to encode, transmit, or ‘read’ DIGITALLY ENCODED information, you must have software.

In other words, the telecoms are lobbying Congress AS IF the only layer of the Internet that matters are the underlying, physical infrastructure – the wires, the broadband and cable that you can see, feel, touch, haul around on a truck.  What the telecoms have not explained to Congress – and what most Representatives and Senators have failed to understand – is that without SOFTWARE to read all that digital data, the system is useless.

Those who work with software: ISPs, Microsoft, Adobe, eBay, Google, Yahoo, Bank of America and other eCommerce providers, were late to the party.  The SOFTWARE LAYER that makes the Internet interesting – that creates the economic opportunity, engages collaborative economic projects – that layer is built on a set of assumptions that is entirely different from the agenda of the Pay to Play Telecom interests.  To Congress, we’ve remained invisible.  Our interests are being sabotaged by the telecoms.

The Technology Formerly Known as Cable Television just swallowed up the newly digitized sound, audio, video, text, and image files that make their way around the Internet to your computer.  These digitized files, now legally designated as “information services,” **are not protected** by Common Carrier regulations. 

Can you say, “Ka-chingg!!?”

Rewind: the 1990s.  Sound waves were digitized for transmission, while cable companies laid miles of cable -- waiting for the day when they could go to: (1) the Courts, and (2) Congress for subscriber-based access to the Internet that would not be constrained by Common Carrier restrictions or regulation.  After 2000, they got their chance.

In a 2005 case referenced as "Brand X," a US Circuit Court decided that The Technology Formerly Known as Phone had morphed into something different.  The "Brand X" decision meant that `phone' (or sound files) would now be legally designated as an "information service", which placed 'phone' (telecom) outside the legal boundaries of the Common Carrier Title II provisions of the Telecommunications Act.   (Cable had been reclassified by the FCC in 2002 as an 'information service", which placed it under Title I as of 2002.) As a result of the "Brand X" decision, courts ruled that The Technology Formerly Known As Phone would be reclassifed as an "information service", which MOVED IT OUT OF Title II Common Carrier protections, and placed it under Title I.

(The telecoms wanted reclassification, because anything fallling under Title I does not have Common Carrier protections for consumers.)

But what would the regulatory agency - the FCC - decide?  Would they agree with the court?
In August 2005, the FCC opined that The Technology Formerly Known As Phone, reformatted into sequences like:  001001010001110, was not subject to the social contract and legal frameworks applied to Common Carriers.  The FCC redefined digital communications as "information services."

(The FCC created "four principles" in Aug 2005 when they reclassified 'phone' as an 'information service.' Principles are nice handwaving, feel good actions that carry no legal enforcement power. So the fact that the telecoms say there are 'principles' to protect the network is technically true, but virtually meaningless. Pun intended.)

The Technology Formerly Known as Cable Television started morphing into a behemoth built miles of cable, a legal decision in “Brand X”, and an FCC ruling.  The behemoth needs the 2006 Telecommunications Act in order to ensure that no whiff of Net Neutrality will be introduced into the legislation, no regulatory agency will oversee the charges billed for “information services,” and no Congressional oversight will interfere with a long, bountiful revenue stream build on Tiered Access to Information Services. 

Armed with the “Brand X” legal decision from 2004, and also the FCC pronouncement from Aug 2005 the telecoms are persuading your Senators that email, phone, web browsing, downloading audio and video files are all: "information services."  They’re ‘entertainment.’  They require ‘subscriptions.’

The telecoms are telling Congress, “We’ve invested in cable and now we want our ROI (return on investment).”

Last I checked, no member of Congress has experience writing even a line of PHP, C#, C++, Perl, Java, or any other PROGRAMMING CODE language.  Congress knows LEGAL CODE.  Whereas those familiar with PROGRAMMING CODE are damn late to this party.

The SOFTWARE LAYER, the code that makes the Internet a wonderful, exciting place, is literally “invisible” to Congress.  So all the Net Neutrality protections that are absolutely critical to those of us who work with the SOFTWARE LAYER: equal access, collaborative environments, best practices, cooperation and consensus… all those factors that have driven the ECONOMIC VITALITY of the Internet – the search engines, the browsers, the apps… Congress doesn’t have a clue why Net Neutrality provisions that are so absolutely crucial to our economic, social, and technical requirements REQUIRE Net Neutrality provisions be incorporated into the 2006 Telecommunications Bill.

With several exceptions –  Rep Jay Inslee, whose district includes Redmond, WA;  Zoe Lofgren, whose district covers Silicon Valley --  Congress is absolutely clueless about why some of us are almost hysterical about the urgency of ensuring that Net Neutrality provisions are included in the 2006 Telecommunications Act. 

It has absolutely nothing to do with blogging, and everything to do with eCommerce, with accessing Open Source information, with collaborating on innovative products.   You can lay cable and broadband from here to Pluto and they’ll never create the economic opportunity and VALUE that has been added by SOFTWARE requirements of digital technology.   It’s the SOFTWARE LAYER of the Internet that ACTUALLY BRINGS VALUE – creates services, generates excitement, develops new products, streamlines organizations, and makes information cheaper for government and businesses.

“Information services”, aka, The Technology Formerly Known As Cable,  can add tier after tier after tier of payment requirement:

So... want that eComm app?  Ka-ching! Pay more for THAT SERVICE.
So... want to put video files online? Ka-Ching! Pay more for THAT SERVICE.
So... want to access iTunes... well... if you are a PREMIUM SUBSCRIBER, you can get there in one mouse click. Otherwise… expect to encounter some Serious Browser Hang Time and expect to click through 3+ ads paid for by our 'premium content providers’ while you hapless schmucks attempt to access iTunes.

The logic of broadband is the logic of subscriptions.  You want the good stuff?  You gotta pay extra.

Ka-chinnnnnggggggg!!

Currently, the US Senate is barraged by telecoms claiming that they've 'invested' in miles and miles of broadband and cable, AND ALSO that what travels over the wires “should not be regulated.”

The telecoms, and members of the United States Senate, are dismissing Net Neutrality as alarmist.  If there’s a problem, they claim, anyone can take it to the FCC. On a case-by-case basis… so if you are a gazillionaire with 20 lifetimes to wait your turn before the FCC, then by all means support the 2006 Telecommunications Act!  Forget about the need to protect the innovators in the software layer.  Ignore the fact that the entire software industry is deeply distressed over Net Neutrality -- what the heck do coders know about the Internet, after all?   Be fooled into believing that this is about the ROI for the telecoms… just don’t expect fast upgrades to your browser, your email software, or a host of other Internet-driven technologies that require collaborative, cost-effective, open Internet access to create.

The telecoms claim that they need to ‘charge more for access’ in large part because they’ve ‘invested.’  As if the telecoms are THE ONLY investors in the Internet?!! 

Consider the following:

    * Are you a US taxpayer?   If so, you've 'invested' in ARPAnet, which was the early skeleton of today's Internet.
    * Do you pay taxes to support K-12 education?  K12 has "invested" hugely in technology to assist in learning -- and now, they'll need to use YOUR tax dollars to 'subscribe' to whatever Tier of Service the telecoms require.
    * Do you pay city, county, or state taxes? If so, you've helped 'invest' in online content. Oh, by the way… the telecoms could never have laid that cable without the permits issued by your local government.
    * Did you ever pay for more education? College? University? If so, then your efforts to gain skills for the Information Age were your personal investments in the growth and development of the Internet.
    * Do you have a phone bill? Do you pay it?  Ask yourself what kept the telecoms operating long enough to lay all that cable and DSL line for which they will now charge you even more -- because a DC Circuit Court determined that "broadband" is an "information service"? 
    * Do you write, sell, distribute, or purchase software?  If so, you've "invested" in the "software layer" of the Internet.
    * Did you 'invest' in a computer for your home or office? If it has a modem, a wireless connection, or any other access then you have made a personal ‘investment’ in the growth of the Internet.

I assume that the telecom lobbyist is not evil.  But they are ill-informed, and too focused on one narrow slice of a very, very big pie. 

The software companies have not yet educated Congress about the significance of the ‘software layer’ that cannot innovate without solid Net Neutrality protections.

Right now, US Senators need to understand:

1. ALL OF US have invested in the Internet.
2. Just because the info that passes along the wires and cables is digitally formatted does not mean that Common Carrier provisions should no longer apply.
3. Internet innovation has **originated mostly from** the "software layer": web browsers, email applications, video applications, eCommerce – all these are in the software layer that is currently ‘invisible’ to Congress, and are based on the legal principles encapsulated by Net Neutrality language.
4. Tell your Senators that legislating on the basis of the underlying 'wires and routers' (or “hardware”) layer of the Internet is bad policy -- the 'software layer' DEPENDS UPON equal access, collaborative social interactions, and a level playing field.  The “software layer” REQUIRES Net Neutrality provisions in the 2006 Telecommunications Act.  Without the Net Neutrality protections, we’re unable to keep growing the Internet.
5. Protect the “software layer”.  Support Net Neutrality.  Today.

Call Senators Murray and Cantwell and ask them to vote for Net Neutrality

Sen. Murray's point person on NN = "Evan Scholz" (202) 224-2621

Sen. Cantwell's point person on NN = "Michael Daum"
  202-224-3441

Thanks.  This is an important issue.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 16, 2006 at 08:03 AM in Media, Policy, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (5)

June 15, 2006

Darcy Posts on DailyKos

Darcy Burner has just posted on DailyKos about her race, her qualifications, and Bush's support of Reichert and Reichert's support of Bush.  It's a wonderful piece.  If you are registered over at DailyKos, please give it a recommend.  Thanks.  We really want to send a signal that Bush and Reichert can't buy this race.

Darcy has also posted the same piece on MyDD.  Take a look and recommend if you can.  The longer these are up, the more people will get an opportunity to see them.  There are already several comments about relatives from other parts of the country talking about a Washington State family member's reaction to Darcy's post or seeing Darcy in person. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 15, 2006 at 11:00 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

Seattle transportation measure lacks focus on transit

Seattle’s transportation proposal lacks a focus on improving transit service in Seattle. For a city with horrific traffic congestion, and a transit system that relies on the street grid, moving buses through the city must be the priority of new local funding for transportation.

At the municipal level, there is no doubt that Seattle has a backlog of general transportation needs, and that the allocation from the general fund has historically failed to meet the basic maintenance needs of our streets, bridges and sidewalks.  Yet, Councilmember Richard McIver clearly understands that the priority should be on getting buses running through the city, when he commented on the Seattle transportation proposal in the Seattle PI.

"…My concern has always been -- will continue to be -- getting more operation hours from transit into Seattle where the demand is -- as demonstrated by both the fareboxes returns and the ridership."

Mayor Nickels estimates the package would generate $65 million in the first year. The tax package would be broken down to include:

   * $19 million for paving roads

   * $13.9 million for transit, freight and pedestrian corridors

   * $13.5 million for bridges

   * $6 million for signs, signals, guardrails and other safety improvements

   * $5.7 million for pedestrians and bike improvements

   * $2.5 million for sidewalks, trails, walkways and stairways

   * $2 million for trees and landscaping

   * $1.9 million for neighborhood services

While some Seattle City Councilmembers will no doubt be focused on the size of the package, voters are more likely going to be concerned about projects that will help reduce congestion, namely improvements to transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

Cross Posted on Urban Transit

Posted by EzraBasom on June 14, 2006 at 08:13 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

The CIA Leak Panel at YearlyKos

This panel was the best panel I’ve ever seen on any topic anywhere.  Put together by the irrepressible Jane Hamsher of the Firedoglake blog, it included Ambassador Joe Wilson; writer and investigator Murray Waas of the American Prospect; former CIA operative and writer Larry Johnson; former prosecutor Christy Hardin-Smith, aka Reddhedd of Firedoglake; Marcy Wheeler who researches and writes under the handle emptywheel at The Next Hurrah; and Dan Froomkin, online blogger for the Washington Post. 

Jane opened by saying that if NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and PBS had been doing their jobs, this panel would not be here.  She thanked them from the bottom of her heart for not doing their jobs and allowing Firedoglake, which has been doing the best reporting on this issue anywhere, to do so.  Then we got to see what it’s like to get a picture of one of the most important and underreported stories of our time from someone who used to be a Hollywood producer.  This woman knows how to tell a story.

She talked about the villains and the heros of this story and said how lucky we were to have this panel with us, starting with a real American hero – Ambassador Joe Wilson.  She introduced the new Bob Woodward, Murray Waas, still the only reporter in the country on this story full time.  She said the story could not have been told without the bloggers, people like Larry Johnson, who was in the same CIA class as Valerie Plame and who now writes on his own blog, No Quarter.  Johnson’s unique insider perspective is picked up routinely by several other blogs.   Jane introduced her compatriot on Firedoglake, Christy Hardin-Smith, who has consistently pulled together the best information from everywhere else and then speculated about what it meant from her perspective as a former prosecutor.  Much of what the bloggers and Waas writes is based on the work of Marcy Wheeler, researcher and writer at The Next Hurrah, whom others talked about as being perhaps the most knowledgeable person on the planet about this issue.  Dan Froomkin, online blogger at the Washington Post, has been the only national media person to cover this story routinely and he often makes use of what he learns from the other panelists.   

Jane talked about the power of blogs to start and maintain a conversation.  Without them, this story would have gone away, as the Iran-Contra story did in the mid-eighties.  We are in a different era now, an era where anyone with passion and knowledge can participate. 

Then Joe Wilson stood to rousing applause.  There are video clips of the opening remarks of this panel online and I hardily recommend that anyone interested in this story take a look if they can access it.  Here (hard to find) or here (have to register)  I will cover just the highlights of what I heard.

Joe Wilson

After the applause died down, Wilson said, “I am Mr. Valerie Plame.  I used to  be Joe Wilson, the last American diplomat to talk with Saddam Hussein.  Now I am the husband of the first intelligence agent in the history of this country to be outed by her own administration.  Think about that, the US government compromising the safety and cover of a CIA agent.   He went on to say that Plamegate has never been about Joe Wilson and his wife.  “The story here is who put the 16 words in the State of the Union Address and why did they do it?” 

He talked about the war and the price that has been paid. He added that we have a right to hold the people who made the decision to go to war accountable.  “This is about war and why we wage it.  It is also about how we conduct debate in this democracy of ours.  There has been a systematic pattern of disenfranchisement and smears from people inside our government.  “If there is any lesson it is that we can stand up to schoolyard bullies and make sure that these decisions are made in the public arena.” 

He ended by quoting George Orwell.  “In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary.”   

Dan Froomkin

Dan Froomkin was up next.  Dan said, “I want to talk about the job of telling the truth on the part of the traditional media. . . .  I could almost stop there.  The exception here is Murray Waas, the only journalist effectively scrutinizing the facts.  Without him, Judith Miller might still be considered a fine reporter.”   

He added, “Joe and others see this as the tip of the iceberg, the narrative of an administration that selectively leaks to the media to tell their story.”

“So, why aren’t they?”  He speculated that the media is actually liberal, as they have been painted to be, and is bending over backwards not to get called, “liberal”.  Plus, the culture in newsrooms is to please the boss.  He ended by saying he appreciated that the blogs were adding resistance.

Murray Waas

Murray Waas then spoke, saying “I am the only full-time reporter on this story.  The American Prospect is a publication with only 13,000 subscribers.  It should not be the case that a publication with this low a subscription is the only one covering this story full time.  Bloggers have filled the void and done what newspaper reporters used to do.”  He added that we don’t know where this story could go.  Rove could be indicted (more on that later.)  The Vice President could be implicated.  Only then will they pursue it.  He said, “A lot of reporters are so compromised that they just hope this story goes away.”

Waas then reminded us of the time of the Clinton impeachment when Ken Starr, the special prosecutor then, fed the reporters, unlike Patrick Fitzgerald now.  It brings up the question of what stories are not being told.  He ended with a plea.  “Let’s not close the public square.  Let’s open up the public square and try to reclaim our media.”

Marcy Wheeler

Marcy Wheeler was up next.  She started by saying, “The reason I got interested in this story is that I didn’t want to have happen to this story what happened to Iran-Contra.”  There was a lot of nodding of the heads by panelists and members of the audience.

She talked about the advantages that bloggers have over journalists.  She said that bloggers can present the story in terms of character and add flavor.  For example, in discussing Judith Miller, we can label her “Steno Sue”, a term which clarifies her role to readers quickly.  Marcy was able to speculate about who Judith is and most of those speculations have held up.  Bloggers can also deal with the way and the reasons that the MSM is spinning a story.  For example, she guessed that Ari Fleisher was cooperating with Fitzgerald because of the stories that had been planted against Fleisher. 

Marcy also said that she would pit the understanding of any regular Firedoglake reader up against the writers of ABC’s “The Note”.  Of course we all liked that.

Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson spoke next.  He began by saying, “One thing is clear.  Valerie Plame was an undercover agent until the Administration revealed her status.” 

Johnson said he has been a life-long conservative and he has been particularly puzzled that conservatives have gone along with Bush and Cheney on this issue.

He stood up for the CIA’s information.  He said that the CIA had said that there was no operational relationship between the events of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein.  They said there were no WMD in Iraq.  Then they said that Hussein had not purchased yellowcake from Niger.  He added, “You have lost your heart and soul if that does not outrage you.”

Johnson said that Valerie was undercover since the day they walked into the building in 1985.  Johnson has posted in the past on being in the same class of CIA agents as Plame.  (Joe Wilson said that he found out from Johnson that Valerie was the best agent with an AK-47 in that class.  Wilson said it was not something he really wanted to know.)

Johnson said that the Justice Department would not be investigating this case if Plame were not still a protected agent.  The case she was working on was the investigation of Iran’s ability to obtain materials that would allow them to acquire nuclear weapons.  There was an internal damage assessment done that found that there was damage done to the CIA and ultimately to the nation as a result of this leak. He said the leaking was nothing short of treasonous.

Christy Hardin-Smith

Christy Hardin-Smith followed Johnson up.  She talked about the law in regards to this issue.  She began by saying it would be helpful if journalists talked with prosecuting attorneys when discussing this case.  If they did, they would know that you don’t waste the time of the Grand Jury unless you have a case.  You are very careful not to start something with a Grand Jury that you don’t intend to finish. 

Christy also said that she knows the issue of protecting sources is critical from the point of view of a journalist.  However, from a prosecutor’s point of view, the constitution does not provide cover for journalists who are committing a crime or assisting a politician to commit a crime. 

Q&A

There were also some interesting points brought out in the Q&A, of which I will only cover a few.  Joe Wilson said he remains confident that the rule of law will be successfully implemented in this case. 

Murray Waas cautioned that we still want to make the presumption of innocence.  He also said, however, that the government has the ability to close down the investigation as George H.W. Bush did with the Iran-Contra case by his wholesale pardoning of suspects.  Waas also brought up a related question that he considers very important – “Who is paying for Scooter Libby’s defense?”

Larry Johnson said he is convinced this story is heading toward implicating Dick Cheney.  He thinks this is a systematic cover-up.

Marcy Wheeler said that all journalists covering this story are being spun. 

You see why I said at the beginning that this was not only the highlight of a spectacular convention but also the best panel ever on any topic? 

Addendum:

Yesterday, the story came out that Karl Rove was off the hook.  The folks at Firedoglake said they weren’t surprised.  Here’s a long excerpt of what Jane had to say:

I have to say I don’t know what all the fuss is about. 

When I first heard that Rove got a letter saying that Fitzgerald did not intend to bring charges against him, I immediately thought — as emptywheel did — of a conversation we had between the Plame panelists last Thursday.  Emptywheel took a poll of those who thought Rove had flipped and both Joe Wilson and Larry Johnson raised their hands.  Christy acknowledged that it was awfully weird for someone to testify before a grand jury five times and NOT be cooperating in some fashion with the prosecution.  Today emptywheel offers this account:

I was one of those who raised her hand halfway. My logic is this:

Dick Cheney is dragging down the White House. He is largely responsible for the mess in Iraq. He is trying to sabotage any attempts to negotiate honestly with Iran. And he is exposing everyone in the Administration to some serious legal jeopardy, in the event they ever lose control of courts. At some point, Dick Cheney’s authoritarianism will doom Bush’s legacy.

But you can’t make him quit. His is a Constitutional office, he was elected along with Bush, so you can’t make him resign like you can with your Treasury Secretary or your Environmental Secretary. What better way to get rid of him, then, than to expose him to legal proceedings? It gives you the ability (farcical, but no matter) to say that you have severed all ties with his policies and legacies.

It’s become ever more apparent as time goes on and Fitzgerald releases bits of information in his filings that this was a Dick Cheney operation.  Rove may have gotten involved because smearing people is his idea of a good time, but the Cheney scrawlings on Joe Wilson’s op-ed are the "blue dress"  of this case.  Look at Conrad Black.  Look at George Ryan.   I’m sorry, but Fitzgerald had Rove dead to rights if he wanted him, and anyone who thinks he got nothing for something has been following the story of a different prosecutor than I have been.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 14, 2006 at 11:38 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Invite to a Rally Against Bush and Reichert

Money is not enough, George.  That's the motto for a protest rally to be held Friday when George Bush is coming to town to raise money for Dave Reichert's congressional race.  Bush is making campaign stops for only the most vulnerable seats, letting us know that this is a race that offers an excellent opportunity for change.

This is great news for the Darcy Burner campaign, because we know they are worried about a democratic victory in this district. The Democratic Party invites us to rally for Darcy tomorrow, Friday the 16th, and show our disapproval of the Republican administration and their congressional ally, Dave Reichert.

WHO: You and Other Concerned Citizens

WHAT: Rally

WHERE: Westlake Center, 400 Pine St, Seattle, 98101

WHEN: 11:15 am on Friday June 16th

WHY: To Show Dave Reichert and George Bush that We Are Fed Up and that candidates like Darcy will take back our congress; Please bring signs and enthusiasm!!!

Join us!!!!

 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 14, 2006 at 10:41 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Voters prefer transportation spending over subsidized stadiums

I’m not at all surprised that a poll conducted from June 1-5 found that voters would rather pay for transportation than rebuild the recently remodeled Seattle Center Key Arena.  For some time voters in Seattle have supported transit and other transportation improvements in numerous votes.   

Not surprisingly, voters are overwhelmed by the myriad of projects needing attention in our inadequate, under funded transportation system in Seattle, and the surrounding region. 

The voting public would like leadership from our elected officials, when it comes to prioritizing transportation and deciding where to put the funding.  Clearly the majority of voters in Seattle are less concerned about cost, and more interested in how the funding will improve mobility, reduce congestion and improve transit service. 

Cross Posted on Urban Transit

Posted by EzraBasom on June 13, 2006 at 11:30 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Like Bush, Reichert Governs Purely as a Republican

It is apt that President Bush is coming to Medina to raise money for Dave Reichert and nothing else.  Everything President Bush does is aimed at preserving Republican power in Washington.  He governs as President of the decreasing number of Republicans in this country, not as President of these United States of America.

Joel Connelly had an interesting column in the PI a few days ago.  He reminded us that when Presidents traveled in the past, they actually addressed real issues and listened to voters who had various viewpoints.  Not Bush.  He may try to fit one photo op in to help pay for the trip but that will be it.  None of the possibilities that Connelly lists, like discussing jobs going to Asia or the lagging nuclear clean-up at Hanford or alternate energy sources, would interest a President of Bush’s limited appreciation of actual governing. 

In the same way, Reichert serves as Representative for the conservative Republicans in the 8th district as well as the rest of the country, rather than as Representative of the majority of citizens who actually live in that district.  The 8th Congressional District which stretches from Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond and Mercer Island to the rural areas of North Bend and Enumclaw, is a largely moderate district that is trending Democratic.  The district voted for John Kerry and Patty Murray last fall. 

Reichert, however, has voted with President Bush and Tom DeLay and the rest of the Republican leadership on key issues almost 90% of the time in this session, no matter what his constituents wanted.  Reichert voted against stem cell research, for limiting a woman’s access to birth control, for the privatization of social security, for cutting billions from the Medicare and Medicaid budget and for an energy bill that gave huge taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies. 

The Bush Administration is desperate to preserve their power.  Enough so that the Republican strategists have sent Bush on this lightning fast trip to try to save Reichert’s seat.   When Darcy Burner talks about how important it is to take this seat for the Democrats, she often says, this seat is 1/15 of what it will take to make the House Democratic this next session. 

Well, this is our 1/15th to fight for.  This is the job that we in this area must take on to get our country back.  We can’t begin to offset the money that Bush’s trip to Medina will bring to Reichert’s campaign from a few wealthy people who will benefit tremendously if Congress remains in the hands of the Republicans for two more years.  But we can do something better.  We can give our tens and twenties and fifties and show Darcy and the country that thousands of us believe that Reichert must go and with him the chances for continued Republican control of Congress.  Give now to send a signal to the Republicans.  Or here.




Posted by Lynn Allen on June 13, 2006 at 08:16 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006

Seattle Weekly editor mocks transit advocates

Knute Berger may be attempting to be cute, in his mockery of local environmentalists who advocate for public transit, bicycling and living without the cost and dependency of automobiles. However, he really comes across as someone who seems uninformed about the dire state of transportation in our region, after decades of poor investment to create meaningful choices to always driving a car.

I thought it was obvious, especially to the editor of the Seattle Weekly, that improving our transportation system is about people making choices with each trip they make.  We must dramatically increase funding for transit, bicycle lanes and paths and sidewalks to give people options that don’t require dependency on cars.

What would Mr. Berger suggest we do to improve our crumbling and seemingly inadequate highway infrastructure? Add a double deck to I-405, while we let the Evergreen Point Bridge sink?  We can’t even keep up with the maintenance of our existing auto oriented infrastructure, let alone build new highways.

As a region we need to create priorities for our transportation dollars.  Safety and maintenance are first on that list.  Regulating our highways with tolls, for a variety of reasons, is an important second.  And most importantly we must invest in funding a quality transit system, complemented by a bicycling and walking infrastructure.

I commend the pioneers in the environmental community who are standing up to the fallacy that our existing transportation system of 2.4 cars per household in this region is a functional system.  And I won’t hesitate to say, that a parking lot on I-5, which we have for hours every day, is a system that does not work.

Cross Posted on Urban Transit

Blogs mentioned in Seattle Weekly Column

Sightline Blog

Bus Chick

Posted by EzraBasom on June 12, 2006 at 11:09 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with Lillian Kaufer – Candidate for State Senate in the 44th LD

The political transformation in this country is happening and Lillian Kaufer’s run for State Senate in the 44th LD, in South Snohomish County, illustrates that change. In 2002, Lillian started reading blogs and commenting online, first at Democratic Underground, then at DailyKos.  She realized that the country was not being told the truth and it was hard to get good sources of information.  She was brought around to a progressive perspective quickly and decided that it was critical to get involved on the ground in local issues.    

Now, as she doorbells 8-10 hours a day, talking to voters about what is going on in this country and what she wants to do if she wins a Senate seat in the State, Lillian sees a big groundswell of support for her campaign and for the progressive causes she cares so much about.

She became active in the move to stop WalMart from coming into Mill Creek in 2002.  She saw the terrible treatment that workers at WalMart get.  From that, she broadened her fight and began working for better healthcare for all workers.  She also became involved with Working for Change, a progressive offshoot of MoveOn.org that concentrates on holding monthly political discussions in neighborhood groups.       

In 2004, Lillian became involved in the Kerry campaign and in the process started working with the 44th LD Democratic Party and continued doing so after the 2004 election.

This last February, at the Democratic State Party Crab Feed In Olympia, she was sitting with a group from her legislative district and they asked her to run for the Senate.  The Senate seat is currently held by a Republican, Dave Schmidt, and these folks, including the State committeeman and committeewoman for the district and the First Vice Chair, all thought that Lillian would be most able to take the seat away from him. 

Well, Lillian says realistically, they probably had already asked both Hans Dunshee and John Lovick, the two current State Representatives from the 44th, if either of them wanted to try it, and had been turned down.  Although she was surprised to be asked, she was not deterred by her relative inexperience.  There was already one Democrat in the race, Steve Hobbs, but he was having a hard time overcoming the negativity that was generated when he took on former Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers in the primary for County Council last fall.  When it was time for the Legislative District to endorse candidates, Lillian received 50 of the 51 votes cast for the Senate position.   

Lillian thinks that the people in her district, who seem very excited when they talk with her during her doorbelling stints, are ready for change, both at the national and the state level.  She sees people coming out of woodwork to be interested in politics.  She thinks they seem to like her ideas, her fresh approach and her passion.  They like that she hasn’t been in politics forever.  They like that she fights for families and for protecting the environment. 

When she is out doorbelling, Lillian engages the voters in discussions about what is occurring at the national level.  She says that people are excited to vote this year.  People are so disappointed in Bush and the national Republicans.  Even Republicans ask to put signs for her up in their yards and they donate money to her campaign.  Ninety percent of the money coming in is from her district.  She has received money from one PAC, the UFCW, which gave her money because of the work she has done to hold WalMart accountable. 

The current Senator from the 44th, Republican Dave Schmidt, was pretty far right in the past but has moderated his positions over the last two years as the district has shifted left.  In 2002 Schmidt won with only 53% even when there was a weak campaign on the Democrat side.  There has been an influx of more moderate voters to the district and both representatives, Hans Dunshee and John Lovick are progressive Democrats, so Lillian thinks the time might be ripe to take the seat for the Democrats and believes she is the person to do it.

Lillian lives with her husband and two children in Mill Creek where they have a small business. 

The business brings her in contact with nursing homes which has fueled her interest in fair-share healthcare.  She believes that the State needs to end the healthcare subsidies for large companies like WalMart who don’t pay their share of healthcare costs and leave that to the state taxpayers.  She also believes that the larger businesses that receive tax cuts should be more accountable for those state subsidies.  Sometimes they are warranted, sometimes not and we need to know when they are and when they aren’t.  She is also not pleased when tax funded project work goes to non-Washington State companies and hopes to do something about that as well if elected.   

Lillian is also focuses on providing changes in transportation and education.  She sees a lot of transportation projects underway and wants full accountability for how that money is being spent and to make sure these projects are completed on time. She also wants to increase public transit so commuters have more choices when they are getting around the region.  Her particular focus in education is to provide more options for kids by expanding the opportunities to attend trade schools for non-college bound students.  She says there is a great demand in Snohomish County for skilled workers like carpenters and electricians and there should be greater access to trade schools.

If you get a chance, go take a look at Lillian’s site and consider sending one of our first blogger-inspired candidates a contribution.  During one of the big panels at YearlyKos, I mentioned Lillian’s story from the floor and it got a big round of applause.  She is one of us and she’s already doing what Howard Dean and Harry Reid and Markos and others are asking us to do – get personally involved in politics

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 12, 2006 at 11:29 AM in Candidate Races, Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 11, 2006

YearlyKos ... it's a wrap

Just posting a few brief thoughts, posted via free airport WiFi while waiting to board my plane at McCarran:

  • For me, the best evidence that Kos and left-blogging have turned a corner in the political consciousness is that Harry Reid really, really loves us.  I mean, here's a strait-laced Mormon grandfather, a moderately conservative Democrat ... and he's imploring us to get out there and write our little hearts out.
  • Of course, he's also imploring us to work our little asses off in our non-virtual communities, to advance the dialogue person-to-person.
  • At this morning's brunch, someone mentioned Lech Walesa's response when asked how the Solidarity movement gained traction -- talk loudly at the bus stop.  You don't have to start haranguing the people around you ... just begin by having a loud conversation with your friends, and maybe someone nearby will chime in.
  • During the wrapup "open thread" session at brunch, our own dKos front-pager mcjoan extolled the already-established SeattleKos group as a model of how face-to-face contact strengthens and enhances what we do as bloggers and activists.  I added some supporting comments as well, extending it to our highly popular DrinkingLiberally groups.
  • Many people drooled over the Washington Kossack tee-shirts that Switzerblog created.  In fact, after seeing the tagline (Switzer's an idiot), Markos wants one for himself.
  • After I mentioned that I use the nom de blog N in Seattle on dKos and elsewhere, Markos remarked a couple of times that nom de blog (a takeoff, of course, on nom de plume, translated as "pen name") was a term he really liked.  I can't believe he hasn't heard the phrase before, but it seems not.

I plan to post more on the YearlyKos experience, both here and elsewhere, but have to wrap up before boarding my plane. 

Posted by Neal Traven on June 11, 2006 at 04:53 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 10, 2006

YearlyKos - Briefest of Updates

There has been so much that's been good these last two days.  This has felt like a transformational event in the political world - and that has been reinforced by the stream of politicians coming by to tell us so and to ask for our help - the help of all of us who read and write and talk and organize and make things happen in the netroots and the grassroots.  Just today I heard that from Howard Dean, Ralph Neas (People for the American Way), Mark Warner, Michael Shiavo, and Harry Reid. 

It's clear that people are getting who we are and what we represent and they know that, as Harry Reid put it tonight, we are the new player on the field, the one the opposition was not thinking about when they tried their most recent tired old tricks.  And, working with the other players on our side, we will make this work. 

 

Yesterday was more us talking amongst ourselves and hearing from fellow bloggers - the amazing gang at Firedoglake who have been focused like lasers on the CIA Leak Story, the front-pagers at DailyKos talking about what come next at that pivotal site and about how we are all weaving together the people powered politics that will take back this country. 

At the moment my brain cells are nearly gone from the intensity of these last couple days and I can't even remember what else I did or whom I talked with or listened to.  But I did take notes and will be writing up much of what I heard over the next week or so. 

It's been inspiring.  More later. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 10, 2006 at 11:13 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

More from yKos -- why didn't I know about this?

Taking a break from the Panels, Roundtables, Workshops, and Keynotes here at the Riviera, I wandered into the vendors' area.  One booth that caught my eye was an organization called ReadtheBill. 

Their interest is what they're calling the "72 Online rule", a House resolution with a very plain purpose.  Its title:

Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require that legislation and conference reports be available on the Internet for 72 hours before consideration by the House, and for other purposes. [Source]

Simply put, the resolution calls for requiring bills to be published in their entirety on the internet for at least 72 hours prior to being voted on.  As one of ReadtheBill.org's information sheets notes,

72 hours is consistent with the existing (but routinely waived) three-day rule in the House, and related rules in the Senate.  72 is long enough to analyze a piece of legislation and alert those who are interested, but short enough to be readily enforced.

24 hours may be enough time to FIND a bad provision in a bill, but it is not enough time to FIX it.  Because the bills will be read by experts, who will sound the alarm to citizens and the media, it is crucial to have 72 hours to allow that process to play out.  72 hours allows time for citizens to contact their members of Congress.

Moreover, anything less than 72 hours would weaken existing House rules and is not reform, but rather a surrender to business as usual.  The three-day rule should not be weakened to become the 24-hour or 48-hour rule.

These new rules wouldn't prevent passage of bad provisions, but would do a great deal to assure that they are seen and aired in the public arena.  The opportunity for citizen action regarding provisions would be enhanced.

I'm posting about this proposed resolution because, to my surprise, its principal sponsor is Brian Baird (WA-3).  Why didn't we know that one of our own has proposed this eminently reasonable, clearly needed resolution?  After all, he introduced the resolution way back in February!

Baird's resolution has drawn support from several media outlets in his district, including at least one surprising one -- the very conservative Centralia Chronicle.  He has 32 co-sponsors, including at least two Republicans.

Oddly, though, his only Washington State co-sponsor is Adam Smith.  Jim, Jay, Norm, Rick ... where are you?  Hell, for something like this, something that shouldn't be a partisan issue, something that should really be a no-brainer, I'd even wonder why Dave, Doc, and Cathy haven't signed on.

Not that this sort of openness in what goes into our public laws should be limited to the federal level.  Such rules should be in place at every level of government.  Are you listening, Olympia?

While on the ReadtheBill website here at YearlyKos, I put in my identifying information for their database.  Doing so generated an auto-email to my Congressman, so Jim McDermott has heard from at least one of his constituents.  I hope I won't be the last.

Posted by Neal Traven on June 9, 2006 at 05:54 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pressing responsibilities at YearlyKos

While glancing through the YearlyKos website after registering, I noticed a little piece on the website which mentioned building a database of bloggers attending the meeting.  The purpose, it was said, was to compile a blog media list and to enable regional blog colleagues or bloggers interested in similar topics to get in touch with each other.   So I duly sent in my collection of blog locations -- Peace Tree Farm, Evergreen Politics, and WashBlog -- and thought that was that.

So I was quite surprised a couple of weeks later, when I received a message from the YearlyKos people informing me that my media credentials would be waiting for me at the registration desk.  Me?  Media credentials?  What in heaven's name were they thinking?

I found out shortly after arriving at the Riviera to register.  My badge does indeed have that little green "Press" ribbon, which entitles me to step into the media room, just like Byron York, just like Adam Nagourney, just like the guys from newspapers and TV stations. 

I'm writing this from the media room, as a matter of fact.  It was quite crowded when I walked in, as Barbara Boxer was finishing up a brief press conference following her keynote speak at lunch.  Now it's cleared out, so I can plug in to replenish the battery of my laptop.  And I can pick up press kits, grab a soda or a bag of chips, sit down and bat this out in relative comfort.

Why did people like me receive press credentials?  One of the organizers had the answer for me -- they very strongly wished to demonstrate to the MSM that blogs are media too.  Professional journalists don't get treated better than us amateurs simply by virtue of getting paid to write stuff.  And high-prestige, widely-read bloggers aren't treated better than us nobodies simply by virtue of their impressive sitemeters.  So I get swept along in the tide.

While I've been here writing this post in the media room, I've had brief conversations with some of the others working on stuff here, including Pachacutec of firedoglake, Bob Geiger of Democrats.com, a reporter from the Cox Newspapers, Stirling Newberry of BOP News, and others.  They're hardly the only conversations going on in here. It still seems more than just a little bit incongrous to me, but I'm not about to tear that ribbon off of my badge.

###########

Cross-posted everywhere I can post to...

Posted by Neal Traven on June 9, 2006 at 02:44 PM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Early observations from YearlyKos

It's fascinating who you'll run into unexpectedly in a group of a thousand or so progressive bloggers and blogophiles.  I'm not talking about the other Seattle-area Kossacks who I didn't know were coming, like el ganador or Robespierrette.  Nor about bodies and faces that I could finally connect with their dKos usernames, such as, oh, just to name a few, Hunter, em dash, teacherken, or skippy the bush kangaroo (y!hctp blogtopia).  And I'm not even talking about the celebrities -- at last night's "Mojo Mixer", I went through the appetizer line just behind Wes Clark, and Joe Wilson sat at the table next to mine.

No, I'm talking about looking up and seeing one of my former professional colleagues, a physician from Wisconsin.  By the way, he was wearing a "Russ 2008" button.  I'm talking about a guy coming up to tell me how much he's looking forward to coming to Seattle at the end of the month for this year's SABR convention (he's a SABR member and recognized my name from that side of my life).  Two unexpected and out-of-context interactions, two "I didn't know you were part of this" moments. And that's after just one evening of YearlyKos.

Two words come to mind when I think about what we've seen thus far at YearlyKos.  One of them is energy -- not only the boundless supply of it emitting constantly from Markos, but permeating nearly everyone I saw.  They're all rarin' to go, to get out there on the streets or in the organizing meetings, to wrench our country back on track.  The second descriptor I'll mention is absorption.  By that, I don't mean merely their deep concentration on the task at hand.  I'm also referring to the evident capacity and immense willingness of the YearlyKos participants to soak up information and advice from anyone and everyone they meet.  We're all sponges, it seems, eager to soak in every morsel of expertise and experience we find in our midst.  This is going to be an exciting time!

Last note -- as I prepare to upload this post, I'm listening to Wesley Clark discussing the interface among science, business, and education.  Now he's introducing Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science.  Great stuff!

Posted by Neal Traven on June 9, 2006 at 08:46 AM in Best Practices | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Day One of YearlyKos Convention

I hit one workshop this morning and two caucuses this afternoon.  I attended one of the three Progressive Majority workshops, the one on bloggers and the progressive movement, in the morning.  It was largely an opportunity to discuss how we could be more effective in helping progressive candidates win elections and how we can help bridge between Democratic electeds, progressive organizations and the blogging community to build a bigger progressive base. 

The first caucus I went to, the Pacific Coast Caucus, was jammed.  It was mostly Californians but we Washingtonians and the Oregonians had a respectable showing.  And there were a smattering of folks from Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and one guy from Alaska.  We discussed the CA-50 race that Busby lost by only a few points this last Tuesday and what might have made it a win - more outreach to the 30% of the Democrats who were Hispanic, a larger turnout generally, and no candidate gaffe just four days before the election.  There was some discussion about the numbers just being bad for Democrats in that district, period.  We talked about the races in the West that were most  winnable, including Darcy's and Goldmark's.  We discussed the issues that would draw out the rural voters - local sovereignty, local gun control, healthcare, deficit control, maintaining the constitution and better education.  It was a nice opportunity to see ourselves as part of a larger region and to talk more about the Western strategy, something that many of us think is going to be crucial to winning in November and again in 2008.

The MyDD Caucus came later.  There wre about 50 of us.  Jerome Armstrong, considered the godfather of the blogosphere, started out, talking about how he began blogging in 2000 and then slowly focused primarily on politics and then brought in Chris Bowers and Scott Shields and, more recently, Matt Stoller and Jonathan Singer.  They each talked about what they focus on. 

Of particular interest right now is the net neutrality issue that Matt is emphasizing.  I understood the issue at a deeper level than I had previously.  Matt Stoller has been the primary Internet coordinator for saving net neutrality.  He reported that pretty much as we were meeting the House was voting down net neutrality.  But he talked about how this issue will be with us for ten or twenty years.  He reminded us that political power is about human connections and the big telcos, the ones who are opposing net neutrality, have been making connections in Congress for 75 years.   We're new in the process and it is amazing that we have done as well as we've done. So, even though we just lost in the House, we're going to take it to the Senate, building on the momentum we have.  A bipartisan bill, sponsored by Snowe and Dorgan will be introduced shortly.  He said that the blogosphere represents a public forum, something new in the system.  The existing communications policy was set in 1934 and has not changed substantially since then.  The issues have been fought, up until now, between the very, very wealthy and the very rich.  The blogosphere makes it a new ballgame.  We will win in the long-term because public discourse is a good thing. 

Jerome added that historically the large media have made a lot of money on running political ads and in the process have had great influence over the winners of the elections.  With information and ads going to the Internet and being made by any number of people, the large companies both lose money and lose control over the electoral process.  No wonder they are fighting it so hard.

Earlier Matt had talked about the particular influence that MyDD has with the staffers in government.  They and candidates both often call MyDD to talk over issues.  These wonky meme-setters on this blog have a lot of influence.  As the session continued with beers and mingling, I became aware that Dan Balz of the Washington Post, Maureen Dowd and Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, and several folks from the American Prospect were all in that session.   I guess people pay attention to the MyDD folks.

The conference itself started in the evening with a big reception and program in the big hall.  There are supposed to be 1500 of us at this workshop.  I'm guessing we had 8-900 there for this first big session.  We listened to a couple of comedians; cartoonist Tom Tomorrow; Gina Cooper, prime mover and organizer of YearlyKos; and then Markos Moulitsas himself, one of the smartest politicos of them all.  Markos pulled no punches in his keynote address.  He talked about the significance of what we've all done in creating this new way of communicating.  He talked about how we are truly crashing the gates and taking on both the old establishment of both Parties in Washington and the ineffectual media. 

There was a sense of the importance of what we are doing together here in that room.  It was palpable.  And it was enhanced by seeing Ambassador Joe Wilson sitting 20 feet away at the next table and then being introduced to General Wesley Clark in the back of the room when I walked through to step outside for a moment.  It was made more powerful listening to Markos talk about the power of the Stephen Colbert performance at the Washington Press Club a couple of months ago.  He did not let the fact that several of the most important journalists in the country were there with us stop him from reaming out the media for ignoring Colbert's pokes at the government and the media.

Later, my sister and I went to a party that Wes Clark's WESPAC put on at the Hard Rock Casino a couple of miles away.  It was inspiring listening to Markos introduce Clark in a small setting.  I had not been aware that Markos and Jerome had started the Draft Clark movement in 2003 and had only switched over to supporting Dean when Clark didn't get in the campaign early enough.   And I could see why.  I have always been impressed with Clark and supported him for the short time he was a candidate.  Seeing him up close is awe-inspiring.  In addition to being incredibly smart and personable and funny, he gets the bloggers and the importance of what we do in promoting democracy and in trying to turn this country around.  He also challenges us to take it to the grassroots. 

I also met many other bloggers from around the country as well as folks who read and comment on blogs and who work on campaigns and in grassroots organizations all over the place.  It is inspiring to be around so many people who take this business of rebuilding our democracy so seriously.       

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 9, 2006 at 02:00 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 08, 2006

Thank You Senator Cantwell

Maria Cantwell voted against repealing the Estate Tax today.  Thanks to her and to all who took the time to call and let her know how we stand.  Seattle has at least two of the 18 families that fight the hardest to repeal the Estate Tax so it can't be that easy for her to vote against repealing it. 

The PI had an article a few weeks ago on the shenanigans of these families, which include the Nordstroms and the Blethens (who own most of the Seattle Times).  They said:

Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, which want to see estate tax rates increased to as high as 60 percent, said the families perpetrated a fraud on ordinary Americans by saying the levy constitutes an unfair "death tax." Only about 0.25 percent of Americans who die this year will leave an estate large enough to be taxed, the groups said.Wiping the estate tax off the books would mean about $1 trillion in lost revenue for the government between 2010 and 2019, according to private and government estimates.

According to Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, the 18 families include the Walton family, which controls 40 percent of Wal-Mart and the Mars family, which owns Mars Inc., the maker of M&Ms.

Others on the list include the Nordstrom family, owners of retailer Nordstrom Inc., and The Seattle Times owner Frank Blethen and his family.

Thanks for standing with us, Maria. 

 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 8, 2006 at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Reports from YearlyKos

I'm already in Las Vegas for the big YearlyKos convention that begins today.   My seat partner out of Oakland introduced himself when he saw what I was reading (a grant letter from a progressive organization) and it turns out he is a web consultant and works for Wesley Clark and Barbara Boxer, both of whom will be attending.  So we got started with the political talk early.

It's pretty amazing to have bloggers being courted by politicians as we will be this week.  Mostly they'll be courting the big, national bloggers like Markos and Jane and Reddhedd and Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller.  But some of the national politicos understand the value of reaching out to the regional bloggers as well.  Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia and possible candidate for President in 2008, is hosting a giant party Friday evening for any registered convention goer who wants to attend.

I will be posting only occasionally the next few days.  I'm doing some facilitating of the smaller sessions and am likely to be taking advantage of all the mixing and networking opportunities as well as the incredible sessions.  The schedule for the convention is awesome. 

However, Andrew over at the NPI Blog is planning on live-blogging what he sees.  Switzerblog at Washblog is likely to chime in occasionally and hopefully Neal will provide his perspective at Evergreeen Politics along with me.  You can also catch the big sessions on C-Span.  And we hear that the local papers are sending reporters to cover both the event and the local blogging aspect so you may be hearing more about all this than you can imagine. 

My sister, who is flying in from Portland today, and I are staying with dear old friends which provides a grounding to the great goings-on of the next few days.  We will get to come back to stay with two lovely young girls, a dog, four cats and plan on lots of good conversation here as well. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 8, 2006 at 07:59 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (2)

Big Estate Tax Repeal Vote Today

Senator Cantwell is one of the two key Democratic votes in play, according to Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo.  "Cantwell in particular is probably the one your calls can help pull back from the dark side."

MoveOn.org has more details.

This morning the Senate is going to vote on a key step on the way to repealing the Estate Tax and it could all come down to Senator Cantwell. Cutting the Estate Tax will cost the federal government up to one TRILLION dollars in the coming decade, meaning a few thousand wealthy Americans will be a trillion dollars richer and the federal government will be a trillion dollars poorer.

Former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond (who just got a $400 million dollar retirement package) will save $164 million. President Bush will personally save up to $6 million. Vice President Cheney will save up to $60.7 million.

Republicans are just one vote away and Senator Cantwell is the critical vote. Can you call Senator Cantwell right now and tell her that this is not the time to cut the Estate Tax?

Senator Maria Cantwell
DC Office Phone: 202-224-3441

Here are some facts about the Estate Tax:

    * Currently, only 2 percent of the wealthiest families in America pay an Estate Tax 4
    * Contrary to Republican rhetoric, the vast majority of family farms and businesses are not subject to the Estate Tax and repealing it may actually increase taxes on most family farms and businesses. The New York Times has reported that the American Farm Bureau could not cite a single case of a family farm lost due to the estate tax.5.
    * Repealing the Estate Tax could cost us over $1 trillion in the first 10 years.6.
    * Repealing the Estate Tax will severely hurt charities and non-profits 7.

This tax cut will not include a sugar-coated $200 check for middle class families. This time Republicans want to end the most progressive tax in the country, on the books for 90 years, and funnel billions of dollars into the pockets of the wealthiest 2% in the country.

Will you call Senator Cantwell today?

I just called and could only leave a message.  It's important to do.  Mention you're a constituent (and supporter if true).  That helps too.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 8, 2006 at 07:29 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 07, 2006

Our Inner Schweitzer

Yesterday's election results provide a pretty good roadmap for Democrats as to how to win in the fall and in 2008. Taylor Marsh, guest blogging over at firedoglake, says what we learned from Tester's win and the generally low turnout amongst Democrats yesterday (which was at least a part of the reason for Busby's narrow loss), is that "it's time for pollitians to find his or her own inner Schweitzer. Amen. Here's more of what Marsh said:

Finally, to those who derided Brian Schweitzer’s way of running campaigns in 2004 and labeled him as a fluke, Tester’s victory puts that to rest. Schweitzer, as we see, was the sharp tip of the spear, ripping through the thin veneer that Democratic Party insiders have clung to through election loss after election loss after election loss. Schweitzer - and now Tester (the guy who carried Schweitzer’s agenda through the legislature) - are showing those in their state and throughout the nation that the way to really be a political leader is to reject the D.C. insiders who preach caution; ignore the naysayers who seek to turn politics into bland ad campaigns for soap; and embrace an in-your-face politics that tells people you are dead serious about cleaning up our government.

This is not to say that Busby's campaign was a failure in any way. Chris Bowers at MyDD provides this perspective:

In 2004, Busby lost the CA-50 by 22.0%. Today, it looks like she will lose by around 4.5%. And that was with the NRCC spending $4.5M on the race. If Republicans want to spin losing 18 points after spending $4.5M of committee money as a good thing, go for it. After all, spin is basically why they spent so much money on this race. By blowing their wad in a solidly Republican district, they wanted to change the media narrative on the election in their favor. It will probably work, given how subservient and generally inaccurate the media tends to be when it comes to Republicans and elections. In reality, for a Republican candidate to pull 49.5% of the vote in a district with 44.5% Republican registration is shocking. Given those numbers, Bilbray probably managed all of 20% of the vote among independents.

No matter what the media says, no Democrat should be mistaken about this result. First, this is a huge, seismic shift in our favor that bodes extremely well for November. If we receive an 18% shift nationwide, we will win the House easily. If Republican candidates are pulling only 20% of the independent vote, the Indycrat realignment is still on.

UPDATE: Kos has a post up this morning on the race. His take: Busby ran on competence, not as a strong progressive. Her opponent, Brian Bilbray, won in a heavily Republican district - RUNNING AS A PROGRESSIVE!

Nevertheless, it's looking like Democratic turnout was low. Republican turnout was low as well but we assumed that would happen. What inspiration have they got besides covering their leaders' collective asses? But the Democratic base has been wildly energized by Republican failures and we have mistakenly thought that the bulk of Democrats would be as well. Not so much. Bowers again:

At the same time, this is not as good as we could have done. The situation for Republicans is so bad right now, that even our huge leads in the generic ballot hide what Paul Rosenberg pointed out: we should be doing better. Just because we are winning does not mean we are using winning strategies. Our ten-point advantage in the generic ballot should be fifteen. The eighteen point shift we saw in CA-50 should have been twenty-five. Bilbray will win with under 50% of the vote, and there was low turnout relative to past California primaries. Clearly, there was an opportunity for us to do more.

The good news for us in this state is that we have three great Democratic Congressional candidates who have their own inner Schweitzer - Darcy Burner in the 8th, Peter Goldmark in the 5th and Richard Wright in the 4th. All three are saying what needs to be said in their own way, being authentic in the process. Wright may not be a firebrand like Darcy and Goldmark, but he is totally willing to talk about the failures of the Republicans in a very red region of the state. You can listen to audio-clips of the three of three speaking at last week's Democratic Convention here.

Gregoire seems to have found some of her inner Schweitzer in the last few days with her attacks on the Pharmacy Board and her stand on making it the individual Guard's choice as to whether or not to deploy to the Mexican border. This is welcome. Governor Gregoire governs excellently. She is extraordinarily skilled in bringing people together and resolving long-standing, difficult issues. Her ideas on education and healthcare and energy are progressive and, as they are implemented, will put us on the forefront of what is happening in the nation. Her challenge has been to communicate the ideas about why we need to go in these directions. This requires bringing more of her inner Scweitzer out.

Which brings us to Maria Cantwell, who seems to compartmentalize her issues. She can find her inner Schweitzer on the issues that are dear and familiar to her. And then she stops when it gets to issues that she is either less familiar with or just doesn't wish to engage on. At most times in our history, this would be enough to be considered a fine Senator. And indeed, Maria is a fine Senator. But we are in a time of transformation and we need transformational leadership. Would that she could tap into that inner Schweitzer and bring it to the forefront.

Lastly, it is up to each of us to find our own inner Schweitzer, not to leave it up to our leaders. This transformation is as much about our ability to find our democratic voices as it is about our Democratic leaders' ability to find their voices.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 7, 2006 at 08:12 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Next Phase of the Vietnamization of Iraq

So it has come to this, says Dan Kirkdorffer over at On the Road to 2008 in his first post on DailyKos. He's talking of course about the news that U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada is refusing deployment to the unlawful Iraq war and occupation. Watada will announce his decision at noon today at press conferences in Tacoma, where he is stationed at Ft. Lewis, and in Honolulu where he is from. (The question of whether he can be in two places at once will be cleared up at that time; we think his family will be hosting the videofeed in Honolulu). The PI broke the story yesterday. As Dan says,

Lt. Ehren Watada is a brave man. He has taken on what will be as trying a fight as any he is protesting against participating in in Iraq. This war that was initiated by men who this country somehow rewarded by re-election two years ago, and that has been a disaster from the start, even while early appearances were that the quick dispatch of the Iraqi forces in the first three weeks might be harbingers of a promising future.

If you are up and around and so inclined, go give Dan's diary a recommend. This is an important story and terribly, achingly familiar to those of us who lived through the Vietnam War era.


Posted by Lynn Allen on June 7, 2006 at 07:00 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 06, 2006

Matt Lauer Takes on Ann Coulter

She is astoundingly awful.  There is a clip of Matt taking on Ann Coulter on Today this morning that will make your hair stand on end.  At least she was challenged this time.  I would think that her time in the public eye will be coming to an end after this, but I suppose that is wishful thinking.  At the risk of giving her more publicity, I give you Think Progress which has the clip of this:

In her new book, “Godless,” right-wing pundit Ann Coulter writes of the 9/11 widows:

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzies. I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much."

She was confronted about the statement this morning by NBC’s Matt Lauer. Coulter accused Lauer of “getting testy.”

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 6, 2006 at 09:20 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (19)

Good Riddance

Tom DeLay is resigning from Congress this week.  This man has damaged the manner in which politics works in this country, probably more than any other single person in our history.  It is democracy itself that has suffered.   

I wrote about his wretched K Street Project in March, riffing off a no-holds-barred speech that our national treasure, Bill Moyers, gave.  In the interest of reminding us why we need to take back Congress this fall, I repeat myself:

Moyers provides an incredible history of the "K Street Project" and Tom DeLay's part in that.

Here’s how they ran it: On the day before the Republicans formally took control of Congress on January 3, 1995, DeLay met in his office with a coterie of lobbyists from some of the biggest companies in America. The journalists Michael Weisskopf and David Maraniss report that “the session inaugurated an unambiguous collaboration of political and commercial interests, certainly not uncommon in Washington but remarkable this time for the ease and eagerness with which these allies combined.”

DeLay virtually invited them to write the Republican agenda. . . . The rules were simple and blunt. Contribute to Republicans only. Hire Republicans only. When the electronics industry ignored the warning and chose a Democratic Member of Congress to run its trade association, DeLay played so rough – pulling from the calendar a bill that the industry had worked on two years, aimed at bringing most of the world in alignment with U.S. copyright law – that even the House Ethics Committee, the watchdog that seldom barks and rarely bites, stirred itself to rebuke him – privately, of course.

DeLay's own people took the best jobs:

At least 29 of his former employees landed major lobbying positions – the most of any Congressional office. The journalist John Judis found that together ex-DeLay people represent around 350 firms, including thirteen of the biggest trade associations, most of the energy companies, the giants in finance and technology, the airlines, auto makers, tobacco companies, and the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies. When tobacco companies wanted to block the FDA from regulating cigarettes, they hired DeLay’s man. When the pharmaceutical companies – Big Pharma – wanted to make sure companies wouldn’t be forced to negotiate cheaper prices for drugs, they hired six of Tom DeLay’s team, including his former chief of staff. The machine became a blitzkrieg, oiled by campaign contributions that poured in like a gusher.

<snip>

They centralized in their own hands the power to write legislation. Drastic revisions to major bills were often written at night, with lobbyists hovering over them, then rushed through as “emergency’ measures,” giving members as little as half an hour to consider what they may be voting on.

The Democratic minority was locked out of conference committees where the House and Senate are supposed to iron out their differences with both parties in the loop. The Republican bosses even took upon themselves the power to rewrite a bill in secrecy and move it directly to a vote without any other hearings or public review.

Good riddance to the worst of them.  May this be followed by many, many more farewells to the rest of the miserable lot of corrupt Republicans. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 6, 2006 at 08:24 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Darcy Hits TIME Magazine

Great article in TIME Magazine on Rahm Emanuel which features our Darcy top of the article and highlights her smarts and fearlessness:

Darcy Burner knew that prospective Democratic candidates sometimes left in tears after meeting Representative Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who heads the party's efforts to recapture the House and was the one-man screening committee for recruits. Burner, an alumna of Harvard and Microsoft, didn't cry. But she found the wiry former Clinton Administration official as ruthless as any corporate chieftain she had known, as he went down a checklist of questions, including one at the top he had written to himself: Is she worth the investment of my time and the committee's money?

"Apparently, it didn't occur to him that I could read upside down," Burner recalls. Or maybe he didn't care. Either way, at the end of all his queries about polls and consultants and budgets, she asked him, "How are we doing on No. 1?"

"The jury is still out," Emanuel said with studied bluntness.

Burner, who wanted to run in a district that stretches from wealthy Seattle suburbs to farmland at the base of Mount Rainier, passed muster. Now the two are bonded on a historic adventure--the Democrats' increasingly promising quest to evict Republicans from the leadership suites they have occupied for the past dozen years. "This Microsoft mom is going to be part of us taking back the Congress," Emanuel said hoarsely at a rally in a Mercer Island, Wash., community center last week.

Emanuel does have that reputation for eyes-on-the-prize, non-emotional focus. But he is also good in front of an audience and a regular guy when you go to shake his hand.

I'm betting that he sees that same combination in Darcy and that's one of the reasons he is now working so hard to get her elected. She has star power in front of an audience and a lovely presence right there with you when you are one-on-one. However, anyone who works around Darcy knows how disciplined she is. You don't go from coming from a working class family to a scholarship at Harvard without it. You know make it to the top echelons of business without it. You don't work the phones six hours a day asking for money without it. You don't knock out three more seasoned Democratic challengers without it.

Graciously, I might add to the last one. Randy Gordon, who ran an exploratory campaign for the same seat last year, was at the Darcy and Rahm event on Mercer Island, along with his then campaign manager, Jeannie LeGault, and they were both pleased to be on the Darcy bandwagon.

Hat tip to Howie and Goldy

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 6, 2006 at 07:45 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 05, 2006

Supremes Agree To Hear Challenge to Seattle Schools' Use of Race As A Factor in Enrollment

School closure's aren't the only hot political issue involving Seattle schools.  The New York Times, among others, is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear  Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, which challenges Seattle's current use of race as a "tiebreaker" factor in the too-complex-to-explain-here high school enrollment process.

The Supreme Court's decision to add the cases to the calendar for its next term, a step that by all appearances was controversial within the court and unexpected outside it, plunged the new Roberts court into one of the country's deepest constitutional debates....

Both appeals reached the court in January and evidently provoked a vigorous internal debate among the justices, who considered the Seattle case six times and the Louisville case seven times before issuing the one-line order accepting both. Prolonged review of this sort is unusual.

Briefs are now likely to pour into the court in advance of a November argument; the University of Michigan case drew more than 100 briefs. But one of the more influential analyses may prove to be a brief concurring opinion in the Seattle case by Judge Alex Kozinski, the Ninth Circuit judge whose views carry great weight among legal conservatives.

Describing the Seattle plan as one "that gives the American melting pot a healthy stir without benefiting or burdening any particular group," Judge Kozinski addressed the Supreme Court justices directly, on the assumption that they would soon be reviewing the decision.

"There is much to be said for returning primacy on matters of educational policy to local officials," he said.

Should be interesting.

Posted by Jon Stahl on June 5, 2006 at 11:32 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 04, 2006

A Quick History of the Last 100 Years

Here's a wonderfully funny video clip of a performance by Londoner, Rob Newman.  He cuts to the quick about the importance of oil in the last 100 years in our war and politics.  His explanation for the current Iraqi conflict begins at 21.45 minutes.  Then he moves on to the future and talks about his predictions related to Peak Oil and impact that a lack of access to energy has had on civilizations in the past.  Although humorous, it's not pretty.  It's a great complementary show to "An Inconvenient Truth". 

This is really good.  I recommend you wait to see it until you have time to really watch it.  It's 46 minutes long and worth it.

Hat tip to Annie Robbins

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 4, 2006 at 09:01 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (2)

Governor Jumps into Pharmacy Board Fiasco

This will be interesting to watch play out.  Governor Gregoire seems determined to stop this nonsense as soon as possible.  Caught flat-footed by last Wednesday's Board of Pharmacy proposal, she used the Democratic convention to make it clear she was having none of the Board's ridiculous position. 

People who attended the convention report that there was a letter from the Governor on every chair when they arrived.  The letter explained the Pharmacy Board's "compromise" and asked everyone to take action.  She mentioned the issue in her keynote speech and again asked people to contact the Pharmacy Board to get them to change their position at their next meeting, August 31, when they are set to finalize the proposal. 

She also talked to David Postman, the new blogger on the block, who says the Governor has discovered that none of the five Board of Pharmacy members, appointed by Governor Locke and herself, were confirmed.  That means she could replace the entire panel if she wanted.  Postman qutoes the Governor:

This is all about patients' rights and they must focus on patients. And if they're not going to do that I need a group that will. But they've got a chance. They can make it right. They have until August.

Gregoire is also working to broaden the groups fighting the Pharmacy Board's emphasis on "pharmacist's rights".  She is trying to enlist groups like AARP, doctors, and other healthcare groups, saying,

What if I came up and you assumed that I was an undocumented (worker), so you're going to deny me, because you decided I was getting some sort of state help and I don't deserve it. Or you decided because I'm getting some prescription having to do with AIDS, therefore I'm gay and you don't like that or I have some sort of cancer and you think I've been a smoker and that's my problem so you're not going to do that. I could go on with the list. I think there's no end to it.

Gregoire says she thinks the board did not appreciate what they were doing, wanting a compromise and not thinking through the implications of what they were doing.   As I said, this is likely to be an interesting political issue.  I don't think the people who instigated this "pharmacist's rights" nonsense understood what they were going to get. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 4, 2006 at 09:08 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clips of the Democratic Congressional Candidates

Boy, are they good!  Jimmy at McCranium has audiotapes of the three Democrats attempting to take the three Congressional seats currently held by Republicans.  It's a good hit for those of us who weren't at the Democratic Party convention in Yakima this weekend.  Here's Richard Wright, running against "Doc" Hastings in the 4th in central Washington; Peter Goldmark, running against Cathy McMorris in eastern Washington, and our own Darcy Burner, running against Dave Reichert in the 8th.      

Jimmy didn't get a tape of Cantwell but she was a big part of the convention.  Both Andrew at NPI's blog and Postman at the Seattle Times' new political blog, wrote a lot about the convention, including a lot about Cantwell and the support she got from Governor Gregoire, Jim McDermott, Bill Clinton (via video) and many others. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 4, 2006 at 08:56 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with Claudia Kauffman, Candidtate for State Senate

Noemie Maxwell has another of her wonderful interviews up, this time with a strong candidate for the State Senate in the 47th LD, Claudia Kauffman.  When I read the interview, I thought that we need Claudia and people like Claudia in our legislature, people who have spent their entire lives working in community.

We have an opportunity to get really good people into our Congress and our Legislature this year.  It's very heartening.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 4, 2006 at 08:48 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 02, 2006

Board of Pharmacy Fiasco

The right-wing war on contraception is now being waged here in Washington State.  Yesterday, the state Board of Pharmacy endorsed a vaguely worded proposal that allows pharmacists the “right” to decline to fill prescriptions that are in conflict with their beliefs. 

Although we could make a mockery of their intentions and mull over what pharmacists might choose to decline – unmarried men with prescriptions for Viagra? People too undisciplined to exercise who take appetite suppressants?  Teenagers with skin disorders desperate to rid themselves of acne?  It’s clear that this, like other attempts around the country, is designed to decrease a woman’s right to get emergency contraceptive medication. 

What We Have Now

Both the Times and the PI have articles up on yesterday’s action by the Board of Pharmacy.  It’s not pretty.  Here’s the essence from the PI article:

The proposal gives pharmacists the right to decline prescriptions that are in conflict with their beliefs.

The ruling is the result of a long-running controversy about Plan B, the emergency contraceptive -- also known as the morning-after pill.

According to Josh Feit at the Slog, who has been covering this issue pretty consistently, the five voting members of the Board voted unanimously for this:

Pharmacists and Pharmacy ancillary personnel shall not obstruct a patient in obtaining a lawfully prescribed drug or device….If a pharmacist cannot dispense a lawfully prescribed drug or device than the pharmacist must provide timely alternatives for the patient to obtaining treatment. Alternatives may include: Referring to another onsite pharmacist, transferring the prescription to another pharmacy, providing the medication at another time, consulting with provider about an alternative, return the unfilled lawful prescription, provide the patient a timely alternative. . .

This proposal is a mishmash of the two contradictory proposals presented at the May meeting.  I expect they were trying to walk a line between competing proposals and in true Northwest fashion, didn’t want to get anyone upset.  As a result, we have a messy proposal which could allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions they don't want to fill and to turn away patients with legal prescriptions.

The Backstory

Following the May meeting, the Olympian discussed the two draft proposals with Amy Luftig, deputy director of public policy for Planned Parenthood:

We have two drafts. One says a pharmacist shall fill. The other proscribes what a pharmacist should do if he or she chooses not to fill. The second one gives no guidance to the pharmacist on when they may or may not fill.

Over 6600 letters and calls flooded into the Board of Pharmacy, almost all supporting the proposal which would require a pharmacist to fill all legal prescriptions presented to them.

The second of the two May proposals, proposed by the State Pharmacy Association and offered by board member Donna Dockter, a Seattle-area pharmacist, addresses the new notion of “pharmacist’s rights”. 

The Olympian talked to Steve Saxe, executive director of the pharmacy panel a few weeks ago, who said, “the alternative rule proposal offers a broader look at a pharmacist’s discretion and different ways a pharmacist might lawfully decide against filling a prescription.”

The PI article notes something that Rod Shafer, executive director of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, said earlier this year.  “Pharmacists should have the right to decline work that conflicts with their beliefs as long as they respect the patient”. The PI goes on to say, “C.J. Kahler, past president of the association, said the rule endorsed Thursday properly respects the rights of both patients and drug providers.”

Well, I guess that’s what happened yesterday.  Pay no attention to the public, the governor or the rights of the folks standing in front of you with legal prescriptions.    

Part of a National Campaign

In the above-mentioned PI article, it was reported:

Women throughout the U.S. have reported pharmacists who refused to fill their prescriptions for the contraceptive, and other states have taken action. In 2005, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered pharmacies to fill all prescriptions for the pill. In Massachusetts, Wal-Mart was required to stock emergency contraception.

This is getting to be sort of familiar.  I expect that we will soon learn that the national Pharmacy Associations are being given huge amounts of money by right-wing foundations to push this lousy new “right” for pharmacists.  It reminds me of “Intelligent Design”, a made-up idea designed to hide the real intent, in this case to make contraception less and less available outside the urban areas.  It’s sickening to me that we are dealing with this in 2006.

What Comes Next

The proposal faces additional public scrutiny before taking effect and could be altered before the next Board meeting, currently scheduled for August 31.

The Governor, who strongly opposes the proposed new rule, may be able to influence the Board.  She may well not reappoint the worst offender, Donna Dockter, whose current term is up in January.  And the legislature is likely to weigh in, also in January. 

Then too, “Intelligent Design” didn’t do too well in the marketplace of ideas and neither will this.  We have an election coming this fall and this issue, along with the ill-conceived Republican war on immigration, might just consign the Republicans to the political dustbin in Washington State for a decade or so.

We will be hearing more about this.  And there will be concerted action to take.

p.s.  In doing research for this story, I noted that there is a NW regional pharmacists' conference next weekend.  If any friendly pharmacist have a mind to let us know what happens there, please do. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 2, 2006 at 10:23 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

When the Culture Weighs In

Oh, it's going to be a fun election season.  It's the time when Mao's old saying, "Let a thousand flowers bloom" will come to fruition.  Here's a clip of a fake ad for Katherine Harris for Senator in the great state of Florida that's up at the Huffington Post.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 2, 2006 at 07:53 AM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 01, 2006

What Dan Said

Washington State GOP Self Destructing.  Such a nice ring to it.  Dan's got the goods over at On the Road to 2008, a pretty aptly named blog, now that I think about it.  It appears that the right-wing ran away with the platform in Yakima at the State Republican Convention this last weekend, leaving the more sane members and/or politically astute members of the Party leadership alone at the train station wondering where their Party went to.  And trying to explain the Republican's new lame immigration stance to the press.   

Remember, State Representative and soon to be State Senator Rodney Tom found another Party that he likes a lot better.   


Posted by Lynn Allen on June 1, 2006 at 09:57 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)