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June 30, 2007

Park Levies – The Need to Vote on Basic Services

There are two Park levies on the King County ballot in August that should be no-brainers to get passed.  They shouldn’t be on the ballot, in my mind, but there you go, we have to vote to charge ourselves a tiny bit of money for them, maybe $20 a year per family in increased property taxes, something like that, in order to have a decent park system in this county.  This is something that counties did as a matter of course twenty years ago.   

So, Prop. 1 is a renewal of the current levy.  It raises money to pay for 60% of the maintenance for the King County park systems – the 135 or so ballparks, the 180 parks/over 25,000 acres.  And 175 miles of regional hiking and biking trails.  East Lake Sammamish, parts of Cougar Mountain, Marymoor, the Aquatic Center in Kent.  The list goes on and on. 

This levy was put on the ballot by a vote of 9-0 by the KC Council. 

I sat down with Sandeep Kaushik, who is directing the campaign for the parks levy to talk about these two propositions and to get a better understanding of why the voters are being asked to fund basic county services.

First, I have to note, I have found that Sandeep is always on the right side of any issue, so it was clear from the get-go that these propositions are worth getting passed.   Sandeep helped out on the anti I-933 measure (“property rights”) and the anti I-920 (repeal the estate tax) measures.    

Why This Funky Way of Funding Parks?

“What gives?” I ask Sandeep. “Why are these on the ballot?  Why are we taxing people extra for services that should be a given?” 

He tells me that more than 70% of the KC budget goes to criminal justice.  That includes police, the court system and jails.  That leaves only 30% for all the rest.  That’s payroll for the municipal employees, libraries.  We still have libraries, don’t we? 

It’s a modest amount of money and is critically needed.  If the levy were to fail, we would be back into full crisis mode.  In 2002 and 2003, the county cut the budget by one-third and deferred maintenance on everything.  In total, the county cut the budget by 135 million over four years, streamlined from 14 departments to 7, and reduced the number of employees by 500. 

More recently, the budget has stabilized but there is no discretionary spending.  And there is this set of truly non-discretionary spending, about sixteen million a year, for things like maintaining the parks, and just keeping them open!  The needed money cannot come from any other place in the budget, not the sheriff’s office or the court system. 

A Citizen’s Group Pulls Together the Pieces

Back in 2002 and 2003, the county kicked the issue to a citizen’s group, the Metropolitan Parks Task Force, to see what they could come up with.  The group decided to take it to the voters and ask that property owners be assessed a very modest 4.9 cents per $1000 of assessed home value to be used to restore the basic maintenance of the parks.  A home assessed at $400,000 pays $20 per year.

Prop 1 just continues that previous 6-year levy for another 6 years: there are no new costs.

Prop 2 is for the Open Space Acquisition. 

Last year, the county reconvened another citizen task force to look at the park system as it is now.  In a report issued this spring, this group was extremely pleased with what the parks folks had been able to do and the new directions they went in. 

The parks have done a great job of getting money from non-traditional sources.  One fifth of the parks budget now comes from entrepreneurial items, such as charging Cirque d’Soleil for their stay at Marymoor Park or getting Starbucks to fund a park with volunteer help in White Center.

But more is needed.  With the population growth, rising land costs and greater urban density, the task force suggested that we need to keep up with the demographic shifts. With more urban density comes a need for more accessible open space.

We have this great regional trail system but it is not connected up.  The proposition would add an additional 125 miles which, along with the existing 175 miles, would provide a total of 300 miles.

The task force suggested that this get put before the voters as well.  There is strong bi-partisan support.  The vote on the county council was 7-2.  Reagan Dunn and Kathy Lambert were the no votes.  An additional 5 cents per $1000 of assessed value per year provides funding to the county to do trail acquisition and acquire more open space for later use.  One-fifth goes to cities for funding their parks.  One fifth goes to the Woodland Park zoo to fund environmental and conservation education (not the parking garage).  All for another $20 per year.

Election Processes

Both propositions are on the ballot in August. Each appears separately on the ballot in August. If the operations and maintenance issue fails in August, it will appear again on the November ballot.  If the land acquisition levy fails, it will not be on the ballot again.

Both are important.  Consider this a public service announcement.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 30, 2007 at 08:27 PM in Environment, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Democratic Nominee's Acceptance Speech

Ted Sorenson, President Kennedy's speech writer has prepared an acceptance speech for the next Democratic nominee for President of the United States.  Our job is to find the person who will be able to deliver that speech or something very like it.   Looseheadprop at Firedoglake, points us to the Washington Monthly article with the "speech", called "The New Vision" that they asked Sorenson to write. 

Here are some highlights:

The threat of another terrorist attack upon our homeland has not been reduced by all the new layers of porous bureaucracy that proved their ineptitude in New Orleans; nor by all the needless, mindless curbs on our personal liberties and privacy; nor by expensive new weaponry that is utterly useless in stopping a fanatic willing to blow himself up for his cause.

I will not shrink from opposing any party faction, any special interest group, or any major donor whose demands are contrary to the national interest. Nor will I shrink from calling myself a liberal, in the same sense that Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, and Harry Truman were liberals—liberals who proved that government is not a necessary evil, but rather the best means of creating a healthier, more educated, and more prosperous America.

During these last several years, our nation has been bitterly divided and deceived by illicit actions in high places, by violations of federal, constitutional, and international law.

We have adopted some of the most indefensible tactics of our enemies, including torture and indefinite detention.

We have degraded our military.

Looseheadprop points to the real jewel in the "speech" - the call to awaken to the reality of this administration's trashing of our country's greatness, the call to believe in America again and to come together to take our country back:

True, some of us have been sleeping for these eight long years, while our nation’s values have been traduced, our liberties reduced, and our moral authority around the world trampled and shattered by a nightmare of ideological incompetence. But now we are awakening and taking our country back. Now people all across America are starting to believe in America again. We are coming back, back to the heights of greatness, back to America’s proud role as a temple of justice and a champion of peace.

The purpose of public office is to do good, not harm; to change lives, help lives, and save lives, not destroy them. I look upon the presidency not as an opportunity to rule, but as an opportunity to serve. I intend to serve all the people, regardless of party, race, region, or religion.

The entire "speech" is great.  Take a read and then let's get out there to find and help that nominee and Democrats of that mold at every level of government.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 30, 2007 at 09:55 AM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 29, 2007

13-Year Olds Can Read Our Blog -- If Accompanied By a Parent or Guardian

This is hilarious. I first saw this at Busted Knuckles' place and then on Slog, so I decided to go to the website called What's My Blog Rated? and plug in our URL.These are our results:

Rating: PG-13

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • dick (3x)
  • torture (2x)
  • dead (1x)

I'm so relieved to know that teenagers are permitted here, especially since I can't recall ever seeing Lynn use one of The Seven Dirty Words in a post -- or any of the other dozens of dirty words that come to mind in the course of a minute, and that's if I'm thinking very slowly. She is both "cleaner" and less angry than I am.

But isn't it interesting that this rating company considers the Vice President's name to be a really bad word? Can't say I disagree (and, incidentally, I'm sure it's been published here more than 3 times in the past few days). The owners of the company have probably reached the last straw, just like the rest of us, and figure the bastard really deserves to be impeached and convicted after all. (Hey, I'm miffed. How come they didn't nail me for "bastard"? It's become one of my recent favorites.) More interesting, perhaps, is the designation of "torture" as a dirty word. Seeing as how it's the act of committing torture that's so evil, I guess they're on the right track anyway... Still, I'm going to keep writing about it no matter who gets offended, and for sure, that won't be the 13-year olds. Remember, it was the high-schoolers who just told Bush to stop torturing people around the world. They were perfectly comfortable talking about it. It's the knowledge that our government is doing it that offends them, and other humane citizens, to the very core.

As for "dead", well, that would be the Bush presidency. And the neocon agenda. And support for the occupation of Iraq, the national Republican party, the privatization of social security, denial of global warming, acceptance of the worst health care system in the industrialized world, patience for the Bush/dick oil company cronies, tolerance for shredding the Constitution, get-out-of-jail-free cards for criminals like Libby, Abramoff, Cunningham, Doolittle, Safavian, Griles, Delay...

Oy. I feel so dirty.

Update: Well, that was quick. I just went back to the website to see if I could copy the PG-13 movie rating logo over here and it turns out that... we've just been Rated R: No one under 17 allowed unless accompanied by a parent. That's what a few more dirty "bastards" named "dick" intent on "torture" will get you.

Posted by shoephone on June 29, 2007 at 09:48 PM in Media, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (6)

Better Than an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, an Obie...

I received a really nice email today from Steve Audio, with a link to this post on his blog:

Congratulations, you won a !

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

That was that! Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking! It is the first time I am starting something with my blog so I hope it doesn't come back to haunt me.

Happy link-love-sharing, whatever it is!

Well, now I have to tag 5 blogs that make me think, shouldn't be hard. Let's see:

1. The Heretik
2. Corrente Wire
3. Dover Bitch
4. RJ Eskow's NightLight
5. Shoephone's Evergreen Politics

Kinda made me laugh that he thinks that I own this place (I share it with a few others) -- it must be because I've made myself so at home here! In any case, being tagged by Steve for this award just makes me want to strive even harder to contribute something of value to our bloggy world. Having been invited by Lynn and Jon to blog here in the first place remains a real honor. Many thanks. I share this with them.

So, now it's my turn to shine a light on 5 blogs I read that always get me thinking. They are all very different, and all very deserving. Here they are:

1) Arthur Silber - The Power of Narrative

2) Cujo's Slobber and Spittle

3) No Quarter

4) Deep Confusion (Hope's blog)

5) Majikthise

Check them out. You'll see what I mean.

Posted by shoephone on June 29, 2007 at 12:17 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (11)

June 28, 2007

It's Official: White House Ordered Firings of U.S. Attorneys

In attempting to fend off congressional subpoenas and use executive privilege as the hammer,  Nixon/Bush lawyer Fred Fielding unintentionally lets the cat out of the bag:

Today, White House counsel Fred Fielding released a letter informing Congress that President Bush will assert executive privilege over White House documents relating to the firing of U.S. attorneys. Fielding attached a legal memorandum written by Solicitor General Paul Clement, laying out the legal basis for the executive privilege claim.

Clement reviewed the documents that the Congress subpoenaed. In his letter, Clement reveals what investigators have suspected from the very beginning — that the White House was intimately involved in the attorney scandal. Upon examination of the White House documents, Clement writes:

Among other things, these communications discuss the wisdom of such a proposal, specific U.S. Attorneys who could be removed, potential replacement candidates, and possible responses to congressional and media inquiries about the dismissals.

Oops.

Posted by shoephone on June 28, 2007 at 12:57 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

June 27, 2007

Romney the Abuser

Stillwell has the story on Romney that should make everyone absolutely furious. At the very least, I'd like to see PETA file a major lawsuit over this. Romney is just another sadistic bastard who deserves to get hit with everything we can throw at him. And then some. People who abuse animals almost always abuse other people as well. It's classic sociopathic behavior. After all, the creep in the White House spent his childhood years blowing up frogs with firecrackers, just for fun. Now he's getting hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children blown up in Iraq. Just for fun.

It's really not possible for me to express in words what I feel about these people.

Posted by shoephone on June 27, 2007 at 11:26 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

June 26, 2007

Just Desserts - Racists Get Jail Time

Saleh's Deli is my neighborhood store and what happened there in February was an abominable act by two drunken pigs. So I'm celebrating the good news:

A 25-year-old woman accused of hurling racist remarks at the Middle Eastern owner of a Ballard deli was convicted of a hate crime this morning by a King County Superior Court jury.

Nichol A. Kirk of Shoreline was found guilty of assault and malicious harassment and will face a sentence of 6 to 12 months.

<snip>

Kirk allegedly kicked and slapped the business owner, but the owner managed to hold down the two defendants until police arrived, the charging papers state.

Her boyfriend, another pathetic excuse for a human being, got what he deserved too: nine months in the slammer. Like I said, I'm celebrating. Root beer floats all around.

Posted by shoephone on June 26, 2007 at 10:46 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 25, 2007

Cheney the Monster - Part 2

I'm so filled with horror I doubt I'm going to be able to sleep tonight. In fact, knowing what I know now, I may never sleep again. And once you read the second part of the Washington Post's expose on Dick Cheney, you won't ever sleep again either -- that is, providing you have a working brain, a beating heart and a conscience. You will not believe it is possible to live through the nightmare that Cheney has inflicted upon this nation.

YOU WON'T WANT TO BELIEVE.

It's not enough for this sick bastard to wield power like a lasso around the necks of any and all who cross him. He has to make sure human beings are chopped up and ground down into submission. He really doesn't give a damn about you, me or anyone else who may have the misfortune of crossing his bloody, beaten path. We're simply expendable units of flesh and bone and gristle, you and I. Our status as "American citizens" is but a nagging, niggling, inconvenient little factoid to him. And God forbid a non-American should fall between his crosshairs. They're just easier game. He'll take any and all on the way to his own personal feast of souls.

Torture? What's that? No such thing. "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", my friends, may extra-legally be inflicted at Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay, at so-called "black sites" around the world in places like Syria, Uzbekistan and Romania -- you know, where our best friends the tyrants of torture rule -- or right here at home. South Carolina, where American Jose Padilla has been tortured for five years, is known as a good spot. The locales are really quite inconsequential to Mr. Cheney. The tactics are, however, of great interest. He's really not unlike the serial rapist who studies ahead of time in order to perfectly plan the nature and timing of his sadistic punishments. Cheney seems to be especially fond of methods that are meant not only to inflict unimaginable physical pain, but to de-humanize the victim as well. Ultimately, he prefers a smorgasbord of methods, like the ones used on Australian David Hicks -- "beatings, sodomy with a foreign object, sensory deprivation, disorienting drugs and prolonged shackling in painful positions" -- because he knows that combination is guaranteed to get the most for his efforts: a guilty plea and a promise not to tell. And really, after being subjected to all of that, would you be in any kind of physical or mental shape to talk? Not likely. And that's just what he's banking on, because he certainly can't rule as the King of the Dark Side if people are always tattling on him. Much better to render humans as silent and inanimate as rocks.

Everything is expendable in Dick Cheney's sordid and very, very secret world -- human beings, the rule of law, the Constitution, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the International War Crimes Tribunal and even his puppet, George W. Bush. We're all just annoyances. We're bugs meant to be stuck through with pins and mounted, like trophies, on cardboard under a glass case. The thing that leaves me wondering, though, is this: what happens when the glass case is full of dead and dying specimens, and the world outside it is an empty void, because there is simply no more game left to hunt? What then, Monster? What will you do then?

Posted by shoephone on June 25, 2007 at 01:23 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

June 24, 2007

Gonzales is Complicit in Cheney's Unconstitutional Actions

Now that it's been confirmed -- repeatedly -- just how criminal the Bush-Cheney Mob really is, which Seattle reporter will have the guts to go to Wednesday's Westin event and ask Abu Gonzales about this?

(emphasis mine):

Cheney's position so frustrated J. William Leonard, the chief of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which enforces the order, that he complained in January to Gonzales. In a letter, Leonard wrote that Cheney's position was inconsistent with the "plain text reading" of the executive order and asked the attorney general for an official ruling. But Gonzales never responded, thereby permitting Cheney to continue blocking Leonard from conducting even a routine inspection of how the veep's office was handling classified documents, according to correspondence released by House Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman.

Why didn't Gonzales act on Leonard's request? His aides assured reporters that Leonard's letter has been "under review" for the past five months—by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). But on June 4, an OLC lawyer denied a Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute asserting that OLC had "no documents" on the matter, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NEWSWEEK. Steve Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists researcher who filed the request, said he found the denial letter "puzzling and inexplicable"—especially since Leonard had copied OLC chief Steve Bradbury on his original letter to Gonzales. The FOIA response has piqued the interest of congressional investigators, who note Bradbury is the same official in charge of vetting all document requests from Congress about the U.S. attorneys flap. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the OLC response "was and remains accurate" because Leonard's letter had generated no "substantive work product."

My guess is: Not One Reporter.

Update: The Washington Post has published the first in a four-part series on Cheney's unprecedented actions as vice president -- actions that continually place him well outside the law. It's harrowing to read this and realize we are, indeed, living under the evil auspices of a shadow government created by Cheney and his cohorts.

I've recently argued that impeaching Bush would be problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that if impeachment and conviction were successful we would end up with Cheney at the helm. As all the information now points directly to Cheney having already been at the helm for the last six years, I really don't see how impeachment of the vice president can be "off the table". It's not only called for, under these circumstances, it is imperitive in restoring legality and democracy to the government of the United States of America. It's well past time to rescind the ongoing Rule of Man operating from that undisclosed, secured location inside the White House.

Posted by shoephone on June 24, 2007 at 11:33 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Netroots in a Nutshell

                 
          

The famously reclusive and articulate Digby accepted the Paul Wellston Citizen Leadership Award at the Take Back America conference on behalf of the netroots as a whole last week in Washington, DC.   It was a huge deal that we finally got to see who Digby was - and it's a she! - but she also gave the best short (13 minute) talk about who we are that I've ever seen. 

You'll love it.
               


















































































Posted by Lynn Allen on June 24, 2007 at 09:13 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 23, 2007

If Cheney's Not Part of the Executive Branch Then He Can't Claim "Executive Privilege"

The absurd (yet pathological) notion of non-executive branch status that's seeping from the dark recesses of Dick Cheney's brain has led to some swift responses. First, Congressman Rahm Emanuel took the duty-bound step of proposing to cut funding for Cheney's office from an upcoming appropriations bill. He also told Cheney to get the %*#! out of the White House, a suggestion many Americans would like to make to the vice-president, up close and personal.

Now RJ Eskow, blogging at HuffPo, takes it to the logical conclusion: if we are to accept this theory that the vice president is not part of the executive branch, then Cheney "can't withhold information from legislators under the separation of powers doctrine".

Surely you remember that infamous energy task force, the one where Mr. Cheney let his oil industry pals and their lobbyists come in and literally write their own rules? Cheney argued that the public had no right to information about the workings of that task force - because of executive privilege.

How about those executive branch visitor logs we've all been dying to see? I'd love to know how much time Jack Abramoff spent in Cheney's offices, and who he visited there. And, of course, there's the matter of Scooter Libby. With executive privilege out of the way, we can finally figure out whether there was an "underlying crime" or not. (Extra! Othello exonerated for strangling Desdemona - there was "no underlying crime" of adultery.)

<snip>

In fact, here's an even better idea: Since he says he's fundamentally a member of the Senate, why not bring him up on Senatorial ethics charges? Let the investigations commence!

Heck. It sounds pretty logical to me.

Update: Okay, it looks like more clarification on the issue is needed. It's just been confirmed that Bush doesn't think he is part of the executive branch either.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 -- amending an existing order -- requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't  specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice preseident's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

So just for laughs: who exactly does make up the executive branch? And why is it called "the executive branch" if, in fact, it doesn't include the executive?  I wonder if that tattered old document, the Constitution of the United States of America, might have some clues. I'm gonna go have a look see...

Update 2: Well, Article II, section 1, makes things pretty clear:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows...

...and then goes on to describe the electoral college system. But I often find myself drawn to Article II, section 4, and I do think it bears repeating:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Posted by shoephone on June 23, 2007 at 04:50 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2007

Republican Wackadoodles -- Friday Edition

Maybe I could let this go as just one more wacky idea from Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King if it stopped with him. But since 83 of his colleagues signed onto it, well, you be the judge. Last night King tried to attach this amendment to an appropriations bill:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will not be permitted to use State Department funds to travel to nations that are known to have sponsored terrorism if a Republican amendment to appropriations legislation passes the House on Thursday.

The amendment to the $34 billion State and Foreign Operations bill, offered by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), prohibits funds to be used to travel to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.

Yikes! Pelosi must be quaking in her Manolo Blahniks!

When TPMCafe's Greg Sargent called King's office to find out if the amendment also applied to Republicans Eric Cantor, David Hobson, Darryl Issa and Frank Wolf, who accompanied Pelosi on her Syrian trip, the results were predictable:

We reached a King spokesman and posed the question. His answer: "The measure only applies to one position --  the Speaker of the House."

When we asked why the measure wouldn't also apply to Republicans who might want to go to Syria, King's spokesman replied: "The Speaker of the House is third in line, and Nancy Pelosi has made it very clear that she wants" to interfere in the crafting of foreign policy.

We then inquired why the measure didn't also apply to members of Congress, since journeying to "enemy" countries is presumably a bad thing even when done by lowly Congressman. The spokesman's answer: He wasn't sure whether that had been considered, or why it might not have been.

The idiotic amendment failed, on a vote of 337-84, meaning that most of the Republicans wanted to dispose of this smelly piece of trash. But when Washingtonians discover that Republicans Dave Reichert and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers were two of the 84 that voted for it, will permanent k*n*u*c*k*l*e*h*e*a*d status finally be bestowed?

Don't know what's in McMorris-Rodgers' coffee. But gee, Congressman Reichert. Those sentimental days of yesteryear, those Prince Charming moments, are but a misty, water-colored memory to me now.

Posted by shoephone on June 22, 2007 at 12:04 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Senate Passes New CAFE Standards -- What About the House?

Yesterday the Senate passed the first comprehensive bill on new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks in over twenty years. It was a bi-partisan effort and there were definitely compromises made that will not please environmentalists, but considering the Democrats' tenuous hold on majority status it's still a win. The bill passed 65-27 on a voice vote. Here's the core component:

The compromise legislation raises the fleetwide average fuel economy standards for all cars, trucks and SUVs by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years — or from 25 to 35 miles per gallon by Model Year 2020.

Other elements of the bill:

- Provides funding for research and development of fuel-saving technologies

- Achieves up to 18% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions

- Saves between 2.0 and 2.5 million barrels of oil a day

- Saves consumers $79-98 billion

The drawbacks:

- Doesn't rescind the billions of dollars in tax subsidies the previous (Republican) congress gave as a payoff to oil companies

- Doesn't require electric utilities to increase their share of power from renewables

I'm not crazy about the permission companies will get to buy and trade credits if they don't meet certain standards by the target dates (just as I've never liked the "cap and trade" regimes offered to some of the country's biggest polluters) but the nation's scientists recommended that it be included. Overall, it's a bill that works to get us back on track to reduce carbon emissions AND reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- two goals that Bush, Cheney and their cronies in the oil industry only pay lip service to.

The fact is that smaller cars with higher gas mileage are well-made and appealing to consumers. And companies like Toyota proved they are money-makers. Since Toyota has already beat out Chrysler and Ford in national sales, in addition to speeding past GM to become the global sales leader, maybe Detroit will finally start getting with the program. "The Big Three" no longer exists. If only someone would get that message to Congressman John Dingell, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is commonly referred to as "the congressman from General Motors". Rumor on the street is that he's not planning on pushing for a companion bill between now and the July 4th recess. In fact, he's making noises that it will be stymied until sometime in the fall, when the House takes up legislation on global warming. Under normal circumstances, that might be a sensible idea, but the Republicans will surely block meaningful global warming legislation with endless, contrary amendments intended to reward their friends in the oil and gas industries. The momentum is with the Democrats and they need to use it to their advantage.

Pelosi's reportedly negotiating with Dingell, but there's something we can do in the meantime: we can contact another member of the committee and urge him to have a serious tete-a-tete with Dingell. Jay Inslee is the only Washington State representative on the committee and, as a reliable advocate for forward-thinking energy and environmental policies, he's the right person for this task. We really can't afford to waste precious time while we've got the wind at our backs.

Contact:

Jay Inslee

D.C. office: toll free (800) 422-5521

Fax: (202) 226-1606

Shoreline office: (206) 361-0223

Fax: (206) 361-3959

email: http://www.house.gov/inslee/contact/email.html

Posted by shoephone on June 22, 2007 at 01:25 AM in Environment, National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 20, 2007

More Neiwert on the "Dreams Across America" marvel

Dave Neiwert, our local treasure of a blog writer, is traveling across America with America.   He loves getting to meet the immigrants on this train, the strong and diverse groups of people who are making this trip across America to tell America their stories.  Here's are but two of the many characters in this lovely trip that Dave is observing up close:

There’s Hee Pok Kim, also known as “Grandma Kim,” an elderly Korean woman from Los Angeles (originally from Pyongyang) whose lack of English skills doesn’t keep her from communicating a real warmth and intelligence, as well as her fierce determination in helping to change the nation’s immigration laws — not for herself, but for her children and family and others like her, who have to jump through so many hoops to become “legal” immigrants that it’s no wonder they eventually give up.

Or Samina Faheem Sundas, a middle-aged Muslim woman from Pakistan who runs American Muslim Voice. Samina’s passion to fix the broken immigration system runs so deep that she gave up her job with a preschool-education foundation in order to make the trip. Or Doris Castaneda, an elderly woman from Guatemala who came along to try to change the laws for the sake of her children and grandchildren. Two of them — a pair of beautiful little girls named Ashley and Desiree — accompanied her on the trip to help make that point.

And here's what Dave says at the end of describing these two and half a dozen more of the folks on the train with him:

A century ago, the face of America was decidedly white. But two centuries before that, it was primarily Indian. The world changes and shifts, demographics with it.

What America has always been about is our shared values — a love of freedom and a respect for others’ freedoms, our willingness to work hard, our desire to raise our families in a safe and healthy place, and our wish to pass all that on to our children and their children.

For most of the past century — since the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, which codified the racist desire to keep out people who were not white (specifically, Chinese and Japanese) — our immigration laws have been predicated on the desire to keep people out, because we believed their skin color and nationality mattered more than their values. As the Dreamers and their stories make clear, it is time to find a way to welcome those who are, inside, truly American.

When that happens, we finally will begin living up to our own great ideal: the American dream.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 20, 2007 at 08:14 AM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Videos that Reach us with Humor

Really good videos that touch our funny bone are going to be what changes the political landscape this year.  I put up a playful video of two of John Edwards' staffers making and burning a pie (use a timer, dummies!) the other day. 

Today, along similar lines, we've got a video-clip of Bill and Hillary trying, and sometimes succeeding, in being funny doing a knock-off of the last scene of the Sopranos.   

Then we have an issue video that does something somewhat similar.  It is like a long, playful but instructive clip that lets us see the absolute looniness of our current drug laws and how they come to be.

Kudos to Hillary for taking the risk and to Brasscheck TV for their on-going work to bring issues to the table in a way we can digest them.  This next election cycle is likely to be rather entertaining.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 20, 2007 at 08:04 AM in Candidate Races, Media, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007

The Big Dog in Town This Saturday

Bill Clinton will be in town this Saturday, June 23rd, to raise money for Hillary's campaign on Saturday.  The VIP Reception is at 1:00 and the Lunch is at 1:15 at the Westin.

Tickets for the lunch range from $250 to $4,600.  Contact Colby Underwood (206.364.2344) or visit the website to get a ticket.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 19, 2007 at 10:43 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 18, 2007

Why I'm Going to Work for Darcy

Even occasional readers of this blog know that I've been a supporter of Darcy Burner since early in her first campaign.  So it's not likely come as any surprise to learn that I'll be working for her full time come July as her online (and increasingly grassroots) outreach person.  Nevertheless, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share why I'm excited about getting to do this work.

The Netroots and the Dems

Ever since I worked as a volunteer on the Gregoire campaign in 2004, I've been focused on integrating Democratic politics with the new online community and the reinvigorated grassroots world.   I literally spent days for a year or so stepping elected officials and their staffs through how to find the blogosphere and providing ideas and opportunities to meet and work with our local bloggers.  Other folks, particularly Goldy and Andrew, have done the same in their very different but complementary ways. 

In the other direction, I've tried to familiarize myself and my readers with our large pool of talented and progressive officials, candidates and organizations and to distinguish between those that have the capability of dealing with the real needs of our citizens in these rapidly changing times and those that don't. 
So, it was a treat to meet Darcy and realize immediately that she gets the value of the netroots and stays abreast of what goes on in our world.  She knows most of us by our handles and knows where we post, both nationally and locally.  How cool is that?  More importantly, she understands the opportunity for a much needed democratization of the process of governing that the netroots represents.   

When we were first talking about this role that she wanted someone to fill in her campaign, she said, "You have to understand, I'm not doing this just because it will help my campaign.  I'm doing it because it's the right thing to do."

A Grounding in Real Life

I want grounded, compassion people in Congress who will truly represent us and our needs and who know how to be effective doing that.  I want people in congress who will continue to listen to their constituents and to the organizations that represent real people, not just the monied interests.  I did a lot of research on Dave Reichert last year and it is astounding how closely his votes match the interests of his largest donors, folks like the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Chamber of Congress.   
Open Secrets lists the main contributors by category to each candidate, including here Reichert and Burner in the 2006 race.   The disparity in where their money comes from is bad enough but when you dig down bill by bill and see which organizations are sponsoring fund-raisers for Reichert, and how they advertise how closely he has voted with them, it makes your skin crawl. 

I want someone who is supported by labor, by educators, by nurses, by the tech sector, by single moms and by the netroots.  She represents us.

Darcy really truly grew up in a middle class/working class family and her large family has folks at all class levels.  Having loved ones who are grappling with regular, everyday issues of healthcare and education and finding jobs matters.  And it clearly matters to Darcy, who worked hard and has had a large measure of success but who stays connected to the people she loves who have not all done that. 

The Need for a Different Kind of Candidate

Although traditional business associations seem to think their interests lie with the Republicans, I think smart business people will be pleasantly surprised with Darcy's business skills and how she applies them.  She is a new kind of Democratic candidate - progressive but practical.  We hear that she is tech-savvy, and indeed, would likely be the most tech-savvy member of Congress.  In a world where the U.S. is losing its technological lead, it will be critical to have people who truly understand where we are headed technologically. 

However, for me, her ability to understand and articulate complex issues and work collaboratively to address them is equally valuable.   We are heading into a time where we may well need to have good decisions made quickly about issues that matter to the survival of all of us, issues like bringing safe, new energy sources on to combat global warming, issues like pandemic bird flu, issues like bee colony collapse.  That's just a portion of the incredible mess that this administration will leave in its wake. 

We need people who have honed the kind of critical analytical and people skills to take us as a nation into the future.  Darcy can and will help.  I, along with tens of thousands of others, will do everything we can do to get candidates like Darcy into positions where they can ease the transition into the future.

The Power of Congress

Nearly every issue of concern to me in the larger world seems to come back to the decisions made by the 435 members of the House and the 100 Senators, plus of course the President and his staff.   From deciding whether or not to go to war to how to fund family planning in other parts of the world, it matters tremendously who is in Congress.  What people are only learning now, with a Democratic Congress investigating the executive branch, is how deep into the bowels of the bureaucracy the differences can go.

We captured the House but can't override vetoes.  The Senate is split neatly down the middle.  We need another, even larger blue wave next year. 

Running an Innovative Campaign

Working for Darcy, helping her continue to engage the netroots and more deeply engage the grassroots, seems like the perfect place for me to be to have something to do with creating that larger blue wave.  Once Darcy's new website is up and going in a couple of months, my primary blogging will likely be over there.   We hope to make her site interesting enough to pull people to it as a place to discuss the issues and create an online community around her candidacy. 

The campaign is also starting to reach out to the grassroots, both the organized, Democratic organizational grassroots which are thriving everywhere, but also to individual volunteers who want to be a part of changing Congress and can see that Darcy will make a difference.  This campaign will be a blending of the traditional and the new.  That in itself will be not only be innovative but will, I believe, be a winning formula for both rebuilding our democracy and moving us into a new era. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 18, 2007 at 01:05 PM in Candidate Races, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thousands of Rove's Emails Were Deliberately Destroyed

Each day brings a new revelation about the crimes of the Bush White House. Today's is a doozy:

House investigators have learned that the Bush administration’s use of Republican National Committee email accounts is far greater than previously disclosed — 140,216 emails sent or received by Karl Rove alone — and that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of many of the emails, including all email records for 51 White House officials.

For the last several months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been “investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act” by using email accounts maintained by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications. Today’s findings confirm that the accounts were used “for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.”

The report also includes the following:

1) While the RNC destroyed the emails, many other federal agencies preserved them

2) White House spokesperson Dana Perino lied about the number of officials who used the email accounts -- she says it was 50, the committee says it was 88

3) Henry Waxman, the committee chairman, is going to "issue compulsory process" to force the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign to cooperate with the investigation.

The saying goes "the cover-up is always worse than the crime", but in this case it looks like both the crime and the cover-up are reprehensible. Waxman isn't known for being a pit-bull for nothing. I expect he will keep the White House locked firmly between his fangs until he shakes loose the information he -- and the nation -- wants. Delightfully, the committee saved the best for last:

– Gonzales may have known about RNC account use. According to a deposition from Rove’s former assistant Susan Ralston, in 2001, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales “may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.” The committee calls for an investigation into Gonzales’ actions on this matter.

Is it impeachment yet?

Posted by shoephone on June 18, 2007 at 11:45 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 17, 2007

Playing with Video and Politics

The Edwards campaign looks to be making excellent use of video right out of the gate on this campaign.  I didn't get around to sending this out a couple weeks ago when I first saw it but I loved it.  Prior to John's birthday last week, Elizabeth sent out a call for folks to watch a video-clip of the famous Joe Trippi and another Edwards staffer, Jonathan Prince, attempting to make a pecan pie using a recipe of Bobbie Edwards, John's mother. 

The video is hilarious and points that way to a new use of this new media - pulling folks in by being playful.  And, the offer is still good, despite John's birthday being past.

The campaign gig is to get folks to give a pretty small amount of money to get the recipe for pecan pie in return for providing their email.  Look for more like this as a way to break through the mass of political emails that we are each receiving these days.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 17, 2007 at 12:35 PM in Candidate Races, Media, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seattle Lagging on Green and Social Justice Indicators

We aren't as green as we would like to think we are, according to Seattle-based Sightline Institute, a regional environmental and social justice-oriented thinktank.  And, we are stalled on economic security for middle- and low-income folks.  Sightline collects data on seven long-term trends, including energy, health and economic conditions for regular folks.  The report assesses the progress of BC, Idaho and Oregon, in addition to Washington, each year. 

"The Pacific Northwest has a ways to go before we can claim to be a leader in fostering sustainable, healthy communities," said Clark Williams-Derry, Sightline's research director and lead author of Sightline's annual "Cascadia Scorecard" report.

Sightline sent out the highlights:

This year's Cascadia Scorecard found the region stalled in several important areas, but uncovered some surprisingly positive trends as well:

Energy use remains stuck in high gear. Counting both highway fuels and electricity in homes and businesses, northwesterners consume the energy-equivalent of 14.5 gallons of gasoline a week, per person--more than double the rate of energy-efficient nations such as Germany. But while diesel and electricity use are on the rise, the good news is the Northwest states have cut back per-person gasoline use to the lowest level since the late 1960s, on average. British Columbians use one-third less energy, per person, than residents of the Northwest states, and Idaho has made the biggest recent cutbacks in gasoline use.

Economy security is still out of reach for many northwesterners. Despite sharp increases in the Dow Jones industrial average and rapid growth in the region's total economic output over the past 15 years, median household income for northwesterners has largely stagnated.

Measure 37 in Oregon is chipping away at the state's leadership in protecting farmland and open spaces. In the Portland metro region alone, claimants have filed more than 2,000 residential applications for Measure 37 waivers. Together, these claims could add nearly 14,000 housing units and 36,000 new residents, mostly on the urban fringe outside of agreed-upon growth boundaries.

The Northwest has made slow overall progress, with the region's performance boosted by steady increases in lifespan, lower teen birthrates, and some success at curbing sprawl. Also, just in the past year, BC, Oregon, and Washington have adopted ambitious policies to jumpstart energy efficiency and decrease our contribution to climate change, a key threat to long-term health.

<skip>

Clark Williams-Derry recognizes the direction that the region would like to go in.  "Northwesterners are committed to leadership in climate solutions, healthy communities, and economic security," he said. "We have the opportunity and the know-how to put that commitment into practice." 

So, like many of us are saying, "Let's get to it."  We have a pretty good idea of what needs to happen.  Let's apply some of that good Northwestern "can do" attitude. 

Note: I wrote a longer piece on Sightline itself a few months ago.  Take a read if you'd like more information on one of our regional treasures.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 17, 2007 at 12:10 PM in Environment, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2007

Vancouver's 2010 Olympics Has a Character Problem And It's Not What You Think

This morning I returned from visiting a friend in Vancouver. She lives amongst the HIV-infected, drug-addicted ghetto near Gastown. This is what I saw. Is Vancouver going to sweep these folks aside to put on a pretty face in 2010 or is it going to start to deal with this problem? And what about Seattle?

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Posted by Jeff on June 16, 2007 at 03:56 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forget the "Surge", the "Purge" is Where the Action is

The resignations at the Bush Justice Department just keep coming. McCatchy reports that Michael Elston, chief of staff to recently resigned Deputy AG Paul McNulty, is out. Elston's the goon who complained about McKay "writing letters" to the Seattle papers in frustration at the department's refusal to properly fund his LinX information-sharing program. More importantly, Elston tried to put the squeeze on some of the ousted U.S. attorneys, making threatening phone calls and telling them to "keep quiet" about their firings.

Notice how the news of his resignation was delivered as part of the White House's legendary Friday Afternoon News Dump.

Ba-da-bing.

Posted by shoephone on June 16, 2007 at 11:19 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 15, 2007

FEMA's Disastrous Response Forces New Orleans to Look for Foreign Aid

This really has to be the clearest indictment of the Bush administration's Homeland Security Department. Are Americans safer? Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans is still being screwed by FEMA and the Bushies on payments to rebuild the city. Some think the city's last avenue of assistance may come in the form of direct foreign aid:

For months Nagin has complained bureaucracy is choking the flow of much-needed federal aid dollars to New Orleans - slowing the city's recovery. As of June 8, the city said it had received just over half of the $320 million FEMA has obligated for rebuilding city infrastructure and emergency response-related costs. The city has estimated its damage at far more than that - at least $1 billion. And that doesn't include other improvements - such as raised neighborhoods - meant to help build the stronger city promoted by Nagin and his recovery director.

Discussions with foreign representatives have been occurring off and on since the storm, but Smith said the city became re-engaged after a news report in April that millions of dollars in aid offered by foreign countries after Hurricane Katrina went unaccepted.

Why were the funds not accepted? Well, for one, offers of medical assistance came from Cuba. Secondly, the Bushies tried to corral foreign countries into giving the money to private entities created by the State Dept. These criminals just can't get it through their Iraq-blood-soaked brains that the richest country in the world ought to be able to take care of its own. What the hell is the Department of Homeland Security doing for New Orleans? Maybe we should ask Stinkin' Joe Lieberman, who chairs the committee overseeing the Homeland Security Department. Don't forget, he decided in January he's not going to hold the White House responsible for it's days-late response to the Katrina disaster. Way to go, Joe.

Ray Nagin and Mary Landrieu are now circumventing the White House's ineffectual private-funding plan and taking matters into their own hands. We need to wake up to the fact that the people of New Orleans are still suffering. But is it a good idea to go after aid from just anyone who's offering it?

Nagin said city officials are now trying to skirt the Bush administration and contact foreign governments directly "to see if we can get some of those dollars coming here."

Separately, Adam Sharp, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Landrieu is working with the government of Saudi Arabi on ways it can help restore New Orleans' City Park.

Update: CBS News reports that FEMA now says some people have wrongly collected $485 million in aid for the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes and the agency wants it's money back, pronto. A judge disagrees and says "not until you give people a better explanation of what they owe."

Oh, and those National Guard troops still fighting for our occupation over in Iraq? Gonna have a tough time being in two places at once and doing the work they were designed for here at home when this season's hurricane's hit.

Heckuva job, Bushwack-o. Heckuva job.

Posted by shoephone on June 15, 2007 at 01:21 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

Immigrants Share their Stories

Dave Neiwert of the blog, Orcinus, is along for a wild ride with the folks sponsoring the "Dreams Across America" trains.

Starting from Los Angeles, the train Neiwert is on is carrying immigrants who will have a chance to share their stories with the rest of America. They will cross the country and meet three other trains on shorter trips from points in the East to DC on June 19th. He's writing about it. Great reads.

UPDATE: And the blog for the Dream Trains has his latest post on Lou Dobbs, entitled "Lou Dobbs Goes off the Rails".

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 15, 2007 at 06:45 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2007

Why Fred Thompson should never be President?

Answer

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Posted by Jeff on June 14, 2007 at 01:27 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gregoire Gives a Barn-Burner

Chris Gregoire was smoking yesterday!  She gave the best speech I've ever heard from her and she wasn't even the main speaker at her own fundraiser luncheon.  New York governor Eliot Spitzer was. 

She was looking great, seemed totally at ease, and pulled together all the threads of the great things she has done as governor.  Andrew of NPI has a nice post up on the event, a huge fundraiser at the Convention Center, and has a nice summary both of what Chris said and what Spitzer said. 

Many folks have said in the past that Gregoire governs beautifully but can't campaign worth beans.  I think that time is over.  For my money, she was better than Spitzer, whom I've assumed is following Teddy Roosevelt's path from NY Governor to the Presidency. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 14, 2007 at 08:46 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 13, 2007

Subpoenas Issued, Bush Spews More "Executive Privilege" Garbage

Now that the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have issued subpoenas for ex-Bush sycophant Harriet Miers and ex-Rove operative Sara Taylor, the White House is renewing its threat to invoke executive privilege. TPM Muckraker's Paul Kiel shows why Taylor's under-oath-and-on-the-record testimony is sought:

"Tim was put in a horrible position; hung to dry w/ no heads up," Taylor wrote to Sampson the day that Griffin announced that he would not stand for confirmation before the Senate -- Griffin had forwarded the news article about his announcment to Rove, Taylor and other Rove aides that morning. "You forced him to do what he did; this is not good for his long-term career." Taylor then went on to castigate Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty for testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Griffin's predecessor, Bud Cummins, had been forced to resign for no other reason than to install Griffin. "Bud runs a campaign and McNulty refuses to say Bud is lazy -- which is why we got rid of him in the first place." It's a telling use of the first person.

Never underestimate the power of the circular firing squad. McNulty is already angry at the attorney general and has contradicted him in congressional hearings. Sampson also called Gonzales a fibber before the Judiciary Committee. Now things are really heating up because those recently retired from the Justice Department are being attacked by the Rove machine from inside the White House. To see Bush's inner sanctum backstabbing his own corrupt Justice Department is sweetly satisfying.

No one can rightly predict where this will go. Regardless of Congress' constitutional authority to conduct oversight, the leadership, particularly in the Senate, doesn't inspire much confidence in its ability to forcefully and effectively argue for Miers' and Taylor's unrestricted testimony. Leahy is doing all he can but his efforts are bound to be watered down by the tin soldier ineptitude of Harry Reid. How I long for the days when Senate Democrats had real leaders like George Mitchell. Majority power means nothing if you don't know how to wield it.

When Senator Sam Ervin shredded Dick Nixon's claims of executive privilege more than thirty years ago, he knew what he was talking about. More importantly, he didn't wet his pants in fear of the president like some of our current congressional Democrats do. Executive Privilege is not a settled issue and since Bush cries for it every single time he's challenged to produce information, it's about damn time we found out what his protests are worth. The Congressional Research Service offers this:

Efforts by congressional committees to obtain information from the executive branch  are sometimes met with assertions of executive privilege. No decision of the Supreme Court resolves the question of whether there are any circumstances in which the executive branch can refuse to provide information sought by Congress on the basis of executive privilege, but the case law offers some guidance for committees when the privilege is asserted. In upholding a judicial subpoena in the United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court found a constitutional basis for the doctrine of executive privilege, rejected the president's contention the privilege was absolute, and balanced the president's need for confidentiality and the judiciary's need for the materials in a criminal proceeding.

The CRS goes on to outline the distinction between the two aspects of executive privilege: that there's a difference between the presidential communications privilege, which involves documents with factual information, and the deliberative process privilege, which is a matter of general decision-making and may include deliberative materials but not necessarily factual ones. (What's at play in the current situation is deliberative privilege. The emails are not factual documents, they are deliberations over strategy.) The CRS points out that both privileges are qualified:

When either privilege is asserted, the court will balance the public interests involved and assess the need of the party seeking the privileged information.

<snip>

WIll a request for the testimony of one who advises the president be honored? It is the view of the executive that 1) the few individuals whose sole duty it is to advise the president should never be required to testify because all of their duties are protected by executive privilege and 2) an official who has operational functions in a department or agency established by law may be required to testify, although at times such an official may invoke executive privilege. It is the view of the judiciary the presidential communications privilege should be restricted to White House advisers when "preparing advice for the president..."

I'm not a lawyer, but I believe I can read between the lines. At issue is whether or not those individuals in question are serving in an operational role or an advisory role. Is Karl Rove's Office of Political Affairs a "department or agency established by law"? Don't think so. But the Supreme Court may consider advice to be a restricted privilege. This leads me to ask the obvious: if Bush is asserting executive privilege over the testimony of Miers and Taylor (and by extension, Rove) isn't this tantamount to admitting that they were advising him directly on the firings of the U.S. attorneys? 

What did the bastard know and when did he know it?

Posted by shoephone on June 13, 2007 at 12:03 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

June 11, 2007

Republicans Losing Lock on Rural Areas

NPR had a story this morning on Morning Edition on a new national poll that indicates that rural Americans are now as likely to vote Democratic as Republican.  It's all due to the ill-conceived, badly planned, terribly implemented war in Iraq.

The poll was conducted in "non-metropolitan" counties by Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, with the assistance of Republican political consultant Bill Greener, for the non-partisan Center for Rural Strategies of Whitesburg, Kentucky.  When asked whether they would vote for an un-named Democrat for President in 2008 or an un-named Republican, 46% said Democrat, 43% said Republican.  In 2004, by contrast, President Bush outpolled John Kerry by 19% amongst rural voters.  Here's why:

Forty-one percent named the war in Iraq among their two top issues for the president and Congress. Half agreed with the statement that "the current course [in Iraq] cannot bring stability, and we need to start reducing the number of troops." Half also agreed with congressional attempts to reduce troop levels in Iraq. Less than half, 45 percent, affirmed the Bush administration's "stay the course" strategy; and 42 percent want their members of Congress to oppose "measures that could undermine the president's policies in Iraq."

It's not likely that rural voters will swing enthusiastically to Democrats.  Fifty-six percent said that "personal character and a commitment to core family values are more important in a presidential candidate than a commitment to changing Iraq war policy".  But, according to Greenberg, just winnowing the Republican lead will be all that's needed. 

It's about time!

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 11, 2007 at 08:44 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

June 10, 2007

Sunday Funnies

Bob Geiger regularly collects the best political cartoons of the week at his blog.  Here's the collection for this week.  As usual, it's great.  My favorites were the Mike Lukovich cartoons, especially the "Go Directly to Jail" one, and the Mark Fiori animation.  Enjoy.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 10, 2007 at 08:46 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 08, 2007

Senate Republicans Throw Tantrum on Judicial Nominees

Further tales of Republican Hypocrisy on Parade, via the Carpetbagger:

Republican leaders yesterday threatened a “total shutdown” of Senate business if Democrats keep holding up President Bush’s appointments to the federal bench.

“It could cause major meltdown,” Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said after Democrats postponed a committee vote on the nomination of Leslie H. Southwick to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Mr. Lott said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, was “very mad” about judicial appointments and could bring the narrowly divided chamber to a standstill if Democrats don’t speed up the confirmation process.

“It could be total shutdown here pretty soon.”

(sniffle) Mommeeeeee!!!

Yes, it bears noting that in the same 24-hour period that (God forgive me for even mentioning her name) Paris Hilton, upon orders to return to jail, cried hysterically to her mommy, the Republican crybabies in the Senate have threatened to take their ball and run home if they don't get their way on every single judicial nominee of their choosing. And as McConnell is said to be "mad, MAD, I tell you!" these idiots may just try and burn the place down. There are a couple of problems with their latest nervous collapse, however. As the Carpetbagger notes, Orrin Hatch -- that piano-playing Hoagy Carmichael wanna-be -- basically ran the judiciary committee into the ground during the Clinton years, when he refused to even consider 60 of Clinton's nominees. Pat Leahy's committee, by contrast, has already approved three circuit court judges (one of them unanimously) and 15 district court nominees since taking over leadership in late January.

This threat of a "total shutdown" is very stupid, for a few different reasons. First, Leahy's record speaks for itself and Republicans can only make themelves look like jackasses by trying to dispute it. Secondly, there's that little thing called the "nuclear option" that Republicans vowed to use against Democrats numerous times in the last congress. Wise up, goopers. Majority has it's advantages. Finally, the last time the goopers shut down the government was back in 1995 when they held the majority, and um... things didn't exactly work out as planned. Clinton and the Dems ended up getting more support from the American public and the goopers just looked like wackos who were hellbent on power-tripping.

Maybe Lott should spend more time renovating his lovely front porch in Mississippi, the one that was flushed away in Hurricane Katrina. As for Hatch, I suggest he go 'shed' some hours working on his version of Hoagy's "Rockin' Chair". He'll get there soon enough.

...I can't get from this cabin

I ain't goin' nowhere.

Just set me here grabbin'

the flies 'round this rockin chair...

Posted by shoephone on June 8, 2007 at 06:02 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

White House Freaking Out - Hires Nine More Attys to Fend Off Congressional Investigators

The Friday afternoon news dumps from the Bush White House have become legendary, and today's dump has two notable examples of why these creeps are always trying to hide what they're doing:

The White House put out a press release today explaining that nine new attorneys have just been hired to join White House Counsel Fred Fielding's team. Why would this be happening? Well, TPM reader AB points out that three of the nine come from Fielding's own law firm, and that it's likely he's getting the band back together for a big show -- a show of force, that is, against congressional investigators looking into all the slimey (and probably criminal) events that have landed the Justice Department in so much hot water. "Freaking out" would not be too strong a term for what is going on in the Bush White House these days. The U.S. attorneys scandal is sinking the Bush administration like a stone: from revelations about Karl Rove's role in the bogus voter fraud allegations, as well as the exploits of his voter suppression expert, Tim Griffin, Abu Gonzales' prime directive to now-departed underlings Sampson and Goodling, giving them authority for hiring and firing Justice Department employees, to the fact that some of the ousted U.S. Attorneys are holding public seminars on the unprecedented nature of the episode. None of that bodes well for the Bushies, who are famous for keeping everything a deep, dark secret from the American people. And some of the most damning evidence yet about the criminal capers of the DOJ and the White House itself -- right on up to the president and vice-president -- has to be the testimony that former acting attorney general James Comey supplied to the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago. It's not going over too well that Bush and Cheney ordered their henchmen to strong-arm a hospitalized man into signing away our civil liberties.

I can see why they might be feeling the need to "lawyer up".

The other notable news item is that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, has abruptly announced his retirement, although he was not slated to leave that post until the fall. The man replacing him, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, is quite the catch -- that is, if you're salivating like a junkyard dog to militarily attack Iran:

When Fallon was appointed in January to lead CentCom, analysts noted the choice of a Navy officer reflected “a greater emphasis on countering Iranian power, a mission that relies heavily on naval forces and combat airpower to project American influence in the Persian Gulf.” In announcing the nomination of Mullen this afternoon, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said that Mullen “watches Iran closely.”

Just another Friday at the White House.

Posted by shoephone on June 8, 2007 at 12:00 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 06, 2007

Cheney and Goodling: Profiles in Power

Who could have guessed that the evil menace lurking around every dark corner of the White House and the ever-so-innocent looking DOJ ingenue could have so much in common? Appearances can be deceiving, I guess. But when it comes to wielding power, watch out! These two are the new Die-namic Duo.

Cheney proved his mettle by messin' with the HR Department at Main Justice after his Bush's White House had failed to get John Ashcroft -- then inconveniently holed up in a hospital ICU -- to sign off on an illegal, unconstitutional plan to spy on America's citizens:

Vice President Dick Cheney blocked the promotion of a Justice Department official involved in a bedside standoff over President Bush's eavesdropping program, a Senate committee learned Wednesday.

In a written account, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey said Cheney warned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that he would oppose the promotion of a department official who once threatened to resign over the program.

Gonzales eventually decided against trying to promote Patrick Philbin to principal deputy solicitor general, Comey said.

"I understood that someone at the White House communicated to Attorney General Gonzales that the vice president would oppose the appointment if the attorney general pursued the matter," Comey wrote. "The attorney general chose not to pursue it."

Oh dear, that Dick.

Monigoo, not to be outdone in the lust-for-power competition, was working stealthily behind the scenes:

Also Wednesday, the department released new pages of internal e-mails and documents that partly detail efforts by the department's former White House liaison, Monica Goodling, in January, 2006 to obtain authority to hire and fire staffers.

"Ok to send up directly to me, outside the system," Goodling wrote in a January 19, 2006 e-mail to Paul Corts, the assistant attorney general for administration.

"System"? There's a system in place? I suppose this is what Monigoo meant when she admitted to the House Judiciary Committee that she may have... "crossed the line". She was certain she didn't break any laws, but who cares about laws, or even traditional government standards, when P*O*W*E*R is the prize for ingenuity?

I can certainly understand the appeal. The very prospect of having that much power over other people's lives and livelihoods makes me feel dizzy with glee. Does it do that to you too?

Posted by shoephone on June 6, 2007 at 08:10 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Watch and share Daily Show and Colbert Report Videos from within Facebook

Just a shout out about my NewsCloud Facebook application. It's got most of the great social news features of NewsCloud inside Facebook laced with the ability to watch Daily Show and Colbert Report inside Facebook then Share+ them with your friends. You can install the application into your Facebook profile here.

Facebook Ncvideo-2

Just remember, those who watch the Daily Show are better informed than their network news watching brethren.

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Posted by Jeff on June 6, 2007 at 11:32 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tractor clearing brush kills man, sparking policy review



A homeless man was killed by a tractor mower under I5 the other night. I wonder if there's enough room in the bed that Greg Nickels shares with big developers to safely shelter a few homeless folks. There's certainly not high enough taxes per square foot on new development to support housing them. Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on June 6, 2007 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Corporal's Boots

There is a very moving short video about a national exhibit of "Eyes Wide Open", a traveling memorial to American soldiers who have died in Iraq.  This video-clip features Jonathan Santos, the first soldier to die in the Iraq war from Whatcom County, and his mother, Doris Kent.

Hat tip to Jack Smith

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 6, 2007 at 11:17 AM in Iraq, Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Toyota's Next Prius May Get 125 MPG

When John and Teresa Kerry were at TownHall a couple of months ago, John said that he had seen a lithium technology battery, which when installed in a regular hybrid, allowed the hybrid to get incredibly good mileage.  A diarist at DailyKos, NMDan, had a post up yesterday that expanded on what Kerry had said.  And, it is apparently happening for the mass market, not just the folks like the Kerrys, who can afford custom installations. 

According to an article on a website called "The Future of Things", the Lithium Technology Corporation has announced that its new lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) technology might be incorporated into hybrid technologies by 2008-2009.

I wonder if anyone has told the folks in Detroit about this?

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 6, 2007 at 10:18 AM in Environment | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 05, 2007

More Hot-shot Yearly Kos Speakers

Howard Dean will again give the Keynote speech on opening evening, Thursday, Aug. 2nd, at the second annual YearlyKos Convention.  Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois will be there as well to welcome the entire gang to Chicago.   

And Friday morning, General Wes Clark, a huge favorite last year, will be on hand as the Friday morning keynote speaker. 

This is, of course, in addition to the participation of Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson on the "Presidential Hopefuls" panel and Darcy Burner on the "Future Leaders" panel.

It will be a star-studded three days and that isn't even the point of the convention.  Mostly its us netroots, grassroots folks talking to each other. 

Register here.  I know a lot of readers here followed my report-backs from last year's convention because our rankings for that period of time were through the roof (well, for us). 

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 5, 2007 at 12:26 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Scooter Libby Sentencing Today

The entire gang of Libby trial folks are back at Prettyman Courthouse in D.C. again today discussing the length of sentence that Scooter should receive given what he was charged with doing in the Plame outing.  It looks like the range of possibliity is between 15 months and 39 months. 

And, our folks, Jane Hamsher and Marcy Wheeler are there as well.  Marcy, aka emptywheel, is live-blogging over at Firedoglake.  Take a look.

UPDATE: It's 30 months, although there will be an appeal.  It looks like the judge will require Libby to begin serving his sentence prior to the outcome of the appeal putting the President in somewhat of a bind regarding a possible pardon. 

And the gang at Firedoglake continues to outdo themselves on the coverage.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 5, 2007 at 07:44 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 04, 2007

Crazy Republicans and Clueless Democrats Foster the "Hobbesian State of Chaos" in Iraq

The New York Times' David Sanger reported yesterday that the Bush Gang is finally fessing up to something a lot of us already had figured out: they're planning on keeping troops at permanent bases inside Iraq for years to come -- at least 50 years, if you're prepared to believe the latest meme that Iraq is really just Korea all over again. Too bad for the Bushies that hardly anyone with real expertise is buying it:

"It's not that Iraq isn't vital," said Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and one of the many experts organized by groups opposing Mr. Bush's strategy to shoot back in the analogy war. "It's just that Korea bears no resemblance to Iraq. There's no strategy that can create victory."

<snip>

The core problem with the Korea comparison, many Asia experts note, is that when the war ended in 1953, there were bright lines drawn across the 38th Parallel, separating the warring parties. That hardened into the formal Demilitarized Zone, exactly the kind of division that the Bush administration has said it wants to avoid in Iraq.

<snip>

As in Korea, the bases may be an effort to prevent calamity and invasion. The question is whether, in the firestorm of Iraq, their contribution to security would outweigh their roles as symbols of occupation or targets of terrorism.

Just before the 2003 invasion, administration officials proposed that Iraq could be modeled after Japan's and Germany's post-WWll occupations. This notion was roundly derided as an historically inaccurate comparison, due partly to the fact that Japan and Germany had been cohesive societies. Sanger notes that Iraq, on the other hand, is fractured and plagued by internal violence -- something that could easily have been predicted in the aftermath of Saddam's defeat. He characterizes major parts of the country as being in a "state of Hobbesian chaos".

Everything this administration touches turns to sewage, particularly with regard to Iraq. Now that all the lies that led to the illegal, immoral invasion have been exposed, the desperate men of BushCo are grasping at straws for something, anything, that will justify the crime and provide cover for an indefinite, extended occupation. Rah-rah McCain has bought it hook, line and sinker -- only feeding into growing fears for his sanity -- with statements like this:

"We have had troops in South Korea for 60 years and nobody minds," McCain said. "If you stay a long, long time, but have the Iraqis doing the fighting, and your people are back in the bases and away from the firing line, I think Americans would be satisfied."

Which Americans would those be? The 70% that say "we want our troops the hell out of Iraq"? I've been to South Korea, and living under martial law and nighttime curfews ain't all it's cracked up to be. But then McCrazy is the same guy who's been cheerleading the escalation (falsely dubbed the "surge") from the very first, despite all evidence to the contrary that it's not working:

The American assessment, completed in May, found that American and Iraqi forces were able to "protect the population" and "maintain physical influence over" only 146 of the 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.

The commanders on the ground are busy blaming the Iraqi forces for not having their act together (wasn't that supposed to be achieved sometime in 2004 2005 2006? Never mind, Talabani now claims the Iraqis will be at fighting-weight sometime within the next two years or so...) and the Bush Gang is, typically, blaming Democrats and the American people for not showing enough blind fealty and faith.

In the interest of bi-partisanship, Bush should be grinning ear-to-ear after an early Iraq War apologist, Bob Kerrey, stepped into the fray on Bill Moyers Journal last Friday evening. Kerrey sputtered, fumbled and stumbled his way through a rhetorical minefield of his own making, proving, once again, that it's hard work talking out of both sides of your mouth. Forgetting the fact that he never really answered Moyers' questions regarding how many more troops our nation should be prepared to lose before we can say "enough is enough", or what Kerrey would tell the parents of dead soldiers in justifying their losses, the ex-senator merely pretended to perceive the unconditional demand of Americans who voted for a Democratic-controlled congress last November. Here's Kerrey on the toothless supplemental vote:

The president vetoes the supplemental that calls for timetables. And what do they do? Send him another bill that he vetoes? That supplemental funds the troops. So, at some point, you either just keep sending him bills that he vetoes and score points with your base, or you do the right thing. And I think they did the right thing by sending the president a bill that he will sign. They made their point, that they would prefer to have timetables.

That was enough to convince me that it's a damn good thing we don't have to tolerate the likes of Bob Kerrey in the Senate anymore. He says we should end the occupation, but still keep our troops there, continuing to support the Iraqis. Huh? His personal demons from Vietnam, where he lost a leg and was accused of committing atrocities, won't allow him to see the reality on the ground in Iraq OR the reality on the ground here at home -- where the so-called "base" that he so patronizingly dismisses is actually constitued by the majority of Americans. He and McCain, both tragic and cartoonish, make up a strange tag-team. Since even some of our current Democratic representatives (I'm talking to you, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell) don't seem to have gleaned the message of the election, the great responsibilities must fall to us alone. Apparently, the meaning of our votes isn't ringing loudly enough in the ear drums of the two tone-deaf senators. We are already  -- 17 months before the next election -- receiving pleas for campaign contributions. These pleas, overflowing with dishonest claims of congressional courage, should be shredded and dumped into the recycling bin. Any representative who fakes left and throws right on the Iraqi occupation deserves to have to go and observe first-hand the horrors of militarized violence. I'd like to see them come back here and beg for my dollars after witnessing what really happens in the brutal, bloody mayhem humankind calls "war". In harkening back to Paddy Chayevsky's The Americanization of Emily, and taking aim at our political leaders, the timidity of those in the corporate-controlled media, and the powerful minority of voices for empire, the brilliant and uncompromising Arthur Silber formulates the remedy for this willful ignorance, rather searingly:

Our national media remain cowed and intimidated, and they refuse, a few honorable exceptions aside, to provide details of the daily and hourly horrors in Iraq to the public. A single major newspaper could provide a noble and invaluable service: if they gave a damn at all about unnecessary death and suffering, they would select the most awful and horrifying picture they could find -- a body with its guts falling out, a bloody corpse shorn of arms and legs, a mutilated face made unrecognizable -- and fill up their entire front page with it, a new one everyday. Perhaps after a month or two, enough Americans would demand that their government stop butchering people who never harmed us. [To achieve the sought-for-effect, the pictures obviously should be of Iraqis, and only Iraqis. The Iraqis had no choice about our criminal war of aggression, and the endless destruction we have unleashed; the United States did -- and does even today. We could leave, as we quickly would if we had any remaining decency, but we won't.]

<snip>

So the myths prevail. Our wars are always noble, fought for the purest of motives. Our warriors are similarly noble, engaged in a high-minded crusade. They butcher and slaughter, and are butchered and slaughtered themselves, so that "civilization" might be preserved. Never mind that many of the warriors themselves would not agree. Never mind that the front-line soldiers know that war is insanity, and only insanity. Never mind the overwhelming, senseless, futile, endless horror of what actually happens in combat, and the details that never reach the public.

Chayevsky rejects the myths in their totality. He implores us to embrace cowardice. I beg you to follow his advice. You can be certain the cries for war will rise again, if not against Iran, then against North Korea, or in ten years' time against China, or against a country not now in the news, but which will fill the role required by the vast machinery of war. And when those cries overwhelm all facts and make reasonable argument impossible, and when they are amplified once again by an ever-compliant, always docile and obedient media, plead cowardice. If you value the sanctity of a single life, it is the only sane course to take, and the bravest.

Posted by shoephone on June 4, 2007 at 11:55 PM in Iraq, Media, National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 02, 2007

Barack's Mom and Mercer Island High

Barack Obama occasionally throws out the line that his mother went to Mercer Island High School when he is in Seattle.  An industrious reporter from Chicago, Tim Jones, took that time to come to town and interview former classmates and teachers.  The resulting article is one of the most interesting and balanced political pieces I've read.  The portrait of Stanley Ann Durham, Barack's mother, is fascinating.  She is drawn as a young woman of pronounced independent thought.  Much of that appears to have come from her father, the elder Stanley, who clearly had wanted a son. 

But much of Obama's Mom's curiousity and openness to the world came from a unique set of teachers who emphasized critical thinking and independent thought.  During those years, Mercer Island High School had one of the best sets of teachers in the country.

Here is some of what her old classmates from her years at Mercer Island said of her, from the Chicago Tribune article:

"She was not a standard-issue girl of her times. ... She wasn't part of the matched-sweater-set crowd," said Wall, a classmate and retired philosophy teacher who used to make after-school runs to Seattle with Dunham to sit and talk -- for hours and hours -- in coffee shops.

"She touted herself as an atheist, and it was something she'd read about and could argue," said Maxine Box, who was Dunham's best friend in high school. "She was always challenging and arguing and comparing. She was already thinking about things that the rest of us hadn't."

I venture to say that without that grounding in thinking for herself, she may well not have married an articulate, brilliant black man from Kenya and given birth to a baby boy whom she then raised mostly by herself. 

Her philosophy teacher at Mercer Island (and later, mine), Jim Wichterman, remembers her as someone who talked "from the shoulder" as he thinks Barack does as well.  He said that the teachers sometimes called her "Stanley Steamer".  (And, if you know someone who attended Mercer Island High during the sixties, send them the link to this article.  They will love the video of Wichterman, a teacher that all of us who went to Mercer Island High remember as a tremendous influence on our lives.)

So yes, I lived on Mercer Island all my growing up years, back when lower middle class families could afford to live there, and had the benefit of one of the best school systems in the country.

Which brings me to the point of this piece.  Wouldn't it be nice if this country prepared all our students with the kind of quality education that Barack's mother and those of us who went to Mercer Island High received?  Wouldn't it be nice if families from all classes consistently had access to excellent teachers as we did?  Wouldn't it be nice if we could rebalance the priorities of this country so that we put money into education and quality teachers, and good transportation and universal healthcare and . . . rather than on interfering in the internal politics of countries half way across the globe at tremendous cost to our military, our reputation and the people we interfer with?

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 2, 2007 at 08:46 AM in Candidate Races, Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)