Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ideological Principles

I have to provide an alternative view to that presented by Eric yesterday. I previously tried to argue that conservatives discuss fundamental philosophical issues much more than Democrats. I think it worth the time to reconsider that.

Eric's right that the GOP/conservatives have fundamental principles: Deregulation, small government, etc. To them, these are an end unto themselves. Deregulation and small government, to them, are seen as ways to improve the economy and give people more "freedom". To use their language, more "choice".

Democrats and progressives argue vociferously for national security, improved education, environmental preservation, social security (the New Deal program and general), etc. To be fair, conservatives believe in many of these issues. But they preface their specific policies based on the fundamental principles mentioned above.

The question that I ask to evaluate policy--and why I'm a Democrat--is whether or not the specific legislation/policy results in RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT. To be sure, individuals should be responsible. But so should governments. Is it responsible to allow terrorists to do their evil deeds? Is it responsible to let children go hungry? Is it responsible to destroy the environment? Is cutting taxes at the expense of social programs to reduce poverty and provide opportunity responsible?

The fundamental difference between myself and conservatives is that I don't believe that small government is necessarily responsible. When it comes to a choice, I choose the latter. A handful of small government anti-tax conservative congressmen-turned-governors are finding this out.

We may want policy to work, but the details are not fundamental principles we are pursuing. When we argue against Social Security, we should be asking why we are doing that. So too for any other policy. I ask the following: Is it responsible? Is it the right (moral) thing to do?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Practicality before ideology....

Fmr. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) has an interesting op-ed in today's NY Times about the Republicans' success in establishing a network of think tanks, activists, and media outlets to proliferate their ideology and policy proposals into the mainstream debate. He basically argues that there's a pyramid structure to conservatism, and the President is at the top. The base is so stable that the President could by replaced whenever, and the structure would go on unphased.

He's basically right about this, and it's been written about extensively. However, I think his call for Democrats to emulate this model is impractical. It comes down to a difference in the way liberals and conservatives approach their ideology. As Jonathan Chait pointed out in a great article in The New Republic a while back, there is an important distinction between the goals of liberals and conservatives. Conservatives see reduced government as an end in itself. To them, it doesn't really matter if lower taxes, deregulation and slashed government programs would actually help America....they pursue these goals because they believe in them ideologically. Liberals, on the other hand, often favor more government but not simply for the hell of it. If liberals didn't actually believe that more government involvement in society would help people, they would have no reason to advocate it. Liberals don't believe in more government as an end in itself, they (we) believe in it because it can WORK.

So, to get back to Bradley's argument, I think it's impractical for Democrats to set up the type of echo-chamber of ideology that Republicans have in place because Democrats and liberals simply aren't as stubborn and set in their ideology as Republicans and conservatives. By definition, liberals favor policies that they think will WORK, which means their ideology is open to debate. There aren't a slew of liberal proposals to simply insert into the media as there are for conservatives (tax cuts, privatizing social security, deregulation, etc). Whether this is beneficial to Democrats in the long-term is obviously uncertain, but I think we'd be mistaken to assume that emulating conservatives' stubborn (albeit consistent) adherence to a strict ideology is the way to go.

Is Your Bible Full of Holes?

OK, before the knee-jerk liberals criticize me for mentioning the Bible *gasp*, let me finish. (Too bad I have to preface this post with that.)

I'm mostly writing in reference to Nathan Mintz's Op-Ed in the Daily today. I find it repulsive that people are continuing to politicize poor Terry's fate and hate even linking to this sad display of human ugliness. But I want to call attention to a couple of things that Mr. Mintz brings up. First, there is this little ditty:

Let me be emphatic on this point: the same people calling for Terri Schiavo’s starvation are also advocating euthanasia and infanticide.

Perhaps Mintz may want to take a look at some of the latest polling that shows less than 20% of this country want politicians to get involved, including a vast majority of those who are religious. Surely, not all are calling for infanticide or even most. Or perhaps Mintz may want to read about the extreme hypocrisy from right-wingers that Nick Fram mentions. Of course I expect nothing more than an attempt to score political points and poor reasoning from Mr. Mintz. Nor do I expect him to mention the religious leaders from different faiths are on both sides of the issue. Nor do I expect him to consider that most secular people believe this is a tragic situation--but not uncommon, even while 'dubya was governor of Texas.

OK, there is also this:

In these troubled times, I cling to moral clarity. In the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible, the words “You shall fear God” are used no fewer than 36 times. In every one of these incidents, the fear of God is elicited to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. As a society therefore, we will ultimately be judged by the vigor with which we defend the most weak and defenseless among us. In reflecting upon our actions and the path we are heading down in this case, as a God fearing man, I find myself very scared of where we are heading. I pray that it is not too late. [Emphasis mine]

This is the same Mintz who praised the initial U.S. contribution to the Tsunami victims back in December (about what we spend in half an hour in Iraq). (His claim, more or less, was that money is not helpful when people need blood and supplies. But how can you get money or life saving water there without money?) Were not the Tsunami victims vulnerable and in need of help?

Maybe this guy would like to try the Bible full of Holes experiment that Jim Wallis describes in "God's Politics". The Bible--including the first five books--is full of instances calling for social justice and helping the poor. There would be little left of the Bible if you took out all the times economic justice is mentioned. But it's often convenient for those who use the Bible for their benefit to use a bible full of holes rather than the whole thing.

Wallis's answer to bad religion (or theology) is not no religion, but better religion. I'll talk elsewhere why I think anyone who makes a moral claim and sticks to it has some form of "religion" even if it is not based on any diety. But I'll save that discussion and my future ones on issues of faith and politics for my personal blog. BTW, I recommend Wallis's book.

ASSU Endorsements


Faris Mohiuddin
Debashish Bakshi
Natasha Pereira
Mima Mohammed
Kai Lukoff
Dan Stringer
David Gobaud
Danny Arbeiter
Kat Kershner
Brittany Clark
Chris Elmore
Macarrin Morton

The Stanford Progressive for Special Fees

The big list. We flyered in every dorm for all the candidates who we endorsed. Yeah, it took time, but our endorsement means a lot. I'm excited about our future with the ASSU.

Post comments, post questions, call us fascists. But I think we can agree that the process was extremely fair, and relatively well organized (despite the lengthy meeting). Thanks to EVERYONE who participated. Seriously, we couldn't have done it without you.


Monday, March 28, 2005

House Seats - email follow up

Following up my email blurb about our series this quarter looking at comptetitive house races we should target. Important... why?

1) We need to win back the house
2) Young people (us) can help on these campaigns
3) We need to know which campaigns are win-able, and which need our help.
4) Not everywhere is like sunny California, races are different in middle America, lets brainstorm how to get candidates elected there, not just here.
5-100) Politics = really really sexy

Okay, so check out Bobby's post below, which has some great links for looking up info on competitive races.

Use the comments section here if you have any district you're particularly attached to, or if you have links to good research info.

Who's ready to fight?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Political News...

A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll has Bush's approval rating at an all time low of 45%. CBS confirms a similar number. For the 6% of America who have changed they're opinion since November....thanks for finally paying some freaking attention. I would have preferred if you woke up and smelt the coffee the day before the election, but I suppose until at least 2006 it's going to have to be the little things, isn't it?

Speaking of 2006, I think Marie is definately right about getting all geared up on House races. Democrats only need 15 seats (which by historical standards really isn't very much), and polls (see the CBS one above, just to name one) recently have shown Congress' approval rating at it's lowest point since the Clinton Impeachment hearings. If this keeps up, it could give a boost to a national anti-GOP wave. For a really good source over the next couple months, check out Cook Political Report. Go here, for instance, to get a list of all the competitive House seats, broken down into seats that are tossups and that lean or are likely for one party or another. There aren't any seats in CA on the list calling out for us to get involved in yet, but obviously that will all change if Arnold gets his way on redistricting. I'd say that basically the whole chart has to shift over a spot for things to look really good for us (i.e.--all the "lean GOP" seats become tossups, all the "lean democrat" seats become "likely democrat," etc.), which, again isn't that far outside the realm of possibility if Dems start knocking Bush around the Beltway on Social Security and if Congress' approval ratings still stay so low. There's also a really good article in Roll Call (it's by subscription only, but you can Lexis it like I do) on an emerging Democratic House strategy in 2006 focusing on using corrupt Republican leaders like Tom Delay to paint the GOP as drunk-on-power extremists (which shouldn't be that hard since it is, in fact, largely true). It's a page out of the old Newt Gingrich 1994 playbook. Hopefully it will work for us just as well as it did for them.


A Washington Post article today sheds some light on the process - that certain administration officials okay-ed - of "disappearing" select prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison.

The Washington Post show that unregistered CIA detainees were brought to Abu Ghraib several times a week in late 2003, and that they were hidden in a special row of cells. Military police soldiers came up with a rough system to keep track of such detainees with single-digit identification numbers, while others were dropped off unnamed, unannounced and unaccounted for.

Trying to imagine the treatment of such unaccounted for prisoners is sure to bring to mind the images of torture and humiliation which have been uncovered in this facility. Treatment which has continually been brushed off as 'a few bad apples'. However, the effort was made nonetheless to keep this prisoners well below the radar - whatever the motives.

According to statements investigators took from soldiers and officers who worked at the prison, a stream of ghost detainees began arriving in September 2003, after military intelligence officers and the CIA came to an arrangement that kept the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations from knowing the detainees existed.

The administration continues to distance itself from the most basic standards of human dignity in its treatment of POWs. Even promoting the most blatant torture forgivers to higher positions. Lack of accountability is something which the Bush administration seems to pride itself in. It's difficult to imagine serious action to be taken against the top offenders in this (or any) war misconduct.

The sad thing is, this is most likely only the tip of what is assuredly a very big iceberg.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Defining the Right to Life...

When Republicans rushed back to Congress recently to pass the Schiavo law, they justified their invasion of states' rights (a supposed cornerstone of conservative philosophy) by claiming that the Constitutional right to life superceded the need for the federal government to stay out of the way. As Jon Stewart (brilliant as always) pointed out, and as Gabe touched on in the previous post, this shows just how sick you have to get before Congress will do something to fix your healthcare.

But Stewart's point got me thinking about this issue of a "right to life" a little more seriously. Our constitutional rights ALWAYS deserve protection, not merely when we're about to lose them, right? If Republicans are willing to rush back to Washington to pass a federal law that violates states' rights merely to save a single person's health (i.e. life), why doesn't that logic apply to healthcare for all Americans? If someone gets sick, their "right to life" is inherently in danger, so why isn't it the federal government's responsibility to protect their right to life by giving them healthcare?

Food for thought.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Terri Schiavo Smokescreen

Stanford Democrats

At home for spring break and laid up getting oral surgery, I've been watching some C-Span. This has given me the incredible opportunity to hear Sen. Bill Frist and Rep. Tom DeLay, the Majority Leaders in each house of Congress, channeling Hubert Humphrey. Here's what Humphrey, LBJ's VP and a frequent Democratic candidate for President, said in 1977:

"It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

DeLay and Frist have been talking about how, despite a century of hating active federal government, it's the job of Congress now to intervene in this individual case (apparently, they have no grasp of the separation of powers), because the government has an obligation to the weakest among us. Apparently, however, this obligation only applies to one smiling white lady in a swing state hospital bed. After all, it was Bush himself who signed a law, while Governor of Texas, that allowed hospitals to pull the plug on patients because of inability to pay.

So, since, as Jon Stewart pointed out, they're not exactly pushing for universal health care for all the least advantaged members of society, what is this about?

Well, mainly, I think, it's about Tom DeLay (an exterminator before he got into politics, by the way) desperately needing to seem like he has a soul. If you read Gilbert's post lower on the blog, you'll see that he's been in more than a little trouble lately. Now, last time around, as Gilbert points out, DeLay, probably the most poweful man on Capitol Hill, only drew 55% of the vote against an unknown lawyer with no money named Richard Morrison. The Democrats have been talking about hanging DeLay around the necks of Republicans nationwide. So now, here's DeLay's playbook:

Step 1: Call Congress in on a weekend (!) to save a poor, innocent woman. DeLay kills two birds with one stone here: he both seems like he cares about something human, something other than lobbyist money and he changes the subject from the various ethical charges against him.

Step 2: A federal court will almost certainly strike down this new Schiavo law.

Step 3: Suddenly, Republicans are back on their 2002 and 2004 winning playbook; they're running against elitist Democrats and their activist judge friends who have no understanding of the importance of family or tradition, rather than trying to defend a Majority Leader who may just be indicted before the next election.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Calling All Women

Maureen Dowd says, in one of the NYT's most emailed articles, that women are more complex than men, yet in the blogosphere and elsewhere everyone is asking why women aren't well represented in the political discussion. Amy Sullivan recently blogged in the Washington Monthly about the lack of women who are prominent opinion writers. (Make sure to follow the link to her upcoming piece in the April issue of the WaMo.) Here's what she has to say as editor of The Washington Monthly:

Now that I edit the type of publication that serves as a feeder for major newspapers and magazines in search of columnists, I've seen plenty to convince me that self-selection is a major reason that women's voices are generally absent from our pages—I can count on one hand the number of pitches I have received from women.

Perhaps there's something to be said about men not being afraid to be wrong and why this may tend to lead to the imbalance. (Anyone who bothers to read this blog on a regular basis probably recognizes me as someone who fits that description.) In any case, as Lynn Sislo so graciously demonstrates, there are many female blogggers around.

I'm probably not the best authority on the women's movement so I'll let Susan B. Anthony sum up my sentiments:

"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

2006 House Race Preview

Okay, so I think we have all learned the dangers of not planning ahead.
So I was thinking to begin our meetings for next quarter we should start doing a break down of competitive House races (which is going to be the key to getting Dems back into power). This would require a bit of research, but knowing these races will pay off in being able to prepare for what we can do on campus next year.
Any thoughts?

T-Ball With Chris Matthews

First a few observations. For those who didn't make it into the audience, you missed a production, but not really much else. Except for the last five or ten minutes, Matthews was pummeled by the Governator. Arnie, whom I shall call Gropenator since such name calling is acceptable since it is "fun", was rather well prepared and did well except for claiming that the special election is good for the economy and not being able to give a good answer to what really constitutes a "special interest"--Democrats in Sacramento, you need to use this on him OVER and OVER.

Next, and what irks me most, is that the audience, even the stage audience, didn't accurately represent Stanford. I'd say at least 80% were pro-Schwarzenegger conservatives. And of course we all know that Stanford is pretty progressive, outnumbering Republicans almost four to one. And not even all the people who were in the "student" section were even Stanford students. I talked to someone who was in the banking division at Agilent Technologies who wasn't a student and was extremely conservative--he supported McClintock in the recall.

On to the questions. What I asked more or less: "You've refered to critics of Republican economic policies as 'Economic Girlie-men' and you've referred to California Democrats as "three stooges". Do you think this school-yard name calling is helpful to build the bipartisan atmosphere you talked about?" The question had to be shortened so I didn't get to add "Do you think this sets a good example to children, even if it is to, quote, make politics fun?" He answered quite well.

Anyway, here are some questions I wanted to ask (fun ones first):
- What movie are you more proud of: "Junior" or "Pumping Iron"?

- In "Pumping Iron", you equate lifting weights and working out to sexual orgasm. Is there something equivalent in politics?

Not so fun questions:
- I believe in Responsible government and many Republicans believe in smaller government. Do you believe there are any instances where a smaller government is not necessarily a responsible government, such as providing health care for children in poverty? (THIS IS THE ONE I REALLY WANTED TO ASK)

- You claim to be pro-environment, but do you think driving Hummers around is good for the environment?

- Several anti-tax Republican governors have recently come out in support of increased taxes to help fund important issues. For example, South Carolina's governor Mark Sanford, Alabama's Bob Riley, and Arkansas's Mike Huckabe have had budgets that raise taxes for important social programs. In Indiana, GOP governor Mitch Daniels campaigned on an anti-tax platform but within a month called for a tax increase. Should the federal government fail to provide funding for popular programs like Medicaid or education, would you consider raising taxes if Californians supported such a move?

- We get to hear you praise Republicans and chastise Democratic "stooges" all the time, but can you name two issues where Republicans could use improvement and two issues where Democrats are doing the right thing?

- President Bush could not come up with any mistakes he made in office while he was seeking reelection. Since there are rumors about you running for reelection--and even if you didn't run--Can you name any ONE thing that you would have done differently since you've become governor that pertains to policy issues and not some clever joke or trivial issue?

Incidentally, a friend of mine said she saw a sketch on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" where Schwarzenegger apparently blows up my head. Anyone happen to have that clip?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Abortion at Home and Abroad

Today's online edition of The Independent (of London) ran a pair of articles dealing with the upcoming abortion debate in the UK. One article goes into some of the facts and history of the issue. This article had some interesting pieces of information:

From the 16th century, the Christian doctrine of passive conception held that the foetus was only given a soul in the fifth month. Then, in 1869, Pope Pius X changed the timing of "ensoulment" to conception.

The other article goes into the current political chessmatch about lowering the time limit when abortions can be done legally. Some want to lower the time limit from the current 24 week limit to 20 weeks. Of course, as the article points out:

Advances in medicine have seen babies survive at 23 weeks and, very rarely, 22 weeks. But the poor outcome for those suggests the limits of viability have been reached.

Of course, the same article also mentions this:

The book, Watch Me Grow, by Professor Stuart Campbell, former head of obstetrics at the King's College Hospital, London, captured pictures of babies at 12 weeks "jumping off the sides of the womb like a trampoline," opening their eyes at 18 weeks and apparently smiling at 22 weeks.

What I take from this is that the issue of abortion is an important issue in more than just the U.S. And as the first article mentioned describes, the role of religious groups also effects British politics:

Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, hinted that all Catholics should vote Tory but the Prime Minister has said he believes it is a matter for a free vote and conscience on both sides of the House.

I bring this up, mostly to mention the Nick Kristof op-ed that appeared in the Times today. I think these two parts sum up some important points to ponder for Democrats and progressives:

The Democratic Party commits seppuku in the heartland by coming across as indifferent to people's doubts about abortions or even as pro-abortion. A Times poll in January found that 61 percent of Americans favor tighter restrictions on abortion, or even a ban, while only 36 percent agree with the Democratic Party position backing current abortion law.

That doesn't mean that there's no middle ground on abortion. In fact, most of America is standing, conflicted, on middle ground. Many people are deeply uncomfortable with abortions, but they also don't want women or doctors going to prison, and they don't want teenage girls dying because of coat-hanger abortions.

Since few will probably read this far, I can opine for a minute. I think this hits on very important themes. But I particularly want to call to people's attention this part: coming across as indifferent to people's doubts about abortions or even as pro-abortion. I think the same could be said of religion/morality generally. Almost everyone has a set of moral values, even atheists or "heathens".

One of my favorite Biblical parables is the one about the "Good Samaritan". While all the supposed righteous people walked passed a man who needed help, it was a supposed unrighteous one who actually helped the man. The better values in this case were that of the Samaritan. If you are a non-Christian, you can hold Christians accountable by demonstrating your values: When Bush proposes a budget that will hit the poor harshly, propose a budget that helps them the "Good Samaritan". (But please don't try to use the Bible against us. Actions speak louder than words.)

Check out The National Council of Churches. I'm sure you'll find that even as non-Christians you can share a lot of values with Christians. Why not work with them to accomplish common goals rather than running from them?

Buh-Bye Lincoln Chafee

Thanks to Kevin Drum for pointing out this roll call vote on an amendment "To express the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt."

The mostly party line vote (all Dems yea) was 50-50. The truly compassionate Republicans:

Collins (ME)
DeWine (OH)
Graham (SC)
Snowe (ME)
Specter (PA)

Noticably missing: Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island. I hope the Dems use this agains him in '06. He's already unpopular their for being a little cabana boy for Bush. Kim Gandy (President of NOW) tried to argue that we should support pro-choice Lincoln Chafee over the apparent pro-choice Dem candidate. But, as Phil Singer pointed out:

The most pro-choice Republicans like Lincoln Chaffee also, I would add, have voted up and down the line for the – Bush's pro-life judges who are intent on overturning –

The discussion is worth browsing and is incidentally why I find it harder and harder to stomach Democracy now these days. They conclude that since Sen. Clinotn refers to abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," that she is all of a sudden against abortion. I mean come on. I've know people who have had an abortion and from their own words, it's not a rosy decision. It's a tough choice I hope I never have to make or that my children ever have to make. If that makes me any less of a Democrat than so be it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Greenspan: Partisan Hack Then and Now

I'll write about some of the questions I really wanted to ask Arnold another time, but have to mention how happy I was to see Sen. Clinton going after Greenspan. When Greenspan comments that several forcasts were all wrong (OMB, CBO, the Fed), Hillary responds: "Just for the record, we were not all wrong." Perhaps Greenspan didn't feel like crawling under a rock, but he should have.

By the way, anyone remember Al Gore talking about "lock boxes" to secure Social Security during his 2000 presidential campaign? Looks like Greenspan thinks it's a good idea: "We need, in effect, to make the phantom 'lock boxes' around the trust fund real." Again, Mr. Greenspan, for the record some of us got it right the first time.

Seeing as how Arnold gave me permission to make politics fun (even if it means using ad hominems), I feel the need to comment on Condi Rice's new found style. I saw a clip of her last night on the local news and she was looking good. Let's hope her new foreign policy gets as good as her new threads.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Ask the Governator

OK, if you could ask the Governor one question today what would it be. I'll post the best--if you are too shy, you can email it to me.

To get you started: "What movie are you more proud of: Junior or Pumping Iron?" Political questions are also acceptable...and encouraged.

Delay-ing the inevitable...

Ok, so it turns out Tom Delay's heart condition was previously diagnosed and the guy's doing fine and etc. Glad to hear the Congressman is healthy and back at work. Now that the Washington Post wrote an editorial digging into him and the new House ethics rules, I think I can too...

For those of you that aren't familiar with Mr. Delay, I'll give you the short story. House Majority Leader Tom Delay has been a powerful member of the House since the Republican takeover in '94 when Delay became whip. Delay was well-known in that era for being a leading critic of President Clinton during the numerous bunk scandals dug up on him (and yes, that one that was technically not bunk, but no one gave a shit about). Delay is also well-known for being a capable floor leader, and for being a small step to the left of Benito Moussoulini.

Last year, the House ethics committee admonished Il duce three times for violating House ethics rules, but gave him no formal penalties. This year, three new allegations have come out including the two most recent allegation from this week that a "fact-finding" trip to South Korea was paid for by foreign interest groups in violation of House rules and that what amounted basically to a golfing trip to England was paid for by gambling interests who Delay helped by later killing a piece of regulatory legislation.

All of this is really icing on the cake to the way Republicans have rallied around their leader. With Delay facing a possible indictment from a Texas prosecutor for fundraising law violations in a separate incident, House Republicans changed the ethics rule requiring members to step down from leadership posts if they are indicted. This year, the Reps in the House unilaterally changed ethics investigation procedures to insulate their members from attack. From the WP editorial...

The new rules also pose substantive concerns, the most critical of which provides for the automatic dismissal of a complaint if it's not acted on within as little as 45 days and no longer than 90 days....It's a hands-off, no-paper-trail way for members to let ethics complaints simply disappear. Another rule, to let a single lawyer represent multiple parties in an investigation, is a road map to obstruction, letting those involved in an inquiry get their stories straight in advance.

Democrats are trying to use parliamentary tactics to block the changes while they try to attract a few Republicans to their side in a floor vote to overturn them. So far they have exactly one (today's props to cool Republicans goes to that very congressman--Rep. Christopher Shays from Connecticut).

Now, with all the bad news about how Democrats are getting steamrolled by the corrupt House leadership, I'll end with some optimism from another WP article:

DeLay garnered 55 percent of the vote in the November election against a relatively unknown Democrat, an unusually modest showing for a veteran House member who is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington.

Most ironically, this is due mostly to his own redistricting plan (see my post from a couple days ago):

"When you're drawing the lines, you have to set the example," DeLay explained..."If you're going to maximize the number of Republicans that are elected, everybody can't have an 80 percent district. If you're the guy that's sort of leading the effort, you can't tell your members, 'Well, I'm going to dilute yours, but I'm going to pack mine.'..."In doing all that, we tried to be as fair to everybody as possible," he added. "And I had to take my hit, too."

How noble of Tom. And very democratic. Well, no good deed goes unpunished... (from the The Christian Science Monitor:)

But when asked if House majority leader Tom DeLay (R) of Texas is on his list of vulnerable incumbents he wants to go after, the feisty [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committe Chair Rep. Rham] Emanuel reemerged: "If I told you, I would have to kill you!" he said, smiling broadly. "There are no districts that are absolutely off the table."

The nice thing about democracy is even when you lose, there's always another election right around the corner...

Incidentally, check out that CS Monitor piece above if you get a's a great profile of the DCCC chair--the "man who Democrats hope can take that Hill")

Sunday, March 13, 2005

News news news...

I think it's easier to be told what to think, rather than form my own opinions. So does the Bush administration.
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance.

From prepackaged news stories, to reporters being paid to give a positive light to agenda items - Bush obviously can't take a fair system, and can't deal with a democracy. Guess this is nothing new, but I like to stay mad.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Polling update

Latest AP Poll holds more bad news for Bush (and good news for those who want to retire sometime in their life.)

37% of voters approve of Bush's handling of Social Security
56% disapprove.

"Even people who approve of the way Bush has handled terrorism - political independents, Catholics, married women, older Americans and Southerners - have strong doubts about his Social Security plans. "

Friday, March 11, 2005

More reality in the Senate and Sen. Sarbanes...

Continuing on the theme Gilbert started, the Bush agenda had another abrupt run up with reality the other day when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee nixed
the Administration's ironically-named "Clear Skies" initiative. Props to GOP Sen. Chafee for crossing party lines on this one (but not too many props...we want his seat in 2006 :-) ).

In other news, longtime Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes is retiring. Luckily Maryland is pretty damn blue so the seat is probably still decently safe for the Democrats, but to have any shot at taking back the Senate we really need to minimize the amount of Democrat open seats and still hope a few otherwise-invulnerable Republicans retire. Keep your fingers crossed that Wisconsin Senator Kohl doesn't retire for one, and that a few key Republicans do (maybe Conrad Burns in MT, maybe Dick Lugar in IN). Charlie Cook's Latest 2006 Senate Race Ratings is a good source for a quick overview.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

On Gerrymandering...

For my first of what I promise will be many posts, I had planned on giving a rant on the latest ethics accusation against Tom Delay, but as it turns out he was admitted to the hospital today for heart problems so I will defer in the interests of bipartisan good will. Instead I will say that I wish Congressman Delay well, and hope he will soon return to work if for no other reason than so that he be there when Social Security reform flops. Seriously though, get well soon.

Anyhow, in place of ranting against Mr. Delay, I will speak about an issue near and dear to his heart--redistricting. Before the last election, as most of you probably know, Delay organized an unprecedented mid-decade redistricting in order to make the Texas House delegation more Republican. There was a lot of shenangans with Texas democrats fleeing the state to prevent the proposal from coming to a vote and etc. etc. etc. In any event, it ultimately passed and the Democrats lost like 5 seats in Texas alone. Had it not been for Texas redistricting, we actually would have gained seats.

Well the Republicans aren't done yet. Today, Georgia passed another redistricting bill that could well cost the Democrats another two seats in 2006. Colorado tried but it didn't go so well. A couple of other Red States are looking into redistricting too. (Of course, Arnold wants to redistrict too but he wants an independent commission to do may end up still costing the Dems seats but not necessarily, so at least it probably doesn't have quite as partisan motives.) Angry Democrats in Congress threatened to retaliate by redistricting in Democrat-controlled states which have disproportionate numbers of Republican reps--specifically they were looking at Illinois, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Anyway, today is turns out Illinois is a no go. There are some logistical issues, but mainly Illinois is just worried about weaking Speaker Hastert (from Ill.). The Democrats took the high ground though, claiming that just because Republicans are doing it doesn't make it right and etc. etc. The idealist inside me knows that's right, but the cynic inside me says that if the districting system is broken (which it is) we should fight fire with fire until it gets fixed. In any event, it'll be interesting to see what goes on in New Mexico and Louisiana, and maybe a couple more. New Mexico Gov. Richardson (a cool guy and a probable 2008 presidential contender) isn't really willing to put his neck on the line for what will probably only amount to one seat (NM only has three districts, after all). Louisiana is most likely to actually pass, but their legislative session is so short they'll probably not get around to it until next year and since they're a voting rights act state there will be court challenges and etc. so it may not happen by 2006. Keep your eye out.

Here's an article that explains a lot of this: Roll Call also has a lot of really good articles on redistricting, but they require a subscription...but if you just jump on Lexis you can get it all for free in the "Inside Washington" section.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Facing Reality In The Senate

It looks like Senate Republicans are finally starting to face reality...well, maybe just a little. It appears that not all Senate Republicans are very keen on extending Bush's reckless tax cuts: Uneasy about the potential impact on the ballooning federal deficit, the Senate Republicans called for $70.2 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, as opposed to the estimated $100 billion the White House is seeking.

Here's Olympia Snowe (R-MA):

"Suffice it to say, I do have serious concerns with the fundamental priorities that are being constructed in the budget." She added, "It's exacting a high price from some of the programs that are critically important to the future.

Lincoln Chaffe (R-RI):

"I've been consistently opposed to tax cuts when at the same time we're not controlling our spending, and I don't think this year will be any different."

Mike DeWine (R-OH) in reference to throwing ANWR drilling in the budget:

"I'm not particularly happy about ANWR being shoved back in there."

Of course, the Senate is a lot more sensible than the GOP controlled House who want $6 billion more in tax cuts than the White House.

Too bad all Congress members couldn't serve as Governors. As David Sirota discusses:

the next time you hear a pundit blathering on about how the left in America is lost, and the conservatives have everything figured out, remember those Republican governors who came from Washington. They show just how wrong conventional wisdom can be.

Read the article, it's interesting to see how GOP Governors have succombed to taxation. Here's another good piece where Arkansas' GOP Governor blasts Grover Norquist:

"Grover's never been in government, doesn't have to balance a state budget, never had a state constitution forcing him to deal with a balanced budget," Mr. Huckabee said at a meeting with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.

"Grover's never been in a situation where he couldn't borrow money so he didn't have to raise taxes or tell old people he's just going to take them out of the nursing home and drop them on the curb," he continued.

"If Grover wants to run for governor, there's an election next year in Arkansas. He can get his residency requirements lined up. And there are 36 other states he can run in next year," the governor offered.

I do take some pleasure in seeing Republicans blast Grover Norquist's heartless plan. (NOTE: I do not consider Norquist heartless, just his policy...I don't know the guy.)


Guys, we have an issue on our hands, one which needs to be addressed immediatly.
This just in from the transcript of Monday's HARDBALL with Chris Matthews...
And don‘t forget the HARDBALL college tour next Monday, a week from now, with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the whole hour from Stanford, where my wife went.

Who has details? When, where, and what should we do about it?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Al Gore not running in 2008?

MSNBC's Chris Matthews is reporting in Hardblogger that former Vice President Al Gore will not seek the Democratic Party's nomination in 2008:
The 2008 Presidential campaign will not include Al Gore. I'm reporting tonight that the former Vice President and 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee will not run for President. I've been given this scoop from a perfect source who informed me that the purpose of this disclosure at this time is to end speculation about a campaign that will never occur.

What do you all think this means for the primary battle two years hence?

Monday, March 07, 2005

What's the Matter With Washington?

OK, two posts in one day means I'm a bit irked by something. I don't know how closely people have been following the Washington governors race that I mentioned here as well as here. But the plot appears to be thickening.

The Washington GOP recently submitted a list of over 1,100 alleged instances of voter fraud. As someone who cares more about voting integrity than partisanship, I was anxious to see what developed in this issue. Well, KIRO-TV reports on a few of the "illegal voters":

The Associated Press contacted three of those on the alleged felon list. Two said their voting rights had been restored and one said he was pulled over for drunken driving in 2003, but the charge was reduced. Two of those three said they voted for Rossi.

Wait, it gets better:

In one case, a voter had mistakenly signed his name next to the name of a deceased woman named Alice. He then crossed out his signature and signed next to his own name.

The GOP list indicated that someone had illegally cast a ballot in Alice's name, but McDonald said that was not the case, adding a quick check would have "spared Alice's family from suspicion that one of them had committed a crime."

Democrats plan to check the entire list against precinct records, he said.

An initial check of seven names failed to turn up "anybody that's a legitimate illegal vote," McDonald said.

I'm interested to see further developments and a more thorough dissection of "the list".

What's even worse and more interesting is the bill in Washington, SJM 8009. Basically this bill wants to divide the state in two, an eastern [GOP] half and a western [other] half. The Olympian wants legislators to spend more time on important work. I got a better idea, how about we make Democrats wear a scarlet "D" so that we can just be avoided altogether and prohibited from being involved in the political process. I mean besides Joe Lieberman, the GOP leaders are not listening to us anyway.

Guerilla Internet Activism.

What is guerilla Internet activism? Well if you go to the Leadership Institute's new Internet Activist School you can "hit the ground running utilizing Internet technology to promote conservative ideals through campaigns, non-profits, policy groups, or your own personal site". The concept doesn't bother me, except that you can learn "guerilla Internet activism". Whatever that means.

Check out Garance Franke-Ruta's article in the American Prospect for more on blogging.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Christian Closet

Amy Sullivan reviews the latest Jim Wallis book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It in the latest issue of The Washington Monthly.

A couple of tidbits I found interesting:

To liberals who believe that religion has no place in public life, Wallis argues that “God is personal, but never private,” citing Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Joshua Heschel, and other moral crusaders whose names warm the hearts of good lefties.


At the same time, the religious left, once a powerful actor in liberal politics (think abolition, suffrage, the progressive era, civil rights), began to decline....As groups like the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority became ever more vocal and visible, the conventional wisdom that to be religious and in politics was to be conservative hardened, and—with a few notable exceptions, such as Mario Cuomo and Bill Clinton—religious progressives stayed in the closet. [My empshasis]


With the stakes high for issues they care about, religious progressives may have to set aside the pristine white choir robes for a time and get their hands dirty in practical politics.

Since I have to finish working, I'll save my comments for another day. Be on the lookout next month for an Amy Sullivan appearance in The Stanford Progressive.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Greenspan: Partisan Hack

When will Greenspan go away? He's supposed to be nonpartisan but has been a shrill for Bush II since inaguaration. I mentioned how he was at it a couple days ago. As Senate Minority leader Harry Reid says, Greenspan is "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington." There's more:

"I'm not a big Greenspan fan -- Alan Greenspan fan," Reid said when asked about the Fed chairman's testimony this week urging Congress to deal quickly with the financial problems facing Social Security and Medicare. "I voted against him the last two times. I think he's one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington."

And Paul Krugman joins in:

Does anyone still take Mr. Greenspan's pose as a nonpartisan font of wisdom seriously?

When Mr. Greenspan made his contorted argument for tax cuts back in 2001, his reputation made it hard for many observers to admit the obvious: he was mainly looking for some way to do the Bush administration a political favor. But there's no reason to be taken in by his equally weak, contorted argument against reversing those cuts today.

I think it's time Greenspan gets the boot. He's not elected and has no accountability. So he should be part of the GOP echo chamber.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Just for kicks

In case any of you aren't Daily Show regular viewers, here is a compelling reason to be. Recently an adept reporter sat in on a news conference outside New York's City hall. He got to ask the tough questions, much like our favorite real news reporter. Well, the press rep got the joke. If only the White House treatment of reporters were so funny.

The episode can be viewed tonight at 11. Enjoy.

That sounds decadent

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Americans to President: No thanks.

A recently released CBS/New York Times poll shows that the American people aren't buying President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

In fact, the more he campaigns for it, the less they want it. Only 43% of Americans believe private accounts are a "good idea," which is the lowest level of support since CBS started asking the question four years ago.

When reminded that private accounts would mean a cut in guaranteed benefits, only 22% of respondents thought it was a "good idea." THEN, when told that it would increase the deficit, only 17% thought it was a good idea.

Finally, only 31% are confident that Bush will make the "right decision" about Social Security, whereas 63% are "uneasy."

To quote former President Clinton, this dog just won't hunt.


More interesting news on WA governors race

I've written previously about the WA state governors race between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi. One thing that may not be known is that one of the lawyers in the GOP lawsuit was actually a elections worker for King County--the center of the GOP flubber. The Seattle Weekly says that as recently as Dec. 7, 2004 (AFTER the contentious election) Timothy Borders, a lawyer who brought the GOP lawsuit, asked one King County elections official for a recommendation letter (The State Politics section). I wonder what part of the "rigorous" testing Mr. Borders failed.

Greenspan at it again...

Looks like Greenspan is campaigning for the Bush Administration again. (Read his full testimony here.)

There is something interesting in the article that brings up other administration practices that I have issues with: "The administration estimates those accounts will require about $745 billion in new borrowing over the next decade." Fair enough, right. Too bad they start their estimation NOW. Most proposals have the borrowing start in 2009 or 2010 meaning that the administration is getting four free years in their "estimation". They did the same with Medicare. Be on the lookout for more on Bush's budget chicanery in the next issue of The Stanford Progressive.