Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Corruption and Plantations

It's nice to see the Democrats offering a far superior proposal to clean House. (Yeah, the pun was intended.) It's nice to see that even the Post is starting to report the truth of the Abramoff scandal, though through a third party:
Frank Clemente, director of the watchdog group Public Citizen's Congress Watch, drew a distinction between the corrupt actions of individuals for their own benefit and the "systemic" corruption that Abramoff's actions have uncovered: the routine, glitzy fundraisers and entertainment junkets that seemingly lead to official action; the revolving door that allows congressional aides to become high-priced lobbyists; and the fleecing of clients with the promise of access to power brokers in Washington.
This really is a Republican scandal. Abramoff is a GOP operative and has been since his days with Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed while they were members of the College Republicans (seems like even recent College Republicans are just as corrupt--more on that later).

I think my favorite part of the legislation is requiring legislation to be publicaly available for 24 hours. It's been a shame the way the House has been run the past several years: Holding votes until the middle of the night, only giving congresspeople a couple hours to evaluate the legislation, cutting off the microphones of the minority party, and so on. I've been complaining about this for some time because I think people would be shocked to hear about it--and the people I do talk to about it are appalled. So it was nice to see Hillary Clinton bring up this issue:
Clinton, who is seeking re-election this year, said during a Martin Luther King Day event in Harlem this week that the House "has been run like a plantation," in that "nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."
It is also nice to see her sticking to her guns and not rolling over. Agreement from Barack Obama and Gregory Meeks was also nice.

Nothing is going to get done to fix the problems our country faces so long as the current crop of GOP congresspeople are in power. I was never really overtly partisan until I saw how much the GOP was destroying the American ideal on so many different levels.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Election Cycle Politics Is A Loser

Democrats need to get away from election cycle politics. This is something I say over and over again. Most people get tired of feeling like they are nothing more than a checkbook or a vote. I know I do. I'm a poor graduates student, but every week Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, or some other Dem asks me for money. Well, I already give what I can (and then some). It's easy to feel used with this kind of politicking and we need to get away from this old way of doing things.

I think this is particularly important for the Hispanic community. As Ruy Teixeira points out,
All this means there’s very little keeping Hispanics tied to the GOP. And a great deal that’s pushing them away. The result could be a very substantial swing back toward the Democrats in 2006.
My experience with friends and family, and knocking or calling a couple thousand voters in New Mexico is that election cycle politics will not help the Democrats win back this community. Nor do I think it should--campaigns engaging in election cycle politics should lose.

I don't think this is something very complicated or some magic formula. In grade school writing classes I remember being told "show, don't tell." We have to show people that we are on their side, not tell them. Merely telling them we are on their side comes of insincere and is ineffectual.

Debz and I have some ideas on simple, inexpensive ways to start changing this. If you have any and want to work on this let us know.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Revisiting King's Legacy

Every year journalists and politicians go out of their way to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. While we have come a long way since the 1950s, we are still failing to live up to the many of the aspects of King's Dream of racial equality. Colbert King has some thoughts on what King would say is progress and failures. Bruce Gordon, head of the NAACP, answers some questions that bear relation to King's legacy.

I wrote a review of Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation for Black Ink Book Review that deals with our failures when it comes to education (link needs to be properly formated for the web). As I point out, our failures in education lead to other failures of racial equality:
The consequences of our failed desegregation efforts exploded in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina earlier this year. Images of extreme segregation and disproportionate suffering of impoverished African-Americans in New Orleans filled our television screens and briefly brought to light the current disparities. The images were so sobering that President Bush, on September 15, had to declare to the nation that this
poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.
I agree with Bush that we have a duty to confront this poverty. And confronting this poverty would be something that Dr. King, a personal hero, would sign on to. It's something I'm ready to sign on to. I just wish Bush's words (or faith) on this matter were backed up by his actions (or works)--happy rhetoric is dead without actions.

Sadly, I think we may be headed in the wrong direction in the near future. I briefly point out, in my review of Shame, Kozol's insistence of the importance of federal courts in improving education for minorities. The appointment of Chief Justice Roberts was (I hope I'm wrong), about 30 years of votes against the current inequalities. The confirmation of Judge Alito to the supreme court, would be removing O'Connor's pivotal votes. This is, perhaps, why the NAACP is strongly opposed to the confirmation. And as Nick Kotz points out, there are some important issues that may be coming up before the federal courts.

If we want to discuss King's legacy on his birthday, we should rethink the GOP's strict construction of the courts and have a serious debate. The courts are in for a big change if we continue to let Bush construct the courts as he has been doing. I hope Democrats do some soul searching as they are running around touting King's legacy. King and others fought hard for equality. They didn't win every battle, but they still fought because they believed that it was worth fighting--and even dying--for.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Alito And Big Changes For America

I've been listening to the Alito hearings and reading the transcripts, but not watching it on T.V. (I do have to work.) Maybe that's why I haven't gotten the same picture that the media is presenting. At least on the radio, Alito often sounds bumbling when compared to John Roberts. Even on "questions" from the GOP. I suppose not all candidates can be like Roberts, so I'll let him slide on his lack of eloquence. After all, I'd most likely be doing much worse.

But I think the New York Times editorial board gets it right:
Some commentators are complaining that Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century.
The rest of the editorial goes on to enumerate some troubling aspects about Alito. It's hard to pick one thing I'm most concerned about, but his lack of credibility--in regards to CAP specifically--is particularly troubling. As someone mentioned: he can remember all of his dissents, but can't remember why he included the CAP on his 1985 application (when he was already in his 30s mind you).

I'm waiting to see how things turn out. There was some :promising news recently reported:
Meanwhile, a GOP political group with which several moderate senators are affiliated announced its formal opposition to Alito's nomination.

The Republican Majority for Choice said the judge was "out of step with mainstream Americans on the issue of abortion and maintaining the legal right to choose."

Among those listed on the group's "advisory committee" are GOP senators Specter, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Lincoln Chafee. All support abortion rights, but the lawmakers have not indicated how they would vote on Alito's nomination.
I'll reiterate my concern for issues other than Roe. A lot is at stake with Alito. I hope our country doesn't start going backwards.

Perhaps some in the GOP don't care about how things were before "one person/one vote" because they can't remember or recall what it was like.

Privatize This

I'm always skeptical of Republican claims of success: The economy is great for everyone, Rumsfeld is doing a heckuva job in Iraq, etc. If you remember back to the Social Security debate, the Chilean pension system was touted as a raging success of privatization. Too bad that not even the conservative presidential candidate from Chile believes that:
"Chile's social security system requires deep reforms in all sectors, because half of Chileans have no pension coverage, and of those who do, 40 percent are going to find it hard to reach the minimum level," Mr. Piñera [the conservative presidential candidate] said in a televised debate with Ms. Bachelet on Wednesday.
What younger Americans should pay attention to is how the changing economy will effect them under a Social Security privatization scheme:
But skeptics point to another developing problem: many young people, who should be enrolling in the system early to accrue maximum benefit, are staying out or paying in very little. Some cannot afford to contribute beyond the obligatory minimum payment, which is 10 percent of wages, while others are either self-employed or have been hired by companies as low-paid independent contract workers and therefore do not have to contribute at all.
If the GOP retains Congress in '06, expect this to be resurrected and pushed through. There will be a lot of pressure on Bush to do something big.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Magic Formula For '06

OK, I don't really believe there is some magical formula for Dems electoral chances in '06. The country doesn't want a GOP Congress anymore and are significantly favoring Democrats over Republicans (though I've seen no poll to indicate a majority are prepared to vote Democrat yet).

The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats need to raise a lot of money and field good candidates. Some, particular the "left-wing" of the Party, say that Democrats need to develop a grand, all-encompassing message. I agree that Dems need money and candidates. I'm a little skeptical that the country will want to go from one homogeneous group of leaders to another set of homogeneous leaders. I think the Democrats benefit a lot from a diversity of views. Yes, even from a Lieberman or two. If the GOP weren't so homogeneous, we wouldn't have a government that is so out of control. But that's another, more philosophical discussion.

What is rarely talked about is the institutional infrastructure and volunteer organization that is needed. I do think Dean is doing a good job of trying to build up the infrastructure. But I find the volunteer organization to be lacking, and that's to say nothing of the "outreach" activities to minority constituencies. Granted, things may have changed since last year when I was less than impressed with what the DNC was doing after meeting with some higher ups. (To their credit, they were rebuilding from scratch. But it was still scary to see the lack of significant progress.)

There are literally hundreds of thousands of potential Democratic volunteers (or more) in "red", "blue" and "purple" states who are not being utilized. Unfortunately, these people have no easy way to get involved. The DNC has not given me any reason to think that they are going to do much to change this in '06. With a Republican base that's less than entusiastic for the midterms, the Democrats need volunteers to make sure that our base gets involved and gets to the polls. Plus, a long term movement is going to require a more dedicated and active base. Dems should do something to encourage those not already "in the loop" to get involved. Our prosprects require as much.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year's Resolution

Well, at least one of them is to elect a Democratic Senate. As Bob Geiger points out, the GOP has pretty much made Democrats irrelevant in the Senate, despite the fact that Democratic Senators have received more votes than Republican Senators:
you're looking at a total of 160 amendments sponsored by Senate Democrats and an astounding 84 percent of those shot down by the Republicans. And this only takes into account those measures that were even allowed to make it to the floor for a vote. (My emphasis)
Read on for a list of some of the legislation that the GOP blocked.

I'll say it: MoveOn.org is pretty stupid to try to put money into a Lieberman opponent in the Democratic primary. It's their perogative, but money is spent so much better trying to recapture one of the chambers of Congress. I emphasized the last sentence of the above quote because GOP control of all congressional committees has not only made life miserable for most Democrats, but has essentially put an end to all executive and congressional oversight and put an end to any spirit of bipartisanship. Even if someone like Lieberman doesn't represent MoveOn's constituency, they are still served better by a House or Senate controlled by Democrats, even if several are "conservative". Committees will be chaired by Democrats and that will make a huge difference as far as oversight and investigations, not to mention a little hope for the increasing number of children in poverty!

Besides, I think a little internal disagreement is good within any political party. Homogeneous thinking has led to some of the big problems are country faces thanks to GOP and their "party discipline".