Friday, September 29, 2006

Local news!

To all those who missed it today, I want to share my excitement over how successfully out local tabling endeavor went at the activities fair today in White Plaza.

Our two mascot political piñatas (of which now, there is only one) not to mention our giant Bush cutout, really brought some attention to our table. Needless to say, the sign-ups quickly followed. I would guestimate we had over 200 new people put there contact info down, lets see if that is mirrored in our meeting turnout on Monday. I am hopeful for a large turnout.

So now what.

Well, I sent my first dorm email today, telling people to register (everyone should have forms in their room), talk to me about politics, and to get involved in the dems. I find it makes a big difference to have personalized emails, rather than just the mass forwards. By and large living with people means you should have the courtesy of sending something you wrote yourself.

Learn up! After spending almost a year abroad, I have some homework to do - make sure I know what's going on in politics around the country. That way I can sound informed and excited about races. News, blogs, and campaign sights should now all be bookmarked on your browser.

Volunteer! Going to Monday meetings is fun and all, but I'm gonna do my best to block out a few Saturdays over the next 39 days to make sure I personally can participate in our canvassing events. Another thing, I want to sign up a lot of us to work as poll workers this election day, November 7th. I think this could be a great way for us to really get involved in the democratic process, and put our money where our mouth is - or at least our time. Find out more!

Those are just a few kick off ideas. Comment and add some more of your own!

MJ

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Comma Chameleon

I've been thinking about Bush's comma remark and about how history will have a lot of commas when describing his tenure as president:
Bush, George W. Forty-third president of the United States responsible for severely damaging the nation's longterm fiscal stability[comma] dangerously ignoring the threat of global warming[comma] politicizing every aspect of government[comma] incompetently botching response after a hurricane leading to a national disaster[comma] fighting to legalize torture[comma] fighting to curtail the constitution[comma] waging an unprovoked war[comma] waging said unprovoked war grossly incompetently despite warnings[comma] failing to change course in said uprovoked war[comma] stroking U.S. resentment[comma] spreading the flames of a global jihadist movement[comma] and taking a lot of vacation time[comma] finishing term the least popular of all presidents.
Anybody have any other commas that need to be added to the list?

A New Course

I'm surprised that this isn't just a generic template for every House and Senate race in the country:

Fair and Balanced Intelligence

I have a question. If there is someone known to the intelligence community as a serial fabricator, should you continue to use him as a source? Shockingly, Laura Rozen's reporting for The American Prospect suggests that we may be continuing to give a forum to Manucher Ghorbanifar, someone who has long been discredited. I think I was most taken aback by this:
“If there are two or three real contending points of view, we want policymakers to know about that. As a result, policymakers are getting to see a lot more than they used to.”
I won't add my commentary because I think Rozen's article is sufficient to cause significant alarm:
Murray says Ghorbanifar and his associate cobble together “intelligence” using translations from regional newspapers and the newsletters put out by the cultish, formerly Saddam Hussein-backed Iranian terrorist group, the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), which has a large outpost outside Paris; and “then they create stuff.” French and German intelligence services have also rejected Ghorbanifar and his associate’s intelligence, according to Murray.

“The plain and simple fact is that no intelligence service uses as a source someone who had been proven to provide false information, or information which he cannot source,” Murray continued. “This man has consistently done both.”

Amazingly, however, like Chalabi and his INC defectors before them, Ghorbanifar and his associate seem to have found new channels open to the Bush administration. And there’s precious little evidence that anybody is trying to stop them. There may be a Senate Select Intelligence Committee Inquiry on pre-Iran war intelligence in our future.
I'd recommend taking a look at some of Laura Rozen's other reporting on Ghorbanifar, Weldon, "Able Danger" and how bogus intelligence is getting to the white house. At her blog, War and Piece, there are several articles on the left that are definitely worth taking a look at.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bill Clinton/Fox News (Chris Wallace Interview) Pt. 1

Clinton kicks ass on Fox News. 'Nuff said.


(sweet)

More on the Emerging Democratic Majority

Two blog posts that should give Democrats hope. MyDD discusses the west and Kevin Drum on the GOP's woes in courting Hispanics

Only A Matter Of Time

I know I seem obsessed with the idea that Democrats will be the dominant majority in the long run. It seems that it may be sooner rather than later, as this example from Philly suburbs indicates:
The wealthy Philadelphia suburbs historically have been a Republican stronghold, but recent shifts in voter registration and voting patterns have moved the region toward the Democrats.

This summer, for the first time since the state began keeping registration records in 1934, slightly more than 49 percent of voters in the four-county region listed their affiliation as Republican.

In 1990, 63 percent of voters in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties were Republicans. Since then, Democratic registration has increased 7 percent to more than one-third of voters while the number of independent and minor party members doubled to 14 percent.
I'm not quite sure that Dems will win the Congressional seats in this area just yet, but the Senate seat is the most likely to change parties (though George Allen seems intent to change that). Casey currently leads Santorum by ten points and Santorum has rarely cracked 40% in polls over the last several months.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Full of "Macaca"

Josh Marshall points to a Salon article where college football teamates of possible GOP presidential candidate George Allen claim he used racial epithets. What does this guy have to do to lose his Senate seat?

Induced Hypothermia

A talking point amongst the GOP seems to be that we can't discuss the torture "alternative interrogation techniques" that we are using on detainees because would-be terrorists may start training for them. I've never been tortured so I can't describe what it's like. However, my work is such that I've been having to spend hours and hours at 4C (or just above freezing) looking in microscopes. I come prepared, however, and wear several layers of clothing. I use two sets of gloves, head gear to keep my head and ears warm. But I still can tolerate only a couple hours at a time (I'm currently taking a break).

What does it feel like to be at cold temperatures for extended periods of time without the ability to move around to keep warm? Well, my muscles tensed up with my hands and feet feeling as if they were locked in place so that I couldn't even take legible notes. It became harder and harder to breathe normally, with my breathing after an hour or so becoming labored. If you've ever jumped into a really cold lake, you probably remember the feeling that your lungs were going to collapse as you struggled to take short breaths. This wasn't as extreme as that, but it would have been had I stayed there much longer. My face, which was exposed directly to the cold air, had become numb and felt as if tiny knives were pressing against it. After leaving the refrigerated room, not only were my muscles tense and my eyes slightly watering, but even my bones ached. I'm only in my twenties, but I walked as if I were four times older for about ten minutes until I began to warm up to the balminess that is room temperature. I dread having to go back (hopefully I won't have to do this again while in graduate school!).

I sound like a whiny "girlie man", but it got me to think about the torture methods "alternative interrogation technique" of induced hypothermia. How long could one of us last naked in a refrigerated room being occassionally doused with cold water? How long before one of us would crack and admit to taking Stalin's favorite pipe? Imagine your lungs feeling as though they were about to be crushed and think what lies you would tell to stop that excruciating feeling. Imagine your muscles locked in place and your bones feeling like they are going to shatter. Now think about being in this situation based on hearsay, which some in the administration want to accept as evidence.

Welcome to George Bush's and the GOP's America!

The Youth Vote

Who says we don't matter? From Reuters:

A nationwide survey released this month showed young Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans by a 21-point margin, up from 19 percent in April.

That’s enough to cost some Republican candidates the race, said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster who analyzed the survey taken by the nonpartisan “Young Voter Strategies.”

He said if young voters turn out in November in the same numbers as in the 2002 mid-term elections, they could give Democrats a 1.8 percentage point advantage, enough to sway any of several razor-tight races this year.

...

The so-called “Generation Y” of Americans born between 1977 and 1994 -- shaped by the Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina -- in nine years will make up a third of the electorate, or about 82 million people.


And who says we aren't engaged? From the National Journal:

...according to a new survey sponsored by a George Washington University group called Young Voter Strategies...[e]ight in 10 of the survey's respondents, including 72 percent of Latinos and 85 percent of African Americans, said they were registered to vote... They often followed the same patterns as the general population... [Young voters] also claim to be just as attuned to the upcoming contests as the rest of the country. About two-thirds said they're paying at least some attention to the midterms, and 18 percent said they're paying at lot of attention. (Almost identical numbers recently told ABC News pollsters that they were following news of the election.)

Email me now to sign up as a Hall Captain and to make sure our voice is heard this November.

AZ-8 Update...

For those of you that read my post on the House race in Arizona's 8th district, you'll be happy to know that a new poll now shows Democrat Gabrielle Giffords up by an astounding 19 points. After news of that poll broke, and after it came out that KKK leader David Duke wrote an internet post endorsing Republican Randy Graf, the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled ads supporting Graf. They've given up. The National Journal now lists AZ-8 as the seat most likely to switch parties this November.

At the risk of tempting fate, I'm going to go ahead and say that we're looking pretty good to pick up at least one seat now. 14 more to go.

By the way, anyone want to guess what the name of radical anti-immigrant Congressman Tom Tancredo's PAC is? Oh the irony...

Too Busy To Read About Threats To America

September 11, 2001 is supposed to have changed the mindset of Americans, at least according to the GOP. The boogeyman is out to get us, right. So, if you were Senate Majority Leader wouldn't you be damn sure to have read an April National Intelligence Estimate by now? Apparently, not if your Bill Frist. As Laura Rozen points out, it doesn't appear Cheney is too interested in reding intelligence reports either.

For the sake of argument I'll grant the Administration and it's supporters that the August 2001 PDB warning of al Queda attacks was not that informative and 9/11 wasn't expected. Well, if this Administration and it's supporters are so intent on claiming they are doing all they can to keep us safe, why the hell are they claiming not to have read important intelligence assessments?

This is beyond incompetence. This is negligence. All that macho talk about keeping America safe and these lazy, testosteronated chest-pounders can't even bother to read intelligence reports dealing with issues they want us to trust them on?

From C Student To D+ President

I don't know what grades President Bush got and don't really care. But he has, on multiple occassions quipped about being a C student. If he were only a "fair" student, then perhaps that would explain this:
[T]he Council on Global Terrorism, an independent research group of respected terrorism experts, assigned a grade of “D+” to United States efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic extremism. The council concluded that “there is every sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is spreading rather than shrinking.”
What are the results of such a dismal record:
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

...The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of “self-generating” cells inspired by Al Qaeda’s leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants.

...In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.

...“If this trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide,”
The Republican run U.S. gets poor grades in combatting and contain radical Islam, which has seen an expansion in the last five years. The Republican "stay the [failed] course" in Iraq has resulted in a training ground for the next generation of terrorists for the expanded terrorist movement. Now we will be facing more terrorist threats world wide. And if you bring up these important points, you're called a freakin' Nazi/terrorist appeaser. The GOP has had four years to make the country safer and they have failed. OK, I guess "D+" isn't technically failing, but it's not great.

Since one could say this is all hindsight it's worth noting this important piece of information
The estimate’s judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.
That's what many war critics have been saying from the get-go. I think this whole appeasement crap has been discredited. We didn't want to go to Iraq because we thought it would make us less secure--and we were right. We have been saying that Iraq is serving as a training center for an expanded terrorist movement--and we were right. Republicans have been wrong--consistently wrong.

This seems to be the best way to capture the Republican campaign: "You should be scared of the terrorists. We know this because we have done nothing to curtail the global jihadist movement and have provided a training ground for the terrorists. We want two more years."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Who Needs the Moral High Ground?

We're in the 21st century and the U.S. is supposedly a beacon of freedom and hope for others around the world. I don't understand, then, why we are debating the best way to legalize torture. From all I've read, there seems to be no evidence that torture is a viable method to obtain information. It's a little abbhorrent that I even have to include the previous sentence as a disclaimer--to avoid being called a terrorist or Nazi "appeaser". Do terrorists deserve special treatment? Of course not. But here's an old joke told story by someone who was actually tortured in a Soviet prison:
One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. "But, Comrade Stalin," stammered Beria, "five suspects have already confessed to stealing it."
I always thought that the terror alerts leading up to the '04 election were a cynical political tool. After all, little became of these supposed threats. But perhaps it was from "confessions" from people being tortured. Maybe even someone who was innocent and had no involvement with terrorists.

Sadly, it seems as though our leaders are willing to sell the soul of our country for shoddy intelligence at best. We are about to legalize torture in the United States! What has gone wrong with our country? I realize that some may be too "scared" to fight for the soul of the country as an abstract principle, so here is some practical advice against torture:
Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID, has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?

Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: "You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . "

Off we go, back to the caves.
Looks like our place on the moral high ground is soon to be abandoned for cheap political points. Bravo!

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Audacity of Hope

If you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit tired of the GOP trying to always scare me to vote for them. (Perhaps if the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress was doing a better job, then we wouldn't have to be scared all the time. But that's another story.)

I think I'm ready to start having hope again. Hope that extremists across the world are being marginalized and erradicated--instead of having training ground tailored made for them. Hope that our country will not join the lowly ranks of state endorsed torture. Hope that every child will have medical insurance. It would be so nice to wake up on November 8 and realize there is hope that our country will move in the right direction instead of "staying the [failed] course". Here's Barack Obama in 2004 being more eloquent than I:



Part II

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Had Enough?

Allow me to be a GOP politician for a second: BOOOOOO! Nah, that didn't scare me either. Too bad, that seems to be all that the GOP can campaign on these days. Kind of sad, don't ya think?

What I am scared of is the GOP holding on to the legislative branch. Bush's tirades and childish behavior aimed at anyone who dares to disagree with him is frightening. Sure I want a strong leader, but I don't want a beligerent leader who alienates all our friends and further inflames those who aren't our friends. I don't want a leader beating his chest in front of his opponents, while doing nothing to really make this country safe. Since that's the type of leader we have, I'd like a Congress who will stand up for us, not a beligerent, angry president who pouts when he's not getting his way.

Bush once joked about someone who was a PhD while he was a "C" student but President. Perhaps those mediocre grades are why we get Ds from the 9/11 Commission. I don't find that funny. Not at all. Where is Congress to keep us safe?

I was going to mention other things this Administration and his Rubber Stamp Republicans(TM) are doing badly, but I think this ad from the Fort Bend Democrats to the talking for me:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Time To Go To Work

For some reason, I find this Hendrix rendition of the Star Spangled Banner a good way to get the school year started and to put even more energy into the midterm election season. It always reminds me that despite all the bad things going on around us, the principles the U.S. was founded upon give us the opportunity to make it better.

New Deal, Part Deux?

Donkey Rising points to a John Judis article that should give Democrats hope for the future. I don't have a subscription to TNR anymore but here is a nugget directly from Donkey Rising (with my emphasis):
His report has a lot for Dems to be encouraged about, including:

...this year, Democrats could unseat as many as five House Republicans in Ohio and win a Senate seat and the governor's mansion. In Colorado, Democrats are very likely to win the governorship and both state legislatures, and to take as many as three House seats from the Republicans. And, in both states, it's not just a sudden and fleeting reaction to Bush, but the resumption of a movement among upscale suburban voters and working-class Reagan Democrats. America may not turn blue this year, but it looks as if it is definitely becoming purple.
Given the very promising short term prospects for the Dems, it really is time that Democrats get to work solidifying the long term support of the voters who are flat out rejecting the GOP governing philosophy. And long term support should be established with the under 30 crowd.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Election Landslide?

Stuart Rothenberg discusses the anti-Republican political enviornment:
Looking toward November, there is no indication that the two major parties both are facing significant incumbent losses. I suppose Democrats could lose an incumbent or two if things go poorly for them, but right now there isn’t a single Democratic seat that ranks in the 25 most vulnerable House seats in the country.

Not one. Not a single one. The vulnerability is entirely on one side of the partisan aisle.
There is another piece of information here worth pondering.
This election isn’t really about agendas. Sure, Democrats have something called their “New Direction,” but most voters aren’t regarding November primarily as a choice between two visions or two ideologies. No, it’s about sending a message to the president and to Congress that they aren’t happy — specifically with the Iraq War, but more generally as well.
Democrats need to start defining themselves now to help usher in a long lasting electoral majority. A good way to start is with Barack Obama.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Immigration and Developing Countries

With Bobby picking up my slack and getting into some great election analysis, I can focus on other things. Like the Dixie Chicks. Or my favorite, poverty. In the Post today, Sebastian Mallaby (I know, I know) mentions something interesting about immigration and developing countries:
In " Let Their People Come ," a new book published by the Center for Global Development, Lant Pritchett reports that if rich countries permitted extra immigration equivalent to 3 percent of their labor force, the citizens of poor countries would gain about $300 billion a year. That's three times more than the direct gains from abolishing all remaining trade barriers, four times more than the foreign aid given by governments and 100 times more than the value of debt relief.
I have some issues with this being better than debt relief, but it's an important point. It's been well established that immigration has very small effects on American workers--and that's a barely significant, if at all, effect on those without high school diplomas. Worth thinking about some more.

Off Message

The Washington Post reports that Karl Rove and the Republican message machine is angry with a pesky ex-Navy Secretary, an ex-JAG, an ex-POW, and an ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs--Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Former Secretary Colin Powell (R?).

You see, the three have united to oppose the President's plan to gut the Geneva Conventions, because they all know first hand how important the strong international law is to protecting American POWs. But the "dissent in the Republican ranks" story is throwing the Republicans off their "Security September" message. From the Post:

"Purely from a strategic point of view, this is another mess," said Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst and editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. "Every time Republicans think they have an issue to unite them and divide the Democrats, the Republicans end up spending most of the time fighting among themselves."

Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio agreed: "If the goal of this process was to show stark differences between Republicans and Democrats, what is being portrayed is stark differences between George Bush and some Republicans. From that standpoint, you aren't hitting the message mark."

Bummer.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tales from the Trail: AZ-8

Kudos to Gilbert for doing such a great job keeping the blog going through the summer months. From the site meter, it looks like he's got a bit of a following other than me :-). With school starting up and the election getting rolling, I've resolved to start posting again myself.

As a dedicated political junkie who can never get enough polling data or election analysis, I suspect many of my posts will be reporting on hot races. Today, I'm going to start close to home (close to my home, that is) with a recap of an exciting (and somewhat humorous) battle for a house seat in the Sonoran Desert.

On Tuesday in the AZ Democratic Primary, I voted for a candidate that actually WON for the first time ever. (Go Gabby!) That wasn't too much of a shocker--she was heavily favored. The more interesting race was the Republican side of the 8th District Primary--a primary for a seat which will be vacated by Republican Jim Kolbe. Kolbe has long been a proponent of common-sense immigration reform legislation that focuses on guest worker programs and paths to citizenship (in fact, the bill now know as "McCain-Kennedy" was once the "Kolbe-Flake" bill). That won him some enemies in his own party among the southern Arizona border-dwellers (he also had already made himself more than a few enemies in the party by revealing he was gay). In 2004, he fought off a stiff primary challenge from radical Minuteman and Tom Tancredo solemate Randy Graf, who ultimately won over 40% of the vote. Graf also has some notoriety in Arizona for his failed attempt as a state legislator to pass legislation allowing patrons to carry guns into restaurants and bars (no joke).

Of course, Graf announced that he was running again for the now-open seat, and Kolbe and the national GOP freaked out. The 8th is a fairly moderate district, relatively evenly split between Republicans and Democrats (the district has, after all, elected a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, gay Republican for a decade). In fact, even the "moderate" Kolbe faced a tough race against a Democrat several years ago after taking some heat for voting to impeach President Clinton and for sponsoring Social Security privitization legislation. So, the national GOP decided to throw it's weight behind hand-picked Kolbe successor (and former Kolbe campaign manager) Steve Huffman. The national GOP actually ran ads during the primary supporting Huffman--an extremely unusual move that angered Graf and the other Republicans running.

Then Democrats made a brilliantly shrewd, if a tiny bit underhanded, move. The national Democratic party bought ads during the primary that attacked Huffman! Their goal was clear: help Graf win. On Tuesday, Graf squeaked out a primary win, and most political prognosticators are now saying that Democratic nominee Gabrielle Giffords (that candidate I voted for) is a favorite to win the seat, scoring Democrats one of the 15 seats needed to take control of the House. Of course, anything can happen, but it's hard for most observers to imagine hardliner Graf winning in a district like the 8th, especially against a well-funded and charismatic opponent like Giffords. The National Journal's House Rankings now lists AZ-8 as the 2nd most likely seat to change parties, and the Washington Post's "The Fix" line hinted on Monday that the race would launch into their number 1 or 2 spot after a Graf victory. Props to Rahm Emmanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for getting their hands a little dirty and trying to bank a seat early.

The best part of this story came the day after election day. Kolbe declined to endorse Graf, saying "there are such profound and fundamental differences between his views and mine on several key issues that it would not be true to my own principles to endorse him now for the general election in November."

Classy move, Jim. Even though you're a Republican, I've always liked you. In some ways, I'll even be sorry to see you go.

Kolbe, by the way, went to Stanford.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Combating Poverty: Public or Private

For those who know me, or read some of my previous postings, you know that I'm obsessed with combating poverty. (For example, see here, here, here and here.) Oxfam has just published an article discussing the advantages of public over private efforts to end poverty, or at least help those in extreme poverty. It's over a hundred pages so it will take me a little while to go over it and digest it, but I will do that soon. Hopefully I'll have comments soon.