Tuesday, January 31, 2006



Quarterly fundraising numbers have started coming out today and results for Democrats are mixed. I was really depressed to see Tester get stomped by the corporate Dem and by Montana's crooked senator, Conrad Burns. Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett together did about as well as DeWine in Ohio and McCaskill was almost even with Talent in Missouri. But locally the news was a lot better. California's brightest hope, Francine Busby down in San Diego County, slaughtered all the Republicans in this "red" district that Randy "Duke" Cunningham so recently disgraced. Judging by the fundraising results, it looks like people down there are going around humming The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Francine, who set the grassroots on fire in 2004, is facing a gaggle of right-wing nutcases in a primary in April. She has the most money on hand; she's raised the most money overall; and in the last quarter she brought in $271,208. Whackidoodle extremist Howard Kaloogian brought in $142,356. Recently defeated former Congressman Brain Bilbray (from a neighboring district) brought in $5,420. And Bill Morrow is reporting $212,827. What makes it all the more stupendous is that 93% of Francine's money came from inside the district, mostly in small donations, not from PACs (although Jim Dean told me last week that DFA is about to endorse her and ask people to contribute to her campaign). She was also endorsed by MoveOn.org, which I'm, sure is going to mean more grassroots help and financing.

All Francine's hard work in 2004 is paying off now. This one looks like it could be a big win for the good guys. Please consider going to the DWT ACT BLUE Page and making a contribution to Francine's campaign. Even a small donation, like $10 or $20, is an awesome help. And think how great you'll feel in April when she wins-- with your help!



It's so easy to pick out Boss Emanuel's hack candidates. Go to any district where there is an endangered Republican incumbent. If there is more than one Democrat trying to challenge him, it means there will be a primary (or it means Boss Emanuel will drive the grassroots activist out of the race before a primary). How do you know which candidate is a real Democrat and which one is one of Boss Emanuel's craven picks? I've been going to the websites. After a minute or two it becomes really clear. The real Democrat's website is always passionate and has a voice of humanity-- usually personal reasons for running-- and it is FILLED with ideas and clear stands on real issues. Boss Emanuel's candidates websites are slickly packaged corporate exercises in obfuscation-- no ideas, no issues, no stands... just "I'm for the middle class; and the troops and the Republicans are corrupt."

I just picked a random race-- nutcase right-winger John Shadegg in Arizona's 3rd CD has two challengers: Herb Paine and Donald Chilton. I never heard about or read about either of them before just 10 minutes ago. But look at their respective websites and tell me which comes off as a real Democrat and which one sounds like a pawn of Boss Emanuel.

One Republicrook implicated in all of Randy Cunningham's criminality and more, who could easily wind up indicted before November, is the San Diego area's most corrupt pol, Duncan Hunter. This red district could turn into a prime opportunity for a Democrat. And I see there are 3 challengers-- Jim Hester, Karen Otter, and John Rinaldi. I'll keep quiet. Take a look and do your own analysis. It's fun.

A day or two ago I endorsed Dave Lutrin in his bid to be the Democratic challenger to reprehensible Republican closet queen Mark Foley after comparing Lutrin's clear and unambiguously progressive site to the slick pabulum of some self-financing, country club Republican shill Boss Emanuel dug up. We could play this game of finding the weasel all day. But one thing I am wondering about Boss Emanuel-- with as many as 5 dozen Republican incumbents running without any opposition at all, why doesn't the head of the DCCC stop harassing grassroots Democrats and replacing them with slick, corporately-oriented putative "Democrats" and instead find some challengers for people like California far right loons Dan Lungren, George Radanovich and Buck McKeon, or for Richard Baker in his recently much more Democratically-oriented Baton Rouge district, or for Mike Castle in Delaware, or John Mica, Bill Young or Howdy Doody in Florida, or to take on Tom DeLay's right hand man, the ethically-challenged Roy Blunt... or what about unloved and very beatable Peter King on Long Island or the crooked Bob Goodlatte from Virginia or even just one of the 5 KKK wizards that make up the Republican delegation from Alabama?

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This morning my pal Danny sent me an interesting little piece of Oh Wow! trivia: "This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall within hours of each other. It is an ironic juxtaposition: One involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog."

Molly Ivins found the proximity as noteworthy as Danny.



Mike Rogers over at blogACTIVE has been unwavering in his stance that closeted gay legislators who do active harm to gay men and women should be loudly outed. His biggest coup to date was the on-line outing of far right homophobe ex-congressman Ed Schrock (R-VA) two years ago, just before the elections (which forced the gay-bashing closet case to "retire"). He has also written extensively on other anti-gay gays in the congress (California's David Dreier, Jim McCrery from Louisiana and Florida's Mark Foley) as well as loads of gay anti-gay Republican operatives (from high level aides of rabidly homophobic senators like Santorum's Robert Traynham, Inhofe's Jonathan Tolman, half George Allen's office, Frist's Linus Catignani, to senior GOP policy staff like Ken Mehlman, Dan Gurley and Jay Banning over at the RNC, Israel Hernandez and Jeff Berkowitz at the White House, and key Republican propagandists Matt Drudge, Armstrong Williams, Lee LaHaye and John Schlafley).

Well yesterday Mike got all worked up over an as yet unnamed Republican senator, presumably Lindsey Graham-- though that's just my guess-- who was voting to confirm Scalito, no friend of equal protection for gays and lesbians. Mike writes a letter to Graham the unnamed senator that starts " Tomorrow you will be faced with a vote that may have the longest aftereffects of any other you have cast in your Senate career. Tomorrow you will decide if your political position is worth more than doing what is right for others like you. For others like you, Mr. Senator, who engage in oral sex with other men. (Although, Mr. Senator, most of us don't do in the bathrooms of Union Station!) Your fake marriage, by the way, will NOT protect you from the truth being told on this blog."

Mike mentions that it's a Republican (which leaves out the cloture-supporting Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat) and since Lincoln Chafee had already announced he would vote "no" on Scalito, I'm assuming it isn't him. So, unless some other closet case who I don't know about-- and there are always rumors, mostly undependable and not worth mentioning-- we'll have to wait for the announcement about Lindsey Graham the unnamed senator on blogActive. I'll get back to you.

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No doubt the final irony of the Alito confirmation process has already occurred to you, but . . .


Considering the relative ease with which, in the end, the alarming Alito is slithering onto the Supreme Court, nobody to the right of, say, Chuck Grassley may want to ponder the carry-over effect.

One possibility might be a massive mobilization of the American center and left around the theme "Never again!" Never again we will stand idly by while grotesquely underinformed voters turn the fate of the republic over to the tool of a power elite on the ground that the creepiest smile this side of a slasher movie shows what a "nice guy" he is. Never again will we allow understandably under-enthused voters to boycott the polls en masse in the erroneous belief that "there isn't a dime's worth of difference" between candidates who may not be singularly appealing but nevertheless are very different in at least some important ways.

That's one theory. It's a pretty hilarious one, don't you think? (Thank you, thank you, ladies and germs! A funny thing happened to me on the way to the blog . . . )

Turning now to reality, what I expect will happen is that the far right, giddy with success, is going to use this episode as Bork II—a rallying point for pushing farther to the right the ideological limit of the centrist judges appointable by future Democratic presidents. As I say, never mind that Alito was actually confirmed. And never mind (just as no one on the far right has ever minded it) that the process ever since known as "Borking" consisted of nothing more dastardly than quoting back to him the words of a man so extreme that even sleepy Middle America took fright when it got a good glimpse.

The facts, after all, simply don't come into this. (I was delighted the other day when Paul Krugman kicked off his column by quoting the glorious Daily Show exchange in which correspondent Rob Corddry explained to Jon Stewart that it was no longer possible to report the facts because the facts themselves are "biased" against Bush.) I believe that the far right now believes it has the power to (a) coerce friendly administations to appoint Supreme Court justices (and lower court judges) who pass their litmus tests, while (b) preventing unfriendly administrations from appointing justices (and judges) who hold to any contrary views.

Remember the common wisdom that you couldn't confirm a Supreme Court nominee who made clear that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? Of course, Judge Sam didn't come right out and say that, but he could have lost an eyeball, he was wink-wink-winking so hard at his loony-right allies. If he had a shred of honesty, he could have gotten around the question by saying, "Oh, but compared with the other stuff I'm going to do, overturning Roe will be the least of the nightmare I cause non-rightist loons." But as his whimsical approach to the relationship between conflicts of interest and judicial recusal suggests, shreds of honesty may be too much to hope from (ugh!) "Justice" Sam.

Gail Collins remembers the "steely inner toughness" of a genuinely nice person, her friend Wendy Wasserstein


Hmm, I do seem to be focused lately on dying—and in particular on how a person is remembered and by whom. Which in the end seems to me not a terrible measure of the way the person lived.

To me, to be remembered, and remembered this way, by Gail Collins is some big deal. Collins has been editorial page editor of
The New York Times for, oh, a bunch of years now (the crack research staff here at DWT will fill in the exact number later), and as far as I can tell, she's done a bang-up job. I don't remember a time when NYT editorials were timelier, more on target and to the point, or better-written. One thing I'm almost never able to discern, though, is her own voice. I can hardly ever guess which editorials she may have written herself. I suppose she considers this a hallmark of the job. But I miss the heck out of her.

I kept hearing about Collins when she was writing a column for the New York
Daily News, and finally discovered what the fuss was about when she joined the roster of star columnists that was the glory, all too briefly, of New York Newsday. When the suits in L.A. killed that remarkable paper, she landed at the Times, and it seemed to take her awhile to "refind" her column voice in that sea of gray type. But she did. Then she vanished into her present job.

I can think of a very few writers today who are as good. I can't think of any who are better.

The New York Times
January 31, 2006

An American Woman

Wendy Wasserstein and I had a running e-mail joke in which we took turns taking responsibility for everything bad that happened. "I'll bring the Iraqi constitution and we can work on it in the bar," she wrote last year before a theater date. I congratulated her for getting Michael Brown the FEMA job. We both claimed to be in charge of the Middle East peace process.

We were making fun of Wendy's reputation for good-heartedness. Her outrageously premature death yesterday deprived the nation of a beloved playwright, but it also stripped the city of one of its best people.

The first time I met her, she was rushing to a speaking engagement at a small library in a faraway section of Brooklyn. I assumed that either this was the historic spot where she had learned to read or that she was related to the librarian. But no, it was simply a place that had the moxie to ask a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright to come and do its event.

"Last month I was voted Miss Colitis," Wendy once wrote. "I was honored at the Waldorf-Astoria and presented with a Steuben glass bowl — by Mary Ann Mobley Collins, a former Miss America. It's not that the treatment of colitis is an unworthy mission, but I have no connection to the cause except that I received a letter from the Colitis Committee asking me to show up. In other words, I became Miss Colitis because I am very nice."

Sometimes it was almost impossible to resist taking advantage. Wendy and I once jointly agreed to give talks at a convention of women journalists being held in Montana, under the theory that it would be an excellent opportunity to see one another. (We had reached that circle of scheduling hell in which two people who live less than a mile apart have to traverse the continent in order to have coffee.) After I arrived, I got a call from Wendy, who had missed the plane. Her only alternatives were to cancel or fly in at midnight, give her address at breakfast and then immediately return to the airport.

"You should do whatever you think best," I said cruelly. "The only thing I can tell you is that these women are really nice and they're looking forward to meeting you."

I picked her up at midnight. "You were right," she said, as we drove back to the airport 10 hours later. "They were awfully nice women."

Wendy was a charter member of the company of nice women, a river of accommodating humanity that flows through Manhattan just as it flows through Des Moines and Oneonta, N.Y., organizing library fund-raisers, running day care centers, ordering prescriptions for elderly parents, buying all the birthday presents and giving career counseling to the nephew of a very remote acquaintance who is trying to decide between making it big on Broadway and dentistry.

In the essay that began with the Miss Colitis story, she noted that niceness had become unfashionable, and promised to be crankier in the future. It was just a literary device. Wendy understood that being considerate in a society of self-involved strivers was not for wimps. It required a steely inner toughness that was the hallmark of many of her heroines.

She also knew her own nature. "Frankly, I never want to leave a room and be thought of as a horrible person," she admitted. But Wendy never explained what the rest of us were supposed to do when she left the room before us.



Before the 2004 election I wrote a piece about how states' average intelligence scores, measured by standardized IQ tests, correlated with 2000 (Bush v Gore) voting patterns and with average income. People were very uncomfortable about the topic, even the raw numbers made people uneasy. Sunday I read a story by Paul Craig Roberts (former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, an Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and a Contributing Editor of the far right magazine, National Review) in Information Clearing House called "Polls Show Many Americans are Simply Dumber Than Bush".

Roberts starts with a powerful premise: "Two recent polls, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll and a New York Times/CBS News poll, indicate why Bush is getting away with impeachable offenses. Half of the US population is incapable of acquiring, processing and understanding information." He goes on to excoriate the media for acting as propaganda tools for the political Establishment instead of taking journalism seriously. But with about half the population seeing right through Bush's lies and distortions-- mass media propagandists or not-- the real problem is "lies with the absence of due diligence on the part of the other half of the population."

He asks a chilling question at one point: "What does it say for democracy that half of the American population is unable to draw a rational conclusion from unambiguous facts?"

Now consider the correlation's from 2000. Keep in mind that IQ scores are based on a mean IQ being 100. There are 18 states whose population had an average or above IQ (3 digits). Only two of those states-- New Hampshire, where the election was tampered with by Republican operatives who are now serving prison sentences, and Virginia-- voted for Bush. On the other hand the dozen states with the lowest average IQ (and the correspondingly lowest average incomes) all voted for Bush. Connecticut has the highest average IQ (113) and the highest average income ($26,979) and it voted overwhelmingly for Gore-- just as overwhelmingly as Mississippi, with the lowest average IQ (85) and the lowest average income ($14,088), voted for Bush.

Interestingly yesterday's WASHINGTON POST did a story about a very different-- but not unrelated-- demographic examination, entitled "Study Ties Political Leanings to Hidden Biases." The conclusions-- Republicans are more likely to be racists and bigots than Democrats or independents-- shouldn't exactly come as a suprise.

Monday, January 30, 2006

If you're on the West Coast and you act quickly, I guess you still have a chance to catch tonight's Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

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I feel bad, because while I tried to tell you you should be watching "TV's Craig Ferguson" on his CBS Late Late Show, I didn't come to your house and make you watch. Which means it's my fault you've missed one of the most remarkable hours of TV you might ever have watched.

To make matters worse, I screwed myself. I came ever so close to having the DVR record the show as insurance against my falling asleep. But I didn't.

Who knew that Craig was recently back from Scotland, where he spent some days with his dying father in the hospital? They said good-bye on Friday, both knowing it was a final good-bye. Robert Ferguson died of cancer Sunday at 75.

Craig appeared for tonight's show in a black suit and tie, explained that he would get back to complaining about Starbucks tomorrow, and is spending the hour talking about his father, and about death, and about life. He's had Dr. Drew, a friend, on to help, and now, explaining that a wake has to have music, he's got some group called Wicked Tinkers on, offering sounds of the Scottish Highlands, or a version thereof. The show has about 20 minutes to go, and I don't know what's coming. I also don't know how to tell you about what you've missed.

Soon it will be over, and that will be that--except for the people in the later time zones, I guess. Craig is one of the funniest guys I've encountered, and there have even been laughs tonight. But mostly it's been "real" in a way that TV hardly ever gets, especially in the age of "reality TV."



The Democrats could have stopped Alito. 41 was the magic number to stop the proto-fascists from ending the debate (cloture). There are 44 Democrats + one independent who tends to vote with the Democrats on crucial matters like this. But NINETEEN Democrats voted with the Republicans to cut off debate. I don't want to start preaching to anyone about what they should or shouldn't do about this. I'll tell you that some of these senators are people I've contributed to before. For their sake I hope they don't need me again. The 19 Democrats who voted to end the short debate on this incredibly important decision are:

Akaka (HI)
Baucus (MT)
Bingaman (NM)
Byrd (WV)
Cantwell (WA)
Carper (DE)
Conrad (ND)
Dorgan (ND)
Inouye (HI)
Johnson (SD)
Kohl (WI)
Landrieu (LA)
Lieberman (CT)
Lincoln (AR)
Nelson (FL)
Nelson (NE)
Pryor (AR)
Rockefeller WV)
Salazar (CO)

Look at this list. Many of these people are not Democrats in the sense of being progressive leaders. Look at this list and think about Chuck Pennacchio, a progressive through and through who is running for the Democratic nomination to oppose off-the-scale extremist maniac Rick Santorum. But before Pennacchio can get to Santorum he has Bob "Santorum-lite" Casey to beat first. Pennacchio would have opposed Alito and stood with the Democrats who were still debating when the list of Democrats above joined with Republicans to cut off the debate prematurely. Casey announced he would not only have opposed filibuster but that he would vote for Alito! Please consider making a contribution to Pennacchio's campaign at the DWT ACT BLUE page. Even $10 or $20 helps.



File this in the "Good News, Kinda" Department. Former Democratic Congressman Ken Lucas officially announced that he's running to take back his old Kentucky home seat. Lucas, a 72 year old northern Kentucky conservative Democrat, first won the seat in 1998 and, unlike any of the lying Republican scoundrels who signed Gingrich's bogus Contract With America, retired to keep a term limits pledge (in 2004, when the seat was won by the far more conservative Republican lightweight, Geoff Davis). After a grassroots campaign to draft him, Lucas filed to win back his old seat this morning.

The good news, of course, is that Lucas puts a relatively safe Republican seat in play. At the very least, the Repugs will have to spend money to defend it that could be deployed to even more destructive purposes (like supporting DeLay or Ney or Doolittle or Pombo or Lewis or other Republicans likely to be indicted on bribery and related charges between now and November). And, of course, there is an excellent chance that the very respected, admired and popular Lucas will win back his old seat. In his announcement statement he explains why he's coming out of retirement:

"...over the last year, I’ve grown concerned about the widespread public corruption news coming from the Congress and the increased partisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives.  I’m disappointed that Geoff Davis has done nothing to separate himself from many of the figures involved in those scandals and that he has voted almost exclusively with his national party’s congressional leadership at the expense of bipartisan cooperation and good will. I’m running for Congress to return Kentucky values and common sense to Washington.  During my years in Congress, I worked hard to be a conservative, independent steward of the public trust. I worked with President Bush to cut taxes, protect the Homeland, grow the economy, and support our military. I worked with folks in my party to protect Social Security, help our farm economy, and improve education and health care in our area.  I never cared about my colleagues’ party registration. I always did what I thought was right for Kentucky and the country. I put aside partisanship and worked constructively with Republicans and Democrats alike on a host of issues that mattered to the people I represented.”

And you can take that quite literally. Lucas can probably be counted on to vote to organize the House along Democratic Party lines. But that's pretty much it. He's better than most Republicans but he's still a DLC hack. He rates a 0 from NARAL; i.e.- he votes 100% of the time (not 99%) with Republicans to destroy women's right to choice. His votes are as homophobic as the worst Republican you can conger up. He was for the abysmal bankruptcy bill that was tailor made for Big Businesses and credit card companies. The Chamber of Commerce loves him. The Christian Coalition loves him. The NRA gives him an "A." He sucked on the environment and gets a whopping 7% from the ACLU (worse than many Republicans).

Needless to say I'm not starting an ACT BLUE page for this guy. I hope he beats Davis because, as bad as he's likely to be, he'll be MUCH better than Davis. And Davis is an enthusiastic Tom DeLay stalwart who can be counted on to vote for whichever horrible fascists his hideous party puts up for leadership posts. There is no evidence that Lucas won't vote with the Democrats. How's that for an endorsement?



Rhode Island moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who faces a vicious and well-financed attack from his own party's loonies in his upcoming GOP primary battle against rightist maniac Steve Laffey, announced this morning that he cannot and will not vote to confirm Bush's extreme right-wing pick for the Supreme Court. Had Reid managed to hold the Democratic caucus together in opposing Alito, Chafee's defection from the dark forces of fascism could have doomed Bush's attempt to pack the Supreme Court with reactionary nightmares that will make America a far worse place long after Bush and his corrupt Regime are relegated to the trash heap of history.

From Chafee's own website: “I am greatly concerned about his philosophy on some important constitutional issues. In particular I carefully examined his record on Executive Power, women’s reproductive freedoms and the commerce clause of Article one, Section Eight of the Constitution. . . I am a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-Bill of Rights Republican and I will be voting against this nomination.”



A few days ago I was asked to give an inspirational talk to the baseball teams, varsity and j.v., at an inner city high school's career day. I doubt the students were as inspired by me as I was by them. Normally when I do these things-- whether at a high school, college or professional organization-- people either want to give me demo tapes or find out what it was "really" like to have worked with Madonna, the Ramones, Ice-T, Green Day, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac... Thankfully that wasn't at all what I encountered at L.A. High. These kids were more focused and serious and more interested in knowing how I had overcome adversity and what were the most important traits that can be developed for career success. When I give these talks I usually talk about teamwork. I explain the difference between people looking out for the greater good and shared goals of "the team" and the egomaniacs with their own selfish agenda. (That's also where I can always get in a little political jab, explaining how that dynamic plays out between the right and the left.) I had never given the lecture to an actual team before and I was delighted to see how natural it was for them to understand completely what I was getting at and how that could impact on their own individual career trajectories.

Unlike Rahm Emanuel, the thoroughly detestable Democratic hack-who-would-be-DeLay, I don't equate military service with political entitlement, let alone with an ability to govern. Historically some military leaders have been good and some have been godawful. George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower both had numerous human shortcomings but both were also able to synthesize their own defining military experience in a way to allow each of them to warn the country of militarist domination. In his Farewell Address, our very first president, and the polar opposite of a George W. Bush when it came to the role of commander-in-chief, said "Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown Military establishments, which under any form of Government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty: In this sense it is, that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other." For every member of the military who goes into politics like a Washington how many Randy "Duke" Cunninghams do you get? And I'm not just talking about Cunningham as an icon for a Republican Party culture of corruption. Take a look at what kind of a man he was-- starting in the service-- and how a jingoistic political party was able to take an arrogant, self-entitled Know-Nothing, steeped in small-minded prejudice and utter, glorified ignorance, and raise him up to the heights of government for their own vile ends. Where? How? The SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE did it for you-- right here.

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, for me, military service has never been tantamount to political entitlement. I would never support someone's political aspirations just because they had been in the military. The "Fighting Dems" theme is a nice marketing tool, but it is no replacement for ideas and for abilities. I'm not trying to criticize a very cool tactic by DAILY KOS and Air America's Sam Seder and Janeane Garofolo or confuse it with Emanuel's repulsive one-dimensional recruiting efforts. In fact, my experience last week at L.A. High made me stop and think about what innate characteristics, if any, service in the military team could bring to a career of political service. And, you know, despite, the Cunninghams of the world, there are valuable lessons and skill sets that some people take from their military experience. Some people. (There is always the serious danger of inherently anti-democratic, hierarchical organization of the mind that sometimes afflicts people who have served as well, something that caused in me a gut reaction against the ideas of Wes Clark.)

I'll leave the "But we have to win in red districts somehow" argument for someone else who is more likely to define themselves as a partisan Democrat with a party agenda. (I love bayprairie's post from a couple days ago on OurWord.org, "Fighting Dems? Scratch that, let's try PREACHING DEMS".) For me, I'd rather examine each candidate as a whole person and see if this is someone who I want to entrust to help run the country. And over the last week, as I've watched the probability of the egregiously corrupt super-crook John Doolittle being indicted before November, I've taken a close look at one of these so-called "Fighting Dems," Charlie Brown, the candidate who is opposing Doolittle in the general election. The short version: Brown is more likely to share traits with an Eisenhower or a JFK than with a Randy Cunningham.

Doolittle is a vicious and extremely dangerous viper, as bad and as they come and as corrosive to our nation's governance as any DeLay or Bush or Rove. It won't be easy to root him out. If today's story in his local paper, the AUBURN JOURNAL rings true at all, it is obvious that Doolittle intends to pull out every trick there is to hold onto his power base in California's very rural 4th CD. Another paper in the district, THE UNION offers hope that Doolittle can be defeated. And a great local website, dedicated to shining a bright light on all Doolittle's criminality and malfeasance, DUMP DOOLITTLE helps a lot. Still, you can't beat even a sleazebag like Doolittle without a strong and focused candidate. This is a very red district, one that was gerrymandered by Democrats to stick as many Republicans into a single district as could be done. But, fortunately for 4th CD residents, it appears that Charlie Brown may be the kind of extraordinary candidate who can take down Doolittle.

"Doolittle wraps himself in the flag as a super patriot, but he avoided military service. As far as I know he got six (Vietnam) draft deferments." That's true but it wasn't said by either Brown or the other Democrat in the race, Lisa Rea. It was said by the moderate Republican mainstream mayor of Auburn, Mike Holmes, an ex-naval officer, who is taking Doolittle on in the GOP primary. "I consider myself a conservative, and believe in a balanced budget, strong national defense, a competitive free enterprise system and paying down the national debt. I'm also interested in having a healthy environment, and he has a record of trying to ease environmental laws. There are a number of issues where we disagree."

But what about the Democratic primary? Both candidates look good to me-- but Charlie Brown looks like a winner. When I first started looking into the race I got nervous: an ex-military man, a former Republican, and a big push from the DCCC with an ensuing aura of inevitability... it smelled too much like Boss Emanuel in action to pass my smell test right off the bat. But the more I looked into it, the more relaxed I became. First off, as the linked UNION piece makes clear today, "Brown is crystal clear in his opposition to the war in Iraq, a position he has maintained since before those first missiles went screaming into Baghdad. 'Before it started, I was telling people that this was not a good idea,' he said." That's not part of Emanuel's playbook; he's no friend of Jack Murtha's and he's recruiting candidates who specifically will not take this kind of stand on Iraq. And THE UNION story continues with more from non-Emanuel World about Brown: "If anything, his opposition seems to have grown since the pre-emptive invasion. He gets angry when talking about a war that he believes the Bush Administration continues to mismanage. For example, Brown wonders why it is taking so long to put metal shields below Humvees that would deflect roadside bomb blasts and possibly save lives. He also believes the president ignored requests from generals, some of whom have since retired, who wanted more ground troops in Iraq."

The more I read and hear about Brown the better I feel about him and about his chances to defeat the mortally wounded Doolittle. In the middle of last December KOS had a definitive piece on Brown for the "Fighting Dems" series, which elicited numerous comments from admiring Democrats in the district, some of whom know him, all of whom seem to adore him. (Thomas Gangale also has an impressive Brown diary for DAILY KOS, an on-the-ground look at the race.) Reading about Brown makes me want to run up there and walk precincts for him-- even if Rahm Emanuel wants him to win too!


Some Republicrooks were taking money from defense contractors, others were scamming American Indian tribes with Abramoff, others were raking in bribes for their help in keeping the U.S. colony in the Marianas Island a squalid, slave-labor disgrace, while others offered themselves out to the highest bidder for just about anything. John Doolittle, like Bob Ney, fits in well with all the categories of corruption. And yesterday, the Associated Press disclosed documents they obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that paint a very vivid picture of Doolittle as someone who was willing to Do Much-- if the price was right. He accepted over $14,000 directly from Abramoff-- and tens of thousands of dollars more from Abramoff's tribal (non-California) clients. And he and his wife delivered-- big time, in this case pressuring another corrupt Bush appointee (and ex-lobbyist), Interior Secretary Gale Norton.


Public Citizen's Clean Up Washington has a very special Hall of Shame and, until this week, there were only 7 members: one Democrat (William Jefferson of Louisiana) and 6 Republicans (Jack Abramoff, Conrad Burns of Montana, Richard Pombo of California, Bob Ney of Ohio, the now imprisoned Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and the soon-to-be-imprisoned Tom DeLay of Texas). This week they added another real Republican lowlife: John Doolittle who may be indicted before the November election. Take a look at the link to get an idea of all the charges against this disgrace to the state of California.

Sunday, January 29, 2006



On Saturday I did a little piece called Democratic Stealth Candidates For Congress which developed a mind of it's own and took me in all kinds of directions. One was towards looking at the Democratic primary race for Florida's 16th CD, currently held by slimy Republican closet case and embittered wingnut Mark Foley. I used the websites of the two leading contenders, David Lutrin and Tim Mahoney as examples, respectively, of good and bad sites. Lutrin's is a passionate site filled with ideas and his take on every important issue concerned citizens need to know about to make an informed decision. The DCCC-backed Mahoney's site doesn't even have a tab for issues and is just a great big pathetic series of embarrassing platitudes: "Leadership," "Vision," "Results."

Turns out Mahoney is a Republican internet millionaire who Rahm Emanuel persuaded to switch parties late last summer. Everything in his bio stinks of country club Republicanism. The closest he comes to bringing up "issues" was a quote in a reprint from October 13 that says: "...The reason I like running against Mark Foley is I get to run against his voting record. The people in District 16 are never going to doubt where I'm going to vote." Well, the ones who read his website get no clue whatsoever. In fact, reading it, you wouldn't even know, for example, that there's a war going on in Iraq, let alone how he feels about it!

Lutrin, on the other hand, is very candid on where he stands on every issue and no one taking a look is ever going to accuse him of being a Republican. He's a school teacher with a firm grasp on Iraq, Social Security and all the kinds of concerns everyday, non-millionaire Americans think about all the time. He's running because he's worried about what kind of a country his 7 year old daughter is going to inherit. After Emanuel had recruited Mahoney and gotten him to change his registration, he did a little arm-twisting and got the rump AFL-CIO to endorse him (like he did for Duckworth in her race to shut out grassroots and progressive fave Christine Cegelis in Illinois) and then tried pressuring Lutrin to withdraw. (Emanuel is from some other country, like Alberto Gonzales, and, like him, he has no heartfelt understanding of American democracy; in fact, judging but their actions, they both hate it. Interesting that the AFL-CIO has fallen to such depths that they take their walking orders from a working-class-phobic slimebag like Emanuel, who was the main force in the Clinton Administration behind the catastrophic NAFTA legislation!) But Lutrin isn't withdrawing. He's determined to fight it out in the primary, beat the one Republican in the Democratic primary and the other Republican in the General Election.

I'm proud to stand behind a man like Dave Lutrin and I'm endorsing him today on DWT and starting an ACT BLUE page for him if you're moved to contribute to a real Democrat who will be a real fighter for our interests, not Inside the Beltway interests.


There's another Democrat is this race: Carol McLean. This morning my old friend Judy From The Everglades sent me an astounding diary Carol had written last month called "Why Is the Democratic Party Recruiting Republicans?". I think she's captured the essense of Republican-posing-as-Democrat Tim Mahoney far better than I did. I don't think Carol has actually filed and I believe Lutrin is the only hope that there is for an actual Democrat with progressive and Democratic ideas and values and experiences to take part in the November general election. If you live in the 16th, hit the link to his website (above) and get in touch. They can use volunteers.



I'm investigating a number of races around the country so I can write about them for DWT and I keep stumbling across the same villain no matter where I go, someone who I would have to say looks very much like the Democrats' very own Tom DeLay. His name is Rahm Emanuel and he fancies himself an old-time political boss, obsessed with power and a delusionary "ends justify the means" mantra.

Emanuel is on a crusade to root idea-oriented progressives and local activists out of races in districts with endangered Republican incumbents. Half the time I find a solid citizen looking to challenge a corruption-tainted Republican or an extremist who is out-of-touch with his district, I am finding that Emanuel has moved in with a wad of cash (and with big name national Democrats, some of whom have actual credibility with progressives like Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi-- watch yer back, babe-- and John Kerry) on behalf of life-long Republicans who he convinces to switch parties to run as "Democrats."

I wasn't even looking into the race to replace Katherine Harris in Florida's 13th CD yet. But I stumbled on this fascinating article by Bullwinkle at OurCongress.org, called "Helping Fight DCCC Interference in Florida Races". Read it because Emanuel is as much-- exactly as much-- a threat to democracy as Tom DeLay. And read Alexander Cockburn's story on Emanuel from December 9th's COUNTERPUNCH called "Only Millionaire Fence Straddler Need Apply". And one more on this creep: don't leave out "The Enforcer," a Hammer-like story, in ROLLING STONE. With ethicless scumbags like Rahm Emanuel and the crew of nitwits and scoundrels he's recruiting, the Republican vision will win even if the Republican Party loses.

Saturday, January 28, 2006



So I'm at this meeting of Democratic activists the other day and we're talking about all the opportunities the Republican corruption scandals-- among other things-- are affording the Democrats. One of the problems, however, is a lack of candidates. In some districts there are no candidates running against vulnerable Republicans (who could wind up indicted-- or even in jail-- before November) and in some districts it's unclear who exactly is running and what they stand for. I talked about the first problem a bit yesterday.

Today I've been trying to get my head around the idea of figuring out why we have a whole slew of declared candidates who aren't saying anything about the burning issues of the day. Is the DCCC telling them to keep their cards close to the vest? Not only does this stifle debate on our winning issues, it fosters a political class that can't debate an issue effectively. I'm always yelling how we need Democratic leaders who stand for something they believe in and can make people understand. I swear to you that I talk to candidates who don't have a clue. I asked one guy who wants to be a congressman how he feels about Iraq and he pretty much told me he'd get back to me after he discussed it with his consultant! This is the Democratic Party that's gonna save us from fascism?

A few months ago I met a candidate for a neighboring district. He's running against an endangered Republican who I've written half a dozen stories about-- real mean ones too. Because of my history as a donor, almost all Democratic candidates for president call me at least once-- even the so-called "moderates." So I go up to this guy and tell him how excited I am about him taking on this Republican and tell him I'd like to sit down and ask him some questions about where he stands on the issues. I've asked 3 times and I've also asked through Democratic Party operatives. He never says no; he just never says yes. I still have no idea where he stands on anything, except that he's... pro-middle class. Whew! Thank God! That's a winning issue (not)!

On his website he has a category about issues-- which is actually daring compared to some candidates' websites! There are 3 issues: "Protecting the Middle Class," "Promoting Small Business" and "Supporting Our Troops, Honoring Our Veterans." If you're wondering where the promise to support mom and apple pie is, believe me: I looked! Almost any Republican candidate could run on his platform. Here's what he has to say about the war in Iraq: "We have the greatest military in the world. We shouldn’t hold our men and women in uniform responsible for the lies and failed policies of this administration.” OK, maybe he-- and the DLC and DCCC-- think this needs to be said. Why I'm not sure, but it doesn't hurt anyone. Everyone blames Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons they've surrounded themselves with; no one blames the soldiers. But fine; what else?

"With new leadership in Washington, we can develop a real plan to achieve Iraqi military sufficiency, to build domestic political consensus inside Iraq around a new government, to achieve regional political stability, and to finally achieve an efficient reconstruction effort."

Oh Jesus Christ! WE cannot achieve Iraqi military sufficiency; WE cannot build domestic political consensus in Iraq; WE cannot force our version of regional stability on the Middle East; and "an efficient reconstruction effort" is an outrageous boondoggle for political campaign contributors and nothing more. Maybe THAT can be addressed-- by bringing war profiteers to trial. The rest sounds like a bunch of the kind of naive bunk Wes Clark is peddling. What we've managed to accomplish in Iraq is ill-thought out regime change: a stable and ruthless dictatorship has been replaced by a civil war. Is there a remedy: maybe. Are we part of it? Um... maybe as part of the UN
but as the primary actor, NO WAY.

"We can then go to our friends and former allies, regain their trust and respect and secure the support needed to change the face of the occupier by replacing our troops with those from European and Muslim nations." Uh, huh... sure we can. Or maybe the tooth fairy will lend a hand. Has this guy paid no attention whatsoever to Jack Murtha? I would bet on it! And there's more.

"The sacrifice that our men and women in uniform are making can never fully be repaid. We must support our troops and not insult them as the Bush Administration did at the outset of this terrible war by proposing a cut in combat pay over budgetary concerns, while at the same time handing out billions of dollars in bloated reconstruction contracts. There are nearly 30 million veterans in the United States, including many who risked their lives to protect the American way of life. We must continue to thank and honor them by ensuring that the Department of Veterans Affairs is fully funded, and that they have access to educational opportunities, home loan programs, health care and other benefits."

Well and good. Is there the making of a debate there between this guy and the Republican he's challenging? Not a chance! Who doesn't at least say they support the troops?

And this guy at least makes believe he has issues. Other campaign websites I've looked at from DCCC challengers don't even go that far! I've met neither of the 2 Democratic candidates who want to take on the execrable Republican closet queen in Florida, Mark Foley. I've never read about either of these two and I never heard of either of them either. But I found their websites and I'll ask you to take a look yourself: alphabetically, they are David Lutrin and Timothy Mahoney. One guy seems passionate about issues and the other...> Who knows? My guess is that Lutrin is a grassroots activist and that Mahoney is a DCCC recruit. Just a guess from reading the 2 websites. I've asked the DWT Art Department, which is based in that congressional district, to meet the two candidates and report back (but to do it sober... so it may be some time before we hear).

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party and, more important, by far, American progressives and anti-fascist patriots, don't have a lot of time. As far as the latter have depended on the machinery of the former and the inherently almost-as-corrupt-as-the-Republicans party leaders to save us from the right-wing scourge, we've cooked our own goose. Last night I refered to Mark Taibbi's ROLLING STONE story because of the contempible picture it paints of Blunt, Boehner, Dreier, Hastert ("boarlike"), Gingrich, etc. But Taibbi ends with a dire warning: "The Democrats, whose innocence in the crimes of the last five years to date corresponds exactly to their lack of opportunities for corruption, may now get a chance at the helm. But it won't take much exposure to cheap stunts like a beaming Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi signing a 'Declaration of Honest Leadership' before people begin to remember how much the other guys can suck, too. Bush haters are celebrating this week as old villains descend to the death chamber, but they should be careful what they wish for. Trusting Washington to fix itself is a whole new kind of torture."


One of the dynamics being fought out within the Democratic Party was synopsized very well this morning at the DAILY KOS in a short piece called "Lobbyists versus the Netroots". Take a look. With professional losers like Steve Elmendorf calling the shots for our side we will never win. But unless progressives fight for the party apparatus, the Elmendorfs and Emanuels of the world will always call the shots and the Democratic Party will always be... well, just a bit better than the Republicans. And just a tool for the career advancement of a bunch of slimy pols who don't believe in much more than their own well-being.


You may have detected how outraged I was that I was finding putatively DCCC-backed candidates who don't express (or possibly don't even have) any opinions on the burning issues of the day. One had to confer with his consultant before he could tell me what he thought of the war in Iraq and most of the non-activists challengers' websites, steer clear of any positions or ideas more controversial than being in favor of the middle class and honoring our troops. I've been apoplectic over this stuff but then someone recommended an article by Alexander Cockburn in COUNTERPUNCH from last month called "Only Millionaire-Frence Straddlers Need Apply-- Meet Rahm Emanuel, the Democrats' New Gatekeeper". Referring to an Emanuel recruited candidate's non-answer to a question about the war, Cockburn writes "That sort of equivocation must certainly have commended her to Emanuel, who greeted Congressman Murtha's fervent and well-informed denunciation of the war with the words 'Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha' and has declared that 'At the right time we will have a position' on the war. Oh? "At the right time?" Emanuel is out of his skull. If Democrats do the seemingly impossible and lose in November at least they'll know who to blame for their death by triangulation.

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Friday, January 27, 2006



ROLLING STONE'S Mike Taibbi is one of the best political writers around. This week's issue has a story he wrote called "The Harder They Fall" which will introduce rock music fans to a revolting cast of characters they've probably never come across before: the serial malefactors desperately trying to hold together indicted former Capo de Tutti Capi Tom DeLay's Crime Empire. The extremely unflattering description of closeted gay Republican David Dreier is probably the best news Russ Warner, Democrat challenger in the suburban L.A. district, has had all week. And Dreier comes off well compared to the 3 craven monstrosities vying to replace DeLay. "Of the two leading candidates for the recently vacated House majority leader seat, one (acting leader Roy Blunt) had attempted to slip tobacco-friendly language into a Homeland Security authorization bill while having an extramarital affair with a Phillip Morris lobbyist, while the other (John Boehner) had once been caught handing out checks from tobacco interests to members of Congress on the floor of the House." And the third contestant, extreme right wing maniac John Shadegg, "another Gingrich protege, who kicked off his campaign by bragging on national television that his 'level of taint' was, if not entirely absent, at least 'decidedly lower' than that of his opponents. A late entry into the race, Shadegg menacingly represents the prayer-and-belt-tightening future of the Republican Party, should Abramoff sink the Rove-DeLay-Hastert-Norquist rampaging corporate-money machine that took over the party in 1999." It's a wonderful apocalyptic article; I heartily recommend it.


It's getting a lot dirtier.



In late November, RBH at Daily Kos did a highly informative diary about Repugs with no opponents for the 2006 midterms. There were nearly 100! As January comes to an end, it looks a lot better-- but still far from the ideal of being able to challenge the wounded but still rising tide of fascism in every single district. A few days ago I saw some Beltway Democratic consultant had upped his prediction for Democratic wins in November from as few as 4 to around 6. Wow! With that kind of attitude, it's no wonder the Democrats have been faring so badly. I think California alone, incumbent protection gerrymandering and all, could produce 6 Democratic wins! Yesterday I mentioned a DFA meeting I attended with Jim Dean. The DFA is conducting a grassroots electoral training session in Stockton-- the Pombo heartland-- on March 18-19. Everyone was very aware of Jerry McNerney's grassroots campaign (and of Rahm Emanuel's tactics as he wastes DCCC money trying to insert his own corporately-oriented dullard into the race). But when it came to some of the other vulnerable GOP seats, no one knew much about anything.

When KOS first ran the above-mentioned piece, there were no Democrats challenging Wally Herger (CA-2), Dan Lungren (CA-3), George Radanovich (CA-19), Devin Nunes (CA-21), Bill Thomas (CA-22), Howard McKeon (CA-25), Jerry Lewis (CA-41), and Ken Calvert (CA-44). With the filing deadline on March 10, there are still no candidates to take on most of these guys (nor newly elected John Campbell in the 48th), none of whom are any good and several of whom could actually be indicted for bribery, corruption or even treason between now and November.

First, there might be some good news: Louie Contreras has stepped up to challenge one of the most corrupt Republicans ever sent to D.C. from the state of California-- and probably the most likely to follow his pal and co-conspirator "Duke" Cunningham to prison-- the execrable Jerry Lewis. I said "might" because when I called Contreras on the phone today he was a little tentative, not about running, but about divulging anything, which made me think some consultant had told him to just keep quiet and let Jerry Lewis defeat himself. The one issue I did discuss with him, the war in Iraq, scared me. After some prodding, he said "we started it and we need to finish it" and that sounds more like Bush and Lieberman than like Jack Murtha and Russ Feingold. (But I am happy that there are challengers for some of the other most vulnerable and egregiously corrupt Republican House members from my state, like Duncan Hunter, Dick Pombo, John Doolittle, Dana Rohrbacher, Mary Bono, Elton Gallegly, and David Dreier.)

But I would think Rahm Emanuel might better occupy himself with finding and working with worthy opponents to thus far unchallenged crooked Republicans like Ken Calvert or raging extremist maniacs like McKeon, Herger, Lungren, Nunes and Radonovich than with interfering with local activists and progressives by inserting his own Beltway-oriented hacks against real Democrats like Jerry McNerney here in California and Christine Cegelis in Illinois. I mean won't Emanuel be embarrassed if Calvert is indicted for his shenanigans with Saudis and defense contractors and Cunningham just before the election and there's not even a Democrat running against him?

And the problem isn't just in California, of course. In Florida there are no Democrats challenging wingnut loons like Ander Crenshaw, C.W. Young, Howdy Doody, David Weldon, and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. And in Ohio there are no Democrats running against Paul Gillmor, David Hobson, John Boehner, and Ralph Regula. I'm not sure precisely how many GOP-held districts around the country have no challengers, but there are too many and it frees those incumbents up to fund-raise for their colleagues and to otherwise cause mischief. I'm trying to look into some of the challengers to see if any are worthy of supporting (like Francine Busby and Lois Murphy, both of whom I've written about and have contributed money to-- and each of whom you can contribute to, if you'd like to, on the DWT ACT BLUE page.

I wish it were possible to let the day pass, but I don't think I can. It's Mozart's 250th birthday (everywhere except at the NYT—see below)


You can tell how far I've come from the days when I imagined I could make a living writing about music by the extent to which I've taken a pass on the Mozart anniversary. In case you haven't heard, today is Mozart's 250th birthday.

(Or, as they would make you say at The New York Times, "the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth"—because, you see, dead people don't have birthdays. In my short and fairly unhappy time writing for the daily paper, I used to run up against such goofy but unbendable rules frequently, with one copy editor in particular, who without hesitation unilaterally de-designated an event I had reviewed which was billed as a "150th Birthday Concert" for the composer Gabriel Fauré. I tell you it's an education, glimpsing the NYT from the inside.)

Ol' 2006, then, is a "Mozart year." For a writer, this should have made 2005 a "Mozart anniversary pitch year." It never occurred to me.

There's some irony here, in that I've never much objected to these round-number-anniversary commemorations. There are people who wax positively wroth regarding this practice of recognizing creative people on the basis of such arbitrary and non-merit-based criteria as the years in which they were born and died. To me it seems harmless enough, and it often affords a fresh look at figures whose reputations may have suffered undeserved neglect.

Of course Mozart's reputation hardly needs buffing. It would be fair to ask which year is not a Mozart year. For myself, I can't imagine a day into which Mozart isn't inextricably woven.

Now for the darker irony, which brings us closer to why I've brought up the subject in a basically political blog: For all the performances of Mozart's music with which we are currently inundated, most will be mediocre at best. An alarming lot of them won't even rise to that level.

There are all sorts of reasons, but the one that concerns me just now is the matter of what I'm forced to call "soul." You see, I have a theory that you can't perform Mozart successfully with a bad soul.

If you wanted to say that Mozart possessed the most stupendous creative imagination of which we have documentation, I couldn't quarrel. The body of work he produced in such a short time—he died 53 days short of his 36th birthday—defies description or any other form of explanation. But it's also a special kind of work.

I like to think that Mozart is always on your side, even at your side. The more downtrodden you are, the more he's there for you. When life is tough, his arm is around you, reassuring you that you can do it. I always think that Beethoven, by contrast, will surely feel your pain and wish you the best, but will be puzzled as to what ever made you think any of this was going to be easy.

At this very moment, for example, I happen to have come to the scene late in Act II of The Magic Flute—in a 1937 Stuttgart Radio performance—where the good-hearted but, alas, hopelessly lovelorn bird-catcher Papageno tries to commit suicide. "Good night, you false world," he sings finally, despairing of all rescue, until . . . well, if you don't know, don't let me spoil it for you. But by way of a hint: In Mozart's cosmos, it should go without saying that Papageno has to be saved.

Mozart, it seems to me, will forgive just about any failing except bad faith. And while it's possible that somewhere along the line a performance has slipped past me, my experience has been overwhelmingly that performers with compromised or even simply undeveloped souls can't "fake" Mozart. Given the times we live in, this accounts for most of the performers we're likely to encounter—not to mention the promoters and assorted other commercial exploiters.

If you want to hear some Mozart-worthy souls in action, here are a couple of off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions:

* In Universal Music's Trio series of gratifyingly modestly priced three-CD sets, there's a box of Mozart's six string quintets, some of his most glorious music, in some of the most ineffably beautiful performances of any music you're going to hear, by the great Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux and friends. To be precise, it's the expanded Grumiaux Trio. Grumiaux was one of the supremely great fiddlers, but he was part of that select number of great instrumentalists who really mean it when they say they love playing chamber music. He always did it, and in these performances he surrounded himself with players of comparable musical skills and comparably rich musical souls.

* Since I've already mentioned The Magic Flute, and in matters of soul enrichment it's Mozart's supreme legacy in that short time he was allowed, there's a 1964 DG recording with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karl Boehm and a cast that ranges from fine to glorious: Roberta Peters as the Queen of the Night, Evelyn Lear as Pamina, Fritz Wunderlich as Tamino, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Papageno, Franz Crass as Sarastro, Hans Hotter as the Speaker. It was reissued in the "DG Originals" CD series.

And by all means take a look at the Ingmar Bergman film version of The Magic Flute. This is the rare case of Mozart being treated to a posthumous collaboration with a creative genius of a caliber the composer himself would recognize.

I don't know that Mozart has the power to save us, the way he saved Papageno. But if he can't, it won't be for want of trying.


In the matter of Papageno's would-be suicide, I originally considered making a point that I decided to let pass—wrongly, I think now. It concerns the manner in which Mozart and his librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, managed to bring poor Papageno back from the brink. He is saved by a means that turns out always to have been at his disposal. What could be more Mozartean?

No one allowed himself more optimism than Mozart about the inner resources even the humblest of us may find if we dig down deep enough. As my prime exhibit, I offer one of his most remarkable pieces, composed for another of his "comic" characters, the second tenor Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio.

For most composers, Pedrillo would have been merely a comic foil. For Mozart, he represented a more available level of human identification than the first tenor, the romantic lead Belmonte. And so when Pedrillo has to screw up his courage to execute a crucial step in the rescue of the heroine, Constanze, Mozart provides him with the hilarious and yet incredibly touching and inspiring summons to battle "Frisch zum Kampfe."

Thursday, January 26, 2006



DWT team member, my old pal Ken, made some good points in his comments about what a terrific U.S. senator our fellow James Madison High School alum Chuck Schumer has turned out to be. No argument there. But what kind of a head of the DSCC has he turned out to be? I suppose the only judgment that "counts" (for him or for his thoroughly abhorrent, anti-grassroots counterpart at the DCCC, Rahm Emanuel) will be the one that is made after the November elections. Will the Democrats have taken back the two Houses of Congress? Made inroads? Los seat? But no matter what the results, the recruiting and "crowning" of corporate candidates, in the face of genuine grassroots activists, by both these guys is disturbing. If I see a Democrat is endorsed by the DLC or recruited and pushed by Emanuel, I always feel an immense sense of distrust. To see what Emanuel is doing to Christine Cegelis in Illinois and how boneheadedly he's interfering with the grassroots campaign of Jerry NcNerney in the crucial race to unseat arch fascist villain Dick Pombo in California, and similar moves in other races around the country, makes me surer and surer that I am no longer a Democrat, just a progressive American patriot often forced to choose between two horrible corporate political parties primarily concerned with the career goals of their respective leaders. Is Schumer as bad as Emanuel? I'm not sure. I was sickened to read about his backstabbing pettiness in teaming up with Tom Suozzi to make problems for Eliot Spitzer in his run for the governorship of NY. But that's just dirty NY politics not DSCC politics. But is he trying to help button-down corporate-Dem John Morrison against grass roots populist John Tester? And it sure looks like he has helped obliterate the chances of progressive favorite Chuck Pennacchio to make theo-con, social reactionary nightmare Bob Casey look like a done deal.

Last night I was at a local DFA meeting with Jim Dean out in Mandeville Canyon. It was nice-- a real participatory democracy kind of thing. And with tons of awesome info from Dean and activists from the area. I loved it. And I heard a lot of grumbling about the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race-- especially about the frustration of progressives and grassroots activists over the "inevitability" of Bob Casey. Someone got a phone call about how Casey had endorsed Alito while we were complaining about how Pennacchio had never gotten even a fair hearing. This morning Chris Bowers over at the awesome MY DD blog ran a piece about the treachery of Ed Rendell (and Casey) regarding the Alito confirmation process, "Joe Clark is Turning Over in His Grave." This has all made me take a closer look at Chuck Pennacchio's race.

In the past, some of my friends have told me to stop worrying about Casey because he's an economic progressive and very pro-Labor and anti-racist. Who knows how true any of that is; he's a just a vague corporate candidate hoping that Santorum's own hideously egregious record causes his defeat. Casey is vague and the kind of playin' it safe candidate reactionary DLC consultants always love. But most of all, my friends say, "Besides Casey can beat Santorum and we have to take that seat." I want that seat as much as anyone. But does "we" include someone who feels moved to endorse Alito even though he says nothing about where he stands on real issues? DLC-type Democrats have managed to get a mantra going in Pennsylvania that Casey is the only one who can beat Santorum. But why have we been listening?

Chuck Pennacchio is a way better candidate in every way. His record is a Democratic record and his stands on issues are Democratic stands. Last week my former local newspaper, THE POCONO RECORD, ran a story about Pennacchio's visit to my old hometown, Stroudsburg. "He is pro-choice on abortion, opposes the Patriot Act and supports immediate pullout of United States troops from Iraq. He advocates universal health care and a sharp increase in the minimum wage to bring it to what he calls a "living wage" of slightly more than $9 per hour. He also says he will not accept donations from political action committees or corporations." If you're a regular reader of DWT there's a good chance that sounds as good to you as it does to me. Casey, on the other hand, though somewhat stealthily, is anti-choice, supports capital punishment, has said he would have voted to attack Iraq, and has now gratuitously butted into the Alito confirmation process with an endorsement, although almost every Democratic senator opposes him and only one reactionary Democrat who frequently votes with the Republicans, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, supports him. Pennsylvania ain't Nebraska.

A slew of Pennsylvania bloggers have come out for Pennacchio today including Lawyers, Gun$ and Money, The Liberal Doomsayer, the Rubber Hose blog, Night Bird's Fountain, and Mad As Hell. I encourage you to read his website and, although I haven't met him in person myself, I am also endorsing Chuck Pennacchio today-- as well as starting an ACT BLUE page for him.

MAY 7 UPDATE: How the DSCC and the worthless political Establishment guaranteed a race between two right-wingers

Wednesday, January 25, 2006



Now that Hillary is all palsy walsy with Murdoch, Inc, she probably doesn't care all that much what the NY TIMES has to say. Or at least not as much as she would if she were being attacked from the right. But tomorrow morning's edition of the Old Gray Lady has an editorial called "Senators In Need Of A Spine." I would guess the grass roots of the Democratic Party-- as well as millions of Americans concerned about little things like the slippery slope of fascism-- wholeheartedly agree.

There will never be a day when someone will announce that fascism is taking over. It's just happening... drip, drip, drip. And Alito, or as Sam Seder calls him A-Lie-Toe, is more of a big plop than a simple drip. The TIMES says his "entire history suggests that he holds extreme views about the expansive powers of the presidency and the limited role of Congress... His elevation will come courtesy of a president whose grandiose vision of his own powers threatens to undermine the nation's basic philosophy of government — and a Senate that seems eager to cooperate by rolling over and playing dead... The judge's record strongly suggests that he is an eager lieutenant in the ranks of the conservative theorists who ignore our system of checks and balances, elevating the presidency over everything else. He has expressed little enthusiasm for restrictions on presidential power and has espoused the peculiar argument that a president's intent in signing a bill is just as important as the intent of Congress in writing it. This would be worrisome at any time, but it takes on far more significance now, when the Bush administration seems determined to use the cover of the "war on terror" and presidential privilege to ignore every restraint, from the Constitution to Congressional demands for information... It is hard to imagine a moment when it would be more appropriate for senators to fight for a principle. Even a losing battle would draw the public's attention to the import of this nomination." Or does this not fit into some triangulation strategy for career advancement?

The TIMES also points out that "it is indefensible for Mr. Specter or any other senator who has promised constituents to protect a woman's right to an abortion to turn around and hand Judge Alito a potent vote to undermine or even end it." Let's see... that goes beyond Specter. At the very least Snowe and Collins in Maine and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island should join every single Democrat (minus the contemptible Ben Nelson of Nebraska) to prevent Scalito to get this position.

Today's CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR seemed more sanguine than the TIMES which, despite the rousing editorial, predicts Alito's confirmation is a done deal. THE MONITOR story, by Gail Chaddock, seems to predict that the Democrats will at least try to mount a fillibuster.


I sold my house in Pennsylvania just before Thanksgiving so there's no chance I'm voting there. If I were, I know I would be voting for Chuck Pennachio, the grass roots, progressive over Bob Casey, the annointed DSCC candidate. Like Lieberman, Casey is good on some issues. He's also miserable on others. Today he said if he were in the Senate now he would be voting to confirm Alito. DWT will be looking into this primary a little more actively.



I wake up at 5:30 AM almost every day. By 6:30 I'm doing laps in my pool. And by 8 I'm walking in the hills around Griffith Park. Some time between 5:30 and 8 I like to write my first blog of the day. Often I get some kind of inspiration from my first human contact, my one pal who's online as early as I am (except for him it's because his newborn son is demanding attention), Johnny Wendell, the oft-mentioned super host of L.A.'s Air America affiliate. This morning Johnny started my day with a quote from one of our fearless leaders, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking a few weeks ago in D.C. at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. "The Army is probably as strong and capable as it ever has been in the history of this country. They are more experienced, more capable, better equipped than ever before."

It's all well and good for late night comedians to point out-- probably truthfully-- that Rumsfeld is suffering from dementia praecox or that he is clinically insane, but it is certainly not all well and good that the head of the Pentagon is either a raving lunatic or a craven, politically-motivated liar... or both. A retired Army officer, Andrew Krepinevich, a man with a suspiciously similar-sounding name to the clinician who first defined dementia praecox, was hired by the Pentagon to do an exhaustive report on the state of today's Army. His 136 page study's conclusions are seriously at odds with Rumsfeld's inane rantings and the Bush Regime's political posturing.

Krepinevich, who is the executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit policy research institute, says that the Army, severely stressed by the bungled and mismanaged endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan is a "thin green line" that could snap... soon. That the Army is seriously overextended is not news to anyone around The Pentagon (other than Rumsfeld and the ideological psychos in his padded little echo-chamber), but talking about it-- letting alone doing anything about it is strictly out-of-bounds.

Although the Pentagon hasn't published the report for the public, they grudgingly handed one over to the Associated Press. The report claims that the superb Army Bush inherited from Clinton-- like the budget surplus he inherited and squandered ruinously-- is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment." (2005 was the first time the Army missed its recruiting goal since 1999 and has been forced to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.)

The only professional soldiers who dare risk the ire and vengeance of the Bush Regime and speak out candidly are all retired. (A few months ago I went to a Wes Clark meeting and he explained, in a rather pained way, how the pressures-- some blatant and some more subtle, though just as insidious-- work among retired Army officers to keep them from speaking out against Bush's destructive and incompetent use of the armed forces.) I think we've all seen how viciously and savagely the Bush partisans-- mostly chickenhawks themselves-- have reacted when genuine decorated military veterans with combat experience have spoken out. The Bush crowd effectively slandered John Kerry and they have been trying to do the same to John Murtha, who most professional soldiers consider their best friend and most supportive ally in the Congress. Murtha argued that Rumsfeld's mismanagement has left us with an Army that is increasingly "broken, worn out" and "living hand-to-mouth," with our troops in Iraq "barely getting by." Murtha, a 37 year vet, is a long-time defense hawk, far more trusted by Republican and Democratic presidents on defense matters (until the current Impostor took over) than almost anyone else in Congress. In November he called for the beginning of a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He claims that it's going to cost as much as $50 billion dollars to upgrade equipment and repair the damages caused by the Bush Regime but that Rumsfeld has been reducing future military purchases to save money for domestic political expediency.

The A.P. report points out that "George Joulwan, a retired four-star Army general and former NATO commander, agrees the Army is stretched thin. 'Whether they're broken or not, I think I would say if we don't change the way we're doing business, they're in danger of being fractured and broken, and I would agree with that,' Joulwan told CNN last month."

The A.P. report also points out that "Krepinevich's analysis, while consistent with the conclusions of some outside the Bush administration, is in stark contrast with the public statements of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and senior Army officials. Army Secretary Francis Harvey, for example, opened a Pentagon news conference last week by denying the Army was in trouble. 'Today's Army is the most capable, best-trained, best-equipped and most experienced force our nation has fielded in well over a decade,' he said, adding that recruiting has picked up. Rumsfeld has argued that the experience of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the Army stronger, not weaker."

Krepinevich (gently) dismisses all Rumsfeld's bullshit as just so much propaganda and hot air. The A.P. reports "he said he concluded that even Army leaders are not sure how much longer they can keep up the unusually high pace of combat tours in Iraq before they trigger an institutional crisis. Some major Army divisions are serving their second yearlong tours in Iraq, and some smaller units have served three times.

Earlier this month, the overwhelming majority of soldiers who spoke out at a town hall meeting hosted by Murtha and Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, another hawk, lashed out against the incompetence and venality of Rumsfeld and Bush. According to infantry Sergeant John Brumes "Everything that the Bush Administration told us about that mission in Iraq is absolutely incorrect. Furthermore, I'd like to say ... I came home to no job, no health insurance. Until we take care of this war, we can't take care of the problems that matter like health care. I've witnessed both ends... Congressman Murtha, I implore you to keep doing what you're doing." John Powers a Captain in the First Armored Division who served 12 months in Iraq seemed just as frustrated. "The thing that hits me the most is the accountability... Where is the accountability for those men [who took us to war], as well as where is the accountability for Paul Bremmer, who misplaced millions of dollars and claims to keep accountability in the war zone?... I know that if we lost $500 we would be court marshaled. So where is the accountability for this leadership?" Another Iraq vet, George Reppenhagen, a sniper from the First Infantry Division, is also concerned about accountability. "How come there hasn't been an investigation on the fraudulent lead up to the war by this Administration?"



Probably the most spectacular piece of writing of the last... I don't know, at least of the last several days or week, appears on today's HUFFINGTON POST and I want to urge all DWT readers to take a look. As my friend Danny, who first called my attention to the article, mentioned when he sent it, Gore Vidal can still turn a phrase, if not a knee. It really is an astounding work. I want to quote the last 2 paragraphs, not because they are the best-- far from it, in fact-- but because they are probably the only actionable items Vidal offers us for the moment.

"One way that a majority of citizens can help open the road back to Crawford is by heeding the call of a group called the World Can't Wait (see their website, worldcantwait.org). They believe that the agenda for 2006 must not be set by the Bush gang but by the people taking independent mass political action.

"On Jan. 31, the night of Bush's next State of the Union address, they have called for people in large cities and small towns all across the country to join in noisy rallies to make the demand that "Bush Step Down" the message of the day. At 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, just as Bush starts to speak, people can make a joyful noise and figuratively drown out his address. Then on the following Saturday, Feb. 4, converge in front of the White House with the same message: Please step down and take your program with you."



L.A. is a net exporter-- big time-- of campaign contributions. That means we get politicians from all over the country coming here to make their case. Just before I left for Morocco I went to a get-together for Lois Murphy, a progressive Democrat favored to take a seat from a right-wing nut in eastern Pennsylvania. I met Obama the same way and barely a week goes by when an invitation doesn't come in from someone's campaign. Next week, for a contribution between $250 and $2,100, I get a chance to meet Ohio Senate candidate Paul Hackett at a fancy party in Beverly Hills. I tend to pass on the ones with mandatory contributions and, when possible, the ones in Beverly Hills. (Besides I've donated to Hackett, know a lot about him-- more than I'm going to learn from shaking his now celebrity hand and hearing a stump speech-- and my feeling is that Sherrod Brown is probably at least as good and when Ohioans decide in their primary who faces DeWine, I'll get behind the candidate the pick.) Last night, on the other hand, I was invited to a meet-and-greet in The Valley and there was very conspicuously no price of admission. And no big names that I recognized attached to the invitation. As a matter of fact, the guest of honor wasn't exactly a big name himself: Congressman Ben Cardin from Maryland who's running for the open Democratic senate seat in Maryland. He should be though.

I went. My strategy: get there early and maybe the candidate will be there and you can meet him before he's swamped with people whose nephew knows his daughter's neighbor in a Baltimore suburb. It worked; he was sitting in the living room, very accessibly, when I arrived. And I got just what I wanted-- an opportunity to see what kind of a person he is. I mean I had already read up on his record as a House member and as a candidate. The record is impeccable-- progressive, a fighter, smart and active. I wouldn't have bothered to come otherwise. But when you get a chance to talk with a candidate one on one you get a different kind of feel. In Ben Cardin's case, it was easy as pie-- friendly, unpresupposing, eager to go beyond platitudes... the kind of guy I would have once said would be easy to sit down and have a beer with-- except Bush ruined the efficacy of that description; and I've never tasted beer in my life.

Cardin is best known among politicos for his work on the House Ways and Means Committee. Like our own Henry Waxman, he's got more of an intellectual bent to him than you expect from a congressman. He tries-- real hard-- to figure things out that work. He's a leader when it comes to health care, anything involving pensions, Social Security, IRAs, complicated fiscal issues that send the Randy Cunninghams and Dick Pombos and Bob Neys of the House running for their golf clubs. Cardin seems to get excited about things that make people-- his employers-- have better lives. He drafted the legislation to expand Medicare coverage to include preventive measures against things like prostate cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis... the kinds of "unsexy" legislation that address real needs of real people. I got the feeling that these are the kinds of things that motivate and drive him.

Cardin, unlike more than half the Democrats in the Senate, voted against Bush's unjustified and catastrophic attack on Iraq. Judging by the applause when that vote was mentioned in the introduction, I'd say that was the reason most of the people in the room were there. But Cardin, who says that was an easy vote for him and that he was never deceived by the Bush Regime's patently false claims about Iraq having a hand in 9/11, says that the issues in Maryland are more mundane: things like education and health care. He's running against a well-financed right-wing cardboard candidate who may not be brilliant but is smart enough to not announce any of his positions on any specific issues in a pretty Democratic state. Cardin should be able to wipe the floor with him.

And the not asking for a donation as the price of admission? That seemed to have worked really well. After Cardin spoke people were clamoring to give him checks! I didn't have my check book with me but I made up my mind to start an Act Blue page for him here at DWT.



Fed up with all the scandals, all the lying, all the extremism, all the terror, even with a nagging fear among some that God disapproves of Bush and is taking it out on the country, Americans are turning away from the Impostor-in-Chief in greater and greater numbers. The most current poll, by the American Research Group, has Bush's overall approval rating at an astoundingly dismal 36%-- with an even lower rating when it comes to how he handles the bread and butter issues that impact on people's daily lives. What a way to start the New Year! Even 17% of registered Republicans disapproval how Bush is handling the presidency, although among better informed people, Democrats disapprove by 83% and independents by 71%.
And over the weekend, a new USA TODAY/Gallup poll shows that 58% of Americans support the appointment if a special prosecutor to investigate Bush unconstitutional wiretapping. A majority of Americans, according to the poll, think the Bush Regime, is wrong on this issue.

As I pointed out last night, Bush's large and growing disapproval rating in the heretofore Republican 50th congressional district just north of San Diego (formerly the base of convicted criminal bribe-taker and right-wing lunatic extremist, disgraced ex-Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham), has given a surge to progressive, good-government Democrat Francine Busby, who is now leading every Republican in the race and could be headed to the magic 51% it would take to give her a victory in the April primary special election.

At the same time, the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH is reporting that Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill's lead over right-wing maniac incumbant Jim Talent continues to grow. If the election were held today, Missouri would be rid of one of its Republican senators and, if the trends continue the way they are pointing now, by the time the election is held in November, Missouri will be rid of that Republican senator by a much wider margin than anyone ever imagined.