Tuesday, February 28, 2006

RICKIE LEE JONES DOESN'T LIKE RIGHT-WINGERS, DOESN'T LIKE TURNCOATS... AND DOESN'T LIKE JOE LIEBERMAN

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I can't believe the electricity went down in North-Central L.A. today-- where I live. Like 3 blocks from me, it was all cool, but I've been off line since 3AM. I want to get to work on some follow-up to yesterday's story on how Joe Lieberman and his fundamentalist and hypocritical allies tried to demonize rock'n'roll and youth culture and use it as a way to raise money and to scare voters. I've been hearing back from dozens of artists and managers today and over the course of the next few days I'll share some of the e-mails I've been getting. The very first one came in from one of the most talented singer-songwriters I ever had the honor of working with, Rickie Lee Jones. Rickie is also one of the best-informed artists I've ever talked with, not just intuitively progressive to the core but also right up to the minute on what's going on in the "real world." She dashed off an e-mail about her own impressions of Lieberman within minutes of reading my post. And... here it is:


Lieberman was the first indication that there were actually Republicans in the Democratic Party.  Forgive my naivety, but before the series of betrayals by Lieberman against important progressive legislation... I thought people with his sensibilities, voting for the war, for the Patriot Act, and voting against Medicare benefits for a very severely taxed generation of elderly ill, and against the few ideological stands the so-called left has been willing to brush up against since Bush took office... here were registered Republicans. Herr Lieberman helped me realize there is not much of a fine line left between the middle of the right and the edge of the left. We have moved so far over that even middle America stands perched on one foot, with it's one strand of hair tossed across its frowning face, trying to straighten the coffee in a cup that will forever be leaning far too right to ever feel balanced again. 

No good American can go out into the street today and not turn gray with nausea at the complacency of every single newspaper, financial institution, and influential individual in the conspiracy to keep this unqualified,  uneducated, unelected criminal in office.  Lieberman was an important candidate, and he, above all of them, is a turn coat who helped to nullify the potency of the left.

-Rickie Lee Jones
February 27, 2006


WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: LIEBERMAN MAY NOT HAVE RLJ, BUT HE DOES HAVE THE GOP!

One of Connecticut's largest newspapers reports today that the Republican Party is talking about endorsing Lieberman in his re-election bid. And why shouldn't they? He votes with them whenever it's important anyway. In fact, one of the fake moderate Republicans in Connecticut, Chris Shays, has already endorsed him (although Lieberman is supposedly campaign a bit for Shays' Democratic opponent, Diane Farrell, who, unlike Lieberman, opposes Bush's occupation of Iraq).

Monday, February 27, 2006

JOE LIEBERMAN-- BAD FOR DEMOCRATS, BAD FOR CONNECTICUT, BAD FOR OUR COUNTRY

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Lieberman works hard at coming across as a nice man, and a nice man above partisan politics to boot. But Joe Lieberman has never been a nice man, just a successful actor, and he's never been above partisan politics, just a vicious and cut-throat practitioner of the art-- with a big smile. He started his political career in 1970 by going up against a Democratic Party boss, Arthur Barbieri, and outwitting him in manipulating elderly voters in Crawford Manor, a government-built retirement community, in an election for Connecticut State Senate in which Lieberman was challenging New Haven Democratic incumbent Ed Marcus. Lieberman "recognized that parties no longer deliver all the votes and money needed to win elections. You have to build your own machine based on personal loyalty. Lieberman recognized that too many voters had grown wary of automatically pulling party levers. [This very blue state now has more registered Independents than registered Democrats-- and has been regularly electing Republicans to the Governor's Mansion.] And appearing to the public as a nice guy now counts for more than breaking knuckles in the back room, because the media (especially TV) replaced the party as the prime means of reaching voters. Bland was in. Non-threatening was in. Plus you had to know how to make jokes on Imus and POLITICALLY INCORRECT."

But Lieberman was dealt 2 crucial political defeats before he started his real ascendancy. The party bosses bushwhacked him in a 1978 bid to become Lieutenant Governor and he was defeated in a bid for Congress by a Republican 2 years later. In his self-serving book, IN PRAISE OF PUBLIC LIFE, Lieberman delineates the 3 lessons he took away from that race: to rely on daily tracking polls, to never "let your opponent go negative on you without giving at least as good as you get in return," and, most important, to "never, ever let anyone attack you as a 'high-taxing, big-spending liberal.'" That third one's the one he's based the rest of his career in politics on.

In 1982 he ran for Connecticut Attorney General as a law-and-order candidate inching slightly towards the right and glomming on to an aggressively "pro-family" position that has served him very well. He won. For the next 6 years he marketed himself assiduously to Connecticut citizens. In 1988 he challenged progressive Republican incumbent U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker-- attacking from the right-- and beat him. Lieberman ran a brutal and viciously negative campaign, mocking Weicker personally and even red-baiting him for being soft on Castro (William Buckley formed a PAC to raise money for Lieberman and later Jack Kemp called him "one of us.") Today Lieberman is far more popular in Connecticut with Republicans and with conservatives than he is with Democrats and with progressives, and in 1988 conservatives gave him his small margin of victory over Weicker. Once in the Senate he went even further right and pro-corporate. "He accumulated the most pro-corporate record of any Senate Democrat-- and the millions of campaign dollars that came with them." He joined the DLC and became their president-- before that, the domain of right-leaning Southern Democrats.

This is when Lieberman, like a snake, shed his old skin entirely, discarding the last vestiges of anything vaguely Democratic, and became what he is today: a right-wing demagogue, a really vile politician who belongs in the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party. He made racism quasi-acceptable by framing it as being against unfair affirmative action. An unrelenting homophobe, he joined Jesse Helms' campaign of defamation of gay people and he joined forces with far right extremists like Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed to promote school prayer and voucher programs for religionist schools. And then he got into my own business and my growing hatred for Joe Lieberman turned personal.

First a little disclosure. DWT is the nom de guerre for Howie Klein, former punk rock dj, former founder and president of alternative rock label 415 Records, former general manager and vice president of Sire Records and former president of Reprise Records. I am now retired from the music business but there is no question that Joe Lieberman's frontal assault on the music business was something that very much disturbed me. In fact, several of his and his allies' prime targets were personal friends as well as business associates. (And one of the albums he fussed and fretted about most obnoxiously, BODY COUNT, was a record I was Executive Producer of.)

The story starts with the founding of the PMRC and if you're too young to remember, you ought to read about that sad chapter in American political/cultural history (in that link back there or either this one here or this Gore-bashing right wing point of view here). The principals' names should all sound familiar: Tipper Gore (wife of Al), Susan Baker (wife of Bush family retainer/fixer James), Nancy Thurmond (one of the Strom wives), Lynn Cheney (lesbian pornography writer and wife of alcoholic current vice president Dick). This gaggle of powerful men's wives was the forerunner for three of Washington's most celebrated, loud-mouthed hypocrites: Bill Bennett, Sam Brownback and, of course, Joe Lieberman, who took up their campaign almost as soon as he was elected.

To quote the Republican National Committee (who carelessly hypocritically left out Lynn Cheney's participation in the PMRC, the group's mission "was to clean up raunchy lyrics and suggestive album covers in the music industry. The group pushed for a 'rating system similar to that for films, printed lyrics on album covers and under-the-counter obscurity for covers depicting violence or explicit sexual themes'... In August 1985, under pressure from PMRC and other parents’ groups, record companies agreed to place the warning 'Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics' on albums and cassettes containing explicit lyrics. However, for Tipper and PMRC, that language was not enough and the group continued its war on controversial music lyrics," eventually bringing the mess before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Artists like Jello Biafra, Ice-T and Frank Zappa showed how dangerous the PMRC's plans were for freedom of speech and expression, with Zappa explaining to the senators that "the complete list of PMRC demands reads like an instruction manual for some sinister kind of toilet training program to house-break all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few," adding, dramatically "Ladies, how dare you?... Bad facts make bad law, and people who write bad laws are in my opinion more dangerous than songwriters who celebrate sexuality. Freedom of speech, freedom of religious thought, and the right to due process for composers, performers and retailers are imperiled if the PMRC and the major labels consummate this nasty bargain." (Among the artists specifically attacked by the PMRC were Madonna, Prince, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, Cyndi Lauper and Sheena Easton.)

People often ask me what happened and what was the big deal. Lieberman knew exactly what he was doing-- far better than the batty wives' group that preceded him-- when he insisted on ratings on CDs and it had nothing to do with helping parents supervise their children. Few people understand-- the way Lieberman did-- that in the late 80s something like 70% of all recorded music was sold in stores in malls and that malls have very stringent lease arrangements about their tenants not selling "pornography." Over the course of this controversy two of the Senate's most uptight and close-minded prigs, Sam Brownback and Lieberman, pushed for the kinds of stickers that would make it impossible for the kind of music they objected to-- like anything talking about masturbation or homosexuality, for example-- to be stocked by 70% of American retailers. The effect inside the music business was chilling-- and instantaneous. Suddenly a whole new internal bureaucracy had to be created to police every record and suddenly artists were being pressured-- sometimes overtly and sometimes less overtly-- to cave in to demands by two really reactionary fundamentalists whose values are far from mainstream. In one fell swoop Lieberman destroyed an alliance between young voters and the Democratic Party that had started with John Kennedy's election as he ham-fistedly savaged their culture for his own political ambitions.

Paula O'Keefe's insightful 1997 article called "Who Watches The Watchmen?" is an excellent account of Lieberman's fanatical post-PMRC hysterics and extremism on cultural issues which lead to his crazy and ultimately failed 2001 legislation, the Media Marketing Accountability Act, a bill to prohibit the marketing of “adult-rated media,” i.e., movies, music, and computer games containing violent or sexual material, to young people under the age of 17. Lieberman sought to empower the Federal Trade Commission to regulate the advertising of music, movies and games to young people. The proposed legislation, if enacted, would have injected a federal agency into decisions about the marketing of movies, music, and electronic games — and thereby potentially into decisions about what sorts of movies, music, and games are produced.

For part of the time I was president of Reprise an old friend of mine, Danny Goldberg, was chairman of Warner Bros Records, Reprise's parent company. Danny is a inspiring progressive and a brilliant thinker and writer. His book, DISPATCHES FROM THE CULTURE WAR-- HOW THE LEFT LOST TEEN SPIRIT, offers some of the best insights into the real Joe Lieberman anywhere. Danny acknowledges Lieberman's "affable demeanor," but points out his "self-righteous, intolerant, Puritanical streak." When former LBJ advisor Jack Valenti, then head of the movie industry trade organization, and a friend of Lieberman's was asked by Danny if he had ever told Lieberman about the First Amendment implications of the type of censorship he was advocating, Valenti replied, "When people get very religious and they believe their course of action is sanctioned by a higher authority, there's not much you can do to communicate with them-- left, right or center." Hmmm... maybe that's why Bush and Lieberman are always kissing!

Danny explains that while he and other people in the entertainment community have disagreed with politicians like the Clintons and Al Gore on cultural matters, they were still able to support them. "However, he writes, "I would never under any circumstances support or vote for a ticket with Joe Lieberman on it. Not only is he one of the most conservative Democrats with a national profile, but his self-righteousness about religion and venom toward popular culture would make him a serious threat to a free and intellectually diverse American society if he were to gain more power."

Danny isn't alone in his assessment of Lieberman. Scott Goodstein, a long time Democratic political consultant and co-founder of Military Free Zone, was Executive Director of punkvoter when they mobilized and helped register over a million previously unregistered young voters in 2004. Professionally unemotional about politicians, Lieberman comes close to getting his goat. "It's unfortunate that politicians like Joe Lieberman are so out of touch with young voters. He's one of that growing group of politicians who constantly blame music and entertainment as the root of all evil, support un-American legislation like the PATRIOT Act and other forms of censorship, and repeatedly judge and marginalize the next generation without ever having a real dialogue. Lieberman and politicians that use this moral superiority rhetoric instead of focusing on solving real problems-- like the hundred plus education cuts that this administration is currently proposing-– are simply turning off young voters instead of encouraging the next generation to continue their involvement in politics."

A few weeks ago I met Ned Lamont, the progressive Democrat who has challenged Lieberman, at a friend's house here in Los Angeles. He inspired a sense of confidence in me that was the polar opposite of how I reacted when I met Lieberman, basically a smarmy character oozing fake piety, fake openness and fake friendliness. Lamont listened when I spoke and asked all the right questions. I was surprised. A week later my friend Jane spoke with Lamont and mentioned my name to him and he remarked how I had explained the way Lieberman had used the Music Industry-- and youth culture-- as a fund-raising tool by demonizing it and doing all he could to cause discord and disharmony. The Joe Liebermans and Sam Brownbacks of the world are entitled to their moralistic world view but government should not be shoving that down the throats of the whole population. Not every taxpayer feels that if a song mentions homosexuality or masturbation (to go back to the 2 examples that offended Lieberman which I cited above) that it needs to be kept out of record stores. Big government is not an effective or suitable substitute for good parenting. Ned Lamont understood that intuitively. Lieberman will never understand that, just like he'll never understand how disastrous the Bush Regime's occupation of Iraq is for the Israel that drives his decisions.

If you don't vote in Connecticut but would like to see Ned Lamont retire Lieberman from public life, you can help by donating to Lamont's campaign via this ACT BLUE Page. Every cent goes directly to his campaign.

TREACHERY FROM BUSHCO ON PORTS DEAL-- LESS THAN 10% OF AMERICANS APPROVE BUT THEY DON'T CARE. BUSH CRIME FAMILY WANTS THEIR DOUGH!

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The very first mention on DWT of Bush's outrageous ports sale was called "Why Is The Republican Congress Letting Bush Sell Off Our Ports To A Shaky Arab Emirate?" (exactly a week ago, Monday, February 20). A lot of hot air has been expelled and righteous indignation has been played out in front of the TV cameras but, the question still remains the same. Although every survey and poll shows that Americans overwhelming-- and vehemently-- reject this deal (today's AOL poll shows that only 9% of respondents want to see it go forward Bush is still as adamant as ever that this is "a done deal."

Bush, or BushCo-- whatever you want to call the regime-- seized power for a reason and, believe me, that reason wasn't to protect America; it was to enrich itself at the expense of America. This ports deal is worth billions to the Bush family and the family retainers and their cronies and contributors. They care as much about the national security dangers inherent in this deal as they cared about the warnings they got before 9-11 (first from the outgoing Clinton Administration, which they ignored with a smirk, and then from their own CIA, which they also ignored) and about the potential for catastrophe in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina.

Last week we saw a whole gaggle of ingenuous congressional Republican hacks try to get out in front of the parade of angry citizens who were apoplectic over Bush's ports deal-- arch-hypocrites like Peter King (R-NY), Mark Foley (R-FL; the one ridin' in the boat with Osama), and, worst of all, Bill Frist (R-TN), who should have been jailed long ago for all this bribes, corruption, fake charities and insider trading deals. Today the media is abuzz with the "compromise" Frist worked out with Bush. But, basically, the so-called "compromise" is just a cooling off period to get people's minds off the ports. Maybe Cheney will shoot someone else or they'll rattle some sabers at Iran or.... well, distracting the public's attention is the one things they actually do well, so I'm not worried about them coming up with the appropriate weapon of mass distraction.

The way the mainstream media is framing the "compromise" is to say that BushCo "will conduct a highly unusual second review of potential security risks in a business deal it previously approved for a United Arab Emirates-based company to take over significant operations at six leading U.S. ports." The new 45-day investigation-- by which Bush broke the law when he tried sneaking this through last time-- is geared to avert a showdown with Congress. Frist, predictably, is demanding senators back off and wait to see what the investigation comes up with. Same for loudmouthed windbag Peter King. John McCain, who's head has been so far up Bush's ass since Rove agreed to let him be the next president, has been one of the few senators supporting Bush on this. “The President’s leadership has earned our trust in the war on terror, and surely his administration deserves the presumption that they would not sell our security short.” Huh???

TIME Magazine ran a story over the weekend about how the Republican Party is trying to find a face-saving deal for Bush and, of course Peter King has eaten it right up-- as he always does. But the main point, never broached by TIME or anyone in the "polite media," is that this deal is worth too much money for Bush and he's determined to deliver for his family's Dubai business partners-- regardless of the political fallout and regardless of the consequences to the security of the country. When he says he's not giving up on this, he means it.

And no one comes close to Joe Conason in explaining exactly why Bush has dug in his heels so firmly on this deal. For the sake of the people who put him in office-- and have gotten him through life-- he has to deliver! "For the president, his administration's lenience toward the Emirates recalls the unpleasant history of Harken Energy, the loser oil exploration firm that provided him with a handsome profit when he unloaded his shares during the summer of 1990. Years earlier, Harken had been rescued from bankruptcy by timely investments of millions of dollars from the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International, also known as the 'bank of crooks and criminals.' Although dominated by Saudi friends of Dubya's dad, BCCI was headquartered in the Emirates, specifically in Abu Dhabi."

Conason points out that this isn't just ancient history. The Bush family's intimate connections with the despotic and reactionary UAE "royal" families-- odd in itself for someone always running off at the mouth, however insincerely, about bringin' "democracy" to the Arabs-- has grown stronger and stronger and, as with most things Bush, you just need to follow the money trail. "Consider," Conason continues, "the Carlyle Group, the huge, politically wired private equity firm that has employed both the president and his father-- and from which the members of the Bush family and their closest associates, such as former Secretary of State James Baker III, have profited handsomely in recent years. With its sole Middle East office headquartered in Dubai, Carlyle has managed to attract substantial funding from the UAE government, which controls most of the tiny nation's oil wealth and channels that money into foreign investments. Last year, to cite only the most recent example, Carlyle's newest buyout fund won an infusion of at least $100 million from the Dubai Investment Corp. -- another state-owned outfit created by the ruling families to reinvest the enormous inflows of capital from rising oil prices and oil consumption. If that individual deal with Carlyle represented only a small fraction of the Emirates' investments, the upside potential of the relationship could be far greater in the future. The directors of Dubai Investment expect to invest as much as $5 billion every year for a long time to come. No doubt Carlyle will ardently bid to manage a slice of those billions -- and the president surely understands that maintaining good relations with the Emirates will enhance the prospects of the family's favorite equity firm. But to deprive Dubai of its $6.8 billion ports acquisition might well have the opposite effect. For a company that trades on its political influence as well as its business acumen, such incidents can be pivotal."

Believe it or not, Bush's brother Neil, the bankrobber, also figures into this mess. He's a real player in the UAE, constantly in pursuit of investors and government contracts there and he seems to have found a place where he is treated with the "respect and deference that have always eluded him in his own country. For reasons that must be painfully obvious, UAE royals have been quite eager to engage the former Silverado Savings and Loan director ever since his eldest brother entered the Oval Office. That embrace only intensified after 9/11."

Fortunately most of the Democrats in the Senate-- Lieberman (who still calls himself a member of the Democratic Party for some reason) excepted, of course-- are not buying into the GOP spin on this. And Chuck Schumer is introducing a bipartisan bill to stop Bush and his apologists in their tracks.

Despite the far right's endeavor to "shrink government and drown it in a bathtub," as their ethically-challenged/Abramoff-tained ideologue Grover Norquist demanded, all they've accomplished in their 5 or 6 years in power is destroying what works, jeopardizing the whole country and leaving us with a bloated, insanely expensive and incompetent bureaucracy (mired in corruption) that is a dumping ground for wild-eyed fanatics and the talentless sons of Bush contributors. And, despite Norquist and his followers, it turns out you need a government to protect the country-- from people like the Bush family and their foreign partners!

Today's NEW YORK TIMES carries an enlightening story by Robert Pear pointing out that alarmed governors-- of both parties-- think Bush's policies are ruining the National Guard. For the first time since Bush took office, most Americans now rate the Democrats more trustworthy on national security than the Republicans. Duh!


AFTERNOON UPDATE: DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TRIED TO NIX BUSH'S DUBAI DEAL

Looks like the Department of Homeland Security opposed Bush's plans to sell the 6 ports (before they found out about his financial stake in the deal)! Hat tip to Sean Paul at the Agonist.


MONDAY EVENING UPDATE: BUSHCO'S DUBAI BRANCH TRIED TO MUZZLE LOU DOBBS

CROOKS AND LIARS just broke the news that Bush's great friends in Dubai have been pressuring CNN, so far unsuccessfully, to make Lou Dobbs shut up about Bush selling the U.S. ports to that very shady, oil-rich emirate.

COLEEN ROWLEY FOR CONGRESS

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I get so frustrated when I see all these learned analyses of the coming midterm elections that zero in-- using business-as-usual predictors-- on the seats that can change hands. And I'm not even a candidate! I spent a lot of time on the phone with one congressional candidate who says the DCCC won't lift a hand to help him although he has no primary opponent and he is challenging a Republican who is likely to be indicted on bribery charges. I had to explain to him that Rahm Emanuel is too busy with his irrational war on Christine Cegelis and other grassroots and progressive Democrats to pay any attention to a race like his.

But the race I was thinking about today was another one entirely, one that I just can't understand being written off or ignored by prognosticators, let alone netroots activists. Minnesota's 2nd congressional district is not some hopelessly red hell; far from it. It's a moderate suburban district south of Minneapolis and St Paul that was created in 2002, at which time the current congressman, John Kline, whose positions on almost every issue are far to the right of his constituents, beat moderate Democrat Bill Luther. 2002 was a very GOP year across Minnesota but Kline is far from secure. (A recent poll shows only a third of the voters in the district are ready to re-elect him.) And the best news of all is that the Democrat challenging him is one of the best anywhere in the country, Coleen Rowley. 2002 was also a banner year for Rowley, something far more singular and rare than being elected to Congress. She was named TIME Magazine "Person of the Year". Rowley was chief counsel of the FBI's Minneapolis field office, when, in a 13-page memo, she outlined how FBI headquarters thwarted agents' attempts to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. She testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June about the FBI bureaucracy that frustrates agents' attempts at innovative investigation and mires them in paperwork.

Rowley is a clear-headed, solution-oriented, common-sense progressive with a great shot at ousting an out-of-touch right-winger with questionable relationships to some of the people in the very center of the Republican financial scandals in DC. "Right-winger?" you ask. Isn't Minnesota famous for being a moderate state? Well, it is-- except for John Kline. The DCCC usually compares how Congressmen voted in relation to Tom DeLay to show how extremist they are-- the closer to DeLay the more extremist. Kline's score is actually worse than DeLay's!! ProgressivePunch's analysis of Kline's voting record shows him to be more extreme than DeLay! In Minnesota? His 2.13 overall score indicates that in the combined House and Senate there are only 19 members as reactionary as Kline! His rankings are miserable on every single one of the 14 major categories legislators are rated on and, in fact, he is FAR BELOW-- far more reactionary than-- even his Republican colleagues' averages. For a number of major issues he is the #1 most far right extremist in the whole United States Congress. Not one Republican beats him in right-wing fanaticism when it comes to Labor Rights, Housing, or Fair Taxation. Coleen Rowley is actually running against someone further off the cliff of right-wing nuttiness tha Tom DeLay!

I know it drives the DCCC Inside-the-Beltway power elite up a wall, but I love candidates who are clear and passionate on their websites and make the reader want to run out and get an absentee ballot so they'll be sure someone like Kenneth Blackwell or Katherine Harris won't count their vote wrong. And Rowley's website is completely awesome in that way-- no corporate bells and whistles, but really excellent content. After you read it you feel like you know her-- and want her in Congress! When Rahm Emanuel is counseling Democratic candidates to keep it general and not take any specific stands on anything controversial, especially not on Iraq, Rowley's piece on how to get us out of the war should be what ALL Democrats should be talking about. And she's just as clear about her plans to ameliorate the health care mess Bush and his congressional allies have consistently exacerbated.

Last year Rowley visited Cindy Sheehan down in Crawford right around the same time I did. When she went on HARD BALL there was some other vicious right-wing nincompoop on instead of that Matthews asshole-- a woman or drag queen named Nora O'Donnell and Kos' August 23 diary shows a candidate who really knows how to handle herself with strength and poise the wing-nuts fear.

Rowley was the very first candidate to whom I sent a check this year. And today I am starting an ACT BLUE Page for her here at DWT to make it convenient for anyone who would like to help elect a real American heroine to Congress and help her replace a worse than garden variety right-wing nutcase.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

CULTURE OF UTTER CORRUPTION

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People who are part of the blogosphere-- like you and me and Ken-- are painfully aware of all the corruption in D.C. these days. I don't mean all the normal corruption; I'm talking about this whole Republican Culture of Corruption that trumps anything that anyone has ever done before. I mean, let's be real, the Republicans had a point-- it was essentially wrong, but it was a point (and much of the mass media swallowed it entirely either through stupidity, laziness or partisan venality)-- that corruption is bi-partisan. The problem with this corruption pandemic sweeping Washington is all about power and with power, particularly the power of the purse, firmly in the hands of the Republicans, virtually all the systematic bribes are going to the Republican Party, it's myriad offshoots (like the K Street Project and the Ohio GOP political machine), and, of course, first and foremost, it's self-entitled greedball members, from big players like Dr. Frist, Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Conrad Burns, Jerry Lewis, Charles Taylor, Duncan Hunter, John Doolittle, Katherine Harris, Denny Hastert, Roy Blunt, John Boehner to pathetic bottom feeders like "Duke" Cunningham, Virgil Goode, Rick Santorum, Richard Pombo, Tom Feeney, Marilyn Musgrave, etc.

But, primarily because the mass media buys into the Republicans' misleading "corruption is bi-partisan" defense, the general public barely knows anything about it. At most, some relatively astute citizens know about a "bad apple" or two like someone named Cunningham or someone named Abramoff or that DeLay fella down in Texas. But when it comes to their own representative? It's pathetic. Jerry Lewis, for example, is one of the dozen most corrupt scumbags prowling the corridors of power. He's from a relatively backward Southern California area, "the high desert," where he's got every lever of power sewn up and all the mass media in his pocket. Although he's on the verge of indictment for taking bribes from the same crooked contractors who were paying off Cunningham-- Lewis was the chairman; Cunningham was just small potatoes-- there is no primary challenge, no big-name, or even medium name, Democrat challenging him, no local media uproar... In fact there's barely a whisper of what he's been up to. The Democrat who is challenging him, Louie Contreras, is on his own, waging a brave, lonely battle with barely an acknowledgment from the DCCC that there's a race on.

And Lewis' constituents only know him as "our guy" and think he brings home the bacon. Meanwhile all the bacon's going into his own home and he's utterly sold out the district to Big Business interests. A 5 minute look at his voting record would convince virtually anyone that he is their mortal enemy, voting against everything they want from the government, particularly as relates to basics like health care.

This week's TIME Magazine has a story about Bush's very ethically-challenged Justice Department threatening that if Congress doesn't start policing itself, the Feds will step in and do it for 'em. (I'm sure they're all shaking in their boots-- not!) "A senior federal law enforcement official told TIME that the paralyzed and often lax House ethics committee has created a vacuum that prosecutors won't hesitate to fill. The House’s internal mechanism for keeping corruption in check is 'broken,' says the official."

After DeLay summarily fired Joel Hefly (R-CO), the Republican head of the non-partisan House Ethics Committee, for daring to allow the committee to criticize (mildly) his rampant Mafia-like regime, he inserted in his place "Doc" Hastings (R-WA), an extremely compromised Republican hack, with illicit connections to some of the worst of the DeLay/Abramoff scandals. Hastings promptly closed down the Ethics Committee, exactly what DeLay appointed him to do. So, for example, even after newspapers started writing about Randy "Duke" Cunningham's bribe-taking, no House investigation was launched and even after Cunningham was clearly headed for prison and it was as clear as day that he had been taking millions of dollars in bribes from Republican defense contractors he wasn't even removed from the super-sensitive Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the Intelligence Committee, access to which he had made millions from.

Larceny and avarice are in the blood of many men and it's up to the voters to be a little discerning about who they entrust with the spending of their tax dollars. Are the Democrats automatically less corrupt than the Republicans? Not a chance. Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, operates like a mirror image of Tom DeLay in terms of being a self-serving, ruthless and hysterically authoritarian. He hired one of his cronies, a corrupt corporate lobbyist to run the DCCC's finances. But he doesn't have the power to be nearly as bad as DeLay-- yet. Mark Taibbi, in a brilliant ROLLING STONE essay about the endemic corruption of the Republicans in Congress, end with a serious 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."

Can we expect Washington do anything about corruption? Well, obviously not with leaders like DeLay, Blunt, Hastert and Boehner, all creatures whose very essence in based on power and corruption. And I would expect no less from Emanuel on the Democratic side of the aisle. Are there men and women of good will in Congress who actually do want to change the system enough to take away the corruption? I absolutely know there are. Take a look at this little QuickTime video of Ned Lamont where he talks about the #1 biggest problem in Congress. I don't think there is any legislation that will solve the problem of personal greed, avarice and lust, but public financing of campaigns will go a long way towards taking the constant frenzied money hunt out of day-to-day politics. That would be a step towards Washington "fixing" itself, a big one.

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RICK SANTORUM' TAKES ANOTHER DIP IN THE TOILET-- HIS OUTRAGEOUS CHARITY SCAM

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Last week Santorum's little House of Fake Godliness was shattered by the well-researched Will Bunch expose in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, which reminded me of how the Cunningham scandals started unwinding almost one year ago. Cunningham was undone by some monkey-business involving a bribe plan that involved mortgage financing. And that is exactly how Santorum has been bribed by some fat cat GOP corporate types as well.

This is far from Rick Santorum's first brush with severe ethics lapses. In fact, his whole K Street Project is one of the most corrupt and insidious plots ever perpetrated against the American people by their own legislators. But on top of all this, we now find out, courtesy of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, that Santorum was running one of those fake Republican charities (just like Abramoff, DeLay, Frist and other crooks currently in limbo between plea bargaining and prison terms).
What Little Ricky Man-on-Dog was doing, while we thought all he cared about was trying to ruin the lives of gay men and women, was collecting money (tax-free, of course; the Republican way) that was supposed to go to charity but instead using the bulk of it as political pay-offs for his aides and cronies. And, of course, the charities short-changed were those run by the religionist suckers who vote for dishonest fanatics like Santorum. Operation Good Neighbor, Santorum's scam, "donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period-- well below Better Business Bureau standards-- paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll, records show." The absolute minimum permissible for the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance is 65%-- and even that raises eyebrows. This seems to be a good time for me to point out that there is actually a good government, reform progressive who is running against Santorum (NOT the almost-as-reactionary-as-Santorum Bob Casey), Chuck Pennacchio and the thoroughly progressive ACT BLUE doesn't pass along only 40% of donations or only 65% of donations or even a stellar 90% of donations. If you contribute to Pennacchio or other Democratic candidates through ACT BLUE, 100% goes to the candidate's campaign-- everything, every dime; nothing gets raked off for anyone, the way Santorum was doing it. Please check out the DWT ACT BLUE Page which is collecting donations to put scammers of BOTH parties out of business. We offer an opportunity to contribute to the political demise of crooked Republicans like Rick Santorum and Mark Foley and to the political demise of crooked Democrats like Joe Lieberman and Henry Cuellar. Take a look. And even $10 helps!

Back to the Philadelphia Inquirer story. Turns out Santorum was paying his campaign staffers and fundraisers with fat salaries from his bogus charity. So when you thought you were contributing money for the neighborhood church to serve hot lunches to impoverished eldery folks, you were really contributing to bolstering Santorum's (shameful) political career. In true George W. Bush fashion, Santorum, of course, claims ignorance and says he wasn't involved with the day-to-day operations of this scam. Well, I'll believe that as fast as I'll believe Bush wasn't aware of the Dubai-U.S. Ports deal that would gigantically enrich his family, family retainers and political allies.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

HOW MANY WIVES DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE IN UTAH BEFORE YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO BE A JUDGE-- LET ALONE GET PROSECUTED?

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Early last November I endeavored to introduce DWT readers to a part-time judge in Utah, one Wally Steed-- and to his 3 wives and 32 children. Finally on Friday ole Wally was ordered removed from the bench by the Utah Supreme Court. It was a unanimous decision in support of last year's ruling by Utah's Judicial Conduct Commission, to removal Steed for violating Utah's bigamy law. Steed had served as a judge in a polygamist community (Hildale) in remote southern Utah, for 25 years, ruling in domestic violence cases (among other misdemeanor crimes).

Utah's nutcase Republican Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, had refused to prosecute Steed, bitching that "If you charge one where do you stop? You start prosecuting 10,000 people and have 20,000 kids go into the (child welfare) system?" He only prosecutes the bigamy cases that involve violence and sex with minors, although the Supreme Court pointed out that "When the law is violated or ignored by those charged by society with the fair and impartial enforcement of the law, the stability of our society is placed at undue risk." (The Supreme Court says that Steed "has given every indication that he intends to continue his 'plural marriage' arrangement.") No one knows for certain how many wives Shurtleff and other Utah Republicans have but Steed maintains that removing him from the bench is a violation of his religious freedom.

A SATURDAY MORNING MEDITATION: GEORGE W. BUSH, G. HARROLD CARSWELL AND SOME POOP FROM A SICK ANIMAL

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You know how some people see images of Jesus' mom everywhere, like on burritos and bagels and cakes and oil stains on bridges and stuff like that? And I know I read something about Mother Theresa on a sticky bun recently. Well, I have to admit, I'm kind of like that with Bush. Not sticky buns or bagel sightings or that kind of stuff, but I get reminded of him in ways no one else would. I mean, did anyone esle catch a Bush reference in the new Woody Allen film, MATCH POINT? My friends Craig and Ray saw MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS with me and they thought I was a little overboard coming out of the moving talking about how the same way newsreel images of Hitler in the film caused me to have a visceral negative reaction, for millions of people throughout the world, tv images of Bush-- or even just his voice-- cause an identical visceral reaction.

Now a couple days ago I was out for my morning constitutional and there was a big orange mound of really revolting-looking animal turd in the road. Like from a sick animal of some kind. Needless to say my mind went immediately to George W. Bush. I mean I didn't see his image in the pile of turd the way people see Mother Teresa in cinanamon rolls or anything like that, but the instinctual revulsion of seeing the sick looking turd did make me think of what Bush is doing to the country I love so much-- a country I wasn't only born in, but one I chose to live in after traveling and living around the world for nearly 7 years. America is the best, but Bush is doing a helluva job (with Brownie and the rest of his cronies) to change that.

My morning meditation on Bush and the sick animal turd led me in an unexpected direction though. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, there was this old adage that "anyone could grow up to be president." Well... I had some concerns, coming from Brooklyn, that "anyone" didn't include Jews, for example. (I mean even today I have run into so many people who eagerly acknowledge that Russ Feingold would be the best President of all the people being mentioned for 2008 but... well... isn't he Jewish? And just over half the people in the country are women and they never really seemed to be part of that "anyone" who could either (even though there have been effective women heads of state in England, the Phillipines, New Zealand, India and Israel, as well as in somewhat more socially-backward places like Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh). And then there's the little teensy-weensy African-American problem.

But Bush did break down one barrier to this adage-- and this may sound like I'm being a smart-ass, but actually I'm being serious. Just like John F Kennedy broke down the barrier that kept Roman Catholics out of the presidency, George W. Bush proved that someone with an extraordinarily low IQ and a serious learning disability (both exaccerbated by excessive drug use) could also one day grow up (more or less) and become president. Now, please forget for a moment that Bush is the scion of one of the most reknowned robber-baron families of our age and that his father was a president, albeit a mediocre, one-term one, and that his brother and several other powerful and corrupt power players actually stole the election for him. Just suspend that thought for a moment. Instead focus
on Bush himself. (I didn't take a photo of the sick animal turd but Sadie from the Art Department found that picture of Bush above that she thought would help you focus on where I'm going with this.)

It doesn't matter-- in this narrative-- that Bush is a son of wealth and privilege who never accomplished anything on his own in his entire life and, in fact, by any objective examination, has always been an utter failure in anything and everything he's tried. What matters is that he is ignorant and unlearned. Here's someone who never studied in school and is as far from scholarly as one can be and still not be a proven functional illiterate. I mean, sure Clinton knows there's a difference between Sunni and Shi'a, but even that isn't the point. One of my neighbors told me her alcoholic son knows the difference between Sunni and Shi'a. But what Bush has been able to accomplish is a complete denigration of intelligence and learning and replace these once esteemed-- even required-- attributes with a completely fake, if not blasphemous, religiosity. Where we once looked for someone wise and intelligent to lead us, we have now accepted someone who claims "God" talks to him and tells him what to do.

Who would've imagined we'd have this dullard in the White House today back when Roman Hruska (R-NE)-- pathetically trying to make a last ditch defense for Nixon's appointment of G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court-- stood up on the Senate floor and actually said "there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that there." Forget the anti-semitic thrust and instead keep in mind that Hruska-- himself the least intelligent man to ever serve in the U.S. Senate until Tom Coburn was elected-- referred to Carswell as "mediocre," when he was being judged by the nation as a backward, unenlighted ignoramous. (He was later arrested, in true Republican style, in a public toilet attempting to have oral sex with an undercover agent.) But Carswell, rejected by the Senate as too dumb to sit on the Supreme Court-- and perhaps making "mediocre" people feel badly about themselves or, hopefully, isnpiring some students to study a little harder-- was far brighter and far more enlightened than George W. Bush!

No one remembers Carswell or Hruska but Bush is making more of a mark on history, one that may well be remarked on for many decades. Here is a man who makes one positively yearn for the days when Republicans actually served up merely mediocre public officials. Aside from being steeped in ignorance and darkness, a real problem for the ex oficio leader of what was once called "The Free World," Bush is clearly delusionary. He seems to believe that if he says it, it is or will be true. He'll publically promise disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina and the victims never heard another word about it. He makes promises to world leaders and they never hear anything from him again either. On January 4 Bush said "that U.S. efforts in Iraq are bearing fruit" and the promised goal for ramping down the American occupation-- the Iraqi Army being able to handle the country's security was on the way to becoming a reality.

"In January 2006, the mission is to continue to hand over more and more territory and more and more responsibility to Iraqi forces," said Bush, flanked by his top aides, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. A year ago, Bush said, "only a handful" of Iraqis were trained and equipped to fight the insurgent forces. "Today, 125 combat battalions are fighting the enemy, and 50 of those are in the lead," he said. "That's progress." Was he high? Lying? Insane? Did God-- or someone impersonating God-- tell him this nonsense? Last September, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that only one Iraqi battalion was capable of conducting operations without U.S. support. Today CNN reported that that there isn't even one Iraqi division capable of fighting without American support. (Did John Murtha warn us of this a couple months ago? Why influential old-school Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden and Wesley Clark go along with this line of Bushthink is mortifying.)

CNN quoted Bush as saying "As we see more of these Iraqi forces in the lead, we will be able to continue with our stated strategy that says as Iraqi forces stand up, we will stand down." Well, even though Bush doesn't hold much stock in reality, we now have less Iraqi forces in the lead (zero) than before (one). The 125 battalions? Thin air.


MONDAY EVENING UPDATE: NO ONE LIKES BUSH ANYMORE

The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high. I can't believe he's still over a third! Cheney on the other hand has sunk from 23% to 18%.

Friday, February 24, 2006

THE REPUBLICAN CULTURE OF CORRUPTION-- REPRESENTATIVE LOUISE SLAUGHTER HAS ALL THE FACTS AND FIGURES

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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has come up with a very thorough 118 page document detailing the Republican Culture of Corruption in DC. The executive summary starts with a quote from a fellow member of Congress: "We've created a culture that just breeds corruption." Apparently Slaughter and the Democrats aren't the only ones who see through the disgrace of what DeLay, Pombo, Boehner, Cunningham, Ney, Doolittle, Lewis, Hastert, Blunt and the rest of the Republicrooks have served up to America over the past few years. That quote is from conservative Arizona Republican, Jeff Flake.

It gets better. You should give it a read. And Louise posted a diary about it at MyDD including some chilling statistics:


*14.2 million American seniors (including millions of our sickest and most vulnerable seniors) are stuck in a complicated, expensive, and inefficient Medicare prescription drug program because the Republican Congress and the Bush Administration allowed lobbyists from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to design this program.

*60 million American families who heat their homes with natural gas and 8 million families who heat with heating oil are paying higher bills this winter, even though the Republican Congress recently passed their "national energy plan" into law. Although this plan gives the energy industry billions in new tax breaks and subsidies, it doesn't lower prices for consumers or make our country more energy independent.

*The 150,000 U.S. troops currently deployed in Iraq may not have the equipment they need because of waste, fraud and cronyism by the Republican Congress and the Department of Defense. While Halliburton and other companies with Republican connections get their contracts, our soldiers still don't have the body armor and armored vehicles they need to fight the war.

*750,000 households in the Gulf region are still displaced today, more than 5 months after Hurricane Katrina hit that region, at least in part because the political hacks the Bush Administration put in charge of crucial homeland security functions were not adequately prepared to prepare for or respond to this disaster.

*More than 10 million students and their families will have larger student loans to repay because House Republicans, led by new Majority Leader John Boehner working hand-in-hand with his commercial loan industry allies, cut $12 billion from the student loan program in the recent reconciliation bill and shifted the costs on to students and their families.


ONE WEEK ANNIVERSARY UPDATE: REPUBLICAN SWIFTBOATERS ON THE ATTACK AGAIN

A band of degenerate Republican hatchetmen, the same extremists and maniacs who tried to swiftboat Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha and who were desperately trying to spin/plant stories of existence of Saddam's WMD in Syria during the election year in 2004, have gone on the attack against courageous New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and her extensive expose of the Republican Culture of Corruption. To these partisan bigots, Representative Slaughter is corrupt for exposing their corruption. Hey, it makes as much sense as anything that's come out of these clowns in the last 6 years.

THE RATS ARE TURNING ON EACH OTHER-- WADE IMPLICATES KATHERINE HARRIS AND VIRGIL GOODE, JR

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News of a guilty plea from one of Duke Cunningham's main bribers, Mitchell Wade, broke early this morning. Cunningham was a relatively small fish in the scheme of things-- $2.4 million being relatively paltry compared to what big players like Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Jerry Lewis, Richard Pombo, Roy Blunt have managed to extort from their parts in the Republican Culture of Corruption. But in classic prosecutorial style, one goes after the small fish who then point to a bigger fish who then implicate a bigger fish and so on until you finally see the (inter)national catharsis of all mankind-- except for unenlightened multimillionaires-- rejoicing-as-one watching George W. Bush lead away in leg-irons... weeping.

But there are quite a few fishes that need to be reeled in before that. And today, it was Wade Mitchell's turn. The Associated Press is reporting that Wade, former president of defense contractor MZM Inc. in Washington admitted paying over a million dollars in bribes to Republican congressmen charged with securing our nation from attack. He "also acknowledged making nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions in the names of MZM employees and their spouses to two other members of Congress, who were not identified," but who, it turns out, were two of the biggest money-whores in the Congress, crooked Virginia scumbag Virgil Goode, Jr. and the monstrosity whose cheating in Florida vote counting in 2000 allowed George Bush to assume the presidency, Katherine Harris.

"Prosecutors also laid out a second, separate conspiracy in which Wade was alleged to have paid bribes to a Defense Department official and other employees in return for their help in awarding contracts to his company. Wade pleaded guilty to this scheme as well." Wade was another of those super-connected Republican "businessmen," wheeling and dealing with Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter, John Doolittle and other GOP hypocrites with their hands on the spigot of defense appropriations. The SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE is covering this story-- as they did the whole Cunningham sage-- in an exemplary way and today a story implies an interesting inconsistency in the spin on this scandal. The claim is being made that neither Goode nor Harris were aware that Wade was illegally contributing to their campaigns. And yet, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard R. Sklamberg's summation "Wade made about $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions in 2004 and 2006 to two members of Congress [Goode and Harris]. The lawmakers were targeted because they had the potential to steer federal contracts to MZM." Well, if they weren't aware of Wade's largesse, why would they steer anything his way? And steer they did-- as did Cunningham, Lewis (who was then chairman of the committee) and Hunter.

As Murshed pointed out, the ironically-named Goode figures prominently in Congresswomen Louise Slaughter's AMERICA FOR SALE: THE COST OF REPUBLICAN CORRUPTION. Here's the relevant excerpt:

"Since 2002, Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) has received more campaign contributions from defense contractor MZM, Inc. and its employees – almost $90,000, or nearly 10% of all the money he raised – than from any other single source.  The former president of MZM is Mitchell Wade, one of the co-conspirators in the Duke Cunningham (R-CA) bribery scandal.  As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Goode inserted language creating or expanding MZM classified defense contracts in spending bills.  At one point, Goode added a $23 million dollar classified defense program for MZM that the Pentagon hadn't even requested.  In 2003, MZM-connected contributors gave Goode a total of $19,000 in the days surrounding the award of three Pentagon contracts to MZM.  In June 2005, the Pentagon revoked a $163 million MZM contract for work at the National Ground Intelligence Center in Goode's district, saying it should be open to competitive bids.  Local officials referred to this questionable project as 'Project Goode.'"

MORE REPUBLICAN INDICTMENTS AND GUILTY PLEAS IN CUNNINGHAM CORRUPTION SCANDALS

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Most people who have been following the Randy "Duke" Cunningham case have realized that Cunningham going off to jail for a decade after pleading guilty to taking millions of dollars in bribes from defense contractors while he sat on Congressional Defense and Intelligence committees, is far from the conclusion of this revolting episode of Republican rule in Washington. What about all those co-conspirators named in the indictment? What about his partners in crime, from Jerry Lewis (R-CA), John Doolittle (R-CA) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Tom DeLay (R-TX)? And what about the actual bribers who paid the millions and got the lucrative government contracts in return?

Today the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS is reporting that the first of those corrupt Republican contractors, Mitchell Wade has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with federal investigators. As we approach the November elections, indictments of at least Jerry Lewis and Duncan Hunter seem likely.

Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC have been so busy underming progressives and grassroots candidates across the country-- from Christine Cegelis in Illinois, Jerry McNerney and Brett Wagner in California, Dave Lutrin in Florida to Barry Welsh in Indiana-- that they have incompetently failed to work on races in districts where there are likely to be indicted Republican incumbents. Is Louie Contreras a serious candidate in California's 41st CD-- a pretty red district whose corrupt and venal congressman will soon be joining his pal Cunningham in prison? Has Emanuel's (and Ellen Tauscher's) inept meddling in California's 11th CD-- trying to impose Steve Filson on local Democrats from above-- strengthen Richard Pombo as his grotesque little empire starts falling apart? Even the most cursory monitoring of California's Republican congressional scandal would have seen major efforts to mount effective campaigns-- starting with good recruitment-- against Lewis and Hunter. Emanuel, however, has apparently been too busy making war on Christine Cegelis. No doubt the Democrats will never get a clue about how disastrous this guy is for the party until the post-election analysis when people wonder what went wrong.

Tip of the hat to Roy at Fired Up! America for the pre-dawn alert.


UPDATE: CUNNINGHAM SCANDAL GOES CROSS-COUNTRY

The first congressmen nailed by admitted Cunningham briber, MZM ceo Mitchell Wade, as part of his plea bargain deal are... drumroll... Virginia's notorious and hypocritical bucket of sleaze, Virgil Goode, Jr. and the uber-corrupt whore-and-a-half from sunny Florida Katherine Harris. The ironically-named Goode figures prominently in Congresswomen Louise Slaughter's AMERICA FOR SALE: THE COST OF REPUBLICAN CORRUPTION. Here's the relevent excerpt (hat tip to Mushed):
"Since 2002, Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) has received more campaign contributions from defense contractor MZM, Inc. and its employees – almost $90,000, or nearly 10% of all the money he raised – than from any other single source.  The former president of MZM is Mitchell Wade, one of the co-conspirators in the Duke Cunningham (R-CA) bribery scandal.  As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Goode inserted language creating or expanding MZM classified defense contracts in spending bills.  At one point, Goode added a $23 million dollar classified defense program for MZM that the Pentagon hadn't even requested.  In 2003, MZM-connected contributors gave Goode a total of $19,000 in the days surrounding the award of three Pentagon contracts to MZM.  In June 2005, the Pentagon revoked a $163 million MZM contract for work at the National Ground Intelligence Center in Goode's district, saying it should be open to competitive bids.  Local officials referred to this questionable project as 'Project Goode.'"

IRAQ CIVIL WAR

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I don't want to push this analogy too hard but the destruction of one of the holiest sites in the Shi'a Muslim world 2 days ago was Iraq's Ft Sumter moment. An Iraqi civil war has been on for some time-- despite the Bush Regime's and Wes Clark's contention that we're occupying Iraq to prevent one-- but the blowing up of the Golden Mosque, and the ensuing orgy of violence and mayhem, means only that we've come one step closer to where even Bush will recognize that it's too late to prevent a civil war. CNN reported that "the most powerful Sunni Muslim party quit talks to form a new government Thursday after Sunnis were attacked-- and many killed-- following the bombing of Samarra's... Golden Mosque."

Last summer Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was already saying the civil war had begun. Although he is widely considered to be a Bush Regime lackey, Allawi told a U.K. paper that “The problem is that the Americans have no vision and no clear policy on how to go about in Iraq... We are practically in stage one of a civil war as we speak.” Like most people in trouble who have counted on Bush's word, he was dismayed by Bush's tendency to promise the world-- see: New Orleans reconstruction-- and deliver nothing. Allawi said that he had discussed the urgency of rebuilding Iraq’s military with Bush and Rumsfeld last year. “Bush earmarked $5.7 billion... but I did not receive the money,” Allawi said. (I wonder why no one suggested he get in touch with Jack Abramoff, James Baker or any number of known Bush bagmen and kickback experts.)

Meanwhile, Iraq isn't really a functioning state. Unfathomable violence, foreign occupation, a complete breakdown of civil society, endemic corruption, utter despair everywhere... are the hallmarks of George Bush's post-Saddam Iraq. The Shi’ites (nearly 60% of Iraq's population), who endured decades of oppression under Saddam, are threatening to purge former members of the (overwhelmingly Sunni) Ba’ath Party from the army and all levels of government, a move that is provoking fierce retaliation from the Sunnis.

Meanwhile the Kurds in the northern third of the country have their own functioning-- and largely peaceful-- de facto state and are determined to Iraq fall to pieces so that they can get their own independent Kurdistan. It appears that most Shi'a would also like their own-- oil-rich, theocratic-- country too, allied with neighboring Iran and free of haughty, aggressive Sunnis (many of whom believe in things that are anathema to fundamentalist Shi'a, like a secular society and equality for women. If only Bush would have thought a little about these things before his precipitous invasion and occupation of Iraq! But just to give you a clue about how utterly ill-prepared his regime was for Iraq, keep in mind that in 2003 they promised the American people that taxpayers' share of the cost of the entire operation would be $1.7 billion. So far $265 billion has been spent-- most of it going to Bush cronies-- and he just asked for tens of billions more.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

CHRISTINE CEGELIS-- A GREAT CHALLENGER TO RIGHT WING DOMINATION

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For me-- way out here in California-- Christine Cegelis' campaign has become a parable for the survival of democracy within the Democratic Party. But I know it means a lot more than a parable for activists and concerned democrats (and Democrats) in Illinois' 6th congressional district. I first heard about Cegelis from Howard Dean a few years ago, who said she was an exemplary and inspiring candidate and who was impressed that she took on one of the most entrenched members of the GOP power elite, powerful and uber-hypocritical Henry Hyde. Cegelis scored an incredible 44% of the vote against Hyde in 2004 and, in the process, has built up a wonderful grassroots following. Her clear and pointed, well-thought out positions on the important issues have further endeared her to people looking for a change from Bush and the Republican congress and all of their disastrous (and self-serving) policies. Sounds like a dream candidate for the Blue Team, right?

Not according to DCCC boss, Rahm Emanuel. Instead of welcoming the hard-working and dedicated Cegelis as a neighbor, and offering DCCC assistance to help her close the very attainable 7% gap between herself and the Repugs, Emanuel went on an emotional, irrational and-- much to the relief of Republicans (the major beneficiaries of Emanuel's unseasoned, divisive, heavy-handed "leadership")-- destructive rampage against her, doing all he could-- and he is a very, very vicious politico (especially when it comes to fighting progressives and grassroots Dems)-- to make her withdraw and to derail her campaign. He eventually recruited someone from outside the district, a decent Iraq war vet, to run against Cegelis and started a huge Inside-the-Beltway Power Elite drumbeat to make it seem that the Democratic nomination was all wrapped up-- as the power-mongers have done for the Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Ohio senate seats and for dozens of House seats across the country. But, as sometimes happens in a real democracy-- something about which Emanuel has no clue-- his efforts backfired inside the district (where people like the idea of voting and choosing their own candidates).

Cegelis and her fired-up supporters redoubled their efforts and her campaign has been going strong. I know that Jim Dean and DFA are not seeking disputes with gutter-figher Emanuel but progressives from around the country have been urging them to help Cegelis overcome the "inevitability" drumbeat Emanuel has been trying to use to bolster the prospects of his hand-picked puppet. And yesterday DFA took the leap and enthusiastically endorsed 4 progressive Democrats for Congress, including Christine Cegelis. As a DFA member, I was very proud to be standing up and taking a stand against the Inside-the-Beltway hegemonists. The endorsement was simple and to the point: "A long-time resident of Rolling Meadows, Christine Cegelis lives and works in Illinois' 6th Congressional District. As a Dean Dozen candidate in 2004, Christine came within just a few points of toppling 30-year Republican incumbent Rep. Henry Hyde. This year Hyde is retiring and Christine's running again in a tough Democratic primary. The DCCC is behind another candidate, but Christine has earned the support of DFA groups across Illinois." She has also earned the endorsement of DWT and we have set up an ACT Blue Page for her that we help you will consider donating to.

Her campaign website is exactly what I love to see from a candidate and it is exactly why so many people are so enthusiastic about her. She's the kind of person who inspires excitement and hope that a real change could come and that it won't just be politics as usual. She's a people's candidate and I implore you to look into her candidacy and lend a hand. She has two fights on her hands-- first Rahm Emanuel and the Inside-the-Beltway power elite and after she shows him Democrats prefer democracy, she will face a garden variety right-wing hack. DWT will be with her throughout.

UPDATE: BUSH IS A BAD PRESIDENT

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I passed by a tv this morning when I was getting dressed and the smirking chimp was at some kind of a cabinet "meeting" photo op. He was doing his best not to smirk when he held up a nicely bound report about all the non-finger-pointin'-blame-game-playin' mistakes-we-learned-from-to-better-protect-the-Amercan-people. The most I could make of it was that if we have better walkie-talkies and blackberries everything will be hunky-dory next time something "unforeseen" happens (as long as we keep Republicans at the helm). He also talked about our commitment to the Gulf and I think he's mixed up what he's doing with his pals the emirs and kings on a far far away Gulf and what he's not doing for the homeless and newly impoverished on our own Gulf Coast. Earlier today my friend David sent me a quote from former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith.

January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware 
that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, ‘You mean…they’re not, you know, there... there’s this difference. What is it about?’”


Unforeseen? Only one catastrophe was unforeseen. We were warned about 9-11. We were warned about what Katrina would do to the New Orleans levee system. Even Tom DeLay is now warning how about the security threat inherent in selling our ports to a company controlled by the very shady, very corrupt-- and insecure-- Dubai royal family. So what was unforeseen? Well almost half the country didn't realize they were voting for the stupidest, laziest, most ignorant man who has ever run for president.

EVEN TOM DELAY TURNS ON BUSH-- PORT SALE A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY

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Yesterday I mentioned something about how even the lowliest slugs from the depths of the Republican backbench, stealthy figures we never hear from like California whackadoodle Elton Gallegly, were crawling out of the darkness to give Bush the finger over his blatantly self-serving/America-destroying move to sell port operations to his pals in the Dubai royal family. North Carolina congressloon Sue Myrick went out of her way to make sure a terse and dramatic letter she wrote to Bush-- "Not just NO, but HELL NO!"-- was widely circulated. And that is a pretty good sign Bush's little power play is in trouble. But the capper for poor Bush must have been when indicted former GOP Capo di Tutti Capi Tom DeLay stuck his head up from whatever plea bargaining conference he's involved in to call Bush's little deal "pretty outrageous." And if any of Bush's closest circle knows what "pretty outrageous" is, it would be the former House Majority Leader. Other normally complacent Texas congresscritters also weighed in against Bush and DeLay complacently predicated that the whole mess will be overturned by Congress. "When it's a matter of national security, the president will be overturned. We will overturn it within the next few weeks." I wonder if he just made Bush mad enough to consider not granting him a pardon after he's found guilty for bribery and conspiracy.

WILL THE DEMOCRATS TAKE DOWN BOB NEY-- OR WILL RAHM EMANUEL RESCUE HIM?

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I saw a poll recently asking which congressman would be the next to be indicted (this was post DeLay and post Cunningham). The overwhelming response was venal Ohio Republican Bob Ney. But today Associated Press' David Hammer wrote a fairly positive piece on his future. Hammer used GOP talking points, Republican wishful thinking, and sheer bullshit to denigrate the Democrats efforts to take on Ney in Ohio's 18th CD.

Although there are 2 strong candidates locked in an action-packed primary battle-- grassroots progressive Zack Space and socially conservative Chillicothe mayor Joe Sulzer-- Hammer's main point is that the DCCC's version of Tom DeLay wasn't able to recruit whatever nightmare candidates he was trying to impose on the district.

Hammer's story is a collection of pre-ordered quotes to prove his lame points plus some typical Inside-the-Beltway claptrap. Lots of stuff about Rahm Emanuel trying to recruit vanilla candidates with no point of view and light in the brains department (like State Representative John Boccieri). One thing that did catch my attention was this: "Emanuel's committee declined to comment on recruiting issues, but is struggling to decide between Joe Sulzer and Zack Space, two of the four Democrats who did enter the race." Here's proof that Emanuel is as stupid as he is Stalinist. He apparently hasn't learned from the disastrous response to his (and Chuck Schumer's) interference in the Ohio Senate race which drove Paul Hackett to pull out (and simultaneously drove up Mike DeWine's approval voter preference rating). Space and Sulzer both look like competent candidates and the Democrats of the district should be able to choose between them. That's called a primary. In a democracy. Mr. Emanuel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A NEW REPORT: CHENEY WAS STAGGERING DRUNK WHEN HE SHOT HARRY WHITTINGTON

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A few days after the Cheney shooting rampage a very old friend of mine, a Secret Service agent, told me that the press and the bloggers-- including this one-- were missing an important aspect of the story. "Oh, tell me." But I couldn't get another word out of him-- not even a hint. And I tried.

Today Doug Thompson at OpEdNews has a story called "Secret Service Agents Say Cheney Was Drunk When He Shot Lawyer." Thompson claims there's a written report from his personal detail that states he was "clearly inebriated" when he shot Harry Whittington. "Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited 'visible signs' of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions, the report said.
According to those who have read the report and talked with others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up."

There have been reports that Wyoming hunters who have gone shooting with Cheney says he never drinks beer when he's hunting because it makes him pee. He like whiskey. And acording to Thompson a White House aide said "This was a South Texas hunt. Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."

I don't know what to make of this report-- there are some well-known points (like about Cheney having had drinking problems before) and they're mixed with things that could be true of could be fantasies. We'll see...

LAST MINUTE UPDATE

Coincidentally, NBC News just announced that they have obtained new documents that show Cheney's account of the story is... um... good enough for NBC News to believe. Basically the documents being touted as proof Cheney isn't a criminal are hand-written memos from his friends on the hunt with him. It's obvious to everyone but NBC that these are coordinated stories that all claim Cheney wasn't drunk. This "scoop" makes me believe more than before that he was drunk.

MY INTERVIEW WITH "CANDIDATE X," RUSS WARNER, THE DEMOCRATS' BEST CHANCE IN YEARS TO RETIRE DAVID DREIER

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This is going to make more sense if you read the article I posted yesterday called MEET THE DEMOCRATS' CANDIDATE X. I'll take it from there. The incumbent is the execrable David Dreier, another hypocritical, self-loathing Republican closet case, who has misrepresented California's 26th CD for 25 years. (It's a moderate suburban L.A. district not unlike the Northern Virginia districts that used to vote Republican but went overwhelmingly for Democrat Tim Kaine in the gubernatorial race there a couple months ago. It's usually thought of as the San Gabriel Valley, but it also extends into San Bernardino County and some of the better known communities are La Canada, La Crescenta, Flintridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Altadena, a bit of Pasadena, San Marino, Glendora, La Verne, Monrovia, Arcadia, Claremont, Upland... There is no primary and the challenger, yesterday's "Mr. X," is Russ Warner, a successful local entrepreneur.

I met Russ and one of his 3 sons, Greg, at a rally for Wes Clark on October 28 in Cheviot Hills. Greg, who's in the Army and had recently returned from Iraq, had urged his dad to run for Congress. I prefer to be able to look at someone in the eyes when I talk with them but I had trouble enough getting an interview with Warner to be too picky, so tonight I sat down and had a nice, relaxed, friendly conversation with him on the telephone.

I was half expecting a what I've been referring to on DWT as a Rahm Emanuel shill candidate; I thought I had it all figured out in advance. I didn't. Russ had his own point of view on issues-- some identical to mine, some very different from mine, all probably well-suited to the district he's lived in for the last 25 years. My best guess it that he'll be a moderate Democrat-- in the real sense of "moderate," not as a polite way of saying a "right-wing Democrat" like Jim Marshall, or Henry Cuellar or Ben Nelson.

On some of the tough issues, his reflexes were absolutely spot on. He's adamant that America needs universal health care and that the country is ready for it now. He speaks about it with conviction and passion and it's obviously a topic he's thought long and hard about. Most everything we talked about flowed through his life-experience as an entrepreneur, something I'm very comfortable with, having come from a similar background. His analysis of the state of the union finds grave fault with the greed, avarice and arrogance of Big Business. And, for Warner, salvation is the hard work, sweat and dedication of the enlightened entrepreneur and small businessperson. It could be a lot worse-- and for CA-26, it's pretty close to perfect.

One crucial issue for the race is going to be immigration. The loony and extremely xenophobic/racist Minutemen are strong in Southern California and some local right-wing drive-time radio show targeted Dreier in 2004 and hammered him mercilessly. Their motto is kind of "Anything But Dreier" because he supports Bush's corporatist immigration policies. (That wing-- as opposed to the neo-Nazi Tancredo wing-- of the GOP encourages a flood of immigration, illegal better than legal, in order to drive labor prices down for their corporate allies and to undermine union's bargaining power. The Republicans have always hated minimum wage laws, safety in the workplace laws, child labor laws, all the kind of stuff that differentiates free citizens with dignity from serfs and slaves-- the right-wing's ideal condition for the non-wealthy.) Anyway, the radio loons, "John & Ken," still hate Dreier, who fears them the way a 10 year old girl lost in a forest would feel a pack of hungry wolves. Dreier has tried to move a bit in their direction on the issue but they're not having any of his weasel-words and they never shut about how terrible and corporate he is. And he has some Minuteman type challenging him-- ineffectually-- in the GOP primary. Warner understands the immigration issue and his response is very reasonable: to crack down on the big businesses that encourage illegal immigration by hiring illegals.

His answer about equal protection for gays and lesbians was very matter-of-fact-- sort of like a moderate version of Paul Hackett's: we're all Americans and all entitled to equal protection under the law-- and he specifically brought up civil marriage. Funny how a happily married man, confident in his own skin, has no problems with gays while a closeted, self-loathing and petrified homosexual like David Dreier feels the need to victimize gay people every chance he gets as a legislator. Dreier's homosexuality, his hypocrisy in that area, and the scandal of his taxpayer-financed lover's inordinately large salary are issues Warner refuses to talk about-- even when prodded. He's a decent guy who is determined to take the high road.

My biggest specific problem with Warner was, probably predictably, Iraq. I think what drives Warner is his life's experience as an entrepreneur, a husband and a father and that these experiences are determinative of his positions. He's not an ideologue; he seems like a considerate and fair-minded problem-solver. The conclusions he's come to about Big Pharma's role in the deteriorating state of our medical system is a great example of how real life experience, not ideology, brought him to a common sense conclusion about the corrosive nature of Big Business in a democratic and middle class-oriented society. When it came to Iraq, however... his experiences are different from mine. When I put the question to him-- how do we get out-- he fumbled around a bit, perhaps still trying to get to the best solution to a problem that has too many grays. He started talking about troop rotations and getting Arab and Muslim and even NATO countries to send troops as we bring our boys home. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I pointed out that other countries, even the ones we bribed initially, are withdrawing troops and that no one wants to send new troops in. He pointed out that that's because no one trusts Bush. I pointed out that he's running for Congress and that, in all likelihood, Bush will be around for his entire first term. In the end came what I was afraid was the inevitable answer: the way out of Iraq is to... elect Wes Clark president. Warner is a true believer and has tremendous faith in the general. I don't want to start another war with the Wes Clark supporters (and risk hundreds of pieces of spam, most of it either filthy, racist, homophobic or a combination, all over my blog again) but this illusion that history depends on a (military) strongman disturbed me-- big time. I respect Clark and I respect Warner's admiration and trust in him, but as right as Clark was about the Iraq war in the beginning (that it would be a terrible and costly blunder), he has been wrong ever since. Somewhat astonished that Warner seemed to be equating an end to the problems in Iraq with the election of Clark as president, I asked him if that was the only way out. He said the Democrats have a strong line-up of potential candidates who he trusted could solve the problem. He mentioned 3 others: Mark Warner, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

I think Russ Warner is a good challenger for David Dreier in the 26th CD. And a much better candidate than what I've come to expect from the DCCC. I think he has an excellent chance of winning and I think he'll be a decent congressman if he does-- far, far better than the inherently dishonest, conflicted mess we have in that seat now. Is he a DFA candidate? He seems to think so (although he doesn't even mention he's a Democrat on his website). I'm sure some DFA grassroots workers and donations would be welcome and useful. But this is a campaign that I think is one I'll be rooting for rather than participating in myself. The local DFA folks appreciate him and want to help and that doesn't really bother me if they have nothing better to do. (Francine Busby should be an incumbent by then. Progressive Californians in solidly Democratic districts should also consider helping Jerry McNerney to topple Richard Pombo and Charlie Brown to rid California of John Doolittle.) Still, on the very day-- today-- that DFA has endorsed 4 proud progressives, Francine Busby, Christine Cegelis, Mary Jo Kilroy and Lois Murphy, for Congress, I think it would be too much of a stretch for me to ask that organization to do likewise for Warner. Instead I'm calling my pals Bob, Mary and Grace in San Marino and asking them to give Warner a hand.

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THE ENVIRONMENT-- THINK ABOUT IT WHEN YOU VOTE. THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE RICHARD POMBO ON ONE HAND AND PEOPLE LIKE FRANCINE BUSBY ON THE OTHER

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Although protecting the environment used to be a thoroughly bi-partisan issue, promoted enthusiastically by both Democrats and Republicans, it has increasingly become something that Democrats support and Republicans sabotage. Until George W. Bush came along to sell off this country's natural wonders to his cronies and campaign contributors, every single American president since Teddy Roosevelt-- including Bush's father, Nixon, Reagan, Ford, Eisenhower, etc.-- has expanded protections for the American environment. But it isn't just Bush. There is now a firm Republican majority which espouses bulldozing and wrecking the environment in order to reap short-term profits for developers and polluters who bribe them with campaign contributions.

The poster boy for this is the head of the House Natural Resources Committee, right-wing California extremist, Richard Pombo. His record on pollution and environmental protection is absolutely dismal-- he scores a 6 out of 100 on ProgressivePunch's vote analysis-- and he comes up with really bizarre proposals, like selling off our cherished national parks. Yes, well Pombo exerts a real leadership role in this area but truth be told, the California GOP, with just a few notable exceptions, has turned into a real hotbed on anti-environment activism. California Republicans like Duncan Hunter, David Dreier, Jerry Lewis and Dan Lungren have almost identically hideous environmental voting records and John Doolittle's is even worse than Pombo's, probably the worst of any congressman in the history of California.

Although Californians concerned about the quality of the air we breath and the water we drink and about our environment in general won't have a chance to do anything about it (at the voting box) until November, there is an important congressional special election in San Diego County in April. This is the race to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham-- another anti-environmental extremist-- who will be spending the next decade in prison for accepting millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for his congressional influence. The gaggle of right-wing Republicans in the race are by and large all anti-environment nut-cases who can be counted on to follow Pombo's lead over the environmental cliff. The pro-environment candidate is Francine Busby, the Democrat. She makes a point of going into some detail in her campaign about protecting the environment that is being raped and pillaged by the GOP.

Meanwhile, today's NORTH COUNTY TIMES, the local newspaper for the 50th Congressional District, has a pathetic report on the environmental records of the Republicans in the area. Conservationists in California are particularly unhappy with the extreme right-wing state senator from Oceanside, Bill Morrow, who is running against Busby. He had a grade of just 4 out of 100-- even worse than Pombo's!!! According to Rico Mastrodonato of the California League of Conservation Voters, "from an environmental perspective, we get very little support from representatives in that area."

There are a lot of reasons it is crucial for citizens of the 50th CD, for Californians and for Americans to elect Francine Busby in April. The contrast between her environmental stands and those of Morrow and the other Republicans running to replace Cunningham is just another in a long list. If you would like to lend a hand to Busby's efforts, I have an ACT BLUE Page where 100% of donations -- no middleman-- go directly to her grassroots, progressive campaign. Even small donations are very much appreciated. And SAY NO TO POMBO has an ACT BLUE page dedicated solely to retiring Richard Pombo and I heartily recommend you give them a visit too.