Friday, February 29, 2008



Mission accomplished: myth created-- now get home fast

Today's NY Times ran a small story about some 23 year old prince who is third in line for the anachronistic British throne. His name is Harry and there was some brouhaha a while back because his army unit was being deployed to Iraq and it was judged to be too dangerous for him. He threw a royal tantrum and the compromise was that he was allowed to go play-- secretly-- in Afghanistan instead. Today, after Drudge blew the secret, the British "Defense Ministry" had nothing better to do but tell Prince Harry it wasn't safe enough for him there and he'd have to come home. Maybe they can station him on Antigua.
The awkwardly timed dissemination of the prince’s whereabouts had several immediate repercussions. Politicians, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, leapt all over one another in lavishing praise on Prince Harry, 23. British reporters whipped out their notebooks and unleashed into the public domain all the material they had been saving for later: interviews and video scenes of him discussing his deployment, wearing fatigues and firing his machine gun.

Independent congressional candidate Steve Porter, who is running against Bush rubber stamp Phil English, is wondering why if it's not safe for Prince Harry, it's safe for other people's -- American people's-- sons and daughters.
Prince Harry served in a war zone because he comes from a family which believes in putting your money where your mouth is. That is a trait which was often found in British royalty, and which to our disgrace is not often found in today’s American political leadership.
There are some members of the Washington elite whose kids are serving in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict, but damn few. And certainly not Jenna and Barbara Bush, the two healthy, privileged children of a President who lied to get us into a war which has killed nearly 4,000 American “kids,” wounded tens of thousands more, and caused the deaths, injuries, and emigration of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.
Prince Harry, truly the son of Princess Diana-- whose efforts on behalf of the downtrodden won her the love of the world-- said with his decision to serve, your burden will be my burden; your pain will be my pain; if my government asks you to die, I must stand with you.
What a contrast to Mr. Bush who asks others to die while his own kids enjoy the night life of Manhattan’s posh East Side. What a contrast to so many in Congress who send our soldiers to fight in a war which rarely involves their own flesh and blood.
I wonder what kinds of military aggression we would be involved in if the physically able children of those who demanded American participation were required to fight on the front lines. If the bullets were whizzing around the heads of Jenna and Barbara, I wonder if George would have been so hot to invade.
It surely is something to ponder, and while we ponder it, hats off to Harry and Diana and the family who had the integrity to ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country.

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Is there some religion that aspires to a Gospel of Hatred and Bigotry?

If it wasn't enough that normal people are upset that McCain has decided to stay in bed with arch-bigot and fringe loon John Hagee, their bizarre alliance is also being questioned from the right. Yesterday in Texarkana the Rev. Mike Huckabee "accused the Rev. John Hagee of playing politics over principle by endorsing" the Double Talk Express. Despite the furor raised over the endorsement by American Catholics, especially by Republican Catholics, Huckabee feely admits he wanted Hagee's endorsement. Is this the party of crazy extremist bigots or what?
Speaking after a rally in Texarkana, Huckabee said he was surprised by Hagee’s endorsement because of McCain’s lack of fervor on abortion -- despite his 100% anti-abortion rights voting record. (McCain has, however, voted for stem-cell research.) Huckabee also said Hagee told him he endorsed because he assumed McCain would win the nomination.

“He just thought that the political rationale was he wanted to get on Sen. McCain’s team, and he thought he was gonna win the nomination,” Huckabee said. “I don’t think that’s a foregone conclusion, and even if I did, I would stand on principle more than I would politics.”

If Hagee has accomplished nothing else in his miserable career of duping suckers and frightened congregents out of their savings, he at least has the usually biased mainstream media-- who have built McCain up into some kind of grand moderate he never was-- looking into McCain's connections with the dangerous lunatic fringe of extremist politics and religionism. It will be hard for them to get out from under the way they grilled Barack Obama about a non-existant relationship with Louis Farrakhan without using the same standards, for a change, in looking at the very real relationship between John McCain and John Hagee. As Glenn Greenwald reminds us today:
Hagee's so-called "commitment to Israel" actually means that he wants Israel united so that the Rapture can happen and all Jews, including Israelis, will be slaughtered and sent to hell. And the "spiritual leadership" which McCain heralds consists of calling the Catholic Church the "Mother Whore" and a "cult" and arguing that Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in the devastation of tens of thousands of lives, was God's punishment against New Orleans because it scheduled a gay pride parade that week.

The fact that McCain thinks he can get away with openly embracing one of the most influential and hateful bigots in the country is a reflection of the profound media double standard he knows favors and protects him. Just imagine if Obama had issued a statement similar to McCain's with regard to Farrakhan: "I am very proud of Minister Louis Farrakhan's spiritual leadership to thousands of people" and "don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. I'm still 'honored" to have his support."

As it is, Obama -- who never appeared on a stage with Farrakhan or sought or praised his support -- was attacked by the Jamie Kirchicks of the world even though he denounced Farrakhan's views and rejected his support. Yet here is McCain, refusing to denounce anything about Hagee, instead openly embracing him and expressing "honor" at receiving the endorsement, and there is... almost nothing. For those in the media who sputtered on about the nonexistent Obama/Farrakhan matter -- and even for those who didn't -- how can you possibly justify not covering all of the aspects of this odious McCain/Hagee association?


Will McCain disavow Hagee's assertion that Jew's are repulsive to God? He may. But he won't disavow Hagee's bizarre ideas about getting all the Jews gathered up in "Greater Israel" so Armageddon can get going already. That's because McCain himself believes that tripe.

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Do you think it's time to end the stranglehold on U.S. policy with Cuba by a half million Cuban refugees in Florida? Most members of Congress do-- and have for quite some time.
Majorities in both chambers have repeatedly voted to ease current U.S. restrictions on travel to the island, and have favored facilitating agricultural exports to Cuba. Previously, President Bush strongly opposed any relaxation of U.S. restrictions relating to Cuba, and former Majority Leader Tom Delay was known to make sure any such changes would die in conference.

That is likely to change next year with the end of the Bush Regime and the likely losses of dozens of far right Republican members of Congress. Today, though, 24 senators, from both parties and across the ideological spectrum, sent a letter to the Bush Regime asking them to re-examine American policy towards Cuba. The list includes reactionaries from both parties whose states are clamoring to trade with Cuba-- right-wing Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana as well as the two Republican extremists from Idaho, Larry "I'm Still Here" Craig and Mike Crapo, for examples-- as well as liberals and moderates. The full list of senators who signed the letter:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mark Pryor (R-AR)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (D-NB)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

And the text of the letter, which went to Condoleeza Rice:
On Tuesday, February 19, Fidel Castro resigned after serving as Cuba's leader for nearly 50 years.  This welcome and historic event provides the United States with an important opportunity to reflect upon and reconsider U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Our current policy of isolation and estrangement has failed.  Cuba's political system is stable after five decades of American efforts to force change on the island.  New laws that tightened sanctions in 1992 and 1996 have had no effect. The administration's 2004 sanctions and its comprehensive plan to bring about transition in Cuba have failed in their objective.  The absence of Fidel Castro for 20 months has not led to a change in the system.

Instead, our current policy deprives the United States of influence in Cuba, including the opportunity to promote principles that advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.  By restricting the ability of Americans to travel freely to Cuba, we limit contact and communication on the part of families, civil society, and government.  Likewise, by restricting the ability of our farmers, ranchers, and businesses to trade with Cuba, the United States has made itself irrelevant in Cuba's growing economy, allowing Cuba to build economic partnerships elsewhere.

There is no magic U.S. policy that will transform Cuba.  But with Cuba facing a period of change, we have a new opportunity to seize.  Our policy based on sanctions, passivity, and waiting should end.  We need a new approach that defends human rights, is confident about the value of American engagement with Cubans, builds new economic bridges between America and Cuba, and seeks every possible avenue of increasing American influence.

We urge you to take a fresh look at our policy toward Cuba.  We should seize upon Castro's long-awaited and welcome departure to chart a new course that favors hope and engagement over isolation and estrangement.

If the Cubans were smart, they'd refuse normalization for as long as they can-- and keep McDonald's, WalMart, predatory privatization, the Mafia, and all the other treats that will come along with renewed chumminess with the giant 90 miles to the north.




Why is Chuck Schumer helping McConnell keep his Senate seat?

Well, we actually started some time ago, preventing senatorial lizard Chuck Schumer from forcing DLC Republican-lite reactionary John Morrison down the throats of Montana voters. The grassroots candidate, Jon Tester, beat Morrison and Schumer and then went on to defy the odds and unseat incumbent Conrad Burns. At the same time we were helping John Hall in New York and Jerry McNerney is California defy the diktats of congressional lizard Rahm Emanuel, beating his 2 shill candidates and then going on to rout entrenched Republican incumbents Sue Kelly and Dirty Dick Pombo. As we mentioned Schumer is at it again, especially in Kentucky, where he is determined to protect Mitch McConnell's seat by forcing an out of step reactionary fake-Democrat into the Democratic nomination, the toxic Bruce Lunsford.

Schumer's first step was to dispose of grassroots candidate Andrew Horne by warning off Democratic campaign donors and making it known that donating to Horne would be considered an unfriendly act, a typical tactic used by the Inside the Beltway committees. Horne has no money... so it worked.

Greg Fischer does have money and independent sources of donations Schumer can't impact as easily. So what is Schumer doing instead to get rid of him? One of the people Blue America worked with when we were trying to prevent Rahm Emanuel and Ellen Tauscher from pulling the same slimy Beltway tricks on Jerry McNerney was a McNerney staffer named A.J. Carrillo. A.J. is now working for Greg Fischer in Kentucky and he's able to anticipate all Schumer's reptilian tricks. Today he explained to me how Schumer is twisting arms at union headquarters to get them to pressure Kentucky locals to endorse anti-labor Lunsford. It's a disgrace-- and it isn't even that rare. I remember when the worst of the Democratic shill unions, AFSCME endorsed the Emanuel hack in CA-11, Steve Filson, even though the local unions were all completely behind McNerney. AFSCME's political folks just do what they're told by the Insider Dems-- which explains why they always endorse that worst hacks and crooks-- and they didn't even give McNerney the courtesy of an interview before endorsing his opponent. A.J. said it would be OK for me to share the following with you about how the Brooklyn Lizard Man is pulling the strings in Kentucky:
Schumer is strong arming the COPE directors in DC into telling their
locals to getting in line and endorse Lunsford. Apparently he has been working the UAW on the AFL-CIO side (so far their locals have been strong, and are still with us) and now he has turned his guns successfully over the last couple of days working over the UFCW and the Teamsters on the Change to Win side into endorsing Lunsford. He apparently has gotten the NEA (teachers union) into telling the Kentucky teachers union to endorse Lunsford as well.

What is most comical about this is that Lunsford was placed in the "do not endorse" column by Kentucky's largest coalition of labor unions during the '07 gubernatorial election. The AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education voted to urge state affiliate groups to refrain from endorsing or supporting Lunsford, as well as all three Republican candidates for governor. (Lexington Herald Leader, 3/6/07). I guess in
2007 he was the only Dem gov candidate singled out for no-endorsement and now he's an ok guy?!

We introduced DWT readers to Lunsford while he was getting his ass kicked-- while spending millions-- by Steve Beshear, now Governor Beshear, last year. But, in case anyone has forgotten, let's go over why Bruce Lunsford can only have one function in the Kentucky senate race: guaranteeing another term to his old pal, Mitch McConnell. Lunsford in 10 easy steps:

1. His company Vencor, paid $104 million settlement to resolve civil claims in nine lawsuits that Vencor knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE, the military's health-care program for active duty troops and their families. The investigation was triggered by two Vencor employees in Florida who charged that the company was padding its bills for respiratory services.

2. Lunsford defended Vencor's bankruptcy and $104 million "settlement" for fraudulent billing. Lunsford claimed that Vencor was reorganized, not utterly bankrupted, and that it paid a $104 million settlement-- not a $104 million fine-- when the feds accused it of fraudulent billing to Medicare. (Associated Press, 5/19/03)

3. The Justice Department said Vencor settlement was important to "combat fraud." The department said the government's $104.5 million settlement with Vencor and Ventas in March 2001 was "an important success story in our continuing effort to combat fraud that depletes federal health care programs." The Justice Department said that the settlement was the second largest in a nursing home case under the
False Claims Act and that the $20 million portion based on failure to provide adequate health care was the largest ever for long- term-care facilities. (Courier-Journal, 5/13/03)

4. Lunsford's company evicted poor patients covered by Medicaid from nursing homes. The practiced was stopped in 13 homes in nine states, including Kentucky, Lunsford only after the Wall Street Journal exposed it. The patients that were dumped were covered by Medicaid in favor of those with more money and private insurance. Congress, with bipartisan support, quickly enacted a law banning the practice. Lunsford said the federal anti-dumping statute "is not the kind of legacy I am proud of." But he noted that when he found out about the evictions, "I apologized, stopped them and took responsibility." Lunsford stepped down as Vencor's chief executive officer and chairman in 1999 and as Ventas' chairman in January 2003. (Courier-Journal, 5/13/03; Lexington Herald Leader, 4/27/03)

5. Vencor paid $3 million to shareholders to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged Lunsford and other executives, at the same time they were selling stock, hid their knowledge of the impact of the cost-cutting legislation. (Courier-Journal, 5/13/03)

6. Vencor was forced to turn over its largest nursing home to a non-profit Catholic organization in 1998 due to "pervasive neglect." Lunsford claimed, "we took care of 45,000 patients a day … size is a factor. The difference is, I'm willing to say, 'Yeah, we've made some mistakes.'" But a study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that investor-owned nursing homes such as Vencor provide "worse care and less nursing care" than not-for-profit or public nursing homes. The peer-reviewed study said investor-owned nursing homes averaged 5.89 deficiencies per home, a rate 46.5 percent higher than at non-profit homes. (Lexington Herald Leader, 4/27/03)

7. Vencor Inc's overall image played a big part in its demise and Lunsford was a major component of this lackluster image. The public relations beating Vencor Inc. took over the eviction of Medicaid recipients in nursing homes in Florida and Indiana left marks on its corporate image. Lunsford's apology was construed as necessary actions and was in response to a spate of unflattering stories carried by the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and local media after Vencor decided to get out of the Medicaid program in some states. He later acknowledged, "we were insensitive," at a Vencor shareholders annual meeting. "It is something we will learn from, and we will not do again." And in a later interview, he said, "There is nothing wrong with saying, 'I made a mistake.'" (Business First-Louisville, 5/4/98)

8. Herald-Leader columnist: "Lunsford's campaign money tainted by Vencor." Columnist Christopher W. Frost wrote that "the real story of Vencor is not its success and ultimate failure." He claimed that the deal to split Vencor and Ventas was "engineered to permit Lunsford and others to toss Vencor into bankruptcy court, wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars in claims, while preserving their ownership interests in the profitable real estate." Frost said the result was that "the shareholders of Vencor lost nearly everything and Lunsford
remained one of the richest men in Kentucky. (Lexington Herald Leader, 4/20/03)

9. Lunsford stood with Mitch McConnell and endorsed Republican Ernie
Fletcher in 2003. After Lunsford dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary where he ran against Ben Chandler, he announced his support for the Republican candidate, Ernie Fletcher. Lunsford made the announcement with Fletcher and Senator Mitch McConnell at a news conference in Frankfort. He said comments that Chandler, the state's attorney general, had made in recent weeks about their primary race helped bring him to his decision. (WAVE3, 10/20/03)

10. Lunsford has given $37,600 to Republican candidates since 1997. Lunsford said he gave only because he had to, and gave to Republicans only because they were in power and he had a duty to represent Vencor's interests. The campaigns he contributed to included Mitch McConnell's and George W. Bush. Lunsford said his company suffered because he did not give more. (Kentucky Registry of Election Finance; Federal Election Commission; Courier-Journal, 5/13/03)

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Thursday, February 28, 2008



-by Jacqrat

Esten & Evelyn Maxwell

One of the reasons behind Blue America's success is the quality of people who built it and make it run. Brilliant and creative-- passionate patriots, all. Jane, Howie, Christy, and the other frontpagers sound the clarion's call that "Gets stuff Done". In truth, however, a good deal of the really hard stuff gets done by anonymous people backstage-- the tireless researchers and others who have a particular talent, and a little time on their hands, and are more than happy to lend them to a cause they also believe passionately in. One of those people around here goes by the pseudonym of Tommy Yum.

Newer readers may not recognize the handle; fact is, he's been kind of busy with other things lately. So, for your edification and entertainment, here is a short primer on Mister Yum; why he and his family are so special, and why it is so important that you take a moment and give what you can to help them out:

In July 2006, Tom Maxwell (late of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Maxwell/Mosher Band) approached Howie Klein with a unique idea for the upcoming 2006 election cycle. He took one of his most popular compositions, “Put a Lid On It,” and rewrote it to create the political call-to-action “Have You Had Enough?” . The song was recorded in August, and producer Andy Paley recorded lead-vocals with Rickie Lee Jones.

Howie Klein and his ad hoc Blue America label released the song in September to support progressive Democratic candidates nationwide. Several dozen versions were customized for specific races. This resource provided a dramatic unifying theme and jingle, and was
used in radio and TV spots
. There was even a "'Have You Had Enough?' WORLD TOUR!" for Ned Lamont's campaign against the odious party-of-one/GOP toady, Joe LIEberman.

It's true, Tommy Yum's contribution to the cause was the impetus that laid the foundation for the "Blue America PAC".

The results gained from Tommy Yum efforts and "Have You Had Enough?" were stunning. Individual online videos received over 200,000 views, 140,000 from YouTube alone. (Special thanks go to mmcintee, who created the first video ad from the tune.) In November, named “Have You Had Enough?” the second most influential video during the 2006 election cycle, behind only Michael J. Fox’s incredible stem cell research endorsements. Since then, you and fellow Blue America members have helped to elect over a dozen "more and better Democrats" to Congress, as evidenced by the latest and greatest member-- Donna Edwards!

It was a very exciting year, filled with many highs and high-five moments... But then, something not so wonderful happened. In October of that year, Tommy's son Esten was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, the little guy has endured multiple hospital visits, a nasty case of chicken pox, chemotherapy treatments and other painful, difficult things that no kid that young should have to go through.

Esten and his sister Evelyn, and their mother, Mel, and Tommy have all done their parts-- staying positive; working through the rough spots; making certain to honor the milestones; and to keep putting one foot in front of the other... so, now it is OUR turn. Time for the Blue America family to step up to the plate; pitch in again to help defray medical costs. We're asking you to donate through the FDL paypal button and please make all donations out to end in .04, since Esten is four years old and we want to keep track of which donations are going to the Maxwells.

The GREAT news is, as of now, Esten is in remission. But that doesn't mean the hospital has stopped sending bills to the Maxwell house.

This weekend in Chapel Hill, there's going to be a big benefit concert to raise money for the ongoing medical expenses that Esten's illness has incurred. We think this is something you'd be interested in enough to want to help out a little.

Tommy explains it better, here:

On Saturday, March 1st, at the legendary Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, there will be an all-day benefit concert for Esten.

Just so you know, he's still in remission and in great spirits. We're still on the "long-term maintenance" medication schedule, and will be for another couple years. The money being raised will go to assuage associated insurance costs: premiums, deductibles and co-pays. We're lucky to have insurance-- and our son is still alive-- but these costs add up, and anything we raise will be deeply appreciated.

In lieu of a door charge, there will be a donation basket. Those who can't attend can write a check to Esten Maxwell and send it to PO Box 595, Pittsboro NC 27312.

I'm especially indebted to Beth Turner, Rachel Hoff and Jet Schmidt for helping to pull this together, as well as dear old Frank Heath, the patron saint of Chapel Hill music, for providing the venue. Jet did the poster [below], which I love.

I hope to see y'all there.

Let's all dig deep and see what we can come up with to help our extended family member out. He was there for us, and now we can be there for him. Ain't it great the way that stuff works?




After the League of Conservation Voters released its rankings a few days ago-- with Inhofe scoring a perfect zero-- Oklahoma State Senator Andrew Rice, who is challenging his re-election bid, released this statement to the press:
"Senator Inhofe's position on global warming may play well to his extremist friends, but it's not helping Oklahoma. It is disappointing that many of the common-sense measures opposed by Oklahoma's senior senator to address man-made global warming would actually benefit the state he was entrusted to represent. For instance, he has opposed efforts to transfer tax breaks from big oil companies to alternative fuels when Oklahoma is in an ideal position, due to abundant natural resources and private investment, to lead America's transition to alternative fuels and energy independence. Fortunately, Sen. Inhofe and his allies are increasingly isolated on this issue. The apparent Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, along with an increasing number of Congressional Republicans and hunters and fisherman, among others, have joined the environmental community to call for immediate action on global warming."

Today the Sierra Club made it's first endorsement for Senate: Andrew Rice. Andrew has also been endorsed by Blue America and... the contribution page is open and eager for $5 and $10 donations for one of the most important races of 2008.

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Catholic League president Bill Donahue is pretty broadly thought of as a right-wing Republican propaganda agent who shills for the GOP the way normal people breathe. But he wasn't shilling for John McCain today. Pointing out that John Hagee is far worse than Louis Farrakhan in terms of bigotry, and that his hateful brand of evangelical psychosis which has gripped some of the backward parts of the South, makes it imperative for McCain to repudiate Hagee's endorsement or face a boycott from Catholic voters in November. Keep in mind that the Hagee-McCain alliance doesn't just come out of thin air. "In an interview with BeliefNet, last year, John McCain came out as a Christian nationalist. This is a disturbing development from a man who has been profoundly critical of the religious right in the past, but has courted movement leaders, and received the endorsement of some while seeking the GOP nomination for president over the past year."

And People for the American Way has pointed out that it isn't only a lunatic like Hagee who McCain is sucking up too. There are loads of lunatics whose butts he has been kissing.
This week McCain campaigned with Rod Parsley, founder and president of “The Center for Moral Clarity” and leader of the right-wing "Patriot Pastors" (a church based campaign that was infamous for referring to political opponents as “secular jihadists,” the “forces of darkness,” and the “hordes of hell.”)

Rod Parsley, whom McCain has called a “spiritual guide,” has in the past:
*        called hate crimes legislation a “deceptive ploy of [the] liberal, homosexual agenda.”

*        advocated criminal prosecution of adulterers.

*        compared Planned Parenthood to the Nazis.

*        declared “I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!” at a “War on Christians” conference.

*        urged voters to “let the Reformation begin! Shout it like you’re going to carry the blood-stained banner of the cross of Christ the length and breadth of the Buckeye State!” at a political rally.
Not one to make a right-wing supporter feel left out, McCain said, “I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support.” Hagee has:
*        predicted God will allow terrorists to strike the United States if the government is insufficiently supportive of Israel.

*        preached that US invasion of Iran is foretold in the book of Esther.

*        claimed that George Washington designed the Great Seal of the United States to include a hidden menorah in the eagle’s tail feathers.

*        accused the Catholic of joining with Hitler in “a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.”

*        argued that “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”
“For a man the media loves to call a maverick, McCain sure spends a lot of time courting the Religious Right,” said People For the American Way Political Director Mary Jean Collins.
“McCain’s embracing Parsley and Hagee is a sign that either he’s changed his mind about what constitutes an ‘agent of intolerance’ or he’s decided that a little extremism in pursuit of power is no vice.”

In case you missed it, yesterday McCain and Hagee were all lovely-dovey on the stage of a hotel in San Antonio where McCain beamed while Hagee called him "a man of principle." The Catholic League's Donahue is pointing out that "Hagee has written extensively in negative ways about the Catholic Church, 'calling it The Great Whore, an apostate church, the anti-Christ, and a false cult system.

Donahue went further: "Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee." Wait a few hours and McCain will try claiming he never met the man and doesn't support his views, just like he did to erstwhile surrogate Bill Cunningham earlier this week. Although that might be difficult in light of this video. Watch it closely; is this what you're looking for in the White House?

Remember, McCain and Hagee are not a one night stand. He's been almost as close to Hagee as he has been with Inside the Beltway lobbyists. Take a look:


Donahue is fuming over McCain's refusal to disavow luntic fringe bigot John Hagee. The most McCain's campaign would say about it was a tepid and tentative distancing: "Hagee endorsed John McCain. While we welcome his support, it shouldn't be seen as a wholesale endorsement of all of Mr. Hagee's views."

Meanwhile Donahue seems to be rethinking his years and years of lockstep support of these Republican bigots. "If Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama were fighting over the support of Louis Farrakhan, we'd say they're nuts," Donohue said. "So what are we to conclude about McCain's embrace of Hagee, and Huckabee's lament for not getting the bigot's endorsement?" Come on Bill; say it!

[UPDATE] McCain slithers closer to the inevitable denunciation of Hagee. Here's what the lobbyists who are driving the Double Talk Express had their candidate say today: "Well I think it's important to note that pastor john Hagee... who has supported and endorsed my candidacy supports what I stand for and believe in. When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes. And I am very proud of the Pastor John Hagee's spiritual leadership to thousands of people and I am proud of his commitment to the independence and the freedom of the state of Israel. That does not mean that I support or endorse or agree with some of the things that Pastor John Hagee might have said or positions that he may have taken on other issues. I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my candidacy. They are supporting my candidacy. I am not endorsing some of their positions."

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This morning John Aravosis over at AmericaBlog pointed out what a pathetic racist and throwback Jon McCain is-- something maybe appropriate for someone in 1930s Panama but definitely not for 21st Century America. Aravosis points to McCain's refusal to apologize to Asian-Americans for using a racial epithet during an earlier campaign in South Carolina.
"I hate the gooks," McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. "I will hate them as long as I live."

I couldn't find a specific entry for "Gook" in Wikipedia. Instead they have a page of ethnic slurs. Here's the one for the term McCain was throwing around:
(U.S. military slang) an Asian person, especially an enemy (e.g. Koreans or Vietnamese during the Korean and Vietnam wars). By extension, any Asian person. Derived from the Korean words “hanguk” and “miguk”. Guk is from the Chinese word "guo," which means country. “Hanguk” refers to Korea and “miguk” is the common word for the United States. American troops thought "miguk" sounded like "me gook" (i.e. "I am a gook"). The word persisted during the Vietnam War, perhaps also because the Vietnamese people have a similar word “quoc,” meaning "country." "Gook" was also used by white soldiers in Africa to designate enemy insurgents.

A thesaurus takes it a little further: "Oriental, oriental person-- a member of an Oriental race; the term is regarded as offensive by Asians (especially by Asian Americans)"
McCain, still stubbornly refusing to apologize or even rethink his racist instincts, claims he-- in his pig-headed way-- that he was just referring to his prison guards and that "I will continue to refer to them in language that might offend some people because of the beating and torture of my friends." Among those who might be offended are the millions of Asian-American voters, and other American voters who think it's long past time  to put racism and bigotry behind us and to stop justifying the use of racist language.
"The use of a racist slur can't be acceptable for any national leader, regardless of his background," said Diane Chin, executive director of the San Francisco-based Chinese for Affirmative Action. "For someone running for president not to recognize the power of words is a problem."

..."Historically, straight talkers who say things off the top of their heads eventually hang themselves with those sorts of remarks," said Bruce Cain, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Acknowledging that McCain suffered at the hands of his Vietnamese captors, who may have been angry that he was dropping bombs of their country when he was shot down and captured, Aravosis makes a good case that that is no excuse for racist outbursts, and especially not from someone who would like to be a national leader of all Americans.
[A] lot of people have personal trauma in their lives doled out to them by bad guys of every stripe, be they white or black or gay or Jewish or female. But we don't give those people the right to use racist and bigoted terms to describe an entire class of human beings, or even the specific people who hurt us. This goes a long way towards showing just how messed up Vietnam left John McCain, and why John McCain seems so willing to use racist attacks to take down Barack Obama. To McCain and the Republicans, Obama is just another "gook."

Oh, and just to be clear, the Somalians who dragged the lifeless bodies of US service members behind their trucks in 1993 after their Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, does McCain think it would be okay to call them "n-ggers" or "sand n-ggers"? (Or didn't those US service members suffer as much as John McCain?) Or how about the Israelis troops who blew up the USS Liberty, killing 34 American service members in 1967, does Senator McCain think it's appropriate to call them "k-kes"? Is attempted presidential assassin Squeaky Fromm a "c-nt"? I'm quite serious. Now, I'll bet John McCain would refuse to even answer the question because he'd say it's absurd, of course he wouldn't condone any of those words (at least that's what he'd say for public consumption). But when the victim of the slur is Asian, and the victim of the crime is John McCain, suddenly it's okay for John McCain to spout racism because John McCain would have you believe that he's the only American, the only soldier, to ever have suffered. He was tortured, you know. And he doesn't plan on ever letting you forget it.

After he's defeated on November, hopefully the whole country can forget John McCain and what he stands for. Most Americans in 2008 do not find even subtle appeals to racism by candidates and their surrogates acceptable or attractive. Or do you think this is attractive:

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Hillary has been outstanding on gay issues, among the very best in Congress. Many of my gay friends are supporting her with genuine enthusiasm. This week Obama has reached out to the gay community for support as well. His outreach goes beyond aggressive advertising in gay media-- a good step in itself. He released an open letter to the GLBT community and he promises, like Hillary, though certainly not like the nasty old man born back in the 30's in Panama when people were hauling water on burros and being gay was considered an aberration to be hidden away. I don't know if HRC has endorsed McCain or plans to, but judging by their atrocious endorsements-- like Lieberman, Susan Collins and Al D'Amato-- one will never be far from wrong in expecting the worst from them. McCain has flip flopped on gay issues depending on how it impacts his own career trajectory. Mostly recently he's decided to go for the homophobic GOP base so he's taken virulently anti-gay stances that he once denounced. McCain defines what it is to be a political hack. Obama, on the other hand, has been straight forward and his reasoning is based firmly in strongly held values and principles.
Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans. In Illinois, I co-sponsored a fully inclusive bill that prohibited discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, extending protection to the workplace, housing, and places of public accommodation. In the U.S. Senate, I have co-sponsored bills that would equalize tax treatment for same-sex couples and provide benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. And as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)-- a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.

...Just as important, I have been listening to what all Americans have to say. I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.

Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.

Some gay people still harbor some resentments towards Obama because of the appearances he did with loony preacher/singer Donnie McClurkin last year. I accepted his public disavowal of McClurkin's homophobic position as sincere: "[H]e espouses beliefs about homosexuality that I completely reject." Coupled with his own record-- and compared to what McCain has in store for gay people-- I would say Obama is a really good deal for the GLBT community.

The ad:

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Two more years?

Has anyone seen a big "Congressional Seat For Sale" sign up in Elgin or Aurora? Maybe in the subdivisions of Kendall County or the corn fields of Lee or Henry Counties? Two self-funding multi-millionaires, Republican ice cream king Jim Oberweis and Blue Dog businessman Bill Foster, are spending unimaginable amounts of their own fortunes to grab the northern Illinois seat once held by the disgraced Denny Hastert. Of course, thinking of how wealthy his tenure in Congress has made Hastert-- a former high school wrestling coach who, like Oberweis and Foster, is now rolling in the big bucks-- it becomes far more imaginable (particularly for Oberweis who wants to use it as a stepping stone for his real ambition: the governor's mansion).

Dan Campana in today's Beacon News points out that so far the two of them have spent $3.5 million for the Special Election (that will give them the seat for the remainder of Hastert's term, 9 months). Neither has a clue about grassroots politics and both are spending heavily on expensive and very un-cost efficient broadcast media. In a race like this-- in a very Republican district-- where the GOP millionaire has more money than the Blue Dog millionaire and where Foster has to strain credibility to make a case he's actually different in any significant way from Oberweis-- the Republican wins.

Despite all that spending, despite the polls of theoretical voters, and despite the GOP's crashing standing among the American people, it isn't likely that the Blue Dog will get above the 40% in the Special Election that John Laesch managed against Speaker Hastert in 2006. One of my friends in IL-14 thinks the margin will be much worse. Turnout will be the key. An analysis from another Illinois friend:
The high turnout on the Republican side on Feb. 5, 2008 was due to the Congressional race, not the presidential race. Jim Oberweis earned 44,000 votes. These people turned out for Oberweis and one could argue that Lauzen’s voters turned out for Lauzen. It could be argued that the Hastert/Oberweis machine will be able to GOTV for Oberweis on March 8th much more effectively than any Democrat could.
Here are growing GOP totals within the district:
2004 – 54,000 (no contested races)
2006 – 69,000 (contested gubernatorial race)
2008 – 77,000 (contested congressional race in a presidential year)
Conversely, high turnout on the Democratic side was due to Barack Obama. While most of the 32,000 Laesch voters turned out for Laesch, many of the 32,000 Foster voters turned out for Obama and recognized Foster’s name from the endless TV commercials. I would safely bet that only a small fraction actually knew who he was. 
In a game of GOTV, Foster may be able to pair off with Oberweis in Kane County (where Lauzen voters may not vote), but I don’t see him coming close anywhere else. Foster would have to creatively outspend Oberweis 3:1 to turn out more than 44,000 voters. I see no creativity in Foster’s campaign and his best asset is that Bill Pasco (Oberweis) is even lazier and running this like a city council race.

Where does this leave progressives? In the last week, without discussing Foster specifically, we talked about the dangers to the progressive movement of the Democratic Party being taken over by Blue Dogs and corrupt Democrats beholden to careerists like Rahm Emanuel (here and here). These kinds of Democrats are not even the lesser of two evils; they may even be the greater evil. Supporting-- with resources and energy desperately needed by progressive Democrats around the country-- a Blue Dog Emanuelist like Foster is unthinkable for me. If I lived in IL-14 it would be much tougher. Would I vote for this guy or watch him fail so that a real progressive like Laesch or State Senator Mike Noland steps up in 2010 when Oberweis tries to run for governor again?

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A few days ago the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters ranked every member of Congress. There were seven members of the Senate that scored zeroes. Six are garden variety right-wing psychopaths who are expected to score zeroes on anything that is life affirming and rational: Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Kit Bond (R-MO), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), David "Diapers" Vitter (R-LA), and Pat Roberts (R-KS). The seventh zero went to a senator who tries very hard to pass himself off as moderate and independent. He doesn't actually do anything moderate of independent-- except for show and tell at wide intervals-- but the media never seems to notice and they just persist in labeling him moderate and independent. That would be John McCain, anti-environmental extremist... just like Jim Inhofe.

Yesterday another nonpartisan organization, the Children's Defense Fund, released it's annual look at our congressmen and women and ranked them. McCain didn't get a zero-- but no senator had a zero; McCain managed to get the worst score in the U.S. Senate, even worse this time than psychopathic extremist Jim Inhofe. McCain rated a 10%, the only senator from either party with a score that low! Even far right fanatics Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Diapers (R-LA) each scored 20%. But if you've been listening to McCain ranting and raving recently, you already know he isn't thinking about anything to do with the future; he seems obsessed with gloom and death and misery.

In the House, on the other hand, McCain had some peers, radical right congressmen who ranked as miserably as he did (9 even did worse). The House's worst children haters-- almost all of whom, of course, are looking for re-election in November-- are Denny Hastert (retired), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Barbara Cubin (retiring), Tom Tancredo (retiring), Charlie Norwood (R-GA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Howard Coble (R-NC), Paul Broun (R-GA), Todd Akin (R-MO), Gresham Barrett (R-SC), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Sam Johnson (R-TX), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Mike Pence (R-IN), Tom Price (R-GA), Ed Royce (R-CA), Bill Sali (R-ID), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Lynn Westmoreland (R-NC), Randy Neugeauer (R-TX), Gary Miller (R-CA), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Connie Mack (R-FL), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Kenny Marchant (R-TX), James Jordan (R-OH), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Dan Burton (R-IN), Dave Weldon (retiring), John Campbell (R-CA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), John Doolittle (going to prison), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and John Culberson (R-TX).

The rankings were based on 10 votes that strongly impacted American children:
1. Increase minimum wage (H.R. 2)
2. Increase funding for children with disabilities (S. Con. Res. 21)
3. Protect children from unsafe medications (S. 1082)
4. 2008 Budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 21)
5. SCHIP Reauthorization (H.R. 976)
6. College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R. 2669)
7. SCHIP (H.R. 976 - motion to concur)
8. DREAM Act (S. 2205)
9. Funding child health and education (H.R. 3043)
10. Improving Head Start programs (H.R. 1429)


And it isn't only nonpartisan issue-oriented organizations warning us about the inapropriateness of a McCain presidency. George Will, the arch-conservative columnist, in today's Washington Post:

Although his campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers -- still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.

Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008



When I woke up this morning Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was droning on in front of some semi-somnolent congressional committee about The Economy, carefully tiptoeing thru the tulips mine field of a shaky stock market. Tomorrow's NY Times emphasizes what he was trying to say without saying it: "Who cares about inflation, anyway."

From what I gathered from his nearly indecipherable and overly tepid blathering is that we have the worst of all possible worlds coming on: slowing (i.e.- no or even negative) growth coupled with rising (i.e.- out of control) inflation. That's stagflation and it's bad news. Is it Bush's and the rubber stamp Republicans' fault? Do you really have to ask?

At the behest of their big corporate contributors, the entire GOP and all the Blue Dog Democrats and their allies have allowed the regulatory reforms of the financial industries enacted since the 1930s to wither and die, not as fast as the far right would have liked, but fast enough to bring on a strong dose of the economic catastrophe headed our way. This has been great for quick turn-over profits, and disastrous for our nation's long term prospects-- and for everyone's pocketbook who isn't in the top one-half of one percent of income earners. "Don't bother us with rules," they demanded (as they handed out the fat bribes); let the free market soar." What goes up...
The Fed chairman acknowledged that the central bank faced increasingly contradictory pressures of slowing growth and rising consumer prices. But his bottom line was that, for now, the top priority would be fighting a recession rather than fighting inflation.

Mr. Bernanke’s view of the state of the economy, part of his semiannual appearance before Congress, came as the dollar sank to a historic low against other major currencies, introducing a possible third dimension to the economic problems the Fed chairman must tackle all at once.

Having already cut short-term interest rates by almost half since September, Mr. Bernanke painted a grim picture of consumers reluctant to spend, businesses reluctant to invest and banks reluctant to lend. On top of it all, housing prices keep falling.

“The economic situation has become distinctly less favorable” since last summer, he told the House Financial Services Committee. In words that investors immediately recognized as a hint of lower rates, he vowed to “act in a timely manner” and “provide adequate insurance against downside risks.”

The Fed’s decision to err on the side of faster growth poses risks. Ever since the wrenching experience with stagflation in the late 1970s, the rule of thumb in monetary policy has been that revving up a slow economy is far easier than slowing inflation once it becomes entrenched.

Several friends of mine-- each gainfully employed in campaign work-- have been urging me to support Blue Dogs against Republicans-- the lesser of two evils. Tuesday I explained why a Blue Dog is not the lesser of two evils and in some ways is the greater of two evils.

When Steny Hoyer was willing to anything to get the House Leader's post he called me and told me how he wasn't such a bad guy and how he supports civil rights and something else; Choice I think. That's good. As Leader he has presided over a decline in respect for Congress that makes that institution less admired by Americans than even George Bush, the most hated man in the entire world. He has also guaranteed that Bush would be able to continue, relatively unmolested, with his Iraq agenda. And Hoyer isn't even a full fledged Blue Dog, just a fellow traveler.

My friends, as my friend John McCain might say, if you care about building a progressive coalition on a foundation of values and principles, do not consider supporting, or even voting for reactionary Democrats. They are our enemies, on balance, as much as Republicans. I would rather invest in authentic high quality Democrats like Donna Edwards, Jim Himes, Darcy Burner, Howard Shanker, Vic Wulsin and Alan Grayson, than help election two dozen Democrats who will wind up voting with the Republicans to destroy the environment, enrich their campaign contributors to the detriment of the rest of us, and refuse to the courage to stand up to petty tyrants like Bush and Cheney and their henchmen and cronies.

Today Bernanke made it as clear as he's capable of that he and the Fed are "more worried about a sharp slowdown and rising unemployment than they are concerned about inflation. (And then there's the rising unemployment numbers, another effect of the MBA-President's economic policies.) His muddled reasoning-- "that slower economic growth will reduce inflationary pressure in the months ahead, because debt-laden consumers will be far more wary of spending money and businesses will be more cautious about investing in plant and equipment"-- leads no where but straight down the toilet.

'Til then... something about writing this piece made me think of this song. So I made a clip for ya:

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Quote of the day: You have to give those Bush regimists credit for one thing--comedic delivery that's guaranteed to make you laugh till you cry


They're a laff riot, those GOP jokesters.

So it seems that Rep. Henry Waxman, in his capacity as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, while attempting to, you know, do a spot of overseeing, received word from the Republican National Committee that by gosh they've tried quite hard enough already to resurrect those kajillions of "missing" White House e-mails.

Of course, by law the White House is required to preserve all of its e-mails. But those cagey dastards in the White House--notably the one whose initials are "Karl Rove"--found a way around the law: by doing government business on non-White House e-mail systems like that of the RNC. Okay, it's flagrantly illegal, but since when has that carried any weight in the Bush White House? It does, however, put these particular WH lawbreakers in a Catch-22-like bind: Either the RNC e-mail system isn't subject to WH records-preservation requirements, in which case it's plainly illegal to discuss government business on them, or the RNC system is every bit as subject to legal preservation requirements, and is just as available for discovery, as the legitimate WH system.

It appears, however, that Karl Rove used the legit e-mail network only for matters like this:
from: KARL ROVE (White House)

to: MONICA GOODLING (Dept. of Justice)

date: 3/5/07

subject: Dairy Products

In future when DoJ hosts meetings that include important people from other areas of the Executive Branch such as the White House, please make sure that not only whole and skim milk are available for use in coffee but also 1-percent and 2-percent milk. Sometimes a person just has to worry about preserving his girlish figure.

Sincerely yours,
"Kitty" Karl

P.S.: By the way, Monica, some people also like half 'n' half.

Left unsaid, of course, is that the sole purpose of such meetings during the Bush regime has been the dismantling of the U.S. Constitution and the onging perversion of DoJ into the law-bending hit squad of the America-hating and -raping GOP crime machine. After all, why would that need to be said? What other function has DoJ performed during the hell-on-wheels that has been the Bush regime?

But I digress. I wanted to get to the gut-busting official RNC position on the matter, as reported by Dan Eggen in today's Washington Post:

Spokesman Danny Diaz said in a statement that the RNC "is fully compliant with the spirit and letter of the law." He declined further comment.

Whoa! I laughed so hard, I thought my insides would burst! You have to admire the sheer balls of our Danny, whose workplace nickname must surely be "Shecky." I mean, tribute paid to "the spirit and letter of the law" by a regime that constitutionally spits on the letter of the law and defecates on the spirit?

Isn't it bad enough what these people have done to the concept of respect for the law? Now they reduce the very idea of obeying the law to a mere joke punchline?

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Moderate Democrat Tony Sasso with moderate Republican Charlie Crist

Last night progressives in New York celebrated a tremendous victory when Democrat Darrel Aubertine took an open state senate seat in one of the most conservative Republican districts left in northern New York. After 7 disastrous years of George Bush and a rubber stamp Congress, Republicans are on the run-- and not just in New York. Remember convicted Republican toilet trawler Rep. Bob Allen (R-FL)? Right after Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig was arrested for soliciting sex from a young male policeman in a Minneapolis Airport men's room, Rep. Allen, who had written legislation against such activity, tried the same stunt. He was also arrested-- denied everything, of course-- and was then convicted and forced to resign from his House seat. Yesterday Republicans were confident their cookie-cutter candidate would hold the seat in the overwhelmingly red district. He didn't. At the same time upstate New Yorkers were voting in a Democrat in a district that hadn't elected one in over 40 years, Floridians were also expressing their contempt for what the GOP has come to symbolize. A flood of typically Republican negative campaign ads and all the regular smears-- over $250,000 worth-- failed to do any more for Campbell than it had done for Barclay in New York.
Tony Sasso and Florida Democrats scored an upset Tuesday, winning the special election for Bob Allen's Florida House seat in a heavily Republican district.

The former Cocoa Beach commissioner edged Republican Sean Campbell of Merritt Island, who spent more money and received significant financial backing from his party.

Sasso led by 412 votes with all but a dozen provisional ballots left to be counted, local elections officials said. He won with 48 percent of the vote to Campbell's 46 percent.

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Carol Shea-Porter: A patriot pushes back against lawless thugs

As I mentioned the other day, a Republican front organization, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (aided and abetted by renegade Bush "Democrats" Zell Miller, Jim Marshall and Joe Lieberman) is on the attack against freshmen Democrats, trying to use the old GOP scare and smear routine around, of all things, Democrats' attempts to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law regarding Bush's attempts to get retroactive immunity for himself and his corporate allies. We mentioned previously that a well-funded campaign of TV spots had been launched against Democrats Chris Murphy (D-CT), Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Ron Klein (D-FL). Today we hear that a Blue America incumbent, Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), has also been targeted.

Last week the Democratic Leadership in the House exposed the Republican Party's baseless fearmongering on this issue and showed how, once again, the right is willing, even eager, to use the nation's security as a tool for their divisive partisan political maneuvers. While Democrats are working on putting together a sensible bipartisan plan to modernize the FISA legislation, GOP hacks are running around spreading their misinformation and hatred. Their fiction and the facts:
Fiction: “By not giving the professionals the tools they need, it’s going to be a lot harder to do the job we need to be able to defend America.”
- President George W. Bush, 2/15/08

Fact: All sides agree that the intelligence community should have the tools it needs to protect America. Indeed, right now, intelligence professionals have what they need to conduct surveillance of terrorists. Expansive authorizations to conduct surveillance of all known terrorist organizations and targets are already in place. All surveillance being conducted today can continue for at least another six months, and new targets can be added under existing authorizations. In the unlikely event that new warrants for new surveillance against previously unknown terrorist organizations are needed, they can be obtained quickly from the FISA court. In an emergency, surveillance can begin immediately and permission can be obtained from the FISA court later.

Fiction: “There is no longer a way to compel the private sector to help us.”
- Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, 2/14/08

Fact: First, telecommunications companies surely want to continue to help protect our nation. In addition, under current law, telecommunications companies can be compelled by the Administration to help with surveillance. Lastly, these companies have had, and continue to have, immunity from prosecution when legally providing information to the government.

Fiction: “When this Protect America Act expires, we are going to go back under the same set of rules and regulations that were in place before 9/11.”
- Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Ranking Member, House Intelligence Committee, 2/15/08

Fact: Even with the expiration of the PAA-- which Democrats offered to extend and Republicans refused-- surveillance that began under its guidelines will continue for at least another six months. Democrats agree that FISA needs modernization, and we have invited Republicans to work with us in a constructive manner to quickly achieve that goal.

Fiction: “We can’t go up on new targets. Let’s say, for example, you’ve got a terrorist in Baghdad communicating with a terrorist in London. You can’t go up on a new target without going through the extensive warrant provisions at FISA that have made this law not work in the first place.”
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 2/17/08

Fact: In fact, in the slim chance that intelligence officials become aware of a currently unknown terrorist organization not already under surveillance, they can get an emergency approval to begin surveillance within minutes. There is no backlog of cases to slow down getting surveillance approvals from the FISA court, like there was last summer. In the case of an emergency, surveillance can begin immediately, and approval from the FISA court can be obtained later, within 72 hours.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been responding to letters from constituents who have been confused by the GOP attacks and she posted a similar explanation on her website. Calls to her congressional office have been running around 50/50, especially interesting because the attack ads were designed and targeted to stoke people who are predisposed to oppose her position. A large majority of New Hampshire residents, however, do understand what the GOP is up to and seem ready to support her position against retroactive immunity.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter explains that Bush's plan is to grant retroactive immunity to his cronies who have broken the law by giving "Americans’ private information to spy agencies without a court order. If the companies are granted immunity, the congressional intelligence committees and the FISA court will never learn what happened and will never know who asked the companies to break the law. This would be like a defendant saying to a judge, 'I can’t tell you what I’ve done, but let me off the hook anyway.'”
Many members of Congress, including myself, believe that the FISA process should be updated. It is critical that we continue to provide our intelligence agencies the tools they need to intercept communications between suspected terrorists. But the President is wrong to combine legislation intended to address these security issues with unrelated and perhaps unconstitutional provisions. Furthermore, it is clearly wrong to take oversight authority from the courts and to give it to the President. And we should not provide “retroactive immunity” to telecommunications companies that may have engaged in illegal activity.

Yesterday in the Washington Independent Spencer Ackerman exposed what the GOP front group is up to and says they are running their poisonous ads in 15 districts where they think they can damage Democratic freshmen. "On Friday, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies had four prominent Democrats on its board of advisers: Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York; former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile; and Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia. By Tuesday afternoon all had resigned." Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, of course, are still on board.

If this issue is meaningful to you, today might be a good day to visit Congresswoman Shea-Porter's Blue America page and show her a token of your appreciation for standing up to Bush and his bullies.

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Many of the most extreme right wing fanatics who set the tone of the GOP conversation, blame the fact that Republican finances are in disarray on what they call Bush's and McCain's "shamnesty" legislation. The GOP has a real problem with immigration that cleaves their party in two. On the one hand, the Greed and Selfishness wing wants cheap labor and clout over unions. On the other hand, the party's Hatred and Bigotry base have been swimming in the pool of racism and xenophobia for so long that they would rather be Know Nothings than Republicans. Neither camp is giving much to the GOP this year.

Meanwhile, House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner isn't relishing predictions that his ability to obstruct progressive legislation could be seriously impaired by a loss of several dozen seats in November. Boehner, who rose to power in the caucus by little tactics like handing out checks to Republican legislators on the floor of the House on behalf of Big Tobacco lobbyists, isn't blaming the Greed and Selfishness wing nor the Hatred and Bigotry wing. He's blaming Republican congressmen's "dead asses."
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) challenged Republicans on Tuesday to get off their “dead asses” and start raising money for the National Republican Congressional Committee... [at] a closed-door session at the Capitol Hill Club.

... According to numbers read during the Tuesday morning meeting, only 15 Republicans have met their pledged fundraising goal for the dinner. Among them are Texas Reps. Mike Conaway and Pete Sessions and South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, a source familiar with the fundraising totals said. Another 42 have set a pledged target but failed to contribute the bulk of that money. And an astonishing 142 members-- almost three-fourths of the Republicans in the House-- have failed even to set a fundraising target.

...The NRCC was starting to turn things around at the end of 2007, closing the year with more cash than debt for the first time since the crippling 2006 election. But 2008 began with a fresh crop of retirements and revelations that a former NRCC bookkeeper allegedly forged an internal audit sent to the committee’s principal lender.

Then last Friday, federal prosecutors indicted Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi on 35 criminal counts that include conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and official extortion stemming from a land swap with a former business partner. Shortly afterward, Boehner called on the Arizona Republican, who had already announced his plans not to seek reelection, to “seriously consider” stepping down early. But Renzi has since issued a statement that he has no plans to resign, putting increased pressure on GOP leaders to force his ouster.

Meanwhile today's Hill is reporting that defeated Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchest (R-MD) is blaming his defeat at the hands of an extreme right wing loon on the fringe of polite society, Andy Harris, on the NRCC. Gilchest's campaign manager, a top dog GOP insider, Tony Caligiuri, claims the NRCC kept crucial polling data they had out of the hands of the campaign. He suggests that Tom Cole is running the NRCC in a way that is detrimental to mainstream incumbents. Cole says he "can’t afford to save members from primaries and won’t get financially involved in them," a very different stance from the DCCC, which tried (unsuccessfully) to bolster the sagging fortunes of Al Wynn, defeated by a much larger margin than Gilchrest on the same day in the same state.

Gilchrest has been telling people he might endorse the Democrat against the extremist who defeated him. He says he's unlikely to get involved with GOP politics again. "Caligiuri left open the possibility that Gilchrest might endorse Kratovil in the general election after a nasty primary battle with Harris. Harris defeated Gilchrest 43-33, bringing an end to the centrist incumbent’s 18-year House career. Gilchrest has regularly won two-thirds of the general election vote, making his endorsement potentially key to an uphill battle for Kratovil."

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There are several progressive Democrats running for the Senate and House who Blue America are looking into right now to see if any of them are the "right fit" for our endorsement. Several are in Virginia and one that we've been particularly excited about is the man running against corrupt reactionary Republican incumbent Virgil Goode, Jr. (who, oddly, has still not been indicted in the Wilkes bribery and corruption scandal, since he was certainly at the heart of it). But, as you know, we are looking for more than just a live, breathing Democrat to run against a corrupt and reactionary Republican when we hand out our endorsements. A couple of days ago I had another long and inspiring phone conversation with Tom Perriello. When we were finished talking I asked him if he'd do a post for DWT that laid out what he means when he talks, compellingly, about "conviction politics." I also asked him to clarify his position on choice since there seems to be some confusion about it in the netroots, though none whatsoever when he and I have been discussing it on the phone. Here's what he came up with:

When we stand on our principles, Democrats turn red districts blue. More importantly, we win with a real mandate to make people's lives better. I call this conviction politics, and I see it at the core of the victories by Tim Kaine and Jim Webb in my home state of Virginia. They shed the outdated and artificial political labels of right and left, which inevitably push our public debate toward a "triangulated" center. The press always struggled to label the Dems who won key races in 2005-2007, sometimes wrongly defaulting to the term moderates (which they most certainly were not). They were (and most still are) the kind of leaders that make voters say, "I may not agree with her/him on everything, but I sure know where s/he stands." And they made me believe I could run the kind of campaign that is worth running-- and win.

As I travel around my district in central and Southside Virginia, I find people are hungry for a new generation of politics that focuses on promoting the common good. Issues like torture and wiretapping, corporate accountability and living wages, and universal health care should not be policies of right or left, but questions of right or wrong. These are questions of whether we fundamentally believe we are in this together and should have our neighbor's back.

I am running against Virgil Goode, whose inflammatory remarks about Muslims and immigrants occasionally make the Daily Show highlights. And I am going to win by offering a real progressive alternative and calling out in no uncertain terms why Goode and Bush make America less safe, make our jobs less secure, and simply don't get the world we live in. This is not just about getting universal health care. It is about restoring a culture that is built on the principle that I am better off when my neighbor has health insurance.

We would not be having this debate or witnessing this tidal change if it were not for the netroots. My previous work involved taking people-powered politics to a global level by helping to launch, an online advocacy community with 2 million members from around the world that operates in 13 languages. I have also seen the power of online members to support my work inside Darfur with rebel groups that no foundation would dare to fund. I was part of that helped to bring together moderate and progressive people of faith around issues of economic fairness, health care, and environmental stewardship. This community has transformed the rules of our politics and expanded our sense of what is possible.

Confusion ...[about] my position on abortion may stem either from my public association with Catholicism as co-founder of the progressive Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good or from being badly misquoted in a New York Times article following the 2004 election. I firmly believe that abortion should not be criminalized, nor can we allow any action that seeks to coerce women by reducing access to care or making the process less safe.

I also believe that progressives need to move from defense to offense on this issue. Like NARAL and most Americans, I believe we can and must do something to reduce the 1.2 million abortions performed in this country each year. That is why I have been part of the coalition that worked with Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Tim Ryan on designing legislation known as the Reducing the Need for Abortions and Supporting Parents Act (H.R. 1074). The legislation targets the root causes most often cited for making the painful choice to abort a pregnancy. It includes prevention provisions (e.g. access to contraception and family planning, funding for programs to prevent teen pregnancy) and support provisions (e.g. increase of pre- and post-natal and pediatric health care, child care assistance, domestic violence prevention programs, Job Corps Child Centers).

In a different context, this abortion reduction package might be seen as a laundry list of "liberal Democratic priorities," but framing the issue in this manner helped get much of this bill enacted into law as part of the recent Appropriations omnibus. It has also given Democrats a powerful tool to blunt attacks by Republicans, call them on their "culture of life" hypocrisy, and re-engage some faith voters. I have worked on and marched for women's rights in a number of countries, and I have always been inspired to see the ways in which gender issues are a gateway through which to understand the deepest injustices in our society. Shifting the debate from the far right's terms to ones of empowering women through better economic and health policies is just one part of reclaiming the debate about justice in our society.

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In Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton has a pollster/top strategist who is getting rich off campaign contributions as he steadily sinks his employer's hopes and dreams. The pollster DWT consults, Dave Beasing, is far more successful. He has to be; he works for real companies in the real world that expect results; not for Inside the Beltway Democrats (who never expect results). This morning Dave analyses a masterful political e-mail he, like so many of us, got from the Obama camp.
Whether or not you're personally swept up in Obama Fever, read the following email.  Purely as a piece of marketing, it's brilliant. 
1.    Obama's campaign strategists begin with an excellent awareness of public sentiment toward politics-- specifically that most tactics are tired, demeaning, and underestimate everyone's intelligence.
2.    They then use that awareness to say they're different from the rest of politics-- and to label anything the opposition does as not understanding those shared values.
3.    They quickly parry all attacks by labeling them as personal insults-- not just of their candidate but of the supporters themselves. 
Now re-read the 3 points above-- substituting your own industry for the word "politics"-- and learn from Obama. Would he make a great President? That's a different subject. He's a great marketer. 

-Dave Beasing

This morning, the New York Times reported that Senator Clinton is launching what even her aides admit is a "kitchen sink" bombardment of negative attacks against Barack.

This is the same stale, Washington playbook that has driven so many Americans away from the political process.

Yesterday, in a speech on foreign policy, Senator Clinton misrepresented Barack's positions and compared him to George W. Bush.

She questioned his "wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security," despite her support for Bush's war in Iraq-- a war that Barack showed the judgment to oppose before it ever began.

These negative tactics are exactly what voters have been rejecting this election season.

While others focus on trying to tear us down, we will continue to highlight what is most inspiring and most important about this campaign-- you.

And while others may try to score cheap political points, millions of ordinary Americans are talking to their neighbors, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and turning out to primaries and caucuses in record numbers to support this movement for change.

Barack has organized and inspired what yesterday's Time magazine called a "new breed of grassroots campaign-- viral, internet-based, built from the ground up."

Today, we are within reach of a goal that is unprecedented at this point in a presidential primary-- one million people giving to this campaign.

Thank you for being a part of this historic moment.

This campaign has always been about bringing new people into the political process. Please help us reach this goal and show your support for a new kind of politics and a new kind of leadership.

Make an additional donation today as part of our matching program, and encourage a fellow supporter to give for the first time:

Thank you for your support,

David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Every nasty, negative attack Hillary's clown patrol advisors persuade her to make on Obama drives down her approval ratings. This has happened in state after state. But they don't learn. They never learn. The advise she gets is abysmal. And she doesn't fire them. What kind of administration would she put together and run? One filled with nincompoops like Penn and Wolfson and McAuliffe?

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