Monday, March 05, 2007


Someone is gonna be red in the face...

“The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

How are you going to argue with an Indian Chief named Chad Smith? Besides, what better weekend to exercise this right than the first weekend in March?
When marchers gathered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, to demand voting rights, the nation was forced to acknowledge the depth and breadth of racial discrimination and bigotry that existed in the United States.

Sounds like a success story to me. I mean, an historically disenfranchised nation that has suffered discrimination and hardship on a truly epic scale should be proud they have overcome the odds. Free at last, free at last, free to embrace their heritage by exercising their rights to determine their destiny.

Before you start doing a victory dance, you might want some background information about the Constitutional Amendment they are voting on....

The Cherokee voted on a Constitutional Amendment to restrict membership in the Cherokee Nation only to those listed as "Indians" on the Dawes Roll. That means a lot of folks who thought they were Cherokee are going to get pink slips at the next pow wow.

Don't feel bad if the Dawes Roll doesn't ring any bells. You probably slept through this part of American History. Actually, they probably skipped this part of it.

The Dawes Roll is: "an index to over 14,000 records of individuals in the Five Civilized Tribes that applied for citizenship under the Act of 1896. The Five Civilized Tribes include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chicasaw, Creek and the Seminole... This compilation, in effect an Indian census, was also used as the basis for the allotment of tribal lands to individual Indians."

So far so good right? I mean if your great-grandpappy was an Injun according to the official census than dadgummit you deserve the right to reclaim your heritage.... sure as shootin'...

For those of you speed reading through this ... let me redirect your attention to a term of art, that Five Civilized Tribes reference. Seems a little odd to use that term when you are referring to tribes that got their butts kicked across the Appalachian Mountains and put on a forced march to Oklahoma under military "escort" in the dead of winter. Is that any way to treat "civilized" people?

Turns out these tribes, in spite of their abuse at the hands of White settlers intent on stealing their land and gold actually embraced several of the institutions and cultural norms of the settlers. For example, many of them were baptized as Christians. Another institution and value they adopted is particularly relevant for this recent vote. It turns out the "Civilized Tribes" also subscribed to the "peculiar institution" of slavery.

A lot of the folks who trudged West were slaves. Although thousands of Indians died on the Trail of Tears, there is no record of how many of their slaves died along the way. At the time it would not have made sense to record the loss of property... it wasn't like anyone was going to be filing insurance claims when they got to Oklahoma. Of course some of the slaves survived. After the Civil War they became "freedmen."

As we all know, the end of slavery didn't mean the end of segregation. It sure as heck didn't mean the former slaves and their offspring could hop a train back East and resettle in the lush land of Georgia, Tennessee or Florida. Never mind that under the Treaty of 1866 the "Civilized Tribes" were given the option of adopting their former slaves as citizens of the Nation. If they did not, The United States agreed to remove the blacks from Indian Country. Some tribes failed to adopt the freedmen, which prompted the United States ... to ignore that part of the treaty agreement. Gee... what a surprise.

This brings us back to the Dawes Commission formed in 1893... out of Washington. You really have to be naive if you think these folks came out West to do the Indians any favors. After all, these tribes sided with the Confederacy! Nope, the Dawes Commission was basically a ploy aimed at destroying the tribes by offering them plots of land as individuals. There was a lot of strife around who was and who was not defined as an Indian. Take the Chickasaw for example. In 1898, according to the Dawes Roll, there were about 4200 Chickasaw... and 4500 Chickasaw Freedmen! Suffice to say, there was a reason the Chickasaw didn't adopt their former slaves into the tribe. That would be like asking Israelis to adopt Palestinians and give them citizenship. Ain't gonna happen.

As long as folks are deciding who to dole out 40 acres to that kind of distinction makes sense. The Freedmen did fight for their rights, seeking redress through the legal system. But ... well suffice to say there's a reason you didn't study this in American History... ain't a whole lot of history to tell. In 1898 Congress passed the Curtis Act which abolished the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole legal systems putting everything under the direct control of the United States. Basically, everyone Indian and Freedman alike, got screwed.

Time passes... actually a LOT of time passes... little over a hundred years worth of time....

Folks stuck on the reservation don't have a whole hell of a lot of options. The Indians and the Freedmen shared a common culture, a common language, and for better or worse, a common heritage. So you get a fair amount of intermarriage, blood lines comingle... children are born...they have kids of their own ... and after a century or so it gets kind of hard to decide in some cases who exactly is a Cherokee, or a Cherokee Freedman, or both. Full-blooded Cherokee are pretty rare. But a lot of folks have Cherokee ancestors. Even more have Cherokee Freedmen ancestors. And this brings us right up to the present.

Just like the 1890s, the distinction has to do with land rights and financial benefits. To be fair, the Cherokee are not the first tribe to cast out the freedmen's descendents. The Seminole did this back in 2000, but with the Presidential elections on everyone's mind I guess no one noticed. Besides, the Federal Government weighed in and revoked Seminole funding as a result of the vote so the Seminole rethought things. Whether that happens with the Cherokee or not is an open question.

I'm not bringing this up to abuse the Cherokee. I mean it is ironic and all, but this whole surreal pas de deux has broader implications for a discussion that has been going on a long time in this country.

When you listen to lunatics like Tancredo and his Confederate Flag waving followers, you might think that the only issue about assimilation is whether you are a legal or illegal alien. I don't mean to put Lou Dobbs in the same category, but where he goes off the rails is that he makes a similar sort of mistake. Like Tancredo, Dobbs casts the assimilation question as a matter of choice. If you chose to immigrate than you should choose to assimilate...or go back to where you came from. I think most voluntary immigrants would agree with them. Certainly the second generation of these voluntary immigrants would agree. That's the generation that changes its name and pretends it doesn't speak the language of their parent's generation.

But what do you say to people who found themselves forcibly removed, displaced, or surrounded? Some guy in Washington draws a few lines on a map and voila, you're a stranger in a strange land. Never mind if your grandparent's grandparents are buried right over the hill... your status is not something you get to vote on. It's assigned to you by some White guy in Washington.

When all is said and done, I'm glad the Cherokee have been able to re-establish themselves as an independent nation. I'm glad they have chosen to adopt some of the useful practices of the surrounding culture. I just hope they shake off the contagion of discrimination that has hobbled America for so long, otherwise I think Chad and his cronies are going to be awfully red in the face.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


War Is Sell

Ima Notherhoare slipped into her Manolo Blahniks, looked in the mirror and smiled. Admiring herself in the mirror was the closest she got to self-reflection. Self-reflection was an occupational hazard in her line of work. That way led madness...

Heading out the door, she scooped up the newspaper and glanced at the headlines. "Fear Grips Baghdad as Death Squads Run Amok," read one. "Court Drops Kurdish Charges Against Saddam," read another. She rolled her eyes and wondered, "When are they going to start printing the good news from Iraq?" The truth was Ima Notherhoare found facts boring. The policy wonks who lived on them bored her even more. She preferred the company of men who created their own reality. Besides, who cared about the past? Winners focused on the future.

She dropped the paper in her Hermès Birkin. She loved that bag. Men could flash their Pateks and Rolexes, but this was a status symbol -- compliments of Scooter Libby himself. He had given it to her on the first anniversary of the invasion, as a token of his appreciation for everything she had done for him that year. It was beautiful. It was also a $14,000 inside joke. It was a perfect example of his sarcastic and dark sense of humor. After all, this was the bag Martha Stewart made famous... and look what happened to her.

Stepping to the curb, Ima flagged down a cab and slid inside. The cabbie looked at her and knew he had seen her somewhere before. As she closed the door, he asked, "How are you doing today ma'am?" Ima didn't waste time with pleasantries. "607 14th Street, Northwest," she said. "The Federal Relations Labor Authority?" He asked. He enjoyed showing off his encyclopedic knowledge of Washington. "No. Hill & Knowlton," she replied icily.

Realizing he had gotten off on the wrong foot, the cabbie tried flattery. He tried one of his sure fire lines. "Didn't I see you on TV last night?" He always asked that question because even if he was wrong, folks liked to think they were being confused for someone famous. "It's possible," she said, actually smiling. She realized this was the very demographic they wanted to reach with her FOX News appearances. The cabbie smiled too. He knew celebs enjoyed being recognized by cabbies; it helped them pretend they were connected to "average joes" like him. More importantly, it usually brought a bigger tip.

He winked and said, "Anne Coulter, right?" If looks could kill, he would have died right there. "Not Coulter" she snapped, "Ima Notherhoare." She said it in a tone that made it clear she blamed him for not knowing her name. He knew better than to reply, but couldn't help thinking to himself, "you'd think the high priced ones would at least be polite."

He could feel her eyes boring holes in the back of his head as he turned on the meter. The meter reminded her of a dream from the previous night. In her dream, she was riding a cab from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone. She knew no one actually took cabs from the airport in Baghdad, but the weirdest part of the dream had been the cab’s meter. Instead of numbers, it had letters. She remembered looking at the letters I - R - A - Q and watching the last letter slowly change from a Q to an N.

IRAQ.... IRAN...? A light bulb went off. She pulled out her cell phone and hit speed dial.
"Hill & Knowlton, Public Affairs" answered the cool female voice.

"Sandy, it's me," Ima said excitedly, "I want you to pull every one of our press releases, talking points, white papers, and backgrounders for Iraq and the Global War on Terrorism."

Sandy gasped, "All of them?" Sandy was so startled she didn't even remind Ima the Global War on Terrorism had been rebranded as "The Long War." Ima didn't give her a chance to catch her breath. "Yes. All of them," she instructed.

"Okay..." Sandy answered tentatively, "What am I supposed to do with them?"
"Relax, I just want you to do a few strategic edits," Ima reassured her. "Replace every mention of 'Iraq' with 'Iran', that's all," Ima said calmly.

Sandy couldn't help but ask, "What about all the Saddam references?"

"Replace them with whatshisname...Imgonnaneedajob... you know, the Iranian nut job," Ima replied. "I want them on my desk when I arrive."

"Yes Ma'am!" Sandy replied with enthusiasm once she realized she had dodged a bullet.
"Mission Accomplished," Ima laughed as she bent over and dropped the phone back in her bag. So many billable hours, so little actual work. "This is why they pay me the big bucks," she cackled to herself.

Something about her laughter sent a chill up the cabbie's spine. He glanced up at the rearview mirror. What he saw made his blood freeze. There was no reflection in the mirror!
Horrified, he couldn't help but turn around to look at the back seat. When he saw she was just leaning over, he breathed a sigh of relief. "I gotta cut back on those vampire movies," he thought. He was so shook up he over reacted when the bicycle courier zipped in front of him. He slammed on the brakes so hard his passenger was thrown forward into the partition with a resounding thud.

"Pay attention to what you are doing," she barked, "before you kill somebody!" She shook her head in dismay as she settled back in her seat. Ima Notherhoare never ceased to be amazed at how careless people could be, especially when other people's lives were on the line.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


When Sock Puppets Attack....

I can't help it. When I see a headline quoting Gates, I immediately assume they're quoting Bill Gates. It's a reasonable mistake. Bill Gates is a successful entrepreneur with a grand vision to change the world and improve the lives of future generations. He's worth quoting. When Gates talks, people listen.

Of course, I lose interest once I get past the headlines and it turns out they are quoting Robert Gates, Rumsfeld's replacement. He is just the latest in a long line of sock puppets on TV since Shari Lewis first stuck her hand up Lambchop's ass and made her dance.

Now that anyone with any brains has tuned out everything this administration says in defense of Mr. Bush's War, I'm sure the bozo's left on the bus are constantly looking for new ways to catapault the propaganda. After his recent press conference, it's clear the only thing Gates has going for him is his name. It buys them a brief window of confusion to get people's attention one more time. Trading on confusion to borrow credibility when you have none left is an old parlor trick, but it works. Don't take my word for it. Ask Frank Luntz.

The same ploy was used in the SOTU when Dubya, in a vain effort to justify HIS War, quoted from a letter allegedly written by Zarqawi.

When asked to comment on Bush's rhetorical flourish, Frank Luntz provided a revealing response:
[T]his president has lost a great degree of credibility ... among the American people. And so the only way for him to establish the intensity of the threat he feels faces this country is to use somebody else's words rather than his own words.

You know they have hit bottom when Frank Luntz admits Dubya has less credibility than a deceased second-stringer the CIA intentionally misrepresented as a major threat. You can smell the desperation as the drama queens of communications pimp their new message of the day. Here's a quick sample of headlines:

Gates: Iraq resolution 'emboldens' enemy.
Gates: Congress' opposition aids the enemy.
Gates: Anti-Iraq Plan Resolution Emboldens Enemy

I'm starting to feel like Rip Van Winkle here. Seriously. I go to sleep and we are living in a democracy. I wake up and we are being told to hush so we don't embolden the boogey man under the bed? When did this bunch of gutless pussies start running the government? Who are they kidding? I don't know about you, but where I come from, you make decisions based on your interests. You don't worry about how bullies are going to react.

The notion that debating a policy that is demonstrably counterproductive to our national security emboldens anyone is some of the most twisted pretzel logic I have heard since ... well since Cheney shot his mouth off. As one reader sarcastically noted in the comments on Dailykos:

Questioning the war doubtless emboldens the terrorist, unlike "Mission Accomplished" and "Bring It On" which persuaded them to give up and go home.

Maybe I'm inconsiderate or culturally insensitive or selfish, but I don't give a rat's ass what terrorists think. I really don't. I don't evaluate my options based on what "Al Qaeda wants"...hell I don't even evaluate my options based on what Al Sharpton wants. I make my decisions based on what I want.

I don't care if terrorists are bold, old, sold, polled, cajoled, bankrolled, extolled, consoled, uncontrolled, taking hold, or catching cold. I do care if I'm throwing good money after bad to chase a chimera. I definitely care if I'm watching our future squandered in a meat grinder of mendacity.

When you have all the architects and apologists for this administration stomping on each other in their rush for the door, it's no wonder the dead-enders like Cheney, Bush, and their sock puppets don't carry a lot of weight. That is why we see them desperately deploying second-rate rhetorical dodges in support of a third-rate policy.

The bottom line is this: Dubya and his minions are going to fail. It's not a question of "if" but "when" they realize that shiny black object rushing towards them is the ground and they got no parachute. I know it. You know it. The Europeans know it. The Iranians know it. The Saudis know it. Hell, everyone knows it. That includes the people fighting in Iraq. The only question is how many people are they going to kill on the way? That's why I think we should have a simple answer to the simpletons telling us to hush: Put a sock in it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Mything the Point of "Targeted Killing"

Imagine the horror of watching someone drowning before your eyes.   Now imagine watching it in slow motion.   Repeatedly.   For years I have been watching Israel's suicidal spiral with that kind of despair.

I used to explain Israel's current situation by comparing the occupation of the West Bank to the period in American history when Andrew Jackson was president.   He was willing to violate the law of the land and there was no political will to stop him.   His famous contempt for "John  Marshall's decision" paved the way for the Trail of Tears and all the genocide that followed.

Now we learn even this fig leaf of judicial restraint is gone.   In a strange, sad Hanukkah gift to itself, the Israeli Supreme Court delivered a unanimous decision declaring extra-judicial executions are now legal.   

The first time I ever heard my grandfather curse, I didn't understand why he was so angry.   We were sitting down to breakfast.   Grandpa took one look at the New York Times and started yelling, "THAT DIRTY RAT BASTARD!"  Grandma looked over and said, "Oh, so after all these years, now there's a problem?"  "This is different!" Grandpa shouted.   "He's always been a criminal," Grandma said with disdain.   "This is different," Grandpa insisted, "That was his business, this affects all of us!"  He was really furious.

Looking at the picture, I still couldn't figure out how this old man could be such a big deal.   I had no idea who he was, so I asked.   It turned out Grandpa grew up with the guy.   What Grandma said was true.   The guy was a serious criminal, even as a kid when everyone called him "Spider" for reasons Grandpa couldn't remember.   That's why Meyer Lansky was in the paper.   The reason Grandpa was so angry was Lansky was invoking the Jewish Right of Return as a last ditch effort to avoid going to jail.

Grandpa and Lansky were Polish immigrants who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York.   Grandpa took us to see the old neighborhood once.   It was a slum, but he had fond memories about it.   He could afford to be nostalgic about the neighborhood.   He got out, just like Lansky.   The difference being that Lansky followed the road of crime, Grandpa went into entertainment.   College wasn't even on the map for these guys.   The truth is they didn't even have a map.   They were just doing their best to survive, and Grandpa did better than most.

In spite of that, the only gold in my grandparent's house was their wedding bands and maybe a couple of Grandma's earrings.   It wasn't like they couldn't afford nice stuff.   What happened was Grandma pawned all the good stuff and sent the money to the UJA (United Jewish Appeal) when Hitler offered to ransom the Jews.    Even after the war was over she kept finding ways to send money.   I don't know if they supported everything that was done in Israel, but doing anything was better than nothing.   As far as they were concerned, disagreement was a luxury they couldn't afford.    This was not about religion, they were secular Jews.  This was about survival.

It wasn't until many years later, April of 1984 to be exact, that I finally understood Grandpa's rage.   This time, the picture was in Newsweek.   It was a black and white shot of a stunned guy being led somewhere by two Israeli soldiers.   The problem was after the picture was taken of this terrorist in Israeli custody, he turned up with a crushed skull.   It was the first time I had ever seen documented proof of Israelis committing extra-judicial executions.    Don't get me wrong, everyone knew about the Mossad hit squads hunting down the Black September terrorists after Munich, but somehow that was different.   Maybe it wasn't, but we just liked to think it was.   I guess people viewed it as professionals fighting professionals or something.

What became known as the Bus 300 Affair had nothing to do with professionals, defense, or justice.   It was cold-blooded murder.   Ehud Yatom, acting with knowledge of his superiors, crushed the skulls of not one, but two captives while their hands were bound behind their backs.   Today, he is a member of the Knesset.   A government that would seat a confessed murderer like Yatom is worthy of people like Lansky.   That's a broad stroke, but that's the problem.   Once you go down that path, everyone gets tarred with that crap.   It's malignant.   It spreads like rust.

Here's a clear example of how perverse things have become.   In 2000, Dennis Ross and Eric Yoffie were guest speakers at a synagogue in suburban Maryland as part of an ongoing discussion about the Middle East. (For those who don't recognize the names, Dennis Ross is a former ambassador, and Eric Yoffie is President of the Union of Reform Judaism.)  Each of the distinguished panel members talked about their many decades of service in the region.   Opening comments lasted for about an hour, with each panelist talking about how much Israel wanted a partner for peace, how Arafat would never make a choice until he had no choice, etc., etc.    There was a lot of handwringing and lamentation.   Then they opened up the floor for questions.   So I got up.
"Listening to all of you today, I am struck by how blessed we are to have almost a century's worth of expertise to draw on.   So I would like you each to answer a question that has troubled me for some time.   What is your position on extra-judicial executions?  Do you support them or not? If you do, how do you reconcile that with everything you have been saying for the last hour?"

Have you ever been stuck in a crowded elevator when someone farts?  That was more or less how they reacted to my question.   They were stunned for several seconds.   No one wanted to touch this.   But the longer they sat there looking at each other, the more the congregation started mumbling and chattering.   Eventually, Ross took a stab at it.   He hemmed, he hawwed, he meandered about and eventually got his bearings only to end up with this surprising justification: "It's politically stupid, but morally defensible."  I thought he had said it backwards, but then Eric Yoffie chimed in with gusto saying, "Besides, there is Talmudic justification!"  Things descended into chaos at that point and the moderator had to take control of the room.

It is important to understand Eric Yoffie is basically a liberal.   He is opposed to the death penalty.   He supports gun control.   He was a featured speaker at the Million Mom March.   He is constantly battling with the ultra-orthodox crazies, like Yishai of the Shas Party, who don't think converts to Reform Judaism count as real Jews.    Oh and another thing, according to Israeli government official estimates, about 40% of the casualties in targetted killings are innocent bystanders.    Oh... and another thing... about that "Talmudic justification,"  that was Yigal Amir's defense for shooting Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.   So I honestly don't know where they draw the line anymore.   I can't help but think there is no moral center and we're just circling the drain when someone who is generally considered as decent and thoughtful as Yoffie starts carrying water for people who make Ariel Sharon seem moderate.

The saddest part of all this is I know most Israelis, and even most Palestinians, would have been happy to reach an accomodation.   The problem is extremists on all sides have betrayed the aspirations of the people they claim to lead.   I hate to say it, but the last time Zealots controlled Jerusalem, things ended badly.   Really Badly.   Fortunately, my grandparents aren't around to see if history repeats itself this time.   Happy Hanukkah Grandpa.

"What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your neighbor.
That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary."

-- Hillel

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


naval operations in an ice-free arctic

I always get a chuckle out of the folks who say "some scientists" question global warming... because the US NAVY sure as hell doesn't have any question about it. This slide from one of the presentations makes it pretty clear what NOAA thinks the Arctic is going to look like in the next few decades. This and much more data is provided in this recently declassified report:

It's called "Naval Operations in an Ice Free Arctic"

The big predictions:
· Within five years, the Northern Sea Route (aka the Northeast Passage) will be open to non-ice-strengthened vessels for at least two months each summer.

· Within 5-10 years, the Northwest Passage will be open to
non-ice-strengthened vessels for at least one month each summer

· Both Russia and Canada assert policies holding navigable straits in the NSR and Northwest Passage under their exclusive control. The United State differs in its interpretation of the status of these straits, with a potential for conflict

· Within 5-10 years, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan will remain ice-free throughout the year.

This raises at least one interesting question. Why are the tree-huggers in the navy all worked up over this? It means the navy will need a whole new fleet to defend/patrol these waters! That's a lot of ships. Of course these hemp-wearing, granola-munching, denizens of the reality-based world don't have much impact on the opinions of shills like Krauthammer. I am still steamed about his crap from last year following Katrina. He seriously argued in an op-ed piece there was no relationship between warmer water and hurricane strength. Talk about not having a leg to stand on....

Krauthammer's point was ludicrous to the point of irresponsible. Of course there is a relationship between global warming and the intensity of hurricanes. The fact that people are publishing this in places like Science and Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science demonstrates just how well this stuff is understood by scientists. The fact that the people arguing the opposite are shills for oil,coal,automotive, and deforestation interests does nothing to undercut the scientific consensus.

Here's another slide from one of the presentations, in case you think they are unclear on the concept:

This just makes last week's news regarding NTSA's refusal of 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth all the more outrageous. It is a clear example of the sort of politically motivated ostrich behavior we have grown accustomed to over the last several years. But that's not the worst part. Scalia's ad lib during today's oral arguments shows how positively surreal this whole debate has become. When he was corrected for not knowing the difference between the stratosphere and troposphere he responded by saying, "I told you I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to deal with global warming."

The sad truth is whether Justice Scalia likes it or not, we are all going to be dealing with global warming for one simple reason: The laws of physics are strictly enforced. If you don't want to take my word for it, ask Sonny Bono.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Washington Post misses the forest for the trees (still)

In today's Washington Post, Zach Goldfarb reviews the political staff's prognostication skills.  The article makes some good points, but raises serious doubts about their ability to analyze data.

In July, the [Post] political staff came up with a list of eight questions that would frame the campaign. Over the past four months, individual articles -- which remain online here -- looked at races where the bellwether questions were most vividly on display.

I give the Post credit for intellectual honesty.  Unfortunately, it appears they have trouble reconciling the data with their preconceived notions.  They also have trouble counting to eight, so maybe we shouldn't expect too much too soon.

 Here's the point they keep dancing around:  We have a mandate.  Unlike the "moral mandate" of 2004, this mandate for change is broad, but not deep.  If we deliver real change, we can make this durable.   Since this is Sunday, I will stick to clickable graphics.   This one is from The New York Times and shows the Senate victory adjusted for population.

Their list starts with BALLOT ISSUES

In 2004, Republicans tended to benefit from ballot proposals against same-sex marriage that revved the conservative base. This year, Democrats hoped to turn out their own partisans with initiatives to raise the minimum wage and promote stem cell research. The strategy did not hurt, but it's not clear how much it helped.
This raises an interesting strategic point to consider for 2008.  Ballot initiatives have traditionally not been a centerpiece of Democratic GOTV strategies.  Now that we are building the netroots and Dean is leading the charge with the 50 state strategy, this is something we seriously need to revisit.

Their next point is IRAQ

All year long, polls had registered voters' rising disaffection with the Iraq war and their doubts that it was contributing to U.S. security... Two-thirds of voters said the war was very or extremely important to them. They favored Democrats decisively.
Instead of noting the thumping Republicans took for their policy fiasco, the Post acts like voters only connect this issue to candidates who are veterans.  Of course, they failed to mention the fact that all the Iraq War vets were running as Democrats.  Then as a non sequitor they note, "In Connecticut, Rep. Christopher Shays (R) prevailed over Democrat Diane Farrell."   Gee, I guess the war wasn't much of an issue in Connecticut.   I wonder what the burning topic was in the primaries?    And what happened in Virginia?   I wonder if the Democrat running for the Senate seat there had any thoughts about the handling of this war?   Oh well, you won't find the answer in the Post.

They next tackle IMMIGRATION

Many Republicans thought for much of the year that they knew the key to winning close elections: anti-illegal-immigration appeals aimed at consolidating the conservative base and attracting independents upset about border security. But in virtually every competitive race, that strategy failed.

They hit that right, look at the map from USA today showing the regional house victories and it's clear Democrats flipped quite a few seats along the Mexican border in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  If you click on the map, you will also see that Democrats picked up House seats across the country.  That point will take on additional significance later.


This leads them to MONEY MATTERS

Perhaps the most confounding question for the GOP all year was why the economy wasn't lifting Republican candidates' fortunes...  By most measures, the economy was doing well, with low unemployment and a high stock market. Gasoline prices, which had caused Republicans such distress, had dropped considerably by Election Day.

One of the reasons we have a mandate is the looting of the Treasury.   We picked up Senate seats in states with low average incomes, moderate average incomes and generally affluent voters.  Voters are not thinking just about the price of gas today, tomorrow or last week.   Everyone knows these guys took a surplus and poured it into a money pit called Iraq.  Consequently, working wage earners haven't seen real raises and health care costs are killing them.  Middle class voters are watching college costs go through the roof and the dream of college for their kids disappear along with that.  Young wage earners can't afford to buy housing.  Even the affluent are getting edgy as they wait for interest rates to take off and erode their fixed income asset base.

They recognize the inevitable ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM:

In 2002, President Bush was the weapon many Republican House and Senate candidates successfully used against their Democratic opponents. This time, Bush was featured prominently in close campaigns -- but almost exclusively in the ads of Democratic candidates using the president as a weapon against Republicans.
That they got right.  Although they never mention exactly why Dubya was such a liability.  It's almost as if voters were behaving irrationally and simply engaging in mean-spirited Bush Bashing.  Maybe the Post staff just wanted to avoid a laundry list of complaints and kept this section mercifully short.  

Next, they take a run at TOUGH TERRAIN:

In 1994, when the Republicans won control of Congress, they did so in large part by evicting Democrats from seats in the South, where the electorate had grown steadily more conservative. This year, the opposite phenomenon took place in the Northeast, where many once-safe Republicans representing Democratic-leaning districts discovered that the GOP label was radioactive.

It's true Pennsylvania is in the Northeast, but  that's not the only place Democrats had big wins.  I could be wrong, but I always thought Montana was in the West.  I could have sworn Lewis and Clark thought Missouri was the gateway to the West.  I know General Robert E. Lee would be mighty flummoxed to learn the Old Dominion was no longer in the South.  And when did the Ohio Valley get moved East?  Democrats won big turnovers in all those venues.

On the right are more results from the CNN site showing a couple comparisons between the Senate races in '04 and '06 from Ohio and Missouri. It is clear the map is turning blue in Midwestern states.


This brings us to the point they forgot to cover.  Although Democrats lost the senate race in Tennessee, I think it is a mistake to ignore the gains made there as well.  In fact, they look more substantial than the gains made in Virginia.  These CNN comparisons between the presidential race in '04 and the '06 Senate race shows just how much penetration Democrats have made deep in the South.


Although you can blame the drubbing in Florida on Katherine Harris, you can't ignore the fact she was the best the Republicans could field. Even with that, notice the blue along the panhandle, even in 2004. Northern Florida is very much a part of the South.  I have no doubt that Floridians looked to Louisiana and saw their future.  Global warming is not going to disappear as a problem in the next couple years.  One more hit like Katrina, and I think Mississippi and Alabama may be rethinking their loyalties as well.


They save the best for last and go after SCANDALS:

By the fall, it seemed that many voters were shrugging off the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and ethics was fading as an important election issue. That changed in September when the Mark Foley page scandal erupted, including allegations that the House GOP leadership had averted its gaze from Foley's advances toward young males. In exit polls, 74 percent of voters said corruption was very or extremely important in their decision.

I am sure that outrage over corruption, waste, and abuse were major reasons independent voters favored Democrats by a 3 to 2 margin over Republicans this time.  In 2004 they were about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, so this is a significant shift.  It's interesting the Post is silent on the independent voters.  Their vote is a significant piece of the new mandate.  Their contribution to that mandate is why I think we need to deliver concrete results quickly.  I don't think independent voters are going to wait another six years for Democrats to start fixing the mess Dubya and the Corrupt Bastards Club have left us.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Icarus says "bipartisan," Americans say "Bye partisans!"

When you examine the data, there is only one word that accurately describes the midterm results.  The word is MANDATE.  When you look at the turnovers at the federal and state level, it wasn't even close.  Republicans got ZERO. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Nuthin. Not.A.Single.One.

55% of America voted against Republicans running for congress.
59% of America voted against Republicans running for the senate.
62% of America voted against Republicans running for governor.

Adding insult to injury, Independents broke 2 to 1 for Democratic candidates.

This thumping will leave a mark.   Bush might have avoided Icarus' fate if he had spent more time in the reality-based world.  The Decider Icarus can make all the noise he wants about bi-partisan intentions.    No one is listening.   Here's the beauty of this victory: Armed with a popular mandate that spans the nation, our job is simple.  We have to keep the Corrupt Bastards grounded in  reality.  I want to revisit a strategic vision that should help put cement shoes on the neo-cons, their apologists, shills, and cronies.

I could put up a laundry list of items I think we need to work on, but I won't.  Instead, I will take a step back and repeat a strategic perspective I've shared before: We need to be clear, consistent, committed and credible.  In the past, I have championed that strategy as critical to winning.  It is also critical to leading.  As long as we do that, I am comfortable with the wisdom of our collective decision making.  

1) Clarity matters:
We are here to protect and defend the Constitution.

2) Consistency matters:
We are here to uphold the rule of law.

3) Commitment matters:
We are here to leave a legacy worth inheriting.

4) Credibility matters:

We are here to return transparency to government.

We do not have to be timid here.  The Corrupt Bastards had their accountability moment, and lost -- Big Time.  Now we have a MANDATE.  However, that is only useful if we use it.  Moreover, we must never lose sight of the fact that we won because Independents broke 2 to 1 for Democrats.  

We have to deliver real change.  If we are going to turn that mandate into a public trust, we need to prove there is a material difference between Democrats and Republicans.  That is not just a matter of words, spin, positioning, framing, or slogans.  We have to be committed to demonstrating that difference every day -- clearly, consistently, and credibly.  I believe it all boils down to the difference in how Democrats and Republicans define a single word:


After looking at the data, I believe that is why Americans sent Democrats to the House, the Senate, and the Governor's Mansion.  Exercising oversight (as opposed to pretending things were missed due to oversight) is going to be a constant battle, so rest up, eat your Wheaties, and don't forget to Give Thanks this year for all the folks who helped us reclaim our country.  We'll be here when you get back.

Friday, October 20, 2006


The John Birch Society speaks for me, probably for you too.

Although the Washington Post chose to bury the story on page A18, we all know (at least here) this Executive has now brought new meaning to the term, Executing Authority.  Unfortunately, the corporate media has enabled this by constantly referring to his signing of "terrorist interrogation legislation" and never once referring to his wholesale destruction of the Bill of Rights.

After all, what does it mean to say you have freedom of expression, the right to bear arms, freedom from unreasonable seizure, the right to speedy trial, trial by jury, the right to avoid self-incrimination, the right to petition, right to equal protection, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment when "no court, justice, or judge" can comment on your disappearance?

In these dark times it is encouraging to note we are not alone in our concern.  Here is what our friends at the John Birch Society have to say about the new face of Compassionate Conservatism:
Absent from any discussion is who is going to protect Americans from the Executive branch, whether headed by President Bush or any other future president who continues to amass power in the White House.

Besides that, this question is worth entertaining as well: If Bush is protecting the American people by taking away our freedoms, then what are we supposed to be fighting for in Iraq?

That's the John Birch Society talking.  The title of that article is Saving American Lives By Stripping Away Our Freedoms.

No one is surprised the ACLU similarly opposes this abomination.  Unfortunately, I fully expect the Execution Branch will spin this universal condemnation by pointing to critics on the left and right as proof their actions are truly moderate.  If history is any guide, the press corps(e) will echo that nonsense as if it made sense.  Just once, I would love to see more than one news anchor make the bold statement that when people who routinely disagree find themselves agreeing that some policy is terribly wrong, that probably means it really is terribly wrong.

Lest people think this is just gonna be terrists and furners who will suffer, let me remind you of the case concerning Brandon Mayfield.  Remember him?  He was the Portland Oregon lawyer the FBI held in detention as a "material witness" because his fingerprint was allegedly found on materials associated with the bombing in Madrid.  Never mind the fact they were told that was not true by european agencies.  Never mind the fact that Brandon is a privileged white male who served with honor as an officer in the United States Army.

His brother Kent got it right away:

"I think the reason they are holding him is because he is of the Muslim faith and because he is not super happy with the Bush administration. So if that's a crime, well you can burn half of us."

Back then, folks called it "hyperbole", "hysteria", "liberal whining," etc.  Now even the John Birch Society is on record agreeing with Keith Olbermann.

Never mind the fact that the military didn't ask for the "Military Commissions Act," the latest in misleadingly named laws.  They know this law is not for their protection.  Not by a long shot.  The reason the Execution Branch was so gung-ho to get this signed was to protect contractors working on covert operations.  That's right.  The major beneficiaries of this are people outside the chain of command, outside the scope of congressional oversight, and now outside the rule of law.  

The only relevant questions now are "Who is next?" and "How many?"

For those pinning their hopes on a Supreme Court overturning this abomination, may I remind you "no court, justice, or judge" has jurisdiction here.  If you think they will not stand for this, let me remind you the Supreme Court ruled the "Indian Removal Act" of 1830 was unconstitutional.  How did that work out? (Hint: Can you say "Trail of Tears?")  President Jackson's famous retort to the decision forbidding the forced removal of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands in Georgia was brief and to the point.  "John Marshall has made his decision; let him enforce it now if he can."

That open contempt for law is why Andrew Jackson will always be remembered for the death of thousands and the opening salvo of what eventually became a genocidal policy known as Manifest Destiny.  That stain to our national honor has grown darker with the passage of time and will never be washed away.  This week, a new stain has sullied our national fabric.  Only time will tell how dark, how deep, and how wide it will become.

I wonder what future historians will call the present atrocity and how we will explain it to our children and their children.  I am already changed by this event.  For the first time in my life I have empathy for the Germans who bowed their heads in shame and said "We didn't know."  I used to dismiss that with an air of moral superiority.  Now I'm not so sure.  I doubt the silent crowds watching the thugs work over Jews on Kristallnacht really understood the only relevant questions that night were "Who is next?" and "How many?"

Saturday, October 07, 2006


FOX News Anchor Lays War Dead at Bush's Feet. (video)

The Foley pedo scandal ate up so much bandwidth most people don't even know Baghdad is under a daytime curfew.  Therefore, it's no surprise this shocking exchange on FOX News fell completely off the table.  It's so tasty, I just had to pick it up, transcribe it, and share it around.  This is a dog bites man kind of story.

Click the image above or here to see the video on YouTube.

Shep Smith is a popular FOX News anchorman, yet even this avid supporter of the war, Bush, and all things conservative finally got so enraged, he stomped Bill Kristol like a grape.  Talk about making Kristol whine.   Shep started off calling this administration's policies horrifying and repulsive and it went downhill from there.  By the end of the segment, Shep was holding Bush responsible for any deaths that occur in Iraq between now and the mid-term elections!  In so many words!  On FOX NEWS!  This is Must See TV.  Transcripts and links to this "come to Jesus" talk below:

The clip begins with the tail end of a discussion about the Clinton/Wallace interview and Kristol (who has never been near combat in his life) makes a point of using military language to spin what happened there... thats when things go completely off the rails:


SHEPARD SMITH:  "Can't you say beyond...beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt that what's happening in Iraq is not working as we had hoped it would happen?


SMITH: That the terrorism is getting worse? That they are feeding off it?  Today, one side is talking about secession if they don't get over it, that the sectarian violence is spreading, that we're clearing out one area and not able to hold it and the insurgents ... that stay the course isn't working?  Any more than, maybe, cut and run would work? And that everyone seems to know, but won't say the answer is to add troops not take them away? Where are the people who are looking out for our best interests?

KRISTOL: Well, I've said that many many times, so often I've been ridiculed for saying "more troops, more troops, more troops."  I hope the president...

SMITH: If they really want to win it! [agitated]

KRISTOL: I agree...I hope...

SMITH: But I think they are just paying lip service to all this! [yelling]

KRISTOL: Well, I hope not because it really wouldn't be the right thing to do and I think President Bush wants to do the right thing and I think he knows there's a problem.  He can't probably do anything until election day.  I very much hope after election day he takes a fresh look at Iraq, sends enough troops, surges the...goes on the offensive there and plays for victory because..

SMITH: Bill..

KRISTOL: it's just too important to just, you know...

SMITH: It's horrifying that you just said he can't do anything until after the election.  We've got men and women over there who are dying every day and you just said that the man who you support can't do anything even though you believe he knows it's wrong.

KRISTOL: I...I...urged him...

SMITH: OK, but what is worse that? What is worse than that, Bill Kristol? This isn't working.  Well, isn't that what you are saying?

KRISTOL: It's not working....

SMITH: It's not working.

KRISTOL: It's not working, but some of the alternatives would work, would work worse and to be fair to him he has been....look  ... I....Two months ago a Democratic senator said to me, I was saying Bush was going to stay the course and I admire him for his sticktoitive.. for his courage on Iraq and he said, "You're kid... You're crazy...everyone in Washington knows he is going to pull troops down before election day. He wants to give those Republican congressional candidates the benefit of seeing troops come home."  It is to Bush's credit that he did not do that. We have moved a few more troops into Iraq. Bush has committed...

SMITH: A few more troops. [sarcastically]

KRISTOL: We should... We should ...

SMITH: We're still losing ground in city after city every day...

KRISTOL: I agree we should move more, but I think Bush has least he has held his own ...ummm... I don't's going back and forth there right now... I agree we could hit a crisis in two, three, four months unless we surge troops after the election. I thinks its hard to ask Bush to do something in the middle of this election season.  We've seen how poisonous this political debate has gotten and I think... I just hope... I think he's right to hang tough and I hope he does the right thing after election day.

["could hit a crisis"...sheesh...Shep goes balistic]

SMITH:  That's a disgusting and repulsive reality Bill you have to admit that.  That we can't do anything about something that is not working and where people are dying until after our elections are over...

KRISTOL:  Well, we could do something... we should do something...but I'm just telling you that....

SMITH: The political reality is we can't.

KRISTOL: it's been a poisonous political debate ...both sides.

SMITH: If I were the mother of a father of a young man who dies between now and that election in this war I would be raising holy hell. Wouldn't you?

KRISTOL: Well, no....

[holy moley... Did Bill just say he would sacrifice his kids to this?]

SMITH: Wouldn't you, Bill? If you believed that this isn't working...

KRISTOL: No.  They do..they're doing..They think they're doing the best the military strategy

[! He really did say that!]

SMITH: Do you think they think that, Bill, really?

KRISTOL: I think they, I think so.

SMITH: Because you don't think so, you just said so.

KRISTOL: Well, I've been critical of them. I think they should send more troops, but other people differ. I think Bush is going to reconsider when he thinks uh..after he gets through this election here.  I wish he would have reconsidered six months ago.  I urged him to six months ago.  He chose not to.  But to be fair to him, to be fair to him I think he is doing what he thinks is his best for the country and I think he is right, that the alternative of somehow pulling down wouldn't help.  And incidentally, for the mothers and fathers who have kids there my solution does not...does not... decrease the chance of casualties.  I'm willing to.. I think we may have to take more casualties there.

[Nice. At least he's clear that he is willing to sacrifice more of other people's kids.]

SMITH: To win! But what they keep saying is they want to win. And yet you talk to soldiers and captains and colonels who come home or who talk to you on the phone or who send you an email and they say, "Look! We win individual battles.  We leave the individual battle and go to the next town and the insurgents come back."  It's happening in Afghanistan right now.

KRISTOL: I agree.

SMITH: The Taliban had been wiped out. Now the poppy production is up to supplying 92% because we don't have enough people there.  So how fair is it to the people of this country and to the world to be in a process that you  know is not working, to know what the solutions are, yet because of the election system and the political process you allow a losing thing to continue?

KRISTOL:  Well I think we can make it a winning thing, I think Bush will make it a winning thing, It's a democracy. It has drawbacks.

[Wha?!?! STOP THE TAPE!  WTF does that mean? Democracy has drawbacks? Compared to what?]  

I agree on Afghanistan,incidentally, that's another place where we're going to have to increase troop levels in the next few weeks.

SMITH: Yeah, but when?

KRISTOL: Soon.[smugly]

SMITH: We'll see. Bill Kristol, good of you to come.

KRISTOL: Thank's Shep.

After a "come to Jesus" talk like that, all I can say is Kristol sure has a lot of work to do this Yom Kippur.  I won't hold my breath waiting for him to fast or anything, but I would love to hear which "drawbacks" of democracy Kristol would like to do away with first.  This raises another question.  If it's so flawed why are we working so hard to spread democracy around the Middle East?   Or is this just another example of Kristol advocating a failed policy?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Emily Perez is dead...

Emily Perez had a passion for books.  She loved to read.  In 2001, she graduated from a public high school outside of Washington DC in an area known mostly for gangs, drugs, death and despair.  Emily was straight-A student.  She could have attended any university she chose.  She chose West Point.

Getting admitted to West Point is no easy feat.  First, you need to be nominated for consideration -- usually by your senator or congressional representative.  Then you are evaluated in three areas: academic performance, demonstrated leadership potential, and physical aptitude.

Emily was a leader among leaders.  She was the first black woman to serve as corps commander sergeant major at West Point.  She graduated in the top 10% of her class.  In spite of all that promise, this story does not have a happy ending.

You will probably not see this story on FOX (she's not blonde enough), or The Today Show (she's not shallow enough), or BET (she's not freaky enough) ... that doesn't mean her story is not important enough.

Lt. Perez joined the Medical Service Corps because she wanted to help people.  It was something she always focused on.  As a high school student, Perez pushed her church to begin an HIV/AIDS ministry after several family friends became infected with the virus. She was honored in 2001 by the American Red Cross Board of Governors for her work as an AIDS educator.

Because of her desire to help and serve, Lt. Perez gave of herself. Literally. Shortly before shipping out to Iraq with the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, she flew cross country to be a bone marrow donor for a stranger who was a match.  Donating bone marrow is a painful and difficult procedure.  I am sure those who knew her would not be surprised to learn she volunteered to endure the suffering simply because it meant she could help someone.   By all accounts that's who she was.

As I study Emily's picture, I'm captivated by the strength of her gaze, how firmly she grasps the sword, and smitten by the half smile that breathes confidence.  It's been said the eyes are the windows to the soul.  Through them we see the past, present, and future.  I'll bet there was a time her father in an unguarded moment looked at her and fell in love.  You see the truth is no matter what kind of a guy you are, there comes a point in every father's life when he looks into his daughter's eyes and is simply awed by how beautiful they are.  It's not the sort of experience guys share over a brew.

If you've ever had that moment you probably recognize the one that followed it.  That's the moment when we offer up that silent prayer -- that when she falls in love, he'll be a better man than we are and he will be worthy.  Sadly, some prayers go unanswered.  This angel of light died in Al Kifl, Iraq, on Sept. 12th.

It is easy to grow numb as this increasingly pointless war churns on and they throw more of our children into that meat grinder.  But every now and then a story comes along that gets past my defenses and it leaves me wondering how much longer we will let the Pied Piper of hatred and violence lead our children to a place of no return.

Contemplating this sad tale of a life cut short, words fail me as I confront the reality that only God knows the treasures we bury with our children.

"I am not haunted by the fear that my brother will be sent to war. I believe there are beliefs and causes worth taking risks for, worth fighting and dying for. Rather, I am haunted by the fear that he will be sent to war thoughtlessly, carelessly."

-- Cara Cannon Byington (Jan. 15, 2003)

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