Sunday, November 19, 2006
But sometimes it seems that events do push you down a specific path.
I just discovered that since I switched to Blogger’s beta version my posts have not been getting picked up by Lefty Blogs. I had been wondering why there were so few comments on my blog. Surely my opinions hadn’t grown any less offensive to those readers who always found me disagreeable. Maybe I had gotten more boring – a distinct possibility that I can’t really discount.
I certainly have been less observant than usual because I didn’t notice until late yesterday that Lefty Blogs hadn’t picked up two things I had posted a couple of hours earlier. So, out of curiosity I went to their site to see if they had dropped me. After all, perhaps I’m not lefty enough. Another distinct possibility.
Nope, I’m still on their Virginia blogroll. I surfed around and to my surprise discovered that a lot of other bloggers who used Blogger and switched to the beta version were having the same problems with their feed.
In my case, it amused me because it’s just the shove in a direction I’ve wanted to take for a while. I’ve even mentioned it to a few friends and fellow bloggers.
I’m going to hang up my dancing slippers and slip away.
There are a few reasons for this, which actually have little to do with Lefty Blogs. That they aren’t getting my feed is just a fortuitous coincidence.
The main reason that I’m taking a break from blogging is lack of time. To really do it right, political blogging needs to be an on the spot, up to the minute response to breaking news. In today’s instant headline world, blogging is not the place for the leisurely, thoughtful in depth analysis that I like to write and read in others. The most relevant bloggers do short, choppy and timely posts, updating several time a day. And I just can’t do that anymore.
I think you can get away with updating just once a day. But when you go longer than two or three days, you really get less relevant. Or at least that’s my take on it.
And blogging is fairly time intensive. Unlike some other forms of writing, such as fiction, memoirs, and personal essays, it’s impossible to do political blogging without a lot of reading of other blogs, newspapers, and magazines. You can’t do the type of blogging that I was trying to do without being well informed and without being willing to do intensive research and linking. That more than the actual writing is what makes it so labor and time intensive.
I enjoyed every minute of doing it, almost to the point of addiction. Indeed, on any given night, long after I had researched, linked, and written my own blog entry, I’d still be up surfing the net and reading other people’s blogs, and writing comments on their sites too.
But I can’t keep doing that. As much fun as it’s been, I’ve been informed by those who love me that I need to take my life back. I need to stop neglecting family members. Having lost my mother nearly a year ago, it became very clear to me that the people I ignore today may not be here tomorrow and I may not ever get the chance to make it up to them.
Nor should any of us put off doing the things we want to do for that mythical tomorrow that may never come. And I’ve been putting off doing something that I’ve wanted to try for way too long.
I alluded to it in another post (no, I refuse to link this time, I’m tired of linking). In "No Republican Blogger Died In the Making of This Blog," I mentioned that I was getting interested in writing fiction. I gave you a brief snippet – but a sort of tongue in cheek sample.
The truth is I know I’m a decent enough writer of non-fiction and of doing the type of writing that works on a blog or even in an off-line op-ed piece. But I have no objective proof that I’d be a good fiction author. Still, I’d sure like to try.
I don’t expect my first efforts to be dazzling because the first essay I wrote back in fifth or sixth grade wasn’t brilliant either. It took work and practice to be an effective non-fiction writer. And it will probably take effort to be even a little bit good as a novelist or short story writer.
I’ve made my first effort and joined a writer’s workshop at my local library. When I read my short story it was very well received and that gave me encouragement to keep trying. It’s when I start sending work out to actual editors and publishers that I expect to taste a bit more humility. But that’s what having a support group like the one I joined is for. To get the feedback and validation to keep plugging away when the going gets tough.
So, I’m going to try my hand at writing fiction. And I’m going to take more time to savor my family and friends and rejoice while I’ve got them.
And next year, I’ll probably get so impassioned, once again, by the state of politics that I’ll be back. Or maybe not. I’m not closing the door on blogging. But for now, another door is opening.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Some of those who posted comments to his article pointed out that voters in this district voted for Davis or Wolf (depending on which part of the district they live in) in the most recent election. But the district also has gone for Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Leslie, Byrne, Creigh Deeds, and Jim Webb. And both Davis and Wolf are viewed as moderates. Cuccinelli definitely isn't.
I like Ken a lot. Every election day when I work the polls at Fairview, he's also there and I can schmooze with him all day without getting frustrated. He's enormously personable and likeable. But I think he's way more conservative than the district he's representing.
So, despite his personal attributes and the power of incumbency, against a candidate as formidable as Oleszek, it's going to be close.
Right now this is going to be one of the races to watch. With Chap taking on Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and Janet Oleszek challenging Ken Cuccinelli, we're not going to get a dull 2007.
The photo was taken at the AFL-CIO's Congressional reception in Washington, DC on Tuesday, November 13. The enthusiastic guy hugging Jim Webb is Dan Duncan, a fellow Scots-Irish descendant who hails from Tennessee. He's the nominee to be the next president of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council and he led the successful Northern Virginia labor-to-labor GOTV effort.
He was also an early Webb supporter. In fact, he brought his copy of Born Fighting to his first meeting with Jim Webb back in March 2006 and got it autographed.
Oh yeah, he's also Mr. Anonymous. Am I a proud wife, or what?
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I think that's a stretch. They're misreading Webb and fooling themselves, probably because right now they need to in order to avoid admitting that Americans really did repudiate them for their handling of the war and the economy.
Their main argument, though, for comparing the two men is that Webb has an independent and sometimes conservative streak. Especially, they point out gleefully, where Second Amendment rights are concerned. Webb, like Buchanan, is against gun control and is comfortable around people who like guns. MC and other conservatives believe this will cause Democrats to become disillusioned with Webb.
The problem with that line of reasoning is that most Democrats knew Webb's position going in. In fact, one district chair said to me that although, as a part of leadership, he was publicly supporting Webb, his wife could never vote for Webb precisely because of Webb's stand on gun control. That was a minority reaction but it proves that Democrats knew exactly what they were getting in Jim Webb. And by the way, both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also had "Sportsman for (Warner or Kaine)" bumper stickers, which was virtually an admission of being pro-gun ownership. However worthy their cause, most of the proponents of gun control have given up that fight in Virginia as unwinnable at this time.
But other than on the gun control issue, there are significant differences between Webb and Buchanan.
The most obvious is that Buchanan is a real wedge issue social conservative. Webb is not. Even during his Reagan years, Webb was considered moderate when it came to social issues like abortion. Webb is pro-choice, in favor of stem cell research, and opposed the so-called marriage amendment. So he's much more in step with Democrats than with Pat Buchanan Conservatives.
As for his opposition to Iraq, every Democrat who won last week was anti-Iraq. It's Buchanan who is marching in step with us on that one, not visa versa. Likewise, on the economy, Buchanan's populism puts him out of synch with free traders in his own party as well as Harris Miller style Democrats. But plenty of Democrats, including Brian Dorgan and Carl Levin, are also economic populists. If you're a Democrat, it's called being pro-union, something Buchanan actually isn't, but Jim Webb is.
And Webb showed his true colors today in this Wall Street Journal op-ed. Webb nails it in this piece, which is brilliantly written and literally hammers home the inequities that are bothering people.
There’s a popular misconception among the mainstream media and political pundits that populism doesn’t work in American elections because most voters don’t resent rich people. Indeed, they aspire to be rich themselves. No matter how far fetched the reality, most Americans appear to believe that the ability to achieve great wealth is within their grasp, so they support laws that favor the rich even if that appears contrary to their real economic interests.
That’s only a partial truth, though. Most Americans don’t resent the rich because most Americans are generous of spirit and kind of heart. As long as they are economically comfortable, prosperous, and secure, they are not envious. And as long as they perceive that the system is basically fair and provides equitable opportunity they are not resentful.
But too many people have been affected by downsizing, outsourcing and automation or have seen neighbors and family members affected by these forces to feel really secure. And too many have either experienced, seen, or read about the erosion of pensions and health benefits. At the same time, they’ve also read about golden parachutes, fabulous wealth and perks awarded to CEOs and corporate executives, even while their companies are performing poorly.
Most people are aware that “it’s not what you know but who you know” nowadays that determines economic well-being. Americans aren’t resentful and aren’t natural populists. But too many of them are getting fed up with the unfairness they are seeing around them. Indeed, inequity seems to run like a seam through the rock of the American economy and it's causing a crack in the surface of our civil society. Jim Webb just exposed the fault line and proved he’s a real Democrat who holds our core values. He's not a Pat Buchanan Conservative, as MC and others would have you think. Jim Webb is a Jefferson-Jackson-style Democrat.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Jim Webb was a very big winner. He came into this race a complete novice. And he was never supposed to win. To a lot of so-called hard headed pragmatists, if Webb had simply slowed down Allen's momentum to keep him from a cakewalk into the Republican presidential nomination, it would have been enough. But here was a guy who was a reluctant politician, introverted (I mean, he writes books for a living - that's 8 hours of sitting in a room all alone working at a solitary pursuit, not great preparation for glad handing the general public), and obviously uncomfortable asking strangers for the huge amounts of money it takes to run. Yet despite all that, he slayed a giant. If anybody deserves the hearty thanks of Democrats all over this country, it's Webb. Against all odds, this novice took back the Senate for Democrats.
The most obvious loser is George Bush. This was a referendum about him. His management style, his policies, his administration. People wanted change and they trusted the Democrats to deliver it.
Surprisingly, the biggest winner (other than the actual successful candidates) might also be George Bush. He showed immediately that he got it. His humble demeanor as he admitted at a press conference that Republicans had “taken a thumping” reminded Americans of what they had originally liked about him, back in 2000 when he still acted like a regular guy you’d want to have a beer with. It’s been a long time since anybody’s caught a glimpse of that humble side. He’s been all arrogance recently. Look for a return to the famous charm offensive of early 2001. Of course, it didn't work the first time and I'm not sure it will, with Democrats, this time either. It's not really meant to charm them anyway. It's meant to appeal the public, though, so he can blame Democratic obstructionists who will definitely oppose him on Iraq, social security privatization, and any number of judicial appointments.
The big losers, Democrats. Now they've got to govern. At some point, they have to agree upon a legislative agenda, including a plausible plan to extricate us from Iraq without appearing reckless or weak. That's a lot harder than it looks from the minority side of the aisle. Governing is more difficult than it appears, especially with a divided government. Both sides are going to do a lot of finger pointing and posturing and jockying for favorable position with the public leading up to the presidential elections in 2008.
But a big loser was Karl Rove whose strategy of exciting the base - independents and swing voters be damned - finally failed. Good politics always is about building coalitions, not depending on only one narrow segment of the electorate to win and govern.
So-called values voters were another big loser. For all their bragging after 2004, they couldn’t deliver the winning margins in state and local races when they were overtaken by events like the war in Iraq and the economic erosion of the middle class. Pragmatism trumped the culture wars when it came to candidates winning this year.
On the other hand, values didn’t lose. Voters were disgusted by Republican scandals from Abramoff to Foley. Voters proved that they didn’t define values as narrowly as the social conservatives did. Honesty, integrity, concern for economic fairness and social justice, and good environmental stewardship concerned them.
On the other hand, traditional moral values are hardly dead. In Virginia, the marriage amendment won and I am afraid that same sex marriage is a loser. Although I personally support anybody’s right to be married to whomever they want and to have the full legal protections of a marriage, for now laws to define marriage as between one man and one woman have a better track record than those that seek to expand the definition of marriage to give the right to same sex partners. That's true across the nation.
Right now, gay activists need to do the hard work of convincing the American public of the basic fairness of extending to same sex partners the same legal protections for their unions that straight people have, and not focus on whether its called marriage or something else. Sometimes incrementalism and pragmatism win.
The Republicans’ famous 72-Hour Project was a loser. Not that it failed. Just that Democrats don’t need to fear it. When they set their minds to it, Democrats can get out their votes too. The Democrats’ GOTV effort was a winner.
I’m prejudiced on this one, but another winner was Virginia’s organized labor, which was with Jim Webb from the beginning. Although a few unions backed his opponent in the primary, most of labor supported Webb, including the incoming president of the NoVa Central Labor Council, who met with Webb back in March and supported him immediately. The Northern Virginia CLC, by the way, knocked on 4,000 doors and made 2400 phone calls in one day in their labor to labor GOTV effort, probably the most they've ever logged in an election. In a squeaker like this, that's got to give them some credit for turning out labor voters for Webb that helped put him over the top. Good job!
Other very big winners were Larry and Leslie Byrne, who took Webb around to Democrats and labor. Chap Peterson was also right there lending his name and considerable credibility to Webb’s run. And the fact that both Leslie Byrne and Peterson could put the 2005 Lt Governor’s primary behind them to unite behind Webb's candidacy can teach a lesson in graciousness, pragmatisim, and party loyalty to some of the leadership of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. Enough said about that.
A big winner was the Virginia blogosphere.
Without them Allen’s maccacca moment would have been relegated to the last page of the metro section of the Washington Post without much coverage anyplace else. In the past, the press thought of themselves as the gatekeepers who decided which news the public should get. Those days have ended. For better or worse, the general public now knows what’s whispered in the halls of Richmond and Washington the same as the reporters and the legislators do. Nobody was better at up to the minute coverage, gossip, rumor, innuendo, and spot on analysis of polls than Not Larry Sabato. Ben Tribbett is the must read blog for all Virginia bloggers, regardless of party or ideology.
Another big winner was Raising Kaine's Josh Chernila and Lowell Feld . They were the first Webb supporters. In fact, without their encouragement, there might not have been a Webb candidacy. They helped to persuade him to run. And the rest of the RK gang provided coverage, support, enthusiasm, and great YouTube footage to readers. We probably have to thank the Indian-American college student, Siddarth, who first put YouTube and maccacca on the map - or at least the late night comedy shows. Congrats to all!
Finally, a special mention has to go to Mason Conservative who has been incredibly gracious on his blog and over at NLS. He is a true Virginia gentleman and he makes me proud to be a Virginia blogger. We will lock horns again, my friend. But for now you have all my admiration and you are one of the true winners for showing style and class. And good luck to your Redskins. You deserve some victory joy.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Like most of the political bloggers, regardless of which party, I had a busy day. It actually began with a doctor's appointment, then I headed to my polling place to vote. I stayed to work the polls for a few hours. Then I was supposed to make get out the vote calls. When I got to the precinct where my contact was supposed to give me the phone list, she hadn't shown up yet so I stayed to pass out some more literature. She had a lot of people working the polls. We had three Democrats to one Republican passing out lit.
When she showed up, she said she had the phone calls covered so I stayed a while longer. Then, because they seemed to have enough people, with more coming in later, I headed back to my own precinct. They had about four or five people too, with the promise of more to cover the all important 5 to 7 shift. Meanwhile, four of us passed out literature for a couple of hours while there were no Allen people at all. We basically had the playing field to ourselves.
Finally, an Allen supporter showed up, spent some time on the phone - no doubt to call for reinforcements - and began passing out his literature.
For me, the best moment, one where I wished I had a camera, was when one of our supporters, a young man who wore a Firefighters For Webb tee shirt over his turtleneck sweater helped an elderly disabled lady out of a car and escorted her to the polls. He did the same for another elderly woman who was having difficulty walking. It was all very chivelrous and touching.
I saw Ben Tribbett at Fairview Precinct, which is my precint, and the place I spent the most time. Ben also introduced me to Too Conservative's little sister. A nice young woman, even if she laughed when I went back to the left side. Honestly, the Dems in Fairview always seem to take the left side and Repubs the right. Has been that way for the 12 years that I've worked there. And they've always gotten along well. In previous years, there were Republicans who would hug me in greeting. And I'd return the hugs enthusiastically. They were fellow Burke residents who I saw around the stores and restaurants and we had real relationships beyond election day.
Politics has gotten so nasty lately that we forget that human touch. But when you see somebody else who feels just as passionate about his beliefs standing beside you in the rain on a chilly November day, there is a common bond, even if it's just that your both shivering and huddled under umbrellas.
I have to admit that I've met some of the nicest people among Republicans while working the Fairview Precinct. I miss some of the ones who have moved on and aren't there anymore.
Meanwhile, I hope our side wins. But even more, I hope someday we find a better, more fair, kinder way to do politics.
As Mason Conservative said yesterday, it's not personal. It's politics. And because it's Virginia, we'll all be back in six months for the next race. So, rest up.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I’m going to make my plea to those who live in my own 11th CD to please vote for Andy Hurst as well as for Jim Webb for U.S. Senate this Tuesday, November 7.
It is long past time for some oversight in our government. The problem with the one party rule that we’ve experienced for six years is that there has not been adequate checks and balances.
That’s not the way to run a government. It’s not even the way you run a good business. In business, there are accounting standards that demand checks and balances and even audits to ensure accountability and honesty. If that’s how a private business is run, then surely a government, which is responsible to its citizens, should have even more transparency and accountability. The citizens, after all, foot the bill for the government.
And those citizen-taxpayers are dissatisfied on a number of fronts.
They want a solution to the war in Iraq that gets our soldiers out of harms way without compromising national security. Yet reports have shown that our presence in Iraq has actually made us more vulnerable to terrorist threats rather than safer. And in a stunning blow to the current administration, all the branches of our armed forces have called for Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s ouster.
Basically our people in uniform have voted no confidence in the Secretary of Defense. Yet President Bush has vowed to “stay the course” on keeping him. You can’t credibly say that our military leaders simply have a partisan gripe with their civilian leader. Everybody can see how badly things are going in Iraq, just as they can see how badly its going in the rest of the Middle East, North Korea, and around the world. The military is merely echoing the no confidence that civilians feel with the course we are being urged to stay.
Democrats certainly don’t have all the answers. Democrats, if you will recall, have been systematically excluded from leadership and marginalized by this administration and by Republican congressional leaders. Without access to meaningful intelligence reports it’s difficult to say what to do differently with any certainty.
But Democrats do agree on some alternatives including sending the National Guard troops home, moving Special Forces troops to friendly countries so they can monitor conditions in Iraq and contain terrorism in that country. They also favor seeking a diplomatic solution to the civil war there, which would bring Iraq’s neighbors and our European allies into the solution. Democrats want to ensure that our security needs are met, contrary to Republican claims, and find a way out of the morass that we are in, in Iraq.
On the economic front, Republicans are baffled that the country is not overjoyed at the economy they’ve created. We’ve had years of solid growth, high productivity and low unemployment, although growth has slowed dramatically this quarter and productivity is also on a downward spiral. Only the unemployment rate has dipped even lower. Now, investors fear the combination of a tight employment market and low productivity might drive wages up and spike inflation.
For ordinary workers, it’s a no win situation. When business growth was sizzling and profits were shooting sky high, high productivity kept their wages low. In fact, that was a favorable condition to economists, who always fear higher wages as a sign of inflationary pressure.
So, if workers cannot share the gravy in the good times, and any advance they make is a threat to the good of the economy (whereas astronomical salaries, generous bonuses and stock options, and munificent perks for CEOs are all considered justifiable expenses), what stake do employees have in the economy?
That’s what explains the sourness the ordinary voter feels for the economy. It’s why good economic conditions have not given Republicans any traction and why voters trust Democrats more with the economy.
And they’re right. Democrats understand the difference between greed, which contrary to Gordon Gekko, the character in the movie Wall Street, is not good. Rational self-interest is very good. Encouraging businesses to share the good times with workers, instead of resenting them as a necessary but evil expense that cuts into business profits and bonuses, is rational self-interest.
Democrats would raise the minimum wage and work with businesses to find ways to make healthcare more affordable and to encourage secure pensions. And they would do it in ways that would strengthen business because nobody wants to see business hurt; that’s killing the goose that lays the golden egg. And that, by the way, is the difference between rational self-interest and greed. Most workers don't want to gain benefits that hurt business in the long run. They want good salaries and good benefits only to the degree that it helps business not hurts it.
Republicans fear that Democrats would repeal Bush’s tax cuts. They probably would.
Instead, they would encourage targeted tax cuts that benefit the middle class and working people because economists have shown that when you give tax cuts to wealthy people, they do not spend it in ways that stimulate the economy. They stick it in savings or investment. But with the economic slowdown now a fact, we are going to need to stimulate the economy again and the fastest way to encourage people to spend is to give them money in their pocket as a tax cut does. The people who actually spend tax cuts in ways that stimulate the retail sector are poorer people. That’s because they’re the ones who have to put off purchases and if you give them an extra dollar, there’s stuff they actually need but couldn’t afford. So they’ll buy.
Tax cuts could also go to businesses that provide decent health coverage to employees to help offset the expense. There are other ways to use tax cuts to reward businesses for helping employees with healthcare, pensions, and even daycare for workers.
Because Democrats have different priorities than Republicans they will use tax cuts differently than Republicans. Not just to benefit the top one percent of the wealthiest members of society, but to benefit the middle class and working people.
Jim Webb and Andy Hurst have both demonstrated that they understand the needs of the middle class. Both of them want to find a solution to the mess in Iraq and realize staying the course isn’t it. Both men have demonstrated integrity and independence.
This country needs a change and both of them can help find it. They would represent Virginia with an integrity that is sadly lacking in Washington right now and Virginians could be proud to call them respectively Senator and Representative.
Vote Tuesday, and vote for Jim Webb for Senate and Andy Hurst for the House of Representatives.
And vote for Judy Feder in the 10, because everything I’ve said above applies to her too. And she would bring tremendous intelligence and experience to Congress.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
For the best coverage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, Vivian Paige has been doing a masterful job over at her blog. Go here , here, and here
What's striking is a number of Republicans and Republican/conservative leaning blogs are also urging a no vote. Bearing Drift gives the reasons why its contributors are urging readers to vote the Marshall-Newman Amendment down.
And in the Burke Connection, Delegate Steve Shanon, a moderate Democrat, who was originally a strong supporter of laws to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and who, indeed, was one of only two Democrats, Chap Peterson was the other one, to vote in favor of this law in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2004 (I yelled at him for it, at the time) has now come out against the Marshall-Newman amendment.
And finally Rick Sincere has a good post on prominent Republicans voting No to the amendment.
I don't usually cut and paste others work, but there's enough out there about how bad this amendment is that I don't need to repeat what others have done better than me. Let it suffice to say that I urge you to vote No on Tuesday.
Monday, October 30, 2006
By any definition, George Allen and his campaign staff qualify for that label. Let’s compare the records on women's issues of the two candidates vying to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
First, to make Jim Webb look bad to women, the Allen campaign went on a real dredging operation, digging through the mud to find inflammatory quotes that Jim Webb made 25 years ago about women's fitness to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. Admittedly the remarks were brash and offensive. And Webb promptly apologized for them. He didn’t try to deny them, as Allen did with his “Macaca” quotes, or try to make excuses. He simply and publicly said he was sorry and he regretted making those statements because they no longer represented his beliefs about women's fitness to serve in the military.
But what matters more than Webb’s remarks of 25 years ago, is Allen’s more recent voting record and his positions on a variety of women's issues during his time in the House of Representatives in the early 1990s to his current positions in the Senate today.
No candidate can claim the mantel of support for women’s issues if he is against a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It’s a tragic choice and few people are in favor of abortion. But the majority of Virginians believe that this agonizing decision must be left to women and their doctors, not legislated by strangers.
But George Allen doesn't agree with the majority of Virginia's women on this. In fact, he even voted against an amendment to the 2006 Fiscal Year Budget that would have provided military women access to abortion services at military hospitals, at the women's own expense. This bill would not have made the taxpayer pick up the medical expenses for any abortion. It simply would have ensured that women who serve in our armed forces would have access to safe abortions, at their own expense, whether they are at home or overseas.
George Allen does not support reproductive rights for women. And not just a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. Incredibly, he voted against another amendment to a different bill that would have reduced unintended pregnancies by allocating funds for increased access to family planning services and providing funds to ensure that health insurance plans cover birth control prescriptions. In addition, this amendment would have provided funding for prevention of teenage pregnancies. Ironically, the main purpose of the amendment was to reduce the number of abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies.
But not only did Allen vote no for that piece of legislation, he also voted against allowing the Plan B, or “morning after” pill, to be sold over the counter (although voting against it in the Senate didn’t stop him from owning stock in the company that manufactures the pill).
Jim Webb, on the other hand, has stated clearly that he is in favor of reproductive freedom for women, including a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. Webb also favors stem cell research, which Allen doesn’t.
But on another important issue, one that affects countless more women than even reproductive rights, the two candidates couldn’t be further apart. George Allen,while serving in the House of Representatives, voted against the Family Medical and Leave Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993.
More than any of the so-called social wedge issues, this piece of legislation has improved women’s lives immeasurably. It has provided them with job security while also giving them the ability to care for family members in need. No longer does a woman have to choose between her job and a sick child or dying parent. Now, when a woman must face the daunting task of caring for a sick family member, she can at least focus on her task, knowing that she will have a job to return to. And even more important, she won't have to worry about losing her company provided health benefits just when she may need them the most.
Even more telling, George Allen, while he was a congressman, voted for a measure to rescind the Labor Department's ergonomics regulations, also during the Clinton Administration. That measure stripped the Labor Department of any enforcement authority to make companies provide education to workers in how to prevent repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, from typing, lifting, and other repetitive activities. It also prevented the federal government from enforcing regulations requiring businesses to take steps to minimize carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries in employees.
The majority of those who get repetitive stress injuries are women who work on computers typing all day or in factories. So Representative Allen was hardly a the champion of women's rights that he is now pretending to be.
Jim Webb, with his emphasis on economic fairness for the middle class, would never have voted against the Family Medical and Leave Act. He wouldn't have voted for a measure that strips basic workplace safety and health protections from employees. Nor would he have voted against a raise in the minimum wage law, as George Allen has done, while also voting to raise his own salary in the Senate ten times.
Since women comprise so much of the low-paying service sector of our economy, those votes to raise the minimum wage affect the welfare of women struggling to support their families.
And in another sorry example of how the Allen camp has distorted both candidates’ records, consider this.
While Allen’s campaign ads have taken potshots at Jim Webb’s opposition to women in the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979, it was Allen, while he was Virginia’s governor, who opposed the admission of women to Virginia Military Institute. Indeed, George Allen called the government "nannies and pests on a mission to destroy VMI." And that was in 1996, a full 16 years after Annapolis had already successfully integrated women into its program. And years after Webb, as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, had changed his mind about women’s fitness for military service and opened 18,000 assignments for women, the most career opportunities for them in Navy history.
Finally, you can tell a lot about a person by the people he hires for key spots on his staff. As the Washington Post noted, Allen has 14 women out of 50 employees in his Washington office and as campaign staff but they mostly work in lower and mid-level jobs in administrative positions that are traditionally held by women. Only two women hold top spots on Allen's staff. In contrast, the five top operatives in Jim Webb’s campaign are strong, outspoken women. No man who opposes women’s rights or who thinks that women are unfit or incompetent would trust his campaign in their hands the way Jim Webb has done.
The contrast between these two men is telling. If you put the attack ads aside and take a true measure of both men, it becomes clear that Jim Webb is more in touch with the needs of Virginia women than George Allen is. And he has far more respect for women's talents and competence. You just can't judge a person by a few brash statements he made 25 years ago while ignoring his opponent's past and current history. George Allen has a voting record from the U.S. House of Representatives, the Governor's Office, and the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, when it comes to support for the things important to women, he can't run successfully on that record so he has to resort to attack and smear tactics. Sadly, it's par for the course with this candidate.
George Allen doesn't care about women's safety on the job. He doesn't care about their economic plight or their work-life balance. And he certainly doesn't care about their physical health or their reproductive rights. In fact, George Allen plain doesn't care about women or appeciate them. And it's time for women to reciprocate that lack of appreciation come election day.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
To look at Seth Stone you would not know that he was one of Argonne County’s most powerful, influential bloggers. His build is slight and his shoulders somewhat stooped He’s pale and his skin shows signs of the teenage acne that he still, at age 23, was outgrowing. His sandy colored shoulder length hair is shaggy, not in a fashionable way, but just unkempt.
But his blue eyes give away his sharp intelligence and wit. Right now, they were focused on Brad Jones, the sleek aide to Ron Mancuso, the Speaker of Virginia’s State House of Delegates. Although both young men were the same age, Brad, in contrast to Seth, was dressed in sharply pressed khaki slacks, a pale blue Oxford shirt and penny loafers. His light brown hair grazed his neck and fell in an expensive haircut. Brad stood taller than Seth, a difference in height exaggerated by Brad’s erect posture.
“Seth you can’t put this on your blog,” Brad was arguing.
“Of course I can,” Seth said sharply. “I can put anything I want on it.”
The blog in question was Throwing Stones: For People Who Don’t Live In Glass Houses. And it was read by the entire Virginia political establishment, both Republican and Democratic. Activists quoted it and newspaper reporters cited it for their stories. Throwing Stones was equal parts political humor, expose, and spot on analysis of electoral trends around the state.
Brad said, “But this is false. It’ll kill Ron’s chances to run for the Senate.”
“So, you don’t want it to run because it’s false or because it hurts Ron?” Seth asked. “I mean, enquiring minds want to know.”
“Seth, you say you’re a Republican. Why on earth do you want to hurt your own party?” Brad countered.
“It’s not about my personal beliefs. It’s about the truth. I’m a blogger and I have a responsibility to my readers just like any journalist. And by the way, it is true!”
“Oh bag it, Seth. You’re not a journalist, except in the Enquirer sense.”
“And Ron’s not a leader or a good Republican, except in the Tom DeLay sense,” Seth retorted.
Just at that moment, a gunshot rang out. Brad’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh my God,” he muttered under his breath as he backed away. He watched Seth crumble, a look of pained surprise in his eyes as he fell onto the ground. Brad looked up into the killer’s eyes. “Why.”
“You weren’t getting anywhere.” The person snapped. He then turned the gun on Brad.
Ok, the above passage is not the stuff of great literature. It needs work – lots of work – to make it even as commercial, genre fiction. But it’s a start and it’s something I want to work on.
But that’s not the reason I’m posting it here on my blog.
I hadn’t wanted to announce this just yet, but after this election cycle, I’m probably going to stop writing AIAW. My blogging is probably my most important contribution to politics. It’s not that I think blogs are more important than GOTV efforts. I actually think it’s more important to knock on every door and make every phone call, especially if you are at all a people person and can actually hold a normal human conversation.
I’m better at writing.
Seriously, when I phone bank, I pray that the people at the other end of the line won’t be home so I can just leave a message. I’m also better at – and more comfortable with – talking to answering machines than to live people, who tend to fluster me.
My friends don’t realize it because I can be pretty talkative with them, but I’m actually shy. Approaching strangers to ask for something, even a vote for somebody I feel truly passionate about, is way out of my comfort zone. So, while I’ll probably never win a Pulitzer Prize, I’m more comfortable with, and better at, writing than true political campaigning. And at blogging.
So, when I say I’m giving it up, I announce that with great guilt.
But there’s something else that’s pulling me in another direction. It’s the desire to write fiction. I’ve got a couple of short story ideas and one story written that I need to revise and then I’d like to send it out to an old fashion print venue. It would also be nice to be paid for some of my writing. I don’t know if anybody would be willing to pay to publish me, but I’d sure like to fine out.
And one of the projects I’m working on is a full length novel, still very much in the pre-planning stage. That means, still a dream. But ideas, characters, and plot points are starting to dance like holiday sugarplums in my mind. I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas by the idea that I could write a novel someday.
And that brings me to the reason that I’ve decided to announce it now.
I know something about fiction.
It’s the obvious point. Fiction is not necessarily true or factual. It involves acts of imagination as well as craft and hard work.
I read a work in progress to a writing workshop that I occasionally attend. It was a story that involved a death of somebody close to the main characer. Because it was in the first person, the group was hesitant to say anything. I quickly realized that their silence was because they thought it was a memoir and they were waiting to make sure I wasn't about to burst into tears after completing the reading. I quickly assured them that it was a made up story.
There was a collective sigh of relief and then the dam burst and I got some really excellent feedback. The best was that everybody agreed it was so realistically written that they couldn’t tell that it was fiction. While the group gave me really good suggestions to tighten and improve my writing, the consensus was that it was already a thoroughly believable work of fiction. And I had made them care about the protagonist. I felt tremendously gratified and encouraged by their feedback.
After the workshop ended, I lingered on the steps of the Pohick Library to chat with some of the other workshop attendees. One person wanted to call me Donna, the name of the protagonist. He laughed and said it was because he still thought she was so real.
“Are you sure it’s not true?” He asked again.
“Not a word,” I assured him.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because of the absurd brouhaha the Allen campaign has been making over Jim Webb’s so-called sexually explicit writing in his fiction. Besides the Allen campaign, which apparently has been shopping this non-story to all the major media (only the Drudge Report bought their premise and ran with a story about it), bloggers like Mason Conserative are questioning whether Webb has the integrity and moral fiber to serve in the Senate because of his fictional writing.
But other conservative bloggers (here, here, and here), who are a bit more sophisticated than Mason Conservative, and who haven't drunk the Allen Kool-Aid, have condemned the Allen campaign for their cheap tactic of trying to impugn Webb's character because of his fiction writing.
Just as I’m not Donna from my story, or even the killer from the above fictional passage that I've posted on this site, Webb is not the sexually predatory characters in his work.
Webb is a far better writer than I’ll ever be. That’s not false modesty on my part. I don’t aspire to write serious literature as he already has done successfully. Repeat: He writes literature. Not genre stories.
That George Allen has bragged that he doesn’t read fiction, by the way, is a badge of shame. It’s also the mark of an uneducated boob. Lots of conservative Republicans proudly read works of fiction, including John McCain, Lynn Cheney (who even writes some pretty hot stories herself), and Newt Gingrich, another novelist with some sexually explicit scenes in his historical novel . Even George W. Bush admits to reading novels. Note to Senator Allen: Reading good fiction is not a partisan activity; it’s merely the mark of an educated and civilized human being.
And anybody who reads fiction will tell you that you can’t judge an author’s moral fitness by taking one of his fictional passages out of context. Webb, in his work, is not in favor of all the actions that he has his characters commit. In the same way, the writer of a thriller or mystery might write a very convincing scene depicting a murder. But that doesn’t make that writer a murderer himself.
I hope, someday, to be one of those people who successfully write a murder mystery. However, since the premise of my novel is the murder of a popular blogger, I do promise all of my readers, no actual Republican bloggers will be killed in the making of my work of fiction.
And let me hasten to assure you, no Republican blogger or legislative aide was killed in the writing of this blog despite the opening paragraph. Because that was – well – fiction.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Unlike traditional healthcare plans, these plans require the consumer to pay large deductibles, sometimes as high as $2,000 to $4,000 for a family instead of the traditional $220 deductible, while the premium, which is paid by the company, is considerably lower than the premiums of traditional health plans, including even HMOs.
The new health plans are working; they’re saving companies lots of money. But the main reason they seem to work, according to this story, is because the high price of the deductible discourages people from going for routine treatment and even preventive care. And that’s exactly what these plans are designed to do.
Indeed, the Bush administration and its business supporters have lauded these plans precisely because they shift the burden of the cost onto the consumer and so encourage people to “shop around” for the best, most efficient and cost effective health care. They also encourage people to be more frugal – meaning get less care.
The problem is that’s often a penny wise and pound-foolish solution that leads to health complications and higher medical costs down the road. For example, by not seeking routine care for a cold or flu, a patient with asthma could end up with life threatening pneumonia instead. That could mean a costlier hospital stay with longer and more expensive treatment and serious physical complications for the patient that can’t be measured in just dollars and cents. After all, how can you put monetary value on one’s life and health if it’s your loved one?
And, let me tell you, most of the dazzling advances and life-saving techniques that have helped more people to become cancer survivors boil down to early detection. We don’t have a cure for cancer. Those whose cancer is in advanced stages often still die of their disease. It’s because of better diagnostic tests and public health campaigns, which have made Americans aware of the need to get regular mammograms, ultra sounds, and other routine screening tests, that we’ve been able to save lives.
But with high deductibles, how many mothers and fathers will go without those tests and routine checkups so they can have the money for their children’s healthcare? How many older people on fixed incomes will forego necessary testing and routine care?
Now, today’s Washington Post has an article that Bush has been talking about reviving his dead on arrival Social Security reform.
With the erosion of secure pensions and health benefits, a strapped middle class may lose the last of its retirement security at a time when it’s being pushed from all directions and economic insecurity is epidemic.
In fact, that’s why the so-called good economy is not benefiting Republicans. Although people tell pollsters that this is a strong, healthy economy, they also say they are not personally benefiting from it. They are very aware that how good the economy actually is depends on which side of the boardroom you sit on.
Meanwhile, Republicans in tight races are running away in droves from Bush’s happy talk about reviving Social Security reform. But make no mistake about it. Bush is stubborn. He doesn’t like defeat. He’s a spoiled preppy at heart and he sulks when he doesn’t get his way. And then he comes back, and back until he wears you down. If the Republicans keep Congress, he’ll make one last putsch to get his Social Security reform. He and his new Treasury secretary from Goldman Sachs want one final gift to give to their friends in the boardrooms and on Wall Street.
And if Republicans aren’t defeated this time, they’ll know they can do anything. Hide stock options, launder funds, take bribes from lobbyists, hit on teenagers, send sexually explicit messages to pages, and gut Social Security and finally drive their stake through the heart of the middle class.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
But the reality on the ground - the one that actually exists - is just the opposite. By now, most people who bother to read newspapers or blogs or who watch television or listen to radio know that the National Intelligence Estimate has said that our invasion of Iraq has increased terrorism. We've destabilized Iraq and turned it into a successful recruiting station for international terrorists who are offended to have non-Muslim Westerners occupying that country.
Most people are also familiar with Bob Woodward's book State of Denial, which says that the Bush Administration has consistently painted an overly optimistic picture of progress in Iraq.
Nobody, however, has yet to state the obvious. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the dumbest, worst strategic blunder that could have been made in the region. The trouble is that Hussein was such a genuinely bad man that it's hard to conceive that no good could come from his being ousted.
But as bad as he was, those now running wild in the streets of Bagdahd are so much worse.
I've harped for months about the difference in the situation of women. Under Hussein, women enjoyed relative freedom. They dressed in Western fashion, styled their hair, went to beauty shops, wore makeup, held down jobs, traveled, were educated. In short, they lived what we would call normal lives.
Since the invasion and the overthrow of Saddam, women are veiled. They are afraid to walk the streets, they seldom go places unchaperoned. In short, the fanatic Shiite leaders with whom we have replaced Saddam, have turned Iraq from a modern country into one as backward as Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. One more sad place where women's freedom does not thrive. Does not even exist.
But the latest casualty of Iraqi Muslim extremism is Christianity. As this article in today's New York Times shows, Muslims have seized upon the recent remarks by Pope Benedict as an excuse to throw still another temper tantrum against anyone not Islamic enough by their fanatic standards.
I'm not going to defend Benedict's remarks. They were insulting. But Pope Benedict is the same man who engineered a document, Domine Iesus, that declared the Protestant faith deficient. Lots of Protestants were offended. But you didn't see Baptists and Episcopalians rioting in the streets and burning down their neighbors' churches. They wrote letters to the editor like sensible people.
I don't know if anybody else on the left is getting as damned tired of Muslim rage as I am. But this quote from the Times about sums up the intolerance of the situation:
Muslim fury over Pope Benedict XVI’s public reflections on Islam in Germany a month ago — when he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam “evil and inhuman” — has subsided elsewhere, but repercussions continue to reverberate in Iraq, bringing a new level of threat to an already shrinking Christian population.
Several extremist groups threatened to kill all Christians unless the pope apologized. Sunni and Shiite clerics united in the condemnation, calling the comments an insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In Baghdad, many churches canceled services after receiving threats. Some have not met since.
“After the pope’s statement, people began to fear much more than before,” said the Rev. Zayya Edward Khossaba, the pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary. “The actions by fanatics have increased against Christians.”
Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.
Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.
But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.
Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors.
Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
I know that was a long quote. And I'm not one to usually cut and paste without commentary. But it's so important to get back from the alternate reality of Republican ideology to the accurate reality on the ground over there. It's time to state the obvious.
No, we are not better off with Saddam out of power. The world is worse off with the fanatics that we have put in his place. Bush's father and Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III all understood this. That's why when they invade Iraq in 1990, they left Saddam in power. They left him in charge but severely constrained. The first Bush Administration understood the power vaccum in Iraq and they didn't dare leave that country with extremist Shiites in charge.
We are not better off now. And certainly the Christians of Iraq, some of whom are descendents of the earliest Christians, are far less well off. And that's not wishful thinking or an alternate reality.
It's the only reality we actually have. The true one.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Excuse me but didn't that tactic fail when Republicans tried to shift the blame for 9-11 to Clinton? Clinton hit back and Bob Woodward and others validated Clinton's own claims that it was the Bush Administration that actually dropped the ball and failed to heed CIA and FBI warnings on bin Laden? Do the Republicans now want to go for 0 and 2?
Two terms - six years into an administration - these guys have got to begin to take some responsibility for their inaction and incompetence. They might as well, generals and diplomats who are normally sympathetic to the Republicans are pointing fingers at them. That includes some members of Bush, Sr.'s Cabinet such as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III.
For a party that came to power preaching the need for individuals to take responsibility for their actions, nobody in this party seems to be able to practice what they preach.
Accountability - it's not just for poor inner city kids anymore. Rich white people, perhaps, need to also be responsible for their failures and misdeeds too.
What about Mark Foley being a pedophile didn't the Republican House leadership get? And what about the House leadership's personal moral responsibility for the protection of minors did the party of family values and personal responsibility also not understand?
The Republicans have been frantically looking for excuses and targets so they can deflect blame from themselves for this scandal. They've been spinning this faster than my head spins after too much Pinot Noir.
According to this report from David Corn, Republican strategists were divided over whether to blame Democrats for leaking it as an "October Surprise," which Newt Gingrich suggested last week on NPR, or to go after gay Republican Hill staffers, the so-called “Velvet Mafia,” for protecting Foley and then engineering his downfall. In fact, a list of gay House staffers has been going around Washington, DC and Corn claims to have a copy. He also refused to divulge it.
But here's what he does say about the list:
Corn then goes on to claim that Republicans are afraid that if they harp too much on how many family values candidates have gay staffers in their employ they run the risk of angering their values voting constituents. Besides this constituency's ideological revulsion for gays anyway, it already hasn't escaped their notice that despite all the politically correct rhetoric coming from their representatives, few of their pet issues have ever actually become the law of the land. The Republican Congress has been better at bringing home the bacon to their corporate donors and big bucks contributors than they've been at delivering to the religious right. They've managed to give tax breaks, laws protecting off shoring, perks for oil companies all gift wrapped with nice little bows. But they failed to give the religious right the federal Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. They haven't made much of a dent on pro-life issues (though that could change with the new Supreme Court). But over the years, religious conservatives have expressed dissatisfaction and threatened to desert the Republican Party because of the party's lack of success at getting the social issues legislation so important to them passed.
"What's interesting about The List--which includes nine chiefs of staffs, two press secretaries, and two directors of communications--is that (if it's acucurate) it shows that some of the religious right's favorite representatives and senators have gay staffers helping them advance their political careers and agendas. These include Representative Katherine Harris and Henry Hyde and Senators Bill Frist, George Allen, Mitch McConnell and Rick Santorum. Should we salute these legislators for being open-minded enough to have such tolerant hiring practices? After all, Santorum in a 2003 AP interview compared homosexuality to bestiality, incest and polygamy. It would be rather big of Santorum to employ a fellow who engages in activity akin to such horrors. That is, if Santorum knows about his orientation. "
So, if those values voters see how many of their congressmen's staffers are actually gay they may begin to wonder if that may be the reason for their lack of success at advancing their social agenda. And they may also begin to wonder how many of these politicians whom they've supported with their money, their time, and their votes are true believers and how many have just been talking the talk while taking them for a ride.
So, the narrative that a cabal of gay Hill staffers knew and protected Foley is not a good target. The boomerang's too dangerous.
Unfortunately, venal Democrats who knew about Foley's behavior all along and hid it until it was strategically valuable to them also won't work. And it's their own fault. This group of Republicans has been so partisan and has marginalized their Democratic colleagues for so many years that it's legendary how out of the loop the Democrats are in this Congress. They've gleefully kept Democrats out of every loop on every issue for so long that they just don't have any plausible deniability on this one.
Nope. The public gets it that on this one they can't claim Democrats share their guilt for a cover up. This is a Republican scandal through and through. And it's not about the sex, not about the gay issue. It's the cover up.
Foley is gone. But Hastert is not only still around but he's still refusing to take any responsibility and the rest of them are still in denial. And that's the Republicans' real problem. That and, of course, protecting a pedophile and sexual predator.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Fair point. And it did give me a queasy moment. How could I guarantee that it wouldn’t happen? At that point, Webb was more of an unknown quantity. I liked his resume. I liked what he had to say about economic fairness and economic justice and I certainly liked what he was saying about the Iraqi war. Also his experience in the military and as a former secretary of the Navy gave legitimacy to his criticism of this Administration’s handling of the fight against terrorism. He was the one Democrat, I thought, who could make Virginians feel safe on national security issues.
But was he actually a Democrat?
Tonight’s debate laid that question to rest. While Allen spoke in tired platitudes and tried to raise fears about tax increases (in a state that has one of the lowest tax rates in the nation and that also has been voted one of the best run in fiscal managment while under a Democratic governor), Webb time and again showed his commitment to economic justice for ordinary middle class citizens.
Allen constantly tried to link Webb to Hillary Clinton and to tax increases. Webb meanwhile spoke eloquently about issues of fairness, the problem of the deficit, and the need for genuine economic fairness. When Allen tried to use the typical Republican claim about how good the economy is, Webb bluntly said how good it looks depends on where you sit.
Businesses are making record profits. The stock market is healthy and is benefiting wealthy investors. But the wages of the average worker are flat. And their wages are not keeping up with inflation. And Allen voted against raising the minimum wage.
Allen has voted with the Administration 97% of the time and 100% of the time on foreign policy issues.
Webb said that he favors targeted tax credits that would help the middle class. He stressed that under the current Administration's tax structure some of the largest, wealthiest and most successful corporations pay no taxes. And he said that we can't keep spending at the current rate without a source of revenue. It was clear that he was not in favor of raising taxes for working people but simply making large and rich corporations pay their fair share.
He also favors the U.S. making an unequivocal statement that it does not want to occupy Iraq indefinitely. He also would like to see Iraq’s neighbors in the Middle East get involved in the peace process while the U.S. withdraws to bases outside of Iraq, close enough to monitor dangers in that region but without appearing to be an occupying force. He pointed out that in recent days James Baker III and John Warner have both said that the Administration needs to take a new course in that region because we are failing there.
Webb, of course, has been saying that for three years.
Webb also spoke up, without equivocating, and expressed his opposition to the so-called marriage amendment. He said clearly that he was a Christian and believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. But he said that he, like Governor Tim Kaine, would vote against the marriage amendment because it was too broad and would take rights away from both gays and hetrosexuals. Webb showed the courage of his convictions and spoke up to take a stand that is unpopular in Virginia but is the right thing to do. And that is oppose an amendment that takes rights away from citizens.
But the most important thing Webb did was invite others like him to come home to the Democratic Party. As he said, those like him – the so-called Reagan Democrats – who left the party because of their concern over national security issues but who never felt at home with the Republicans’ economic policies, can come back to the party that now has a better solution than the Republicans. These are the working class and middle class people who care about economic justice. Tonight, Webb reassured them that the Democrats get it. The Democrats can be strong on defense, fighting terrorism, national security and foreign policy without sacrificing economic fairness.
Oh yeah. Webb also won the debate!
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Here’s a couple of obvious examples. Somebody saying a too hearty “yes, yes, yes,” to something while their heads are shaking “no, no, no.” Or telling you how good a friend you are while their hands are clenched into balled fists and their smiles are frozen on their faces. In fact, when they smile, their smiles don’t reach their eyes because it’s not sincere.
Well George Allen’s campaign has a metaphorical disconnect between its words and what it actually does that reminds me of all that talk about trusting body language. As a rule of thumb, always trust what people do not what they say. Here’s a perfect example.
George Allen just spent a lot of money to go on TV to implore journalists, the Webb campaign, and the voters to be concerned about issues rather than character attacks. His campaign has been saying for days that it wants to get off “character assassination” and discuss the issues that Virginia voters care about.
But for the past two days, his campaign has continued to run that ad with the female Naval Academy graduates who attacked Jim Webb for an article he wrote 27 years ago. That’s over a quarter of a century ago.
In fact, even Michael Shear noticed this disconnect today in this article in today's Washington Post. Here's a quote:
“A day after paying for a two-minute TV commercial calling for the campaign to focus on political issues instead of character issues, Allen said at the Fredericksburg luncheon that his Webb commercials are about ‘respect for women.’ His campaign vowed to continue attacking what they say is the Democrat's biggest vulnerability.Dick Wadhams vowed that they will continue to run the ad because it’s important to Virginians to know that Jim Webb was against women fighting in the military or attending the military academies (a position, by the way, that is similar to Allen’s position on the subject).
Let me see, Jim Webb was negative about women in the military over a quarter of a century ago and has since changed his mind and grown as a human being. George Allen, on the other hand, made a racial slur about a month ago. And it’s part of a continuing pattern that appears to have gone on unabated since he was in high school but Jim Webb should stop the character assassination but George Allen is right to continue playing that ad because it’s different.
There’s a definition for what this is. It’s called hypocrisy. You could look it up in a dictionary.
Or you could trust your eyes about the bad faith and bad body language here.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
But from what I’ve read and gathered, Allen surrounded himself with all the accouterments of a politician, the lovely and smiling wife, the picture of his father and the football helmet to remind Virginians that, yes, he’s that George Allen, Jr., son of the beloved Redskins coach.
He also admitted that some of his recent problems he brought on himself. Just the proper touch of humility. And he called the racist charges “baseless.”
What amused me most, though, was Allen’s plea to get back on issues.
Let’s face it, you don’t hire people like Dick Wadhams, Chris LaCivita, Paul Galanti, and the rest of the Swiftboat crew so that you can run a clean issue-oriented campaign. That’s not what they do and if Allen hired them to stay on issues and not character assassination he would have been wasting his money.
He hired them exactly to do character assassination. And if the situation had been reversed and they had found dirt about Jim Webb they would have been sanctimoniously telling the reporters and public that character counts.
It does. Theirs are the values voters, after all. And guess what?
Hate is not a Virginia value.
Hatred of blacks, women, Jews, immigrants, and gays is not a family value and it’s not what Virginians do.
On the other hand, Allen better be careful what he wishes for because if this campaign actually becomes about issues, Jim Webb will be even stronger in the polls and with voters than he is now.
In Virginia, as in the nation as a whole, people are dissatisfied with the way the war in Iraq is going. Most people no longer feel it was worth it to go over there. And more and more people are coming to realize that fighting in Iraq is not necessarily making us more secure at home. It’s not necessary to be in Iraq to fight terrorism and defend our own borders. Especially with the recent revelations from Bob Woodwards’ new book, State of Denial, voters are aware that they’ve been lied to by the Bush Administration on all counts. All Webb needs to do is point out that George Allen has supported Bush 97% of the time. George Allen is not a leader and he’s wrong on the issues.
George Allen is wrong on Iraq and national security. He also has voted against raising the minimum wage. He would vote for Social Security privatization, to continue tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of the population, and against programs that help the middle class and poor. If you want economic justice, peace and prosperity, George Allen is not your man. But Jim Webb is.
Make the campaign about the issues. Please. Bring it on!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Yet the truth is they are intertwined issues. And the Republicans are failing on both counts, their handling of the war in Iraq and fighting terrorism.
When Bush took us into Iraq the reason given was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – nuclear and biological. And as an added fillip, Administration officials kept implying a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.
We now know that there were no WMDs in Iraq. And the link between Hussein and terrorists has been disproved too.
The recent selective leaking of the National Intelligence Estimate confirms what many have suspected for a long time. According to this classified report, the American occupation of Iraq has become a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Since we’ve been there terrorists have flocked to that country to wage jihad.
The NIE also confirms that Iraq is spiraling into chaos and civil war. And on top of that assessment, Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial, asserts that the situation has been even worse than we’ve been led to believe. The Bush Administration has been withholding how dire conditions really are.
I think, though, that anybody who reads a newspaper every day can guess that it’s not exactly going well over there. Nobody should be in shock over Woodward’s revelations that Bush and his administration have been feeding the public overly optimistic reports.
But it’s worse than we thought. It turns out that the same people who are losing the peace in Iraq were asleep at the wheel when it came to preventing 9-11 after all.
Remember the recent uproar over the highly partisan and biased ABC-TV miniseries on 9-11? A rightwing television writer penned an essentially fictional account of the events leading up to 9-11 that placed most of the missteps at the feet of President Clinton. Neocons have spilled a lot of ink recently trying to lay blame for the intelligence failures that led up to the worst attack on American soil at the feet of the Clinton Administration and the Democrats.
To hear them tell it, Clinton was too distracted with his intern scandal to pay attention to stopping bin Laden. The miniseries even showed fictional scenes of Madeleine Albright and other officials ignoring warnings or passing the buck to other bureaucrats.
Clinton, never one to suffer unfair accusations in silence (he’s the one successful candidate who didn’t let Bob Shrum run any of his campaigns), hit back when he told Chris Wallace angrily that it wasn’t true. Hillary weighed in that her husband tracked down bin Laden aggressively and both said that it was the Republicans and neocons that let him slip through their fingers not the Clinton officials.
Indeed, Richard A. Clark, the former director of counter-terrorism at the National Security Council, gave testimony to the 9-11 commission that directly disputed the neocons’ claims and supported the Clintons’ assertions. Here’s an excerpt from his testimony:
" At the senior policy levels in the Clinton Administration, there was an acute understanding of the terrorist threat, particularly al Qida. That understanding resulted in a vigorous program to counter al Qida including lethal covert action, but it did not include a willingness to resume bombing of Afghanistan. Events in the Balkans, Iraq, the Peace Process, and domestic politics occurring at the same time as the anti-terrorism effort played a role.And now, according to an excerpt from Woodward’s book, as carried in today’s Washington Post, it turns out that the Clintons’ counterpunch and Clark’s statements are accurate.
The Bush Administration saw terrorism policy as important but not urgent, prior to 9-11. The difficulty in obtaining the first Cabinet level (Principals) policy meeting on terrorism and the limited Principals' involvement sent unfortunate signals to the bureaucracy about the Administration's attitude toward the al Qida threat."
On July 10, 2001 CIA Director George Tenet met with his CIA counter-terrorism director J. Cofer Black to discuss intelligence chatter that convinced both of them there was an increasing likelihood that bin Laden was going to launch a major attack, possibly in the U.S.
Tenet and Black called Condoleeza Rice, the National Security adviser, from Tenet’s car and asked to see her right away.
The CIA and others in the intelligence community were all noticing an uptick in the chatter signaling something major was up. Their combined gut instinct was to take it seriously.
Indeed the National Security Agency and even Richard Clark were urging action. Care to guess who the major obstruction was?
The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld!
Rumsfeld was skeptical of the CIA’s information and of the National Security Agency intercepts. He thought it was all “grand deception,” masterminded by bin Laden, a plot to measure U.S. defense reactions and not a serious threat.
We already know from other sources, including former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill’s testimony in Ron Suskind’s book, The Price of Loyalty, that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush were more focused on Iraq than al Qaeda or Afghanistan even then. Indeed, according to O’Neill’s accounts, as soon as the Bush officials took office they showed more interest in finding a way to invade Iraq than even in fixing an economy that was heading into a recession.
Here’s what O’Neill told Suskind:
“And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations. 'From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,' says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.”And Richard Clark reported in his book, Against All Enemies, that immediately after 9-11 Cheney and Rumsfeld were frantically trying to pin the attack on Saddam rather than bin Laden. Clark was astounded since it ran counter to everything the intelligence agencies already knew.
In fact, as early as June 30, 2001, the National Security Agency had released a top-secret intelligence briefing “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.” And remember from the 9-11 Commission the August 2001 briefing that Rice ignored, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the U.S.?”
Immediately after the 9-11 attack, a distraught FBI Special Agent, Colleen Rowley, wrote her open letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller that several agents in the Minneapolis regional FBI office had grown suspicious of Zacarias Moussaoui, a Muslim with ties to questionable organizations who was taking flight lessons but skipping training on how to land planes. Her supervisor and others in middle and upper management ignored these warnings. They were not passing on crucial evidence that might have supplied the missing pieces to a security puzzle that top officials were becoming concerned about.
But middle management rarely acts in a vacuum. Careless functionaries weren’t simply losing this stuff in the bureaucratic maze. Rather, middle management gets a feel early on for what the top political people want. And that’s what they feed them.
Cheney and Rumsfeld weren’t interested in al Qaeda or bin Laden. They set their sights on Saddam Hussein from the beginning.
It’s not like plans to take out bin Laden weren’t formulated. In fact, in closed-door sessions, covert plans were being developed to use a new secret weapon, unmanned Predators or drones with Hellfire missiles to kill bin Laden. But the CIA and the Pentagon were locked in debate over who would pay for it and who would have the authority to fire the missiles.
Because of a turf war and a scuffle over finances, bin Laden walked away to launch his devastating attack on U.S. soil.
As for Black and Tenet, they left their meeting with Condi Rice on July 10 feeling more frustrated than ever. As Black said, “Adults should not have a system like this.” Indeed he felt that the decision to just keep planning rather than heed the warnings and act immediately was “a sustained policy failure.” And Tenet looked back at that meeting as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt 9-11.
The man most responsible for allowing this opportunity to slip through the Administration’s fingers, Donald Rumsfeld, is the same one equally responsible for the massive failures in Iraq. And for the same reason. He has allowed ideology to trump evidence. And he simply disrespects career civil servants whether they are intelligence experts or military leaders. He, Cheney, Karl Rove, and Bush place politics above sound policy.
Do you all feel safer knowing this? I know I don’t. And I think it’s time to challenge the Republicans’ assertion that they are better at protecting Americans and take the issue to the American people. We can’t shy away from it. Not because we want victory in November, although yes we do want that. But there’s a more important reason to fight tooth and nail to expose this Administration’s willful incompetence.
The real security of our nation is at stake. If protecting America meant Democrats losing the next 10 elections, I wouldn’t care. And if losing one election cycle to get rid of Rumsfeld and challenge this Administration to find a real solution that provides lasting security for Americans, then Republicans shouldn’t care if that means defeat. Ultimately the safety of America and its citizens should be more important than politics as usual. It was in the days immediately after 9-11 when we all came together. And it should be again with these revelations.
It’s time to come together again. Whatever the temporary partisan political cost.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I have been informed by the Webb campaign that George Allen is doing a push poll. Please don’t hang up on them. The Webb campaign would like to know what they are saying. Write down as many questions as you can. So, if you get one of these calls please call Larry Byrne at the Webb Campaign and let him know what the polling questions are. Thanks, Ginny"
The number for Webb Headquarters is 703.778.4080.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
What else all four of them have in common is that they were all raised Christian and consider themselves practicing Christians today. And all of them also have Jewish blood. Jewish relatives. And none of them knew it growing up.
Madeleine Albright’s father made a conscious decision to convert and to have his family also convert to Catholicism before World War II to escape the growing anti-Semitism that was engulfing Europe in a flood of hatred. Because he was a prominent diplomat, he got his family to safety in England and Madeleine never knew until the mid-1990s that she had Jewish ancestors. Although she is still a Christian, she embraced all of her heritage and publicly acknowledged her history.
Basically, John Kerry and Wes Clark did the same. Kerry found out that his grandfather was Jewish and had converted to Catholicism as a young man. In fact, one of Kerry’s brothers converted to Judaism to marry a Jewish woman. When the Kerrys found out their family history, his brother quipped that if he had known earlier, he wouldn’t have had to go through all the ritual and ceremony of a conversion. In fact, he actually would have because according to Rabbinical Law, Judaism is traced through the mother’s family line not the father’s.
Wes Clark also found out as an adult that his father was Jewish. His mother never told him because she didn’t want him to be subject to prejudice while growing up in Arkansas. She raised him as a Baptist, which was her religion.
Hillary Clinton also had a distant relative who was Jewish, which she announced while running for the Senate in New York.
What all of them have in common, however, is that none of them threw a temper tantrum when reporters asked them about their Jewish roots.
George Allen actually would not be considered Jewish because his mother Etty’s father was the one who was alleged to be Jewish. Judaism, again, according to Orthodox Rabbinic Law, is traced through the mother’s line. So unless Etty had a Jewish mother or converted she would not necessarily be considered Jewish.
George Allen can breathe a sigh of relief. He obviously was highly offended when somebody asked about this. At last night's debate between Allen and opponent Jim Webb, WUSA-TV reporter Peggy Fox raised the question, as reported by Dana Milbank, in today's Washington Post
Although I am a staunch Webb supporter, I really, really don’t want to pile onto George Allen about this. Really.
I would like to believe that his anger at Peggy Fox, when she raised the question, at the Allen-Webb debate yesterday, based on an article she saw in the Jewish Forward, about Allen’s mother’s Jewish roots, was because the question followed a previous Fox question that asked whether Allen had ever heard the word Macacca from his French-Tunisian mother.
Macacca is reputed to be a European slur word for blacks, Arabs and other peoples of color. Allen might have taken Fox’s question to imply that Etty was bigoted and used racial slur words while the Allen children were growing up.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Allen could have heard the word innocently enough as a child from a distant relative or acquaintance of Etty’s. In my otherwise liberal family, I heard some foolish relatives use words that my parents would never countenance. My folks wouldn’t have approved such language, but they couldn’t keep me sheltered from those who did use it. You can love your relatives despite their shortcomings. But you sure don’t get to pick them.
So Fox may not have meant to cast any aspersions on Allen’s mother. And Allen had every right to defend his mother from any charge of personal bigotry.
But his anger at the implication that he might have some Jewish relative lurking in a closet somewhere was way out of proportion. It seems almost like he considered the mere suggestion that he might have some Jewish blood a real insult.
Being Jewish myself, I have to wonder about that. A proportionate response to Fox’s question would have been either denial if it wasn’t true or simply admitting that he didn’t know if that was the truth. But getting angry and then staying angry even after the debate suggests that more might have been going on in Allen’s mind.
After all, Fox didn’t accuse him of being a Communist, a money grubbing Shylock, or a traitor. Or did she?
Those are all the stereotypes that bigots have of Jews.
I don’t believe that Allen is a conscious anti-Semite. He is, after all, a big supporter of Israel. He has Jewish political supporters too. And if you asked him, he’d probably be insulted that you would even think such a thing.
But at some level, being asked about a Jewish relative was offensive to him. And we know he dislikes being called Felix, which was the name of his supposedly Jewish grandfather. Might there be a connection there?
It sounds to me like George Allen, once again, has some ‘splaining to do. He may be thin skinned. But if something like that insults him, his Jewish supporters have a right to know why.
Allen has indeed admitted his Jewish roots in this updated article from the Washington Post’s website, written by Michael Shear. But why does he still seem so begrudging and angry at Peggy Fox. After all, she didn’t out him for something shameful? Or does he still think she did?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
All it is is a list of events and activities that you can show up for to help the Webb campaign. And that's what makes it so important. All the words on all the websites in the netroots won't matter without your help going door-to-door to meet and talk with voters. Show up, canvass, be part of the crowd at an event, work a table, pass out campaign literature, phone bank. It all helps.
There's a line from an old West Wing episode - not an exact quote, but it went something like this - "Decisions are made by those who show up."
Here are ways, places, and contacts where you can go to help Jim Webb. So, just show up!
Televised Debates—Come be a part of history!
MEET THE PRESS with Tim Russert WHERE: NBC Studios, 4001 Washington DC, NWWHEN: September 17, Sunday. Meet at 7:30 am. Debate starts at 10:30 amINFO: firstname.lastname@example.org 703-778-2781NOTE: We will gather afterwards to watch the debate as it's broadcast!
FAIRFAX CHAMBER OF COMMERCE DEBATE with George Stephanopoulous WHERE: Hilton Hotel, 7920 Jones Branch Drive, McLean VAWHEN: September 18, Monday. Meet at 10:00 am. Debate starts at 11:30 amINFO: email@example.com 703-778-2781
Upcoming Outreach Events—most events involve only a 2-3 hour commitment.
Washington County Fair—a great musical line-up!
WHERE: Washington County Fairgrounds, Abingdon, VA
WHEN: Sep 11-16, Mon – Fri 6 pm – 9 pm, Sat 10 am – 8 pm,
need people for Fri & SatINFO: Blake Andis firstname.lastname@example.org , 276-451-0194 or 276-676-0315
14th Annual Centreville Day Parade & Festival—a major political parade, come join the fun!
WHERE: Centreville Historic District, Centreville
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 10 am - 6 pm INFO: Mary Lee Cerillo email@example.com 703-830-3435, http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/Hva4ON
Reston Multi-cultural Festival—an award-winning event!
WHERE: Lake Anne Village Center, Reston, VA
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 10 am - 6 pm INFO: Leslie David firstname.lastname@example.org, http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/HzUZAV
43rd Street Festival of the Arts—the arts come alive in Richmond
WHERE: 43rd St., Downtown Richmond
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 10 am – 5 pmINFO: Nichole Herbig email@example.com, 804-852-7224, 43rdstgallery.com
Southeastern Gun Show—another fine Sportsmen for Webb event
WHERE: Hampton Convention Center, Hampton VA
WHEN: Sep 16-17 Sat–Sun, 9-5, 10-4
INFO: Jim Kirkman, SportsforWebb@verizon.net, 703-314-6895, http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/ijGuc3
Bluemont Country Fair—a great small-town fair in the Blue Ridge foothills!
WHERE: Bluemont, VAWHEN: Sep 16-17 Sat-Sun, 10 am – 5 pm
INFO: firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-997-7275, http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/9Ic97J
Wilderness Trail Festival—a celebration of southwest history & culture
WHERE: Downtown Christiansburg, VA
WHEN: Sep 16 Sat 9-5INFO: Henry Tieleman, mailto:email@example.com, 540-382-7961 http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/RbuMvt
Manassas Old World Festival
WHERE: Harris Pavilion, Manassas
WHEN: Sep 16, Sat 11 am - 5 pm INFO: Tom Counts firstname.lastname@example.org 571-330-6621, http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/RKPC8a
18th Annual African American Heritage Festival
WHERE: Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton City
WHEN: Sep 16 -17, Sat-Sun 10 am - 5 pm
INFO: Greg Kane email@example.com 804-651-7195
Manassas Art Festival
WHERE: Harris Pavilion, Manassas
WHEN: Sep 17, Sun 10 am - 5 pm
INFO: Tom Counts firstname.lastname@example.org 571-330-6621, http://webb.bluestatedigital.com/page/m/oiipuz658xp/ytDjeo
Neighborhood Canvasses—involves only a 2-3 hour commitment. It's easy...and fun!
WHERE: Webb Headquarters, 1916 Wilson Blvd, Suite 304, Arlington (Courthouse metro)WHEN: Every Saturday 10 am & 1 pm, Every Sunday 2:00 pm, Tues & Wed Evenings 6 pm
INFO: Christie Fanelli, email@example.com 703-310-6756
WHERE: Alexandria Democratic Committee, 618 N. Washington St.
WHEN: Every Saturday 10:00 am & 1:00 pm, Every Sunday 2:00 pm
INFO: Christie Fanelli, firstname.lastname@example.org 703-310-6756
Fairfax County—Mount Vernon
WHERE: 4701 Manor Drive, Alexandria, VA
WHEN: Sept 16, Saturday 10:00 am & 2:00 pm
INFO: Doug Reimel, DougReimel@cox.net
WHERE: Cherry Run Elementary School, 9732 Ironmaster, Burke
WHEN: Sept 16 Saturday 10:00 am & 1:00 pm, Every Sunday 2:00 pm
INFO: Mike Burns email@example.com 703 455 1014
WHERE: Poplar Elementary School, 13440 Melville Lane, Chantilly
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 1:00 pm
INFO: Jessica Bearden firstname.lastname@example.org, Susan Southworth, email@example.com
WHERE: Reston Regional Library (front steps), 11925 Bowman Towne Dr, Reston
WHEN: Sept 16, Saturday 10:00 am
INFO: Alex Blakemore, firstname.lastname@example.org 703-620-3315
WHERE: Reston Library, 11916 Bowman Towne Dr, Reston
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 3:00 pm
INFO: Sloane Kuney, 703-887-7841 email@example.comFairfax County—
WHERE: Oak Hill Elementary School, 3210 Kinross Circle, Herndon
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 1:00 pm
INFO: Jessica Bearden firstname.lastname@example.org, Sue Langley 703 403-0190 email@example.com
WHERE: Saratoga Elementary School, 8111 Northumberland Road, Springfield
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 3:00 pmI
INFO: Chris Ambrose, 703-314-7556, firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE: Olde Creek Elementary School, 9524 Old Creek Dr, Fairfax
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 12:00 noon
INFO: Mike Burns, email@example.com 703 455 1014
WHERE: White Oaks Elementary School, Shiplett Blvd, Burke
WHEN: Sept 17, Sunday 12:00 noon
INFO: Sharon Stark, firstname.lastname@example.org 703-978-9180 Bob Pearson, email@example.com
Go out and be a participant. Volunteer! Just Show Up!
Oh, and don't forget to have some fun doing it.