Friday, August 31, 2007

Farewell John Warner

By now everybody who is watching the news, reading the blogs, listening to radio - in other words, just about anybody who is aware and alive and cares about such things in Virginia - knows that our senior senator, John Warner, has announced his retirement.

I don't need to do a round up. Probably every blog, Republican or Democratic, has done something on this.

Really, I just want to add my own profound thanks to John Warner for his many years of dedicated public service to Virginia and to the nation.

He was a man of great integrity, dedication and patriotism. Whether you agreed with him or not on every issue, it's hard not to respect him for his great honesty. He was truly a great American who stood up for his principles regardless of the consequence.

I look forward to the rest of his term, where he has pledged to continue working to bring the conflict in Iraq to an end and to work for the strength and security of our great nation. And I wish him the best of luck in his well-earned retirement after that term ends. But he will be sorely missed in the Senate.

Thank you, Senator John Warner

Richmond Democrat Sets the Record Straight Again

JC Wilmore, over at Richmond Democrat, answered a comment that David Mastio posted on my blog earlier today.

While I respect David and think he had some good points about both sides of the blogosphere calling out our own for examples of harassment and intimidation, I also answered that it’s not realistic to expect each and every blogger to attempt to act as an ombudsman for the entire blogosphere. It would be impossible for anybody to keep track of everything out there on a daily basis. But there’s something to be said for removing the beam from our own eyes before looking for the speck in our neighbor’s.

But one of the examples that David Mastio gave was the incident a while ago where JC Wilmore indeed originally unmasked somebody named Alex Davis. But, as Wilmore points out, it was hardly an act of harassment or intimidation.

Alex had misrepresented himself, even to the ODBA, who kicked him out because, as Kat from Cathouse Chat said at the time, he had embarrassed them by his deception and his actions. Apparently Alex tried to pass himself off as a lawyer and threatened somebody else with lawsuits among other shenanigans.

The blogger in question, Alex Davis, was "unmasked" because he himself was hiding behind a false identity, pretended to be a licensed attorney, and was anonymously harassing another blogger, Waldo Jaquith. As part of his masquerade as an attorney, Mr. Davis falsely accused Waldo Jaquith of multiple violations of the law--then the truth was revealed: Davis was a fake.
You can read the rest of the account over at Richmond Democrat. The only thing I want to add is that context is everything. While I would be the first to condemn exposing anonymous bloggers or commenters in most situation, people should not be allowed to use the cover of anonymity, which the Net seems to provide, to threaten or harrass others. In this instance, the ODBA themselves reacted by expelling the culprit.

I’d say that was an example of cleaning up after their own. But without JC’s help, they couldn’t have done it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rushing to Judgment and Intimidating Opponents

There are three excellent posts I want to bring to your attention. The first is this one by Bwana, at Renaissance Ruminations. Bwana gives an excellent analysis of a post done back in April by Alton Foley of I’m Not Emeril on the Virginia Tech Tragedy.

Foley, who read an inflammatory opinion by radio host Neil Boortz, questioned why the Virginia Tech students and faculty just lined up like sheep to be executed by Seung Lee Cho. Like Boortz, he asked if it was because they had been so indoctrinated by liberal political correctness they could no longer take simple self-defense measures in a deadly situation with an armed gunman.

As Bwana points out, Boortz was wrong. And therefore so was Foley. Boortz ran with sheer speculation before anybody had the facts. But it suited the “liberals are to blame for every ill in the world” meme and so Foley never bothered to check his source or to check any of the other facts. He simply took it uncritically at face value because it confirmed his own prejudices and he printed it.

But worse, as Bwana also shows, when the facts emerged and proved both Boortz and Foley and all the others who wrote in a similar “blame the victim” mode wrong, nobody retracted. Nobody took down their posts. Nobody admitted they had been mistaken. That’s’ what Bwana faults Foley for.

The whole argument given by those like Foley and Boortz was built on a fragile house of cards: liberal indoctrination rendered the students and faculty unable to defend themselves against a deadly assault.

But when the truth came out that both students and faculty had, in fact, done just that, often sacrificing their own lives so their students or classmates might live, that house of cards collapsed. And the Foleys of the blogosphere never said a simple, “hey, I was wrong.”

Real journalists correct errors and retract false stories all the time. Every newspaper has a page where those retractions are printed routinely. To err is human. To retract is to be a professional reporter.

Then, in this post, on the Richmond Democrat, J.C. Wilmore lays to rest once and for all the myth that students and faculty members were cowards. Indeed, he shows, with numerous instances, that many were in fact genuine heroes, not only fighting back, but also often giving their own lives so that others would survive. It’s a must read because he cites specific examples.

Finally, Wilmore has another great piece on the tactics of some members of the ODBA and how they hounded not just Joe Stanley but also fellow Republicans. He contends that their actions amounted to cyber-stalking. A small cabal of ODBAers (and I’m convinced it’s not all their members either) used tactics of intimidation to slander the campaign manager for Emmett Hanger, Andrew Clem, in his race with Scott Sayer. This particular crew does seem to use scorch the earth tactics even against other members of their own party.

We should all be afraid of that mentality. When intimidating campaign staff and volunteers becomes standard operating procedure, it’s an attack on democracy itself. It’s un-American to create an atmosphere where ordinary citizens fear participating in the election process because they are afraid their good names will be slandered on blogs and they will be stalked by crazy extremists. This is behavior that has its roots in a darker period of human history and must not be tolerated in a modern representative democratic republic. When anybody, Democrat or Republican, is intimidated and threatened, we all become less free.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Statement from Joe Stanley

As most people who read my blog and who have read my comments on various sites over the weekend know, I do not approve of what Joe Stanley did. My main objection was that the site he chose to link the ODBA name to was NAMBLA, an organization that supports legalizing pedophilia. My main objection was to that site. I still wish he had gone to a G-rated site that would have ridiculed them but not been so fraught with baggage.

I’ve made my condemnations known. But, I’ve also maintained this. He did not act in a vacuum. He has been harassed and slandered by a very small subset of the ODBA who are trying to get revenge for the macacca video and who have colluded to deprive him of his livelihood. I said that even before I saw his statement on this.

My biggest sorrow at this is that those ODBA members, mostly the SWAC group, have managed to turn themselves into the aggrieved victims while basically continuing their smear campaign againt Joe, which actually began before he put out that link. Go to their sites and they are painting with a broad brush, demanding that the entire Democratic Party apologize for the actions of one person. They even are attempting to link candidates who have not used Stanley’s consulting company to this. I believe this was their plan all along.

Before Joe, unfortunately, lashed out in hurt and retaliation and gave the gift that keeps giving, they were planning to tar everybody associated in any way with Joe with anti-semitism for a cartoon that Joe drew for the Webb campaign last year. Their game plan, as exposed by Ben, was to revive the baseless anti-semitism charge and embarrass every Democrat who used Joe’s Yellow Dog Strategy consulting firm. That is conspiracy to deprive Joe of his livelihood.

Joe’s an extremely talented and clever person. It’s no wonder they wanted to take him out. It was revenge pure and simple.

Although I do disagree with what Joe did, I don’t disagree with why he did it. So, I hope he doesn’t mind, but I am going to print in its entirety his statement, which already appeared on Raising Kaine and Not Larry Sabato.

You’ve probably already read it over there. But I feel, in the interest of fairness, I owe Joe his side of this. Everybody has heard from ODBA ad nauseum. They are not the only victims in this.

The Old Dominion Blog Alliance is a loose collection of individuals who blog in order to promote a conservative political agenda. That, in and of itself, would be great if that was all it was.
Unfortunately, this group’s most vocal members are a coven of ill-informed, fulminating, bullies so overwrought with political passion that they have lost all sight of fairness, civility, and discretion. Their detachment from reality has led them so far off the path that they know no bounds, no extent, and no depths to which they will not stoop.

After these gutless invertebrate have spent weeks conspiring to destroy an individual for holding a belief or idea that was not pre-approved by the ODBA they then scurry and cry foul when responded to. The sanctimonious among them quote the Old Testament with forked tongues and their chief pettifogger steps away from busting rocks to promise frivolous lawsuits.

The less vocal members of this organization sit on their hands and shake their heads. “It’s not us! We didn’t say anything!” It somehow fails to dawn on them that they have lent this organization credence by lending it their names. Abraham Lincoln once said, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."

These silent sheep are being used as virtual shields to protect the lowest of the ODBA.

In the early summer of 2007, I volunteered my services to Senator Roscoe Reynolds. I believe Senator Reynolds is a strong advocate for Southwest Virginia and all working Virginians. The extent of my volunteer services was to build a pro-Reynolds site. Quite frankly, Mr. Evans poor showing in this race leaves Senator Reynolds virtually unopposed. He has no need to even mention Evans’ name, much less talk about his character or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, Evans’ campaign manager and cowardly ODBA member Alton Foley spoon fed his fellow bloggers some reality-altering kool-aid. It is their fantasy that if they can bloody Reynolds on the net then they’ll beat him at the ballot box. Their first attack on Senator Reynolds was for “hiring” me and a rehash of their outrageous attacks upon me from the 2006 cycle.

What they don’t understand is that attacking the staff, much less a volunteer doesn’t push votes. That is process–inside baseball–and no one cares. When their attacks failed to take root they became harsher, continuing their attacks upon me and my business. They were very persistent and never let the facts get in their way.
Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. And Here.

Don't forget this one where Kat Wilton advises, "Politics is a hard-hitting and frequently rough arena for people to play in, and if you can't take the heat, get the bloody hell out of the kitchen!" I suppose that is a one way street.

It was apparent that the attacks were coordinated and getting more and more personal. When the ODBA cannot win by promoting their ideas, they try and bully everyone else out of the room. If they scare off the staff and volunteers, in their mind, what will Reynolds do? He’ll win. He will win either way because he is the best man in this race and one of the best in the Virginia Senate.

At some point, I was angered at being attacked for no reason and more so by having my business and livelihood targeted. I decided to speculate the domain At that point I was still opposed to domain names of the individuals involved.

At no point did I ask anyone for their advice or consent on the path I was taking. What I do in my time is my business and my business alone.
I started to point it to a prominent Democratic site, but I don’t know of anyone who wants to be associated with these hate mongers and flat-earthers. I considered pointing the domain to a jihadist web site to draw a comparison on the extremism present in both groups. While I think the ODBA and their ilk eat away at the very core of what we are as a nation, I don’t think the ODBA is anti-American so decided to look elsewhere. One group stood out as equally loathsome and cowardly.

NAMBLA is an organization that advocates a set of beliefs that turn my stomach. Through misinformation, prevarication, and a false sense of earnestness, they pursue a predatory agenda that brings direct harm to countless innocent individuals. Their primary defense is the first amendment.

It is my opinion that the ODBA conducts itself in much the same way. While the end product is far less repugnant than pedophilia, no fewer individuals are hurt by the organization. The main distinction I can make between the two organizations is that NAMBLA believes in the first amendment, and ODBA only believes in their right to free speech.

I said as much to Jim Riley in an email when I was first asked about the domain.
This was not a joke, a prank, or any other kind of political horseplay. I meant the comparison. In short order, the ODBA proved my point once again. They were shocked that someone would fire back. I had sullied their “good name.” They quoted scripture, made fat jokes, threatened me and promised lawsuits. None of this bothers me as I would expect no less from these miscreants.

They have fabricated my right to political free-speech into a scandal on their blogs. They even issued a laughable press release on a Saturday morning.

They have lied about and attacked my business associates, social acquaintances, and anyone even remotely connected with me. When that didn’t get them anywhere these jackals then attacked my deceased mother, and are now going after my minor-aged daughter. One member, a Portsmouth, Virginia police officer who has a daycare center operated out of his home, published my home address and phone number to the web while his cohorts made unspeakable accusations regarding my fitness as a parent.

The genesis of all this hysteria was a free, positive web site for Sen. Reynolds.
The ODBA is out of control. They need to be stopped.

- Joe Stanley

Daily Whackjob Whacked by AIAW

Sorry, I was channeling my inner Tony Soprano. No doubt given the litigious nature of the blogosphere, somebody will be threatening to sue me for bad puns or poor word usage. I especially enjoy when it’s rethuglicans who normally hate lawyers and support tort reform, except when it affects them personally. (Another first, by the way, I’ve never referred to a Republican as a rethuglican before, and I don’t think most of them are. But with this small group of ODBAers, it fits)

Anyway, I’m damn mad because this was the week I wasn’t going to write. I said I was on vacation. Ok, so I’m an addict and I had to read. My mistake there. Because I was surfing the blogs, hoping to just scan so I wouldn’t fall completely behind. My bad because I was horrified to find this.

Now my first reaction was that it was just a spoof of Ben Tribbett’s provocative writing style on NLS. But when I actually clicked on the link I was shocked to discover that DWJ had published not just Ben’s home address but also that of my friend Terry Hartnett. God damned it, man, don’t you know about redacting and privacy laws!

The first thing you should know is that Terry has never been a blogger. Nor was she within a few hundred miles of this whole recent ODBA-Joe Stanley controversy. She’s currently a private citizen who no longer even lives in Virginia. However, somebody lives in the house she sold. Which means, in an age of stalkers and crazies, somebody now has an address they might think is Terry’s. Terry used to be the president of the Million Mom March as well as a Democratic activist. So, oh, I don’t know what crackpots out there might want to harm her or her family now that they think they have her address. And no, I’m not talking about the many sane people I know in gun rights groups. I mean the people that we don’t even know who are reading blogs and don’t belong to organizations but who are simply crackpot loners who hate activists of all stripes. And now they have an address of a totally innocent family in Burke they think is Terry Hartnett’s address. Way to go Greg!

This was truly the most irresponsible behavior I’ve seen yet. I now believe the DWJ crew is simply reckless. I was more than willing to give Whackette the benefit of the doubt when she first linked to the NAMBLA site. Of course, she had to know what the organization was. And she admitted she thought it was “ironic.” She showed incredibly poor judgment, especially in not also putting up a disclaimer. But she corrected that. She also apologized to readers who clicked on the NAMBLA site. Then, DWJ jumped in to expose the person who originally bought the ODBA domain and linked it to NAMBLA. At the time I thought Greg did it as an act of genuine remorse for his site’s role in this. I even praised all of them for their responsible behavior in correcting an error in judgment. After all, we’ve all made them.

But as the Richmond Democrat pointed out, the so-called remorse for this came only after the comments started rolling in and the DWJ crew realized they were in some deep shit with other bloggers and readers alike. It’s now looking more like they were not sorry they did it, but sorry they got caught. And so they gave up Joe Stanley and even tried to push the blame for their own irresponsibility entirely onto Ben to make themselves look like the good guys and fellow victims of the ODBA in this. Richmond Democrat is right. They saw the damned site and thought it was funny. Victims my ass!

You know how I know their tears of regret are crocodile tears? Here's how:

Because immediately after you do something so stupid and harmful, if you genuinely are remorseful, you also become more careful and consider the consequences more thoroughly before you make another error in judgment that could hurt innocent people.

The folks at DWJ did not do that. In fact, they did just the opposite. It didn’t even take them a week before they did something even more stupid and harmful. They printed two addresses of people who had family, one of whom is not a blogger and is no way connected with any of this. And when Cory Chandler pointed it out to Greg that he had put up an address, Greg's response was a flippant, I'll correct it when I get home."

Well it's 8:40 pm. I can't imagine he's not home from class yet.

This is not baseball. You only get two strikes in this case. So, they’re off my blogroll. And that’s quite a dubious distinction. In the entire two years I’ve been blogging, I’ve never removed somebody from my blogroll before unless they’ve quit blogging.

Oh, and I respectfully request that you remove me from your site too. Mission accomplished Greg!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taking A Week Away From the Blogs

You know, every once in a while I get tired of the blog wars and the adults, including myself, who act childish. I'm grateful for Genevive from Ditzy Dems, who put it in perspective and to Kat who continually proves that people who disagree can still avoid being disagreeable to each other. I continue to marvel at how gracious she is. It helped bring my own common sense back a little bit.

I put up a link to Kat's site and I'm also throwing one up to Ditzy Dems. I've been meaning to do it for a while and Genevive's response reminded me it's overdue.

I do want to go out on a high note, so I'm going to recommend another site by a promising young man who is a great writer with the noble ambition of presenting positive news. We should all be so mature. So, if you haven't already done so, go check out WeeWaw's blog. He's got some really inspiring stories.

Meanwhile, I'm taking vacation until after Labor Day. I'll be home but not on the blogs. I need to recharge, pay attention to my family, and get that red out of my eyes. It takes a lot more maintenance to keep me looking good and bloodshot eyes from staring at a computer screen all weekend doesn't improve my appearance.

So, I'll be recharging my batteries, exercising a little, maybe starting a diet, and paying attention to my husband. And when I come back, I'll be ready to write about stuff that really matters.

Blogroll Addition

I think the recent kerfuffle between the ODBA and Joe Stanley and Ben Tribbett has spiraled way out of control. And I contributed my fair share to the controversy because I was offended by some members of the ODBA for reviving the charges of anti-semitism pertaining to a cartoon spoofing Harris Miller during last June's primary between Miller and Webb.

But members of the ODBA were horrified to see their site redirected to a Website supporting pedophilia. I don't blame them one bit for that.

The truth is nobody looks good in this. I've more than explained the reasons for my ire on this site and two others. I'm done.

But on Daily Whackjob I received a gracious response from Kat of CatHouse Chat, whose site really is lovely. She seems like one of the most gracious people in the blogosphere. I think we all got hot under the collar. It's time to pull back and reassess the damage done by the hot heads (I fear I was one because the issue of anti-semitism is so painful to me that, yes, I overreact).

Anyway, as a gesture of good will, I'm putting Kat's blog up on my site. Diversity of opinion is important to me. So, even if I'm temporarily angry at somebody, I won't remove that person's site. But if somebody is kind to me and convinces me that they are a person of goodwill, no matter how much I disagree with them on political issues, they will be added.

So, Kat, welcome to my blogroll.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

If It's Summer Silly Season, It's Gotta Be Another Blog War

I have spent more time, energy and emotion than common sense would dictate arguing about a prank that Joe Stanley pulled off against the Old Dominion Bloggers Alliance. I've been on Not Larry Sabato and Daily Whackjob posting replies all day, not in defense of Stanley's actions, which were tackless and tacky, but criticizing the ODBA's actions, which led to Stanley's retaliation. Because it was what they did first that led to his action of redirecting their Website to a site that encourages pedophilia.

Stanley's prank is an embarrassment. It showed poor judgment. He could have redirected to something dumb and embarrassing but not so fraught with baggage and certainly not something X-rated. It's the nature of the site - pedophilia, for God's sake - that demands a condemnation. So here it is.

Joe Stanley doesn't represent me. I've never even met the man. But I would never, never put up a link to a site like that. Too many children have been hurt by monsters like those on the site, called North America Man Boy Alliance. Icck, just it's name makes my skin crawl.

But nothing raises my hackles as much as false charges of anti-semitism. And basically the members of ODBA made a concerted effort to revive an ugly charge of anti-semitism against Joe Stanley for a cartoon he did last summer, parodying Harris Miller for his work as a lobbyist in support of outsourcing and guest worker visas for the high tech industry. That all occurred during Miller's primary with Jim Webb.

The truth is the ODBA crew were in collusion to smear candidate Roscoe Reynolds by linking him to Stanley, who is doing some consulting for Reynolds. It was an attempt at guilt by association. They wanted to revive the anti-semitism charge to discredit Reynolds. This is a campaign race where racisim and anti-semitism are not issues. Or weren't until this miserable, exploitative group decided to insert it as an issue. Jew baiting for fun and games. That's all it is.

But the real heart of the matter is the ODBA still blames both Joe Stanley and Ben Tribbett for George Allen's maccaca moment. They hate both Tribett and Stanley because their own candidate displayed racism and his bullying nature and it was caught on videotape. And Tribbett and Stanley were key players in that embarrassing tape getting distributed as widely as it did on the blogosphere. So to turn the tables, they want to portray Stanley as an anti-semite.

The best write up from a disinterested source, who doesn't even like NLS, comes from Terry at Slantblog. So, I'm going to urge you to go to the link, and let him have the final word.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ICE: The Union Buster's Trusty Tool

Well, as I promised yesterday, here’s an update on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement middle of the night raid on Smithfield employees yesterday in Tar Heel, North Carolina, and four other counties surrounding the plant.

To start with, the scenario was not nearly as dire as I originally reported, but it’s heartbreaking nonetheless. In the confusion that often occurs when an eyewitness calls in, excited, scared, and confused, some of the facts got garbled. To clear up those earlier distortions, as far as I can tell from reading multiple accounts in North Carolina papers (here and here), there were no dogs and doors were not kicked down.

But ICE agents knocked on doors between 3 and 6 a.m., took people into custody and broke up families, in a few cases leaving parents to scramble to find childcare in the middle of the night for crying and terrified children as they watched their parents being escorted, in handcuffs, to detention facilities.

Here’s an eyewitness account, from the News Observer, by a union organizer, Eduardo Pena:
Union worker Eduardo Pena said he watched agents surround several mobile homes throughout the day, sometimes coaxing suspects to come out after negotiations through closed doors. In other cases, he said, agents waited hours for suspects who didn't answer their doors.

Pena said that he knew of at least two cases in which single mothers were arrested. In one case, he said, a child was left with a relative. In another, three children were left with a neighbor, Pena said.

He said union representatives were talking with the neighbor and woPena called the raid a "humanitarian disaster" and said that the arrests sparked fear among the Smithfield plant's Hispanic employees.
Twenty people were taken from their homes between 3 and 6 a.m. Eight others were picked up at Smithfield’s pork slaughterhouse at 4:30 a.m., during their shift. Twenty-five of those in custody are from Mexico, two are from Guatemala, and one is from Honduras.

Although Smithfield claims they were only informed about the raid a short time before it happened, other ICE raids, such as one last January, also occurred during a period of intense union organizing efforts. A major rally in support of the workers has been planned for the August 29 Smithfield Annual Shareholders Meeting in Tar Heel.

The timing of these ICE raids could, of course, just be a convenient coincidence for Smithfield. But the company has a long reputation for abysmal working conditions and for use of intimidation tactics to fight efforts of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union to organize. Indeed, Duke 1676, from MyDD, wondered on June 24, 2007, about the ties between the ICE raids and the company’s union busting activities.

Here’s what Duke 1676 had to say
There is mounting evidence that the recent spate of immigration raids might have more far-reaching implications than originally thought. Appearing at first to be the result of increased pressure from the right to take a tougher stance on illegal employers, growing evidence suggests that in some cases the raids are instead being used by businesses to help them fight union organizers.

Any question of collusion between employers and ICE were put to rest in January with the revelation of a new program called IMAGE that has allowed employers to essentially use ICE as modern day Pinkertons in union disputes...

...Prior to it's announcement, Bush administration officials spent months trying to persuade businesses that rely heavily on immigrant labor to join the ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program. Operated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security, the IMAGE program calls on businesses to submit all their current I-9 records for employment eligibility to ICE for an audit and verification. ICE would then also verify worker's Social Security Numbers. The upside for employers who voluntarily joined the new program and handed over worker's documents to the government would be some protections from penalties and the freedom from embarrassing immigration raids.
Duke also reported on the efforts to intimidate and harass Smithfield workers who try to organize. H/T to Duke for this link to the Raleigh-Durham Independent Weekly, which had this description of conditions as far back as 2005:
The fear factor: It's the fear part that the Justice @ Smithfield campaign wants to underscore. Approximately half of the 5,500 to 6,000 employees of the Tar Heel plant are Spanish-speaking immigrants, an unknown--but large--number of whom get hired after presenting phony documents that the company accepts, but might at any time "check into."

These illegals--and legal immigrants, too, if they're unsure about American laws--are unlikely to complain about the low pay ($8.10 an hour to start) and brutish working conditions in the plant, which were brilliantly described by Charlie LeDuff of The New York Times in 2000 as part of a Pulitzer-Prize winning series on race in America. (LeDuff got hired at Smithfield, and after three weeks on the line, he understood the saying that the company doesn't just kill hogs, it kills people, too. He reported that turnover in Tar Heel was around 100 percent a year--that is, there are 5,000 new hires, and 5,000 who leave, every year.)

But seven years later, when it finally addressed the union's appeal, the NLRB found that Smithfield had systematically harassed pro-union employees while openly favoring anti-union workers; it also threatened in forced-attendance meetings to cut wages or even close the plant if the union won. All of which is illegal.

In addition, the NLRB said, in the run-up to the election the police presence both inside the plant and outside (thanks to the Bladen Sheriff's office) was deliberately suffocating to the organizers and designed to intimidate those workers--immigrants especially--who might be thinking about voting pro-union.

Then, just after the votes were tallied, the NLRB found, the Smithfield cops helped mug two union activists, dragged them out of the plant in handcuffs and arrested them on phony charges that were later dropped for lack of evidence. The two won damages of $755,000 from Priest and Smithfield in a civil jury trial; their award, however, was overturned on legal technicalities by a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

The NLRB ordered a new election, and though Smithfield's appealing its ruling in the courts, and in particular the part that says the election must be held somewhere other than the plant, the UFCW's already begun a third organizing drive.
As you can see, not much has changed. For more information on the rally at the Shareholders meeting and general information about abysmal conditions at the Smithfield plant, which is one of the largest pork slaughterhouses in the world, go here and here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kick Down the Doors at 4:30 Am - Or Smithfield and ICE Say Zig Heil!

This is a developing story ....

Exactly one week before a major protest was planned for the Smithfield Annual Shareholders' Meeting, which moved to Williamsburg from its traditional Richmond location, reports are surfacing that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has somehow gotten the addresses of supposed undocumented workers for the company. At 4:30 this morning, they kicked in doors and used dogs to round up as many as 30 people in an effort to intimidate workers trying to organize a plant.

This comes in the wake of a major union organizing campaign at one of Smithfield's North Carolina facilities. Smithfield, which operates both unionized and non union facilities has been bitterly fighting the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) organizing efforts for years.

This is not the first time that Smithfield has used ICE to intimidate workers. As shown here and here, Smithfield has a history of using the federal immigration authorities to intimidate workers fighting for basic rights and human dignity. But, as is pointed out in these articles, Smithfield likes to avoid having the raids occur at their facilities. So this time they managed to get ICE to knock in the middle of the night. Yes, just like the Gestapo and the Bolsheviks in a sadder age and in another continent.

Or, for many who remember a different era, even here in the U.S., it looks like Smithfield got the the descendants of the Southern Klan to kick down the doors last night!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's Still the Economy, Stupid!

In the world according to the GOP, we are in a good economy and have been for the past six years of the Bush administration. Of course, the housing bubble just burst and the credit crunch is roiling the markets on Wall Street and making investors on Main Street nervous too. Even the Bushies have temporarily suspended the happy talk so they don’t appear completely out of touch with reality, as they frequently do on the topic of Iraq.

But the truth is the economy has been a worry to ordinary working Americans for a lot longer than the recent mortgage and housing bust. This report in the New York Times shows what everybody has known for a long time, that wages have been flat for years. Here’s what David Cay Johnston writes:

Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.

Total income listed on tax returns grew every year after World War II, with a single one-year exception, until 2001, making the five-year period of lower average incomes and four years of lower total incomes a new experience for the majority of Americans born since 1945.
It looks like that moisture you feel dropping on your head isn’t just much needed rain ending the recent drought. It’s actually the trickle down theory of economics pissing on your hopes and aspirations.

While ordinary Americans have been experiencing flat wage growth, reductions or outright loss of pensions, and loss of health care coverage, here’s how the upper class has been making out like bandits.
The growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million. The number of such taxpayers grew by more than 26 percent to 303,817 in 2005, from 389,685 in 2000.

These individual who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 percent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000.
Those with incomes over $1 million received 62 percent of savings from tax reductions on long-term capital gains and dividends. Those tax reductions were signed into law by President Bush and a Republican Congress.

Predictably, Republicans are actually arguing that it’s not their elitist economic policies and failure to invest in tax cuts targeted to the middle class, which would have created real job growth, that have caused wage stagnation for ordinary Americans. They are actually still blaming it on the bursting of the Internet bubble back in 2000. Honest, here’s Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman who should be ashamed of himself:

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, attributed the drop in average incomes to “the significant wrenching hits that our economy took in 2001 and 2002, so no one should be surprised that what a bubble economy created in the late 1990s and 2000, where economic data were skewed, would take some time to recover.”
As I already said, Fratto, who once served as spokesman for the U.S Treasury should be ashamed of putting out such junk economics. But that would require some intellectual honesty, not to mention human decency. Let me see, this administration has been in office seven years now and they still think they can get mileage out of blaming the Clinton administration for flat wages?

Simple truth is that good jobs were more plentiful and wages actually grew under Clinton. Here’s the real record, taken from the White House under the Clinton administration, with sources such as the Bureau of Labor statistics, Council of Economic Advisors, and the Census Bureau. All sources sited in the quote:

Longest Economic Expansion in U.S. History. In February 2000, the United States entered the 107th consecutive month of economic expansion -- the longest economic expansion in history. [National Bureau of Economic Research and Council of Economic Advisors]

More Than 22 Million New Jobs. 22.2 million new jobs have been created since 1993, the most jobs ever created under a single Administration -- and more new jobs than Presidents Reagan and Bush created during their three terms. 92 percent (20 million) of the new jobs have been created in the private sector, the highest percentage in 50 years. Under President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the economy has added an average of 248,000 jobs per month, the highest under any President. This compares to 52,000 per month under President Bush and 167,000 per month under President Reagan. [Bureau of Labor Statistics]

Fastest and Longest Real Wage Growth in Over Three Decades. In the last 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased 3.8 percent -- faster than the rate of inflation. The United States has had five consecutive years of real wage growth -- the longest consecutive increase since the 1960s. Since 1993, real wages are up 6.5 percent, after declining 4.3 percent during the Reagan and Bush years. [National Economic Council, 6/00]

Household Income Breaks $40,000 for First Time in History. Income for median households rose $1,072, or 2.7 percent, from $39,744 in 1998 to $40,816, marking an unprecedented fifth year of significant growth in income. In 1999, the median income of African American households increased from $25,911 in 1998 to $27,910 -- an increase of $1,999, or 7.7 percent, which is the largest one-year increase ever recorded. The income of the median Hispanic household, adjusted for inflation, increased from $28,956 in 1998 to $30,735 in 1999 -- an increase of $1,779, or 6.1 percent, which is the largest one-year increase ever recorded. [Census Bureau, Money Income in the United States: 1999, 9/26/00]

Lowest Poverty Rate Since 1979. In 1999, the poverty rate dropped from 12.7 percent to 11.8 percent, the lowest rate in two decades. Since President Clinton and Vice President Gore passed their Economic Plan in 1993, the poverty rate has declined from 15.1 percent in 1993 to 11.8 percent in 1999 – the largest six-year drop in poverty in nearly 30 years (1964-1970). There are now 7 million fewer people in poverty than in 1993, and over 2.2 million, or over 30 percent, of this decline occurred during the past year. [Census Bureau, Poverty in the United States: 1999, 9/26/00

Kind of makes you long for the good old days, doesn’t it?

Of course, Fratto’s response begs another question: If we are still not recovered from a bubble that took place seven years ago – although the wealthy actually rallied from it admirably – what’s going to happen to working people now that we have a new burst bubble, this time in the mortgage and credit industry?

There will be the calls to tighten our belts as these people try to tell us, “we’re all in this downturn together.” Of course, we’re all in the same boat when it runs aground in economic bad times. But the rising tide sure didn’t lift all the boats when the rich were rolling in those good times.

But, I’ll let the NYT have the last word with this quote that sums it up best:

Robert S. McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, said that even though he expected a few very wealthy people to reap most of the tax savings generated by lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains, the size of the savings “still takes your breath away.”

He said the tax savings at the top, combined with lower average incomes after five years, “shows that trickle down doesn’t work.”


Friday, August 17, 2007

Lies, More Lies and the Lying Liars in Iraq!

Last week the New York Times ran an op-ed that buzzed around the Internet and other publications. In it two Brookings Institution scholars, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, asserted that we could win in Iraq. They had been over there on a fact finding trip and found that soldiers’ morale was higher than it has been in a long time. According to them, the soldiers felt a renewed sense of purpose, were enthusiastic about their mission, and believed they were accomplishing their military goals. The scholars also found there was more cooperation between the Americans and Iraqis, who were forging new alliances.

To be sure, both O’Hanlon and Pollack cautioned that these gains were modest. And our notion of victory would have to be redefined to acknowledge less grandiose goals than we had originally envisioned. But, they concluded, the gains we’ve made and the renewed hope for leaving a stabilized country were worth staying the course into 2008.

What made these revelations so startling that both the mainstream press and bloggers immediately picked up the story and spread it across the media landscape was the authors’ claim that they were long time critics of the war effort.

Ask yourself – and be very, very honest here – if this article and its conclusions had been reported by two scholars billing themselves as long time staunch supporters of the invasion who had simply grown disillusioned with the Bush administration’s botching of the war, would it have had the same universal impact?

Probably not.

In fact, it would have been viewed as more “happy talk” disconnected from reality. And it turns out this is exactly the case.

As this expose from Glenn Greenwald at shows, both O’Hanlon and Pollack actually were long time supporters of the invasion of Iraq and efforts to depose Saddam Hussein. I already noted in a previous post on this topic that Kenneth Pollack was author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq. Since that time, I’ve done more research and found out that O’Hanlon was every bit as much a hawk as his colleague. Not only that, but it turns out their whole trip was paid for by the military. Here’s the quote from Greenwald:

...O'Hanlon's answers, along with several other facts now known, demonstrate rather conclusively what a fraud this Op-Ed was, and even more so, the deceitfulness of the intense news coverage it generated. Most of the critical attention in the immediate aftermath of the media blitz focused on the misleading depiction of the pro-war Pollack and O'Hanlon as "critics of the administration." To his credit, O'Hanlon acknowledged (in my interview with him, though never in any of the media appearances he did) that many of the descriptions applied to him -- including Dick Cheney's claim that the Op-Ed was written by "critics of the war" -- were inaccurate:

Indeed, as I documented previously and as he affirmed in the interview, O'Hanlon was, from the beginning, a boisterous supporter of the invasion of Iraq. While he debated what the optimal war strategy was, once it became clear exactly what strategy Bush would use, O'Hanlon believed -- and forcefully argued -- that George Bush was doing the right thing by invading Iraq...

Since that op-ed appeared, a more realistic article about the nature of the new alliances in Iraq ran in the Washington Post. Secular Sunnis, disgruntled with al Qaeda in Iraq’s excessive piety, have cut their ties to that organization and are trying to forge relationships with the Shiite power structure by aiding the U.S. so they can get a seat at the table in the new government. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is a hopeful sign that Sunnis both want to participate in the government and see us as a preferable alternative to extremist groups like al Qaeda. But they are motivated by narrow self-interest not a great vision of building a democratic nation for all Iraqis.

Despite that more cynical assessment of the Sunni's motives, O’Hanlon and Pollack are not entirely wrong when they argue against leaving Iraq too hastily because of the very real dangers of further destabilizing that country. That’s also my argument for not pulling out too quickly.
If O’Hanlon and Pollack had been honest in revealing their true position, it would not have automatically negated their argument because every opinion piece should stand on its own merits and on the evidence presented, not the authors’ previous views.

But the simple truth is that O’Hanlon, Pollack, and the New York Times misrepresented who the authors were to create a buzz that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

There was more than meets the eye in their disingenuous self-definition. But there was also less than meets the eye in their arguments, which have already blown up in their face just as lethally as the latest car bomb explosion in Qataniyah and Jazeera, which killed 250 people, the most deadly attack to date.

And news reports on TV and NPR demonstrate that our troops, far from being re-energized, are exhausted. Their families are also exhausted and discouraged with the long deployments. Our resources have been stretched woefully thin because of this war.

It’s time to plug our ears to the siren song that we can win anything worth having over there and to get over the rightwing attack machine that insists that telling the truth is defeatist. No, it’s not. It’s just a refusal to continue to be stupid. We do need a cautious strategy that gets our troops out of harms’ way without further destabilizing the region. I’ve already dealt with that here and here. Nothing O’Hanlon and Pollack have said has changed my position. But it has altered my respect for the New York Times for going along with this last ditch charade.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Conservatives Crying Wolf

Far too many conservative bloggers casually call Democrats socialists and mischaracterize Democratic programs as socialism. They do this because they have no idea what real socialism is.
To prove they don’t know what they are talking about, here’s a description, from a story, written by Simon Romero, in yesterday’s New York Times showing what a socialist regime would really look like. It’s from a story about the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, and his latest power grab, including his attempt to abolish term limits for his presidency, which would allow him to serve as leader of his country indefinitely. At the same time, he is proposing to alter the Venezuelan Constitution to impose stricter term limits on local governors and mayors to eliminate any challenge from them to his authority. In addition, Chavez is seizing industries, nationalizing them, centralizing his power, and shutting down TV and radio stations critical of him.

Here’s the money quote that perfectly describes his version of state socialism:
Mr. Chávez’s proposals would centralize his control over political institutions even further, potentially weakening opponents...Mr. Chávez’s current term expires in 2012...

“We are entering a new stage implying more intensive state control of society,” said Steve Ellner, a political scientist at Oriente University in eastern Venezuela...

...He has nationalized telecommunications, electricity and oil companies; forged a single socialist party for his followers; deepened alliances with countries like Cuba and Iran; and sped the distribution of billions of dollars for local governing entities called communal councils.
There is nothing in the Democratic Party platform or the policies and positions of any mainstream Democratic candidate that remotely resembles this. No Democrat, indeed no organized labor official, proposes to seize corporations from their rightful owners to nationalize them.

There is a debate in America between advocates of a pure market-based economic system and those who want a mixed system that would basically keep the free market intact but would enact legislation to ensure health and safety regulations in the workplace, the right to collective bargaining, minimum wage laws, and discourage outsourcing through tax incentives to companies that stay in the U.S. and hire American workers. This is all part of the larger debate on the role of government in helping the middle class and poor people. But it’s not about taking over industries or income redistribution.

The debate is actually twofold. It’s partly about how much regulation we need to protect health, safety, and wages without placing too onerous a burden on businesses and discouraging economic growth. Get the balance wrong and you either have a drag on the economy as businesses fail or a free for all where people get sick from unsafe products and the middle class sinks into poverty.

And this debate is also about which services we as citizens wish to fund, through taxes, for the common good. Do we, as a society, believe that funding public education, health care, Social Security, street repair, traffic control, police protection, and a myriad of other services have value? Do we want to pay for some of these things and leave others to the individual? Which ones do we fund and which do we leave alone? Those are fair questions for discussion. None of these topics include nationalizing the oil industry or turning healthcare over to government run clinics. Indeed, in America we are more apt to discuss how to privatize services than how to nationalize them. So, the debate is more likely to be about which services, traditionally provided by the government, we should keep and which should be contracted out, not which industries we should seize next.

Another area for debate is which branch of government should provide those services. What is the role of the federal government versus the state and local governments? The traditional conservative approach is to devolve power down to the level closest to the people, while liberals have favored greater involvement at the federal level to provide services to the broadest number of people.

In terms of efficiency, the arguments can go either way. We can gain economies of scale by providing services, like Medicare, at the federal level to the entire nation. On the other hand, money can be saved and duplication of effort eliminated by letting each state and municipality design its own system to meet local needs.

As you can see, there are real policy differences between the parties, but none of them are anti-capitalist or pro-socialist. One party favors a more ideologically pure and robust free market system with more sweeping laissez fair. The other party is more pragmatic and favors some government regulation for health, safety, wage protection and a safety net beneath which nobody would fall. The real argument is how much regulation and service to provide and how to fund it?

It’s important to present the real debate and give voters a true choice. It’s equally important not to misuse labels because once you start throwing around inaccurate accusations, you trivialize the language. The problem with crying wolf is that once you call Hillary Clinton and John Edwards socialists, when Hugo Chavez comes along and really threatens democracy and capitalism, people will no longer heed your warnings because the very word socialist will have ceased to have real meaning.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Optimism in Iraq - Proceed Cautiously

A few days ago Chris, at Mason Conservative, wrote a piece thundering against Democratic defeatism in Iraq and trumpeting an article by William Kristol. He also cited a New York Times op ed by two analysts from the Brookings Institute, a Washington, DC think tank, who wrote there was reason for cautious optimism in some recent events in Iraq. (I have more to say about the authors of that report and the op ed piece below)

At the time, I posted a reply to Chris that his take on the op ed piece was overly optimistic and out of proportion to the authors’ claims. At no time did either of them say that victory, as Chris, other conservatives, and the Bush administration envision it, is a possibility. Their claim was a modest one. We shouldn’t be too quick to leave. Mainly, they were cautioning about the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal and urging patience based on some recent improvements in security.
The surge has in fact helped the military situation modestly. Another development caught them by pleasant surprise. And it’s been corroborated by this report in today’s Washington Post. Some Sunni insurgent leaders are fed up with the group al Qaeda in Iraq and are trying to negotiate a role for themselves as allies with the U.S.

Their motives are two-fold. They want a political role in the Iraqi government, and they realize that to get it they need to cooperate with the American forces. And they are unhappy with al Qaeda in Iraq’s insistence on Sharia law.

Indeed, the Iraqi Sunnis were always more secular than most of the Arab world. Under Saddam Hussein, women were discouraged from wearing the veil. Women’s dress in the Arab world is a snapshot of where a country or a movement is heading in terms of extremism. The veil is as much a political statement as a religious one. And until the destabilization of that country, the rise of the Shia and al Maliki’s government, women did not wear the veil. They dressed in Western style clothing, had their hair done in salons, held jobs throughout the business and professional world, and even served in the military. In other words, they had an equal role in society.

While they have not slid backwards to the degree that women under the Taliban in Afghanistan did or Saudi Arabia under Wahabbism, they no longer enjoy the freedom of movement they formerly had.

The Shia have always been less secular in Iraq than the Sunnis and this is reflected in the style of clothing women now wear, including the veil. Under Sunni rule women did not wear it, and it’s the al Qaeda insistence on the veil that is one of the reasons the Sunnis are turning against them, as well as other puritanical religious rules against music, encouraging men to grow beards, etc.

So, the Sunni insurgents, put off by the piety of al Qaeda and wanting a role in the new government have decided to cast their lot with aiding the Americans and perhaps even attempting an uneasy peace with the Shia to gain their ends.

But the Americans on the ground, while working with them, give them only cautious trust, which is probably wise. After all the Sunnis still state openly that by cooperating with the U.S. and the Shia to gain a role in the Iraqi government, they also hope that America will go home. They want to run their own country without our presence and if cooperating with us brings them closer to that goal, they will try it.

But that begs the question of whether they will continue to cooperate with the Shia once we leave. Or even if the Shia will embrace them in a power sharing arrangement.

While the military and security situation gives analysts some reason for cautious hope, they still agree that the political situation has not improved at all. And that’s really where we need to see progress.

I basically agree with the assessment that we should have a cautious patience for somewhat longer and that leaving in too hasty a manner would be dangerously destabilizing. Sorry, I know that’s an unpopular position with some Democrats. But I believe it’s true.

On the other hand, we can’t stay there indefinitely. By doing so, we are weakening our military strength, spending our treasure, hurting our economy, and hamstringing our diplomatic and military efforts in other parts of the world that are even more dangerous. That includes routing bin Laden and the real al Qaeda from Wazirstan in the wild, mountainous tribal lands of Pakistan. There also needs to be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation; and Iraq, rather than helping that, is a diversion.

We need an exit strategy that includes plans to keep any Iraqi civil war from spilling over its borders into surrounding states. We also need to involve the international community, including other Arab nations in the region, by convincing them that they have a stake in stabilizing the area and preventing genocide.

Unfortunately, as we come up to election season, we will be getting simple sound byte opinions to a complicated problem that needs a complex and nuanced solution.

Note: Although the authors of the Brookings report, Michael O’Hanlon and Kevin Pollack, are called critics of the Bush administration’s Iraqi policy, there could be some misunderstanding of their real position. Kevin Pollack, a former CIA analyst, wrote a book called The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, which was anything but anti-invasion. If he objects to Bush’s handling of the war, it’s because he perceives Bush as having botched it, not because he opposed invasion. Not that this invalidates his findings, but his bias is actually pro U.S military intervention in Iraq to start with.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Well Done Faithful Servants...

Two people, both of whom I admired greatly, passed away this Sunday. Oliver Hill, the Virginia civil rights giant, died at his home in Richmond. He was 100. It’s already been noted in the blogosphere here, here, and here, among other places. There’s also a very nice memorial tribute to his life on the front page of today's Washington Post.

Hill was elected to the Richmond city council in 1948, the first black in 50 years to serve there. He is remembered and revered in Virginia for his role in challenging the separate but equal clause that formed the basis of school segregation in the South. Hill was the lead lawyer in Davis v the County School Board of Prince Edwards County, Virginia. That was one of five cases that were rolled into the landmark Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954 that helped end legal segregation.

Hill also helped devise legal strategies to combat Virginia’s massive resistance to desegregation, including ways to keep public schools open when they were closing rather than admit black students. In addition, he fought for equal pay for black teachers in Norfolk Hill

Oliver Hill withstood threats and intimidation including having a cross burned on his front lawn. In fact, his wife put up floodlights on their lawn because of these threats.

Today, the Washington Post also carried this obituary of Jean Marie Cardinal Lustiger, 80, who died in Paris. He had been archbishop of Paris in the 1980s. He was an intimate of Pope John Paul II. In many ways, he was a traditionalist, but he always promoted ecumenicism and dialogue with other faiths.

Lustiger was born Aaron Lustiger to Polish Jewish immigrants in France. During World War II, he converted to Catholicism at the age of 15 and later entered the priesthood. His mother, Gisele Lustiger, was killed in Auschwitz. Lustiger made it his life work to reconcile Jews and Catholics in Europe and he strongly supported Israel, making many trips there.

Both men, Hill and Lustiger, experienced the darker side of human nature. Both listened to their better angels. These men realized that to keep a man in the gutter, you have to get in it with him. Instead, they chose to lift humankind higher.

I expect that when both of them see the face of God, they will also hear the voice of God and it will be saying, “Well done faithful servant!”

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Politics of Obstruction

Note: I participated in today’s press conference and below is my write up:

The good news is that the Democrats are fighting back against the Republicans’ well planned strategy to block all legislation and then label this a “do nothing Congress.”

And make no mistake, my friends, this is a very carefully thought out strategy to filibuster or veto every spending bill, every reform, and every piece of legislation that would help the lives of ordinary Americans. What it also is, though, is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters who elected Democrats to the Senate and the House in 2006 to end the war in Iraq and clean up the Republican mess of the last twelve years.

Some of the bills Republicans have filibustered, or the president has vetoed or threatened to veto, include healthcare reform, a prescription drug plan for senior citizens, healthcare for children whose parents often hold two or more jobs but can’t afford basic medical services for their kids, and any attempt to change course in Iraq. Indeed, dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq was one of the major factors that led to the ouster of Republicans in 06 and it’s the most important issue fueling public anger right now. And it’s Republicans who are blocking any attempt to bring sanity to our Iraqi strategy now.

In addition, they have blocked bills for safety measures, to make student loans more affordable, to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, environmental legislation to fight global warming – indeed many of them even deny there is global warming.

Robert Borsage, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, in a press conference with media and bloggers today, likened these Republicans to someone who “mugs the mailman then complains about mail delivery.”

But Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Representative George Miller (D-Calif), and Representative Jan Schakowksy (D-Ill) joined Borsage and Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, to fight back against these tactics of obstruction.

The also pointed out that despite the Republicans’ attempts to block legislation that benefits the average American, the Congress has indeed succeeded and passed some important bills that improve lives including raising the minimum wage, and healthcare for children, which just passed the other day. Despite passing with 68 votes, making it virtually veto proof, the president is threatening to use his veto power.

Indeed, the Republicans have used the filibuster 43 times, making this the most filibusters in history, triple the previous record, and the president has used the veto 31 times from May through August.

To combat this, for the month of August, Democrats and their allies vow to hold press conferences, on-line discussions, and appearances on talk radio and television to shine a light on the Republicans obstructionist agenda to thwart the will of the American people.

In addition to a month long campaign targeting Republican senators including Mitch McConnell, John Sunnunu, Pete Dominici, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, John Warner, Elizabeth Dole, Charles Grassley and Voinavich for their contributions to the politics of obstructionism, Democrats are airing this video, with Jason Alexander, from YouTube.

In doing so, they hope the Republican strategy will have a boomerang effect and when the GOP legislators hit their districts, the summer environment will be “hot enough to fry an egg on the hood of a car” when they meet with their constituents and hold their town meetings.

Despite the new militancy, the Democrats vowed they will not change the Senate rules or limit the legitimate voice of the minority, or the voice of conscience. Remembering their years as the minority party, they will vow no “nuclear options” to strip away the filibuster. But they do promise to shine the sunlight on the way Republicans are now abusing it and using it as a weapon of mass obstruction.

Because Debate Is Good!

Ok, it's a circle jerk, but I'm going to link back to Brian Kirwin, at Bearing Drift, because he put up a post about Janet Oleszek's open letter, which I posted the other night.

I'm doing it because nobody has made a comment defending Ken Cuccinelli here. I'm not the most read blog in the blogosphere, but I do hope to be fair and provide honest debate.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am for Janet Oleszek. I think she'll make an excellent senator and I think that Ken's conservatisim is increasingly out of touch with this district. On issues, I don't agree with him. But as I've said in the past, I do like him. He's a great person.

I don't feel the need to demonize everybody I disagree with. But I also don't feel the need to pull punches on whom I support. I'm a left center Democrat. I also know Janet Oleszek personally and have tremendous respect for her intellect and her integrity. I like her very much too.

So, I will support her strongly. But I do feel the need to be fair to Ken. So, here's the other side's response, as best I could bring here.

However, I will be writing more favorably about Janet, and more critical of Ken in the coming months leading up to the election. But I hope to keep a civil tone and I do encourage his supporters to defend him.

Because debate is good for democracy.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Open Letter From Janet Oleszek to Ken Cucinelli

I received this from Janet Oleszek via email.

August 2, 2007

I wanted to forward you the open letter I sent to Ken Cuccinelli today. Recently he has been trying to defend his position on the abuser fees, and I wanted to let you know that we are continuing to hold his feet to the fire. The open letter is below.
August 2, 2007

Senator Cuccinelli:

In a letter to your constituents, including myself, dated July 31st, you attempted to explain your position on the notorious abuser fees recently passed by the Republican-led General Assembly. Since these fees are nothing but a tax on abusive drivers, I will refer to them as what they are - an abuser tax.

Your letter raises many questions and fails to provide any answers.

The facts of your voting record, as presented in your letter are:
You voted against the abuser tax in 2006
You voted for the abuser tax in 2007
You were the deciding vote for the transportation bill that included the abuser tax
You voted against the final bill which included the abuser tax in 2007
You voted against the final bill which "reduced the General fund dollars for Northern Virginia" and "allow[s] an unelected body called the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to raise taxes on everyone in our communities..."
In addition to these confusing statements, you make the following claim on your campaign literature: "Building Roads- Senator Cuccinelli cast the decisive vote allowing Northern Virginia to get and keep $400 million annually to fight congestion!"

Based on all of the information that you have provided, I have the following questions for you:

1) Have you not signed a pledge to your constituents - and by constituents, I mean a Washington, DC special interest group - to vote against all taxes? Is voting in favor of a fee that is designed to raise revenue to pay for government services not a tax?
2) If you were the deciding vote to get and keep $400 million dollars, weren't you also the deciding vote to allow the outrageous abuser tax to be put in place?
3) If you were the deciding vote to send the transportation bill - which resulted in $400 million annually to fight congestion - to the Governor, weren't you the deciding vote to "allow an unelected body... to raise taxes on everyone..." as you so bluntly put it? Again, what about your pledge to special interest groups not to raise taxes?

Now that over 150,000 Virginians have signed a petition against the abuser taxes, you are calling for a special session. After all of your talk about saving the taxpayer's money and trimming government, it's interesting that your proposal to fix the problem is to invest tens of thousands of the taxpayer's dollars on a special session. Wouldn't it have made more sense to vote against the bill in the first place?

Ken, when you cast a vote on a bill, you shouldn't vote based on the need to fill blank space on your campaign literature. You should vote for a bill because you believe it is the right thing to do for the citizens of the Commonwealth, and your constituents. Either you are proud of the vote - and should be willing to take responsibility for the negative effects on your constituents that will result from it, or you should have voted no.

Your call for a special session raises additional questions:

4) Is this your plan for governance? Each time there is public outcry regarding a policy you have voted for will you call for a special session?
5) If you consider the fees so egregious that a special session is necessary
to repeal them, why didn't you vote against them when the bill needed
your vote for passage?
6) How can you be so proud of a vote to put it on your campaign literature but be so ashamed of the same vote that you call for a special session?

It takes leadership to get something you don't like removed from a bill. It takes bi-partisanship to change something you don't like about a bill. And it takes courage to vote against a bill if you don't like it.


Janet Oleszek
Constituent & Democratic Candidate for the 37th State Senate District

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Negative Attack Dogs of August

UPDATE: Brian Kirwin pointed out to me on Vivian Paige's site that by titling my piece "attack dogs" I was implying that he was a dog. That was never, never my intention. Frankly, I just thought it was a snappy title. But I guess because of the proximity of the title to Brian's name in the post, you could make that connection. So, I am sorry Brian. You are not a dog. I'd never call you that. AIAW

Or just a reasoned, vigorous debate?

Brian Kirwin, on Bearing Drift, challenged Creigh Deeds to condemn a new Democratic Website for going negative and attacking Republican candidates. For some background, at last month’s Blogs United conference in Hampton Roads, Deeds said this in a speech:

Whether it’s in Washington or in Richmond, we have to change the tone of the debate and put a stop to the endless bickering and gamesmanship that has come to define politics.

We have to reject the poisonous language that is used to describe the other side and hold up as an example those people who believe, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
So, Kirwin, whose favorite part-time hobby is to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy, thinks that Deeds should publicly disavow TheyDon’

Of course, turn around is fair play so let me point out that he thinks it’s perfectly fine for him or his cohorts, like Squeaky Wheel, to call Hillary Clinton a utopian socialist here.

First of all she’s no such thing. She is a moderate centrist Democrat who believes the government does have some role to play in solving social problems like health care. She also believes in public education, a socialist scheme that came over from England on the Mayflower. And her husband was the president who got NAFTA and other free trade agreements passed in Congress. There are real liberals who actually have trouble with her candidacy. But that doesn’t stop these two from misrepresenting and stereotyping her.

Or from whining when indeed there is turnabout. Somehow, Democrats are always the ones with the double standard when they retaliate against attacks. All schoolyard bullies love it when their victims are too cowed to fight back.

Unfortunately for them, Democrats are more and more refusing to be cowed and are fighting back. Something I heartily recommend, as long as they do so fairly and with integrity.

So, I went to the Website that’s causing these two conservatives such profound distress because of its patent unfairness - or so they allege. I decided to check it out for myself and here's what I found.

It’s neither unfairly negative nor an attack site. It’s a challenge.

The Democrats who put up the site do indeed claim they think some conservative Republicans are out of touch with most Virginians. And they back it up with fact-based evidence for their position.

For example, they point out that Tricia Stall signed a petition and made statements that she does not support public education. I’ve been to the anti-public education Website and seen her signature there (you do have to scroll down to see it) and read her subsequent statement.

So, what TheyDon' alleges is true. In fact, you can even argue that if others agree with Stall’s position, then this site would help her by publicizing it. It’s only if you disagree with her public position on education and think it is extreme that you would call this is a negative attack.

The site also illustrates Jeannemarie Devolites Davis' less than sterling attendance record at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Committee. JMDD claims credit for her clout, expertise and dedication to solving the transportation problems in Northern Virginia. If she’s not attending the meetings of boards she is on that address this issue, it’s fair game to mention it.

In fact, anything that challenges a candidate on either a public position they’ve taken or their performance on the job is perfectly fair. Without debating differences or scrutinizing competence and dedication, how is the public supposed to make an informed decision in November?

What’s unfair and negative is to make a personal attack on a candidate for things that are irrelevant to his performance, competence or public positions. It’s wrong to demonize people, stereotype or slander them. Telling outright lies is wrong. So far, this site has done none of that. It’s promoting fair and vigorous debate.

Not only does Creigh Deeds have nothing to apologize for, I invite Republicans to put up a site as balanced, fact-based and temperate as this one. Go ahead. We can stand the heat in the kitchen.