Monday, March 31, 2008

Kate Hanley's Son Injured in Iraq

Raising Kaine has the story here.

I heard about it from my husband just a few minutes ago. The Secretary of the Commonwealth Kate Hanley's son, Patrick, was wounded in Iraq. He suffered a head injury and has lost an arm. He is expected to arrive in Bethesda late Tuesday.

Patrick Hanley was married for just over a year and was scheduled to return from Iraq in mid-April.

I'm sure I'm one of the many whose thoughts and prayers are with the Hanley family now.

Ken Cuccinelli to Run for AG

Last night, I received an email from Ken Cuccinelli. He very graciously invited me to participate in a bloggers teleconference before making an announcement regarding his plans for next year's AG race.

And it was extremely gracious of Senator Cuccinelli to include me, which he did because I am a constituent of his. I am also, however, a liberal Democrat not likley to support his candidacy.

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of the work day, interruptions by co-workers, and the glitches of technology, I was not able to get on the teleconference. After fielding the interruptions at work, and finally dialing in, I kept getting a busy signal. By then, about 12:15, I am pretty sure they were well into the conference because the Cooch had a press conference scheduled for the mainstream media to begin at 12:30. Anyway, below is the press release I received last night.

Fairfax, Virginia, March 30, 2008 – Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) Friday announced a press conference to be held on Monday, March 31st at 12:30 pm. The press conference will occur in front of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway; Fairfax, Virginia 22035.

Cuccinelli will address his intentions regarding the 2009 race for the Republican nomination for Virginia Attorney General: “Having had some time at home after General Assembly session, my wife and I have made some decisions about this race that are now final enough to share.”

Cuccinelli, a partner in the law firm of Cuccinelli & Day, PLLC, was first elected to the Senate of Virginia in a 2002 special election. He serves on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and has worked closely with the Attorney General’s office on key public safety and public interest legislation.

I am pretty sure that by now the word is out that Cuccinelli has indeed announced. Indeed at his website, it's official that he's running to be the commonwealth's attorney general.

I have some suggestions for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee for the AG's race. The first is don't label Ken an extremist or try to portray him as a wild eyed fanatic.

It always backfires, as Janet Oleszek discovered. The problem with labeling Ken Cuccinelli is that he appears to be a personable, reasonable, and nice person who just happens to hold some opinions that differ from those of most of his constituents. But he will listen to them earnestly and treat them politely - except in a debate, where he's murder if you're not prepared. But politely so, which is more devastating.

Another problem is that the public is pretty cynical about any politician, so when one tries to portray his opponent in a way that doesn't match what people think they are seeing, they will discount the attack as "just politics" in the worst sense of the word and the attack will not only backfire, it will cause a backlash against the attacker.

So what's the strategy for a Democrat to win the AG's race?

The most important strategem is to avoid the culture wars and avoid name calling. Don't talk past the real concerns of voters to launch an attack on what you think is Ken's biggest vulnerability, his views on abortion or other social issues. First, stick to what the voters are most concerned about. For example, in Ken's state senate race last year, Janet Oleszek, a truly gifted and intelligent woman, insisted on focusing on Ken's record on reproductive choice. But voters everywhere in her district were up in arms about the transportation package, especially the abuser fees. Whoever was advising her campaign did her a disservice by convincing her that the culture wars was the way to go.

In the AG's race, focus on the issues relevant to the office and make the case for why the Democrat would be a better choice.

I'll have a lot more to say about this race later on. But 2009 is a long way off.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Leslie Byrne and Rex Simmons Show Solidarity With Union Workers


Saturday afternoon, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) was joined in a show of solidarity by Leslie Byrne, candidate for the 11th Congressional District, and Rex Simmons, former candidate for Delegate in the 40th District, in front of the Giant at Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield. Workers are in negotiation with both Giant and Safeway for a just wage increase and better health and pension benefits. Shown with Rex and Leslie is Erica Oliver Terry, a shop steward from the Giant in Alexandria.

Leslie and Rex helped hand out pamphlets to customers, asking them to show that the community supports the workers at Giant in their quest for a decent wage and better health and pension benefits for their families.

Other union members also joined to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters in UFCW. Pictured here are Dan Duncan, President of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council and Executive Director of the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Rex Simmons; John Niemiec, President of the Fairfax Professional Firefighters Union, Local 2068; Joyce Putnam, OPIEU; Erica Oliver Terry; Gerard Myatt, Teamsters; and Mark Federici, UFCW.

This is basically the same line up, except instead of Dan, yours truly is in the picture. I took the one with Dan, he took all the others. I'll have more photos from Joyce Putnam and will do an update.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Kid on the Block

There's a new blog out of Roanoke. It's one of those annoying Scrutiny Hooligans, Hank Bostwick, who, after all, is actually a Virginian now, so it's about time he launched a Virginia blog :) . By the way, his new site is good. It's called Star City Harbinger and one of the lead stories is "Mayor Helps Local Hooligans Launch a Blog."

Pretty funny. The story, however, is serious and it's a nice piece on the local mayor in Roanoke.

Anyway, it's always good to see a new Virginia blog. Welcome Hank!

I've put your site on my blogroll. And I've also put the original North Carolina blog, Scrutiny Hooligans on it too. After all, how else will I watch you guys?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

All Leslie Byrne, All the Time

Ok, so I admit being a shill for Leslie Byrne, writing two stories about her in one day.. I endorsed her early. Truth be told, I've known her almost the whole time I've been in Northern Virginia. I came here in April of 1990, a year after my husband started his job with the Seafarers Union and moved to Maryland temporarily. I stayed behind in Jacksonville, Florida to sell our house, right in the middle of a real estate meltdown. Our beautiful home was on the market for nearly a year before it sold. In an even semi-decent market, it would have been snapped up within a few months. So, believe me, I feel for people in today's real estate market.

Anyway, my husband stayed in Maryland during the week and bunked with an old college roomate, with whom we are still close friends. In fact, I performed his wedding - Virginia has something known as a Marriage Celebrant law, and I took out the license required to do the ceremony. You have to put down a hefty deposit, which the state returns to you when you file the marriage certificate for the couple. And you can only do one marriage ceremony per license. So, I'm not repeating it any time soon.

Meanwhile, back to my story. During the time Dan was staying with our friend on weekends, since he knew we would be settling in Virginia, he got involved in Virginia politics.

So, while I was still in Florida, he told me all about working on Doug Wilder's gubernatorial campaign. Soon after I got here, he was involved with Leslie's congressional campaign. He was just a grunt. But somehow, he got to know the Byrnes, and we got a congressional calendar from Leslie's office and a Christmas card from the Byrnes family.

All these years later, I still support the former congresswoman, who made history in Virginia by being the first woman elected to Congress from the commonwealth and still had time to be nice to a newcomer and novice who didn't have much status - I was a GS-5 clerk in the federal government at the time.

Anyway, that whole preamble, just to announce how happy I am that Leslie has qualified to be the first name on the ballot in the June 10th primary. According to an announcement I just received via email
Leslie will be the first candidate on the ballot! That means on June 10, all voters will see what we know: that Leslie is the #1 choice to represent Virginia’s 11th district in Congress.

Tuesday was the first day for candidates to submit paperwork and signatures to secure a spot on the ballot for the June 10 primary. Not only did Leslie file right at the first possible moment, she delivered more than 1,500 signatures to the 11th District Democratic Committee — well over the 1,000 required to get on the ballot.
In addition, she's picked up additional support. Delegate Steve Shannon has endorsed her. She also has the endorsements of Blue Majority, Blue America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Here's a list of some of the other unions, progressive organizations, blogs, and individuals - both grassroots activists and candidates, that have endorsed Leslie because of her principled stands on the war in Iraq, the economy, her support for economic justice for workers, sensible consumer protections, and women's rights.

Congratulations to Leslie! I am so very proud to support you!

Leslie Byrne Takes The Pledge - She Supports the Responsible Plan

Leslie Byrne is one of the signers endorsing the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. Other signers include Darcy Burner, candidate for the U.S. House, Washington State; Donna Edwards, candidate for the U.S. House, Maryland; Tom Periello, candidate for the U.S. House, Virginia; Jeff Merkley, candidate for the U.S. Senate, Oregon. There are a bunch of other progressive candidates who have signed up as well as several top ranking former military officers. Whose name is missing? Well, go to the list of endorsees and tell me who else you find from Virginia other than Leslie and Tom?

Oh, nobody.

You might say, missing in action is every other Democratic candidate running in the 11th CD. In fairness, Doug Denneny has stated that he is opposed to the war in Iraq. However, he hasn’t quite gotten around to signing up with the plan. Nor has Gerry Connolly or Lori Alexander, the two other candidates running.

The truth is Leslie was one of the earliest opponents of the invasion of Iraq. Here is a statement from her blog:
In January 2003, I signed a letter with 75 other former members of Congress asking President Bush not to take a foolhardy course in invading Iraq. Our letter asked the President to allow time for the UN inspectors to do their jobs, and to strengthen our economic and diplomatic efforts. Instead, he chose to continue down the path of invasion, which resulted in a destabilized Iraq, a population pushed into civil war, and the creation of an incubator for terrorism.

At the time I signed that letter, Americans faced the loud and insistent drumbeat of war: “The smoking gun turning into a mushroom cloud;” “yellowcake uranium;” ” aluminum tubes;” and “weapons of mass destruction;” were being were held out as reasons to go to war. The first stages of “shock and awe” and “Mission Accomplished” were held out like junk food to a hungry media and they ate it up.

There were not many of us at the time who were willing to be called unpatriotic, ill-informed, or even a traitor giving aid to the likes of Bin Laden by staking our reputations on publicly announcing our opposition to this foreign policy debacle (my good friend, Sen. Jim Webb being another notable exception). Five years later it is not enough to say, “we were right and you were wrong”.
Byrne was also one of the earliest supporters of Jim Webb, who also opposed the invasion and the occupation of Iraq.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Storm Warnings for Democrats While McCain Closes In On Victory

Let me tell you a secret. I want this whole primary season to be over. Soon!

As long as Obama and Hillary continue to duke it out, the media will keep focusing on the contentiousness of the Democratic race while John McCain is free to define himself to the public on his own terms. And that’s only part of the problem. The danger to Democrats is twofold.

First, as Noam Scheiber, in The New Republic, points out, we are facing a debacle like the one in 1980 when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter and they mutually self-destructed at the convention.
When Democrats contemplate the apocalypse these days, they have visions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton slugging it out à la Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter at the 1980 convention. The campaign's current trajectory is, in fact, alarmingly similar to the one that produced that disastrous affair. Back then, Carter had built up a delegate lead with early wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and several Southern states. But, as the primary season dragged on, Kennedy began pocketing big states and gaining momentum. Once all the voting ended and Kennedy came up short, he eyed the New York convention as a kind of Hail Mary.

Any candidate trailing at the convention must employ divisive tactics, almost by definition. For example, much of the bitterness in 1980 arose from the floor votes Kennedy engineered to drive a wedge between Carter and his delegates. At one point, Kennedy forced a vote on whether each state's delegation should be split equally between men and women. Carter counted many feminists among his delegates, but the campaign initially opposed the measure so as to deny Kennedy a victory. "You had women who were with Jimmy Carter who were crying on the floor," recalls Joe Trippi, then a young Kennedy organizer
I think that while Scheiber's portrayal is basically correct, he overstates his case. There are significant differences between the 1980 presidential race and the one going on today. That fractious convention was far from the only reason Jimmy Carter lost, although it sure didn’t help.

Unlike today’s situation, Carter was a sitting president, presiding over an abysmal economy that included stagflation; high unemployment; a gasoline shortage that saw a return to long gas lines at the pump, reminiscent of the 1973 gasoline shortage; and the hostage crisis in Iran. Then, he topped it off by giving the his famous “malaise speech.”

In addition, Carter blew a major debate. He sought to portray Ronald Reagan as a right wing nut and dangerous hawk. But what lasted in the public’s mind was that Carter revealed he consulted with his 12 year old daughter Amy for her views on nuclear weapons policy, which became fodder for late night comedians.

Then, Reagan’s famous question: “Are you better off now than four years ago?” turned Carter’s slim lead into a landslide for Reagan. That question probably had more to do with Carter’s defeat than the divisions coming out of the Democratic Convention that year. In this election cycle, it's the one question that could win for the Democrats.

So, back to the present and the bigger danger for this presidential race. It’s that while the public and the media are focused on the contest between Clinton and Obama, John McCain has been given a free hand to define himself to the voters and the media. And the media is already in love with him. Here’s what Scheiber has to say about that.
Ideally, the Democrats would be exploiting this tension like mad. They would highlight the anti-Catholic, anti-gay ravings of John Hagee, the evangelical minister whose endorsement McCain recently accepted. They would ridicule his chumminess with supply-side Neanderthals like Jack Kemp and his flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts. They'd dwell on McCain's less-noticed association with crony-capitalists during his tenure as Commerce Committee chairman.

Instead, something close to the opposite is happening. McCain's courtship of the lunatic right and his ties to K Street have largely been hidden from view, while the Democrats' dirty laundry has been aired for swing voters.
Scheiber’s right about that part, of course. But it’s not just that the media is otherwise engaged and so is missing these points.

Of course, a press corps that can’t mentally multi-task and keep their eye on one story line is nothing new. But it’s more than the fact that they have the attention span of a gnat. This press corps has also fallen head over heels in love with John McCain so they are not inclined to cover these things with any accuracy. Indeed, they’ll give him a pass instead.

Right on cue, this op-ed in today’s New York Times explains what is going on with the press corps and why.
It is certainly no secret that Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is a darling of the news media. Reporters routinely attach “maverick,” “straight talker” and “patriot” to him like Homeric epithets. Chris Matthews of MSNBC has even called the press “McCain’s base” — a comment that Mr. McCain himself has jokingly reiterated. The mainstream news media by and large don’t cover Mr. McCain; they canonize him. Hence the moniker on liberal blogs: St. McCain.

What is less obvious, however, is exactly why the press swoons for
According to Neal Gabler, the press sees a kindred spirit, a candidate with ironic distance from the process, who senses the absurdity of it all, just as they do. They admire what they perceive as McCain’s shared cynicism.
Though Mr. McCain can be the most self-deprecating of candidates (yet another reason the news media love him), his vision of the process also betrays an obvious superiority — one the mainstream political news media, a group of liberal cosmologists, have long shared. If in the past he flattered the press by posing as its friend, he is now flattering it by posing as its conspirator, a secret sharer of its cynicism. He is the guy who “gets it.” He sees what the press sees. Michael Scherer, a blogger for Time, called him the “coolest kid in school.”
Paradoxically, the press corps first fell in love with McCain back in 2000 because of his perceived honesty. He was not the typical politician. He named his bus “The Straight Talk Express” and presented himself as a bi-partisan maverick, willing to buck his own party’s orthodoxy. To the reporters, he was accessible and refreshingly honest. Now it’s not his honesty, but his lack of the same that they love. It’s their little inside joke with their candidate.
Yet the reporters, so quick in general to jump on hypocrisy, seem to find his insincerity a virtue. When an old sobersides like Mitt Romney flip-flops, he is called a panderer. When Mr. McCain suddenly supports the tax cuts he once excoriated, or embraces the religious right, or emphasizes border security over a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, we are told by his press acolytes that he doesn’t really mean it, that his liberal cosmology will ultimately best his conservative rhetoric. “Discount his repositioning a bit,” Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, wrote two years ago, “and McCain looks like the same unconventional character who emerged during the Clinton years.” The article was subtitled “Psst ... He’s Not Really a Conservative.”
Indeed, how reminiscent is that of Michael Kinsley’s ridiculous piece about a month ago on why liberals love McCain?

Paul Krugman predicted, in a NYT column, that the press, who seem to also love Obama, will turn on him in the election because, at the end of the day, their real love affair is with McCain. Indeed, Krugman quotes Bob Somerby’s prediction that the press will “Dukakisize Obama.”

I believe it’s true. In the end, they’ll turn like a pack of jackals on Obama just as they did on Gore and Kerry. But they’d be even harder on Hillary. As Gabler explains, here’s why.
The candidates who are dead serious about politics, even wonkish, get abused by the press for it. Mr. McCain the ironist gets heaps of affection. In this race, though, it has forced some press contortions. While John McCain 2000 was praised for being the same straight talker off the bus as he was on it, John McCain 2008 is praised precisely because he isn’t the same man. Off the bus he plays to the rubes (us) by reciting the conservative catechism; on the bus he plays to the press by giving the impression that his talk is all just a ploy to capture the Republican nomination.
What a searing indictment of the lack of seriousness of our national press corps. Their frivolity indeed makes Daily Howler Bob Somerby’s epithet for them true. They are clowns!

But while they are clowning, the average American is losing because McCain doesn’t have a clue about how to fix the economy. Indeed, he’s our next Herbert Hoover. And he thinks we should stay in Iraq for a hundred years and bomb Iran to boot. I don’t think that’s irony. It’s his legitimate position.

Meanwhile more about the press corps’ bias:
This suggests that love is blind. It also suggests that seducing the press with ironic detachment, the press’s soft spot, may be the best political strategy of all — one that Mr. McCain may walk on water right into the White House.
And while he’s walking on water with the mainstream media’s acquiescence, the progressive bloggers are fighting over Hillary or Obama. Nobody’s paying attention to McCain, and certainly nobody is watching the watchers in our media.

And that’s how we will lose the election that we should have won!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tom Perriello on FISA, the Constitution and the War Against Terrorism

UPDATE: I've added Tom's website, Tom Perriello for Congress, to my blogroll. So, go over there and find out more about him. Sign up to volunteer and, even better, contribute some money to his campaign.

I 've recently had some communications from friends and acquaintances who are supporters of Tom Periello, 5th CD candidate for Congress. I've also seen a few diaries on Raising Kaine and other blogs about Periello and his commitment to progressive religious values. Since religion is one of my interests and I've written about the growth of the religious left, his candidacy sparked my enthusiasm.

Today, I did some poking around to learn more about the 5th CD race, Virgil Goode, and Tom Periello. I'll have more to say and I'll definitely be writing about this race, as well as the races in the 10th and 11th CDs over the coming few months.

But in my surfing the net, I came across this video, where Tom Periello talks about FISA. In addition to showing his strong commitment to basic constitutional rights, Periello does an astounding job of pointing out that bad intelligence, hampered by the lack of proper resources, is the problem that led to 9/11. In addition, Periello shows a fundamentally sound understanding of everything that is wrong about our invasion of Iraq and how it harmed our real efforts at fighting terrorism.

Anybody who has ever read anything I've written on Iraq and our foreign policy knows that I've been saying for years that Iraq was the wrong war. It was conceived and executed by the gang that couldn't shoot straight. If we truly wanted to fight terrorism effectively, we never would have diverted our resources from Afghanistan. That's where al Qaeda was holed up, at the invitation of the Taliban, itself a terrorist and extremist group. The Bush administration did a terrible disservice to this country when it all but abandoned Afghanistan to concentrate on occupying Iraq and hunting down Saddam Hussein. Not that Hussein was a good guy by any means. He just wasn't a bigger threat than Osama bin Laden.

Anyway, as I said, I was casually surfing around for more information about Tom Periello when I came across this YouTube video, where he essentially says exactly what I've known and believed since the beginning of the war in Iraq.

Periello also makes a stand on FISA, the Constitution, and individual rights, especially the right of U.S. citizens to be safe from their government spying on them. I'm going to let Tom Periello explain his position in his own words.

Considering how important issues like national security, foreign affairs, military matters, and privacy policy are going to be in the next Congress, this is the person I want in there, not Virgil Goode.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

To all, Happy Easter on this beautiful cold, but sunny Sunday!

I'll be back with more tomorrow when I post on Tom Periello, candidate for the 5th CD.

But today is not a day for politics. It's a time to either enjoy a lovely day or, if you are religiously inclined, to contemplate the resurrection, renewal, and rebirth, themes that are common to many religious traditions.

For Christians, this is one of the most important holidays of the year. It began with the mournful foot washing of Maundy Thursday - Holy Thursday, if you are Catholic - and the sadness of Good Friday and it culminates with the celebration of triumph over death and evil on Easter Sunday. As Catholic priest Andrew Greely once observed, "Easter is the ultimate affirmation that evil does not trump good."

I don't believe you can get to Easter Sunday without going through the darkness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. There can never be renewal without struggle. To believe otherwise is to cop cheap grace" as Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed it.

Bonhoeffer was a founder of the Confessing Church, which stood against Nazism, and he also took part in an assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler, for which he was executed.
During World War II, Bonhoeffer played a key leadership role in the Confessing Church, which opposed the anti-semitic policies of Adolf Hitler. He was among those who called for wider church resistance to Hitler's treatment of the Jews. While the Confessing Church was not large, it represented a major source of Christian opposition to the Nazi government in Germany.

After the unsuccessful July 20 Plot in 1944, Bonhoeffer's connections with the conspirators were discovered. He was moved to a series of prisons and concentration camps ending at Flossenbürg.
He was no stranger to expensive grace, the kind that asks something of you and that demands sacrifice. Indeed, it was the grace of Jesus Christ, who died an excrutiating death to bring grace to humankind.

Indeed, for those who truly observe the rhythms of Holy Week, the joy of Easter Sunday is all the greater for having gone through the entire cycle of sacrifice, death and resurrection. To skip Maundy Thursday or Good Friday is to cheat oneself of the depth of emotion when one emerges on the other side of darkness and sorrow, which is Easter Sunday. For Christians, it has been marked by all night Easter vigil, among the most moving of services, or joyful sunrise services for many.

In that spirit, if you are a Christian, enjoy the true spirit and meaning of this day.

And if you are not, I'll be writing about the true meaning of Passover in April, when that holiday comes around.

Beyond this, I have respect for all faith traditions. Those two, however, are ones I'm closest too and can speak about with the most knowledge.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Generals for Hillary Clinton

Ok, I'm not going to merely give Vivian Paige a hat tip for this, I'm going to admit that I just took it right off her site.

It's a video you need to see.

Even busy with tax season, Vivian managed to find this and post it. Thanks Vivian!

Obama vs Hillary: Mixed Messages and Torn Hearts

The message coming out of this year’s Democratic primaries and caucuses is a mixed one. On the one hand, we are being told that it’s not about race and gender. The fact that we have a black man and a woman as our two frontrunners is vindication that America has moved beyond racial and gender stereotypes.

But then women have been flocking overwhelmingly to Hillary, and blacks – both male and female – have voted for Obama in droves. It sometimes seems that only white men are supposed to not care about race or gender.

That’s because they’ve always had the privileges. Who else has been in power for the past few thousand years, from even before we had written language and history?

Meanwhile, women and blacks can be forgiven if having a candidate who looks like them reflects their hopes and dreams. It says that, finally, even we can aspire to the highest office in the land. Finally, we might, just might, be able to smash the glass ceiling.

But what do you do if you are a black woman with mixed loyalties? Here is a really good post by one who is supporting Hillary. Tara Roberts describes her dilemma in this post in The Root.
I am a Hillary Clinton supporter.

There, I said it.

And I'm tired of the dirty looks I get when I out myself. Why is it so surprising that someone like me – a black, educated, progressive chick – would put my support behind Hillary Clinton?

Oh, I know. I'm black, so, of course, I should support Barack Obama for the number one position in the country.

My good friend recently rolled her eyes in exasperation because she'd been patient with me, waiting for me to come to my senses, but suspected that I'd still not yet hopped over into the Obama camp.

Just before Super Tuesday, as I broke bread with another friend, she sucked her teeth and shot me an incredulous look when I admitted to backing Hillary.
Roberts recounts the reactions she has gotten at candlelight dinners at Morehouse College, a traditionally black school, and from friends. She also recalls that before Barack Obama got into the race, her black friends were all supporters of Hillary.
What's funny to me, though, is that before Barack entered the race, many friends and family were excited about Hillary, thrilled, actually; they believed that she was our beacon of hope, that she represented profound change. But now that Barack has entered the building, these same people have turned against Hillary and put her down, even though her positions and beliefs have not changed.

Quite frankly, I'm tired of dealing with friends, family and co-workers who cannot believe that I've fallen for the supposed race lies of the Clinton machine, that I can't see how they are manipulating this race and treating our brother – this bright light, this brilliant man – so poorly.
Roberts also calls to mind the famous and stirring “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech of early feminist and former slave Sojourner Truth. And Roberts reminds us of the many ways that Hillary too has been treated unfairly by both the press and bloggers.

It's interesting that these outraged critics rarely reference the gender lines that have been crossed, the attacks Hillary has endured from opponents and the press for the past 16 years.

She's been attacked for her hair, her clothes, her facial expressions, her mannerisms…John McCain even joked that she'd had sex with Janet Reno to produce Chelsea – what's up with that??? And most of us remained silent at these barbs.

I would even dare say that some of us most likely agreed with the assessments and snickered behind our hands. It's never okay to be racist in our world, but, unfortunately, it's still 'normal' to be sexist. I don't know how that level of unchallenged scrutiny and scathing criticism might develop into survival tactics when called to deal with the press and opponents now. Frankly, it amazes me that Hillary is still standing with her shoulders straight in the face of it all.

Yes, it is amazing that Hillary can go on despite years of sustained and unfair attacks. It forms who she is today.

For many women, who also have sustained the insults, sneers, double entendres, and outright harrassment in the workplace, as well as the unequal salaries, we are inspired that she does persist. Her victories become our victories.

The truth is whether Obama or Clinton wins the nomination, an important glass ceiling will have been shattered. But another equally important truth is that many of us have mixed loyalties and torn hearts right now.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama And the Religion Problem in America

To be honest, I wasn't going to post anything for a few days. I was ready to take some much needed time to catch up on chores. As the old Joan Rivers joke goes, I was ready to call the cops to report a robbery because they dust for fingerprints.

My house is a serious allergy trap right now. So, it's either dust or report the burglary and let the police do it.

But this post from Chap Petersen, the Virginia senator from the 34th District, caught my eye as absolutely needing to be read by others.

Chap writes about "Controversial Topic #2, Race. Controversial Topic 1, was guns. I guess Chap likes to live more dangerously than other politicians, who would actually take cover to avoid controversy, not deliberately write about it.

In Controversy 2, Chap, of course, is weighing in on the flap over Barack Obama's minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose inflammatory words, captured on video, finally hit the major media and prompted a very eloquent speech from Obama distancing himself from his pastor's words.

If anybody has a right to weigh in on Obama's membership in a controversial church, it's Chap Petersen.

Some may recall that Chap is a member of Truro Church, one of the churches that broke away from the U.S. Episcopal Church due to the ordination of a gay bishop. Truro voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission initiative of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, under Bishop Peter Akinola, who opposes homosexuality.

Chap's church membership, in it's day, created a minor Virginia stir. However, Chap maintained that his membership in Truro predated the anti-gay controversy. In fact, Truro is one of the oldest Episcopal churches in Fairfax. Both George Washington and George Mason served on its vestry. Even more important, on a personal level, Petersen's family have been long time members. Truro was the church he was baptized in and married in. Sound familiar here?

Therefore, if anybody has a right to weigh in on the difficult choices a politician has to make and the intersection of private religion and public policy, Chap does. And he does so in a thoughtful, intelligent, wise and compassionate post.

Here's Chaps assessment of Obama's speech, explaining his relationship with his pastor and Trinity United Church of Christ.
It was a great speech. But I'm not sure it was the right one.

I will say, first of all, that my sympathies are firmly with Obama. The reasons why people attend a certain church or synagogue are much deeper and more important than their political aspirations. (I know this, believe me). Your fellow members are your "brothers and sisters" in a common purpose. Politics is trivial.

I will say, secondly, that personally I have never felt more welcomed as a Christian than in my travels and visits to African-American congregations in Virginia. For example, I consider First Baptist of Vienna and Rev. Kenny Smith my "home church" when I'm in Vienna. I highly doubt that any parishioner of Wright's (white or black) felt threatened by these incendiary comments.

Having said that, Obama needs to do something more. We are aware of his gifts as an intellectual. We are also aware of his speaking gifts. What we need for him to do (and say) is something that breaks through the cone of political correctness and actually shows some muscle.

Sometimes you must say to a friend: "I love you. But stop acting like an idiot."

Obama can say the first. Can he manage the second?
Meanwhile, there's an intersting article by Frank Schaeffer, on Huffington Post, pointing out the hypocrisy on the right over reaction to Obama's minister.

Frank Schaeffer is the son of the late conservative, fundamentalist theologian and founder of L'Abri, a mission in Switzerland, Francis Schaeffer. Americans are more familiar with the flamboyant evangelical ministers, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. But Francis Schaeffer, a strict Calvinist, was the ideas man for them. His theological writings gave their movement its ideological underpinnings.

Frank Schaeffer, the son, rebelled against the religion and its dogmatism and has been a critic of the Religious Right for years. He's published novels satirizing his family's dogmatic faith. Here's what he has to say about this whole kerfuflle.

When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

Dad and I were amongst the founders of the Religious right. In the 1970s and 1980s, while Dad and I crisscrossed America denouncing our nation's sins instead of getting in trouble we became darlings of the Republican Party. (This was while I was my father's sidekick before I dropped out of the evangelical movement altogether.) We were rewarded for our "stand" by people such as Congressman Jack Kemp, the Fords, Reagan and the Bush family. The top Republican leadership depended on preachers and agitators like us to energize their rank and file. No one called us un-American.
He also has more to say in a follow up post.

I guess all Christians must be disqualified from running for president. How can we trust any candidate that follows a violent Jewish-supremacist like Jesus? He called a woman of another race a dog just for talking to him! He said his enemies would all burn in a lake of fire...

There may be a few secularists out there who have never been to old-time church but the rest of us know that hyperbole, overstatement and ranting and raving (from the left or right) is a time honored style of preaching in just about every denomination -- other than in particularly boring Unitarian churches.

Religious biblical overstatement started with Jesus, actually with God the Father, who tended to do things like kill the whole of humankind to make a point to Noah. Most churchgoing Christians know how to take this stuff in the Bible, or from our preachers. That's why most Christians don't lop off their arms and penises when they feel lust. That's why even though Jesus said he only came to save Jews some of us "filthy dogs" (as Jesus called non-Jews) still believe in him. That is why reasonable people of good will who hear a black (or white) pastor saying "God damn America" in the context of a moralistic tirade know they're watching theater.

Besides being terribly funny, Frank Schaeffer is on to something.

In fact, my first thought, upon hearing Wright's sermon, was to simply roll my eyes and think "oh God, another hellfire Christian preacher.

Hmmm, maybe we all could become Buddhists. I don't think they do hellfire and hyperbole.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why I Am Not A Progressive Anymore

UPDATE: I've changed my logo to reflect my decision to call myself a liberal. The logo used to say "politics, religion and culture." But the truth is I mostly write about politics. When I started, I had intended to also write about music, art, plays and movies. I did write quite a bit about religion back in 2005. But that's given way to mostly political discourse. So, I needed to update the logo anyway and this seemed like the perfect time. Also, it goes without saying that's it's the blog that has been "proudly liberal since 2005, which is when it started. I've been liberal a lot longer.

To be honest, I didn’t know that I wasn’t one until DLC President, Bruce Reed, outed me as a liberal, and in Slate to boot (emphasis is mine).
Conservative blogger Michael Medved of Townhall offers a long list of reasons why Craig doesn't need to go as urgently as Spitzer did. He finds Craig less hypocritical ("trolling for sex in a men's room, doesn't logically require that you support gay marriage"), much easier to pity, and "pathetic and vulnerable" in a way Spitzer is not. Liberal blogger Anonymous Is a Woman counters that while Craig and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter remain in office, at least Spitzer resigned.
At the same time, a commenter left a question on one of my posts: “What is the difference between a liberal and a progressive?

Good question.

I suspect the commenter was being snarky because he or she believes that liberals use the term progressive as a cover because liberalism is a discredited brand.

Indeed, even some liberals think that. For example, in Pop Matters’ coverage of last June’s “Campaign for America’s Future” conference, in Washington, DC, here’s what the author and some prominent participants said.
Time was when liberals stood proudly behind Franklin Roosevelt’s social-welfare liberalism, John F. Kennedy’s muscular Cold War foreign-policy liberalism and Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil-rights liberalism.

“Conservatives waged a huge assault to discredit the word liberal and liberalism,” Borosage explained. ..

…“I don’t think (progressive) gets you anywhere that liberal doesn’t,” said Massey, a Princeton University professor who wrote “Return of the `L’ Word: A Liberal Vision for the New Century,” available at the conference. “I don’t think you’re fooling anybody. The only way to deal with it is to come up with a strong counter-narrative and say, `Damn right, I’m a liberal, and here’s why and here’s why you should be, too.’ Dodging it just makes you look guilty. Like you’ve got something to hide.”

… Take Steve Robinson, a burly lawyer from Lawrence, Kan., who took a break from the exhibit table for—a movement to draft Gore for president—to smoke a few Marlboros, and who looked fully capable of giving a serious whupping to anyone who’d dare mock the word “liberal” to his face.

“I consciously use the word `liberal’ because I’m so offended by the demonization of the word,” Robinson said. “What we need is a liberal show on CNN or MSNBC where someone uses the word liberal every day in a good way.”
The problem is I think they’re wrong. The two terms – “progressive” and “liberal” – are not exactly synonymous. Both progressives and liberals are on the left of the political spectrum and are natural allies. But there are subtle differences between the two.

David Sirota caused a stir last year when he wrote this essay on Huffington Post to define the two (emphasis mine).
The answer, in my opinion, is no - there is a fundamental difference when it comes to core economic issues. It seems to me that traditional "liberals" in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A "progressive" are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.

To put it in more concrete terms - a liberal solution to some of our current problems with high energy costs would be to increase funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). A more "progressive" solution would be to increase LIHEAP but also crack down on price gouging and pass laws better-regulating the oil industry's profiteering and market manipulation tactics. A liberal policy towards prescription drugs is one that would throw a lot of taxpayer cash at the pharmaceutical industry to get them to provide medicine to the poor; A progressive prescription drug policy would be one that centered around price regulations and bulk purchasing in order to force down the actual cost of medicine in America (much of which was originally developed with taxpayer R&D money).
Here’s another example he gives.
Let's be clear - most progressives are also liberals, and liberal goals in better funding America's social safety net are noble and critical. It's the other direction that's the problem. Many of today's liberals are not fully comfortable with progressivism as defined in these terms. Many of today's Democratic politicians, for instance, are simply not comfortable taking a more confrontational posture towards large economic institutions (many of whom fund their campaigns) - institutions that regularly take a confrontational posture towards America's middle-class.

We can see a good example of this hesitation from Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in his "health care to hybrids" proposal. As the Detroit News reports, Obama is calling "for using government money to relieve Detroit automakers of some of their staggering health care obligations if they commit to improving fuel economy by 3 percent a year for 15 years."

Here's the thing - we all want to see autoworkers' health care preserved, and we all want to see better fuel efficiency standards for cars. But is this really the road we want to go down as a society? I'd say no. The fact is, the auto industry should be forced to produce more fuel efficient cars through higher government fuel efficiency mandates, without taxpayers having to bail out the industry. It's not like those mandates would be asking the industry to do something that doesn't make good business sense - demand for higher fuel-efficiency cars is skyrocketing

Paying off corporations to do what they already should be doing sets a dangerous precedent - it sends a message to Big Business that they can leverage their irresponsible behavior into government handouts. In this case, the auto industry would be leveraging its refusal to produce more fuel efficient cars and preserve its workers' health care into a giant taxpayer-funded subsidy.
By Sirota's definition and his examples, Obama is a liberal rather than a progressive and what makes him so is that he would persuade corporations to do the right thing by using financial incentives rather than by using the raw power of the state to force the change. And Sirota is not happy about it. He calls it a "bribe to economic bullies." I would disagree about that.

Sirota is right, though, that liberals and progressives want the same outcome, a cleaner environment and the continuation of health insurance coverage for autoworkers, but they differ on the method they would use to achieve that outcome. And contrary to popular thought, the liberals are the centrists who would use a financial incentive to persuade rather than the raw power of the government to coerce change.

If you apply this to health care reform, the same principle could be seen at play. Progressives would favor a single payer system set up and funded directly by the government. Neither progressives nor liberals want socialized medicine, which would be government run clinics. But a liberal would want to use taxes to subsidize the public’s choices so that they could purchase their own health insurance on the free market, while progressives would take the money and put it directly into funding health care.

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama favor the more moderate approach. And Hillary, ironically, is the more progressive – or more leftist. She would mandate that everybody purchase health insurance, a use of the government power to coerce the public. Obama would favor financial incentives to persuade the public to buy insurance by making it more affordable.

I don’t want to overstate my case by making this delineation too sharp. Neither liberals nor progressives share the blind faith of the libertarians and conservatives that the market can solve all social, economic and political problems. Progressives and liberals do, after all, believe there is a role for an activist government to improve the lives of its citizens.

They realize that the government has a role to play in solving health care problems, stopping global warming and promoting economic justice. Both liberals and progressives are pro-union, favor a minimum wage, desire limits to outsourcing, and favor health and safety regulations for workers and consumers. Liberals and progressives share core values but differ over how to achieve them. The difference between them lies in whether they favor direct government action or financial incentive to get there.

In this fight, the liberals are the more moderate. And it was not conservatives who destroyed their brand, though they certainly jumped on that bandwagon and helped. It was actually the progressives and those even further on the left, the radicals of the sixties, who really trashed the brand. As Geoffrey Nunberg points out in Progress to a Fault.
At the heart of that attitude was a sense of superiority to all those middle-class liberals whose wan political commitments were tempered by self-interest. You think of Phil Ochs' 1965 song, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal," a sarcastic catalogue of the hypocrisies of middle-class liberals:

I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs,
I'll send all the money you ask for,
But don't ask me to come on along.
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal.
In his monologue introducing the song, Ochs would define liberals as “ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center when it affects them personally.”

It was that suspicion, on the left, that liberals were wishy-washy that destroyed the brand.

That and the fact that wishy-washy liberals then proved the point by running from the label in droves. They called themselves, moderates, progressives, and centrists, whatever they could get away with. But all those labels mean difference things.

I think it’s time to stop running and start telling the truth. I personally do not believe in using the levers of power to coerce people into doing the right thing. I believe, instead, in using a combination of taxes, tax breaks, and other incentives to persuade them to do it. But I also believe there is a role for an activist government in addressing social and economic injustice because there is a populist streak to my liberalism. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Bruce Reed is mostly right. I am a liberal. And I am not timid about it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Scrutiny Hooligans: New Blog on the Block Thinks It Knows Virginia

There's a new blog inserting itself into Virginia's political blogosphere, called Scrutiny Hooligans. Curiously, it's a blog run out of Ashville, North Carolina. I've been on and off clashing with two of this blog's authors, over at Not Larry Sabato, where they've both accused Ben of racism.

Now, anybody who knows Ben - and who in Virginia politics and the blogosphere actually doesn't know NLS? - knows he's a bomb thrower full of piss and vinegar and hyperbole. That's his charm.

We all read him, of course, not because of the controversies he stirs up but because of his brilliant analysis of election results in district by district races and because he's a genius with numbers. Right. And all 16 year old boys read Playboy for the articles.

Anyway, although I do object to the way both Gordon Smith, who came across NLS on his one and only visit to Virginia, and Hank Bostwick, who actually now lives in Roanoke, have inserted themselves into Virginia politics like gangbusters, without actually knowing or understanding the dynamics of either the blogosphere or the local political situation here.

I have no quarrel with their joining the discussion about the presidential race, of course, because that's not local and they know as much as any of us. But when they take it upon themselves to email, and encourage their North Carolina readers, to contact Leslie Byrne, Jim Webb, and Del. Lionel Spruill to urge them to denounce Ben as a racist, they are stepping into quicksand and will rapidly sink.

For one thing, no politician or candidate needs to get involved in a blogger war. We should be shielding them from that because they have to run on serious issues not on the rantings of every loose cannon blogger. Blogs, after all, are free and anybody can have one. Nobody can control bloggers. And nobody should be held responsible for what bloggers say.

But what Jim Webb and Leslie Byrne also know that these two didn't is that Ben was one of the first bloggers to run the infamous Maccaca video that exposed genuine racism. George Allen's. If it wasn't for Ben and also Lowell of Raising Kaine, that video would have been a blip on the back page of the Washington Post on a slow Saturday. Without Virginia bloggers exposing it and keeping it alive not only might Jim Webb not have been elected but the U.S. Senate might now still be under Republican control.

I think the Scrutiny Hooligan guys actually are well meaning. I've been reading their site. I was particularly impressed with their call for civility between the Obama and Hillary camps. Both the Obama supporters and the Hillary supporters in the blogosphere need to get a grip before we bring defeat upon the Democratic nominee, whoever it turns out to be (and if they had stopped to read our blogs before launching in, they'd know that I have been preaching that since the beginning), and the whole party in November. Here's what SH said:
Most surprisingly, though, is the way Senator Clinton has been vilified by those who profess to be left-leaning, progressive or liberal bloggers. Consider a site like Washington State’s The Progressive Review. PR purports to support the progressive agenda but the site is slathered with links or posts containing claims about Hillary Clinton that are so offensive it reads like an aggregator of Rove’s honorable mentions. Senator Obama’s camp has rightly accused some Clinton supporters of exacerbating the racial divisions growing within the Party, but take this guy at Politik Ditto and his post “Maggie Williams: Driving Mrs. Clinton.” It appears the images and language of racism can come from any direction. Not surprising, even MySpace is filled with the most obnoxious anti-Clinton sites boasting thousands of friends, many who spread the same baseless lies perpetrated by the right-wing sites listed above.

By now, most readers understand the charges against Senator Obama from various corners of the conserva-sphere: he’s a terrorist, no I’m sorry, a terrorist who (hearts) sex offenders, and a covert Muslim extremist.

What twists my melon is this guy at No Quarter, Larry Johnson. Good ole LJ basically plagiarizes Foxnews, Jews Against Obama, and Bill Cunningham at the same time he links to, and is linked from, many blogs claiming a liberal bent and professing allegiance to the Democratic cause. Curious.
More than curious. It's disastrous for us. Both sides do, indeed, need to get a grip. Here's some good advice from our guys at Scrutiny Hooligans worth taking.
Perhaps some progressive prognosticators should consider the implications of the images, metaphors, and analogies they use to fuel the snark their readers crave, especially those that impact the lives and self-esteem of members of our Party.

Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, the millions who have already voted and the millions yet to vote, all deserve the chance to participate in the difficult conversation that lies ahead, but they should be encouraged to join the discussion in a thoughtful, civil way. Many will say such an expectation is naive or no-fun. Perhaps.
It's all excellent advice. Now if they could maybe also tone down the rhetoric and get to know the Virginia blogosphere before firing shots from North Carolina, we could have some productive dialgogue

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bigots, Old Uncles and Guilt By Association

Vivian Paige, who has been one of the most loyal and committed Hillary Clinton supporters, weighs in with a beautiful and heartfelt post on why the Geraldine Ferraro statements have disheartened her despite her continuing support for Hillary.

Although I am a woman and have a natural sympathy to those who have claimed sexism, I have never experienced what a black woman does. I've worked with many black men and women in Washington, DC, all of whom have walked tough roads. I've been to the funerals of their children, cried with them when my husband had cancer and they formed prayer groups for me, fought beside them to get a union in our workplace, and generally have a profound respect for all of them as they do for me. But I can't really walk in their shoes.

So, I rely on talented writers like Vivian to give much needed perspective to this.

Also of note is Lowell's post on Barack Obama's statement on his controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright. It takes courage and integrity for such a loyal Obama supporter to stand up and admit that the statements of Barack's pastor are indeed appalling.

But, in truth, Barack Obama, as a parishoner, is no more responsible for his pastor's inflammatory remarks than Chap Petersen is for Truro Church's decision to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church because of the consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire, or Nancy Pelosi is for Archbishop Raymond Burke, of St. Louis, who refused to give communion to John Kerry in 2004 and seeks to similarly embarrass pro-choice candidates today.

The truth is there are many religious leaders who don't live up to the ideals of their churches and don't completely represent the views of their parishoners. There are priests, ministers, rabbis and imans who are excellent at ministering to the religious needs of their communities but whose political views don't represent where their flocks are at.

People stay in parishes and congregations for all kinds of sentimental reasons. They do it because they were married there. Their children were bar mitzvahed there. Or they were baptized there and their families had attended that particular church for generations.

What is important is how an elected official votes on secular matters. It's important what he or she stands for on secular policy. If we start indulging in guilt by association, an awful lot of us are going to be embarrassed by the old uncles in our churches, synagogues and mosques.

Jim Webb on NPR Weekend Edition on Saturday Morning

The following is an announcement from Jim Webb's office that he will be on NPR's Weekend Edition on Saturday morning:
On Saturday morning, Senator Webb will join host Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition to discuss the five year anniversary of the war in Iraq. The Senator was an early warning voice against the administration's decision to invade Iraq, and he has repeatedly called for a robust diplomatic strategy in order to reduce the United States' military presence in the region.

Like many people with strong national security backgrounds, Senator Webb believed invading Iraq following 9/11 ran counter to our nation's long-term security interests and the stability of the region. And, as he wrote in the Washington Post in 2002: "Is there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq? And would such a war and its aftermath actually increase our ability to win the war against international terrorism?"

Tune in Saturday to hear Senator Webb reflect on the past five years of the United States' occupation of Iraq and how we should move forward

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Put That Spinach Down. It Could Kill You.

Don't touch that spinach. No matter what your mother told you. And don't eat the lettuce either. According to this Washington Post article, the FDA inspects even the most problematic facilities once every 2.4 years rather than annually as their own guidelines recommend.

Remember the food poisoning outbreak in 2006 when 200 people were sickened by tainted California spinach or lettuce and three died? I sure do. And get this, the company that grew this spinach is called Mission Organics. It was a facility managed by Natural Selections, a corporation that sells produce to upscale supermarkets, like Fresh Fields, which specialize in organic and other supposedly pure foods. Here's how the Post report described the problem.
Since 2001, nearly half of all federal inspections of facilities that package fresh spinach revealed serious sanitary problems, but the Food and Drug Administration did not take "meaningful" enforcement action, a House committee report released yesterday found.

The most common problems uncovered by FDA inspections of 67 facilities included inadequate restroom sanitation, litter piles and indoor condensation posing a risk of food contamination by microorganisms. Inspectors also found buildings vulnerable to rodent infestation and workers with uncovered hair and poor hygiene.

Twenty serious outbreaks of E. coli have been traced to fresh lettuce or spinach since 1995. One of the most troublesome was a 2006 outbreak in bagged spinach processed by California-based Natural Selection Foods that sickened more than 200 people and was linked to three deaths.

The FDA acknowledged gaps in its food safety efforts after that episode. But the report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says the problems were worse: It showed that spinach facilities were inspected about once every 2.4 years despite federal guidelines that say most should have been visited at least annually.
Congress is now finally investigating the FDA lapses.

But let's face it, the reason for the laxity can be laid right at the feet of the last Congress, run by Republicans. When Newt Gingrich rode the anti-regulatory and anti tax fervor into Congress back in 1994, the FDA, and every other regulatory agency, was targeted for being obstructionist and anti-business. The Republicans waged war on prudent oversight and sensible regulation intended to protect consumers from food borne disease. Funding for federal agencies such as the FDA and USDA were gutted while politicians whipped up anti-government feeling to make it seem as if the government was obstructing legitimate business interests. They left regulation to self-reporting and the honor system.

Yeah, it was the fox guarding the hen house. But what a lucrative hen house it was. Because while the Republican Congress made war on federal agencies and blocked them from doing their job of protecting American children from eating tainted lettuce and spinach, they were lining their pockets and those of their lobbyist friends at the K Street Project.

Glad they are gone. Now let's get the funding and manpower back to the FDA and to all the other federal agencies charged with protecting the American consumer, so they can do their job of guarding us all from domestic food poisoning, unsafe imports from China, and hazardous toys.

After all, what good is it protecting us from a terrorist attack if our lettuce can kill us?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro Steps Down

Tonight, Geraldine Ferraro stepped down from the Clinton campaign. She issued the following statement:

"I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign," Ferraro wrote in a letter to Clinton.

"The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen."

I actually hope Ferraro stops speaking about it. The more she tries to explain what she meant and the more defensive she gets, the worse it actually sounds. I don't think she's an intentional racist, but her remarks certainly came across as racist. Obama has not had advantages being black. If anything, he has had obstacles to overcome.

I am glad, though, that Ferraro realized that this would hurt Hillary's campaign. The conversation needs to be about the future, not about what Ms. Ferraro believes are perceived slights to women. The sexism she mentioned is certainly real. But so is the racism that Obama has faced.

Hillary, as an admirer of Ferraro's trail blazing history, was in a bind. Like so many of us in the 1980s, she was energized by Geraldine Ferraro's history making vice presidency, which gave so many of us hope. It's so hard to criticize somebody who had been an icon of the Democratic Party and of women everywhere.

Nevertheless, she got it wrong in her assessment of Obama. But she does not represent the Clinton campaign, and she has exited the stage. Now, let's get the discussion back to the future.

Eliot Spitzer to Resign at 11:30 Today

UPDATE: Here's a video of Spitzer's resignation announcement

The Washington Post is reporting that, according to unnamed sources, Eliot Spitzer will resign at 11:30 today. According to the Post,
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Eliot Spitzer has decided to resign, completing a stunning fall from power after he was nationally disgraced by links to a high-priced prostitution ring, a top state official said Wednesday.

Spitzer was scheduled to announce his resignation at 11:30 a.m., according to a second top Spitzer staffer. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

Spitzer would be replaced by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who will become New York's first black governor.
Calls for his resignation came quickly on the heels of the revelation that Spitzer, who launched his career as a top corruption fighting New York prosecutor, had spent thousands of dollars on a call girl.

According the Washington Post, Spitzer had been weighing his options and hoping to use the resignation as a bargaining chip to avoid federal prosecution for transporting a prostitute across state lines, a violation of the Mann Act. Calls for his impeachment came from Republican lawmakers in Albany as well.

Regardless of the reasons for his doing it, Spitzer is doing the right thing in stepping down. His behavior goes beyond a private transgression. Besides the fact that he is a public figure, he broke several laws, including a federal one. In addition, he made his career fighting just this type of corruption, which is what made it lethally hard for him to overcome the scandal.

Meanwhile, of course, we are all still waiting with bated breath for David Vitter and Larry Craig to do the right thing, as they too broke the law.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Spitzer Will Step Down Before David Vitter or Larry Craig

Brian Kirwin, over at Bearing Drift, asked earlier today, "what does it take for a Democrat to resign?"

He is, of course, referring to Eliot Spitzer. Everybody knows by now that "Eliot Ness" was Client 9 in an indictment and that he had a tryst with a high priced call girl in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.

I happen to agree with Brian that Spitzer should step down. This is not a private sin. Spitzer was a prosecutor whose whole career rested on having fought corruption. He prosecuted places like the Emperors Club and put their owners in jail.

Well, as it turns out, we know what it takes for a Democrat to resign. Getting caught, meeting with supporters and legal advisers, the threat of impeachment from state Republicans, and getting a transition team in place before announcing so that New York state isn't thrown into total chaos.

Eliot Spitzer is expected to step down according to FOX News.

The next question, though, is what does it take to get Republicans to resign? I believe we are still waiting for those wild and crazy family values guys, David Vitter and Larry Craig. Last time I checked, prostitution was as illegal in New Orleans as it is in New York. And surely soliciting a man in a public restroom in the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport constitutes lewd and indecent behavior, a misdeamor at least.

Personally, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to also do the right thing. I don't want to die of asphyxiation

Geraldine Ferraro Must Exit Clinton Campaign

I seem destined to always bite the hand I support. After this, I’m not sure many candidates will actually want me on their side. But don’t cry for me. I’ve always had a contrarian streak. And wrong is wrong. I just call em like I see em.

Geraldine Ferraro is getting a lot of flack for this statement:
"I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign - to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against," she said. "For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."
Is it wrong to call her on this? You betcha.

Geraldine Ferraro is a public figure. She should know that her words would be quoted. And she’s been around long enough to know exactly how such a statement would sound.

I don’t believe she’s a racist anymore than I believe Samantha Powers is a misogynist. But just as Powers had to step down from the Obama campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a monster, Ferraro needs to step away from Clinton’s campaign.

Of course, unlike Powers, Ferraro isn’t a paid operative who can be fired. And I’m not sure that Hillary’s campaign has the stomach to tell a fundraiser, not to mention a supporter of Geraldine Ferraro’s stature, to get lost.

Ferraro made history, herself, as the first female vice presidential candidate. Back in the day, feminists were proud of her for blazing that trail. That’s why it’s even sadder to have to condemn her words now. What she said also obscures her point that there is still a tremendous amount of sexism in the media. Don’t believe it? Then, just check out Charlotte Allen’s recent insulting satire in the Washington Post Outlook section, which demeans Obama as much as it does his women supporters. That the WaPo editors didn’t recognize that it was sexist speaks volumes about them.

But Ferraro’s very real outrage over the lingering sexism in the media and the country does not excuse her from the remark she made about Obama. It was a racist statement and the Democratic Party has no place for either racism or sexism. So, she needs to follow the example of Samantha Powers and apologize. Then she needs to exit so that she does not become the topic of the campaign.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Aftermath of the Firestorm

I just got off the phone with one more person curious about my switch in candidates. Actually, it was another friend who was a long time Hillary supporter happy to welcome me to their side.

I think I already mentioned in the comments section that I was pretty amazed at the response I've been getting. I'm just surprised that my opinion has mattered to so many people long after Virginia actually held its primary. There's really not much of substance I can do now to help her campaign here.

But one of the unexpected good things to come out of the firestorm I created when I threw my bomb (and I didn't intend it to be so incendiary) was that I've discovered a couple of really good bloggers. Although they may disagree with me about Hillary vs Obama, they've provided well reasoned arguments so I checked out their sites and realized I had to add them to my blogroll.

I have added to my blogroll, Too Progressive, a talented Virginia blogger who writes well about state and local issue, and Ed's Forum. Go check out both their sites.

The blogger who publishes Ed's Forum really seems to understand the economic situation we are heading into. Since discussing and reading about the economy is one of the things that brought me to blogging, I'd urge you to go over and read a good analysis of the dismal science at this new blog.

Ed disagrees with me about Hillary vs Obama and that's ok. He provided a well reasoned series of arguments that I can respect. As the old saw goes, people of good will can agree to disagree, without being disagreeable.

And on economics, he's providing some solid work that is worth checking out. Since Ed claims that he tends to the libertarian point of view and I'm more of an economic populist, we may end up disagreeing about possible solutions. I don't know yet. But his analysis of the current economic situation is spot on.

Again, these are two really great sites to read.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Are Obama Supporters Too Clever By Half?

I think so and because of it they've pretty much lost my support for him. Here's why I'm so fed up.

Like Howard Dean, I consider myself part of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. So I find stuff like this deeply offensive. Here's the essential quote that absolutely turned me off (emphasis is mine).
Volunteers are needed in Pennsylvania BEFORE March 24. We have only until that date to register new voters and persuade Independents and Republicans who want to vote for Obama to switch their party registration for the primary. (They can always switch back for the general election.)

The PA primary (April 22) is a closed one, meaning only registered Dems can vote. We have until March 24 to expand our "universe" of Obama voters. After March 24 that window shuts.
What makes it so deeply offensive is that this does not even make a pretense of being an honest attempt to win over moderate Republicans, who would then, hopefully, go on to vote for the Democratic candidate in November. And it's certainly not a legitimate attempt at party building.

Whoever set up this strategy is telling volunteers to register Republicans to vote for Obama just to win the Pennsylvania primary. And their main selling point to those Republicans they hope to recruit is this: "They can always switch back for the general elections."

This helps us in November, how?

It's actually a slimy and deceitful tactic. And it's one sure to have consequences, the first of which is that it gives credence to those Hillary supporters who argue that many of the Republicans crossing over party lines to vote for Obama are not doing so because they want to vote for him in November, but because they want the Democrats to have the weaker candidate for the general election.

Worse, tactics like these undercut any claim that Obama and his supporters represent a fresh new style of politics. After this, can anybody ever take their claims to the high road seriously again?

Registering Republicans, who have no intention of voting Democratic in November, just to pull out a cheap victory in March, proves that those claims were hollow and these people would do anything to win. This is exactly what they've accused Hillary of.

Then to add further insult to injury, in order to accuse Hillary of being the one hell bent on destroying the Democratic Party, another real winner in the logic and intelligent debate department, Rebecca, who by the way has stated proudly that she would rather see the Democrats lose than vote for Hillary, posts this diary, which actually has no original writing but is one long blockquote from conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who is also the author of The Conservative Soul.

It's amazing how in order to defend or promote their own candidate - you know, the one who is above partisan bickering - Obama's supporters always have to tear down Hillary and they always seem to need to revert to rightwing talking points or conservative pundits' quotes to do so.

It's equally mind-boggling that despite his supporters' claims to the contrary, most of Obama's actual positions are not new or fresh. They are the same centrist, moderate positions that Bill and Hillary espoused when they were a part of the DLC.

Yep, the great saint, Obama, and the horrible hag, Hillary, actually agree on more than they disagree. What's happening is that many of Obama supporters have used him like a coat hanger. They have taken their own idea of what they think Obama stands for, and they are hanging it, like a topcoat, on his persona. But the Obama of their imagination is not the Obama of reality.

For example, although there are a few minor policy differences between him and Hillary, on health care, the economy, and even resolving the war in Iraq, they are not that far apart on any of these issues. In fact, on health care reform, Hillary's plan is the more progressive one. And they both differ with John McCain far more than they do with each other.

The one important difference is that Hillary voted to give Bush the authorization to invade Iraq. Obama opposed the war from the very beginning but he was not in the Senate to vote against the resolution. He has, in fact, admitted that had he been in the Senate, subject to the barrage of faked intelligence reports, he might have voted just like Hillary.

But this is the crux of the viciousness of the opposition to Hillary. The ultra left just cannot forgive her for having voted in favor of the resolution that gave Bush the authority to go into Iraq.

Even Lowell, however, has pointed out that she was not an outlier. She did not break party ranks to support Bush. Just the opposite. The list of Democrats, who, during those awful hours, voted for the resolution, was long and included many in the mainstream and progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It reflected their fear that if the administration's intelligence was correct, they could not afford to make a mistake that would harm the U.S.

Although they, and Hillary, turned out to be wrong and Obama and those of us who opposed the war from the beginning were right, it is important to at least recognize that they were fed lies, all of which were stamped "Top Secret." They were led to believe they knew things we didn't. And so, to them, it made their decision seem like a reasoned response to information the general public wasn't privy to. They were lied to.

But what is more important now is that both Obama and Hillary are in basic agreement about ending the conflict and bringing our troops home. To confirm this view, Samantha Powers, the Obama aide who was forced to resign after calling Hillary a monster, admitted, in the same interview, to the Scotsman, that Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing troops immediately and have them home within 16 months was only "a best case scenario."

So, just as Austan Goolsbee told the Canadian media that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was somewhat overblown for campaign purposes and shouldn't be taken too seriously by pro-NAFTA forces overseas, Powers was admitting in Scotland that his anti-Iraq rhetoric was frequently for the benefit of his supporters over here and also needn't be taken too seriously.

There's nothing so new and refreshing about those political tactics, lying to tell your supporters what they want to hear while telling others something different. Just like there is nothing new or refreshing about encouraging Republicans to register as Democrats just to beat one's opponent in the primary. In fact, those are the oldest dirty tricks in the book.

It's why I am pretty disillusioned with Obama and his supporters right now.

By the way, did I mention that I am now supporting Hillary Clinton for the duration? I am only sorry that all this came about after I voted for him in the Virginia Primary. If I can do a mea culpa for having been taken in, this is it.

Of course, should he be the ultimate winner, unlike his supporters - you know, the ones who keep accusing Hillary of destroying the Democratic Party, while they vow that if Obama loses they'd never vote for her - I will vote proudly for whoever wins, even Obama.

It's because I belong to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Jim Webb Endorses Leslie Byrne for Congress

A hearty congratulations indeed to Leslie Byrne, who now can add Virginia's junior senator, Jim Webb, to her growing list of endorsements. Both Lowell and Ben had the scoop.

As Tim Craig wrote in the Washington Post, Senator Webb issued the following statement in his announcement.
I am convinced that Leslie Byrne is our best candidate," Webb said in a statement. " Leslie shares my values about economic fairness and the need to re-order our national security policies - both in Iraq and throughout the world. In her service as a state legislator and member of Congress, Leslie Byrne has demonstrated time and again that she is tough, fiercely independent and willing to stand up to powerful special interests. I would be proud to serve in Congress with her."
Leslie shares Webb's passionate commitment to economic fairness, as evidenced by the growing list of union endorsements she has garnered. In addition, she has been an ardent advocate for women's rights, protection of consumers, and, as Webb said, "the need to re-order national security policies."

She will bring progressive values to Washington and represent the 11th CD well in the House of Representatives.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What You Don't Want To Hear

If you're a progressive, you probably won't like Paul Krugman's glum assessment of this year's presidential election. But I'd caution you not to skip his column. It's a tough slog but read it anyway, and consider it carefully. I think he's too dour about the Democrats' situation, too hard on Barack Obama, and too pessimistic about the possible election outcome. Still, he tells some important truths that we would ignore at our peril.

Krugman's main point is that after the 2006 Democratic sweep, serious minded progressives had high hopes of challenging Republican ideas and policies in 2008. They are not getting the campaign they had hoped for because instead of ideas and policy, this has become a race about personality and charisma.

The economy is in trouble and most people are dissatisfied with Republican misrule and ineptness. Krugman cites a recent Pew Center poll that even gives the Democrats a 10 point advantage over the Republicans on, of all things, morality. The only area where the Republicans still hold an advantage in the public's mind is on fighting terrorism. But that's pretty low on their scale of priorities as the economy has grabbed center stage.

Here's Krugman's take on the way this year's election is shaping up:

Now, nobody would mistake Mr. Obama for a Republican — although contrary to claims by both supporters and opponents, his voting record places him, with Senator Clinton, more or less in the center of the Democratic Party, rather than in its progressive wing.

But Mr. Obama, instead of emphasizing the harm done by the other party’s rule, likes to blame both sides for our sorry political state. And in his speeches he promises not a rejection of Republicanism but an era of postpartisan unity.

That — along with his adoption of conservative talking points on the crucial issue of health care — is why Mr. Obama’s rise has caused such division among progressive activists, the very people one might have expected to be unified and energized by the prospect of finally ending the long era of Republican political dominance.

Some progressives are appalled by the direction their party seems to have taken: they wanted another F.D.R., yet feel that they’re getting an oratorically upgraded version of Michael Bloomberg instead.

Others, however, insist that Mr. Obama’s message of hope and his personal charisma will yield an overwhelming electoral victory, and that he will implement a dramatically progressive agenda.

The trouble is that faith in Mr. Obama’s transformational ability rests on surprisingly little evidence.

Mr. Obama’s ability to attract wildly enthusiastic crowds to rallies is a good omen for the general election; so is his ability to raise large sums. But neither necessarily points to a landslide victory.
Now, here's where I think Krugman is being excessively negative. I don't think we need a landslide. But Obama's ability to generate that rock star enthusiasm and bring new people into the political process puts him well on the way to a convincing victory.

But I share some of Krugman's dissatisfaction.

If ever there was a time to challenge the Republicans' ideas of the last 25 years, this is it. What I fear is that we are squandering a golden opportunity to question the GOP's inordinate faith in totally unregulated trade, so-called market based solutions, supply side economics and trickle down theories, all of which have failed time and again.

Right now with failure in Iraq, the mismanagement of Katrina, and the tanking economy, the GOP brand is bad. Yet progressives are losing - I'd say wasting - the opportunity to present a credible alternative. We could win the election and still lose the argument over ideas, values, policy and solutions.

But Krugman raises another point, even more important than the Democratic Party's internal argument and the very real possibility that we will squander this opportunity by placing personality ahead of policy. He also points out that there is a very real danger that the media, which has played a huge role in the perception of Obama as charismatic, may be waiting to tear him down in the general election. It's a view that Bob Somerby, the Daily Howler, shares.
Yes, I know that both the Obama campaign and many reporters deny that he has received more favorable treatment than Hillary Clinton. But they’re kidding, right? Dana Milbank, the Washington Post national political reporter, told the truth back in December: “The press will savage her no matter what ... they really have the knives out for her, there’s no question about it ... Obama gets significantly better coverage.”

If Mr. Obama secures the nomination, the honeymoon will be over as he faces an opponent whom much of the press loves as much as it hates Mrs. Clinton. If Mrs. Clinton can do nothing right, Mr. McCain can do nothing wrong — even when he panders outrageously, he’s forgiven because he looks uncomfortable doing it. Honest.

Bob Somerby of the media-criticism site predicts that Mr. Obama will be “Dukakised”: “treated as an alien, unsettling presence.” That sounds all too plausible.
I would agree with both Krugman and Somerby about that last point. That's why Obama must somehow manage to add substance to his message. He also can't shy away from taking on Republican ideas.

In debates with John McCain, the challenge for Obama will be to go after the GOP's conservative ideas and to present the public with a better alternative. Unlike Krugman, though, I believe it would be playing to Obama's strength for him to do so in a low key, calm, and civil manner.

Substance matters. But so does presentation. If Obama has a strong point, it is his ability to make his point without launching a personal attack on his opponent. Unless he's attacked first, he does best by putting forth his alternative in a positive manner.

So, unlike Krugman, I am not unhappy that Obama has charisma which has captured the attention of the media and the masses. But like Krugman, I don't want that to be all Obama offers. I hope we have the right argument, phrased in the right way to win the audience and get their vote in November.