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Monday, June 30, 2003

Howard-Powered People, or
If you told me last year at this time . . .

. . . that I would be giving to, working for, and supporting wholeheartedly the campaign of Howard Dean, I would have said you were nuts. First of all, I would have said, who the heck is Howard Dean? Second of all, if he's a guy I ain't heard of, he ain't gonna win.

In fact, this time last year, I was all set to start selling my "Re-elect Gore in 2004" bumper stickers. Gore still had his beard--what better way to re-establish street cred with the granola/ Nader crowd?--and was making sense about not going to war with Iraq.

But I think we're all different people now. Now, we've been lied to and we know it. We've been denied our say in electoral politics, and we know it. We've watched our country, wrested from our hands, steered on a course that, if left uncorrected, will leave us broke, friendless, and without a hope of ever being a superpower again.

One man has restored that hope in me, and, apparently, in tens of thousands of others of you all across the country. That man? Howard Dean.

Let me give you an anecdote that may serve to explain why I feel so upbeat about this:

About six weeks ago, maybe a little more, I called Dean campaign headquarters in Burlington, to work out a snafu regarding Milwaukee's PrideFest. I was finally patched through to young intern Jen (I'm only 28, but she sounded young to me), who told me it was her first day.

I explained the problem I was having, and she asked for my name. I told her, and she immediately said, "Oh, yeah, I've seen your name around here several times today."

What other campaign (with the exception, maybe, of Kucinich's) would that be true of? That I, your humble Folkbum, a nobody coordinating in a midwestern town whose Meetup numbers don't even put us in the top 40, should call and get recognized by an intern on her first day?

That's what Dean's campaign is about: People. Empowerment. You. Me.

I'm so glad that Dean started adding the populist "you can make a difference" lines to his stump speeches. When I heard that he'd re-written his closing in the South Carolina debate minutes before go time I had two thoughts: One, that's so Clinton. Two, it had better be good. And it was. And it has been getting better.

Let me quote it for you, from his announcement a week ago:
The great lie spoken by politicians on platforms like this is the cry of "elect me and I will solve all your problems."

The truth is the future of our nation rests in your hands, and not in mine.

Abraham Lincoln said that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.

But this President has forgotten ordinary people.

You have the power to reclaim our nation's destiny.

You have the power to rid Washington of the politics of money.

You have the power to make right as important as might.

You have the power to give Americans a reason to vote again.

You have the power to restore our nation to fiscal sanity and bring jobs back to our people.

You have the power to fulfill Harry Truman's dream and bring health insurance to every American.

You have the power to give us a foreign policy consistent with American values again.

You have the power to take back the Democratic Party.

You have the power to take our country back.

And we have the power to take the White House back in 2004.

By the time I get this posted, it will be quarter three, and Dean will have broken and set all kinds of fundraising records for Q2. Maybe he will even have stunned one or two others out of the race. But Dean needs a strong Q3 showing, too. I've added a "Contribute to Dean" link on the right, and I want you to use it. Now.

People-Powered Howard. And Howard-Powered People. Together, we have the power to take our country back.

UPDATE: I did post this before Q2 was up, and Dean has done a spectacular thing: More than $800,000 in one day in on-line contributions, and over $7.1 million total for the quarter. Add to it more than 3000 joining Meetup just today . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2003

The handicappers

Grubi, over at American Dissent (I finally updated the link on the right, by the way) has an interesting system for handicapping the Democratic race called the DemPoll.

In essence, it's a meta-ranking, combining rankings from Daily Kos's Cattle Call, the Interesting Times Google News method, T. Rex's rankings, and Grubi's own rankings; Grubi assigns points based on where the candidates rank (15 points for first place, 10 for second, etc.). His results this week are exactly in line with Kos's, which says something about the reliablity of Kos's rankings. This week, both Kos an Grubi rank the players thusly: Kerry, Dean, Gephardt, Edwards, Lieberman, Graham, Kucinich, Sharpton, and Moseley-Braun.

But I played with the numbers a little. I found that taking out Grubi's own rankings (which seem like a good way to tilt the results in favor of your favorite candidate--not that I'm complaining, as Grubi supports Dean!), the order doesn't change except Lieberman and Graham tie there in the middle. I also played with it taking out T. Rex's rankings, as his haven't been updated since June 6, long before the Dean announcement, Kucinich's rise (based a lot on MoveOn publicity, I think), and Edwards's good Georgetown speech (see my posts below). The order still doesn't change, including the Lieberman-Graham tie.

Then I put in my own rankings*, and you know what? Still no change in the order! The only change comes when I substitute my rankings for Grubi's (Dean and Kerry switch to first and second, respectively). When I add mine to all four--including Grubi's--though, we get real movement: The new, Folkbum-added DemPoll stands thusly:
1. Dean (60 points)
2. Kerry (54 points)
3. Gephardt (46 points)
4. TIE--Edwards and Graham (29 points)
6. Lieberman (28 points)
7. Kucinich (14 points)
8. Sharpton (11 points)
9. Moseley-Braun (6 points)

But in all, it's interesting that there is so much consistency among the handicappers and handicapping methods in this race so far, especially among the top three candidates. What it means, I don't know. But, as Richard Dreyfuss said to his plate of mashed potatoes, "This means something."

*My rankings, as seen in the open comments thread on Kos's Cattle Call this week: Dean, Gephardt, Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Graham, Kucinich, Sharpton, CMB.

UPDATE: T Rex has a new ranking here.

Foreign Policy, and why it should matter in 2004
(but probably won't)

When it comes to foreign policy, the American people typically feel that Republicans do a better job. (pause for pessimistic head-shaking)

That's why a man who abandoned his commitment to our nation's military in a time of war was able to win the hearts and minds of military folk over a man who had volunteered to take the place of some poor, probably minority, draftee from New Jersey and actually served in Vietnam.

That's why every time the Whopper says "We have found weapons of mass destruction," referring to hydrogen trailers or scrap metal buried under rose bushes for twelve years, it gets replayed over and over and over, but no one listens to Robert Byrd.

But Howard Dean--my man!--made a speech Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations that makes Colin Powell look like the puppet he's become. Makes Condi Rice look like a sputtering lawn sprinkler. Makes, by leaps and bounds, the Whopper look like a bitter, small-minded weasel.

I'm getting a little tired of Dean's referring back to Harry Truman, mostly because it saddens me no end that it was Truman who dropped the only nuclear bombs ever exploded in wartime. But, darn it, Harry Truman was a good Democrat, and Dean could not really pick a better model (and he needs to establish that for himself--too many people are going for "McGovernesque").

Many moons ago, Dean laid out his position that "One reason America has been targeted by terrorists is that our nation is the preeminent world power. With this power comes great responsibility. Our actions are important in themselves, but also as a model for what we may expect--and demand--of other nations. As a result, no country has a bigger stake than we in establishing and enforcing the highest possible norms of international behavior." He continued that theme with his CFR speech, going back to Truman:
Fifty-five years ago, President Harry Truman delivered what was known as the Four Point speech. In it, he challenged Democrats and Republicans alike to come together to build strong and effective international organizations; to support arrangements that would spur global economic recovery; to join with free people everywhere in the defense of human liberty; and to draw upon the genius of our people to help societies who needed help in the battle against hunger and illness, ignorance and despair.

This was at the very beginning of the cold war. [. . .] At that moment of maximum peril, President Truman went before the world to spell out not only what America was against, but much more importantly, what America was for [. . .] because he had faith that if America were true to her own principles and values, we could in the long run defeat any foe, no matter how deadly.

He believed that if America reached out to others in friendship and with respect, our strength would be multiplied and that more and more countries would support our policies not because we told them to, but because they wanted to.

Harry Truman believed that a world in which even the poorest and most desperate had grounds for hope would be a world in which our own children could grow up in security and peace--not because evil would then be absent from the globe, but because the forces of right would be united and strong.

Harry Truman had faith as I have faith, and as I believe the American people have faith, that if we are wise enough and determined enough in our opposition to hate and our promotion of tolerance; in our opposition to aggression and our fidelity to law; we will have allies not only among governments but among people everywhere.

Such an alliance can never be beaten.

And the creation of such an alliance will be my goal if I am entrusted with the presidency of the United States. Because, this is what will keep America strong. This is what reflects the best in the American people. And this is the core of the national security message that I will be carrying to all of America throughout this campaign--that I am committed to working constructively with friends and allies around the globe to help people in every corner of every continent to live in freedom, prosperity and peace.

I hate to quote at length (I like the sound of my own voice too much), but lay that side-to-side with the Whopper's foreign policy, which pretty much seems to be the 800-pound gorilla story.

But will the Democrats win on foreign policy? No. Dean's speech here--like John Edwards's economic policy speech last week--will never make it into the public consciousness, even though, in a very real and very urgent sense, they affect the public more deeply than just about any other issues. Instead, the usual line of Republicans are better at foreign policy will dominate, and the Democrats might get play out of the economic downturn. That economic play, however, will not involve Edwards's grand ideas of reform; rather, it will be the brutal truth of four or five million jobless and many millions more uninsured and uncertain about their futures, merely rebelling against the status quo in hopes of something better.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, what I like about Dean is his smarts--he thinks through an issue and offers a considered opinion (which is why the short form--like "Meet the Press"--is not his best form). But the public doesn't always want that; they want a doer, not a thinker. But the doer we have now has done us wrong, and the kind of cultural shift Edwards talks about in his speech, that Dean talks about in "The American Restoration" and the CFR speech, is what we need. However, cultural shifts do not happen easily or quickly. So the common themes perpetuate, and in the end, foreign policy won't win it for the Democrats, even though, by all rights, it should.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A unified Democratic party?

I'm a little behind schedule. My plan today was not to blog at all, having done something good yesterday. But I missed yesterday--fighting with the air conditioners, setting up my wireless network, among other things--so I'm doing a little catch-up.

In fact, my plan is now different entirely. I was going to write about all the Dean news of the past few days, and whether or not it will in aggregate help or hurt him. I think he is only helped: People saw the Paul Dean thing and the "Meet the Press" thing for what they were. The announcement was huge, and his speech, "An American Restoration," is sure to become a classic. I even liked--yes, it's true--Dean's "breaking into the country club" line. Anyone who thinks he did not do it on purpose is underestimating him: the line and the image would have been lost on everyone, never would have seen the light of day, without his son's having legal troubles. Now it becomes absolutely the perfect metaphor for the campaign, and, since he knows Republicans will never touch the arrested-kid-for-booze issue, he's totally safe now using it.

But, on to my topic for the day. There's so much good out there in the Democratic field that it's a little frustrating to think about the lost opportunities the competition among the nine is creating. For example, John Edwards gave a wicked good economic speech the other day at Gerorgetown. He absolutely lays out the Democrats' rationale for repealing the Whopper's tax cuts and imposing fiscal discipline. But no one will ever hear about it, because the leading candidates won't mention it. There's nothing in it to ridicule, so the other eight will stay quiet about it.

Just like most of the nine aren't slamming (or praising) Dean's health care package, at least not the way they did Gephardt's. No one's bashing (or, for the most part, lauding) Graham for his attacks on the Whopper's intelligence issues (no, not that intelligence, silly; the spooks and spies kind). I could go on, but that's enough to make my point. Now, there are exceptions to all of these--like Kucinich, who will take on anybody--but by and large the best ideas get avoided positively and negatively by all the candidates.

So why, then, can't we get the nine of them to sit down in a room, and, as these unassailable positions get established, have all nine decide to support them?

Wouldn't it be great, for example, if every single Democratic candidate came out this week to say that John Edwards is right when he says that "what’s holding our economy down is the callous view of a few at the top in Washington and in the corporate world that the values that got us here can now be left behind." If they all agreed that whoever wins the nomination will pursue the course of action Edwards recommends (my favorite part: "the wealthiest one-third of one percent of taxpayers – those who claim capital gains and have annual incomes over $350,000 -- will pay the same rate on capital gains – 25% -- that two teachers who earn $35,000 pay on their incomes," mostly because it's about me! [the teacher part, not the wealthy part :( ]).

And if the nine could all agree on a health plan (most of them seem to be like Dean's; Gephardt's and Kucinich's are further afield), on a national security policy, on a way to campaign to our diverse membership (like Dean's "this president is dividing us" rhetoric)--in short, if we could write a good, specific, goal-oriented and detail intensive platform that everyone signs on to, then our message could be clear, sustainable, and, most importantly, unified.

Does anyone doubt that we will all unite behind the eventual nominee? As often as I hear "Anyone but Bush," I feel certain that we'll elect a Democrat, whoever it is. I've already put in too much for too long on 2004 to throw it away if Kerry or Gephardt takes the nomination, no siree. But I think I would feel better--and Democrats could campaign better--if they pooled the best ideas so far into one common platform.

What would they fight about, then? Well, the same stuff they're mostly fighting about now: electablity, "backbone," character, charisma, experience, overall message. They're not debating, really, the relative merits of their health care plans (except Kucinich, who will settle for nothing less than single-payer); they're not debating (much) the merits of repealing the Whopper's tax cuts; they're not debating the necessity of a balanced budget to maintain the programs for the poor we as a country have come to depend on; they're not debating the repeal of U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T.; they're not debating the importance of judicial appointments that will uphold Roe.

Let's just settle all of that up, then, and get our message out now. Because, as Dean says, the Democratic agenda wins every time. Sure, something like this may make for a less exciting horse race, but this isn't the race to focus on anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Why I Support Howard Dean
A few words on this "Blog for Dean Day"

Milwaukeeans, please add your statements of support to the comments!

For a more complete list of reasons why I support Howard Dean, check my archives; I actually did a four-part series on the matter. For now, the highlights:

  • Howard Dean is angry. And darn it, so am I. The election was stolen, our civil rights have been trampled, our economy's in the crapper, and too many Democrats have been complicit in the ruination of our country. We can do better.
  • Howard Dean is smart. He went to med school, which has given him a certain approach to problems. He likes to actually consider evidence before he makes a decision, and make that decision based on the evidence he sees. He does not (unlike some people I could name) decide what he wants and then fabricate the evidence to support it.
  • Howard Dean believes in health care for all Americans. And he's got the plan to do it, plus a record in Vermont any of the other candidates would die for.
  • Howard Dean believes in healthy children. The Success by Six and Dr. Dynasaur programs have made Vermont's mothers and children just about the healthiest in the nation. We have a startlingly poor survival rate for infants in the most-industrialized of all industrial nations, and a Howard Dean presidency could turn that around.
  • Howard Dean supports the civil rights of all Americans. Even the canadians recognize gay unions now! Do we really want to keep falling further behind the Canadians???
  • Howard Dean balances budgets. A lot of people go back to Dean's (Wellstone's, really) line that he represents "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" as their favorite line. My favorite is actually "The reason that is important is because it is hard to fund social justice without a balanced budget, which is why this President doesn't have one."
  • Howard Dean is electable. And don't let anybody tell you he isn't: He's never lost an election before; he has a crack team in Burlington; and he's got more than 100,000 people getting his emails all over the country. If you just count the core members of Meetups, then there is already a sizable Dean campaign team on the ground in every major city in the U.S. That's a kind of organization no one else can claim.
  • Howard Dean believes in a sane foreign policy. A Dean administrations foreign policy will not be based on oil, or on resolving his father's issues, or on some quixotic "Project for a New American Century" empire-building scheme. Rather, Dean will evaluate threats to the U.S. before attacking wildly, and cultivate allies rather than ignore them.
  • Howard Dean is dead-on about most other Democratic causes, too. He steadfastly supports a woman's right to choose; he is very pro-labor despite being from a labor-poor state; he's for environmental protection; he hates the idea of privatizing social security. I could go on, but I want to leave something for the rest of you to talk about.

  • Milwaukeeans, leave your statements of support in my comments section. If you're not from around here, I guess you could, too. Also, though, check in with Anna over at the Dean2004 blog, and leave comments there, too.

    And let's hope that, on, let's say, January 21, 2005, we can have a "Blog for Dean's Inauguration Day." And if you haven't registered yet with MoveOn, you have until midnight to do it!

    Report on the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Convention
    Part Two

    My last post left off after the speeches at the presidential candidates' forum, where Howard Dean wiped the floor with everyone. Then we adjourned to the hospitality suites.

    Dean was there, and I finally got a chance to meet him. We did not speak too long, but I also got some words in with Kate O'Connor, and with Paul (last name still on the business card I haven't unpacked yet), who was there videotaping everything, including a very excited Folkbum. I have to say that in person, despite having been in the middle of a grueling month of campaigning, the governor was in great form, attentive, personable, excited to meet everyone. Kate O'Connor basically had to grab his arm to drag him from the still-buzzing room for some much needed rest.

    I didn't get into the other candidates' hospitality suites while they were open, so I cannot say how popular Dean's was compared to everyone else's. I will say, though, that Dean's room was packed. I met so many people in the room my head just kept spinning, including a number of local Democratic luminaries who want to work on the Dean campaign. Burlington doesn't have an office here in Wisconsin yet, but when they do, I've got a list of politicos to staff it. That's on top of the hundreds of new Dean volunteers who signed up at the convention.

    After Dean himself cleared out of the suite, it closed up pretty quickly. But I did not wander off--I actually stayed in the mostly empty suite to catch latecomers and turn them into Deanistas. I think I got a few. Then I wandered out about 11:00 or so, when I got to meet Russ Feingold, state Attornery General Peg Lautenschlager, and former Representative Tom Barrett, all of whom seemed very genuinely interested when I mentioned that I was one of the coordinators of Milwaukee for Dean. Barrett, in fact, earnestly expresses his hope that we do well (I hope Burlington's working on him--a Barrett endorsement would be a major score!).

    I wandered past the Kerry room--not quite empty, but as it was hostile territory, I did not go in. I never made it as far as the Kucinich room, because I stopped in the Graham room. It was fairly crowded (they hadn't packed up the food yet, and the beer was still tapped). But I found that three of the four tables with people were tables full of Dean supporters. It was good to sit and talk with so many of them.

    I also talked a bit with Gwen Graham-Logan, who was complimentary of Dean and Dean's kind words toward her father (this was before Dean said Graham was not a "major" candidate). She was circumspect about the whole cozy self-congratulatory thing that Dean and Graham seemed to be developing, but she did say that she thought a Graham-Dean ticket would be fantastic. I said vice-versa, of course.

    I wonder if there's not even more calculation going on than we might think--a lot of pundits (professional and blogging) figured that Dean's dig at Graham was a gaffe, and Dean does have a habit of not moderating his speech as much as I might like. (At least he hasn't called any reporters "major league assholes" yet.) I can't help but think that maybe Dean's line was calculated to raise Graham's profile, and get people used to hearing Dean's and Graham's names in the same sentence. Hmmm.

    After a while, Gwen Graham-Logan began to wonder about the process of shutting down the room. "Do I have to take down the signs?" she asked. "I'm all alone here--I've got no volunteers or anything." At that point a few of us Deanistas in the room pitched in to help clean up the literature and the signs from the wall for her.

    I finally dragged myself out of the convention at about a quarter to one, only to return about seven the next morning for the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) breakfast. The food there was standard hotel convention food--sausage, ham, bacon, institutional scrambled eggs, and pastries. But it turns out that it was the first food I'd eaten since lunch Friday!

    I got to meet Stan Johnson, president of WEAC, plus a number of other guys in ties, officials of some sort in the union. As part of the breakfast, we had speeches by some politicians, but members of the union also got to speak. First up was state senate minority leader Jon Erpenbach, who also happens to be the highest-ranking Wisconsin pol to endorse Howard Dean so far. So after he spoke, I took a moment to introduce myself to him, and invite him to Milwaukee for some Dean events we've got coming up.

    During that time, the WEAC folks were reminding us of important pro-public education work we need to be doing and supporting. Russ Feingold also came in and spoke, and, once again, proved just how lucky Wisconsin is to have him as Our Senator.

    Next speaking was Midge Miller, a long-time activist in the state whose son is now a state senator. She spoke on behalf of the Kucinich campaign, and mostly just read from his literature.

    I need to say here again that I have very little against Dennis Kucinich, and that, if things were different--i.e., he had a chance in hell to win--I might be supporting him. (I am concerned about his abortion flip-flop recently, though).

    After Midge Miller spoke, I wanted to get up and give my spiel about Howard Dean, but it was at that point that our state superintendent, Libby Burmaster, came in, and she was, of course, given preference. I have to say that Burmaster has done a fine job in a difficult position. She inherited a state school system that, under the thumb of Republicans in Madison has gone from among the best in the nation to one in the middle (though her predecessor fought hard against them, too). School choice in Milwaukee has cost districts across the state much needed dollars, and has proved absolutely nothing about the effectiveness of voucher programs. There's a link to Rethinking Schools over on the right side of my page, because I believe in what they do. They began as a Milwaukee-area fight against the evil "reforms" of the early 1990s, including vouchers, and they have kept up the good fight.

    I spoke after Burmaster (good company so far, eh?). But as I was speaking, Elizabeth Edwards (candidate John's wife) came in--becuase I wasn't nervous enough! And as she was speaking, in came Governor Jim Doyle! That's right: If you want to plot the order of speakers that morning, it was our state superintendent, me, John Edwards's wife, and the governor of the state. That goes on the vitae.

    Oh, so I got a very good reaction from people about Dean. The stack of literature that I passed around the room disappeared, and I gave out a half-dozen Dean buttons to the assembled teachers--about 75 in all. I didn't see that many people talking Mrs. Edwards!

    After the breakfast was over--basically, after the governor finished speaking--I got a moment to talk to him, since my wife and I actually went to Beloit College with his son, Gus. Doyle also wished me luck with the Dean thing.

    I found the Dean table again, after talking to Doyle. It was absolutely devoid of literature. Ethan from Eau Claire was there, and I asked him where all the lit was. "We got cleaned out last night," he said. As it turns out, the Dean table was the only table to run out, and not because we had less stuff, but because there was greater demand, coupled with a prime location right inside the main entry to the lobby outside the ballroom where the speeches were the night before. So I dropped off the hundred or so sheets I had left, and a few bumper stickers, and chatted up the table workers and visitors a while, before heading to the new house to paint, paint, paint.

    I want to take a moment to thank Ethan, as well as Steve and Liz for all their hard work with the convention. I also want to thank everybody who staffed the table, including Erik and about a half-dozen other people I met there for the first time and whose names escape me. We did a fantastic job, and it was the volunteers who made it so great.

    The straw poll results were also out on Saturday afternoon, but you've already heard me rant about that (see below), but in case you've forgotten: Dean kicked everybody else's behind. Squarely.

    And that's how it'll be in 2004.

    I'm Ba-ack

    Well, I'm typing this from my own office in the new house. That's right--my very own office! No more sitting at the dining room doing my work and my blogging (although, ironically, my work surface here in my office is an old dining room table).

    There's still a whole mess of unpacking to do, and some cleaning back at the apartment before we check out (we need that security deposit!). But otherwise the move is done.

    I guess now that I'm part of the landed gentry, those in charge have to start listening to me, right? What does it take to be a part of the "gentry," anyway?

    Here's a preview of next week's posts:

    Later tonight, part two (a week late) of my wrap-up of the state Democratic convention, where I discuss Friday night and Saturday morning festivities for Dean.

    Monday, there will be a condensed version of my "Why I Support Howard Dean" post as a part of Blog for Dean day. I hope other Milwaukeeans will add their thoughts in the "comments" section. If you're not from Milwaukee but want to contribute, I don't mind, but don't hog the comments, please.

    Tuesday, thoughts on Dean Declaration day, and some response to the weekend's events (Paul Dean's citation, "Meet the Press," and the declaration itself).

    Wednesday, Mrs. Folkbum and I are going to Ikea in Chicago, so no posting.

    Thursday's up in the air, but it needs to be funny. I haven't done enough funny lately.

    Friday I'm going to do a big music post--something I've not really done yet, even though I intended for this blog to cover more than just politics. But I'm part of a songwriters' group that meets once a month, and that Saturday is our day. I've got a song started that I need to finish by then, and I though it might be interesting somewhat to document the process for you here.

    Any requests? Leave them in the comments. Right now, I get to go mow my own lawn!

    Wednesday, June 18, 2003

    More on MoveOn

    Howard Dean's answers to the MoveOn candidate poll are here. Remember, you need to join MoveOn if you haven't yet so that next Tuesday you can vote for him in the MoveOn primary.

    I really like this part of Dean's response:
    I’m going to tell the American people the truth. James Madison, when speaking to the founding fathers, said, “What we fear the most is that economic power would try to seize democratic power.” Madison’s fear has been made real with the Administration of George W. Bush. Lincoln’s government of, by and for the people has been replaced by a government of the corporations, for the special interests, and by the campaign contributors. Our country was founded on the idea of democratic capitalism, in which the undeniable power of capitalism should be subservient to democracy, and not the master. We have to level with the American people about what is at stake in 2004: nothing less than the restoration or destruction of our American tradition. I believe we will win. The founding values of our nation are on our side. This is not a campaign about Democrats, or about Republicans, or about Greens or Independents—this is a campaign for America. That is the truth that must be told to the American people. So many in my party are afraid of speaking the truth; they are so afraid of losing, they have forgotten what it takes to win. We will win by standing up for America.

    If that doesn't pursuade you that this guy is the one, I don't know what will.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2003

    My roundup of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention
    Warning: Extremely Long

    Rally I couldn't go to the rally Friday afternoon outside the convention hotel. I was speaking a a graduation ceremony across town. But those who were there describe it as incredible. There should be video available soon--the campaign had a guy taping virtually everything. I invited guests to blog about it, but they're all as busy as I am catching up on their own lives that none of them were able to. If you were there, add your report to the comments below.

    Anyway, press reports put the number of attendees at "over 200," Governor Dean estimated 300-350, and our people on the ground thought it maybe edged closer to 400. Dean gave his stump speech and apparently did very well--he's doing it without notes now, and that's an impressive thing.

    Inside the Convention In the spirit of not turning this blog into a journal or a diary, I won't get into all the trials and tribulations of getting registered and everything. But once I was there and settled, I was able to look around. Basically, every single vertical surface was plastered in campaign signs. There were tables everywhere, and the straw poll going on. It was noisy, noisy, noisy, with people all over despite the fact that the main program was underway in the main ballroom.

    By the time I got to the ballroom, Rep. Ron Kind was on the podium, waving a shovel all over the place. I immediately went to work for my guy, handing out signs. We consistently had to go back to the hospitality room for more signs, because it seems like everybody wanted one.

    I kept going through Kind's speech, and finally found my wife and a seat--in the front row! Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton spoke next, and she introduced Governor Doyle. He was followed by Russ Feingold.

    I have to say, as much as I love Howard Dean, there's a little piece of me that's sad Feingold isn't making a run for it this year. If the unthinkable happens and we don't have a winner next year, Russ is at the top of my list for 2008.

    Feingold got his biggest applause on the populist issues--he voted NO on the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, he opposed FCC deregulation, and he wants the foreign relations committee--on which he sits--to investigate the Whopper's dissemblance leading up to the Iraq war.

    The other thing that struck me as Feingold spoke was how much he sounded like Dean. It was as if he was delivering his own version of Dean's stump speech. I realize that to a certain extent all Democrats are going to say the same things on many of the same issues. But there were too many similarities for it to be mere coincidence.

    Then the real show started.

    Presidential Forum We were first informed that Al Sharpton had to send his regrets. He was performing the funeral that night for a staffer of his who had unexpectedly passed away. Luckily, we got Kucinich instead, because we needed some comic relief.

    Gwen Graham-Logan spoke first in the place of her father, who was probably somewhere writing in his notebooks. (I kind of like Bob Graham; I shouldn't be so mean to him). She was surprisingly eloquent for an unpracticed speaker. She started her speech by saying that she had never spoken before to an audience larger than a PTA meeting. But she did very well and, as this is Wisconsin, had an old picture of her dad in his 4-H hat with a dairy cow. She harped on the point that Graham can win Florida. I've said it before and I'll say it again, that we don't need Florida--it would be nice, sure, but all we need is the Gore states plus one. Any one. She did mention Graham's other qualities--notably his intelligence committee work--but the strong impression she left was that we should vote for her dad so we can win Florida.

    Dean was next. He came out to roaring applause--we were merely polite for Graham-Logan--and chants of "We Want Dean!" From the very beginning, he fired up the crowd. If I tried to describe it all, I would not be able to stop, so I'll just hit a few highlights. There were some canned moments--the "We Want Dean" chant is so he can use his "If you keep it up, you just might get him" line in response. And at some point, somebody threw him the "Give 'em hell, Howard" softball so he could knock it back with the old "As Harry Truman said, 'I just tell 'em the truth, and they think it's hell!'" line.

    But mostly the whole thing was genuine. Three moments I want to cover: Dean went into his "I don't want to be divided" thing. That's something that was absolutely lacking from every other candidate's speech (and their platforms, as I do my research). He told the story that you've no doubt heard by now of the 80-year-old D-Day survivor veteran who thanked Dean, from his heart, for the Civil Unions law, as that veteran is gay. Dean asks, rightly, I think, how anyone can possibly look at that veteran, a man with unquestioned patriotism and loyalty who was willing to fight and die for his country, and want to deny that man the same rights other Americans have.

    Second, he talked about health care, again going back to Truman. You could see that it is genuinely his true love, and I was glad to hear him talk about his Dr. Dynasaur program, which dramatically improved the health of children in Vermont. An elected Democrat I spoke to later at the convention told me that it was Dean's commitment to healthy children that first piqued his interest in the governor, and we both wished it was something Dean would tout more often, as I think it's a winner no mater who you talk to. Like the vet above, who can make the argument that we should deny health care to kids?

    Finally, he pushed hard against the lies of the Whopper's iraq war (though he was careful never to day "lies") and he railed hard against the Whoppers agenda. That's where his greatest applause came from. He asked, as he had been asking for a week, "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" He went off on the tax cuts, the judicial nominees (again, the only candidate to bring that to the podium), and the foreign policy. In short, he hit just about every button in the room, and we all rallied behind him.

    Dennis Kucinich spoke next. Someone described him once as a Marxist elf, and that seems about right. He yells too much--not that Dean doesn't yell, but Dean sounds passionate and Kucinich just sounds, well, like a scold. But the man has the right ideas on many things--or, rather, the left ideas. I think his tendency toward the far left adds to the discussion in these early months, but does nothing for us in the general election. But Kucinich's appearance at the convention, so close on the heels of his appearance at a big peace rally in Madison last month, tells me he thinks Wisconsin's winnable for him, even if someone like Gephardt is willing to write us off. That makes me feel good.

    John Kerry spoke last. He said a lot of the right things, but he was not inspiring. It was clear, though, that he could be a frontrunner, and, as my second loyalty, after Dean, is "Anybody But Bush," I will vote for him if he's the nominee. But I think most of us in the hall agreed that he's not as impressive. As I said earlier, there was a far greater demand for Dean signs than we expected. And as Dean spoke, all of those signs were in the air, plus the pill-bottle rattles. Compare: John Kerry's team had left Kerry signs on every single chair in the convention hall, but during Kerry's speech, there were far fewer signs waving than during Dean's.

    Kerry did highlight an important thing, which is his military service. Actually, the biggest crowd reaction seemed to come from the one Navy veteran who "wooo-hoooed" really loud when Kerry mentioned his navy service. That's an advantage I wish Dean had, and I think the Whopper's AWOL status during Vietnam won't make Dean less vulnerable on the service issue, although by rights it should (I mean, the Whopper managed to play better than Gore on that issue--Gore, who drove himself to New Jersey to take the place of some likely poor, minority draftee, and was kept out of action for seven months because of his father's Republican political enemies--don't get me started). I will point out one of the most frustrating things of the night, which was that the timekeeper for the speeches--who was seated near us in the front row--packed up her stopwatch and countdown materials during Kerry's speech, so Kerry got at least 15 minutes more than any other candidate! Arrgh!

    That was that. Then came the hospitality rooms and more, but I need a break, so that will come in a later post. Sorry again for the length here--

    Some catching up to do

    A few things of note. First of all, I've got the ePatriot button now on the right (the "Boot Bush" one). Donate, please. If you donate $10,000 (collectively, not individually), then I get a call from Terry McAuliffe! And right now my life is just that empty.

    Secondly, if you are not already receiving emails from, please sign up to do so. On June 24, they will be polling their members about the democratic presidential candidates, and if more than 50% of their members can agree on one, then MoveOn will endorse and throw their full support behind that candidate. Don't be complacent and think Dean's a shoo-in because of his current internet supremacy--it will take, as I said, over 50% of their nearly 2,000,000 members. I know I don't have that many regular readers right now, but if both of you sign up, it will go a long way towards making a Dean endorsement possible. (Aside: This is critical, because last year MoveOn was able to raise over $700,000 in a day (correct me if I'm wrong there) for Paul Wellstone. Plus, MoveOn's membership is exactly the kind of group we need working for Dr. Dean!]

    Thirdly, I'm almost done with my write-up of the Wisconsin convention. Look for it this afternoon.

    Sunday, June 15, 2003

    Advantage: Dean

    I'm still working on my full account of the weekend's festivities, but here are a few tidbits:

    Dean kicked butt in the Democratic convention straw poll:
    --Combined total: Dean (203), Kerry (50), Kucinich (27), Graham (19), Edwards (18), Gephardt (10), Moseley Braun (5), Lieberman (4), Sharpton (2), various write-ins (14).

    --Delegates/Alternates: Dean (126), Kerry (33), Kucinich (16), Edwards (10), Gephardt (8), Lieberman (3), Graham (3), Moseley Braun (1), Sharpton (1), various write-ins (7).

    --Official guests: Dean (77), Kerry (17), Graham (16), Kucinich (11), Edwards (8), Moseley Braun (4), Gephardt (2), Lieberman (1), Sharpton (1), various write-ins (7)

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't seem to care:
    In winning a convention straw poll of Wisconsin Democrats on Saturday, presidential hopeful Howard Dean showed he has done as much as anyone in the field to stoke the passions of committed party activists.

    But the media-sponsored straw poll, the first one in any state this year, may not signify more than that.

    So I wrote them a letter:
    I was very disappointed by the headline in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel--"Straw poll victory may not signify much for Dean"--and its accompanying article, especially compared to headlines from Reuters ("Dean easily wins Wisconsin Democratic straw poll"), Green Bay ("State Democrats favor Dean in informal poll") and elsewhere around the state and country.

    You dismiss former Vermont governor Howard Dean's victory as insignificant, but the victory happened for one of three reasons, any of which bode well for Dean's campaign here in Wisconsin:

    1. Dean's grassroots support may have been the best organized. That means that, unlike better-known and -funded candidates, Dean's ever-growing base of local supporters is the strongest This is key now that Wisconsin has again become a battleground state. Advantage: Dean.

    2. Dean's supporters are so committed to their candidate they will stand against the position of party "officials" to do things like vote in straw polls. Already we've seen "establishment" Democratic organizations, like the Democratic Leadership Council, take stands against Howard Dean because they view him as a threat to their chosen candidates. Dean's supporters will not bow to establishment pressure. Advantage: Dean.

    3. Dean motivated the convention-goers with his speech Friday night far more than any of the other candidates speaking, so they voted for him in larger numbers. If you were in the convention hall Friday night, you would have seen that the delegates--most of whom were not Dean supporters before he spoke--were on their feet more often, cheering more loudly, and moved more strongly during Dean's speech than during firebrand Kucinich's or self-annointed front-runner Kerry's speeches. Advantage: Dean.

    I am also disappointed that you failed in your article to mention the endorsement Howard Dean has received from Jon Erpenbach, the top-ranking Democrat in the state senate, even though you listed endorsements from other candidates.

    Howard Dean is not just a candidate; he is a movement. This straw poll victory is certainly just the first of many victories--unofficial and official--to come.

    Again, more later. Keep checking back!

    Haloscan 1, Document Root 0

    Got tired of Document Root's problems. Switched to Haloscan for comments. Left old comments for now--no time to port or delete. Need new counter, too. Later. Must sleep now. Full report on Wisconsin Democratic convention soon. Promise.

    Thursday, June 12, 2003

    Your homework for tonight

    William Pryor this time. First, go here, then here, and then here. Finally, adapt:
    Senator Kohl,

    I am writing to urge you to do everything in your power to block the nomination of William Pryor. The man is a reactionary throwback who will reverse a hundred years of progressive case law to suit his own personal political agenda.

    I am sure you're aware, but Pryor's record as a judge and an attorney general is frighteningly activist and dangerous. He was the only attorney general to weigh in on Bush v. Gore (on Bush's side, of course), he would repeal Roe v. Wade in a heartbeat, and he wishes every judge on the federal bench were as terrifyingly conservative as he is.

    Senator Kohl, as a Wisconsinite proud of this state's progressive tradition and your reputation in upholding said tradition, I urge you to use every possible tool at your disposal to keep this man off the federal bench. Thank you for your dedication, and I trust you will stand up for freedom and liberty in this matter.


    P.S. Sorry for the cop-out post again. Busy at work and the new house, blah blah.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2003

    On Buying a House

    Oh, my God, I bought a house! Why didn't somebody stop me?

    So, blogging will be light for a few days. Expect it to pick up again when I am procrastinating instead of packing and cleaning.

    [In lieu of comments, send boxes and bubble wrap.]

    Tuesday, June 10, 2003

    Your homework for tonight

    First, go here. Then, go here. Finally, adapt:
    Senator Feingold,

    I write to you as a tremendous fan of your time in the senate and the stands you have taken. I write to you as someone who walked neighborhoods until my feet and legs could barely go anymore for your campaign in 1998 (and I will do it again). I write to you as an American.

    George W. Bush and his administration have lied to us, misled us, misinformed us, and secured our support for an unjust war under utterly false pretenses. The truth is coming out, slowly but surely, as even administration hard-liners like Advisor Rice admit that the evidence presented was phony, Iraqi defectors deny connections to al Qaeda, and weapons of mass destruction elude discovery.

    If ever a situation existed that demanded a full and frank accounting of how the president misused his office and how the hand-picked team around him influenced debate with specious evidence, such a situation exists now. The conflict in Iraq has claimed more than 200 American lives, the lives of dozens of other coalition soldiers, and the lives of untold thousands of Iraqis. The Pentagon refuses to release the number of American wounded, so total American casualties are even higher. And these deaths and injuries are the sole result of misapplication of trumped-up evidence and deception on the part of the president and his administration; these deaths and injuries are then, by extension, all of our responsibilities.

    So I implore you, Senator Feingold, to use the power of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to bring to light the extent of the deception. The international community has already lost respect for us; do not let relations worsen over continued dissemblance from the present White House.




    Hoo ha ha ha he he ha he ha! Woo hoo ha ha ha he he ha he ha! Oh ho ho ha he ho ha!

    [wipes tears, sniffles] Ari Fleischer said this? "And the president is not going to engage in the rewriting of history that others may be trying to engage in." Bwah ha ha ha he he ha ho he ha ha ha!

    Just one reason why it's so funny.

    Here's what's scary, though: The Whopper is not just rewriting history here, people. Read the story I linked to above. He's pretending now that all along we were just in this war because of a "program" to "develop" weapons of mass destruction, not because of the WMDs themselves. If anyone doubts that the Whopper's changing his story, I point you, once again, to the Whiskey Bar. Repeat after me, again: Bush Lied, People Died.

    As long as we're on the subject: I haven't mentioned the Daily Howler yet in my ramblings and rantings here, but I need to bring them up here. They do an excellent job of documenting the lies and dissemblences of not only the Whopper but the legions of press who refuse to call the man on obvious and patent falsehoods and distortions. It has become a daily read for me, and it should for you, as well. Their "incomperable archives" really are, and they will provide great fodder for your next cocktail party conversation.

    Monday, June 09, 2003

    One, Two, Three, Four
    Let's Have a Blog War!

    So I entered The Truth Laid Bear's New Webblog Showcase again. And--stupid, stupid, stupid!--I did not proofread, so the post I linked to is labeled as "In my dreams, sometimes I'm James Carvilee." I hit the wrong letter twice! Arrrrgh! [UPDATE: My post, along with a half-dozen others, has been dropped from the contest. Apparently, if you like read the rules and stuff, it turns out you can only enter once. Luckily, Romulus's post, below, is still fair game for me.]

    But, in the spirit of helping competitors and to build traffic, I thought I would add three links here, quote from them, and then, try as I might, rip them to shreds in the hopes of starting a good old-fashioned blog war. I'm doing them one at a time, though, because I want to make sure my opening salvo in each war is good.

    I'll start with Judicious Asininity and his/ her post Smoking Saves Lives. Before I start I need to point out that this blog links to something called the "Slutertarian," which seems to combine every male libertarian's two biggest fantasies: naked women and automatic weapons.

    Anyway, the blogger, nick-named Romulus (after the founder of Rome or after the Star Trek guys with ears like Vulcans and minds like weasels? I dunno), first quotes at length from a secondary source (something I am loathe to do, except in situations like this). I won't reproduce the quote here, as I do not want to violate the original source's copyright and terms of use policy, unlike some bloggers I could name.

    The quote itself concerns the costs of smoking and, as smokers pay tobacco taxes far in excess of what Britain's health care pays our for tobacco-related illnesses (the writer claims), how somehow smokers are contributing to the public good. Romulus writes,
    That is certainly one way of looking at it and most likely this view contains a certain amount of truth that could easily be applied to the U.S. What some non-smokers who are anti-smoking should be concerned about is what form of behavior the anti crowd would choose as their cause should all smoking cease today. You know they have to have something to be against. It just might be your Big Macs, fat people, unhealthy diets, risky recreational activities, cell phones, dumb drivers, idiocy, couch potatos, or any other facet of life that strikes their fancy. So keep in mind that the anti-choice crowd may be targeting one of your choices when smokers are conquered.

    Our poster advances two arguments here. The first, the idea that smokers contribute more in taxes than they drain in resources, is patently false, at least here on this side of the Atlantic. A quick Googling turned up, from RJ Reynolds's own web site (here and here), that the total revenue collected from cigarette taxes at the local, state, and federal levels is only $14.6 billion (and I rounded up). Now, that may sound like a lot, but consider this:
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care expenditures, caused directly by smoking, totaled $50 billion in 1993. Forty-three percent of these costs were paid by government funds, including Medicaid and Medicare. Lost economic productivity caused by smoking cost the U.S. economy $47.2 billion in 1990, according to the Office of Technology Assessment. Adjusted for inflation, the total economic cost of smoking is more than $100 billion per year. This does not include costs associated with diseases caused by environmental tobacco smoke, burn care resulting from cigarette smoking-related fires, or perinatal care for low-birth weight infants of mothers who smoke.

    Did you catch my emphasis? That's right--not only do smokers not pay for their own health care in taxes; the rest of us share a nearly $25 billion burden through our FICA taxes to pay for it!

    Plus, consider this statistic from the same source: "Even though smokers die younger than the average American, over the course of their lives current and former smokers, generate an estimated $501 billion in excess health care costs (1992 estimate)." Much of that cost is borne in higher insurance premiums for the rest of us. (I know smokers pay higher than non-smokers, often, but not enough to shift the entire burden from us.)

    Just so you don't think I've picked and chosen too much, I found these statistics roughly verified here, here (warning--PDF), and a whole mess of links here.

    Romulus's second argument has to do with the anti-tobacco forces and their needing something else to be against if they succeed in eliminating smoking. This is a specious argument. Those inclined to take seriously the idea that there is conspiracy in place to force everyone to adopt their morality (Bill Bennet, anyone?) will undoubtedly see truth in this. But more important is the need to acknowledge that the public health is a real and vital concern to every single one of us. So what if you decide to kill yourself with cigarettes, or fast food, or alcohol, or cocaine, or imitating the movie Jackass? The so what is the real cost--in dollars and in other intangibles to society.

    Plus cigarette smoke is stinky.

    [View/Post Comments]

    P.S. Don't get all het up and say that Romulus is just making tongue-in cheek jokes. He (she?) is spreading disinformation (on the internet? No!) and only feeding a particular attitude that does nothing to serve the public interest. You know and I know (or hope) that the poster is only joking, but that does not mean I can't counter with the truth.

    Sunday, June 08, 2003

    Second Banana

    I wanted this blog to cover more than just politics; not that I wanted it to turn into some sort of diary/ journal/ soul-baring exercise, but I have a variety of things going on in my life and I'd like to spread the joy of the blog around a little bit. Trouble is, too much of my waking life right now is in this election, which, while months and months away, is seeming more and more critical to work on now.

    This weekend for example, I spent a lot of time "tabling for Dean" at Milwaukee PrideFest, to great response. But that means I'm not doing other things--notably, writing songs or packing the apartment for the big move (we close on Wednesday!). Then next weekend is the Democrats' state convention (and a lot of painting at the new house). The weekend after that is the big move itself. And so on. Plus, now I have to find time to write this crazy thing.

    I will do something quick on a subject that pops up a lot on lefty blogs: vice-presidential candidates. Sure, we're all focused on the big prize, but what about second banana?

    I talked to a guy at PrideFest today who claimed to have been a major player in the Democratic party in the past, and has met and worked for every Democratic candidate from JFK to the present. He spoke at length about how Howard Dean would make a good vice president behind, of all people, Edwards. Now, I don't know this guy from Adam, and he could have been anybody, but it really got me wondering about whether anyone would want Dean as their VP choice. And then I read about the symbiotic kind of thing that may be developing between Graham and Dean, and I also read that HRC is for certain out of the running for 2004 and even 2008 (don't hold your breath on 2008). So who would play second chair well?

    Before I begin, I need to reiterate what I've said repeatedly elsewhere: It is imperative that Democrats not undermine what little advantage we have with the current margins in the senate. Already, depending on who the presidential nominee is, we could lose a senator (the senators running, except Edwards, are from states with Republican governors). Many other names bandied about for VP--like Mary Landrieu, HRC, Evan Bayh--are in the same boat. I do not want to lose any seats in the senate, and I really hope the Dems pay attention to that sentiment come Boston.

    I'll start with our current nine, in alpha order, followed by other top contenders (in my opinion):

  • Dean: Pros: An attack dog. Will do what Lieberman could/ would not in 2000. Cons: Is used to being in charge and will not take orders well. My call: Will probably not be asked, would not accept if he were.
  • Edwards: Pros: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, and also a southern angle. Cons: A certain lack of experience. My call: Actually could work--he seems to be on his way to losing his senate seat anyway, and the VP job is a great way to build the kind of reputation he's currently lacking as a relative newcomer. Might well be asked.
  • Gephardt: Pros: Knows everybody in the federal government and would add the weight of some experience to the ticket. Cons: Has not delivered the house for Democrats and therefore may be seen as a liability. My call: Will not be asked.
  • Graham: Pros: Statehouse and senate experience, plus a moderate--and southern--voice. Cons: Age and health--he might not want to run again in 2012 when the top banana's term is up. My call: Is a favorite of everyone, and will almost certainly get the nod.
  • Kerry: Pros: Legislative experience and a war-hero record. Cons: Is running lackluster now, when the presidency is on the line. My call: Maybe.
  • Kucinich: Pros: Liberal/ progressive/ Green street cred. Cons: He yells too much, and will not deliver Ohio the way Graham might Florida. My call: Will not be asked.
  • Lieberman Pros: Has already held the job of vice-presidential candidate. Cons: Has already held the job of vice-presidential candidate. My call: Will not be asked.
  • Mosley-Braun: Pros: A great speaker and foreign policy experience, plus a chance at mobilizing minority voters better on election day. Cons: Scandals and her getting voted out of the senate. My call: Will not be asked.
  • Sharpton: Pros: He's funny. Cons: So nobody takes him seriously. My call: Will not be asked.
  • Wesley Clark: Pros: Southern, military, Rhodes Scholar, TV visibility. Cons: A political unknown--he's never run for, let alone held, an elected office. My call: If the nominee is Kerry, then no; if it's anyone else, the military thing may make it likely.
  • Mary Landrieu Pros: Kicked the Rove Machine's ass in 2002, plus she may help win back the soccer mom vote from those who thought the Whopper looked hot in a flight suit. Cons: Voted for the last tax cut (caveat: she though she was voting for a provision that was later cut by the White House); plus the spector of Geraldine Ferrarro. My call: Will probably not be asked.
  • Bill Richardson: Pros: Popular governor (New Mexico), plus may bring back a lot of people who liked Clinton but did not like Gore. Cons: Opens up the ticket to all the critiques of the Clinton years again, even though Richardson was always clean. My call: A strong maybe.
  • Robert Reich: Pros: Oversaw the Clinton economic boom, and would be a good attack dog. Cons: See above, plus I think he likes the private sector too much. My call: Won't be considered seriously, which is too bad.
  • Evan Bayh: Pros: He's perfectly DLC. Cons: He's perfectly DLC. My call: Will not be asked; I don't think he can deliver the midwest, certainly not any better than Gephardt, and no one but a DLCer like Edwards or Lieberman would consider him seriously, and then there would be no balance on the ticket.

  • There are a small handful of other names being thrown around that I just can't take seriously, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Diane Feinstein, Gray Davis, Russ Feingold, and even John McCain. Of those, I want Hillary to stay and become a leader in the senate; Feinstein is too polarizing; Davis is just a politically weak man; my guy Feingold should wait until 2008 (or 2012 if we win in 2004, which, of course we will, what am I saying?); and McCain is still a Republican, sheesh.

    Feedback, please. And pass it around!

    Saturday, June 07, 2003

    New Blog Showcase Update

    For those of you keeping track over at NZ Bear's New Blog Showcase, I'm currently sitting at number 15. Better than last, I guess. Anyway, extra grateful thanks to those who've linked to me: Shell at Across the Atlantic, Chrsitopher Genovese at Signal + Noise (scroll down to June 6th, the links aren't working), and The Tough Democrat, artfully hidden in his/her "Weekly Presidential Candidate Rundown, II" from June 2.

    There's still time to link to me if you haven't yet!

    UPDATE UPDATE: Still number fifteen, but check out Tiger: Raggin' and Rantin'. He's got every single entry in the contest reviewed and rated. Guess who's taking best of show? Hint: IT'S ME! I know I still won't land the Bear's prize, but one vote for best of show is better than none. Plus, Tiger earns extra points for spotting the typo.

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    Friday, June 06, 2003

    Sometimes, in my dreams, I'm James Carville

    So I want to beat George (the W stands for "Whopper!") Bush. And I'm not just talking about a blunt object here. For the good of the nation, he needs to go. Put it on your answering machine message: Bush lied, people died. I have a strategy that I have posted occasionally to other people's comment sections, but now that I have my own blog, I'm throwing it out here, too. I'm really hoping that people will catch on to the idea.

    Too many people (not Howard Dean, by the way) are saying that Democrats can't win the South (or more specifically, that someone who isn't Edwards or Graham can't win the South). You hear it a lot about red states in the West, too, and we only have one candidate from west of the Mississippi, and he's from Missouri).

    Of course we won't win the South on abortion and civil unions, and we won't win the West on gun control and environmentalism. But this strategy I've been working on is designed specifically for winning the South and West, and I hope the Democrats will adopt it, because it will win us at least some of the softer red states, maybe even non-southern or -western states like Ohio.

    The Democratic candidate must do a town hall-style meeting in all 50 states, one or two per day between Boston and the debates, with an audience of people who lost jobs, insurance, or both during the Whopper's first term. Yes, it might get old, fast, but the point has to be driven home, repeatedly, state by state. I think the economy will win us the South and West. They're hurting there, and if, every single day, the country sees and hears from real people who have been hurt by this administration, the point may start to get across.

    I mean, when the Republicans are in New York City exploiting 9/11 with their convention, we should be in the Hudson Valley, and Newark, and Philadelphia, and, hell, even NYC itself, driving home the point that this administration hurts people--more people than 9/11 did (not to denigrate that day, but compare any quarter's jobless numbers--any week's jobless numbers--to the death toll, and you see my point).

    In addition, I think it utterly appropriate, at the same time, to talk to these same devastated families about their plights locally. How many of them had teachers or librarians laid off from local schools? How many are paying more in property taxes, fees, state income taxes? There are two economies in the country, and the Whopper has ruined both.

    This is a great opportunity for the Democratic candidate to say, "Can I promise you a job on January 21, 2005? No, I can't. But I promise you this: The first bill I sign into law will be a bill guaranteeing you, your family, and your children the right to affordable health care. The second bill I sign will be an economic stimulus package that puts money in your pocket, not the pockets of the wealthiest Americans and corporations."

    And then, after meeting just a small percentage of the 3 (or 4 at this rate) million people who will have lost their jobs by October 2004, the Democrat can go into the debates and ask, point blank, what the hell the president has been doing for four years to bring the country down to where it is, and how the hell Americans can possibly trust him to fix it.

    The Whopper isn't going to talk to or about the unemployed; Rove isn't that stupid: It would like putting a guilty defendant on the witness stand. So all of the Whopper's sputtering and stuttering about WMDs and the war on "terra" will begin to sound like evasion. And the Whopper can't evade this question; he can't call unemployment numbers "fuzzy math."

    I worry about stuff like this because I can't shake the fear that Democrats will never be able to win the spin on defense, even though you and I know the Whopper is absolutely beatable on so many grounds on that one. And besides defense (or Homeland Security) and the economy, there aren't many other nation-wide issues in play (see my opening point: selling CUs in Alabama will be hard). We have to push the economy to win.

    Oh, yeah, and we also need an entirely separate machine--one that cannot be associated with the candidate--hammering the "Whopper" idea. We must keep reminding the people that Bush is a liar, but we don't want the candidate to get his--or her--hands dirty there. That's where James Carville comes in.

    Repeat after me: We can win this one. We can win this one. We can win this one.

    [View/Post Comments]

    Wednesday, June 04, 2003

    That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

    As a new blogger, I wasn't sure how I would be received in the community. I mean, I've had the back-and-forth with people on various comment boards, and I think I do all right, but, you know, putting the neck out there like that is a little frightening.

    And then I run across something like this, and I go all gooey inside. Thanks, Chris. You earn a spot in the links.

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    Tuesday, June 03, 2003

    Why I support Howard Dean, and why you should, too
    Part IV: A vision for a future America at home and abroad

    (Note: a number of things, including a trip out of town for a funeral and this post by Kevin Drum over at CalPundit, necessitate that I post this a little early. Maybe later I’ll bump the date.)

    There’s plenty I couldn’t cover yesterday: Howard Dean’s labor-positive attitude despite being from a union-poor state; Dean’s appreciation for and dedication to the environment; his adamant pro-choice stance; I could go on. But today’s installment—our last, as I’m sure you’re relieved to hear—is going to focus on national security and foreign policy issues, and why I think that particular area of Dean’s platform shows Dean where Dean is strongest.

    Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager, likes to say, “Let Dean be Dean.” I think that Dean’s Dean-ness is his strongest suit: He is passionate, he is furious about the current state of affairs in this country, his is mightily miffed at others who sat by and let it happen, but—most importantly—he is a pragmatist who, after reflection and consideration, takes the right, if not always expedient, path. It is in Dean’s foreign policy that this is most clear.

    Yesterday I went back to my college reading habits. Today, I go back a while before that. Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben told him, channeling Winston Churchill, that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Howard Dean believes that the United States, as the world’s only superpower, has a great responsibility to the world. And a big part of the responsibility is to be, to an extent, a role model.

    The Indonesian government invoked the Whopper’s war in Iraq as it invaded Ace recently. That’s not the kind of image we want to present around the world, and Dean has spoken repeatedly against it. I think I need to quote at length:
    Our actions are important in themselves, but also as a model for what we may expect--and demand--of other nations. As a result, no country has a bigger stake than we in establishing and enforcing the highest possible norms of international behavior on issues ranging from the release of greenhouse gases to the prosecution of war criminals to the creation of fair worker standards. The Bush Administration does not seem to understand that true leadership requires creating global institutions and arrangements that help lift people's lives, improve prospects for peace, and enhance respect for the rule of law.

    Secondly, Dean believes that the president’s actions in Iraq did not show the kind of careful consideration of the situation that something as grave as military intervention involves. I’m sorry, but I do not feel that a president, like the Whopper, who can flippantly declare, “F--- Saddam Hussein. We’re taking him out” is the kind of man whose finger should be on the button. Dean, on the other hand, approaches things from a scientific, research-oriented model. He says, “As a doctor, I was trained to treat illness, and to examine a variety of options before deciding which to prescribe. I worried about side effects and took the time to see what else might work before proceeding to high-risk measures.” On the administration’s run up to the war, he commented, “I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by [Powell to the U.N.], but rather by its sketchiness.” He couldn’t imagine treating a patient with so little useful information.

    Third, Dean is not the utter pacifist his unkind or uninformed opponents make him out to be. He has, in fact, called for increases in defense spending, notably to pay for the Homeland Security department that the Whopper opposed, then favored, then underfunded. Dean also recognizes that there is a time and a palce for military conflict: “America may have to go to war with Iraq, but we should not rush into war - especially without broad international support. [. . .] I am not among those who say that America should never use its armed forces unilaterally. In some circumstances, we have no choice. In Iraq, I would be prepared to go ahead without further Security Council backing if it were clear the threat posed to us by Saddam Hussein was imminent, and could neither be contained nor deterred. However,” he said, and I think, especially with hindsight and MIA WMDs, that we can all agree, “that case has not been made, and I believe we should continue the hard work of diplomacy and inspection.” In other words, it was “the wrong war at the wrong time.” Plus, Dean, like many of the rest of us, knows that the Whopper has probably done far more harm than good to our long-term national security interests by acting in violation of world opinion.

    Fourth, Dean has expressed what many of us know implicitly, that a strong national security means protecting all of our interests, going far beyond just “defense” spending. Again, I need to quote at length:
    The current Administration has defined the concept of national security too narrowly. For example, our failure to develop alternative sources of energy and fuel creates an over-dependence on petroleum imported from the Middle East. As a result, we send billions of dollars every year to countries that are financing radical educational systems that teach young people to hate Christians, Jews and Americans. We learned on September 11 that these schools are prime recruiting grounds for terrorists. America needs an energy policy that stresses conservation and renewable fuels, including ethanol, solar, wind and biomass. Alternative energy sources are practical, economically viable and good for our environment; they are smart national security policy, as well.

    More points of fact: Howard Dean is the only candidate (including the Whopper) who put forth a convincing plan for post-war Iraq; he is the only candidate to point out, repeatedly, that North Korea has gone nuclear on this president’s watch; he is the candidate most consistently calling for renewed and re-focused attempts to diffuse al Qaeda.

    So, yes, Dean’s lack of experience in federal government puts him at a disadvantage over, say, a Kerry or a Graham. But what other candidate is so passionately and with so much gravity articulating clear and reasoned policies? If we can’t have peace, I at least want to know that the man in the White House will not wage war without giving the question the weight it truly deserves.

    Which brings us to the pretty blue bow I promised yesterday to wrap this puppy up with. The biggest question on a lot of people’s minds is not whether they like Dean—most at least don’t hate him—but whether the governor’s “electable.” I say he is, for four reasons:

    For starters, his stances on the issues are, without a doubt, not far from mainstream America's. It’s a testament to just how far to the right this administration has skewed (and many congressional Democrats have followed) when by comparison Dean is a raving leftist. (I like raving leftists, by the way—it’s just that they’re the ones who are unelectable!) Dean is a pragmatist, a social progressive, and a believer in fiscal restraint. Who can argue with that?

    In addition, Dean is inspiring legions of ground troops right now that no other candidate has. Despite a putative lack of name recognition, Dean is the only candidate with what amounts to a campaign staff in over 400 cities in this country right now. I know; I’m a part of one. Dean’s momentum is growing, and he is proving not to be a mere flash-in-the-pan. With a campaign infrastructure like that, even without DLC or DNC money, he is very well positioned to take on the other candidates and rout Bush in 2004.

    Plus, there’s that approach-things-like-a-scientist model. He is not some trigger-happy flight-deck phony, and I like to believe that the American people are smart enough to see that the Whopper’s “common man” approach is really just stupidity.

    Finally, his passion comes from his pragmatism, his frustration with others’ complacency, and his firm belief that he has the best vision of a future America. What’s more, that passion translates; he comes off not as “politicky” but as honest, forthright. I don’t think you’ll find him riding around in the Straighttalk Express, but he has that same McCain-esque speaking-his-mind quality. In 2000, McCain was destined to lose, because the machine behind the Whopper was too powerful. Right now, there’s no machine (the DLC is trying) in the race, and anyone has a shot.

    I think Dean’s the real thing. You may not, I don’t know, but I hope I at least got you thinking. Let me know. And I apologize for the length of this magnum opus; the four parts still clock in at under 5000 words, though!

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    Why I support Howard Dean, and why you should, too
    Part III: Healing a house divided—Dr. Dean’s domestic prescription

    Yesterday I talked about how I found Howard Dean—I was angry. Today, I’m covering Dean’s policies, and why I think his ideas are the right ones for this campaign.

    My senior year of college I read a book that I was certain would change my life. (In college, every book will change your life.) It was Todd Gitlin’s Twilight of Common Dreams, about how identity politics had so fractured the ideological left that there was no cohesive structure to balance or fight the less popular forces of the ideological right. There had been a real time of radicalism, when “the personal is political” transformed the social and political landscape. Now, Gitlin argues, it is too much “only the personal is political.” In other words, gay rights activists are not supporting civil rights groups are not supporting labor unions are not supporting feminists ad infinitum. And we all suffer because of it. Was it Franklin or Twain who wrote, “We all hang together, or surely we’ll all hang separately”?

    Howard Dean understands that the left is divided. Howard Dean also understands that the right is using this division, exploiting it, making it worse. “I don't want to be divided anymore by race; I don't want to be divided anymore by gender; and I don't want to be divided anymore by sexual orientation,” he says. And he recognizes that the Whopper is making it worse by supporting class warfare in the form of his budget-busting tax cuts and supporting the case against the University of Michigan law school. The Whopper is dividing us by supporting senator Santorum, and by supporting those who want to have confederate symbols on their state flags. We can do better.

    Dean is not the liberal pinko commie that some opponents, like the DLC, make him out to be. In fact, reading through his record in Vermont and his policy statements, I find that he very nicely positions himself as being strong on the issues that rock the liberals’ boats (abortion, gay rights) but more centrist on those issues which conservatives get all het up about (gun control). And I think that’s a far better foundation to run on than someone who automatically irks the left (Lieberman) or the right (Gephardt).

    The governor’s biggest issue is now and always will be health care (and I don’t care what you say; I’m an English teacher and health care is now and will always be two words). Dean has credibility on this issue for two reasons: The obvious one is that he is a doctor, and his wife still practices. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have a doctor making health care policy any day than legislators or, worse, insurance companies.

    The second thing that gives Dean credibility on the health care issue is his record in Vermont. Now, there are disputes about the actual figures and about how much credit the governor should be allowed to take. But I look at one very important but little-discussed part of his record, for which he is absolutely responsible, and that is the status of children in Vermont.

    For starters, every child has health care. Every single one. But that’s nothing—any policy nob can write a few lines into the code to fiddle with CHIPs income limits and Medicaid rules. But what I really love—and what I never, ever see talked about in the media or on the blogs—is Dean’s post-natal care measures.

    Every new mother gets a visit in the hospital and home visits two weeks after they leave the hospital. Well over 90% if all Vermont mothers accept these visits and learn, as a consequence, about nutrition and health, reading to their children, and even about housekeeping! As a result, child abuse has fallen by 43% in the 0-6 age group, while sexual abuse in particular is down a whopping 70%. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped more than in almost any other state in the nation, too, all under Howard Dean’s watch.

    What does this have to do with health care? Any good doctor will tell you that preventive care is the best care. And by stopping child abuse, instilling good parenting skills in new mothers, and setting a pattern of healthy and healthful behaviors (not to mention universal health care coverage of children), Vermont is securing a healthy and safe future. The rest of us should be so lucky. But if we can make the national debate over health care focus on such important issues as preventive care, then we are making real progress.

    I should also note that I like Dean’s “work to get everyone in the system and then fix the system” approach to health care as opposed to, say, Gephardt’s or Kucinich’s plan, as Dean’s plan can be implemented now, not after years of work building a new system.

    But health care is just the tip of Dean’s iceberg. I’m trying to limit myself to less than a thousand words for each section of this series, so my next three items will all be brief, but they bear further research if you’re still not convinced.

    First of all, Dean is right on the money—literally—when he says that “[t]he President's tax cuts are part of a radical agenda to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and our public schools through financial starvation.” Right now Dean is the only candidate willing to say what we in Blogland have known for years. Dean balanced a budget for five terms in the Vermont statehouse, putting money aside, even, for when another Bush came along to cause another recession. He knows that a balanced budget is what guarantees social justice: You can’t fund justice with no funds at all.

    On Civil Unions, much has been made about the fact the Dean did not make this for himself but had it thrust upon him. It’s true: Vermont’s supreme court pretty much told the elected officials in Burlington they had to do something. But Dean, as he does with most things, approached the situation with thought and research, and, despite widespread (60%+) opposition, took CU’s on. He has since become an eloquent defender of the concept—no zealot like the convert, they say—and wonders why Vermont should be the only state where all Americans are guaranteed the same rights as others.

    Finally, a subject that cuts close to home for me but which, for the sake of brevity (I’m long past 1000 words), I can only do a paragraph on: Education. The schools are run at the state and local level, and no one knows better how to fund education than people who have been doing it all along—those who have occupied the state legislatures and statehouses. Now, the Whopper’s No Child Left Untested bill may not have been the worst bill ever if the Whopper had ponied up the money to pay for everything he wants schools to do. I can speak from experience that Milwaukee is losing more than 600 employees next year, about half teachers, in part because of new federal mandates about where and how we spend money. The district’s summer school program has been gutted, leaving thousands of kids who otherwise would have been learning on the streets with nothing to do. And what’s worse, is that the program is designed to designate, eventually, every single public school as a failure! In fact, next year, depending on where you live, you could find up to 75% of the schools in your area labeled as failures, maybe more. Who benefits from calling otherwise perfectly good public schools failures? If you said the religious right and their unconstitutional voucher schemes, go to the head of the class.

    Tomorrow: Foreign policy, national security, and I wrap it up with a pretty blue bow.

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    Vote for Me!
    The Truth Laid Bear has a New Blog Showcase. Currently, I'm ranked number six, but I need your help to get to number one. Although I do think that this Billmon post at the Whiskey Bar deserves the nod.

    And a shout out to New Lefty Blogs for making me one of 346. You have to scroll way down.

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    Monday, June 02, 2003

    Why I support Howard Dean, and why you should, too
    Part II: The angry factor

    Yesterday I tried to explain why I, and bloggers in general, have already adopted a candidate. Today, I will expand on the idea that we're angry and why Howard Dean nicely addresses it.

    How can you not be angry? How can you see the news and not be angry? How can you hear George (the W stands for "Whopper!") Bush lie about his tax "cut" and not be angry? How can you listen to confirmation after confirmation that we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and not be angry? How can you see time after time that the Whopper allocates far less than he promises to pay for programs solely designed to make him seem less like the mean-spirited fool he is, from fighting AIDS in Africa to No Child Left Untested, and not be angry?

    I have a hard time believing that all those people who voted for the Whopper in order to vote against the outrages of the Clinton administration can remain so complacent about the outrages of the present administration. Even on the right-wing blogs that I mentioned yesterday, there is no outrage at the massive fraud and deception that has been perpetrated by this government. Maybe the American people just expect a certain level of fraud from MBA's or Republicans in general. If that's true, then it may be worse than I thought.

    Because the Whopper's lies and indiscretions are far, far more insidious than any hanky-panky or questionable financial deals from Clinton. (Although it has been well documented how there was never any substance to accusations against the Clintons in Whitewater.) When Bill Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky, he really discredited himself, which is too bad. But when the Whopper lied about Iraq, Americans (and Britons and Iraqis) died.

    Repeat after me: Bush Lied, People Died. (Props to Pat K. and probably others, at the Daily Kos's comment boards for the slogan.)

    In short, after all of this and so much more, how can you not stand up and say, as Howard Dean famously does, "I want my country back!"

    It was Dean's speech to the DNC in February that first attracted me to him. His use of Wellstone's "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" line intrigued me--being from Wisconsin, I have a great affinity for Wellstone, and Wellstone East, also known as Russ Feingold. I was also drawn in by Dean's opposition to the Iraq war, and not because Dean is an utter pacifist, but because the man articulated a reasonable and reasoned foreign policy, whereby diplomacy, international cooperation, and the consideration of actual--as opposed to imagined--threats to America and Americans are the guiding principles, not some desire for empire that seeps from neocons in the administration.

    Dean's tag line then--and it still is one of his best--was "We can do better." And you know what? We can. A potted plant would be better than the Whopper. I mean, potted plants can?t send American citizens to die under false pretenses. Remember, Bush Lied, People Died.

    So right now, Dean is the angry candidate. I don't think anyone will deny that. I mean, I don't see anyone who is as angry as I am jumping up and down over Joe Lieberman and Carol Mosely-Braun. (I'm not slamming them, by the way--their respective records of public service speak for themselves, but they lack the demeanor that gets people all het up.) Right now, Dean is making it happen, though; we are jumping up and down. Al Sharpton can pull it off, as can Kicinich and maybe Edwards. But Dean has, by and large, locked up the angry vote right now.

    Don't underestimate the angry vote, either. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the people who voted for the Whopper really voted against Clinton--as personified by Gore in 2000--because they were angry.

    And, more importantly, the angry vote is making people politically active. In 2000, people who voted for Nader did so because they were angry in equal measure with the Republicans and the Democrats. But the Nader voters were also in large part activists. I was not active in the 2000 election, partly because, though I think Gore would have been a good president, especially if he'd been allowed to just be Al Gore, he never did a thing to motivate me. I mean, I was motivated to beat the Whopper, but I need to be for something, not just against something.

    Time and time again I meet people who are just discovering Dean, and they all say very similar things: "I've never been active in politics before," is usually how it goes. Well, neither have I, but after what happened in 2000, I could no longer sit idly by. My anger made me do something, and since I didn't have the wherewithal to stage a coup (you know, I didn't have the Supreme Court behind me), I decided instead to become an activist.

    Will Dean be able to go to November 2004 with just the angry vote? I doubt it. But it's helping him win the early primary--the one for activists and donors that I wrote about yesterday. Tomorrow, I will talk about Dean's policy positions, and why, even though I was first attracted to Dean because of the angry, I have become so much more convinced that he is the real thing.

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