The (temporary) home of practical progressives

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dr. Frist? Not so fast!

Bill Frist may have just lost his medical license.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist acknowledged Tuesday that he may not have met all the requirements needed to keep his medical license active - even though he gave paperwork to Tennessee officials indicating that he had.

He was widely criticized last year for injecting himself into the debate over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose feeding tube was removed. Frist viewed a videotape of the woman, then publicly questioned the diagnosis of her doctors. An autopsy later confirmed their judgment, not his.

(Insert joke about video diagnostic techniques here)

It's too bad, really. I understand that he was a far better at being surgeon than he is at being a Senator...but that's not saying much.

Hopefully, Harold Ford will win Frist's Senate seat, and then we can all watch gleefully as Frist fails miserably in his run for President.

At long last, Senator...

... have you NO sense of decency?

Hey, Ned... are you still in this race? Would it be asking too much for you to WAKE UP and start making some noise?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

News Roundup

George Allen called Sidarth to apologize for his macaca comment. Too bad it took so long. Sorry, but if it takes you nearly two weeks to apologize, then you're not really sorry. I think the "Welcome to America" comment was the most overtly racist, but that's just me. I agree with Howard Dean:
I don't think he belongs in public service, to be honest with you. There are Republicans who are capable and smart, thoughtful people, and he's not one of them.

Let's please help Jim Webb end Allen's political career. (Although I must say that I think he would be awfully easy to beat if he were to win the GOP nomination for Prez in 2008...he seriously is Bush, but with no sense of when to shut up)

In Wyoming, GOP Rep. Barbara Cubin got just 60% of the vote in the GOP primary against a no-name opponent who spent virtually no money. This is an upset in the making, as long as Dem nominee Gary Trauner can keep up his impressive fundraising. Cubin should be ranked as a highly vulnerable incumbent from now onwards.

In Michigan, incumbent Dem Sen. Debbie Stabenow led GOP nominee Mike Bouchard 51-38 points in the latest EPIC/MRA poll. While she still has both elements of a comfortable lead (up by double digits and over 50%). Stabenow led 54-42 two weeks ago in the last EPIC poll. Stabenow might want to start addressing the increasing number of undecided voters in the race; such a trend usually does not bode well for an incumbent.

In Alaska, GOP Gov. Frank Murkowski got trounced in the Republican primary by ex-Wasilia Mayor Sarah Palin, who won with 51% against John Binkley (who took 29%) and Murkowski (who got a pitiful 19%). Ex-Governor Tony Knowles is the Dem nominee in the race. Polls show this one a dead heat, and I expect it to remain that way throughout. A little money can go a long way in Alaska, so this is a good place for Dems to spend their money (hint, hint).

Speaking of such places, let's head to Montana, where GOP Sen. Conrad Burns is still reeling from his latest gaffe, where he called his Hispanic house painter "a nice little Guatemalan man" and suggested Reyes might be in the country illegally. Burns made a fool of himself earlier this summer when he told MT firefighters that they were doing a "poor job." Burns should have looked in the mirror when he made that statement. Fortunately, Jon Tester looks likely to knock Burns out of his seat. Let's hope Burns uses the subsequent free time to get some sensitivity training.

Lastly, McCain is looking like he might be mighty tough in WH'08. Politics1 has a good write-up on McCain, and it sounds like even the strongly progressive Gunzberger was impressed with McCain's description of what his hypothetical presidency might look like. Dems and independent need to keep in mind that McCain is strongly opposed to abortion rights, and has consistently been one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq War in the Senate. He might be honest and even fairminded, but he's still most definitely a conservative.

Kos/Hamsher/MyDD tell a big fat lie

I'm breaking my "avoid CT rule" for a moment because this just ticked me off.

Kos is following Jane Hamsher and Chris Bowers into telling a blatant lie about Lieberman's campaign. They all claim that Lieberman is out campaigning today with GOP Congressman Rob Simmons, who is in a tough race for re-election. Problem is that it's not true. From Hamsher's keyboard:
Because nobody could have predicted it — Joe Lieberman will be campaigning with GOP candidates Jodi Rell and Rob Simmons today at the Groton sub base (the one that Holy Joe claims to have singlehandedly saved). Simmons, you’ll remember, is the GOP candidate running against Democrat Joe Courtney for one of those hotly contested Connecticut House seats.
Hamsher cited no source. She provided absolutely nothing to corroborate her claim. The reason why is simple - Lieberman wasn't campaigning with them.

Here is a link to the story that this is all based on, near as I can tell. Lieberman, Simmons, Rell, and other important CT pols were attending a strategy session and discussion panel on "how to improve the military value of the base and keep it from being on future planned closure lists."

The event will have no fundraising for any candidate. There were no endorsements. It doesn't even look as if they are supposed to mention each other's respective candidacies. In fact, I can't seem to find any campaign-related purpose to this event whatsoever.

To call this any kind of campaign event is absurd, unless you refer to any group of 2 or more politicians meeting together in one place a "campaign event." If this is to be the standard, Lieberman better check under the doors for feet the next time he goes to the bathroom in the Capitol building. If there's a Republican in one of those stalls, he'll be accused of campaigning with them.

It really is just a pathetic attempt at spin. Lieberman was meeting with other CT pols about how to keep a local base open. Because he had the audacity to join a discussion panel on that issue on the same stage as two GOPers, he was hit for "campaigning" with Republicans.

So Hamsher told a lie. No surprise. But in the world of the blogosphere, the sad reality is that the big-name bloggers often treat lies told by other elite bloggers as if they were truth, as long as the blogger cited agrees with them. In that spirit, MyDD and DailyKos duly picked up on the lie and accelerated it through their spin chamber. Their spin is just as egregious and dishonest as the ones that are peddled by the DC consultants they claim to despise. The only difference is that their spin originates from a press room rather than a laptop.

I still think Lamont should win this. But the ends don't justify the means, unless you want to subscribe to the Karl Rove line of political thought.

Check back in a few hours for my roundup of the races Dems actually should be focused on.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How We Can Easily Ensure a Lamont Victory

I'm sure I'm not the only person to get this admittedly evil idea, but I haven't seen anyone blog about it yet.

So Lieberman has a four-point advantage over Lamont and Schlesinger is at... what? 4%? So... all we have to do to ensure Lamont's victory is bump Schlesinger's numbers up the tiniest, tiniest bit, stealing Republican votes from Lieberman?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Too Machiavellian for you? Then get off the stage. As Ford Prefect said, "They care, we don't. They win."

Who can do this? Who can organize a get out the vote campaign for Schlesinger? It could work, you know. I'll feel guilty about it later.

Lie Down With Dogs...

Well, Matt has assured me that he knew I was dangerous when he asked me to blog, so I guess I'll hang. You can expect me to be open to discussion (at least, feel free to call me on it when I'm not) but I have no intention of trying to be impartial, because I'm not.

Sometimes in the dense political landscape, choices are difficult to make. Who really is the best Democrat? Who is the better person? Who would I want sitting at my table over Sunday dinner? Who's the good guy?

Sometimes, the choices make themselves, based not on the issues but who a candidate chooses to surround himself with (sorry, Dan), the tone he takes, and the kind of people who support him. In other words, sometimes I am not sure who I should be for, but I always damn sure know the kind of people I'm against.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Everyone but Joe Gets It - A Letter from John Kerry

People who live in white houses shouldn't throw stones.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove should know better, but it's no surprise they don't. For almost five years now, every time they've got their backs to the wall politically, they play "the fear card." The latest example: Dick Cheney claiming that Democratic candidates who dare to challenge the Bush White House on Iraq are "emboldening terrorists."

What's worse, and startling, is that in Connecticut Joe Lieberman is now echoing their intolerable rhetoric attacking the Democratic Senate nominee.

It won't work. We won't let it work.


In Connecticut, New Jersey and Hawaii, this cynical Bush-Cheney strategy is running aground because our stand-up candidates are exposing the failed policies, botched strategies, and mind-boggling incompetence of the Bush White House that have squandered America's treasure, kept Osama Bin Laden on the loose, and cost the lives and limbs of our brave young people.

If the Bush administration could plan and execute the war on terror as well as it executes its shameless pre-election fear-mongering, we'd all be a lot safer.

That's what strong, principled Senate candidates like Ned Lamont, Bob Menendez, and Dan Akaka are making clear to voters in three of America's closest, high-stakes Senate contests.


Our candidates are refusing to buckle or bend in the face of withering attacks by shameless politicians.

I urge you to stand with these candidates now. Because when we help them win, the cynical tactics of the Bush-Cheney-Rove political machine will lose their power.

There's only one way we can win. We've got to help our candidates give back as good as they get.

We'll meet every shameless attack with more energy, every distorting ad with more passion, and every ugly appeal to fear with more determination.

And 82 days from now, we'll celebrate the election of standup Democrats all across America.

We'll teach them, once and for all, that people who live in white houses shouldn't throw stones.

Let's get it done.


John Kerry

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Dem tsunami?

The National Journal's Chuck Todd released a new edition of his House race rankings, which he updates each month (he does the House, Senate, Gov, and WH '08 races in alternating weeks). As with my gubernatorial race rankings from last week, these rankings are based on the likelihood that control of a given House seat will switch parties - in other words, in order of how "vulnerable" a seat is. This week, there were a few things I noticed that were interesting:

  • All of the GOP-held seats in CT were moved up 3-5 spots. Shays was moved up from 7 to 4, Simmons from 10 to 7, and Johnson from 34 to 29. The reasoning? That the Dem candidates in all three races will be able to tout endorsements from both Lamont and Lieberman. That certainly does help all three. I do wonder, however, if the moderate voters who determine these races will be more interested in whether a candidate supports Lamont/Lieberman, rather than whether or not Lamont/Lieberman supports that candidate.

    Todd also asked an interesting question:
    Why isn't Nancy Johnson running for the U.S. Senate? She'd win the three-way
    Don't give her any ideas, Chuck...
  • None of the GOP-held seats in NY are in the top 10 (the open NY-24 being vacated by Sherwood Boehlert is 11th, and John Sweeney is 24th), and only two are in the top 30. Personally, I think that these seats are set to fall like dominoes in November. The GOP is going to get its clock cleaned in both the Senate and Governor's races, with Clinton and Spitzer both bringing out Democratic voters. If either candidate chooses to engage the race by running ads in the upstate TV markets, it's probably curtains for Sue Kelly, John Sweeney, James Walsh, and maybe even Tom Reynolds (man, that would be so sweet) in addition to Boehlert's open seat.
  • It's really tough to find truly vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Leonard Boswell's (IA-3) seat is ranked as the Dems' most vulnerable, at #13. John Barrow (GA-12) is next at #22, followed by the VT open seat at #27 and freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (IL-8) at #28. I think Todd actually has the VT seat too low, but Boswell and Barrow seem much safer to me than Todd seems to think. Boswell has survived challenges from tougher opponents in years when the nat'l environment was much less favorable for Dems, and Barrow is running in a district that was redistricted to give it a higher African-American population than the one he won two years ago. Methinks Barrow's biggest threat would have been a primary challenge from Denise Majette.

The bottom line of all this is that the GOP is going to be playing defense in nearly every contested race that there is this House cycle. The most vulnerable "Dem" seat is one that's actually being held by someone who has never been a member of the Democratic party (Bernie Sanders). The poor outlook for the GOP looks a whole lot like the environment that the Dems faced in 1994, the last time a political tsunami swept a new party into control of the House.

People are talking about the possibility of Dems winning back the House, but they are generally thinking that any Democratic takeover will be a narrow one, with Dems winning just 15-18 new seats - enough to give them a bare majority. I wouldn't be surprised if that happened, and I can also easily foresee circumstances under which the Dems don't re-take the House at all. But I think it is also very possible that the Dems will net 25, 30, maybe even up to 40 seats in the House. People may scoff at the idea of such a massive Democratic victory, but one can easily look at the lay of the land and see that there are at least 30 very vulnerable GOP seats.

Political tsunamis have a tendency to sweep away everything along the waterfront, and also sometimes take out a few places further inland that don't appear vulnerable at first glance. If that historical tendency holds true to form, the GOP may be in for an even longer night on November 7th than pundits expect.

Over the Top

Overzealousness is an easy thing to let happen. This strikes me as rather silly, pretty unfair and "gotcha" politics. It could easily have been a slipup, and the time to make noise is after they refuse to address it. Weren't we just chiding certain people for being a little quick on the draw to yell for the cops?

Let's not raise our hand to tell the Teacher everytime someone throws a spitwad.

What do you think? Fair or not fair?

The Democrats Mean Business

Just read it.

Bloggers! Bloggers!

So Senator Kerry, how do you feel about Joe Lieberman's claim that the Democratic party stance on Iraq will strengthen the terrorists?

That's bunk. That's scare-tactic bunk. And it's an unfortunate statement from somebody of Joe's quality, and I regret it....I'm not going to stand for those scare tactics, that's exactly what the Republicans have been doing for the last years. They avoid a real discussion by throwing out a slogan and they scare people....It's a disgrace that people are playing to the lowest common denominator of American politics, which is fear.

Oh, but look! Bloggers!

"Lieberman’s tone and message has shocked a lot of people," said a second senior Democratic aide who has discussed the issue with other Senate Democrats. "He’s way off message for us and right in line with the White House."

But look! Bloggers! Bloggers! Don't you see the nasty, vile bloggers? Look! There's Markos right there behind that bush! When will Ned Lamont take responsibility for the nasty, awful, hurtful BLOGGERS!

"Corliss Lamont was the only Lamont unashamed to declare his communist sympathies and beliefs publicly, but that doesn't make Thomas, Ted and Ned any less Marxist. Red Ned may label himself a progressive, but when he espouses goals shared by Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, et al., he gives away his true color."

So what? What's the matter with you, can't you see the BLOGGERS? They hacked Joe's WEBSITE, for heaven's sake!!

There's just no reasoning with Lamont supporters.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hurricane Insurance

No political stories really piqued my interest today, except George Allen continuing his idiotic attempts to explain away the racial slur he made against a young Webb campaign worker. So I want to talk about a big non-political news story.

Today, a federal District Court judge ruled in a case where two victims of Hurricane Katrina (Paul and Julie Leonard) had sued Nationwide Insurance to cover the damage caused by the winds and flooding of Katrina. The judge ruled that they could be compensated for damage directly caused by the wind, awarding them a bit over $1200 to that end. The total damage to the Leondards' home was claimed to be over $130,000, meaning that the Leonards will get a bit less than 1% of the money they'd need to cover the damage to their home.

Now here's the most bizarre part of this to me:
The lawsuit argued that a Nationwide insurance policy bought by the Leonards in 2004 purported to provide full coverage for any damage typically caused by hurricanes.

I obviously haven't read their insurance policy. However, I'm running under the assumption that their policy did cover "hurricane damage," or else I can't imagine this case even being heard by a federal judge.

Assuming that's the case, what kind of hurricane insurance policy excludes damage caused by wind and flooding?? Last time I checked, those were the two biggest threats from a hurricane. If not wind and water, then what exactly does the policy cover? Do the clouds of a hurricane have to literally touch someone's house in order for an insurance company to agree that their policy covers the damage? I'd bet that if a Katrina victim had only flood insurance without a hurricane policy, the insurance company would argue that the flood policy doesn't cover hurricane damage. It the ultimate catch-22.

Flooding is the primary cause of damage in hurricanes. Having a hurricane-related insurance policy is absolutely pointless without hurricane-related flood damage being included. It would be like having a health insurance policy which doesn't cover infectious diseases.

The Leonards' attorney is claiming a moral victory since the court did award them money for wind damage, but I hope that doesn't mean he isn't going to appeal this decision.

Bill Clinton: Lieberman Doesn't Represent Democrats

Mr. Bill lays it right out there:

Lieberman has characterized his loss - and the need for his subsequent independent run - as liberals in the party purging those with the Lieberman-Clinton position of progressiveness in domestic politics and strong national security credentials.

"Well, if I were Joe and I was running as an independent, that's what I'd say, too," Clinton said.

"But that's not quite right. That is, there were almost no Democrats who agreed with his position, which was, 'I want to attack Iraq whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.'"

"His position is the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld position, which was, 'Does it matter if they have weapons? None of this matters. ... This is a big, important priority, and 9/11 gives us the way of attacking and deposing Saddam.'"

Clinton said that a vote for Lamont was not, as Lieberman had implied, a vote against the country's security.

Okay, all the slow kids that didn't get that the first time, read it again. Bill gets it.

What a bad day they must be having over at the DLC today.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Around the blogosphere

Not much time today for a big post, so here's a few drops from around the 'sphere.

DonkeyDigest hits David Sirota for his latest display of unmitigated arrogance. I guess I have to be thankful that Sirota has such a great sense of self-importance; if he didn't feel the need to slam back at Dan Gerstein over his initial revelation that he'd applied for a job with Lieberman, my first blog would have never been noticed. Sirota's vanity (I'm running out of synonyms for "arrogant") simply does not allow for others to criticize him, regardless of whether the criticism is reasonable or not, because no one should dare criticize the Great Sirota. I have no desire to replay that whole episode, but I simply can't understand how Sirota got to be so full of himself. In the eternal words of Hawkeye Pierce: Hey Dave, could I stop by sometime for a cup of ego?

Matt Stoller at MyDD has video of George Allen apparently making a racial slur at a guy holding a camera from the Webb campaign. Stoller said:
George Allen, I'm glad you're finally out of the closet as a racist. It must have been really hard to restrain yourself for all these years.
Well, if wearing a Confederate flag lapel in college and having a noose in your office (see TNR) is restraining yourself...

Politics1, my personal favorite blog, caught OH GOP Gov. nominee Ken Blackwell making a ridiculous comparison of his Dem opponent, Ted Strickland, with ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on his campaign's official blog. Blackwell pulled a Hamsher by removing the offending photo a few hours after it was put up, so I hope someone got a screenshot.

And here's something to consider - the HI Senate race, where Rep. Ed Case has pulled into a statistical tie with incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka in the latest poll on the Democratic primary (Akaka 47%, Case 45%). I'll blog more on this at some point, but this is a highly unusual primary - Case is essentially running to Akaka's right, on a platform that does not really attack Akaka's record so much as argue that it's simply time for a change. In the CT or RI primaries, the same message is being used to great success, but both challengers in those races are running by appealing to the party base, which obviously tend to be the driving force in primaries. If the "time for a change" message works in a Dem primary against an incumbent who is actually more liberal than his opponent, this could be the strongest signal yet that voters are in an anti-incumbent mood.

UPDATE: Forgot to include my favorite part of Ed Kilgore's analysis of Sirota's Queeg-esque mentality:
The Sirota style is perhaps best illustrated by his choice of words to describe yours truly: "formerly a Zell Miller staffer," underlined with a link to a news report about Miller's despicable 2004 Republican National Convention speech. The reader is presumably to understand that my secret fidelity to the GOP cause--which of course, I am lying about--is exposed by this association. Here's the thing: I worked for Zell from the fall of 1992 until the end of 1994, in a period when absolutely no one thought of him as anything other than a very loyal and partisan Democrat--indeed, as a bit of a "populist." And I have written far more sad and angry words (here, here, here, and here) about Miller's slide into apostasy and his eagerness to serve his old enemies in the GOP than anybody else you will meet.

So my work for Zell Miller in the early 90s is clearly no more relevant today than David Sirota's interest in working for me and Al From in 1997. If I did a post casually referring to Sirota as a "disappointed job-seeker at the DLC," he'd be rightly offended. But he shouldn't be able to have it both ways.
Well spoke, Ed. People often forget that Zell Miller was the arch-enemy of the Christian Right in Georgia until he got to the Senate and flipped his lid. Exposing Sirota's hypocrisy on this point is a thing of beauty.

Reduction to a Previously Solved Problem

In mathematics, a proposition is considered proven if it reduces to a previously solved problem. No discussion, no debate. The question is closed.

So it is in the spirit of presenting a solved problem that I present the following fact, from a recent Zogby poll, one which will probably surprise some very much:

An overwhelming majority of Democrats - 79% - nationwide said they are glad that (Lieberman) was defeated by Lamont, who ran a powerful anti-Iraq war campaign. They also said Lamont's victory over one of the few pro-war Democrats in Washington makes them optimistic they can win control of at least one of the two houses of Congress in November.

Seventy-nine percent.

So, there we are. Ned Lamont is simply not a fringe candidate, by any sensible definition of the phrase. In the future, people who try to push this Republican talking point can be dismissed and referred to this post. It's a previously solved problem.

No more referring to Ned as out of the mainstream. No more referring to his whacko netroots. Lamont has the support of 79% of Democrats nationwide. Deal with it.

If you can't lend your support to Ned, guess who is lost out in the fringes.


From a Lamont press release, utterly ignored by the right-wing media:

On Tuesday, the day Lamont beat incumbent Joseph Lieberman in an election with record turnout for the Democratic nomination, Lieberman’s campaign began accusing Lamont of hacking into his web site, issuing a press release and trumpeting the charge to numerous reporters and accusing its opponent of interfering with an election.

"These are very serious charges, absolutely untrue, and a desperate attempt to divert attention from the Senator’s own record—and from the fact that he is ignoring the will of the voters and running under his own ‘Just for Lieberman’ banner," said Lamont spokeswoman Liz Dupont-Diehl. "The Lieberman campaign has spread deliberately false and slanderous lies about our campaign. There are no facts to back their claims and they should apologize – and they should be held accountable for pressing false charges."

..."We welcome investigations by the FBI and the Attorney General, as they will prove our campaign had nothing whatsoever to do with this," she added. "And we hope that anyone in the Lieberman campaign found guilty of making false charges is prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Exactly right. Someone owes someone an apology. But you know it just ain't gonna happen. After all, an apology would be seen as a victory to the kind of people who tried to bring down those planes a few days ago. And these Lieberman people don't seem like the type to admit mistakes.

Oh, I forgot. Dan Gerstein fully explained the terrorists-support-Lamont line. Lieberman was just differentiating his ideas from Lamont's. We Lamont supporters really need to stop listening to the actual words coming out of Joe's mouth and concentrate on Gerstein's spin of them, I guess.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Biden and "Plagiarism"

In 1988, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) was considered a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination during the year leading up to the Iowa caucuses. On the campaign trail, Biden often paraphrased a speech by eloquent British Labour politician Neil Kinnock:

KINNOCK: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

BIDEN: Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines in northeast Pennsylvania and who would come up after twelve hours and play football for four hours? It's not because they weren't as smart. It's not because they didn’t work as hard. It was because there was no platform on which they could stand.
Whenever Biden used the speech, he cited Kinnock, and the emotional power of the words were magnified by the fact that the words could apply to an American Senator and a British MP along with many people in the audience. But one time, Biden forgot to cite Kinnock when he read the speech, and Michael Dukakis's campaign slammed him for it. Shortly thereafter, someone dug up an old record showing that Biden had been accused of plagiarism in law school, though conveniently ignoring the fact that Biden had been cleared of any wrongdoing. By the time Biden refuted both charges, the damage had been done, and Biden had been forced to quit the race.

Now Biden is running for President again, and people are bringing up the charges again. As in 1988, what is often getting lost in the cacophony is the fact that neither of the plagiarism charges had any real merit.

Citing or using key phrases coined by others is incredibly common in politics. It's actually pretty tough to come across a political speech where the candidate doesn't quote or paraphrase someone else - and often it is done without citing the original author of the phrase. Howard Dean didn't cite Voltaire when he told Ralph Nader that we can't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Bill Clinton often paraphrased Truman and JFK in his speeches without mentioning the source. People generally forget that the portions of the Kinnock speech which Biden used were, in fact, true of Biden's own life. He simply forgot to say "As Neil Kinnock said..." once, and was smeared into the ground for it.

Bringing up the charges of plagiarism that had been leveled against Biden while he was in law school was no less silly, since Biden was cleared of wrongdoing by both the Syracuse Law School and the Delaware Bar Association. Treating a man who was found innocent of a charge as if he was guilty is patently absurd. The irony is that the two plagiarism-related charges which were leveled against Biden were both trumped up, but most people acted if two illegitimate charges are just as good as one legitimate charge.

I admit to having a pro-Biden bias. I don't deny that he is very cozy with the credit card companies from his home state, and I have more than enough personal debt to sympathize with people who are angered by this connection. But among all the politicians that I have met personally, Joe Biden was the only one who came off as genuine. He asked me questions and was seriously interested in my life. After I had joked about the amount of debt that I had, he mentioned some recent changes that had been made in federal financial aid programs, which kicked my mind into gear about consolidating my student loans (which has saved me thousands of dollars in debt). All Senators this side of megamillionaires like Herb Kohl and Jay Rockefeller have some friends in the business world who are politically unattractive, but at least Biden's advocacy is on behalf of an industry that is important to his home state's economy (MBNA is based in Wilmington). And more importantly, I've never met another politican who actually seemed to be interested in solving the problems of a lowly citizen like me.

I'll admit that he talks too much. But who in the world of politics doesn't? The important thing isn't how much you talk, but whether you know what you're talking about. In that regard, Biden is a walking encyclopedia of both domestic and foreign policy, and is one of the few people in D.C. who seems to have their head on straight about what is going on in Iraq and how to deal with the situation there. If people have grievances with Biden on one issue or another, that is obviously legitimate. But we should not disqualify one of the most candid and thoughtful people in American politics over a 20-year old charge of plagiarism that's already been debunked.

Note: Comments should be working again...sorry, I don't know how they ever got turned off.

Two Plus Two

I apologize for making one of my commenters the central theme of a post, but this sort of thinking needs to be addressed.

I noticed that sundog doesn't have a place to leave comments, so I'll leave one here.

Don't know what's up with that, it should be fixed soon... Matt?

I find it highly interesting that Lieberman's website is hacked into on the day of the primary. This deserves to be looked into simply because I wouldn't put anything past the Lamont people to do this sort of thing. I wonder what sundog would have said if the Lamont website was hacked into on the day of the primary. 2+2 still adds up to 4.

Where to begin? First off, there is not yet any evidence that it WAS hacked; second, of course it's interesting and of course it should be looked into; third, unlike Lieberman, the "Lamont people" have held their head high and carried out a spotlessly clean campaign, so your opinion on this is sheer prejudice; fourth, as a IT professional, my response would be precisely the same if it had been Lamont's site; and finally, the fact that two and two add up to four proves nothing except that Lieberman supporters understand single-digit numbers, which should come in handy as they watch the polls from now until November.

This is what is so dishonest about spreading rumors BEFORE any facts are known. It is just too easy to bamboozle the general public.

After all, two plus two still adds up to four.

Regarding the Great Website Hack of 2006, Kos gets it right this morning, repeating the bottom line I stated a few days ago:

Turning things knee-jerk over to the FBI without investigating the possible causes of the outages is pure negligence and abuse of our law enforcement agencies.

Yup. That "plopping" sound you heard at the time was the sound of the jaws of thousands of system administrators around the country, dropping to the tables. Any pro admin who cried "WOLF!" to the extent of calling the FBI about a breakin before they had done any analysis at all to see if it was even true would be fired on the spot in any more professional environment.

You don't leap to conclusions when your server goes down. Yes, it could be a hacker in the end, tempted by holes in Joomla or somewhere else. But that's what log files are for. You do a little investigation before you get on the horn to the FBI.

Lieberman's campaign, in a dazzling display of ignorance and chutzpah, directly accused the Lamont camp of leveling a denial-of-service attack at their website and called in the FBI. They did this when (1) there was no certainty they had been attacked by anyone (and still isn't), (2) there was no evidence whatsoever (there COULD be no evidence whatsoever, since they hadn't done any investigation yet) that it came from the Lamont campaign.

These are reckless, scurrilous charges, hurled without a thought for fairness or honesty. I just don't think a man this angry, paranoid and clueless needs to be in the Senate.

Joomla. Heh.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ending Nightmerica

Hello, hello... Kenneth, I could use a little more monitor.

(And if you got THAT joke and reference, we're going to get along fine.)

Hello, everyone, I'm Sundog. If you didn't meet me over at LieberDem, perhaps some exposition is in order. I'm a centrist-to-left Democrat who supports Ned Lamont among other Vile Secret Agendas. I got into the dogfight over at LieberDem because I was tired of lefty bloggers all being portrayed in a certain way and wanted to try to be a counterexample. In the process I made a lot of friends, which rather surprised me.

My agenda online, in general, is simple. We have to elevate the debate in this country. We have to undo the damage the Republican Borg have done, not just to our country, but to our very emotions and thought patterns. We have to counter the awesome Republican noise machine with sanity and reason. It really is simply the only winning strategy to undo what they've done to us over the last twenty years or so.

This decay of the art of public debate is probably the most damaging thing the Republicans have done to us. A country that once placed the best of the best in positions of power and attacked world problems with diplomacy, patience and wisdom, now bickers, struts and picks fights on the world stage like some redneck in a bar in Crawford, and supporters of this administration happily throw off the bounds of adult restraint and join in the fun.

The right-wing hatemongers have been at it on the radio and everywhere else now for many years, filling the very air with rage and hate, long enough so that there is probably a cottage industry by now of companies that clean spittle out of microphones.

It's enraging, and it's very easy to internalize their methods and lose your temper with these people. I've done it myself many times. But the simple truth is that it doesn't work. It isn't productive.

I've never seen one angry person convince another angry person of anything. Have you? Ever?

When we post online, we are constantly making a choice between saying something that feels so good but is anti-communicative in nature, or taking the time and the effort to say something that facilitates communication. This is a critical choice because, quite obviously, you can't reason with someone until you've established communication with them.

This is baby-talk if you know any communication theory. But it's something we all need to internalize. There's a lot we have to talk about in this country, and we can't do it until the lines of communication are open.

But first, examine your OWN reasons for posting. Be honest: Do you post to relieve your frustration with the Other Side? Do you enjoy getting a good jab in that you KNOW will make someone angry? Do you think it's fine to let your hatred show now and then when you post? In your mind, is it a war and you're a Keyboard Kommando?

There are places for that, mostly comment sections of the more excitable blogs, or alternately in the entire right half of the Blogosphere, and that's fine. But ultimately it's a very selfish act, having no possible positive consequences; it's emotional masturbation. What's needed in this country is for people of good will of whatever political stripe to put down the rhetorical guns and knives and get political debate out of the streets and back in the bars, over a beer or two, where it belongs.

Otherwise the job of ending Nightmerica is going to be very, very hard indeed.


The big question staring down the political world right now is whether the Democrats will recapture control of the House and Senate in November. The focus of most of this year's political reporting has been on the big Senate races; coverage of the Senate races in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Montana, and (obviously) Connecticut has far outstripped coverage of any Governor's race.

The focus on the federal races is understandable. The biggest political media outlets are the national news sources, which drive the coverage of other political news services, and gubernatorial races rarely have the same national impact as Senate and even House races, since the scope of any governor's influence largely ends at the state border. The national environment is usually far more interesting than that of any state, and it's much easier to nationalize Senate and House races.

But the same factors which make the gubernatorial races less interesting to the national media also makes them more intriguing to me. Local issues tend to dominate gubernatorial races, which gives gubernatorial candidates some insulation against the effects of the national environment.

Michigan is the perfect example of this dynamic. Incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm is easily the most vulnerable Democratic governor in the country this year. Polls have showed even or slightly behind her GOP challenger, Dick DeVos, who is far from a perfect recruit (he is the heir of his father's fortune from Amway, which is not exactly a greatly loved corporation).

But in the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow has led her GOP opponent by blowout margins in most polls, despite repeated GOP efforts to talk up the race's potential. GOP nominee Mike Bouchard is one of the GOP's top recruits, but he still trailed by 17 points in the latest poll by Strategic Vision - a GOP polling firm. The same poll had DeVos leading Granholm by 4 points.

Michigan is probably the best example of this, but there are plenty of other races with similar situations. In the Minnesota Senate race, polls show first-tier Republican recruit (Congressman Mark Kennedy) trailing Democrat Amy Klobuchar by double digits, despite the fact that Klobuchar has never held statewide or federal office. But in the gubernatorial race, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty holds an equally solid lead over each of his potential Democratic opponents - including incumbent Attorney General (Mike Hatch), who was considered the prime recruit for the race when he first entered. In Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen is a safe bet for reelection while Congressman Harold Ford, perhaps the Democrats' most eloquent and charismatic Senate candidate of this cycle, is struggling to stay competitive.

There are perhaps a dozen potentially competitive Senate seats this cycle, but there are nearly twenty gubernatorial races which could ultimately swing either way - even in states as blue as Massachusetts and as red as Georgia. Democrats are currently 6 seats short of a majority in the Senate, 15 seats short in the House, and 4 short in the nation's gubernatorial race. It's not difficult to envision a scenario where Dems fail to gain a majority in either house of Congress while taking control of the governor's mansions of 8 more states (if they can pull off upsets in states like MN, GA, or NV).

It's even possible to envision a scenario where Democrats do gain majorities in both houses of Congress, but come up short in the gubernatorial races (if potentially vulnerable Dem governors fall in MI, WI, and OR).

With that in mind, I'm going to emulate Chuck Todd, Kos, and others by ranking the 20 gubernatorial races where control of the Governor's mansion is most likely to switch parties. Feel free to comment on where you disagree:

1. New York - George Pataki (R) is retiring
This is the one race that's already in the bag. Unless they find a few hundred thousand dollars in Spitzer's freezer, he'll win by 30 points.

2. Ohio - Bob Taft (R) is retiring
This is a case where national politics may actually help the GOP candidate, while the state environment overwhelmingly favors the Dem. Blackwell hasn't caught fire the way the GOP hoped, and Strickland seems to have run a seamless campaign so far. Taft is acting like a 4-ton anchor on every Ohio GOPer.

3. Maryland - Bob Ehrlich (R) is running for re-election
Martin O'Malley is so well-known in MD that this is almost like a race with two incumbents, and O'Malley's negatives are amazingly low for someone with his name ID. Ehrlich actually doesn't have any glaring vulnerabilities (besides his party), but it's tough to see how he closes the gap at this point.

4. Massachusetts - Mitt Romney (R) is retiring
There actually hasn't been a Democratic governor in this bluest of states since Michael Dukakis retired more than 15 years ago. It looks like that streak is about to end, but Kerry Healey can't be counted out yet. Deval Patrick looks like the likely Dem nominee, but I'd actually peg Chris Gabrieli as the strongest of the Dem candidates.

5. Arkansas - Mike Huckabee (R) is retiring
Huckabee is a very popular outgoing Gov. in this red state, so it would normally be a tough pick-up for the Dems, but Attorney General Mike Beebe has led in every poll I've seen. Asa Hutchison is closing the gap and will have plenty of money, but this is still very much leaning Dem.

6. Iowa - Tom Vilsack (D) is retiring
I have been underwhelmed by Chet Culver thus far, and Jim Nussle is the GOP's best horse in Iowa. Vilsack isn't sporting great numbers, but Nussle is a Washington Republican - not exactly a great thing to have on your resume this year. This is the first race without a definite tilt to one side, but I would put my money on Nussle (if I had enough to gamble with).

7. Colorado - Bill Owens (R) is retiring
Remember when Bill Owens was floated as a strong presidential candidate for '08? Well, the poor year for CO Republicans in 2004 and the crash in his approval rating last year seemed to end that speculation, and Bob Beauprez has suffered collateral damage in his bid to replace Owens. Democrat Bill Ritter is still the frontrunner at this point, but Owens's approval rating have been climbing, and this race looks like it will be close to the finish.

8. Michigan - Jennifer Granholm is running for re-election
See above. Once Granholm starts engaging this race, this will probably go into a dead heat. This is a true toss-up.

9. Oregon - Ted Kulongowski (D) is running for re-election
Kulongoski has had approval ratings south of 40 for months, and this would be ranked much higher if the GOP had a better-known candidate in the race. But they don't, and attorney Ron Saxton will have to rely on Kulongoski's unpopularity to carry him over the finish line. I think he'll come up a bit short.

10. Alaska - Frank Murkowski (R) is running for re-election
If Murkowski loses the primary, then I'd move this race down (probably to 12). If he wins it, I'd move it up (probably to 6). This ranking is a weighted average of the two, since the polls show Murkowski trailing in the primary. Tony Knowles is the really the only chance the Dems have in Alaska, but remember that Knowles couldn't beat a flawed GOP candidate named Murkowski in 2004...

11. Nevada - Kenny Guinn (R) is retiring
The state GOP here is horribly divided over this 3-way race, particularly since Guinn and GOP frontrunner Jim Gibbons are hardly bosom buddies. Jim Gibson has the potential to turn some heads assuming he wins the Dem nomination, and I could easily see this race becoming a toss-up.

12. Wisconsin - James Doyle (D) is running for re-election
Jim Doyle's approval ratings have been richocheting between 40% and 50% for over a year, and Rep. Mark Green is a first-tier recruit. But the lack of a strong GOP challenger in the Senate race and the fact that Green is a House GOPer in a year where that label is anathema makes me think this race will slip away from the Republicans once election day gets closer.

(Note: There's a big drop in actual competitiveness after Wisconsin)

13. Georgia - Sonny Perdue (R) is running for re-election
I grew up in Georgia, so I admit I might be reading too much into this race, but I don't think that Perdue is as safe a bet as people seem to assume, and I'm intentionally pushing this race higher than it deserves to make that point. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor really hit his stride in the closing months of the Dem primary, has very strong support from the African-American community in GA, has the most folksy-yet-genuine political slogan of this cycle, and will not be short on money as election day approaches. I also think Perdue might not get the turnout he needs in rural GA. If that happens and Taylor can get a big turnout in Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties, this could easily become competitive, and a Dem tidal wave could sweep Taylor into the Governor's mansion. But I admit that those are a whole lot of ifs...

14. Rhode Island - Don Carcieri (R) is running for re-election
This race will rise in the rankings if Chafee loses the GOP primary, which is a close call at this point. Carcieri's approval ratings are just above 50%, but need to be closer to 60% to make him safe in this very blue state. Charlie Fogarty will make a decent nominee, but he needs Laffey on the ticket for the GOP in order to have a real chance.

15. California - Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is running for re-election
I rate this higher than IL simply because Schwarzenegger has the wrong party ID for the state, and I rate it lower than GA because the challenging nominee seems weak. Any Dem will get 45% in CA, but Chuck Todd said it best - something about Dem nominee Phil Angelides just screams "47%." Angelides needs to get everyone to see this website. Seriously.

16. Illinois - Rod Blagojevich (D) is running for re-election
Blago is being treated as much more vulnerable than he actually is, I think. His approval ratings are not great, but they aren't terrible either. And Judy Baar Topinka is a good recruit for the GOP, but she's not great. Add in the fact that this is a blue state, and Topinka would need a near-perfect storm to win.

17. Florida - Jeb Bush (R) is retiring

Charlie Crist is as good a candidate as the GOP has in a governor's race this year, and he
is basically going to get a free pass from here on out in the GOP primary. I just don't see how either Jim Davis or Rod Smith raise enough money to close the gap before November. The biggest strike against Crist is that Katherine Harris will be on the same ballot, and that will probably draw lots of Dem voters. If Harris loses the primary, this race drops below ME and MN in my book.

18. Maine - John Baldacci (D) is running for re-election
Baldacci trailed his opponent in a recent poll, has lower approval ratings than Blagojevich does in IL, and is going to have to deal with the fact that Olympia Snowe will be easily winning re-election in the Senate race. But this is still a blue(ish) state and Baldacci will have a big money edge. Also - and I know this sounds silly, but it's true - are Maine voters really going to want their chief executive to be named Governor Woodcock?

19. Minnesota - Tim Pawlenty (R) is running for re-election
See above discussion. This is only barely a blue state, and Pawlenty has approval ratings which have never dropped below 50%. Hatch still looks like a safe bet for the Dem nomination, but he just doesn't seem to have "it" for whatever reason, and I can't see him winning in November unless that changes.

20. South Carolina - Mark Sanford (R) is running for re-election
This race was closer than expected in a recent poll, which is a head-scratcher since all the tangibles are in Sanford's favor: This is a deep red state, Sanford's approval ratings are pretty good, and Dem nominee Tommy Moore hasn't even really made a move. For whatever reason, Sanford seems vaguely vulnerable, but it's tough to imagine him ultimately losing.

21. Pennsylvania - Ed Rendell (D) is running for re-election
22. Alabama - Bob Riley (R) is running for re-election

In both of these races, the incumbent holds a solid lead over the challenger.Riley's GOP label helps him more in AL than Rendell's Dem label helps him in PA, but Lucy Baxley is a stronger challenger than Lynn Swann. It will take a major change of some kind to make either of these races close.

The rest of the races aren't really worth mentioning. So comment away!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

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