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Terra Firma

Monday, October 31, 2005
Really good observation from the BullMooseBlog today:

"The Alito nomination is evidence that Mr. Rove is once again riding high in the saddle. The Rovian solution to all of the Administration woes is a to give a hot-button treat to the base and attempt to trick the Democrats into alienating swing traditionalist values voters. Meanwhile, folks will ask, "Scooter who?".

The politics of polarization has been the governing philosophy of the Bushies. It got them re-elected and it is the only way they know to govern. With this understanding, the Alito nomination makes complete sense.

After Hurricanes Katrina and Libby, the President has now found a safe port in a storm. That may seem to contradict the fact that we are entering the ultimate confrontation in Washington. To the contrary, this is the type of chaos in which the Bushies thrive.

The President is now back on what Rove considers terra firma."

quote of the day (part II)

Friday, October 28, 2005
"This is significant. It is the first time in 130 years a sitting White House official has been indicted - Orville Babcock, who worked for Ulysses S. Grant, was the last."

-- Tim Russert

(indictment related) quote of the day

"These are very serious charges. They suggest that a senior White House aide put politics ahead of our national security and the rule of law.

This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information. It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president.

It's now time for President Bush to lead and answer the very serious questions raised by this investigation. The American people have already paid too steep a price as a result of misconduct at the White House, and they deserve better."

-- Harry Reid

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
On the subject of "Beware the 'Augmented'McCain Amendment, over at Balkinization:

It's increasingly clear that the strategy of McCain's opponents -- the Vice President and his congressional supporters -- will be to amend the McCain Amendment in the Conference Committee so as to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. The Senate delegation to the Conference Committee presumably will include three of the nine Republicans who voted against the McCain Amendment -- Ted Stevens, Thad Cochran and Kit Bond. A recent Congressional Quarterly article...reports Stevens -- who would "lead the Senate's conferees" -- as saying that "he can support McCain's language if it's augmented with guidance that enables certain classified interrogations to proceed under different terms." "'I'm talking about people who aren't in uniform, may or may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us in very difficult circumstances,' Stevens said. 'And sometimes interrogation and intimidation is part of the system.'"

What this barely veiled statement means is that Senator Stevens will support inclusion of the McCain Amendment in the final bill only once it has been "augmented" to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

(Stevens's reference to persons who "may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us" suggests that he also intends to include a carve-out for foreign nationals acting as agents of the CIA, such as the team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads code-named Scorpions.)

If Stevens (read: Cheney) is successful in this endeavor, and if the Congress enacts the Amendment as so limited, it will be a major step backwards from where the law currently stands. This can't be overemphasized: If Stevens is successful at adding his seemingly innocuous "augment[ation]," it would make the law worse than it currently is.

White House Formally Pushes for a CIA that Can Torture People

The Bush administration has just proposed additional language to a McCain ammendment. If you remember it passed the Senate recently by 90 to 9 and forbids:

"...torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" and requires adherence to the Army Field Manuel on interrogations.

The White house has previously threatened to veto the bill over this language, and Vice Presidnent Cheney's office just asked that in essence, the CIA be legally allowed to torture, and/or treat it's prisoners in cruel, inhuman or degrading ways.


UPDATE: Make your voice heard by the White House here...

"The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.

The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department.

Cheney's proposal is drafted in such a way that the exemption from the rule barring ill treatment could require a presidential finding that "such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack." But the precise applicability of this section is not clear, and none of those involved in last week's discussions would discuss it openly yesterday.

McCain, the principal sponsor of the legislation, rejected the proposed exemption at the meeting with Cheney, according to a government source who spoke without authorization and on the condition of anonymity. "


A grim number.

Not counting the 15 thousand Americans wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths.

Christians should continue to be among the groups "counting the cost" our actions and choices and calling the nation to do so as well... I suspect that no matter which way events turn in Iraq, we should be preparing ourselves and our country for more loss.

And requireing our leaders to make wise choices, responsible for the damage their choices bring.

A Start

Monday, October 24, 2005
"Together, We Can Do Better"

(conservative) quotes of the day

Two quotes from Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (with HT to Dailykos)

Before: (when the person in question was Bill Clintion)

"The reason that I voted to remove him from office is because I think the overridding issue here is that truth will remain the standard for perjury and obstruction of justice in our criminal justice system and it must not be gray. It must not be muddy." [AP, 2/12/99]

After: (when the person in question is Bush senior staff)

"I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. So they go to something that trips someone up because they said something in the first grand jury and then maybe they found new information or they forgot something and they tried to correct that in a second grand jury.

I think we should be very careful here, especially as we are dealing with something very public and people's lives in the public arena."

- Meet the Press Transcript October 23rd, 2005

"How Do We Fix This Mess?"

Saturday, October 22, 2005
Molly Ivins is starting a series that kicks of with this wise statement and question:

I have been collecting material for a series of columns on the peppy topic, "How Do We Fix This Mess?" The news is dandy in that there are a lot of a sound ideas being passed around. Really serious messes, like the one this country is in, do not, in my experience, have simple, definitive solutions. And if they do, such solutions are politically impossible. We are looking for progress, not perfection, so anyone who tells you the entire tax code should fit on a postcard is a bona fide, certified, chicken-fried moron.

But listening to the Democratic debate on what to do now, it seems to me some of the brethren and sistren are asking the wrong questions. The question is not, "How Do We Win?" That's a technical question that comes after, "What the Hell Can We Do About This Disaster?"

quote of the day

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
"Right now, the Democratic advantage is an consequence more of Republican failures than Democratic gains; though Democrats are favored by six points in a "generic congressional ballot" question, ratings of both the Democrats and Republicans are at their lowest points in the last half-century. In order to break out of this decline, Greenberg and Carville propose a bold move: "To become the agent of change in the year ahead, the Democrats will have to be reformist, populist and nationalist, armed with new ideas for renewing the country." Indeed, our poll found that when Democrats present voters with a real choice, drive home their critique, and offer a new direction, a clear majority of Americans, including many who have abandoned the Democratic party over the last decade, are ready to vote blue.

Without taking these steps, Democrats will likely still maintain their current advantage and make gains in 2006. But this election holds the potential for historic gains, not just incremental progress."

-- Stan Greenberg and James Carville, from from their latest Polling report

A Really Good Idea

Friday, October 14, 2005
From Walter Cronkite:

"The key to a Democratic success in next year's Congressional election is clearly in the party leadership's coming up with a campaign that does not concentrate on the Bush administration's failures but offers alternative programs to fix what it believes is wrong with the Republican agenda.

A suggestion by which the Democratic Party could command the greatest public attention for its positive agenda: It could within weeks call an extraordinary midterm convention to draw up its platform.

The convention would not need to be expensive. The delegates could be those who attended the 2004 convention. Their meeting would be open to the public and of course the press.

In sharp contrast to the secrecy of the Bush administration, it would let the public, if only remotely, share in the construction of the Democratic platform.

Although local issues might cause some candidates in next year's Congressional election to veer from the platform on comparatively minor issues, the basic principles of the party would be clearly apparent.

The voting population would for the first time in many years have an unobstructed view of those principles that differentiate the Democratic Party from those of the Republican Party.

Walter Cronkite
New York, Oct. 13, 2005"

House Democrats Ready 2006 Agenda

Monday, October 10, 2005
From Political wire:

House Democrats Ready 2006 Agenda
"Seeing an opening to reach voters while Republicans are beset by turmoil, House Democrats are privately planning to accelerate the timing of the release of their platform and the major policies they will promote on the campaign trail next year," Roll Call reports.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House leaders "are putting the finishing touches on what arguably will be Democrats most detailed 'positive' election-year agenda since the party lost power more than a decade ago... An early draft of the agenda outlines the specific initiatives House Democrats will pledge to enact if given control of the House. Leaders have been working on the document for months, and have already started encouraging Members to unify around it and stick to its themes."

AP News: "Dean Aims to Overhaul Democrats"

Saturday, October 08, 2005
Good stuff from this AP News story on Dean and the DNC efforts to reorganize, stress telling a moral story, and to move toward te grassroots in a 50 State Strategy... An excerpt below:
Among Dean's goals are:

Making Democrats the party of values, community and reform. Armed with extensive DNC polling, Dean is consulting with party leaders in Congress, mayors and governors to recast the public's image of Democrats with a unified message.

Improving the party's "micro-targeting," the tactic of merging political information about voters with their consumer habits to figure out how to appeal to them.

Building a 50-state grass-roots organization, using the same Internet and community-building tools that took Dean's presidential bid from obscurity to the front of the pack before Iowa.
"The last time this party was branded was Lyndon Johnson," Dean said. "We'd been in power so long that we didn't think we needed to do it."

The lack of a message or brand makes it difficult for Democrats to capitalize on Bush's political slump and a series of GOP scandals. While the party is unified in accusing Republicans of creating a "culture of corruption," Democrats still need to give voters a compelling alternative to GOP rule.

A March 23, 2005, memo by DNC pollster Cornell Belcher found that most voters view politics through a values-laden prism rather than through the economic framing traditionally used by Democrats.

On a list of issue choices, "moral values" ranked in the middle of the pack and well ahead of abortion and gay rights. That suggested to Belcher that moral values has a broader meaning for voters than do social wedge issues.

"When voters think about moral values, they may in large part be thinking about the strength, leadership and moral fortitude of the candidates ... rather than the candidates' positions on specific social wedge issues," Belcher wrote.

Dean's take on the polling is that Democrats must recast the values-and-morals debate.

"It's morally wrong that so many children live in poverty. It's morally wrong that we have so many working poor people who can't pull themselves out of poverty," he said.
...A Sept. 26 memo by Belcher found that people are placing a greater emphasis on community and sacrifice for the greater good. Dean tries to appeal to this sense of higher purpose when he says, "We can do better."

Bush's New Low Polling, Time for Democratic Action

Friday, October 07, 2005



Independents give him 29%.

In common: lowest yet recorded for Bush by either polling group.

As the Democracy Corps September memo put it: "The country, very much disengaged from Bush, very much focused on big problems, is ready to listen to the alternative."

And as Slate's Bruce Reed notes (almost with suprise) in his article "Three Men and a Party," "At last Democrats get a clue...Noting among other events the time when "On Sunday, Tim Russert was gobsmacked to discover that when he asked his usual showstopper, "But what are the Democratic ideas?", Illinois congressman and ex-has-been Rahm Emanuel actually had an answer."

Lindy Scott (Chicago IL-06) Debate Write Up

Lindy Scott, who is running for the Chicago IL-06 Congressional seat, had one of the first debates with his Democratic opponent this week.

I focus on excerpts about Lindy's positions specifically, because (as I've said before) I think he frames his responses well and I think we as Christians in the Democratic party can learn a lot from this campaign...especially on issues such as abortion, school prayer, etc..which are typically "wedge issues" used against us. I think Scott does a good job responding to these issues in ways that I believe come accross as both Biblically grounded, and politically progressive.

A campaign very worth watching and supporting.

The whole write up is here, and the Daily Herald also has a review...

6th Congressional Democratic Candidate Forum Last Night

At last night's DuPage Democracy for Illinois 6th Congressional Democratic Candidate Forum, Lindy Scott may have faced two of the toughest questions, about his stance on abortion and his view on religion and public life (public school prayer, Ten Commandments displays in public buildings, etc.), but it would be a mistake to think Christine Cegelis also didn't have something to prove. Looking out at many new faces inspired by the Scott campaign among the 80 Forum attendees, Cegelis had to demonstrate a sensitivity to religious beliefs, one that either candidate will need against the Republican candidate Peter Roskam in a district with a substantial conservative voting block. In the end the established Democratic front runner Cegelis and her remaining Democratic challenger Scott both presented themselves admirably...

Background, Emphasis and the Economy

In response to a question...about which congressional committees the candidates wanted serve on, Lindy Scott said he would seek International Relations and Immigration...Scott tended to emphasize things like immigration policies and the ill-effects of NAFTA (and CAFTA) for workers here and in Mexico, where NAFTA displaced over a million Mexican farmers who lost their ability to farm, causing them to seek work elsewhere, including illegally in the United States.

Energy Policy

Scott emphasized tax incentives directly tied to energy efficiency of vehicles, scaling the incentive to the amount of efficiency. He pointed out that while in Florida he drove an American-built electric car that had been made in the 1960s - and that still ran quite well. A Detroit car manufacturer bought the patent for this electric car and sat on it, producing nothing. Scott suggested the lack of innovation by Detroit, making us dependent on oil and gas, is much of what harms us today, making us dependent on oil.

Public School Prayer

Lindy Scott emphasized that the problem with such organized public school prayer was who would lead it and what prayers would be given? In a country of many faiths agreement, he suggested, could not be generally found. Instead in this, and related questions, Scott suggested that personal faith was sincere, appropriate and less open to hypocrisy than government established professions and demonstrations of faith.


Lindy, who described himself as "unashamedly pro-life" and is a member of Democrats for Life, suggested that overturning Roe v. Wade was the wrong approach because it simply made abortion a class issue - those who could afford to travel to states where it was legal could get abortions, and those who could not afford such travel would not. He suggested the need for better support for women, and pointed out that during the Clinton years abortion went down in part because of a growing economy. According to Scott the key for making headway on the abortion issue is to find areas of common ground between the pro-life and pro-choice positions and work to achieve the common goal of reducing abortions."

Senate Passes Law Against "Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading" Prisoner Treatment

Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Really really good news here:
In a sharp rebuke to the White House, the Senate overwhelmingly agreed Wednesday to regulate the detention, interrogation and treatment of prisoners held by the American military.

The measure ignited a fierce debate among many Senate Republicans and the White House, which threatened to veto a $440 billion military spending bill if the detention amendment was tacked on, saying it would bind the president's hands in wartime. Nonetheless, the measure passed, 90 to 9, with 46 Republicans, including Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, joining 43 Democrats and one independent in favor.

More than two dozen retired senior military officers, including Colin L. Powell and John M. Shalikashvili, two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed the amendment, which would ban use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in United States government custody.

It would also require all American troops to use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual. It would not cover techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

(conservative) quote of the day

Monday, October 03, 2005
"It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that President Bush flinched from a fight on constitutional philosophy. Miers is undoubtedly a decent and competent person. But her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president..."

- William Kristol