.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Abel Guillen: the Rise of the Millennials

I talked politics at Lanesplitters pizzeria on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland the other night with two young progressive Democrats who, in my view, epitomize the future of politics in America.

My two compatriots were Abel Guillen, recently elected member of Peralta Community College Board, and Matt Lockshin, his '06 campaign manager (whom you might know as the founder of the local blog SayNotoPombo.)

If you care about the direction this country is taking and how the millennial generation is going to shape the American political landscape for the next twenty-five years, I'd like to invite you to read a bit about our conversation and what it means for American politics below.

::

a commitment to public service

Abel Guillen is a young, forward-looking, progressive Democrat, but the overwhelming sense you get in talking to him...the "take away"...is his zeal for good government and reform.

Listening to Abel discuss the Peralta Community College System on issues from Latino underrepresentation to bricks and mortar issues like facility maintenance, you get the impression that Abel is like a mountaineer at the base of some massive Everest-like climb. Netroots/grassroots energy, technological savvy and a rock-solid commitment to good government and reform are his tools...and the slog of overcoming entrenched mindsets and the political morass of the status quo are the glaciers and crevasses he navigates. Above all, what you get from Abel Guillen is a sense that he is committed to being a responsive and responsible civic servant. Like many in his generation, Abel takes a sincere pride in public service.

Viewing his career in terms of public service means Abel takes the long view. He addresses his Oakland district's problems both in terms of short and long term solutions. Now, in this regard, Abel thinks in terms of years because he has to, the challenges he faces are steep, but Abel also takes the long view because he can afford to: Abel is on the cusp of the Millennial generation...Abel is 32 years old.

::

the millennials: a force to be reckoned with

Whether it's the welcome fundraising efforts of Skyline PublicWorks, the grassroots political organizing of the Young Democrats or the nascent political voice of organizations like the New Organizing Institute or Voto Latino, the millenial generation is an emerging force to be reckoned with in American politics.

As Lisa Seitz Gruwell noted in the excellent the Skyline Public Works presentation (pdf, but well worth it.) at last year's Yearlykos:

Democrats have been given a gift. Despite years of neglect by our Party, this new generation of young voters actually likes us. In fact, they are more progressive than any other age group. Yet, most Democratic campaigns spend next to nothing reaching out to young people. They pass over this receptive voting block because outdated conventional wisdom says that young people don't vote and it's a waste of time and money to try to target them.

In 2004, several outside groups bucked conventional wisdom and made young voters a priority. The results: 18 to 30-year-olds were the only age group to vote for John Kerry and turned out in the largest numbers since 1992. It seems conventional wisdom needs a revision...

More than 20.1 million voters under 30 participated in the 2004 Presidential election, 4.3 million more than in 2000. According to the U.S. Census, voter tunout for 18-to-24 year olds was 11% higher in 2004 than in 2000. That is the largest increase in voter participation of any age group. And voter turnout for 25-29 year olds was 8% higher in 2004 than 2000. Young voters turned out in even higher numbers in the ten most contested battleground states, at a rate of 13% higher than in 2000. Not only did young people vote in record numbers, they also voted for Democrats. In fact, 54% of 18-29 year olds voted for John Kerry, while the majority of every other age group voted for Bush.

Millennials, those Americans born between 1977 and 1998, are, indeed, a demographic gold mine for the Democratic party. I would caution, however, viewing millennials simply as a source of votes. In fact, the reality is that in many ways this young generation is the embodiment of what I wrote about in the Spirit of '06: these young Democratic activists understand the task at hand and the tools needed to master the challenge of winning lasting majorities. Millennials are idealistic and engaged, and critically, they are networked like no generation before them. When millenials get organized, they stay organized.

The future of the Democratic party, in many ways, belongs to them.

::

a new generation of leaders, new ways of organizing

Although it will take a decade to ramp up, mobile communications and pervasive computing technologies, together with social contracts that were never possible before, are already beginning to change the way people meet, mate, work, fight, buy, sell, govern and create. Some of these changes are beneficial and empowering, and some amplify the capabilities of people whose intentions are malignant. Large numbers of small groups, using the new media to their individual benefit, will create emergent effects that will nourish some existing institutions and ways of life and dissolve others.

-Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs: the next social revolution


I can hear some with reservations already; talking about the power of millennials is fine when you're sitting in some youth-oriented pizzeria on Telegraph Avenue in technology-obsessed Oakland California, but what does this mean when the rubber hits the road in "red" parts of America? How is this news?

I can tell you this, when I do organizing for Blogs United and Yearlykos, I talk to folks all over the country, and in state after state including places like Utah, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi, some of the most energized, forward-looking and invested activists are the folks under 30. It's not just that these young Americans are skilled at using powerful networking tools like Facebook and Myspace or internet communication software like Soapblox, AIM and Youtube to organize and link up, it's also that they are, like Matt Lockshin and Abel Guillen, deeply invested in taking on the issues that face America over the long haul.

The millennial generation understands implicitly that the solutions to the political crises this country faces are not simple or immediate. What's more they are the most likely to innovate outside of the box solutions to entrenched dilemmas. The problems millennials face...from the health care crisis to global warming...weren't created in one day; they won't be solved in one day either. Having grown up with this reality, millennials understand implicitly that the sooner we dig in and get practical, the sooner we make an impact. The reality is that millenials are pragmatic because they have to be; we've left them little choice.

In my recent and direct experience, millennials are engaged, groundedly idealistic and willing to make careers that will change their nation and world over the long haul. I see this every day. Even among the youngest of this consort, the strains of progressive politics run deep and wide. That counts for something. These young Americans may have grown up with Madison Avenue and Hollywood cliches of political activism, but their own actions are no less idealistic even if they go on under the cover of less flamboyant and more conventional attire. Coordinating with likeminded allies through Facebook may have replaced "levitating the Pentagon", but it's a trend-of-the-times that should by no means be underestimated.

::

millennials: the medium is the message

If there's one overarching impression I'd like to leave you with it would be the experience I had working on Abel Guillen's campaign. As the weeks leading up to election day wore on and I met more and more of the activist, engaged young people who poured out to power Abel to victory, I began to see, firsthand, what the power of millennials could do.

It wasn't just that a diverse team of folks, young and old, came out of the woodwork to help Abel run an insurgent campaign...a true 'smart mob.' It wasn't just that his fundraisers brought home locally the powerful national reality that over 50,000 Latino citizens turn 18 every month in this country. It was more what I saw on election day, when Matt Lockshin's strategy of tabling and leafleting as many critical polling places as possible came to fruition.

Young people don't just make good arguments for change when we are debating our nation's future; young people are our best argument for change. Young Americans embody, in their activism and ideals, the fact that this nation faces challenges that decades of work on public policy and civil service will be required to address. When millennials get active, their activism is itself is a powerful argument for change and reform. You could say about Democratic politics in 2008 and not be far off the mark: the millennials are the message.

Don't underestimate this trend. It is no small matter. I run into fellow volunteers from Abel's campaign routinely in my daily life here in Oakland. I just ran into one young activist walking pushing a stroller with his wife. We talked about the campaign, we talked about the neighborhood we share and his young family, we pledged to stay in touch.

And we will do just that...if Abel Guillen and Matt Lockshin have anything to say about it...for decades of political activism to come.

The Millennials...their IMs, text messages, email blasts and networking sites...are here to stay; in so many ways, all puns intended, they are the message.

Monday, June 18, 2007

one million letters: piolín!

The Piolín petition was a vast success.

Thanks to everyone who helped; we did something good together.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

the Spirit of '06

My activism didn't come out of the blue.

I've had the privilege, as I came up, to meet with and learn from so many people representing the legacies of the last 70 years of political activism in the United States: whether it was my cousin Mark who worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in the 1970s, or my parents who took me door-knocking community organizing in the St. Paul neighborhood where they still live, or my own time in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s...side-by-side with veterans from the US Civil Rights movement. To this day I feel a kindred solidarity with so many activists from the 1980s and 90s for whom the names Jesse Jackson and Paul Wellstone evoke progressive hopes and dreams from what is now a bygone era. When it comes to learning from and having access to those who've come before me, my life has had an embarassment of riches.

What I'd like to do today, however, is do something that was never really explicitly done for me, which is to express, succinctly, some useful lessons learnt by folks in my generation, and put them out there for debate and discussion for those of us, whatever our age, here at this turning point for the next generation of netroots/grassroots activists.

::

the Reagan/Bush era: 1980-2005

My generation, GenX, has been shaped and haunted by the legacy of Ronald Reagan and George Bush and the conservative depths that United States politics and policy descended to in the 1980s, depths we've only just begun to emerge from with the 2006 elections.

The 26 years (1980-2005) leading up to the national elections of 2006 form, simply put, a dark cloud over US political history, an era of rearguard battles where progressive activists had all we could do to fight to prevent the substantive erosion of almost everything liberals and grassroots activists had achieved in the post-war era.

This era, the era of Reagan and Clinton and Bush, is marked by significant losses at almost all levels: in the media, in the judiciary, on the level of policy, on the level of the national discourse, in State legislatures, in municipal governments, and in the Federal Government of the United States itself. These losses have taken their toll in ways large and small. These battles shaped us and, often, pulled us apart.

::

Equal Rights and Oil

Take two small examples: two hallmarks of the Carter Administration and liberal activism of the 1970s are the failed effort to pass an Equal Rights Amendment in 1979 and what is still, to this day, the vilified attempt by Jimmy Carter to emphasize conservation, fuel economy and a reduction of U.S. dependence on oil. In both cases, liberals were right on the facts and right on principle. In both cases we failed.

In the case of equal rights, we have now witnessed, with the five justice majority in Ledbetter, a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court antithetical in any meaningful sense of the term to the notion of equal pay for equal work. The Bush appointees, Justices Roberts and Alito formed an unholy alliance with Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas to add a coup de grace to the conservative defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment 28 years earlier and a wake up call to all Americans that, with Justice Kennedy playing for the conservative side, quite literally, the Constitution does not mean what it meant before George W. Bush successfully marshalled Justices Roberts and Alito through the confirmation process.

In the case of conservation and US policy regarding oil, the legacy is clear. We are standing, today, deep in a hole of our own making. We have given global warming, dependence of foreign oil and our reliance on a "car economy" attuned to the whims of the US oil and automotive industries a 26 year head start; it is also no coincidence that our nation has been, in one way or another, at war in the Middle East since 1990. Rather than lead the world in fuel economy and new technologies, the US automotive industry has fallen vastly behind world competition due to a two decade fascination with SUVs and a trend towards ever larger vehicles for the ever larger American posterior. Democrats and Republicans alike have enabled this national dependence and energy profligacy through an alarming lack of national discipline when it comes to oil. The American Conservative movement has, ironically enough, at the end of the day, succeeded in making conservation and independence dirty words.

These two examples bring home my central point: my generation has learned the bitter lesson that while liberals may be right on the facts and right in principle, being right means nothing if we are not politically effective both inside the United States system of government and in American society at large. The lesson of the last 26 years is that being right is simply not enough.

::

engagement, coalition and party reform

What is called for right now is a massive change in the culture of liberal politics in the United States of America. Whether it is through the efforts of online netroots activists of all ages, or grassroots DFA'ers, or 16-30 year old millienial social networkers, or a revitalized US labor and civil rights movement...that change is already underway. To make sure that this change is fully realized, however, we must first fully understand its key components.

The tactics of the last previous 26 years of progressive activism...a politics of purity (the legacy of 60's idealism), a never-ending series of "back against the wall" actions (the legacy of Reagan's triumphs), and an atomization of our politics into ever smaller constituent groups (a reaction to Clintonian triangulation and a rejection of getting involved in partisan politics)...must be plowed under so that we can grow a new era in US politics.

What is called for right now are three massive parallel movements: engagement, coalition, and party reform.

::

engagement

The first movement, already underway, calls for an across-the-board engagement with the structures of United States Governement from the local to the federal level. We need to build a culture that embraces engagement, embraces policy, and embraces, above all, the value of working in partisan politics. For too long, many liberals have prided themselves in remaining outside of politics, have refused to "get their hands dirty" with partisan politics; that disdain for party politics has yielded exactly what one might expect, a triumph of the party that was willing to dive in over the one that wasn't. We need to reverse that. We need to valorize getting involved in the process; we need to grow a new generation of activists committed to a lifetime's work of writing and shaping the laws of the land at every level of government. We need to get the discussion from the trite "lesser of two evils" debate into the territory of "which office are YOU going to run for?" or "what do you think of this bill?"

In my view, people who don't get involved in politics, especially local politics, don't really have much grounds to complain. The era of complaining is over. The era of engagement has begun.

coalition building

Second, a new generation of liberals and progressives must define a new form of coalition building that will bury, once and for all, the divisive, counter-productive and ineffective politics of purity and atomization that have bedeviled American progressives for the better part of a half-century.

Politics is not about being pure. It is about building coalition. It is not that we don't have ideals or ideology. We all do. Every last one of us. But successful politics in the United States happens only when our political pragmatism is informed by our ideals; history has proven that successful idealists are the ones who build pragmatic coalitions. That is the essential formula. The success of the conservative movement taught us that though ideology may well be the motor that drives a political party, it is pragmatism, patience and coalition building that forge political success.

the politics of purity

Two decades of observation of the generation preceding me has taught me that the single greatest error of the 60s generation was an obsession with political purity that impeded true coalition building and, ultimately, engagement with our government. How the 60s generation moved from an era founded on the diverse and engaged coalitions that built the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the women's rights movement into the atomized, PC, ineffective political world that greeted us at the dawn of the Clinton era...a world that we GenX'ers in no small part contributed to and endorsed...is the true story of the fall from power of liberals in the United States.

Like every movement in American political history, we progressives will only be as strong as the political coalitions we build. And our coalitions will only be as strong as the pragmatism with which they ruthlessly pursue our ideals. Conservatives have had no problem doing both tasks...building coalition and advancing their ideology...liberals, on the other hand, have failed at both. Time and again, history has taught us that ideology without pragmatic coalition equals political failure.

I can think of no better example of this than the amazing number of brilliant American academics of "perfect ideological credentials" who have never even considered running for office despite their training and insight into politics. Paul Wellstone was the exception when he should have been the rule. Paul Wellstone was an engaged idealistic citizen and a relentless coalition builder; the two go together. We could all learn a great deal from his legacy.

Party Reform

Finally, we must reform this party. If there is any lesson that is clear cut to my generation it is this reality: if we cannot live up to the values of good government, of sunshine provisions, of anti-corruption, of fair and clean elections and meaningful campaign finance reform then our movement is not worth a nickel.

The time to make our anti-corruption stance clear is on the front end. If we are to rebuild American faith in government then we must show Americans, once and for all, how good government works. We cannot do this while we are beholden to dinosaur Democrats who think that the gravy train has left the station.

This is a new day. Progresssive politics will mean nothing if it does not mean a clear cut stance for clean government and real reform. In fact, nothing is a greater demobilizer for getting folks involved and broadening our coalition than the perception that the Democratic party is "just another bunch of greedy politicians." We must make reform and good government the pole star of progressive politics or else we will certainly lose our way.

Conclusion

I am excited about politics in 2007. I am excited every time I talk to a local activist or a twenty-something...or sixty-something...citizen who is embarking on a career in public policy or local politics or service in our government.

The scar tissue we activists from previous generations carry around with us must be healed. The time to let go of old battles is now, even as we learn from our shared history. This new day is about looking forward and getting involved. That's what defined our netroots and grassroots-fueled victory in '06...those values, in fact, will be the measure of our generation.

Ironically, our backs are more against the wall now than they ever were in 1980. But we must not allow this predicament to divide us into splintered factions. Our job is to hew to our ideals and to make a pragmatic commitment to the coalitions that will win the day.

There are many who think that Chicago in '07 or Denver in '08 will represent divisive moments for Democrats. They have it all wrong. 2008 will be a decisive moment for Democrats. I am sure this will be true for no other reason than because, just like we did in 2006, we will come together to make it so. We are in a battle for governance of the United States, and it is a battle of such consequence that we must win.

This will not be easy. We must fight to define the election of 2006 every day. That's how politics works; that's democracy. But when we are finished with this task, we can be proud that history may well say that our political movement flew under the banner of the "Spirit of '06."

That's something to shoot for, and to think about.


Tags:

Friday, June 15, 2007

Berkeley Health Icon: Jack Lalanne...lol

Reading today's Sally Squires WaPo profile of 92-year old "fitness icon" Jack Lalanne, this passage leapt out at me:

To baby boomers and their parents, the name Jack LaLanne is synonymous with health, vitality and fitness. But this famous muscle man, who now serves on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Council on Physical Fitness, says he started life "as a weak, sick, miserable kid," addicted to sugar. He dropped out of a San Francisco Bay area high school and was a self-described troublemaker who wandered into a health lecture one day and changed his life.

The speaker advocated eating healthful food -- a tenet that resonated with LaLanne. "I was this young 15-year-old," LaLanne recalls. "What the hell! . . . I wanted to be an athlete. I wanted the girls to like me. I wanted to go through the day without headaches."

That night, he prayed for guidance to help him kick the candy, meat and other foods that he thought were killing him. The next day, he began life as a vegetarian -- a practice that he mostly continues today -- and joined the Berkeley YMCA. "I started working out with weights, and it changed my life," he says. "If something changes your life, you will be enthusiastic about it."


Alice Waters and Jack LaLanne: Berkeley, California, on the cutting edge of health for decades.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

State Legislatures: the fulcrum point for progressive power

I'd like to make a simple point. Progressives and progressive-friendly candidates winning seats to State Legislatures is the fulcrum point to achieving the goals of the progressive movement in American politics. When progressive reformers win seats to state legislatures it advances three core political goals:

a) electing true progressives to office
b) reforming the Democratic party from within
c) holding entrenched Senators and Representatives in DC accountable in the only way that really counts, by making them scared for their political lives in their own districts

::

On the American political playing field there is one slow-moving power dynamic that trumps all others: victory in State Legislatures. Control of State Legislatures is the surest way to:

a) advance policy through the legislative test tube of 50 separate States implementing solutions particular to their environmment
b) shape the make up of the U.S. House of Representatives through influence on the redistricting process
c) influence the election laws of every state and ensure fair and free elections (State legislatures are where this happens.)
d) and, ultimately, exert influence on the United States Constitution itself through the Amendment process (no small concern given the current make up of the Supreme Court)

In immediate pragmatic terms, there is one concern that trumps the above: the surest way to jump start the reform process within the Democratic party is to elect progressive reform-minded candidates to State Legislative seats that overlap with current Democratic Representatives. In 2007 and 2008 we need to elect as many progressives as possible to state districts that share some of the same voters as our less reform-minded U.S. Congresspeople. We need to understand the power of "the overlap".

Virtually the only way to truly scare the living crap out of some of the undefeatable dinosaurs that currently rule the legislative agenda of the Democratic party is to elect progressive, forward-thinking Democrats to seats in districts that overlap their own.

This is a win-win-win.

We position our candidates in the feeder system for eventually succeeding the dinosaur Congressperson or Senator, we advance our legislative agenda on the State level, and we put pressure on the Democratic party from within by creating the visible, tangible threat of a primary challenge for the Dinosaur Dems who are currently ruling over Washington like a flock of Roosters. The natural and best-positioned candidates to challenge entrenched incumbents from within a party are State Legislative office holders, especially those from a shared district. They have the field team, the base of voters and the fundraising to do what few else can: challenge the dinosaurs and give them a run for the money.

The 2007/08 election cycle will be about a great many things. Presidential politics will, as always, occupy much of the media's attention.

Activist grassroots progressives focused on taking our country back should not forget the real engine for lasting political reform it the United States federal system of government: the power of State Legislatures. Reform movements that elect their people to state legislative office set in motion cascading after-effects that keep winning long after the media tents on election day have packed up and disappeared.

If we are serious about creating a lasting legacy of progressive policy in this nation and forging a true "New Day" in terms of legislation passed and reforms won, progressives need to relentlessly focus on State Legislatures. These local bodies are truly the fulcrum point of political power in the American system of government. When we elect our people locally, we win and keep winning for decades.

It's that simple.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pedro Guzman: US citizen "mistakenly deported"

Todd Beeton of the Courage Campaign has the story at Calitics.

Monday, June 11, 2007

the Hadzabe face an ethnic cleansing in Tanzania

This story from Stephanie McCrummen in the Washington Post is absolutely heartbreaking:

One of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers on the planet is on the verge of vanishing into the modern world.

The transition has been long underway, but members of the dwindling Hadzabe tribe, who now number fewer than 1,500, say it is being unduly hastened by a United Arab Emirates royal family, which plans to use the tribal hunting land as a personal safari playground.

The deal between the Tanzanian government and Tanzania UAE Safaris Ltd. leases nearly 2,500 square miles of this sprawling, yellow-green valley near the storied Serengeti Plain to members of the royal family, who chose it after a helicopter tour.

The story of Gonga Petro and his people is nothing new. The eradication of indigenous peoples and their language and way of life has been going on for two centuries. This is simply a more brutal and needlessly greedy displacement. Some rich and powerful people who have sway with the Tanzanian government want the land the Hadzabe have hunted on for 50,000 years.

And no one in 2007 is going to stop them.


Tags:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lute: little reason for optimism in Iraq...Iraqis off the record say pessimism is more like it

This nugget of reporting is buried in this Peter Baker and Karen De Young's Washington Post report on General Lute's confirmation hearings:

While insisting that incremental progress is being made, administration officials acknowledge that the benchmarks will be all but impossible to meet by the time progress reports are due to Congress.

"If the test is peace and reconciliation and flowers blooming by September, that will be hard to meet," said a senior administration official. At the least, the administration hopes to be able to demonstrate movement in the right direction.

During a recent visit to Washington, a senior Iraqi official said sectarian divides are deepening. "People may look for benchmarks, achievements, legislation here and there to look for progress," said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity. "This will not reflect the reality. This country is in deep, grave trouble. . . . If anyone expects problems to be fixed by September 2007 or 2008, they will be in for a bad surprise."

Must read.

Tags:

The Clintons, Bob Shrum and the Defense of Marriage Act

John Aravosis at Americablog has a monster analysis of Bob Shrum's claim that Bill Clinton advised John Kerry to support some of the anti-gay ballot initiatives during the 2004 elections:

As Pam Spaulding noted last week, Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum claims in his new book that during the 2004 elections, Bill Clinton advised John Kerry to support the Federal Marriage Amendment, i.e., the anti-gay amendment to the US Constitution that would have banned gay marriage and vitiated scores of other rights that gay couples may have, including health insurance, inheritance, child custody, parenting, and more. Shrum reports that Kerry refused to endorse the amendment.

I decided to check with Bill Clinton's office and the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign to find out if this is true. Here is what I found. Jay Carson, spokesman for President Clinton told me: "I checked and it's completely untrue. He never advised John Kerry to support the gay marriage ban President Bush was pushing." A senior Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign staffer told me: "It's definitely true. Newsweek had reported that Clinton had said Kerry should support some of the state [anti-gay] ballot initiatives. Clinton believed it would be this grand master stroke to neutralize Bush's base."

I went back to both President Clinton's office and the Kerry-Edwards campaign official, asking them to reconcile the apparent discrepancy. Clinton's spokesman stands by his denial - to the best of his knowledge, it didn't happen. The senior Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign staffer also stands by their statement that it did happen, noting that Clinton's denial was "typical Clintonian revisionism."


This is a key point. We're not talking about ancient history here, we're talking about politics right now. (A focus that I would advise anyone to bring to the 2008 Presidential contest; Presidential politics is about the present and going forward.)

As John rightly argues, if this claim is specious, then let Hillary and Bill both come forward and speak frankly about revisiting the 1996 DOMA act and the equal rights of every citizen including gay Americans. 'All men are created equal' is a pretty clear phrase; as a nation, we should live up to it. Let's have this discussion right now.

If you want to see how the other side frames this debate, take a look at this post from the blog of the Southern Baptist Convention...note the tags: "Family, Marriage, Sexual Purity, Homosexuality, Citizenship, Social Issues." These are the folks Bill Clinton was advocating caving to.

Why?

Tags:

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Being Bush means never having to be Accountable

Remember this?:

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror. This group will meet regularly with me and my administration. It will help strengthen our relationship with Congress. We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century. We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas - where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.


I've been looking and haven't yet found any information on the bipartisan working group on Iraq. Senator Lieberman sure has been quiet too. Bush, of course, didn't bother speaking to Congress before he proposed this. How's that for bipartisan follow through?

Tags:

Enthusiasm for Wind Power in Los Angeles

Elizabeth Douglas reports in the LA Times today from the wind power convention being held in Los Angeles:

The wind-energy business in 2006 booked its second year of record growth, and executives are pushing the industry faithful to think bigger. Much bigger. By 2030, they want wind farms to supply 20% of the nation's energy — a huge leap from today's contribution of less than 1%.

"It's not a forecast, but it is a plausible scenario," Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Assn., told attendees at the opening session of the group's Windpower 2007 conference.

During one panel discussion, industry executive Robert Lukefahr urged wind advocates to keep their enthusiasm grounded in reality. "We have not yet made the case to the American public broadly about why this is right and why it's worth paying extra for cleaner power," said Lukefahr, president of Power Americas, a unit of oil giant BP's alternative energy business. "It is the most cost-effective low-carbon solution we have today," he told reporters later. "It's not free, but it's affordable."

For an alternative take, try this AlterNet piece by Tara Lohan on the mixed reception for wind power in West Virginia...and, of course, the simplest and most straightforward alternative energy solution is conservation.

More at the ACEEE and this excellent diary on conservation by chapter1 at dailykos.

Tags:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Congressman Rick Boucher D (VA-9) to CA: Breathe Smog, Suckers!

Congressman Rick Boucher, representing Virginia's 9th district comes from coal country; this senior Democrat has some misguided notions about what's good for his district. Today he teamed up with Congressman John Dingell (MI-15) to propose legislation that would wipe out California's ability to regulate auto emissions in ways that both cut down on smog and reduce total CO2 emissions. In effect, Representative Boucher wants to use his seniority to shove a little more auto smog and coal-fired smoke down Californians' collective throats.

Boucher and Dingell are senior Democrats who don't give a rat's ass what anyone in the grassroots or netroots that just won them a majority perch in Congress thinks of them. They pitched this legislation just as Speaker Nancy Pelosi returned from a trip to Europe building support for progress fighting global warming. Coincidence? Sure. Truth is, Boucher and Dingell were going to do this anyway, and for one reason...they are senior Democrats, hence, they can and they think nobody can stop them.

Seems to me like Boucher and Dingell have torn a page from Richard Pombo's playbook.

Say no to Boucher. Say no to Dingell. This one is worth fighting over.

Tags:

Scooter Libby: the meaning of 30 months

Scooter Libby, convicted felon and perjurer, was sentenced to 30 months in prison today. According to the WaPo: "Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since a group of cases that arose from the Iran-Contra affair of the Reagan era two decades ago."

Dan Froomkin explains the immediate politics of the aftermath, including the issue of a push for a presidential pardon:

Ever since Libby was convicted, his supporters have been urging President Bush to grant him a pardon. If Libby remains free on appeal, Bush would probably postpone such a hugely controversial decision, potentially until his last days in office. If Libby is sent to prison, however, that would likely spark an immediate and furious internecine battle within his administration.

Libby has never admitted that he did anything wrong...


Or, as Andrew Cohen notes:

If you are surprised by the tough sentence U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton just handed down to former White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then you haven't been paying much attention to the case, to the judge's reputation for tough justice, or to the nature of the convictions against Libby when weighed against his background as a lawyer and his prominence in government.

"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," Judge Walton said to Libby as he was sentencing him to 30 months in a federal prison and fining him $250,000.

What goes less reported in the press is this twofold reality. Convicted felon Scooter Libby held three positions in the Bush White House including one, Special Assistant to the President, that reported directly to President Bush himself and not the Vice President. It was in this capacity that Scooter Libby was, as Bob Woodward noted in Plan of Attack, and omnipresent figure in the lead up to the war in Iraq. I wrote this in 2005 analyzing Woodward's book (and James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans):

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby pops up everywhere in the story of the Bush Administration and the war. His omnipresence, of course, stems from the centrality of his boss, the Vice President, but it's even deeper than that. Libby really was everywhere..."the ever-present other guy in the room." It's funny how many of the photos included in both books have Libby in one corner or another. (Of course Libby's presence is not totally coincidental...Libby was very obviously a source for both Woodward and Mann.)

Libby was a former student and protege of Paul Wolfowitz. When Wolfowitz served as head of the State Department's policy planning staff under Reagan he replaced virtually every staffer, and Libby was one of the new hires that formed, according to Mann, "the heart of a new neoconservative network within the foreign policy bureaucracy." It was working under Wolfowitz and Libby that Zalmay Khalilzad authored the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (must read link) that served, later, in the Bush / Cheney administration, as a strategic blueprint for American military dominance and use of force.

By the time we get to the presidency of George W. Bush and the run up to war in Iraq, Libby literally is everywhere. Which is fitting, since, he held three jobs, including, unknown to many, a position that was directly responsible to George W. Bush, "Special Assistant to the President." From Woodward, we learn that Libby provided the very flawed and poorly-sourced intelligence dossier that Colin Powell used to prep for his speech before the U.N. We also find this passage, about a summary of intelligence Libby had made to key political strategists just one week before Powell's speech:

On Saturday, January 25, Libby gave a lengthy presentation in the Situation Room to Rice, Hadley, Armitage, Wolfowitz, Dan Bartlett and Michael Gerson. Though she had formally left the White House staff, Karen Hughes was there. Karl Rove was in and out of the meeting.

Holding a thick sheaf of paper, Libby outlined the latest version of the case against Saddam. [snip]...He began each section with blunt conclusions--Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, was producing and concealing them; his ties to bin Laden's al Qaeda network were numerous and strong. (Woodward, 289)

The thirty month term handed down by Judge Walton (actually two jail terms in which the first 15 months is served concurrently with the 30 month sentencing)...whatever the potential pardon or course of the appeals process...is a significant turning point in this story.

Scooter Libby is a man who was central to the "big lie" that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a man who, despite the media's silence on this fact, worked directly for President Bush. Scooter Libby is also a convicted felon who will soon be headed to jail for 30 months. In America that still means something. Scooter Libby's lies about Valerie Plame and his work for the Vice President pale in comparison to the lies that Libby helped fabricate that led to our invasion of Iraq.

That has been the real story behind the Plame affair all along. That story is not over.

Tags:

Monday, June 04, 2007

G8 preview: Merkel wants specific benchmarks

Lionel Beehner at CFR.org has a preview of what's in store at the G8 summit. This stands out:

the most controversial topic may prove to be climate change, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the G8’s host (Deutsche Welle), has put atop the agenda, and which British Prime Minister Tony Blair views as something of a legacy issue. But Europe and the United States do not yet see eye-to-eye on greenhouse gas emissions (NYT). President Bush laid out a proposed new approach to climate change Friday at the tail end of a speech on development aid.

Merkel wants specific benchmarks set, which include G8 members cutting greenhouse gas emissions to half of their 1990 levels by 2050 and limiting temperature rises this century to two degrees Celsius. Because the United States accounts for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse emissions, “Merkel argues, we Americans really have a moral obligation to take the lead on this,” William Drozdiak of the American Council on Germany tells CFR.org’s Bernard Gwertzman.

Someone should tell Merkel that Bush doesn't do benchmarks...and don't ask about moral obligations.

Tags:

Bush is/not a Conservative

Gleen Greenwald tracks the ups and downs and slings and arrows of Bush's love affair with conservatism here.

With Digby adding the coup de grace:

"Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.

I've always thought conservatism was spelled Katrina.

Tags:

China Echoes Bush: Burning Coal Rejecting Caps

The Christian Science Monitor has the must read.

China echoed the Bush administration's stance on global warming Monday, refusing to set firm caps on its greenhouse-gas emissions and saying that economic growth remained its "first and overriding priority."

Releasing the country's first plan to deal with climate change, the government rejected international demands that it should fix ceilings on Chinese emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.


Try this Elizabeth Economy post in the Nation for a related view: China vs. Earth.

Tags:

Walter Pincus on CIA Perfect Storm Memo

Walter Pincus at the Washington Post had a fascinating article yesterday regarding a CIA "Perfect Storm" document from August of 2002. The report, whose official title was "The Perfect Storm: Planning for Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq" was written seven months before the start of the war and five months before Ryan Crocker and William Burns created a State Department memo using the same "Perfect Storm" construction.

the CIA paper...cautioned about outcomes such as declining European confidence in U.S. leadership, Hussein's survival and retreat with regime loyalists, Iran working to install a friendly regime "tolerant of Iranian policies," Afghanistan tipping into civil strife because U.S. forces were not replaced by United Nations peacekeepers and troops from other countries, and violent demonstrations in Pakistan because of its support of Washington.

Before the war, while the Bush administration was putting a spotlight on the CIA's intelligence on Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be wrong, it either buried or ignored the agency's more accurate assessments of the problems that could emerge in the aftermath of regime change in Iraq, the Senate report said.

Pincus, who is perhaps the real senior statesperson of the Washington press, also add this significant section at the end of the piece:

In the "Perfect Storm" paper, CIA analysts offered what they described as "near-term tactical moves" that the administration could make to minimize the worst-case scenarios that the report presented. Among them were taking "concrete diplomatic steps toward Arab-Israeli peace" and providing "back-channel assurances to Tehran on the duration and extent of U.S. force deployments" -- actions that were not taken.

What is the connection between the CIA six-page "Perfect Storm" document....relegated to the back of a briefing book presented to the Administration in the lead up to the war and the Crocker/Burns six-page document of the same name? We don't know.

What is becoming clear is that the administration had ample warning about exactly what was coming in post-invasion Iraq.

Tags:

Saturday, June 02, 2007

a sad day

There really aren't words for the measure of the voice we've lost, and how sad a day this is.

Much love, Steve, we will miss you.