28 July 2006

Tony's Totally Awesome Adventure

The PM is greeted like a pop star in California today. But as Dan Glaister writes - Tony, dude, some things you should, like, know ...

Dan Glaister
Friday July 28 2006
The Guardian
Go west, young man, runs the adage. And indeed he did. Today, after meeting George Bush to discuss the Middle East, Tony Blair comes to California, the first visit by a serving British prime minister to this fool's paradise.

"Los Angeles fired up for Tony Blair visit," the LA Daily News breathlessly informed its readers yesterday, going on to describe how the 1,800 tickets for the little leader's gig at the Bonaventure Hotel sold out, even at $80 apiece. "In a city where celebrity is taken for granted, one of the hottest tickets in town is for a politician - albeit not your ordinary back-slapping type," wrote the paper's Rick Orlov.

On his way from the cool north to the sweaty south, Blair will meet Californian aristocrats such as the Schultz family - George was big in the Reagan era - who are hosting a reception for him in San Francisco on Friday, and meet kingmakers like his old friend Rupert Murdoch as he addresses the annual News International shin-dig on Sunday at the golfer's paradise of Pebble Beach.
On Monday he'll meet Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the sumptuously phoney Getty Villa, where he can learn about the 12 Labours of Herakles - which makes the battle against Clause 4 look like a cakewalk. And he may even get a glimpse of Arnold, as Schwarzenegger and Blair both attend a forum on the environment on Tuesday.

And who knows, Tony may even hit the surf. But why California? "The reason," the No 10 website helpfully explained, "is that there is a crisis in the Middle East and the prime minister wants to get as far away from it as possible."

Actually, it didn't say that. Instead, it explained that California "is the sixth or seventh-largest economy in the world ... which is similar to ours in that it is a new economy increasingly based on heavy knowledge-based industries".

So, it turns out all that innovative New Labour zeal, that crusading spirit of enquiry, really has been drained from Blair: he's chosen to go on holiday somewhere just like home.

Except that his advisers may have misled him on this one.

Tony, some things you should know, dude.

There really is very little similarity between California and the UK.

1. Dude.
Never, ever go more than a few sentences without saying this word, dude. Forget all the "Comrades, and I say to you" stuff. Dude is probably the most totally awesome thing you can say while you're here.

2. Awesome.
Dude, this is a literally awesome word, invented in California by surfer dudes (alright!) to describe anything that is literally, like, awesome.

3. Like.
Like is, like, the valley mantra. If you say the word like, like every few words, you are totally telling your listeners that you are from, like, the valley.

4. The valley.
This is not the valley that you, prime minister dude, know from your awesome time with Nye and the dudes. This is an altogether much flatter, less green valley, a place where rivers die, strawberries grow and strip malls proliferate.

5. Mexicans.
There's a lot of them in the valley, picking fruit and shit. Many of these Mexicans are from Mexico, some are from other places that, dude, without being heavy, may as well be Mexico. Awesome.

6. The governor.
Don't call him Arnie. That's way too British. In California he is known as Arnold, or The Arnold. And the addition of a comic Austrian accent always brings laughs from a sophisticated audience. Mimic his pronunciation of
Kahl-ee-faw-nyah - a surefire vote winner. But remember, Arnold was once in the movies. This makes him far more important than any politician.

7. The mayor.
Well, the mayors. California boasts two mayors with a national profile: Gavin Newsom in San Francisco and Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles. Newsom is not the sort of politician a good Catholic like you should spend too much time on. His outspoken support for gay marriage and his bullish leadership of sincity means that he will never meet the pope.
Antonio is a different matter, the Latino Blair if you like (his first name means Tony in Spanish). Antonio has the Old Labour cred of a union past, the New Labour cred of sharp suits, a totally heavy Listerine habit and taught himself Spanish. Practise saying his name before meeting him. Or you can use the term favoured by Republican wags: Antonio Villareconquista.

8. Orange County.
You've seen this one on the telly, dude. The OC - home to hipsters, surfer dudes, Ryan and Marissa, John Wayne airport, the Minutemen, theme parks and your friends and allies, the US Marines at Camp Pendleton. Semper Fidelis, dude!

9. Culture.
California is home to some of your life-forming listening, Tony. The Doors, the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Albert Hammond, singer of the bittersweet seventies hit 'It Never Rains in California' (he wrote it in London). And nobody summed up the cultural finesse of living in Los Angeles better than honorary Londoner Woody Allen, who in Annie Hall described it as "a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light".

10. Things not to mention:
Earthquakes, drought, fires, Charles Manson, George W Bush, Enron, the Lodi terrorist cell, Richard Nixon, the death penalty, how hot it is in England, Warren Beatty, the prison system, immigration reform, Ohio, looted antiquities, smog, the price of petrol, community farming, New York City.

And the Middle East.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

*Totally awesome and for sure one of the best satires I've like - ever read, dude!

The Special Relationship: Raw and Uncut

*Better late than never....

A transcript of the off-the-cuff conversation between US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair during a break at the G8 conference in Russia.

The president was caught on tape using an expletive as he described the actions of Hezbollah in attacking Israel.

They also discussed the exchange of gifts.

Bush: Yo, Blair. How are you doing?
Blair: I'm just...
Bush: You're leaving?
Blair: No, no, no not yet. On this trade thingy...[indistinct]
Bush: Yeah, I told that to the man.
Blair: Are you planning to say that here or not?
Bush: If you want me to.
Blair: Well, it's just that if the discussion arises...
Bush: I just want some movement.
Blair: Yeah.
Bush: Yesterday we didn't see much movement..
Blair: No, no, it may be that it's not, it may be that it's impossible.
Bush: I am prepared to say it.
Blair: But it's just I think that we need to be an opposition...
Bush: Who is introducing the trade?
Blair: Angela [Merkel, the German Chancellor]
Bush: Tell her to call 'em.
Blair: Yes
Bush: Tell her to put him on, them on the spot. Thanks for the sweater - it's awfully thoughtful of you.
Blair: It's a pleasure.
Bush: I know you picked it out yourself.
Blair: Oh absolutely - in fact I knitted it!!!
Bush: What about Kofi? [Annan] - he seems all right. I don't like his ceasefire plan. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything sorts out.... But I think...
Blair: Yeah, no I think the [indistinct] is really difficult. We can't stop
this unless you get this international business agreed.
Bush: Yeah.
Blair: I don't know what you guys have talked about, but as I say I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.
Bush: I think Condi [US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] is going to go pretty soon.
Blair: But that's, that's, that's all that matters. But if you... you see it will take some time to get that together.
Bush: Yeah, yeah.
Blair: But at least it gives people...
Bush: It's a process, I agree. I told her your offer to...
Blair: Well... it's only if I mean... you know. If she's got a..., or if she
needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.
Bush: You see the irony is what they need to do is get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's all over...
Blair: [indistinct]
Blair: Dunno... Syria....
Bush: Why?
Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing...
Bush: (with mouth full of bread) Yeah
Blair: Look - what does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine.
If you get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way.
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is struggling.
Blair: He's had it. And that's what the whole thing is about. It's the same with Iraq.
Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.
Blair: Yeah
Bush: [indistinct]
Blair: [indistinct]
Bush: We are not blaming the Lebanese government.
Blair: Is this...?

[Blair taps the microphone in front of him and the sound is cut.]


Middle East Crisis

(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)1:23 p.m. ET, 7/26/06
For more, U.K.-based coverage, go to www.independent.co.uk

Republican Says We Need A Dem Congress

July 27, 2006

The following is a letter from former Republican Congressman and Presidential candidate Pete McCloskey.


I have found it difficult in the past several weeks to reach a conclusion as to what a citizen should do with respect to this fall’s forthcoming congressional elections. I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans, active in Merced and San Bernardino Counties as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have just engaged in an unsuccessful effort to defeat the Republican Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, in the 11th Congressional District Republican primary, obtaining just over 32% of the Republican vote against Pombo's 62%.

The observation of Mr. Pombo’s political consultant, Wayne Johnson, that I have been mired in the obsolete values of the 1970s, honesty, good ethics and balanced budgets, all rejected by today’s modern Republicans, is only too accurate.

It has been difficult, nevertheless, to conclude as I have, that the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006. Let me try to explain why.

I have decided to endorse Jerry McNerney and every other honorable Democrat now challenging those Republican incumbents who have acted to protect former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who have flatly reneged on their Contract With America promise in 1994 to restore high standards of ethical behavior in the House and who have combined to prevent investigation of the Cunningham and Abramoff/Pombo/DeLay scandals. These Republican incumbents have brought shame on the House, and have created a wide-spread view in the public at large that Republicans are more interested in obtaining campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists than they are in legislating in the public interest.

At the outset, let me say that in four months of campaigning I have learned that Jerry McNerney is an honorable man and that Richard Pombo is not. Mr. Pombo has used his position and power to shamelessly enrich his wife and family from campaign funds, has interfered with the federal investigation of men like Michael Hurwitz, he of the Savings & Loan frauds and ruthless clear-cutting of old growth California redwoods. Mr. Pombo has taken more money from Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his associates and Indian tribes interested in gaming than any other Member of Congress, in excess of $500,000. With his stated intent to gut the Endangered Species and Environmental Protection Acts, to privatize for development millions of acres of public land, including a number of National Parks, to give veto power to the Congress over constitutional decisions of the Supreme Court, his substantial contributions to DeLay’s legal defense fund, and most particularly his refusal to investigate the Abramoff involvement in Indian gaming and the exploitation of women labor in the Marianas, both matters within the jurisdiction of his committee, Mr. Pombo in my view represents all that is wrong with the national government in Washington today.

It is clear that the forthcoming campaign will be a vicious one, with Mr. Pombo willing to stretch the truth as he has in the past with respect to the elderberry beetle, levee breaks, his steadfast opposition to veterans’ health care, including prosthetics research for amputees from Iraq and other wars, the impact on Marine lives of endangered species protection at Camp Pendleton and other issues. That Mr. Pombo lied in testimony to the Senate in 1994 is an accepted fact. He testified that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had designated his farm near Tracy as habitat for the endangered California kit fox. This was untrue, and Pombo admitted to the untruthfulness a few months later when questioned over public television, an agency for which he recently voted to cut federal funds.Such a man should not be allowed to be in charge of the nation’s public lands and waterways, a position to which he was elevated by the now-departed Tom DeLay.

Some 18 months ago, my former law partner, Lewis Butler, an Assistant Secretary of HEW in the Nixon Administration and subsequently the distinguished Chair of California Tomorrow and the Plowshares Foundation, and I initiated an effort we called The Revolt of the Elders. All of us were retired and in the latter years of Social Security entitlement. Most of us were Republicans who had served in the Congress or in former Republican administrations with men like Gerry Ford, John Rhodes, Bob Michel, Elliot Richardson, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and the president’s father, George H. W. Bush, all men of impeccable integrity and ethics.

We had become appalled at the House Republican leadership’s decision in early 2005 to effectively emasculate the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by changing the rules to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay had been admonished three times by the Committee for abuse of power and unethical conduct. It was our hope to persuade Speaker Hastert and the Republican leadership, of which Northern California Congressman Richard Pombo and John Doolittle were prominent members, to rescind the rules changes and to act in accord with the promise of high ethical standards contained in Speaker Gingrich’s Contract With America which brought the Republicans majority control in 1994. We failed. Letters to the Speaker from an increasing number of former Republican Members were ignored and remained unanswered. Then, only a few weeks ago, the House leadership refused to allow even a vote on what could have become an effective independent ethics monitor. Instead of repudiating the infamous 'Pay to Play'program put in place by DeLay to extract maximum corporate campaign contributions to 'Retain Our Majority Party' (ROMP), DeLay’s successor as Majority Leader called for a continuance of the free luxury airline trips, mammoth campaign contributions to the so-called 'Leadership PACs' and the continuing stalemate on the Ethics Committee. Strangely, even after the guilty pleas of Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and a number of former House staffers who had been sent to work for Abramoff and other lobbyists. The Republican House leaders don’t see this as corruption worthy of investigation or change. That their former staff members and Abramoff were granted preference in access to the legislative process is not seen as a problem if it helps Republicans retain control of the House. It reminds one of the contentions of Haldeman and Ehrlichman long ago that the national security justified wire-tapping and burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate. Republicans are happy with this new corporate lobby/House complex, which is far more dangerous that the Industry/Defense complex we were long ago warned about by President Eisenhower.

I have therefore reluctantly concluded that party loyalty should be set aside, and that it is in the best interests of the nation, and indeed the future of the Republican Party itself, to return control of the House to temporary Democrat control, if only to return the House for a time to the kind of ethics standards practiced by Republicans in former years. I say reluctantly, having no great illusion that Democrats or any other kind of politician will long resist the allure of campaign funds and benefits offered by the richest and most profitable of the Halliburtons, oil companies, tobacco companies, developers and Indian gaming tribes whose contributions so heavily dominate the contributions to Congressmen Pombo and Doolittle.

As an aside, it seems to me that the Abramoff and Cunningham scandals make it timely for the Congress to consider public matching funds for small contributions to congressional candidates, the same type of system we adopted some time ago for presidential elections. It may be cheaper for the taxpayer to fund congressional elections than to bear the cost of lobbyist-controlled legislation like the recent Medicaid/Medicare drug bill.

There is another strong reason, I believe, for Republicans to work this fall for Democrat challengers against the DeLay-type Republicans like Pombo and Doolittle. That is the clear abdication by the House over the past five years of the Congress’ constitutional power and duty to exercise oversight over abuses of power, cronyism, incompetence and excessive secrecy on the part of the Executive Branch. When does anyone remember House Committee hearings to examine into the patent failures of the Bush Administration to adhere to laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or to the arrogant refusal of the President to accept the congressionally-enacted limits on torture of prisoners? When can anyone remember the House’s use of the subpoena power to compel answers from Administration officials? Why have there been no oversight hearings into the Cunningham bribery affair or Abramoff’s Indian gaming and exploitation of women labor in the Marianas?

When three former congressional staff aides join Abramoff in pleading guilty to attempting to bribe Congressmen, and a fourth takes the 5th Amendment rather than answer Senator McCain’s questions about his relationship with Abramoff and Indian gaming, with all five having given substantial campaign contributions to Mr. Pombo, with Indian tribes alone having given more than $500,000 to Pombo, would it not seem reasonable to ask him to conduct an appropriate oversight committee Hearing into these matters, as long demanded by members of both parties, notably including his neighbor, George Miller?

For all of these reasons, I believe and hope that the Republicans who voted for me on June 6 will vote for Mr. McNerney and against Mr. Pombo in November.

The checks and balances of our Constitution are an essential part of our system of government, as is the public faith that can be obtained only by good ethical conduct on the part of our elected leaders.

If the Republicans in the House won’t honor these principles, then the Democrats should be challenged to do so. And if they decline to exercise that privilege, we can turn them out too. I appreciate that I had serious deficiencies as a candidate, and that four months of campaigning and the expenditure of $500,000 of the funds contributed by old friends and supporters were unsuccessful in convincing Republicans of the 11th District to end the continuing corruption in Washington. I hope, however, to partially redeem my electoral failure by working, as a simple private citizen, to rekindle a Republican sense of civic duty to participate in the electoral process this fall.

The goal of The Revolt of the Elders was and is to educate voters to the need for a return of ethics and honesty in Washington. That goal was right 18 months ago, and seems even more worthwhile today.

Pete McCloskey, Dublin, California. July 26, 2006

27 July 2006

Pombo + Doolittle + Abramoff = Corruption

Pombo gets unlikely donation
John Upton
Tracy Press

The nation’s largest textiles union donated $5,000 to Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, during a primary campaign that saw Pombo attacked for blocking legislation that some lawmakers said would end textile-worker sweatshop conditions in the Northern Marianas Islands.

The UNITE HERE union, which represents 450,000 of the nation’s lowest-paid workers, including 350 employees at two Northern Marianas Islands hotels, made the donation through its To Insure Progress political action committee in May.

Joe McLaughlin, president of Sacramento Local 49 and the Californian State Council, said the donation was a reward for Pombo’s support of the casino, hotel and restaurant industries, which keep his members employed.

McLaughlin said Pombo had long been “a friend” of Local 49, which represents roughly 2,600 hospitality workers, including 1,100 in Indian casinos.

“We get a lot of legislative help from him — and he’s actually talked John Doolittle into (supporting) us,” he said. “He’s doing a good job, and we want to keep it that way; so we give him money.”

Doolittle, a Republican who represents a Californian congressional district that includes Roseville, has been under scrutiny for his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Political Director Tom Snyder said the union’s support for Pombo carried over from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which merged with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees in 2004 to create UNITE HERE.

“Richard Pombo has always been a supporter of our efforts to organize workers in California,” he said. “Right from the beginning, when he ran for office, he’s moved events out of restaurants and hotels where we had members on strike.”
Snyder said political donations were decided in consultation with local officials and that membership dues were not used for political donations. He said it would be illegal to use dues for this purpose.

Pombo had raised more than $1.4 million when the union’s $5,000 donation nearly doubled his contributions from labor during this campaign cycle to $12,000.

Pombo — who is chairman of the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over tribal affairs and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands — ignored fellow lawmakers’ pleas to investigate labor abuses there, said a spokeswoman for Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Pombo’s committee spokesman did not return phone calls.

Abramoff was hired to lobby for the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association and the Northern Marianas Island’s government. He organized a 2004 trip to the Marianas for Pombo and other congressmen, and Pombo later returned $7,000 in campaign donations from the lobbyist, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for fraud.

As an American protectorate, clothes from the Northern Marianas Islands are stamped “Made in the USA.” However, many nonresident textile workers in the 25 to 30 factories there are paid less than the minimum wage of $3.10 per hour, which is set by the Federal Government, according to UNITE HERE’s Pacific Island organizer Morris Luka.

The Marianas Islands was listed in UNITE HERE’s Sweatshop Files — a publication of its Behind the Label program.

The union took each garment factory to court for labor violations, Luka said.
When UNITE HERE, the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union broke away from the AFL-CIO last year, they were critical of the umbrella group for donating too much to Democrats who gave too little in return.

UNITE HERE’s political action committee divided $24,000 among 10 Republican congressional incumbents this year, election filings show.
Pombo and Frank LoBiondo, R-New Jersey, were given $5,000 each. Donations of up to $4,000 went to John Sweeney and James Walsh from New York; Ray LaHood, Jerry Weller, Judy Biggert and John Shimkus from Illinois; Nancy Johnson from Connecticut and Tom Davis from Virginia.

All these representatives, except Johnson, sided with the Democrats in a failed June bid to force the Federal Aviation Authority back to the negotiating table with airline unions that are unaffiliated with UNITE HERE.

UNITE HERE also divided $4,500 between three Republican senators this year — Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island, Sam Brownback from Kansas and Tim Johnson from Illinois.

The union gave about $200,000 to 60 Democratic candidates this year.

• To reach reporter John Upton, call 830-4274 or e-mail jupton@tracypress.com.

26 July 2006

McCloskey to back Dems

Tracy Press

Former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey will throw his weight behind at least seven west-of-the-Mississippi Democratic candidates in a bid to help shift control of the House to his former foes after November.

“I’ll speak for them and I’ll write op-ed pieces for them,” said the 79-year-old who mustered 33 percent of a June primary vote against Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy. “I’ll try to convince my Republican associates and friends that the House must be run by a Democratic majority if it’s to do its constitutional job of legislative oversight — something it hasn’t done for five years.”

“I’m not leaving the Republican Party, but I do want to try to maintain a Democratic majority for the next two years.”

McCloskey, who served Congress from 1967 to 1983, said he would support Democratic candidates running against “DeLay-type Republicans.”

He said he would support Jerry McNerney’s campaign against Pombo and Charlie Brown’s campaign against Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville.

Pombo’s campaign consultant, Wayne Johnson, said he was hardly surprised that McCloskey would support Democrats in the November election.

“That’s all he’s ever supported in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “I would say (McNerney and McCloskey) have been working together since day one, so it makes no difference to us.”

McCloskey said he had never worked with McNerney. He said although he supported John Kerry over George W. Bush, he supported Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger over Gray Davis.

Steve Thomas, who took 18 percent of the Democratic Primary vote in June without raising any money, said he felt slighted that McNerney had decided against employing him on his campaign.

“I think I had a lot more message in the fall than Jerry did,” he said, “but my offer fell on deaf ears.”

A spokesman for McNerney said Thomas was welcome to lend a hand.

Pombo took 62 percent of the Republican vote in June, with 35,493 votes. McNerney took 53 percent of the Democratic vote, with 23,598 votes.

***Hell yeah! Shock and awe...

Dean's List

By Dan Gilgoff
U.S. News & World Report
July 24, 2006 issue

DIAMONDHEAD, MISS.--Here's what the front line of Howard Dean's revolution looks like: two dozen senior citizens seated inside this gated community's clubhouse listening intently as operatives from the state Democratic Party pitch them on becoming precinct captains. A rep named Jay Parmley approaches an oversize easel and flips to a page showing John Kerry's share of the 2004 presidential vote here in Hancock County. "28%" is scrawled in magic marker. "Kind of scary," Parmley says.

But he flips the page to show former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's share of the vote here in his unsuccessful 2003 re-election bid: "43%." The discrepancy, Parmley explains, shows that the better Mississippians know a Democrat, the more likely they are to vote for him. Which is why he's here recruiting precinct captains. If Democrats can define themselves on a "neighbor to neighbor" basis, Parmley says, their candidates can win again, even here, in a red county in a red state.

If that doesn't sound revolutionary, consider this: Mississippi's Democratic Party hasn't trained precinct captains for more than a decade. Until recently, the state party consisted of a single full-time staffer. In 2004, the Democratic National Committee invested so little here that activists shelled out thousands of their own dollars to print up Kerry yard signs. That all changed last summer, when newly elected DNC Chairman Howard Dean began rolling out his "50-State Strategy," a multimillion-dollar program to rebuild the Democratic Party from the ground up. Over the past year, the DNC has hired and trained four staffers for virtually every state party in the nation--nearly 200 workers in all--to be field organizers, press secretaries, and technology specialists, even in places where the party hasn't been competitive for decades. "It's a huge shift," Dean tells U.S. News. "Since 1968, campaigns have been about TV and candidates, which works for 10 months out of the four-year cycle. With party structure on the ground, you campaign for four years."

The strategy is also a reaction to the past two presidential cycles, when the shrinking number of battleground states the Democratic nominee was competing in left no room for error. Both elections were arguably determined by a single state: Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Says Dean: "We've gotten to the point where we're almost not a national party." [...]

The promise and peril of Dean's plan come into sharp relief in the Magnolia State, where neither this year's U.S. Senate race nor the four House races are considered competitive. And while Democrats enjoyed more-or-less single-party status here for the hundred years following the Civil War, Republicans now hold the state's two Senate seats, the governor's mansion, and most other statewide offices. The last Democratic presidential nominee to win the state was Jimmy Carter, in 1976. But Dean argues that such failures are the result of the national party's having packed up and left red states. "Nobody stands up and says, 'Here's why I'm a Democrat,'" he says. "That's why right-wingers have managed to brand us in unattractive ways. To be branded right, you need real people on the ground." [...]

Two field representatives have recruited captains in more than 500 precincts so far, along with volunteers for phone banks and canvassing. "I've been trying to contact the party since I moved back here in 1992," says Harold Terry, 43, a Jackson native who volunteered last week at a phone bank. "Someone finally got back to me three weeks ago."

The new DNC hires tell similar stories. Rita Royals is a 57-year-old former rape crisis counselor who paid to print her own Kerry signs in 2004. That same year, DeMiktric Biggs, a student at Jackson State University, sent a county-by-county voter analysis to almost everyone on the state Democratic committee--and never got a reply. Now, the party is using his work to plan its ground game.

As the 2006 election nears, the precinct captains whom Royals and Biggs are training will be put to work leveraging the DNC's updated voter file--improved since technical glitches stymied many state parties' get-out-the-vote efforts in 2004. Of course, with President Bush winning Mississippi with nearly 60 percent of the vote, the Democratic Party isn't expecting dramatic results anytime soon. "The Republicans had 30 years to put themselves in the position they're in," says Dean. "To think we're going to turn the party around in four is wrong."

You can read the whole article here:


25 July 2006

Natalia's Going - Sad!

Tower of London

We were here last week - Matt and I - with his friend. It took me only 10 months to get there! But it was great... and then after we went to one of my favorite pubs - The Town of Ramsgate. It's where they used to hang pirates! And anyway, you can drink white wine spritzers right on the Thames... brilliant.

A Doolittle Email

***Scare Tactics.... Scare Tactics.... Scare Tactics - BULLOCKS!

"Dear MARA,

As your representative in Congress, I am fighting to reform our immigration laws and put a stop to illegal immigration.

One way to help accomplish that objective is to eliminate the benefits many illegal immigrants take advantage of by simply residing in our country – including voting in our elections.

Shockingly, voter registration does not currently require verification of U.S. citizenship and because of the passage of motor-voter bills, the process of registering to vote is almost automatic for those who apply for a driver’s license in those states that allow non-citizens to obtain one.

Some estimate that thousands of illegal immigrants are allowed to vote each year.

In order to stop this outrageous and illegal activity, I recently cosponsored legislation that will require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The bill also requires voters to present valid photo identification before voting.

Your views on my efforts are important to me, and I invite you to participate in a district-wide poll I am conducting. I plan on sharing the results with my colleagues before the bill comes up for a vote.

John T. Doolittle"

***And here's the best part - a survey! And please note that at the bottom of the page tells you that if you sign up... you are automatically subscribing to his newsletter... ugh.

"What Do You Feel Should Be Done About Illegal Immigrants Voting In Our Elections?

Should proof of citizenship be required in order to register to vote?

Should voters be required to show photo identification before voting?

*By answering this survey, you are subscribing to my newsletter

24 July 2006

Doolittle's Wife Sees Pay Hike

July 19, 2006
By Paul Kane
Roll Call Staff

Focusing solely on his own re-election, Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) has abandoned raising money for his leadership political action committee, collecting less than a handful of checks so far this year.

With his Superior California PAC's account essentially dry, Doolittle has shifted the focus of his top fundraiser, his wife, Julie Doolittle, to his re-election effort, and they have succeeded in increasing their take beyond that of recent election cycles.

While Doolittle has not been considered a top-tier target by Democrats, he continues to battle allegations about his family's connections to ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff as well as lobbyists and contractors connected to the former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) scandal.

The change in fundraising emphasis hasn't reduced the fees paid to Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, the firm run by Julie Doolittle, which has come under scrutiny by federal investigators for its work on behalf of Abramoff.

In fact, Julie Doolittle is on pace to more than double the amount she receives from her husband's political committees in the 2006 election cycle in comparison to what she earned in the '04 cycle. She receives a 15 percent commission for every dollar accredited to Sierra Dominion's work for her husband.

From April 1 through June 30, she collected more than $35,000 in commissions from the John T. Doolittle for Congress committee, one of her highest-grossing quarters ever, according to filings with the FEC.

Until late in 2005, Sierra Dominion had worked for Superior California PAC, not John T. Doolittle for Congress.

The shift away from the PAC is somewhat surprising, given that Doolittle, the sixth-ranking member of GOP leadership as Conference secretary, had turned Superior California into a successful vehicle to raise money and distribute it to his colleagues. After raising about $65,000 in 2003, he raked in $377,607 in 2004 and brought in more than $422,000 last year. In those two years, Doolittle's PAC doled out $330,000 in donations to House and Senate candidates as well as national party committees.

In the first six months of 2006, however, Superior California took in just $11,200 while giving out $71,500 to GOP candidates and committees.

The PAC had less than $4,000 in cash on hand at the end of June. Doolittle's office declined comment on the PAC's diminished cash.

Julie Doolittle's work for the PAC has come under scrutiny because some of the largest donors to Superior California have also been clients of Abramoff and Ed Buckham, the ex-lobbyist who is alleged in court papers to have conspired with Abramoff to steer cash payments and other things of value to Congressional staffers.

Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Sierra Dominion's records in connection with the Abramoff probe and also obtained its entire list of clients.

In addition to raising money from clients of Abramoff and Buckham, Doolittle's Sierra Dominion fundraising firm also worked directly for entities controlled by the two former lobbyists.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee released a report last month documenting $67,000 in payments from Abramoff, money that came from his former law firm, including fees that coincided with the timing of letters Rep. Doolittle wrote in support of Abramoff's tribal casino clients.

Sierra Dominion worked from 2002 through 2004 for the Korean-U.S. Exchange Council, a nonprofit that was founded by Buckham and his one-time lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group. National Journal reported last week that Julie Doolittle was paid $2,000 a month by KORUSEC, a total of roughly $30,000 in payments.

From 2002 through 2004, Rep. Doolittle helped secure $37 million in defense contracts for one of Buckham's biggest clients, PerfectWave, a defense contractor owned by Brent Wilkes.

Cunningham pleaded guilty last year to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Wilkes, who maintains his innocence, in exchange for earmarking contracts to his defense companies.

Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing in his official actions, and his office has called it "insulting" to suggest that Julie Doolittle's commissions were anything but hard-earned. Her lawyer said she did event-planning work for Abramoff's charity and a pair of restaurants he owned.

Sierra Dominion's shift to working on the campaign committee was necessitated in part by the departure of Doolittle's longtime chief of staff and political adviser, David Lopez.

Lopez, whose financial records were examined last year by the Justice Department, left the Congressional payroll last spring and ended his role as a Doolittle political consultant in February.

Julie Doolittle stepped full time into the campaign void left behind by Lopez earlier this year and has helped her husband rake in more than $1.2 million so far for his effort to win a ninth term.

In doing so, she has collected more than $51,000 in commissions in the first six months of this year, according to FEC records. In 2005, she collected almost $81,000 in commissions from the lawmaker's political committees, and in 2003 Sierra Dominion received more than $72,000, all from Superior California.

With more than four months until Election Day, Rep. Doolittle has already raised more money than he did in any of the previous three elections.

He had more than $261,000 in the bank when June ended.

Doolittle remains a strong favorite in his race against Charlie Brown, a Roseville Police Department administrator and Air Force veteran, for a race in one of the most conservative districts in the Golden State.

Brown had raised $254,000 through June 30 and had $74,000 in cash on hand.

Activism Inc.

By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Young people, listen up.
For those of you seeking to curb corporate crime and violence --
For those of you seeking to counter the right-wing, corporate drift of
the country --
For those of you seeking to push back against the Chamber of Commerce,
the Fortune 500, and the corporate control over the two major political
parties --
Three words of advice:
Read this book.

Activism Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling
Progressive Politics in America, by Dana Fisher (Stanford University
Press, August 2006).

Fisher is an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York. Some people are going to be very angry with this book. These people would be the institutionalized, bureaucratic,inside-the-beltway "liberals." But for the rest of us, this book is a joy.

It's due out in a couple of weeks. Fisher's study finds that most of the national environmental, studentand progressive groups have shut down their internal grassrootsoperations and outsourced door-to-door fundraising to a handful of large national canvass operations.

Fisher says these national canvassing operations are the point of entry for hundreds of young, idealistic and politically aware people.

But instead of funneling these people into a lifetime of progressive politics, more often than not the national canvass operations, run as secretive corporate top-down bureaucracies, burn their idealism and spit them out onto the trash heap of politics.

Fisher was given access to one of the major groups -- she calls it the People's Project. She explains in a footnote that "due to my data gathering agreement with this organization, its identity will remain anonymous."

The People's Project clients include major environmental, public interest and human rights groups. The Project runs between 55 and 75 campaign offices around the country and hires more than 275 primarily young canvassers a year -- mostly in the summer months.

And Fisher is not happy with its organizing model. "How can the People's Project run effective grassroots campaigns that are coordinated by rootless workaholics?" she asks. "Instead of connecting canvass offices to pre-existing local progressive institutions through its canvass directors, the People's Project chooses to move them around regularly."

"When I asked the canvass directors if they participated in any local political or civic work outside of their jobs, most laughed at me, pointing out that they rarely had time to sleep or do their laundry, let alone volunteer or attend community meetings," she writes.

Fisher concedes that these large national canvassing operations didn't create the problem.

The problem was with their clients -- the large public interest organizations that have little real contact with their membership base to begin with.

Or as one former adviser to the John Kerry for President campaign told Fisher: "None of these organizations can actually produce two bodies usually when they need to."

"Given their failure to elicit action from their members, it is unclear how much actual political clout should be assigned to these national groups based on their members numbers," Fisher writes. "Threats by these national groups' lobbyists that their members will strike, protest or even vote according to their position on an issue could be called into question. By outsourcing these outreach tactics, the distance between progressive Americans and politics today has grown significantly.

In other words, most members recruited through canvassing do not develop personal ties to the organizations they join. True membership, in contrast, involves participation that extends beyond making a monetary contribution, including meaningful engagement at the local, regional and/or national level.

And by outsourcing the canvass operations, the public interest groups also undermined their own recruiting efforts.

Case in point: Greenpeace USA. At one point, Greenpeace ran its own canvass. But then it outsourced it to a national canvass operation. Mistake.

Greenpeace USA's executive director, John Passacantando, has subsequently brought the canvass back inside Greenpeace. "The Greenpeace canvass served as a feeder track for hungry, smart people who would one day run Greenpeace campaigns and even run Greenpeace. We lost something huge when we shut down our canvass," Passacantando told Fisher a couple of years ago. "It is not a secret. So many of the heavyweights throughout the Greenpeace world have started in our canvass. It served an amazing purpose. And we are now tasked with finding other ways to bring people in."

Fisher has some unkind words for Democratic operatives who outsourced the 2004 grassroots presidential campaign that parachuted hundreds of out-of-state canvassers into Midwestern states -- and alienated local residents.

She compares that failed strategy with the winning Republican Party 72-hour plan that tapped into already existing local civic and political infrastructures.

Fisher also discounts the "man" and "messages" explanations for why progressives have been routinely routed by right-wing Republicans in recent years. Waiting for the charismatic candidate to come around means waiting a long time.

And even if the leader arrives, "rebuilding civil society requires people talking and listening to each other, not blindly following a hero" -- as former Senator Bill Bradley put it.

Then there is the weak message theory -- this is the George Lakoff, Geoffrey Nunberg school.

Or as Nunberg puts it in the title of his new book: Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism Into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.

But Fisher says its not as much the man, or the message, as it is the members -- the grassroots. And we've corporatized them. And processed them. And disdained them. Now, she wants to reclaim them.

"As civic and political organizations have become increasingly professionalized, the ways that they engage their members have become less personal," Fisher writes. "Most national progressive groups do not require any actual participation from their members beyond writing
She quotes citizen activist Harry Boyte: "politics has largely become a spectator sport run by professionals with disdain for ordinary people."

Time to bypass the beltway.
Go straight to the grassroots.
Read this book.
And then let's start anew.


17 July 2006

I Support Charlie Brown



In difficult times and a dangerous world, America needs proven leaders for whom integrity, duty, honor, courage, and responsibility are not just words---they are words to live by.

That’s why I am proudly supporting Charlie Brown for California’s 4th Congressional District. And, that’s why ethics challenged Republican incumbent John Doolittle is facing the fight of his political life.

Charlie has dedicated his life to serving our country--as a 26 year Air Force officer, a credentialed teacher, and law enforcement professional. He brings the real life experience with keeping our country safe that is sorely missing from this Republican Congress. And, he’ll fight to defend our constitutional rights, eliminate corruption, put our fiscal house in order, protect our environment, invest in education, and improve access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.

Charlie Brown is truly a candidate we can all be proud to support.
John Doolittle is more vulnerable than he’s ever been. He’s the only member of Congress involved in both the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham corruption scandals, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since he can’t run on his record, he’s going to try and hide behind his right wing fear machine and swift boat character assassins.

Doolittle can run, but he can’t hide. Charlie needs our help to fight back!
Visit www.charliebrownforcongress today and make a contribution, sign up to volunteer, or join the mailing list.

Together, we can take back our Congress from corrupt right wing ideologues, and restore a government by and for “we the people.” Please go to www.charliebrownforcongress.org, or call 1-800-727-6968 to take action today.

A Doo-little Congress

Washington Post - July 11, 2006

"In the past two years, campaign and political action committees controlled by Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) paid ever-larger commissions to his wife's one-person company and spent tens of thousands of dollars on gifts at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co. and a Ritz-Carlton day spa."
Indeed, Rep. Doolittle's wife, who had no prior fundraising experience, took 15% of every dollar she "raised" for him, arduously extracted from such reluctant Republican donors as Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm, Jack Abramoff's restaurant, and various DeLay Inc. front groups. With General Wesley Clark endorsing veteran Charlie Brown, Doolittle was recently forced to accept a formal debate - it will be one to watch. And as for the still-undisputed king of corruption, Tom DeLay, it turns out his saga isn't over quite yet either - but we'll get to that next week...
*Yep... that would be my hometown Congressman - unfortunately. It was amazing to me that Cali's CD-4 is in play being from there... but hopefully Clark's endorsement for him will bring in both cash and connections...
For information about Charlie Brown, please visit: http://www.charliebrownforcongress.org/
And sign up to endorse!

12 July 2006


And birthday party pics to come... apparently there are lots and I had nothing to do with it!

Amanda's Visit

On the Tube... They Hate Me for This BTW

Lovebirds - Amanda and Her Boyfriend Owen

Goofballs - Me and My Flatmate Mark

The Sphinx (Which is Older than London!)

'Loving' Both Hemispheres

Amanda Stradelling Meridian Time in Greenwich

We Love the 'Wind-blown Look'.... Don't You?

Gorgeous Greenwich View of London

Owen, Amanda, Myself and Mark Watching the Football

Lovebirds - Part II

It was awesome to have her here and Owen is great...
Aww yeah DC/NYC/London connections...
Who are we - jet setters?

Birthday Celebrations

Just Some of My GORGEOUS B-Day Flowers...

Lindsay and James - Oh So Serious

Angela and Marg - Two Canadian Girls
PRETENDING They Care About the World Cup EVEN THOUGH
It was Canada Day and Their Parade Was Cancelled...

One Crowded Pub

Taking a Break From Cleaning to Show-Off My Surprise Flowers
That Were Delivered That Morning to My Door
(I Later Found Lindsay Out - Cheeky Girl!)

Early Afternoon at Our Picnic on the Southbank
Enjoying Burough Market Treats

Mark and I at the Pub

When People Thought England was Going to Win

Seriously Pretending

When People Didn't Think England was Going to Win

It was a sad day for England when they lost to Portugal, but I ended up having a great birthday anyway complete with a great dinner and date after we watched the match with all of my friends at the Hawley Arms. Ah well... there's always next (4) year(s) James!

Random London Pics Part 17

Jilli and Matt Being Sill-ay!
Bus Ride on Our Way to Go See Italy Play in the World Cup!

Jilli and Kasia - Only Slightly Amused

Me and Isa at the Park Sunbathing

Jack and I at One of Our Dinner Parties with Friends

Laurie and I Atop Primrose Hill
When She Was Visiting from NY 2 Weeks Ago

Jillian's Official Birthday Dinner at Gilgamesh

Mauro and Natalia Imitating Kasia's 'Sex Eyes'