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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Had enough?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 7th November 2006

Michael Brown, George W. Bush, Mark FoleyThat’s FEMA ace Michael Brown, presidential carrier pilot ace George W. Bush (shirtsleeves rolled up! he’s gonna clear some brush!), and Ace of Pages Mark Foley back before Iraq, Katrina and DisgustingGate really messed things up for them. Hard to pick the dumbest of the bunch, but compared to the other guys, Michael Brown’s looking relatively good these days.

Subsequent posts will appear below this one until Election Day; I’ll also be adding more “had enough?” headlines to those below between now and then. Stay tuned! Submit your own! Had enough?

  • Baghdad Blast Kills 26, U.S. October Toll hits 100 (10/30, Washington Post)
  • Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to waterboarding (10/25, McClatchy News Services)* — “It’s a no-brainer for me,” Cheney added. What else could it be? But relax: “We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.”
  • Tempest brews in weather think tank (10/1, New Jersey Star Ledger) — “Scientists at a world-renowned climate research lab in New Jersey say their discoveries are being hidden from public view because their conclusions on global warming differ from those in the Bush administration.”
  • Boehner: ‘Rumsfeld is the best thing that’s happened to the Pentagon in 25 years’ (10/29, ThinkProgress)Majority leader John Boehner (R-OH): “Let’s not take the problems in Iraq, the tough fight that we’re in there and blame it on anyone.” No, let’s.
  • Worst Congress Ever (10/19, Rolling Stone) “The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment,” says Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar […] Congress has arranged things now so that the typical workweek on the Hill begins late on Tuesday and ends just after noon on Thursday, to give members time to go home for the four-day weekend.”
  • Rumsfeld tells war critics to ‘back off’ (10/27, AP) — “You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it’s complicated, it’s difficult,” Rumsfeld said regarding deadlines.” Making Secretary “Einstein” just who we want in charge, I suppose.
  • Bush Says ‘America Loses’ Under Democrats (10/31, Washington Post) — “President Bush said terrorists will win if Democrats win and impose their policies on Iraq, as he and Vice President Cheney escalated their rhetoric Monday…” Terrorists appear to disagree.
  • Protester wrestled to ground at Allen campaign stop (10/31, WVEC) — should read “assaulted by pro-Allen thugs at”. Video at the link or here. Today’s Republicans do this kind of thing all the time. Too many news outlets played along, headlining this as “Heckler subdued at George Allen event.” More here.
  • Military Charts Movement of Conflict in Iraq Toward Chaos (11/1, New York Times) — “A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.” But that’s not the real concern…
  • “The Pentagon is looking into how classified information indicating Iraq is moving closer to chaos wound up on the front page of Wednesday’s New York Times, and is not ruling out an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.” (11/2, FOX) — So of course the real problem is that we found out. Now terrorists, insurgents, and Peoria, Illinois all know Iraq is somewhere between burgundy and scarlet on the top-secret Pentagon green-to-red scale.
  • Bush plans post-election push on Social Security (11/1, Reuters) — “A bad idea that just won’t die,” writes Barbara Kennelly.
  • Bush Laments ‘Tone’ In Washington, Says His Opponents Want Terrorists To Win (11/2, ThinkProgress)
  • U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer (11/3, New York Times) — Hoping to “leverage the Internet”, Republicans released documents captured in Iraq to a public web site – including details of Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program: “The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb. Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials.”
  • “In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush’s understanding of the presidency, the President’s team has been planning for what one strategist describes as “a cataclysmic fight to the death” over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is “going to assert that power, and they’re going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation.” (10/29, TIME Magazine) Bring it on.
  • U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons (11/4, Washington Post) — “The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the “alternative interrogation methods” that their captors used to get them to talk.” And not “just” in the courtroom, but to their lawyers — for any reason. 
  • And finally:
    “Who cares what you think?” (2004, Salon) — Bush’s answer to citizen Bill Hangley in 2001 when told “Mr. President, I hope you only serve one term. I’m very disappointed in your work so far.”

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NOTES: Actual post date 10/30/06. Photo via Josh Marshall; “Cheney confirms” via Nell Lancaster; “Tempest brews” via Climate Crisis Coalition; “Einstein” link to Eugene Robinson op-ed; “Pentagon is looking into” via Glenn Greenwald; “Bush laments tone” via Steve Benen, “Nuclear Primer” via Will Bunch; “Executive Power” via Kagro X; “CIA prisons” via Kevin Drum. * For the Cheney link, see also the handy “What is water-boarding?” graphic — accompanied by a link to “Drop by drop: forgetting the history of water torture in U.S. Courts“, by Evan Wallach.

EDIT, 11/1: this post will be held as the final post of the day for now, and will be redated to 11/7 on Election Day.

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No on Question 4: the Election Central Command and Control Act

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th November 2006

This post concludes a series arguing against Maryland’s Question 4, a referendum on election law revisions that I christened the “Linda Lamone Lifetime Appointment Act” and the “Election Technology Boondoggle Act” in prior posts in the “Free State Politics” blog.

This time I focus on another troubling aspect of Question 4: the way it allows the Maryland State Board of Elections to assume control of local election processes. When HB 1368 — the basis of Question 4 — is closely examined, it’s quickly clear that the measure also gives the state of Maryland a great deal of power over local election officials:

[2-103.]
[(b) The State Administrator shall:]
(4) supervise the operations of the local boards AND, IN ACCORDANCE WITH SUBSECTION (C) OF THIS SECTION, INITIATE A LEGAL ACTION TO ENJOIN THE ACTIONS OF A LOCAL BOARD OR THE ELECTION DIRECTOR OF A LOCAL BOARD

In said subsection C, it develops that the State Administrator may be initiating legal actions not just under the specific authority of HB 1368, but on behalf of regulations promulgated by the Board of Elections later on:

[2-103.]
(C) (1) THE STATE ADMINISTRATOR MAY FILE SUIT IN A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION TO ENJOIN A LOCAL BOARD OR ITS ELECTION DIRECTOR FROM VIOLATING ANY PROVISIONOF THIS ARTICLE OR OF A REGULATION, GUIDELINE, OR PROCEDURE ADOPTED UNDER THIS ARTICLE.

(Emphasis added.) Thus, even were you in full agreement with everything else in HB 1368, you’d still be unwise to vote for Question 4 because of the sweeping powers it grants to the State Administrator to enforce future Board of Elections regulations — however unwise, arbitrary, or unfair they might be.

As elections activist Robert Lanza has pointed out, one direction this could take is the simple removal of local elections judges in favor of contractors like Diebold favored by the State Board and/or Administrator. There’s little I see in HB 1368 to prevent it, and more to suggest it. Specifically, when the powers of local election directors and the local election board are enumerated, the word “MAY” precedes powers such as appointing employees, training election judges, and processing absentee ballot applications, while the word “SHALL” precedes duties such as getting State Administrator approval of precinct boundary changes or Board approval of locally adopted election regulations. If Linda Lamone got it into her head that hired election “judges” would outperform the local volunteer variety, there might be less standing in her way than we’d like.

With greater control comes correspondingly greater power to manipulate elections. The manipulation need not take the form of actual vote-changing — the valid “black box” worry about electronic voting — but may instead be bureaucratic, aggregate election suppression. A local precinct chair has noted,

Montgomery County has traditionally run very efficient elections. Under Lamone’s direction, both materials and equipment were very late in coming. Three-fourths of judges had been trained when new directives came from the state. There is a fear that this will happen again in November. Training on e-poll-books was too late. … Yes, there was human error, but there was gross mismanagement from the State Administrator.

(Emphasis added.) While it’s always been possible that a given county elections board might encounter difficulties, HB 1368 and Question 4 would make it more likely than ever that the State Board of Elections or State Elections Administrator could set it up for failure — whether intentionally or not.

Conclusion
In previous posts I’ve argued that passage of Question 4 would make it too difficult to remove the election administrator from office, and that it places too much trust and emphasis on “technology” per se without similar emphasis on safeguards and feasibility. Here I assert something that seems to be a different topic — local versus centralized authority and control over the election process.

But it’s all connected. Whether or not it’s the intent of Linda Lamone and her Diebold suppliers, the fact remains that the system they envision allows the central, networked command and control of elections. After all, that’s the flip side of electronic voting: programmable voting machines electronically tallying their results and uploading them to central election computers.

The situation is reminiscent of the famous mutually beneficial relationship between algae and fungus that creates lichen. In this case, the symbiosis is between a technology supplier and a new political power center. The supplier of electronic voting and registration-checking equipment gets a lucrative and — thanks to the “technology boondoggle” clause — never-ending relationship with the State Board of Elections and its administrator. For their part, that board and especially its administrator become a new and all but invulnerable under-the-radar force in Maryland politics.

Screwups like the recent September 12 election meltdown in Montgomery County, or the suspicious inability to squeeze James Webb’s last name onto Virginia voting machine screens, might be accidental at first. But they might not be so the second time — and the system we’re creating in Maryland, with its NASA-like pre-election checklists and proprietary black box voting machines, is riddled with opportunities for mischief.

Luckily, this Tuesday Maryland can vote for the first step back to common sense, voter-verified balloting and elections and away from unaccountable, excessive bureaucratic power over those elections: vote “No” on Question 4.

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CROSSPOSTED to “Free State Politics.”

UPDATE, 11/5: The full 2003 SAIC report on Maryland’s voting machines — a.k.a. “the Pentagon Papers of e-voting” — has been leaked by a “a patriotic high-level state official,” and has been made available at “The BRAD BLOG“. Rebecca Abrahams first obtained the document. She writes that “the report is considered to be a serious “smoking gun” by the very few computer experts who have seen it. It is evidence, they say, of a very purposeful plan by Diebold to hide the operational and security flaws on the machines that count all of the votes in Maryland and Georgia and many of the votes in states across the country.”

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Big Blue Wave – District 20 Democrats

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 4th November 2006

District 20 Democrats gathered in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland this morning to show support for Martin O’Malley and Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate. We got a lot of support from drivers honking their horns and giving us “thumbs up” signs. (More photos here.) The “Big Blue Wave” event organizers included Malvana Valdez and State Senator-to-be Jamie Raskin; it got its name from something Congressman Van Hollen said last weekend — a big blue wave crashing south from Baltimore will meet ours crashing north from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County on Election Day.

Afterwards many of us joined the first of several weekend “get out the vote” (GOTV) canvasses in District 20. Those canvasses are being run out of the Raskin campaign office at the “Electric Maid” storefront (268 Carroll Street), just up the street from the Takoma Metro Station. The Maryland elections are shaping up as close ones — GOTV work will be critical! If you’d like to help out this weekend, Monday, or Tuesday, contact mocogotv@gmail.com.

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UPDATE, 11/5: Two photos from the event were picked up by “USAVotes” at an interesting service called “NowPublic,” which describes itself as “a participatory news network which mobilizes an army of reporters to cover the events that define our world. In twelve short months, the company has become one of the fastest growing news organizations with over 31,000 reporters in 130 countries.”

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If that’s partisan… which party is Joe?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 31st October 2006

The Lieberman Senate campaign accuses the New York Times of a “clear partisan agenda” — for its endorsement of Ned Lamont. (Via Lindsay Beyerstein and a commenter.)

Publius (“Legal Fiction”) may or may not be right that Democratic Party leaders are just rationally hedging their bets by not getting behind Lamont at this point, and that Lamont may have blown it by taking it too easy after his primary win.

But they should be aware what they’re letting themselves in for; Lieberman will be the new American Heritage Dictionary illustration of “Democrat in Name Only,” a guy who can’t even decide whether Democrats retaking the House of Representatives is a good thing. He’ll be the kind of poisonous ally you have to watch more closely than you do your enemies; even if he gets his seniority back, I think he’s likely to switch parties at the drop of a hat.

And they should count the cost — both in Connecticut and beyond — of stiffing Connecticut Democrats who voted for Lamont in the primary election. It may be realpolitik, but it’s not solidarity with or respect for their own rank and file, and that should cost them down the road. If Lamont wins despite everything, he won’t owe them a thing; in fact, he might do himself some good by pointing that out ahead of time.

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UPDATE, 10/31: Via Steve Benen, a case in point: Lieberman gets campaign help from Susan Collins (R-ME) — who would be chair of the Homeland Security committee he vice-chairs. What kind of opposition will he put up?

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Democratic voters: they’ve gone country

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 31st October 2006

A little something for GOP stalwarts to ponder, courtesy of the Center for Rural Strategies:

The rural vote has shifted in favor of Democratic congressional candidates in the last month, indicating Republicans are losing ground with a key constituency, according to the Center for Rural Strategies Poll.

The poll of rural voters in 41 contested congressional districts found that likely voters preferred Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 13 points, 52 percent to 39 percent. In mid-September, the same population of voters was evenly split between the two parties at 45 percent each.*

(Via mcjoan at Daily Kos and Sifu Tweety at The Poor Man Institute.) This seems of a piece with recent observations here on southern and so-called “Wal-Mart” voters. It probably sounds pretty good to Jim Webb over in Virginia and Harold Ford down in Tennessee, too.

And it makes me think Josh Marshall might be right about why Karl Rove is allegedly so confident about the election: when you’ve got nothing, bluffing is your last option.

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* “The poll was conducted Oct. 22-24 among 500 likely voters living in rural parts of 41 contested congressional districts and six states with competitive Senate races. The margin of error is 4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The sample size is smaller for House and Senate preference questions (293 and 314 respectively), resulting in a margin of error for those questions of 5.7 and 5.5 percent respectively.” Also, respondents were asked about specific, named Democratic and Republican candidates, not generic ones.

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Maryland District 20: a report from the field and the barbecue

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th October 2006

I went out canvassing once again this weekend, this time on more familiar ground — good old Maryland District 20, as advertised here on Wednesday. Although my friend Brett couldn’t make it this time (get well soon!) a fair number of other people did: instead of the hoped for 100 people, around 200 people reported for duty at Heather Mizeur’s house this morning — and that despite the threat of rain, which thankfully didn’t materialize.

The Democratic Party in this area is still sticking to targeting “sometime Democratic voters” — people who haven’t always voted over the past several elections. That turns out to be a fairly scarce group in District 20, and given the great number of volunteers, I wound up with a relative handful of households to canvass on my walking list, around 2 dozen maybe. As the volunteer surplus dawned on the organizers, it was decided we’d also “lit drop” nearby houses regardless of whether they were targeted by the walking lists.

As usual, I got mostly “absolutely” type responses if anyone was home; I did get one “undecided” answer from an older black gentleman, but I couldn’t draw him out to learn whether that was out of old school reticence or some leanings towards Steele.

I’m most concerned now about the Cardin Senate campaign. No matter what I think of them, Steele has put out some well-received, cheery ads that portray him as a nice, can do guy. Also, despite the odds being good that pro big business, pro-war, pro-life, anti-stem cell research Steele would support Bush to the hilt if elected, I have the impression a not insignificant chunk of black voters may switch sides for a favorite son.*

Meanwhile, it seems to me Cardin is running a stolid, workmanlike campaign-by-the-numbers which may suffice — but which may not. The well-regarded Cook Political Report moved this race from “leaning Democratic” to “Tossup” on the 27th; that had one campaign staffer I talked with a bit worried. On the other hand, Cardin’s own numbers and a Washington Post poll as of the 26th and released today have him well ahead (Post: Cardin 54%, Steele 43%, Zeese 1%); on yet some other hand, I’ve heard the Republican Party is dumping a significant amount of cash on this race, indicating they think they have a shot.

So at the barbecue following the canvass — a signature Heather Mizeur touch: campaign hard, then enjoy** yourself — the word was to not let up in the final days of the campaign. The winning District 20 candidates were there: the so-called “3 H’s” (Hucker, Hixson, and Heather Mizeur), and Jamie Raskin, as were Mark Elrich, Peter Franchot, and some state and national heavy hitters, including Lt. Governor candidate Anthony Brown and our congressman Chris Van Hollen, who gave a great speech; he’s part of the “Red to Blue” Democratic effort and allowed as how they’re doing better than they thought they would a year ago.

Albert Wynn
The most interesting visitor to me was Albert Wynn (D-MD-4), a Prince George’s County congressman who has a reputation for playing political hardball and not shying away from favors for and donations from corporations any more than he has to — he supported the execrable bankruptcy bill in 2005. He arrived with an entourage and even some advance work — someone, a staffer I suppose, handing out stickers to one and all. They were generally accepted; no use crying over Donna Edwards at this point, I guess, that’s done.

Anyway, M., a fellow canvasser, grasped the nettle, went right up to Rep. Wynn, and urged him to part with some of his campaign treasury cash for the greater Democratic good; the so-called “use it or lose it” idea, described here a week ago, is that Democrats like Wynn without significant opposition can afford to contribute some of their reserves to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) or selected congressional candidates and help retake the House.

I took heart and followed suit. Saying I was aware of all the hard work Wynn has been doing for the Democratic Party, I said I still hoped he’d part with some of his campaign treasury’s reserves to help more Democrats get elected.

And he said he would! I didn’t press the 30% target that Chris Bowers at MyDD is suggesting, so I don’t know if I ought to hang up a “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet, but it was a good moment.

In his own remarks later on, Wynn said he was particularly encouraged about Democratic prospects, and offered two anecdotes to explain why. The first was simply that he had recently attended a fundraiser for ex-Congressman Mark Foley’s Democratic opponent in Florida — a good guy, he said, with a chance for a seat Democrats had never expected to win.

The second anecdote was either encouraging or ironic, depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist: Wynn told of meeting someone fundraising on a D.C. street for the Democrats. He said words to the effect that “Here was a woman all but begging for money on the street for Democrats.” It seemed like the perfect time to announce he was going to contribute more of his own funds to that cause. But instead he just said that’s when he realized how badly Democrats wanted to win this time. Still, as an optimist, I hope that means he’ll kick in some more of his own cash on hand, too.

Whatever Wynn does, the incredible volunteer turnout on Saturday was a good sign for Election Day, I think. I hope anyone in the area reading this will join in over the next 10 days at phonebanks, in campaign offices, canvassing door to door, or working precincts on Election Day to help make sure Maryland Democrats hold up our end in what promises to be a historic election.

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* UPDATE, 10/30: But the Washington Post poll lays worries of black crossover vote to rest: “Steele has support from 14 percent of black voters, not significantly higher than the support [Maryland’s Republican governor] Ehrlich is receiving, the poll shows.” For his part, Cardin polls 81% of black Maryland voters. I was going to say you can’t ask for lower than 14%, but it’s more than double Bush’s 6% approval rating among Maryland African Americans, and Kerry got 89% in 2004. Still, at these levels of support, it’s on Maryland’s nonblack voters to make sure Cardin’s elected, not its black ones.
EDIT, 10/30: added this footnote and the Albert Wynn subheading.
** Incidentally, if the words barbecue and Czapanskiy (District 20 Democratic Committee) occur in the same e-mail, you’d be a fool not to go next time. Three words: venison, chili, superb. If you don’t go, that’s fine too: more for me.

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District 20 lit drop (and Halloween ball) this weekend

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th October 2006

  • WHAT: Maryland District 20 “lit drop” for Cardin, O’Malley, and District 20 Democrats
  • WHEN: Saturday, October 28, 10am – 1:30pm, BBQ and rally afterwards
  • WHERE: meet at Heather and Deborah Mizeur’s house, XXXXXXXX, Takoma Park (two blocks from Takoma Red Line, at the corner of Tulip and Maple: walk towards the Cedar Avenue 7-11 from the Metro station, follow Cedar left, right on Tulip)

This will be a large scale Democratic “literature drop” — door hangers and brochures — for Maryland’s entire District 20 (Takoma Park, Silver Spring) this Saturday on behalf of Ben Cardin, Michael O’Malley, and the District 20 Democratic ticket. The combined Democratic campaign is hoping for at least 100 volunteers.

It’ll also be a chance to see and maybe chat a bit with some of the winners of the primary election, including Jamie Raskin, Heather Mizeur, Tom Hucker, Sheila Hixson, and Ike Leggett, as well as Lt. Governor candidate Anthony Brown and Representative Cardin’s wife Myrna Cardin. There will be a backyard barbecue and rally after the canvass.

So they’ll be ready with canvassing packets and the right number of hamburger buns, organizers Karen Czapanskiy and Heather Mizeur are requesting RSVPs at karensyma@yahoo. com or heather@heathermizeur.com. See you there, I hope. While the word is out on a bunch of local mailing lists, please forward this to any friends in the area by clicking the little envelope icon below the post.

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While I’m on upcoming District 20 events, consider attending Jamie Raskin’s First Annual Halloween Ball on Sunday, October 29, 5:30-8pm, at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, 301 Tulip Ave, Takoma Park (also corner of Maple and Tulip). Costumes encouraged, of course. The $35/person or $50/couple ticket price will help erase that scary remaining campaign debt from the primary election. RSVP at info@raskin06.com.

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EDIT, later: Ms. Mizeur’s address removed.

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You have nothing to lose but your change

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th October 2006

Chris Bowers (“MyDD”) has put together a list of Maryland and other Democrats in the House of Representatives who…

  • have more than $200,000 on hand and face either…
  • an opponent who’s raised less than $10,000 or
  • no opponent at all.

Maryland’s include:

  • Albert Wynn (MD-4): token challenger, $206,823 on hand — 301-925-1818, 202-225-8699
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5): no challenger, $875,508 on hand — 301-856-0240, 202-225-4131
  • Elijah Cummings (MD-7): no challenger,$332,012 on hand — 410-669-8400, 202-225-4741

With word that nearly 60(!!) House races nationwide are in play for Democrats at this point, and both the DCCC and the DNC taking out loans, it’s worth calling these representatives (well, at least some of them) — or the ones like them from your home state — and urging them to make one more key investment in their party’s chances before this opportunity passes.

Bowers suggests asking them to contribute 30% of their cash on hand to the DCCC or selected competitive challengers who could use the help. All of the Democrats on his list have probably already made contributions, but they’re in safe races and could afford to do so again. If Democrats win out in the House, Hoyer in particular will gain new clout as the majority’s whip.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee are running an innovative Grass Roots Donor Match 2006 program: pledge to match contributions up to the level of your choice. I’ve given a bunch this cycle, by my puny standards, but I’m going to pledge to this too, and hope you’ll join in.

…or your voice, if you prefer
Finally, whether or not either of the above appeal to you, consider joining eRobin (“fact-esque”), PA Action, and “Women’s Voices Women Vote” (WVWV) to urge single women in key Pennsylvania congressional districts to vote. It’s nonpartisan — no Democratic messages here, please. But many are arguing that single women are the key Democratic demographic this year, and helping get one or two or twenty more to the polls will magnify your own impact on this election.

All you need is an Internet connection and a way to make phone calls while you’re online. PA Action has set something up with an outfit called popvox.com so that the phone calls are on them — they call you using the phone number you give them, and then connect you to your first call. You stay on the line, talk with the person (there’s a script to use), keep track of your progress and results over the Internet, and click on the next call to make. Pretty slick! See eRobin for more explanation, or just go here, register, and get started.

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UPDATE, 10/25: Some clarification about the WVWV/PA Action stuff: I’m told the list has women who are likely to be voting for Democrats judging by available data (age, cohabitation at the address, etcetera). I’m also assured male volunteers are a priori welcome to join in making these phone calls; I assume there’s some form of quality control (“this phone call may be monitored” etc.) that weeds out or deters creepy phone callers. Although come to think of it, live phone banks I’ve worked on often don’t do much in this respect, either — not that it’s been a problem as far as I know.

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Rage on, base

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th October 2006

Former admiral Joe Sestak has been mounting a strong challenge to corrupt 10-term Republican Congressnut Curt “Able Danger” Weldon in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District. Sestak explicitly ignored advice to not advocate pulling troops out of Iraq — the thinking being “it would only encourage the image of Democrats as weak on national security,” according to a Sunday New York Times report by Kate Zernike. That thinking appears to be wrong — a recent poll puts Sestak up 52-44, and Chris Bowers (“MyDD”) is talking “local realignment.”

Glenn Greenwald comments,

The single most erroneous and destructive premise among the Beltway political class — which includes the Democratic consulting class along with their intellectual twins in the David-Broder-led punditry circles — is that anger and passion are the enemies of successful political movements. […]

Anger and passion are indispensable weapons for overcoming indifference and motivating political action. Particularly in a non-presidential election — but, really, always — people need a reason to care about the outcome.

Now compare David Ignatius’ plaintive bleat in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Which Way to Win?“:

Are Democrats doing well in this campaign season because Americans want to find their way back to the civilized center? Or are they profiting from the Democratic base’s rage at George W. Bush? That’s the troubling question that lingers after reading Halperin and Harris’s book: If the Democrats win next month, will they be the heirs of Clinton’s vision of politics or of Rove’s? Are we heading for unity or even sharper division?

Neat trick, David: people justifiably angry about years of lies and brass knuckle Bush/GOP politics would suddenly be the “heirs of Rove.”

I think the best answer to Ignatius’ first two questions may be “both.” Like Greenwald says, anger and passion are essential to overcoming indifference. If Democrats win on November 7, they’ll be replacing a GOP leadership so radical, undemocratic, and hyperpartisan that they can’t help but nudge the country’s politics back towards a true “civilized center” — not just some red-shifting midpoint between one party steering hard right and another too helpless or unwilling to fight back.

As Ned Lamont put it to Stephen Colbert back in July,

I think George Bush is driving this country into a ditch, and if Joe Lieberman won’t challenge him, I will.

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Observer observed, Free State politicked

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th October 2006

Yours truly is featured in the Takoma Park monthly Takoma Voice, in “Bloggers play a growing role in local elections” by Kate Prahlad. It’s a well written and well put together article, do have a look. I’m characteristically modest and wise:

Although they might not affect national politics, local blogs do hold a certain sway over “micropolitics,” says Thomas Nephew, a Takoma Park resident who runs Newsrack Blog. Nephew uses that term to describe the “neighbor-to-neighbor, person-to-person discussion” of politics that can both inform and change minds.

I was pleased to mention the “Politics Potluck” Labor Day neighborhood barbecue in that respect, which I think my blog had something to do with. I also think the Fair Share online forum was a good example of what one person can do with a blog in a local election. I think that there were other local blogs that played more of a political hangout and discussion spot role than mine did, notably MoCoPolitics, Outside the Beltway, and the Voice blogs by editor Eric Bond and contributor Gilbert.

I may have undersold the value of blogs to national politics a bit; I think Henry Farrell (“Crooked Timber”) gets it right in an excellent article he has in the Boston Review:

Blogs have political potential not because they can organize and deliver votes in large numbers but because they have a comparative advantage in debating broad political messages and ideas and, where necessary, transforming them. If the netroots are to deliver on their potential to change the Democratic Party and reverse Republican hegemony, they need this kind of agenda. Creating and delivering these arguments successfully is crucial if progressive bloggers are going to succeed in really changing American politics for the better. Long-term political success doesn’t come from adapting your party to a political marketplace in which the other side has set the rules of competition. It comes from a concerted effort over time to remake those rules yourself. The netroots can play an important part in remaking these rules. They should go to it.

See in this respect also my own thoughts from earlier this year about the role the wider lefty “blogosphere” might have played in supporting outsider campaigns like Chuck Pennacchio’s in Pennsylvania.

For my part, I’ve recently joined the “Free State Politics” Maryland blogging group, where I’ve posted a couple of “No on Question 4” articles, about election laws in Maryland that threaten to entrench failed leadership and questionable electronic voting systems. The first one is “No on Question 4: the Linda Lamone Lifetime Appointment Act,” and the second one is “No on Question 4: the Election Technology Boondoggle Act.” Onward, Rocinante!

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