Saturday, January 15, 2005

Sullivan Gets It Wrong On Social Security

Andrew Sullivan on the Social Security privatization plans being pushed by the White House:

It's about transforming a culture of dependency into one of self-reliance.
Umm... Andy?

How in the hell does a program that you have to pay into to take benefits out of promote "a culture of dependency"?

posted by Scott | 1/15/2005 | |

A Word On The dKos/MyDD Non-Story


What's that? You want more than a word? Oh, fine...

Markos and Jerome are really talented web tech guys. The Dean campaign paid them about $12,000 from private campaign funds to help them get their internet operation off the ground. Everyone and their mother knew that this was the case -- ABC News admits as much, even if Slate is playing dumb. Kos mentioned the relationship prominently on his site (and discussed it constantly) and Jerome shut MyDD down during the time he was in Vermont. They both said nice things and wrote critically about the Dean campaign before the employment offer was made. Kos continued to be fair while he was working for Dean. Both of them continued to be fair after the Dean campaign employment had ended.

This story was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to establish some sort of moral equivalence between Dean and the Bush administration, who were recently caught paying for pundits. Of course, the problem is that A) paying for blog kindness was not part of the Dean/Armstrong Zuniga deal, B) $12,000 in private campaign funds isn't even close to $240,000 in taxpayer money, and C) the Williams payments were made secretly while the Armstrong Zuniga hiring was publicly disclosed. I could go on, but I'm so completely bored with this story, I'm having trouble staying awake.

Disclosure: I blogged with Zephyr and Jerome (and Aziz and Anna and Ezra and Matt Singer, etc. etc.) at the Dean Nation group blog in 2003. I was paid absolutely nothing. Also, I endorsed Wes Clark during the 2004 primary, which also led to $0 in payments. Recently, I endorsed Simon Rosenberg for DNC Chair. Again, no money. In fact, both of them asked me for money. Which isn't really all that out of line, seeing as how I get paid for other, non-blogging services by a major pharmaceutical company, who incidentally make one of my mother's cancer medications. If I say anything nice about her recovery, please don't mistake it for pay to play.


Over at dKos, DavidNYC (the founder of the Swing State Project) has provided this handy dandy chart to illustrate why this is not the big deal WSJ wishes it was:

Even if you aren't happy with the connotations of the word 'shilling', you can't argue with the core facts.

posted by Scott | 1/15/2005 | |

Friday, January 14, 2005

2008 Contender Round Up

Chris at 44th President is still doing a better job than me on the 2008 front, but that's okay. I'm secure in my position in the blogosphere. That said, I really should be doing some more 2008 candidate work. Here goes...


John Kerry. He kept millions in funds from his 2004 run. He's actively using his e-mail list and website. He's said he'd like to run. He's running.

Al Gore. The night before the 2000 vote, he commented to someone that if he lost, he would be the same age in 2008 as Nixon was when he re-ran for President in 1968. As you probably recall, Nixon won in '68. Tipper apparently says Al hasn't said no.

Howard Dean. If he becomes DNC Chair, he won't run (and can't, actually). If he doesn't become DNC Chair, I'm betting he does run.

John Edwards. I haven't heard much about Edwards, but I have heard he wants to run. As a one-term Senator and a failed VP nominee, I don't think his chances are very good. He needs to build his resume and then come back in another position before he can run for President again.

Wesley Clark. Really publicly, Wes told The Washington Post that he's "not ruling anything out." (He said this with a crowd of supporters behind him, some of whom were wearing 'Clark 2008' t-shirts.) Less publicly, Chuck Todd of The Hotline has said that Clark has told him he definitely wants to run.

Hillary Clinton. She seems like she wants to run. I hope she doesn't. I don't think she'll do nearly as well as the polls have suggested she will in the primaries and if I'm wrong on that front, she'll get destroyed in the national election. If she does run, I hope I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.

Russ Feingold. He hasn't said anything explicit, but he sure seems to be running.

Bill Richardson. The pollsters are including him in the lists and he's apparently doing pretty well. There's certainly support out there for a Southwestern Hispanic Governor to run. And Richardson has more than enough Elvis to make a real shot of it.

Mark Warner. The only question is whether he's running for the Senate or the Presidency. I still don't know.

Barack Obama. Stop it people. He's not running. It's silly to speculate.

Eliot Spitzer. See above. More nonsense, easily debunked.


Jeb Bush. Hey, wouldn't it be funny if every President for about 40 years were named either Bush or Clinton? What's that? It wouldn't funny at all? According to an interview with ABC News, President George has reiterated Governor Jeb's disinterest in running. Despite this, look forward to more fun, fun, fun with the media pitting Hillary and Jeb against each other in a battle royale of political aristocracy.

John McCain. I think McCain probably wants to run. My only problem here is that he'll be 72 years old. By contrast, Ronald Reagan was elected at 69.

Chuck Hagel. Like McCain, Hagel's a maverick Republican. He will either be exactly what the GOP is looking for, suffering from Bush fatigue after eight years, or exactly what they are not looking for, still basking in the glow of their previous glorious leader. Time will tell on this one, but Hagel will definitely be running.

Newt Gingrich. Famous for the Contract on with America, which his Congressional colleagues have since torn up and burnt in a waste basket somewhere deep within the bowels of the Capitol, Newt is back with a new contract and interest in the Presidency. If he weren't such an Elvis-less bogeyman, I might think he had about a 20% shot.

Rudy Giuliani. The Kerik debacle may very well have been an orchestrated take-down by conservative elites who couldn't accept Rudy's social libertarianism and all-around liberalism in general. Even if it wasn't, the closeness with Kerik will be an albatross that Rudy won't be able to shake.

George Pataki. Who's got even less of a chance at winning the GOP nomination than an Elvis-less bogeyman or a relatively liberal east coaster? How about a relatively liberal, Elvis-less east coaster. Thanks for playing, George. Next!

Mitt Romney. Here's what I wrote last time about Mitt's chances:

... how does Romney think he's going to run for the GOP nomination after that party just made bashing the state of Massachusetts one of their most prominent messages of the last Presidential campaign?
Still a good question, if I do say so myself.

Anyone I'm missing? Drop me a line. I'll be doing these round ups more regularly for the next few... uh... years.

posted by Scott | 1/14/2005 | |

Thursday, January 13, 2005

We Won!!!

This is such awesome news...

The war on terror will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably deprived of weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Denver, Address To Air National Guard
I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I am about this. Here, I'd been thinking 'the war on terror' was something that would go on in perpetuity, waged long into the lives of my grandchildren. But now that we've verified Iraq has been deprived of weapons of mass destruction, we can breathe easy!


What's that? It's not over? It's not over by a longshot?


posted by Scott | 1/13/2005 | |

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Kevin Drum Endorses Dean For DNC Chair

Over at The Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum has decided to publicly back Howard Dean's run for the chairmanship of the DNC. Here's the case he makes on behalf of Dean:

* He's a well known figure, which means he'd automatically get more attention than any of the other candidates. There's no substitute for the kind of charisma he's got, and it's something Democrats desperately need. With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid just aren't going to get the kind of face time that Dean can get.

* He's not afraid to speak out. He'll beat up on the opposition, he'll stir the pot, and he'll say interesting things. He's also shown that he's willing to say things to Democrats that they need to hear too, whether they like it or not.

* Despite his reputation, his policy preferences are pretty centrist. That means he can appeal to both the reformist wing of the party and the DLC wing.

* I'll bet he's a pretty good fundraiser. Like it or not, the DNC chair needs to raise money from big donors, and I think Dean can do that. But he also has a proven ability to raise money from nontraditional sources.
I have one overwhelming question for Drum, or anyone else who backs Dean for DNC chair. Why does Howard Dean have to be the Chairman of the DNC to put any of these strengths into play for the Democratic Party? Dean's already a rockstar. There really isn't much need to elevate him to an official position of power. So what's the argument? That he runs a great operation? Drum actually knocks that one out of contention, writing, "I suspect his biggest weakness is probably organizational."

Aside from the overarching point of this piece, I agree with the points it makes. Dean is a well-known figure, capable of attracting big time media attention. He is a bulldog, unafraid of both going after the opposition and speaking truth to Democratic power. And Dean's a great fundraiser, who has shown that the grassroots can be just as powerful as any Hollywood soiree. And Dean is pretty much a centrist, policy wise.

However, despite Dean's inherent centrism, this is not his public persona. One of my concerns with a Dean chairmanship is that the GOP will have too easy a time branding us as the party of the Dean scream -- from the 'Democrat Party' as they call us now to the 'Deaniac Party'. Forget how ridiculous it is -- it's true. Dean's got baggage. I'm not saying he should be written off politically, either nationally or in Vermont. But the fact remains, he is regarded by much of the public as a known quantity, even if their logic is skewed. It's for this reason that I'm skeptical of Drum's claim that Dean would be able to win over "both the reformist wing of the party and the DLC wing."

This brings up one last point that is just as much about Dean's supporters as it is about Dean himself. There are more wings of the party than just youngblood reformists and the DLC. Take Hispanics, for example. This election cycle, one of the biggest Democratic wins was pulled off in Colorado, where Ken Salazar won a Republican open seat from a rich white guy. Nationally, George W. Bush made significant gains with Hispanic voters (even if no one's sure how big the gains actually were). I'm not claiming that Howard Dean is a racist, or that he'll continue to take minority voters for granted. But honestly appealing to minorities as potential swing voters rather than as solid Democratic voters was not something Dean focused on in 2004.

Simon Rosenberg, however, as the head of the New Democratic Network, made Hispanic outreach a bigtime priority this election cycle, meaning that he's got an eye on the future, and is fighting offense just as much as defense. While articulating who we are as Democrats, taking on the right, and raising tons of money -- Dean's strong points -- are important to the party, that's not what we need a party chairman for.

What we need is a party chairman with his ear to the ground and his eyes on the future, ready and able to take the energy buzzing in the grassroots, and use it to power an effective machine. That's why, for all of my love for Howard Dean, I support Simon Rosenberg for DNC Chair.

posted by Scott | 1/12/2005 | |

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dean Announces For DNC, Trippi Endorses Simon Rosenberg

Well blow me down!

Tonight on Hardball, Joe Trippi -- yes, that Joe Trippi, the superstar manager of the Dean Presidential campaign -- endorsed Simon Rosenberg for DNC chair. Here's what he had to say, courtesy of Simon's blog, emphasis mine:

If our party is to win in the 21st century, we have to have a strategist who knows how to practice 21st century politics. That means expanding participation, embracing technology, and building an apparatus that can counter the Republican machine. Simon Rosenberg was among the first in politics to acknowledge the power of the movement we built with Dean for America and he wasn't afraid to speak up about how we were fundamentally changing politics. He knows that in the age of the Internet, our politics must be interactive and participatory to engage citizens. He knows the Internet is not just an ATM for candidates and parties, but a tool for bringing in millions of Americans who want to be a part of the political process. For Simon, building a new progressive politics for our time is not just lip service, it is a passion backed up by his record. I’m backing Simon for chair because I know I can work with him to help build a modern, winning Democratic party.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Of course, the chairmanship of the DNC shouldn't just be about who uses the internet better, but Simon has also been working for years on building an effective grassroots network, embracing both technology and blocs of voters who would go otherwise ignored.

If this seems like a slap in Dean's face, it's really not. As Jerome explains at MyDD, this has been in the works for a week now. And as Trippi himself explained to Chris Matthews, "it's not about Howard, it's not about opposing him" and that he'd support a Dean run for the Senate or another shot at the Presidency -- two alternatives that I'd also easily get behind.

posted by Scott | 1/11/2005 | |

Michael Chertoff Is Bush's New Homeland Security Pick

Let me just start by thanking God that Chertoff isn't Bernard Kerik. Unlike Kerik, Chertoff seems like he'd do a pretty good job, even if I don't agree with the guy 100%.

Neither, it seems, does Russ Feingold. In May of 2003, when Chertoff was nominated by Bush to the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Russ gave Chertoff a pretty tough grilling on civil liberties and homeland security.

As head of the Justice Department's criminal division, Chertoff has played a central role in the nation's legal response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Chertoff on whether parts of that response - including the USA Patriot Act, which gave the FBI new investigatory powers - violated American principles of liberty and civil rights.

"Obviously you must know there's been a growing outcry from many Americans who believe government has no business gaining access to library, medical, travel or financial records," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

Chertoff mostly avoided offering opinions on the government measures. He emphasized that as a judge, he would approach matters from "a neutral perspective."
Now that he'll be in charge of Homeland Security and no longer a judge, one wonders what will happen to his 'neutral perspective'. Here's how The New Yorker characterizes Chertoff's post-9/11 tenure at the Justice Department:

At Ashcroft's direction, Chertoff supervised the investigation that has led to the incarceration of nine hundred and twenty-one people since September 11th. "We started with the hijackers, their credit-card records, their phone records, and peeled back the onion from there," Chertoff told me. "As you run across people who appear to have some association with them, you frankly look at them to see if they had some involvement in the plot, whether they were witting or unwitting." Almost all these charges have been brought in secret proceedings, which makes it difficult to assess whether the government has overstepped its authority. Many of the nine hundred and twenty-one are being held for immigration violations; others are being detained as material witnesses, who may have relevant information and may be held indefinitely, even without an allegation of wrongdoing. (Federal judges must approve the detention of material witnesses, and in the past some judges have allowed them to be imprisoned for as long as six months.) "We were determined not to allow anyone to walk away if they had any connection to the hijackers," Chertoff said. "We're clearly not standing on ceremony, and if there is a basis to hold them we're going to hold them."
There's a lot of common sense in there, but an eye of course has to be kept towards making sure that civil liberties are upheld. This is an especially important task for the Secretary of Homeland Security.

I fully expect Chertoff to be approved by the Senate. I hope he does a great job at Homeland Security. (Seeing as how I live in this country, that sort of goes without saying, doesn't it?) I'm incredibly happy that the President seems determined to pick someone from the NYC metro area (Chertoff is, like Kerik, from New Jersey), as it's a good sign we'll get the homeland security funding we so badly need.

However, there are questions to be asked -- about civil liberties, about Chertoff's long-standing connections with corrupt NJ Republican James Treffinger, about his involvement in some high profile politically motivated investigations -- and they will be asked. I'm eager to hear Senators like Russ Feingold start asking.

UPDATE: Uh... just kidding. Richard Cranium, of All Spin Zone, pointed out in a comment over at Eschaton, that Chertoff has at least one significant skeleton in his closet that could potentially derail his appointment.

Back in 2002, Dateline NBC did a story on Dr. Magdy Elamir. Dr. Elamir, as Allan Duncan so thoroughly explains in a piece for, is pretty crooked:

So here we have a prominent neurologist who is alleged to have funneled money to Osama Bin Laden through his fraudulent HMO, and we also discover that he has been involved in at least two accident fraud schemes, operated unlicensed MRI centers and had a license revoked by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC license revocation is especially troubling since unauthorized and unlicensed personnel at Dr. Elamir’s clinics were handling nuclear materials.

So what does this have to do with Chertoff?

It turns out Chertoff was the lawyer for the alleged al Qaeda-funding HMO Dr. Elamir ran. Incidentally, when Chertoff was directing the arrests of hundreds of suspected terrorist supporters and fundraisers, Dr. Elamir was not one of them.

posted by Scott | 1/11/2005 | |

Monday, January 10, 2005

Feingold Fever... Catch It!!!

It started with a 'Washington Whispers' item. Then John Nichols wrote about Russ as a potential 2008 candidate in The Nation.

Then Russ not only went to Alabama for a quick 'vacation', but he wrote about it at

Now Feingold's homestate paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is singing his praises. Can a Draft Feingold site be far behind?

Oh wait... don't look now... here it is.

posted by Scott | 1/10/2005 | |

Sunday, January 09, 2005

'The Salvador Option'

It's been leaked to Newsweek that the Bush administration is quietly considering something they call "the Salvador option" to combat the insurgency in Iraq. That should send a chill down the spines of at least half of you. For those of you not slightly disturbed yet, here's how Newsweek explains "the Salvador option":

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.
It really doesn't sound so bad until you read about things like the El Mozote massacre, during which 900 Salvadorans -- mostly civilians, women and children included -- were murdered by US-trained 'so-called death squads,' as Newsweek so gingerly refers to them. Then... it sounds pretty bad.

This will be potentially the biggest story of the week, so expect me to be posting much more about it. But for the moment, let me leave you with this observation about the Reagan administration's use of Salvadoran death squads from author Mark Hertsgaard.

What made the Morazan massacre stories so threatening was that they repudiated the fundamental moral claim that undergirded US policy. They suggested that what the United States was supporting in Central America was not democracy but repression. They therefore threatened to shift the political debate from means to ends, from how best to combat the supposed Communist threat -- send US troops or merely US aid? -- to why the United States was backing state terrorism in the first place.
Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. This is a baaaaaad idea.

posted by Scott | 1/09/2005 | |
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