The Times headline is perfect: "Nebraska in the Lead". Not something expected to lead off an editorial in a liberal paper.
But Nebraska (and Iowa) have stepped to the forefront of the movement to correct the injustice done to felons when they are prohibited from voting. As the editorial says, virtually no other democracy bars former prisoners from voting after they have completed their sentence. And disenfranchisement is rooted in racial discrimination - it started as a way to limit black political power.
Now states are slowly starting to fix the problem. The Iowa governor signed an executive order restoring voting rights. And Nebraska just passed a law that restores voting rights after a 2 year waiting period.
We should commend Nebraska and Iowa for leading us on this issue.
Kentucky (Republican) governor Ernie Fletcher last night pardoned 9 current and former staff members who were being investigated by a grand jury regarding inappropriate hiring practices in Fletcher's administration. Got something to hide there Ernie?
GOP - George Allen is a favorite of Conservatives. The thinking seems to be coalescing around McCain going out in front very early, but hard right-wingers unifying around a more traditional conservative. Allen could definitely be that guy. As such, I'm shifting around the Top 4 Republicans a bit. Allen moves into the second spot, jumping ahead of Hagel and Frist. - This is really interesting. Chuch Hagel, who I like about as much as I can a Republican, might consider an Independent bid, because he thinks he couldn't beat McCain in the primary. It almost should be the other way around... McCain is the more likely Independent here. But Hagel has said some courageous things, especially in his fervent criticisms of the handling of Iraq. - I've also slimmed down the Republican list a bit, removing people who clearly don't have a chance (Rick Santorum, Bill O'Reilly, Dan Quayle).
Dems - I'm moving Evan Bayh up into the 3rd spot, ahead of Wes Clark. While Clark has significant grass roots support, he's stayed out of the news and doesn't appear to be raising money. Bayh, on the other hand, is running full steam ahead, showing up in Iowa and New Hampshire all the time. - Moving Bill Bradley from 25:1 to 50:1. He was mostly there reflecting an unlikely hope of mine. He's one of my favorite Democrats by far, and I'd support him in a second if he got in.
I'm reprinting a story I read in this week's TIME, because I think it very successfully tells of the tragedy that this war in Iraq has wrought, shows how fucked Iraqis are because we did it, and has a lesson to be learned for us for the future.I recommend you print it out and read it.
Killers in the Neighborhood Exclusive: How the death squads came to Washash and turned Shi'ites and Sunnis against one another By TIM MCGIRK/BAGHDAD
There was a time when Mohammad al-Obaidi didn't worry much about safety. As a barber in Baghdad's gritty working-class Washash neighborhood, al-Obaidi would spend his days styling hair--for Sunnis, Shi'ites, Christians, whoever showed up at his World of Haircuts barbershop. Evenings, he would slip off to play soccer with friends. These days, however, as Iraq plunges deeper into civil unrest, al-Obaidi, 27, a stout, personable man who sports a buzz cut, spends much of his time calculating how to stay alive, wondering whether the anonymous killers who now stalk the streets of Washash will come after him, perhaps at his shop or on the long road home.
Al-Obaidi was snipping away at a customer's hair last month when a text message beeped on his cell phone. CHANGE YOUR PROFESSION, it read, OR ELSE YOU'LL LOSE YOUR HEAD. At first, he thought it was a joke. He immediately called back the number, expecting that he would reach a friend. After all, al-Obaidi is a barber, not a cop or a U.S. hireling, and he wasn't aware that he had any enemies. But in the climate of fanaticism that now prevails in Baghdad, barbers are being singled out by Sunni extremists who say that cutting a man's beard violates Islam. "Do what we say," a stranger on the line told him, "or we'll kill you."
A murder spree has erupted in Washash, as in countless neighborhoods across Baghdad. Death squads, which tend to move in Opel sedans, are entering what once were tight-knit communities and killing ordinary citizens, apparently to stir up sectarian hatred. The goal: to incite a civil war that each side hopes will give its sect dominance over the other. In Baghdad, a city of more than 5 million, there were at least 880 violent deaths last month, according to Faiq Amin Bakr, director of the Baghdad central morgue. (In New York City, with a population of more than 8 million, the total number of homicides for all of 2004 was 571.) And the figure for Baghdad excludes those killed by car bombings and suicide attacks, which, if included, would add nearly 100 to the total. Most of the victims were felled by gunshots. Some were beheaded. Few of the murderers have been captured. "Nobody knows who is doing this killing," says Bakr. "It seems they're trying to destroy our society."
The U.S. military officials in charge of protecting Baghdad would be hard-pressed to locate Washash on a city map. That's because it's one of the few places in the city where insurgents aren't shooting at American soldiers; the U.S. patrols in their humvees tend to roll right past. But the violence in this neighborhood is an extension of the war the U.S. is waging against Iraqi insurgents. If the direct attacks on American troops are aimed at driving the U.S. out, the killings in Washash are a grim portent of the kind of chaos that may lie in Iraq's future, whether or not U.S. soldiers stay on in force. "If the U.S. troops leave, we will have a civil war," says a Sunni ex-army officer who prefers not to reveal his name. "It will go on until one sect wipes out the other."
The killings have dramatically increased in the past two months, Washash residents say. And the list of potential targets seems to include just about everyone. Those murdered in recent weeks include a house painter, a juice seller, an ice vendor, a blind cleric and an herbalist specializing in love potions. Despite the warnings he received, al-Obaidi hasn't quit cutting hair; he doesn't know how else to make a living. But he is taking what precautions he can. He now works only one day out of every three, and he keeps an eye open for those Opel sedans.
But these days, as Walid learned to his horror, the division is all too real. Walid's brother Majid, a bean seller, was targeted two weeks ago as he left a mosque. First his assailants hit him with their car. Then, as he staggered to his feet and tried to escape over a wall, they shot him twice in the head and four times in the chest.
After Saddam fell, violence came quickly to Washash. The first wave of killings was straightforward, motivated by revenge against Saddam's thugs and informers. Few grieved for the victims. Then insurgents began to target anyone who worked with U.S. forces--as an interpreter, say, or a driver. To survive, those who stayed on the U.S. payroll learned to leave Washash before dawn and pretend they were commuting to jobs outside the city. By last December, the killings had taken on a sectarian slant. As more Sunni extremists poured in from abroad to join the insurgency, they tapped into latent anti-Shi'ite feelings among Iraq's Sunnis, prompting some to resort to violence. Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist who heads al-Qaeda's operations in Iraq, fanned the flames, denouncing Shi'ites as worse infidels than the Christian "crusaders," as he refers to the U.S. troops. Shi'ite groups like the Badr Corps, whose militias are apparently armed by Shi'ites in Iran, have responded with equal savagery against the Sunnis.
The revenge spiral is taking a dramatic toll. In December three Sunni brothers from Washash who belonged to the extremist, virulently anti-Shi'ite Salafi sect were gunned down just outside the neighborhood. The family sought retribution. On a subsequent evening, say witnesses, a mob of 15 gunmen, all relatives and friends of the three dead brothers, surrounded the house of popular Shi'ite clergyman Sheik Razzaq. A frail man in his 50s with a white skullcap and a ready smile, Razzaq had tried to stem the tide of sectarian hatred in the neighborhood, even accepting both Sunni and Shi'ite children into his Koran study classes. Sunni extremists found his message of tolerance threatening. "I was sitting with my wife and son and heard someone call out to me from the gate," recalls Razzaq. "As I walked to the door, my wife came up and put a woolen shawl on my shoulders. Next thing I knew, they fired at us through the door." Incredibly, Razzaq was untouched. But his wife Um Hussain lay dying, with 16 bullets in her body, and his son was left paralyzed from his wounds. After the shooting, the Sunni mob went to their mosque and announced over the minaret's loudspeaker, "Allah is great. We have killed the infidel." Razzaq shakes his head as he explains, "I'm a Shi'ite. My wife was a Sunni."
To this day, Razzaq doesn't know whether he was attacked solely out of revenge for the Salafi brothers' killing or his assassination had already been planned. Regardless, the killings then escalated. At least 33 people--Sunni and Shi'ite alike--have been killed in Washash this year, and the pace seems to be picking up. One of the latest victims was Shi'ite house painter Ali Jeri, whose death was especially painful to the neighborhood. Jeri was known as a kind and wise mediator who had many Sunni friends. Three gunmen pulled up in a car while he was painting and shot him in front of his child. Not long before that, Jeri had told his brother Ibrahim, "If I am killed because I am known as a religious man and a friend to many, so be it." That sentiment didn't resonate for long. In retaliation, seven Sunnis were murdered. Washash residents assume that Shi'ite militiamen did the killing.
Gunmen in a car opened fire late last month on traffic police at a Washash crossroads. The men were chased down. One was shot dead, and three others were captured. They were Shi'ites but confessed to being hit men on the payroll of Ansar al-Sunnah, a Sunni rebel group. What's more, they revealed the names of several informers in Washash. As word of the capture began to circulate, families of the victims flocked to the police station, seeking the names of the assassins. One relative told TIME that police officers demanded a $500 bribe before giving out the informers' names, and in the spirit of revenge, the sum was gladly paid.
Just wanted to go on record with my opinion on Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a dead U.S. soldier who's camping in Crawford, TX and asking for a meeting with President Bush.
I'm really glad she's doing it. It puts a (capable) face on the grief that families are going through and invites people to question whether the changes occuring in Iraq were/are worth 2000 U.S. soldiers killed, thousand more wounded, and a vastly greater amount of Iraqi civilians killed and wounded. Everyone should answer this question for themselves - I know a fair amount of people who believe the war IS the right step and that in the long-run the sacrifices will be worth it, and that the U.S. has the moral authority (some say duty) to bring about this change. I don't agree, and I think everyone should have to make up their mind on the question. Cindy Sheehan's presence on th national scene encourages this. So bravo to her.
Unlike a lot of Democratic bloggers, I do not think President Bush should meet with her. The President cannot be beholden to gimmicky citizen demands. The President does meet with soldiers' families (has met with Sheehan before), and should do MUCH more of it. But not just because someone camps near his vacation spot.
On that note, I'd like to congratulate President Bush on taking just 4.5 years to set the record for most vacation days while in office. It took another underqualified President, Ronald Reagan, 8 years to get to 331 days (11% of his term - as if I had 41 vacation days a year rather than 15). President Bush has now been on vacation 20% of his time in office. Sure would be nice if I got 10 weeks of vacation a year. Also, it's too bad that chopping wood and clearing brush aren't part of the President's official job description - this guy would be the best ever!
Shouldn't ensuring fair and accurate elections be an absolute MUST in a functioning democracy?
Read Paul Krugman's column from last Friday, discussing a book called "Steal This Vote" by a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. Among the topics in the book: verifying that Al Gore won in 2000 (2 news media consortiums found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Gore).
And the author is not just a political hack. He refutes the theory that differences between the Exit Polls and the actual result in 2000 point to a stolen election. But the author focuses on the dirty parts of modern elections, the parts that we really need to fix.
Was on a brief vacation at the end of last week. Sorry for the lack of content.
To start off today, check out this list of approval ratings for the Senators up for re-election in 2006.
Democrats definitely have an edge in the approval ratings (4 Dems under 55% vs. 7 Republicans). But Dems have 4 open seats to defend (including Jeffords) vs. just 1 Republican open seat. 2006 may be mild, but 2008 is going to be a sea change.
With the death penalty, later is not better than never
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is planning to announce the posthumous pardon of Lena Baker, a black woman executed in the electric chair 60 years ago after being convicted, by an all white-male jury, of killing the white man she was hired to take care of, after he alledgedly held her against her will and raised a metal bar to strike her. The board now says that denying her clemency was a "grievous error".
You see folks, this is the problem with the death penalty: the saying "Better late than never" just doesn't apply, because death is different. Incarceration can be ended, and while time cannot be given back, some semblance of restitution can be made for wrongful imprisonment. Death, on the other hand, can never be reversed or made up for. And the nature of human beings will always include a margin of error. Therefore, we should never exact a punishment that is absolutely final.
Despite earning over $10 billion in profit last year, the world's largest company leaves over 53% of its employees without health care benefits. Wal-Mart's greed will cost American taxpayers more than $1.5 billion dollars per year.
GOP: - The only significant development in the '08 Presidential race this week was Bob Woodward's assertion that Dick Cheney will run for President in 2008. In light of that, I'm upping Cheney from 60:1 to 25:1. If he gives any hint that he might, he'll rise up the ranking very quickly.
Don't buy the right-wing bullshit sob-story on the estate tax
Bill Frist, in an op/ed in today's Wall Street Journal, wrote the following regarding the estate tax:
Imagine working your entire life to build a family business — a farm, store, motel or restaurant. Every hour you work and every decision you make is with the express goal of growing your business, so you can provide for your family and pass something on to your children. Dutifully, you pay your taxes owed, you weather the droughts, survive the downturns, and, in the end, you come out ahead.
Now enter the death tax. The reality is that the business you’ve worked so hard to pass on to your family may have to be sold. This may be the only recourse for your loved ones to pay the burdensome taxes on your estate.
Unfortunately, this is a profoundly misleading argument. Fortunately, a study released last month by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office flattens it. Contrary to what conservatives have been saying, the CBO found that almost no farms and small businesses are unreasonably burdened. In 2000, only 300 farms would have had to pay the tax under current exemptions (which cover estatesvalued at less than 1.5 million dollars). And of those 300, only 27 would have been taxed in excess of their liquid assets. Repealing the tax, on the other hand, would cost our nation almost 1 trillion dollars over the first ten years.
But still, according to Frist, the tax that produces trillions in revenue and harms 27 people is the “cruelest, most unfair tax our government imposes.” (Current U.S. population: 295,734,134) Interesting.
You know what? The more I think about it, the more I'm really okay with this guy, and think he could end up being better than expected from a Bush presidency. I like that his wife is against the death penalty. I like that he advised gay groups on legislation against hate crimes. I just think this guy is one of those conservatives, like some friends of mine, who articulate their philosophy in a sensible manner and have the guts to go against party doctrine when their heart isn't in it. By no means is he the guy I'd pick, or expect Kerry to have picked, but I can't help but think that 10 years from now we might be extremely thankful that Bush picked this guy from the group he was considering.
McCain and Kerry having breakfast together is a mildly interesting piece of information, but if these two were to run together (independents?) in 2008, after the courtship, rejection and then McCain's stumping for Bush in 2004, I'd be incredibly surprised.
There are no tax cuts. Banish that phrase from your mind. You haven't seen any.
Republican control of the White House and Congress has yielded trillions in tax increases since January of 2001. How can this be? Simple. When you spend more, and when you pass laws that commit the government to spending more in the future, you increase taxes, sooner or later. Spending not financed by current taxes will be financed by future taxes. A debt increase is the present value of future increased taxes. If taxpayers merely pay interest on the debt incurred, forever, the present value of the interest payments is the initial increase in debt.
When will we get rid of this thing? I thought after 2004, when Kerry came within ~30,000 votes of winning Ohio and pulling a 2000 in reverse, that perhaps there would be some Republican support, but I haven't heard it. Perhaps it won't happen until both sides have actually suffered a popular victory, electoral loss.
It really doesn't make much sense. The argument that the EC encourages person-to-person campaigning really doesn't hold anymore, when so much of the focus is on the big swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Those states are still big enough that they need blanket tv ads, which is what would happen if we went to a strict popular vote.
I think the movement has to be coupled with a concerted improvement in the way the media covers elections. Perhaps, in addition to debates, have a series of programs centered around certain issues, where candidates have to submit written responses to questions. Or each candidate gets a 30 minute prime-time pre-produced spot, with no audience, to lay out his/her platform using charts, graphs, colleagues - basically however they want.
President Bush and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have made no secret of the fact that they dislike each other. Condi Rice called Chavez "a negative force in the region", while Chavez recently called the U.S. the "most savage, cruel and murderous empire" in world history. Chavez told a youth group this week that "socialism is the only path".
The big problem is that Venezuela is the U.S.'s 3rd largest oil supplier. Sure that's a symbiotic relationship, but in a world where Republicans finds it convenient to throw out unwelcome regimes in countries with oil wealth, I wouldn't want to be sitting in Caracas for the next decade.
How will the new Supreme Court come out on the death penalty?
Justice Stevens spoke out against the death penalty over the weekend, which got me thinking about Roberts's views on the matter, which are largely unknown. The Stevens article mentions that Roberts's wife is a member of a group that opposes the death penalty.
I don't exactly know why, but I have a hunch that no matter what other flaws Roberts may have and however he may frustrate me on a number of cases, I think he'll come down on the good side of the death penalty debate. I think the Court has been trending toward, and he could be a decisive vote for, the establishment of a nationwide prohibition on the death penalty, at least until legislative bodies improve the judicial system to create an exceedingly onerous burden of proof requirement for a capital sentence. I may be wrong, but I hope not.
My deepest sympathies to Liz and the rest of the Jennings family. Peter Jennings was always my favorite anchor, and he was also an extremely nice guy who was great to the Zumbyes, or I think as he called us, the "Zumbees".
1. Take the lead on getting rid of poverty 2. Lead on the environment 3. Propose creative ways to reduce abortions 4. Show that it is possible to be "pro-family" and pro gay civil rights at the same time 5. Advocate international credibility, ie. renounce claims to oil or military bases
Yesterday there was a special election in Ohio's 2nd district to replace a Congressman who moved into the Bush administration. OH-2 is an extremely Republican-heavy district - in 2004 the Democrat lost by 44 points - but yesterday a Democrat Iraq veteran, Paul Hackett, came within 4 points of a huge upset, signifying the change that's going on in places like Ohio right now where people are realizing that Republicans can't be trusted.
Political analyst Charlie Cook noted:
If Schmidt's victory margin is in double digits, this tells us that there is not much of an anti-GOP wind in Ohio right now. If the margin is say six to nine points for Schmidt, then there is a wind, but certainly no hurricane. A Schmidt win of less than five points should be a very serious warning sign for Ohio Republicans that something is very, very wrong, while a Hackett victory would be a devastating blow to the Ohio GOP.
2006 is going to be a great year - getting married, going to Ireland, and perhaps taking back the House and Senate.
Now Bloomberg is trying to get on the ballot under the Liberal Party line as well. The thinking is that people who just won't vote Republican just might vote for Mike on a different line. It strikes me as shallow and dishonest. On both sides. The liberal party, who apparently ran Giuliani one year, doesn't really have much credibility if they basically give away their spot to high-profile people.
Jacob Weisberg, in Slate, tackles the issue of Hillary Clinton's electability for 2008. He correctly points out that her biggest problem isn't her connection to her husband, or her lackluster marriage, or her "liberal" image. Her real problem is that while she's very smart, like Gore and Kerry before her, she's stiff and doesn't connect well with regular people.
If, as reported, Bush gives a recess appointment to John Bolton today, liberals should scream out loud until their voices are gone. A Republican senator called this guy the prototype for what a UN ambassador should NOT be. Do you know what it takes to get a Republican to speak out like that in the current climate of the GOP?
You know what, Go for it Georgie. I want the House back next year as well as the Senate.