Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Friday, September 29, 2006
Quarterly Campaign Filing Deadline
Saturday is the last day of a big fundraising quarter for the Senate and House campaigns around the country. A big surge in funds raised can help the candidate plan strategy for the next 4 weeks, and can actually help demonstrate momentum that shows up in polls, enables a candidate to attract more of the DNC/DCCC/DSC money and more national figures, etc. etc.
Here's who I'm donating to today:
1. Jim Webb. $25. I want to see Allen take his cowboy boots, chewing tobacco (okay fine, Webb chews too), and Confederate paraphenalia back to Southern California, where he's really from.
2. Ned Lamont. $20. Lieberman voted for the god-awful detainee bill yesterday. Please let's get rid of him. Lamont is matching dollar-for-dollar.
3. Harold Ford, Jr.. $15. A Democratic senator in the former Majority Leader's seat. I would love it, and he's winning!
Why do I donate? Do I really think that my $15 is making a difference? No, not really. Honestly, it's mostly psychological. I can't vote for these people. So on election day, if they lose, then I'll feel like I at least tried to help out and did my part. And if they win, I'll feel like I am part of the movement. Otherwise, I'm just a dude who complains.
Detainee bill. I'm with Mike that this is absolutely awful. I agree with Republican Senator Arlen Specter that this bill will "take our civilization back 900 years". The fact that the President wants to claim discretion to selectively throw out all the principals that America's 200 year history has been built on is terrifying. And the fact that they're willing to do all that mostly as a campaign weapon is morally reprehensible.
Jeneane Pirro. Why is this getting so much attention? So she wanted to bug her husband to find out if he was getting some on the side. I say go for it. Nail the scumbag.
Senate/Congressional Races. I've read so many differing opinions over the last week or so. One article said that we should not expect a 1994-like Democratic "wave". Others have pointed out races that were previously thought uncontested that are now somewhat open to the taking. I remain somewhat skeptical and disappointed that the national sentiment hasn't shifted to Dems, and in a way I blame the party for not yet articulating that unifying message broadly, but that may be a strategy... hold out til the last minute. We'll see.
John & Elizabeth Edwards. Okay, he's not really in the news, but she is, because her book's coming out. I probably won't have time to read it, but I love Elizabeth Edwards. I think she's really frickin smart, and man she'd be one of the best most productive first ladies ever. She'd probably come out with Eleanor Roosevelt -type respect. Can John make it happen?
Clean Energy. Could a Democratic House/Senate sweep (a longshot) be a great boon to the cause for clean energy in the U.S. Or will we have to wait for Gore/Obama '08?
There have been some mentions in the press lately, including in today's NY Times and two weeks ago in the WaPo, about how Republicans are almost exclusively using negative personal ads in Congressional races around the country (Democrats are largely going negative too, but 1) it's not a stated, nearly exclusive, nationwide strategy and 2) they are attacking political issues/votes rather than personal history like student newspaper editorials and taxes).
The Dems should continue to hammer away district-by-district, including with negative ads, and should even roll out whatever nasty personal ones they've been holding off on. If the GOP's going to drag us down into the muck, then let's get dirty.
But we also need our national leaders - Howard Dean, Rahm Emmanuel, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, et al. - out there point out these statements by Republicans, and painting the party nationally as dirty, backhanded, and immoral. Let's ad further to the taint of the party, and let that filter down to each candidate (just like the disgust of association with President Bush and the Republican Congress already has).
Republicans just love this stuff. They can't govern, but boy can they get dirty. God I am so sick of this bullshit.
War is harder when you're an asshole to your prisoners
Paul Reickhoff, former Army platoon leader and Amherst student-body prez, in a NYTimes op/ed, makes the following point about the implications of U.S. torture.
[In Army officer basic training school] I remember a seasoned senior officer explaining the importance of the Geneva Conventions. He said, “When an enemy fighter knows he’ll be treated well by United States forces if he is captured, he is more likely to give up.”
A year later on the streets of Baghdad, I saw countless insurgents surrender when faced with the prospect of a hot meal, a pack of cigarettes and air-conditioning. America’s moral integrity was the single most important weapon my platoon had on the streets of Iraq. It saved innumerable lives, encouraged cooperation with our allies and deterred Iraqis from joining the growing insurgency.
But those days are over. America’s moral standing has eroded, thanks to its flawed rationale for war and scandals like Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and Haditha. The last thing we can afford now is to leave Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions open to reinterpretation, as President Bush proposed to do and can still do under the compromise bill that emerged last week.
Economists & Political Pundits for Higher Gas Taxes
According to Greg Mankiw, Bush's former economic adviser and the guy who wrote my first college economics textbook, the following list of people have state that the government should put a bigger tax on gasoline and carbon emissions. I've taken the liberty to add a name to the list (note: my version would take into account gas consumption of people who are forced to live far from their source of income).
Greg Mankiw Bill Nordhaus Martin Feldstein Gary Becker Robert Frank Andrew Samwick Ted Gayer Mike Moffatt Ken Rogoff Paul Krugman Greg Easterbrook John Tierney Jonathan Rauch Thomas Friedman Joe Klein Andrew Sullivan Jane Galt Christopher Farrell William Baldwin Clive Crook Al Gore The Jaker
As Howard Dean reminded me today via email, the elections are in just 50 days! I've had the view for some time now that the Democrats are definitely ahead and looking good, but that there's plenty of time for things to turn around. With only 50 days left, there's still time, but not plenty of it.
Here's my general take, and specifically on a couple of races:
Republicans are better at turnout, and despite the sad state that party is in currently, they will still be better than us at it in November. We can expect the traditional machine to whirl into action - preachers and reverends talking of the "evil" of Democrats who believe in killing defenseless babies and letting enemies abroad amass unmolested. It's the standard bullshit laid out in "What's the Matter with Kansas" - the typical Republican pivot from caring about rich people for 3.5 years, to caring about social values for the couple of weeks before Election Day.
So while things are looking good politically for the Democrats, we can't count on a slight favorable mood to drive results at the polls. A tie will always go to the Republicans.
On specific races: In the Virginia Senate race - I like Jim Webb, and think he's a great candidated, but I think he'll need a 5-8 point lead in the last polls to pull out a 1-3 point win on election day. I think he may get that lead, but it's no sure thing whatsoever.
Similar situation with Casey vs. Santorum in PA. People seem to be coming back to Santorum recently, which is worrying. Casey needs to step it up.
Tennesse is one that I'm somewhat hopeful on, when I probably shouldn't be. Here's a really red state, where a young, African-American democrat with some disgraced family members should not do well. But I think he might. Harold Ford Jr. is a really dynamic guy and a good campaigner. His opponent, Bob Corker, isn't exciting the right-wing party base, so they might stay home. I think there's an outside chance we pick this one up.
In Connecticut, Lamont isn't getting the boost I'd hoped for from party support. Hopefully the likes of Hillary, Obama and others will campaign a little for him in the coming weeks, but I'm not holding my breath.
New Jersey is a senate seat we cannot afford to lose, and I'm really annoyed this race is as close as it is. Tom Kean Jr. is from a Jersey political dynasty, which is why he's hanging in there. Some Dem media firm better write some good ads for Menendez.
We've got to take Ohio and Rhode Island to have a shot at winning back the Senate. Both are toss-ups. I think we get one of the two, but not both.
As for the House, I'm more confident that we will get what we need there. The current conflict in the Republican party prevents them from presenting a clear national message, so these races will come down to Republicans pushing local issues vs Democrats tying Republicans to the administration/Congress's national ineptitude. The longer that ineptitude lasts and is reported upon, the better a vehicle for the Dems to harness.
If Gore didn't get quite the boost to popular approval that I was expecting from the Inconvenient Truth movie/book combo (though I think he did increase his popularity on the solidly left side of the spectrum), perhaps that will happen in May 2007 when he publishes a new book called "The Assault on Reason". Looking forward to it.
Also, Gore's "I'm not running statement" changed a little recently. Rather than the "I don't expect to ever be a candidate for political office again" that he was repeating time after time in the early part of this year (pre-movie), he recently said "I haven't completely ruled out running for president again in the future, but I don't expect to." A small change, but a noticeable one.
Al Gore/Barack Obama/Russ Feingold: The win by Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire's 1st District Democratic primary bodes well for the three potential presidential candidates, each of whom has opposed the war in Iraq from the start. Shea-Porter called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, while her main opponent -- state Rep. Jim Craig -- had been less willing to take such a strong position. Craig also had far more money and the backing of the Democratic establishment in Washington. Given New Hampshire's primacy in the presidential nomination process, you can be sure every Democrat thinking about a run in 2008 was watching this race closely and now knows that support for the war has become increasingly politically perilous.
Might be a bit of a stretch, but my long-time readers know that I think if either Al Gore or Barack Obama declare that they are running, they immediately become the co-favorite with Hillary (perhaps Obama more so than Gore).
I was standing about a block from the World Trade Center towers when they began to fall. Some people close to me don't like watching the coverage on days like today... they don't want to relive the day.
Somewhat surprisingly, over the course of the last 5 years, I've found myself wanting to watch coverage almost whenever I see it. I can't quite figure out why, but I think it's because my memories of that day are fuzzy (and always have been, even a couple days after 9/11), and I'm constantly searching to remind myself of the things I did, thought, felt, etc.
I've never before written down my experiences of the day. But I want to do it now, so I always have a record and the memories don't get fuzzier as the years go on. This is a story I imagine I'll be telling for awhile.
Here's my 9/11 story:
I spent the night of Monday, September 10th at my then-girlfriend's (now wife) apartment in Brooklyn Heights. She was starting her first day as a 3rd grade teacher at St. Ann's the next day - her first job out of college. I was about a month into my job as a technology investment banker at Lehman Brothers, based on the 17th Floor of the World Financial Center.
Becca was obviously nervous to start work, and probably left the apartment to walk the couple blocks to school around 7.45 or 8am. I was reading the first Harry Potter book, paperback edition, at the time, and I remember being so into it that I read some after Becca left and before I took a shower. After my shower I changed into the suit I had brought the night before, and was ready to leave. I normally would take the N/R subway 3 stops from Court St in Brooklyn Heights to the Cortlandt Street stop, which was in the underground mall one floor down from the lobby of the World Trade Center. I would walk up the stairs, through the lobby of the North tower (just passed the elevators), up another escalator, and over the sky-bridge to the World Financial Center.
For some reason, because JK Rowling's writing had me hooked, I decided that I didn't need to get to work so early that day, and I had time to read a little more. So I laid back down on Becca's bed, fully dressed in my suit, and read. It was probably 8.20 or 8.25. It's something I had never done before - usually after showering and changing it was time to leave. Perhaps it was because Becca's first day nervousness had woken me up earlier than I needed.
After probably 10-15 minutes of reading, I headed out, Harry Potter in hand (of course I continued reading on the subway). I probably entered the Manhattan-bound N/R at about 8.45am.
At some point on the subway, probably when we were in the tunnel under the East River approaching the Whitehall St stop, an announcement came in the subway car that there was "police activity" and a "smoke condition" at the Cortlandt St stop, so the train would not be stopping there. They repeated this many times. Passengers were confused, but there was no reason to suspect anything awful. The announcement didn't say anything about the train not going through Cortlandt St., but the stop before, Rector Street, would put me closer to where I needed to go than the stop after, City Hall, so I figured I'd get out at Rector Street.
When the subway doors opened at Rector Street, I immediately new something was terribly wrong. [And this is where I wish I could remember more details, but things get somewhat fuzzy]. There were way more people in the station than there would normally be, and a number were crying, yelling, screaming, and looking confused. I remember immediately the adrenaline kicking in. I remember looking around to make sure there wasn't a gunman or someone terrorizing people in the subway station. I then remember running up the stairs because it seemed safer... there was something happening in the station, and I needed to get out of there.
When I got out into the open air, I remember I saw paper swirling around in the air overhead. I didn't know what was happening. I was at the junction of Rector St. and Trinity Place. Looking up Trinity Place, I couldn't see the towers, but I could see smoke in the air. I walked up Trinity Place a few steps until the towers came into view, and I was looking straight at one of the gaping holes. It must have been around 9.08, about 5 minutes after the second tower had been hit.
I remember almost immediately calling my parents in California. I woke up my mom, and asked told her to "Turn on CNN and tell me what's going on with the World Trade Center". I don't think I could see that both towers were burning from my vantage point, so I remember thinking that it must have been a bomb in the building. My mom turned it on and eventually said that they suspected it was a small airplane. I remember saying that the hole looked much bigger than what would be caused by a small plane. I also remember that my mom said something like "They said it might be the IRA". Maybe my mom misheard something, or maybe they speculated about this on the TV.
The next 30-45 minutes are really fuzzy in my mind. I stayed on the phone with my parents for awhile. Then I hung up and tried to get in touch with other people - my brother, who lived uptown in Manhattan, my girlfriend at school, my roommate, etc., but the cell phone circuits were busy for every call I tried to make over the next few hours. It was very lucky that I had gotten in touch with my parents when I did, because I wasn't able to get anyone else on the phone until much later.
I walked around, continuously trying to make calls, while determining whether I should go to work, and how I would get there. I was on the exact opposite side of the World Trade Center complex (and it was a large complex, not just 2 buildings) from where I worked. But for a long time I thought that I should just wait for a little while until they got the fire out and I could safely walk around to where I worked.
The streets were very surreal. There were papers swirling in the air, and on the street. Everywhere I walked there were random papers on the street that had flown out of the towers. I remember seeing shoes on the streets - not lots, but more than 5. There were thousands of people lining the sidewalks staring up at the buildings. It seemed like everyone was doing what I was doing - just looking up amazed at what was going on. Many citizens were trying to help direct traffic to enable the many ambulances and fire trucks to get through faster - I remember being very impressed by this. New Yorkers are notoriously unhelpful, but many were doing what they could.
At some point I remember giving up on getting to work. The fire didn't seem to be going out. I figured they'd understand if I couldn't get to work that day, or at least until later that afternoon. So I slowly began to walk away from the towers, just to get away from the commotion.
I'd walked probably about a 3rd of a block east from Trinity St / Church St, on either Cortlandt or Dey St (I can't remember which), when I heard a rumbling. Immediately in my mind, I remember thinking that one of the towers was toppling, and that I needed to run as fast as I could to the east so that if it toppled my direction I would get far enough away that it wouldn't land on me. Perhaps that's a cartoonish reaction, but that's what I thought at the time. I sprinted, as did everyone around me.
I kept looking up over my shoulder to see which was the tower was falling, and remember being relieved that it looked like it was falling down on itself rather than toppling over. But as I looked I saw the enormous plume of smoke grow and grow and gain speed towards me. I was on a fairly narrow street surrounded by office buildings, and the smoke made its way very quickly toward us. I remember at one point looking back and seeing the smoke turn a corner around a building extremely fast. It looked just like something out of a movie.
I remember following a small group of people into a door in a building just as the cloud of smoke caught up to me. It must have been virtually simultaneous, or I got in a second or two before the cloud caught up, because otherwise I would not have been able to see the door. I was one of the last people that went through the door before they closed it to keep out the smoke.
I found myself in a kind of a loading dock in a big building, with a group of about 10 other people. We were relieved to be out of the smoke. No one was panicing or crying at this point. We all seemed to be in survival mode. Very quickly, smoke and dust began to seep into the loading dock under the large metal doors that opened for trucks. We all looked at it worriedly - we didn't know what was in it or how well we'd be able to breathe.
We started talking about what to do. We knew we couldn't stay in the loading dock indefinitely. We knew it would be hard or impossible to see when we left the loading dock, so we tried to describe to each other what we remembered about the area just outside the door, and which was to go to get towards clean air. It wasn't just a door in the side of a building; there was an escalator somewhere out there that we were trying to remember the location of, and steps, and we didn't want to hurt ourselves.
Eventually, when the loading dock had gotten very smoky, we got together by the door and lined up, each person's arms on the shoulders of the person in front. We decided to go out and to the right. Immediately when we got out into the debris cloud, it was practically impossible to see. I remember the air was a very dark grey, with a slightly orange hue. We turned in the direction we thought was best - the air was a lighter grey that direction, so we figured that was right.
Eventually we could kind of see so we didn't need to stay together anymore. I remember trying to open my eyes as small as possible, because the air stung. And I remember keeping my arm over my mouth and trying to breathe through my suit jacket, because otherwise your mouth would fill up with dust very quickly.
After about a minute or two of walking, I had gotten to a better area, but my eyes were stinging. I saw a door to a Hallmark shop, so I went in there. The air was fairly clean in there. I can't remember if I talked to anyone, but I tried to clean out my mouth and eyes before heading out again to continue moving away from the area.
I kept walking east and north towards the lighter gray air, continuously spitting out dust and rubbing my eyes. I remember finding myself in areas of Manhattan I had no familiarity with - over under the Brooklyn Bridge, through a section of Chinatown, parts of the Lower East Side. I kept walking east and north. I remember stopping to get a bottle of water at a deli, to wash out my eyes and mouth, and being annoyed that the man was charging for it - a selfishly small concern at the time, but I thought he wasn't doing his part to help out on this awful day.
It was at some point right around when I got the water that I saw a television in a store window showing that the second tower had fallen. I remember feeling hopeless and powerless. I didn't cry. It was so surreal that I was more stunned than anything. I was walking in a total daze.
I quickly determined that I didn't want to go to my apartment, which was on the 14th floor of an apartment building on the same block as the Empire State Building. Didn't seem like the safest place to be on that day. My brother lived on the Upper East Side, which is about as far as geographically possible from the WTC, so I figured I'd walk in that direction. It was about 6 miles north.
The farther north I got, the more looks I started to get. I was no longer surrounded by people who'd been there and were walking away. My suit was completely grey, covered with debris. I had the dust in my hair, on my hands, and in the cracks of shoes. I remember one person looked at me, dropped her jaw, and said, in accented English, "you were there?". I just nodded a bit and walked on... not wanted to explain that I hadn't actually been in the buildings, which is what she probably assumed.
One of the last things I remember is passing the Queensboro/59th Street Bridge, which goes from Manhattan to Queens. There were oceans and oceans of people just swarming across the bridge. It was all people - no cars. I remember being amazed at the amount of people trying to get off Manhattan. Certainly many of them lived there, but many must have also just wanted to get as far away as possible.
I eventually got in touch with my brother and met him a few blocks from his apartment. I walked there with him, changed out of my clothes in the hallway and put them in a plastic bag, and went into the shower. Amazingly, though I hadn’t realized it until I saw my brother, I was still holding my paperback copy of Harry Potter, despite everything that had just happened.
Becca called while I was in the shower, and I told Eoin to tell her I'd call her back, which she was a little annoyed about later. Her day had been horrible. A few minutes into her first day as a teacher, they'd gotten word of the attacks and had to take the children, that they didn't know, into the basement for safety. Down there she had to comfort children while not knowing where I was or if I'd been going through the towers when they were hit or fell. At one point during the hours she was down there waiting for parents to pick up their children, Becca's roommate came to the school. She thought I worked in the WTC, not WFC, and her mother had told her on the phone, with good reason, that I was likely dead and that she needed to go comfort Becca. Becca corrected her about where I worked, but it still must have been scary to hear something like that and not say for certain that she'd spoken to me and that I was okay.
After getting out of the shower and using the phone to finally talk to Becca and my parents again, I sat with my brother and his girlfriend watching coverage for a few hours. I don’t remember talking much. I just sat there. I didn’t want to go to my apartment.
Eventually, I decided to go to Becca’s house in Brooklyn for the night. It was impossible to get there for awhile – subways were only running outside of Manhattan, so I couldn’t figure out how to get there. I can’t remember eventually how it happened – I think they turned on a few subways and I took one to somewhere out of the way in Brooklyn and walked. I do remember going very briefly to my house to pick up some clothes. I wanted to spend as few minutes as possible in my apartment because of its proximity to the Empire State Building. I was probably in and out in 2 minutes, and made my way somehow to Brooklyn.
I stayed in Brooklyn for most of the rest of that week. Work was cancelled, and I dialed-in to the group business contingency calls where people were assembling. Work started the next week at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown – our WFC building had a corner sliced off by the falling towers, so I never set foot in that office again. A few months later, someone was sent in and each person was allowed 30 seconds of that person’s time to retrieve select items (nothing with dust on it). We worked out of hotel rooms for 4 months.
I did not have any close friends or family killed in the attacks. One person from our company died. One person I knew from college died.
Overall, my reaction to September 11th these days, looking back on it, is that I was lucky. If the timing had been just right, I could have been walking through the lobby of the World Trade Center as one of the planes hit. If I hadn’t read a little extra Harry Potter, the timing might have been fairly close.
I also feel lucky that I was not closer to the towers, or in a huge crowd of people, when the towers started to come down. If I hadn’t been able to get into that loading dock, I might have breathed in a lot more debris, or gotten stuck or run-over.
Most of all, I’m still in awe that something like this happened, and I’m terribly sorry for the thousands that died, and the hundreds of thousands that were more closely affected than I was.
This is great news. Harold Ford Jr. (D) trails Bob Corker (R) by just 1 point in the race for the TN Senate seat Bill Frist is leaving. If a young African-American with checkered family issues can win that seat, that's a great sign for the Dems as a whole this November.
There's been some speculation lately about the possibility that Hillary Clinton may forego a White House run to instead become the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, presumably the majority leader by then. I discussed the rumor in this August 3rd post.
The buzz has spread a little recently, which has actually convinced me that this is not going to happen. In fact, it may even be Hillary's people who are circulating this to take some of the scrutiny off her Presidential bid this far out from 2008. It doesn't help to have everyone focusing on you as the front runner right now. I'll go on the record that I think Hillary (and Bill) will not let this opportunity pass her (them) by.