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Friday, May 26, 2006

More Dems Added to the Hall of Shame

HaydennsaGeneral Michael Hayden was approved by the Senate to be the new CIA director by a vote of 78-15, with 7 Senators abstaining. As discussed in a previous post, many Democrats apparently decided not to rock the boat. (See list below.) This despite Hayden's failure to answer many important questions or even to acknowledge at his confirmation hearing that the president must follow the rule of law. This seems especially egregious as we begin the Memorial Day weekend, a holiday honoring the terrible sacrifices made to preserve our freedom, our constitution and the rule of law.

Hayden is a strong supporter of the so-called "unitary presidency," a position that holds that our chief executive can pretty much operate outside the law as long as he makes certain excuses. It's hard to imagine Democrats in an earlier era falling in line so effortlessly for this insidious, unconstitutional and illegal power grabbing.

Today, however, Democrats are falling over each other in an effort to convince voters they're not "weak on terrorism." Instead of standing up to increasing tyranny in the executive branch, they operate entirely within the paralyzing boundaries of right-wing, Rovian issue framing. Neocons everywhere must be chuckling at the ease with which Democrats fall into this trap. So many Dems remain cowed, shamed and manipulated in the face of grave dangers to our democracy, our constitution and the intricate balance of power between the branches of government. They seem unwilling to confront or even admit the growing abuses of power that Dems out here in the real world can see so clearly.


Rather than stepping into the fray on these kinds of issues, too many Democrats are more concerned about not appearing to be "obstructionist." Blindly reactive to right-wing prodding, they spend their time and energy on avoiding criticism instead of representing their constituents. Ask almost any Dem if he or she supports Hayden for CIA Director and you'll get a vehement NO! Then again, ordinary Dems don't seem to count for much in the scheme of things anymore. Our members of Congress answer primarily to big donors, outmoded concepts of "conventional wisdom" and the name-calling of Rush, Rove and right-wing ranters. It's a very sad story.

I was at a Democratic candidate appearance last night and one question raised was why Democrats aren't clearly articulating strong positions on important issues. Several people asked how we can answer critics we meet while canvassing or talking with friends when they complain that Democrats don't stand for anything. The candidate basically responded that the questioner had fallen under the sway of Republican propaganda on that count, and not to believe it.

However, when even incredibly loyal Democrats are disgusted over and over by craven surrenders like this one on Hayden, it gets harder and harder to be out there touting the appeal of Democratic candidates. It gets more and more difficult to get Dems to canvass, phone bank, donate and vote. It becomes almost impossible to counter the criticisms of potential voters when their complaints are justified, reasoned and accurate.

If Democratic leaders want to change the pervasive view that they stand for nothing and are unwilling to fight for what they believe is right, they must do more than pay lipservice to our values. If they're for protecting our privacy and civil rights, they have to vote that way and speak out strongly in defense of these values. If they're for universal healthcare, they must stick their necks out and fight for single payor universal coverage. If they're for equal rights under civil law for all Americans, they have to step up to the plate and say so in no uncertain terms. They have to stop beating around the bush, equivocating and taking the path of least resistance. If they don't I'm afraid they'll find that the Democratic base they need to win elections has drifted off into the sunset. Wake-up calls are everywhere. Let's hope more Democrats hear them and answer them with fearless and principled stands. If not now, when?

Voting Yes: Here are the Dems, including our own Senator Jeff Bingaman, who refused to stand for the rule of law by approving a man instrumental in creating a burgeoning and secretive domestic spying and data mining web:

Democratic YEAs

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Johnson (D-SD)

Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)

Democrats who voted against approving the nomination of a man responsible for carrying out illegal acts as head of the NSA:

Democratic NAYs
Bayh (D-IN)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Obama (D-IL)
Wyden (D-OR)

Democrats who did not vote, thus avoiding taking a stand:

Democrats Not Voting
Boxer (D-CA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Inouye (D-HI)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)

May 26, 2006 at 11:43 AM in Democratic Party | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bipartisan Victory for Net Neutrality in House Judiciary Committee

From Save the Internet:
The broad, nonpartisan movement for Internet freedom notched a major victory today, when a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee passed the “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006″ — a bill that offers meaningful protections for Network Neutrality, “the First Amendment of the Internet.”

20 members of the Commitee (6 Republicans and 14 Democrats) voted for the bipartisan Bill, and only 13 against. Click for a roll call of the vote.

Today’s vote would have been unthinkable three weeks ago. It shows that the politicians are listening to the vast number of citizens who don’t want the Internet to become the private domain of the cable and telephone monopolies. Today’s vote is a milestone for the fast-growing movement to protect the public interest and defend Internet freedom.

In other good news, our petition drive today surpassed 750,000 signatures, as many of you flooded Congress with calls and letters.

Since we launched in late April, more than 700 groups spanning the political spectrum have joined the SavetheInternet.com Coalition, including MoveOn.org, the Christian Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Gun Owners of America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the American Library Association, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist.

The bipartisan “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006″ (H.R. 5417) next moves to the full House after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess. The SavetheInternet.com Coalition is urging people to continue writing and calling their members of Congress until Network Neutrality becomes law. The fight is far from over, but today was a good day for Internet freedom and open democracy.

Editor's Note: See our earlier post on this issue for more detailed information about the fight against telecom and cable companies taking ownership of the internet.

May 25, 2006 at 03:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Chicken_2Bawk, bawk! Cluck, cluck! Enron's top crooks, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, were convicted today on numerous counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying. Reuters has the details.

DarkSyde at Daily Kos has this to say in reminding us how close these criminals were with Bush:

Lay is known to be a very close personal friend of current US president George W. Bush, and was one of the largest contributors to his presidential campaigns. His contribution history is $651,760 to Republicans, $61,960 to Democrats, and $62,150 to special interests (Source: Breakdown by Candidate or PAC). He served on the Bush-Cheney Transition Advisory Committee and was rumored to be the early top contender for Secretary of the Treasury until his untimely fall from grace and credibility.

Skilling was a long time idea man and Enron power broker who served a couple of stints at CEO. He is a well known political cash cow with a campaign contribution history of $162,750 to Republicans, $9,750 to Democrats, and $50,783 classified as special interests (Source: Breakdown by Candidate or PAC).

If only these two stars of the Republican Culture of Corruption could be sent to one of those black hole prisons we're secretly operating in Eastern Europe. Let's hope they are sentenced to many years, even if it's likely to be in one of those Prison Hilton's reserved for rich, elite criminals.

May 25, 2006 at 12:46 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Surprises From the Past

Cahokia'1491': Ken Wright has a thought-provoking review of the book '1491' over at NewWest. He calls his piece 'Out With the Old New World, and in With the New Old World.' The title is descriptive of the surprising, even shocking, revelations and theories being produced by recent archaeological, anthropological and other scientific research about the state of the environments and civilizations of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. In a nutshell: civilizations much more advanced than originally thought; environments heavily managed by natives in creative and sustainable manners; all massively impacted by a widespread epidemic of germs from the Old World that preceded most of the European arrivals by many years. (Above, reconstruction of the Native American city of Cahokia near present-day St. Louis, c. 1250 AD.)

DisobedienceUnseen Photos: I also recently took some time to study dozens of produced by photographers for the Birmingham News of Alabama during the early days of the civil rights movement. These often moving depictions of racial and civil rights battles from 1956-65 didn't see the light of day until February of this year. In all, the negatives of five thousand unpublished photos stashed in a closet for decades were discovered in 2004 by an intern at the newpaper. Many of the photographs were reportedly suppressed by the paper in an effort to cover up embarrassing truths about the city’s race relations:

Why weren't more of the photos published 40 or 50 years ago?

"It was difficult for people to see," said Horace Huntley, director of oral history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "People were embarrassed by it. The city fathers were embarrassed by it."

The National Press Photographers Association provides more background on the found photos along with similar finds elsewhere.

May 25, 2006 at 11:26 AM in Books, Visuals | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tonight: Dede Feldman On How Much Iraq War Is Costing NM

From the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC):
Our regular Third Thursday meeting scheduled for this Thursday has been moved to Thursday, May 25, at UNM Law School, Room 2401, 6 PM.

State Senator Dede Feldman will address the question: How Much is the War in Iraq Costing the State of New Mexico? Some alarming trade-offs are being made with the health and safety of New Mexicans in the proposed federal budget. Click for map of meeting location. All Democrats welcome!

May 25, 2006 at 09:31 AM in Democratic Party | Permalink | Comments (2)

Terry Riley on 'We The People' Tonight

WE THE PEOPLE May 25, 2006
PROGRAM: Activist, Are You? Terry Riley, Albuquerque Activist fighting the good fight for Paper Ballots and the Minimum Wage. Let's talk Clean Elections

Watch us every Thursday 7-8 PM on Albuquerque Community Cable Channel 27. CALL-IN 505- 346-1633. HOST Mickey Bock. mickbo@earthlink.net

May 25, 2006 at 09:30 AM in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Will Dems Fight Even If They Win Back Congress?

Cowardly_1Glenn Greenwald considers this question in view of the Democrats' continuing weak-kneed acquiescence to most things Bush, including the appointment of the dangerous and dishonest General Michael Hayden to head the CIA. From the enthusiastic votes of four Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee for the man who carried out illegal domestic  wiretapping and phone record gathering, you'd never know he was an integral part of anything controversial or unconstitutional, would you?

The Democrats, rather than taking their duty as an opposition party seriously, are all too willing to toe the Republican line to avoid any intimations that they're "weak on national security." I guess the only way they can think of to show they're "strong" on national security is to praise a person who directed the NSA's illegal and unconstitutional acts and who continues to use distortions to justify it.

It's becoming a Democratic tradition to turn a blind eye to the unacceptable acts of any part of the executive branch that Bush decides can ignore the rule of law. Meaningful Congressional oversight? Not this bunch. They think being strong on national security means appeasing Bush and company regardless of how far they go to strengthen an imperial presidency.

Three Democrats on the committee voted against Hayden and should be thanked: Russ Feingold (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Evan Bayh (D-IN). Said Feingold, "I am not convinced that the nominee respects the rule of law and Congress's oversight responsibilities." I guess the four doormats listed below could care less.

Add the names of these Senators to the Democratic Hall of Shame for voting enthusiastically for Hayden and offering praise for his nomination:

Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

SpaceApparently speaking from some weird plane in outer space, Levin said of Hayden, "He has shown some independence and some backbone and a willingness to say no to power. You've got to have someone in this position who speaks truth to power." Rockefeller, echoing the statements of Republicans on the committee, bloviated that Hayden has "the necessary independence that is essential to restoring the C.I.A.'s credibility and stature."

As Greenwald says:

Gen. Hayden ought to have been seen as the most defiant and inflammatory nominee possible for the President to have made. He was, after all, the Director of the NSA at the time it implemented its illegal warrantless eavesdropping program as well as its massive data-collection schemes, and he is a True Believer in the theories of presidential power which hold that the President has the right to violate the law. And he wasn't nominated to be the Agriculture Secretary, but the Director of the CIA -- probably the very worst position you would want someone to occupy with that history of surveillance lawbreaking and that system of beliefs regarding the rule of law.

What was most important to the four Democrats who were cheerleaders for Hayden? Standing up to the abuse of executive power or protecting their behinds against the reliable craven right-wing noise machine? Their cowardly votes say it all. At a time when the nation needs brave and honest leaders willing to put their jobs on the line to protect the constitution, we instead seem to be infested with an abundance of self-serving hypocrites. Even within our own Party.

May 24, 2006 at 01:56 PM in Democratic Party | Permalink | Comments (5)

Election Reform Groups Endorse Gonzales for NM Secretary of State

Stephanie Gonzales speaking at 5.4.06 DFA-DFNM Meetup

From Verified Voting NM and United Voters of NM:
A statewide coalition active in election reform announced its support today for Stephanie Gonzales in the Democratic primary race for Secretary of State. Verified Voting NM and United Voters of New Mexico joined in selecting Gonzales as their favored candidate, saying she has more ideas and positions than her rivals on how to improve the election process and make it transparent and accountable to the citizenry. The coalition also noted her strong management capabilities, as evidenced in her experience as former Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State, and as Director of the Rural Development Agency and later, the Child Support Enforcement Division.

“Ms. Gonzales has endorsed voting by hand-marked paper ballots counted by optical scanning machines as the most trustworthy electoral system currently available,” said Paul Stokes, UVNM coordinator. “She has also underscored the importance of conducting automatic audits of vote counting as an effective means of strengthening accuracy in election results. Both have been major objectives of United Voters of NM and Verified Voting NM during the past two legislative sessions.”   

Robert Stearns of VVNM noted that Gonzales has pledged to work with County Commissions to expedite the switchover from electronic voting machines that can’t be checked to the auditable and recountable  paper ballot system, as passed into law by the  2006 Legislature with Governor Richardson’s support.

Click for info on Verified Voting New Mexico and United Voters of New Mexico.

You can get more information on the Stephanie Gonzales campaign at her website. She lays our her 8 Point Plan for improving the Secretary of State's office here (pdf).

Editor's Note: Verified Voting NM and United Voters of NM are local grassroots activist groups that were heavily involved in interaction with New Mexico's election reform task force and lobbying for a variety of bills to make the election process more effective, efficient, transparent and accurate. They were instrumental in the drafting and successful passage of the legislation that mandated the use of a voter verifiable paper ballot system statewide. The bill was passed by the NM Legislature and signed by Governor Richardson earlier this year.

May 24, 2006 at 11:12 AM in Candidates & Races, DFNM Organization | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

First Up: Las Cruces Sun-News Endorsements

Newspapers around the state will soon be publishing their endorsements for candidates running in the June 6 New Mexico primary. The Las Cruces Sun-News seems to be first out of the box with their endorsements of Democratic candidates in contested primaries:

Geno Zamora for attorney general, Stephanie Gonzales for secretary of state, Jim Baca for land commissioner and Thomas Buckner for auditor in Democratic primary races for statewide office.

Follow the link to their article that explains why.

UPDATE: The Silver City Sun-News and the Hobbs News-Sun also endorsed Geno Zamora for attorney general.

May 23, 2006 at 06:19 PM in Candidates & Races, Democratic Party | Permalink | Comments (5)

Mistrial Declared in Vigil Corruption Case: What Next?

Vigil_1The Albuquerque Journal, Heath Haussamen and Joe Monahan have the scoop on the yesterday's declaration of a mistrial in ex-NM Treasurer Robert Vigil's corruption trial. One holdout juror from Roswell refused to budge from his not-guilty mindset and put the feds in hot water on what to do next. We're hearing retrial, but the question is, when? It's expected that U.S. Attorney David Iglesias will push for a date before the November mid-term election, keeping the issue of Democratic corruption in the daily news cycle until voters go to the polls.

What does the mistrial mean for ethics and campaign reform in New Mexico? I agree with others who assert that pressure will only increase to reform our state's antiquated and toothless campaign and corruption laws. New Mexico is one of only five states that doesn't put a cap on campaign contributions, and one of 11 that lacks a state ethics commission to enforce standards. The result of this laxity is frequently on display and produced both the Vigil-Montoya and Serna scandals.

EthicsIt's shocking to realize that many of the "gifts," "donations" and "contributions" that skew New Mexico politics are not illegal in any way. In essence, the system sanctions what amount to unlimited, legalized bribes that permit monied, self-interested power brokers to dominate the political scene. The narrow interests of highly paid lobbyists, powerful financial and real estate magnates and other elite and connected players repeatedly trump the needs of ordinary citizens and the common good. On both sides of the political aisle.

Big money in politics is always suspect. Unregulated money in a political system that also lacks strong transparency requirements and anti-corruption standards is the worst of all possible worlds. This is what we currently have in New Mexico and it must end. Now.

Governor Richardson has recently come out strongly for ethics and campaign reform, and has appointed an interim task force to come up with proposed legislation to attack corruption. Let's make sure it isn't another smokescreen created to give the impression that something's being done while the status quo continues unabated. Clearly we need to significantly strengthen controls on money and influence peddling in government. We need a powerful and comprehensive program to stop the corruption in its tracks and keep in there. And if we don't get it NOW, we need to hold New Mexico's Democratic leaders and officeholders strictly accountable, and -- yes -- communicate our wrath at the ballot box.

Let's all keep up the pressure by contacting the Governor, Attorney General, legislators and other office holders to urge timely and comprehensive reform. Let's attend the meetings of the ethics task force in droves, to push real change. Let's strongly support the efforts of Common Cause, which has been working long and hard on this issue in New Mexico and across the nation. If we don't do it, who will? We need to hold some feet to the fire and keep them there until we get some genuine reform. No ifs, ands or buts.

May 23, 2006 at 01:47 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform | Permalink | Comments (3)