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Friday, June 27, 2008

More on Bingaman and FISA

BingamanI posted about Sen. Jeff Bingaman's vote for cloture on the FISA bill yesterday, and received a response from the Senator's staff providing an explanation of the vote. According to State Director Terry Brunner, Sen. Bingaman "believes it is reasonable to debate the bill to allow it to be altered." In that vein, Sen. Bingaman has drafted an amendment to the bill -- designed to fix problems with the telecom immunity provisions -- that's currently being circulated in the Senate to garner co-sponsors.

A number of watchdog groups have signed onto a letter (doc) describing Bingaman's amendment and urging Senators to support it, including the ACLU, People for the American Way, Constitution Project, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The amendment "would delay the effective date of the immunity provisions in Title II of the FISA Amendments Act, H.R. 6304, until ninety days after an Inspectors’ General report on the President’s warrantless surveillance program and related surveillance activities is submitted to Congress."

In other words, Congress would have 90 days to decide, based on the results of an audit of the actions of the telecoms by the Inspectors' General, whether they should be granted retroactive immunity from lawsuits filed in response to the telecoms' cooperation with the federal government. If the audit revealed conduct that Congress felt should not be immunized, it would have time to act to "adjust the immunity provisions."

As it stands, the FISA bill grants retroactive immunity to telecoms before the Inspectors' General audit is complete, "before Congress knows what conduct it is immunizing."

Brunner also provided a reminder that Sen. Bingaman voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, voted against the early ’08 Senate FISA bill and has "spoken out against it every time it has come before the Senate."

FISA Vote Delayed to July 8
Senators Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd worked with the Senate leadership to delay the Senate floor debate and vote on the FISA bill until the Senators return to DC on July 8th, after the Independence Day recess. Feingold and Dodd have said they'll introduce an amendment to strip the FISA legislation of telecom immunity in its entirety. A Feingold email says:

I hope that over the July 4th holiday, Senators will take a closer look at this deeply flawed legislation and understand how it threatens the civil liberties of the American people.

"It is possible to defend this country from terrorists while also protecting the rights and freedoms that define our nation."

It's been confirmed that Bingaman's amendment will be one of only three to be considered when the FISA bill comes up, including the the one from Feingold/Dodd and another I haven't heard about yet.

Activists are being urged to contact their Senators and/or talk to them at events where they appear during the holiday recess. One suggestion is that they be urged to actually read the bill.

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June 27, 2008 at 10:05 AM in Civil Liberties, Corporatism, Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (3)

NM-Sen: 21st Century Democrats Endorses Udall

Yesterday, 21st Century Democrats endorsed nine "progressive leaders" including Rep. Tom Udall, who's running for Senate in New Mexico. According to their email, Udall and the others "represent a cross section of Americans who are dedicated to putting our country back on the right track."

21st Century Democrats is seeking donations to help them place what they call "highly trained grassroots organizers" in the field for the nine candidates. Every dollar they raise before the 4th of July will be matched by one of their longtime supporters -- doubling the number of organizers they can put on the ground. The nine candidates:

  • Tom Udall - US Senate, New Mexico
  • John Adler - US Congress, New Jersey
  • Gary Peters - US Congress, Michigan
  • Suzanne Kosmas - US Congress, Florida
  • Larry Kissell - US Congress, North Carolina
  • Hannah-Beth Jackson - State Senate, California
  • Michael Calderin - State House, Florida
  • Anton Gunn - State House, South Carolina
  • Summer Starr - State House, Hawaii

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June 27, 2008 at 08:45 AM in 2008 NM Senate Race, Progressivism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

(Updated) Bingaman Votes for Cloture on FISA

UPDATE: Also see my later post on this that includes a response from Sen. Bingaman's staff.
Given Sen. Jeff Bingaman's recent cave-in on offshore drilling, I'm not surprised he's again taking what he apparently believes is the politically easy way out on the surveillance state. Even so, I'm still disappointed that Bingaman voted yesterday evening for cloture on the so-called FISA "compromise" bill that was passed previously by the U.S. House.

The cloture measure passed with 80 Senators voting yes, 15 voting no and 5 abstaining or absent. A total of 31 Democratic Senators and 48 Republican Senators and Joseph Lieberman voted for cloture on the Motion to Proceed with the FISA bill. The list of Dems with spines and a genuine respect for the U.S. Constitution, its Amendments and accountabilty for lawbreaking is short indeed:

NAYs ---15
Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Wyden (D-OR)

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain didn't believe the vote was important enough to show up and take a stand:

Not Voting - 5
Byrd (D-WV)
Clinton (D-NY)
Kennedy (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
Obama (D-IL)

What Comes Next
I imagine that a significant number of Dem Senators who voted for cloture will eventually vote against the bill itself, thus attempting to have their cake and eat it too. We all know by now how this works, having seen the same thing happen in any number or previous Dem collapses in the Senate. The best time to defeat a bill like this, given the current makeup of the Senate, is at the cloture stage -- by making sure the bill doesn't get the 60 votes needed to go forward. Once it gets to the Senate floor, we've pretty much lost the power to significantly change or defeat it. Even so, Senators Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold are still threatening a filibuster if the telecom immunity is left intact.

It seems obvious to me that too many Dems just want to get this controversial issue off the table so they can concentrate on election season rhetoric without the "distraction" of issues like illegal domestic surveillance and a "unitary presidency" power grab by Bush et al. As you may recall, they took a similar stance on the vote on the invasion of Iraq. Their position then and now: Get it out of the way so we don't have to answer the eternal whining from the right about being "soft on security" and we can move on to discuss economic issues. They don't seem to get that the eternal nature of the GOP whining means it will go on regardless of whether there's an issue on the table or how Dems vote. That they still haven't gotten this lesson is almost beyond comprehension at this point.

See this post by mcjoan on Daily Kos for a rundown on newspaper editorial board coverage of the Dems' cave-in. It isn't pretty.

A Counter View: Bait and Switch
For a view that's counter to what I've just written, see A Pragmatist's View on FISA by a former criminal defense appellate attorney on Kos. Her main point is that our Fourth Amendment rights are already entirely compromised by provisions in the Patriot Act that keep FISA court documents secret. Thus the current FISA bill is essentially meaningless and it would be a mistake for Obama and other Dems to draw a line in the sand about it at this time. Quote:

In terms of constitutional safeguards, the current FISA bill is a non-issue.  Yes, it allows telecoms to raise "color of law" immunity as an affirmative, threshhold defense.  And yes, that means the telecoms very likely will never be held to account for violations of FISA.  But the secrecy of FISA warrants themselves voids the Fourth Amendment, if information gained from those warrants can be used in a criminal trial.

I'm convinced that Barack Obama recognizes this.  I'm sure he recognizes that this bill is a classic political bait-and-switch, wrapping telecom immunity in the mantle of "safeguarding our constitutional rights," when in fact those rights are already voided by use of secret, non-reviewable FISA warrants to gather information for criminal cases.  I'm sure Barack Obama realizes that this petty knoll is not "the hill to die on."

"The hill to die on" is the USAPA's breaking down the wall of separation between intelligence-gathering and criminal investigation.  And that is not even at issue yet.  We'll need a Democratic president, and at least 60 Democratic senators, to fight that battle.

So please, folks, let's keep this bill in context.  If you're counting on FISA to safeguard your Fourth Amendment rights ... they're already gone.

Maybe she's right. What do you think? To get even more confused, read Sen. Russ Feingold's floor statement from yesterday's session. I don't see a statement about Bingaman's FISA vote on his Senate website.

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June 26, 2008 at 12:03 PM in Civil Liberties, Corporatism, Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tom Udall Votes Against NM National Lab Cuts

Rep. Tom Uall (NM-03) was the sole nay vote yesterday against a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water FY09 budget proposal that includes spending cuts related to nuclear weapons for New Mexico's two national labs.

Provisions in the bill would reportedly eliminate about $145.3 million in funding for a billion dollar plutonium pit production program at Los Alamos National Labs and effectively shut down the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead project. It also cuts about $100 million in construction funds -- mostly for LANL's Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project, which is already being built. The new CMMR building is designed to replace several aging strucures involved in nuclear materials research. The measure would also reduce spending related to nuclear weapons at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque.

Udall released a statement explaining his vote and stressing that he believes the labs need to look to the future and expand their mission beyond a Cold War focus. Excerpt:

“For more than a year, I have worked extensively with our labs to encourage growth in new areas of research as a way to ensure their long-term viability and to move towards the future. In addition to their indispensible role maintaining our essential nuclear arsenal, I believe the labs’ work should grow in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation, homeland security, counterterrorism, intelligence analysis and expanded energy research. We also must provide adequate funding for the cleanup of hazardous legacy waste from the labs.

“By collaborating with the lab leadership and the NNSA, I believe my goals of diversifying the labs and growing them in new areas are beginning to be realized. But there are still obstacles in our path.

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Udall must balance what he clearly understands is necessary to ensure a future for the labs with protecting New Mexico jobs while the labs transition to a 21st century mission quite distinct from its now obsolete Cold War focus. He frames his vote against the cuts against this background:

“Today, the House Energy and Water Subcommittee’s Appropriations proposal was brought before the full committee for a vote. And although this legislation contains many good provisions, it does not provide a path to the future for our national laboratories, and I could not support it. This bill not only cuts critical programs that are essential to the strength of our labs and the security of our nation, it rescinds funding that LANL and Sandia have already been promised and have budgeted for the current fiscal year.

In other words, Udall indicates he's voting against the cuts because they aren't accompanied by adequate new spending for a change in mission for the labs, and because the bill rescinds promised funding that has shaped the labs' budgets in the current year.

Moving Into the Future
Ultimately, Udall's vote is meaningless, except in political terms. He was heavily outvoted on the committee and change is coming to the labs one way or the other. Lab supporters can either stubbornly resist the inevitable or see the handwriting on the wall and embrace a shift in direction. It's evident that a majority of the Congress views the current focus of our national labs on making more nuke weapons as wasteful and out of tune with 21st century concerns.

The message is clearly being sent that nuclear weapons activities should be put on hold until the U.S. develops a comprehensive new strategy for the coming decades. And it's also clear that that strategy will strongly emphasize nuclear non-proliferation, research on renewable energy production, nuke waste cleanup and intelligence analysis -- not a new generation of nuclear weapons.

I think it's unfortunate that Udall felt compelled to vote against the cuts, but I also believe the brunt of the blame for our current situation should go to Sen. Pete Domenici and his cohorts. Domenici, by focusing almost exclusively on "protecting" the labs' historical Cold War mission way beyond its usefulness and meaning in the real world, has effectively jeopardized the labs' ability to transition to a mission that makes sense in today's much changed geopolitical and energy climate.

The transition should have begun long ago, but because Domenici and others have stubbornly resisted change, the transition will be harder on New Mexicans and may even mean an abandonment of Sandia and LANL. Change or die. Unfortunately, Domenici and others who continue to cling to a Manhattan-Project-style mentality are actually increasing the odds that the labs will be judged to be expendable as we move forward into an era far removed from the Cold War.

Despite his vote yesterday, it's plain that Tom Udall gets it, and just as plain that Steve Pearce, his GOP rival in the U.S. Senate race, does not.

Read the coverage by the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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June 26, 2008 at 10:20 AM in 2008 NM Senate Race, Energy, Nuclear Arms, Power | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama Names Adrian Saenz as NM Campaign Director

A press release today from the Obama campaign announced that Adrian Saenz, who was Obama's state director for the Texas primary and caucuses, will lead the New Mexico campaign. Saenz recently served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D,TX-23) and was previously the Press Secretary for Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D, TX-20).

June 25, 2008 at 03:13 PM in 2008 General Presidential Election | Permalink | Comments (9)

NM-Sen: New Udall Ad Stresses Looking Out for New Mexico Interests

Tom Udall, running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico, launched a new TV ad today called "Desert." It points out how many in Washington view New Mexico as "nothing but desert" and don't think about our people or jobs. Udall then explains that he's been an advocate for preserving Cannon Air Force Base and expanding the mission of Los Alamos National Labs to counter-terrorism and energy research so that the Labs will continue to prosper. The ad ends with Udall saying, "We have to do what's right for New Mexico."

In a press release, Udall Campaign Manager Amanda Cooper said, “Tom Udall has fought to protect New Mexico’s economy, job base and families. He successfully defended Cannon Air Force Base when the BRAC Commission targeted it for closure. And Tom Udall has fought tirelessly for the future of LANL by working with the lab to encourage growth in new areas of research such as nuclear nonproliferation, homeland security, counter terrorism, and intelligence analysis to ensure their long-term viability and to move towards the future.”

Udall's previous ad, Crush, about the ways in which the Bush economy is crushing ordinary people, has become something of a hit on YouTube, with almost 2500 viewings. That's a lot for a Senate race video. You can see all of Udall's TV ads and campaign videos here.

Other recent Udall news:

The latest Rasmussen poll has Udall up over Steve Pearce by a whopping 58% to 30% -- for a 26 point lead. Last month, Udall's lead was 18% in a Rasmussen poll taken before the GOP June 3rd Senate primary where Pearce narrowly beat out Heather Wilson. Not only is Udall the choice of 86% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans in this month's poll,  he has a commanding 46% to 27% lead with independents, a major improvement from the ten-point lead he had last month.

Udall received the endorsement of the New Mexico Fraternal Order of Police at the group's convention in Roswell on June 21st.

According to a Udall press release, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved legislation yesterday that includes $26.4 million earmarked for two construction projects at Cannon Air. About $18 million will be used be used to build an aircraft maintenance hangar for C-130 aircraft and about $8 million will be used to build a training facility for CV-22 aircraft crews. The legislation also includes funding for more veterans affairs claims processors, affordable military housing and help to veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental illnesses.

Rep. Udall voted no on FISA last Friday in the U.S. House, saying the bill "would compromise the constitutionally guaranteed rights that make America a beacon of hope around the world."

Udall answers questions about LANL, the reliable replacement nuclear warhead, water rights, land grants and more at La Jicarita News, which calls itself "A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico."

Tom Udall is one of the local netroot's True Blue New Mexico candidates and we urge you to donate what you can to his campaign before the FEC's quarterly reporting deadline on June 30th.

If you can't afford a monetary contribution right now, consider calling the campaign at (505) 884-3055 in Albuquerque and volunteering some hours. There's a lot to do if we want Tom Udall as our next Senator.

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June 25, 2008 at 12:12 PM in 2008 NM Senate Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

DFA Campaign Academy Draws Praise; Plus New DFA Nightschool Session Tonight on Getting a Campaign Job

NM-03 candidate Ben Ray Lujan, DPNM Chair Brian Colon

See more photos from this event at Flickr.

DFA Chair Jim Dean, NM-01 candidate Martin Heinrich, Jon Blair

Democracy for America's intensive, two-day Campaign Academy held at the UNM Law School in Albuquerque this past weekend was received enthusiastically by everyone I spoke with. Don't take my word for it -- read what two participants in the weekend training have to say about the experience. Check out posts about the Academy by Matt Reichbach and .

Martin Heinrich (NM-01), DFA Chair Jim Dean, Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)

DFA trainers Matt Blizek, Jennifer Coken and Michael Cook presented the bulk of the material, with Allan Oliver of Governor Richardson's office and Joe Casados of the Democratic Party of New Mexico providing specialized instruction in communications and the Party's VoterBuilder file. The Campaign Academy included lecture presentations as well as small, hands-on breakout sessions, and was jam-packed with info useful to anyone involved in progressive politics. The workbook handout alone was worth the (very reasonable) price of admission.

Michael Cook conducts breakout session

On Saturday, Democratic Party of New Mexico Chair Brian Colon welcomed the attendees to kick off the weekend. We were also delighted to have DFA Chairman Jim Dean in attendance to remind everyone how critical New Mexico will be on November 4th and, most importantly, how dedicated we need to be to grassroots activism if we want to help create a True Blue New Mexico.

Allan Oliver leading breakout session on communication

Candidates Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-02) and Jason Marks (PRC) were also on hand to say hello and soak up some knowledge. A bunch of studious staffers from Tom Udall's office and the Coordinated Campaign took advantage of the training, as did NM House candidates Janice Saxton (HD 22) and Craig Cosner (HD 67).

Dscn4598 Dscn4606

Energy was high throughout the two-day Academy, and DFA trainer Matt Blizek was full of praise about the level of engagement of participants. You could feel it in the air -- Dems are ready to put their grassroots activism on the line so we can win up and down the ticket in November.

NightschoolMore than 14,000 people across the country have been trained by DFA on the ins and outs of running for office, campaigning and volunteering effectively. If you missed this opportunity to attend the Academy in person, you can get similar training online on a variety topics via DFA's top-notch, interactive Night School program. Topic-specific materials, including mp3s, are available for download, or you can purchase DVDs. You can also subscribe to Night School podcasts to stay current on each month's offering.

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Tonight: How to Get a Campaign Job
In fact, there's a new, hour-long Night School session on Getting a Campaign Job set for tonight, June 25 at 6:30 PM MDT:

Campaigns are gearing up in all 50 states right now, and they need passionate and well trained campaign staff. On Wednesday July 25th, Democratic GAIN President Amy Pritchard will be joining DFA Night School for an hour long training on 'Getting a Job on a Campaign'. We'll offer tips on touching up your resume and how to build and leverage your professional networks both on and offline as part of our Night School series.

See more photos from this event at Flickr.
All photos by M.E. Broderick

DFA-Democracy for America helped to organize and coordinate the Albuquerque Training Academy and is a Democracy for America coalition partner. DFA, headquartered in Burlington, VT, is our nation's largest progressive political action community. With over 675,000 members nationwide, DFA is a grassroots powerhouse working to change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up.

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June 25, 2008 at 10:19 AM in DFA, DFNM - Albq, Local Politics, Progressivism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Check Out Encouraging Report on ABQ "Green" Businesses

Great news about green businesses in Albuquerque today, and opportunities for an abundance of green jobs in the future. Now if the old economy politicos and officeholders would just wake up and smell the green, we might start moving energetically into the new economy that will dominate the 21st century. Stop the push to drill in ANWR and offshore and start the innovating -- and pass the legislature we need to encourage and nurture it.

The non-profit groups New Mexico Youth Organized and the 1 Sky New Mexico Campaign today announced the release of a new report that details great potential for emerging “green” businesses in the Albuquerque area. According to the announcement, the Albuquerque Green Sectors report, which was commissioned by NMYO & 1Sky NM, suggests the possibility of huge growth in such green job sectors as construction, manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical services throughout the Albuquerque area.

The Albuquerque Green Sectors report provides valuable analysis that will be utilized immediately. New Mexico Youth Organized has worked with the Albuquerque City Council to introduce legislation creating green jobs training through local workforce development institutions.

“This report shows that if we don’t prepare for the ‘green’ wave, Albuquerque and New Mexico will be left behind,” said Keegan King, director of NMYO. “Our City has the potential to lead the country in ‘green’ manufacturing and ‘green’ technology development but only with investment and a workforce to support it.”

“As a young person’s organization, we at NMYO believe that our city and state government needs to begin transitioning our economy to one built on high-paying jobs in green industries,” said Juan Reynosa, organizer with the 1Sky Campaign. “1Sky’s Green-collar Jobs campaign will bring desperately needed jobs to New Mexico and help move our antiquated energy policy to one built on a clean, renewable economy.”

Click for a copy of the Executive Summary.

To read profiles of young people and green business owners over the coming weeks go to:

To download the complete Green Sectors Report go here.

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June 24, 2008 at 01:58 PM in Energy, Environment, Green Economy, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

NM-01: Heinrich #5 in ActBlue Fundraising Last Week; 2Q Deadline 6.30

Martin with DFA Chair Jim Dean at Saturday's DFA Training Academy

Read all about it. Then add your donation, whether small or large, to make sure Martin Heinrich has the resources necessary to kick off his general election campaign against Bush-clone Darren White. Heinrich is trying to "fill the balloon" with donations to reach a goal of $35,000 before the June 30th FEC end-of-quarter financial report is due. Reminder: If you donate now, whether at True Blue New Mexico or the campaign website, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a hike with Martin on one of his favorite trails here in New Mexico. Very cool. Can't donate? Think about volunteering for the campaign, where there's lots of work to be done. Give 'em a call at (505) 244-0022 in Albuquerque.

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June 24, 2008 at 12:53 PM in NM-01 Congressional Seat 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obama's Albuquerque Visit: Video Clips and More

Above are four video clips we shot at Barack Obama's meeting with working women at the Flying Star Commissary in Albuquerque yesterday. The first is a clip from his speech and the rest are from his question and answer session with participants. You can view the clips individually here. Also see our previous first-person account of this event, as well as our photo album on Flickr.

Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Kate Nash working away at Obama event

You can read Nash's article on the Obama visit here. Kate was by far the friendliest of the mainstream media folks at the event. Some others, especially a few of the TV folks, didn't seem too pleased to have their territory invaded by mere bloggers.

Leslie Linthicum (Albuquerque Journal), Stuart Dyson (KOB)

Leslie Linthicum's Journal article about the event and her interview with Obama is here. KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson has a video report here.

P.S If you'd like to help us provide better quality video and audio on DFNM, I hope you'll consider making a small donation so we can purchase better equipment we can use at future events.

Mary Ellen and I will be representing New Mexico at the Dem Convention in Denver in August as part of the DNC's State Blogger Corps. DFNM is credentialed for seating with our state delegation, right on the Convention floor, and we'll be live-blogging and providing extensive coverage of the event. We have to pay our own hotel and other travel costs (as well as provide our own tech equipment) -- an expensive proposition considering the pricing of accommodations in Denver during Convention week.

Click the orange Donate button on the upper left-hand corner of this page to contribute, or email me at dfnm_albq AT comcast.net to learn of other ways to donate.

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June 24, 2008 at 11:54 AM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Economy, Populism, Media, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (2)