Archive for October, 2010

Where the hell is Patty Murray’s campaign?

By • on October 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Several eons ago, in June 2010, one of the recurring themes of Dino Rossi’s Hamlet-like waffling over whether to jump at the last minute into the US Senate race and challenge incumbent Patty Murray was whether Rossi could be competitive with Murray’s staggering fundraising advantage.

Murray, you see, as a corporate-friendly Democrat who’s spent virtually all of her energy in 18 years in DC raising money for Democrats and appropriating money to Washington state (and especially Boeing, Microsoft, and other local big businesses), had raised a shitload of money even by the beginning of summer. There was no way, the thinking went, Rossi could be competitive. And money is everything in a high-stakes statewide race upon which party control of the US Senate could conceivably rest.

How young and foolish we were.

Fast forward a mere four months, and for most of that time-—and even more so in October-—pro-Dino Rossi and especially anti-Patty Murray ads are everywhere. They’re on every web site that can identify you as being from Washington state. They’re flooding TV and radio. Today I had two more hysterical (“Be afraid of Patty Murray! Be very afraid!!!”) Rossi mailers in my mailbox, both from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads outfit. (Not that his name appears anywhere on them, of course.) That brings the total to at least a dozen.

We know why this is happening: Citizens United, the wretched US Supreme Court decision from last January that ruled unlimited corporate cash in elections to be a free speech right. Senate Republicans blocked Congress from trying to plug the floodgates that opened, and how we’re seeing the bitter harvest. Sure, in theory the ruling means either party’s candidates are free to become corporate whores, but we know who’s really good at that sort of thing. Republicans are getting the vast majority of soft-money expenditures in this election, including Rossi in our state’s race, and it’s a record-shattering total. That, not any support by, you know, actual living people, is why the Rossi propaganda is everywhere.

But where the hell is Patty Murray’s campaign?

Murray’s been as invisible as Rossi has been visible. One of the reasons Christine Gregoire floundered in her first campaign for governor against Rossi in 2004 is that she took victory for granted; the second time around, in 2008, she was much more aggressive, and won comfortably because her paid media did an effective job of defining Rossi.

It looks like Rossi has learned something. This time, he’s doing the defining; the preposterous meme of Murray as a dangerous, tax-happy radical is being splattered across the state. Meanwhile, except for the free media generated by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s Seattle visits last week, Murray’s campaign has done nothing to counter the attacks; instead, it’s been virtually invisible. Nothing in the mail. Almost nothing on TV. I’ve gotten a couple dozen robocalls from Rossi’s campaign (and I live in one of the most liberal precincts in the state). I tried listening to the one Murray robocall I’ve gotten-—yesterday, more than a week after everyone got their mailed ballots—-but the audio was so garbled that after a few seconds I gave up.

What the hell is Murray’s campaign spending all that money on? It’s sure as not messaging. Or paid media. Or turning out volunteers—-I’ve heard (presumably because I’m in that liberal district) from MoveOn.org on Murray’s behalf, but not from her own campaign.

Nationally, the Democrats said they were saving much of their gunpowder in the Senate races for the two weeks before the election. Aside from the fact that this is idiotic given that something like 32 states now have early voting, we’re now a week into those two weeks, and I haven’t seen any evidence of that surge—-or even of a reasonably normal level of political ads, calls, and mailers from or on behalf of Murray. Nothing from unions, nothing from Obama’s OFA outfit, nothing from any third party except MoveOn. And nothing from the campaign itself.

They’ve got money. What are they waiting for?

It sure seems like Murray is mailing it in, ala Gregoire in 2004. And we know what almost happened then. This time, the overall climate is much more favorable to Rossi.

Murray has a long history, in three prior elections, of stomping well-financed Republican challengers who were supposed to beat her. She’s done it in large part by working harder and not taking voters for granted. If she’s now deviating from that formula, she’s picked a hell of a time to do it.

Mind you, I’m not particularly a Patty Murray fan. But the idea of the climate-change-denying, pro-Wall-Street-deregulation, anti-health-care (I almost wrote “anti-health-care-reform,” but dropping the “reform” is more accurate), anti-choice, anti-science, pro-greed election of a man who now makes his living as a motivational speaker on the foreclosure exploitation circuit is beyond repellent. And the idea that Rossi and 50 of his batshit crazy colleagues could actually control of the Senate (and the House, if there’s enough of a wave to take the Senate) is terrifying. The country, and world, are facing too many serious crises right now to risk entrusting any power at all to these radical nutjobs.

You thought Bush was bad? The lesson these Republicans took from Bush’s failures is that he wasn’t reactionary enough. They’ve doubled down, Rossi included, on The Crazy and The Stupid. Sure you want a piece of that?

So: tell your friends to vote. Tell your friends to tell their friends to vote. Put the stamp on the damn envelope and drop it in the mailbox for them if necessary. Voting isn’t the ultimate answer, but the time for grass roots organizing, at least for this cycle, is past. The Democrats have been beyond disappointing, but what they’ve done is not the problem right now. It’s what they’re not doing—standing up for themselves, let alone the future of the country—that’s the problem. And if they’re not going to do it, in their highest-profile, biggest-stakes local race, we’ll just have to do it for them.

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A wonderful use for useless items

By • on October 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm

This is awesome.

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Suppose Your Actions Swung the Election

By • on October 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Imagine if your actions made the difference in electing a Senator, Governor, or Congressional representative. Suppose the phone calls you made, money you donated, doors you knocked on, and conversations you initiated helped swing a critically close race, or two or three. Suppose the friends you dragged to the polls helped America reject the anonymous [...]

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More mailbag!

By • on October 24, 2010 at 3:21 pm

With the loss of our print edition and the addition of comment sections for our articles and blog posts, there’s one print feature we don’t have a simple place for: letters to the editor that don’t concern particular topics of ETS! articles. So from time to time we’ll post them as “Mailbag” entries in our blog. More from recent days:

Obama’s Visit

ETS!,

“SENIORS, people with disabilities and many more of the state’s most vulnerable citizens will be harmed due to the massive budget crisis here in the state of Washington. That much is assured, given the governor’s order to cut 6.3 percent of state expenditures in this biennium, which runs through June 30. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) faced many tough choices in meeting this request; virtually nothing was spared a devastating cut.” (Seattle Times – October 22, 2010)

So, why then, O’Bummer are you giving your puppets in Pakistan seven billion dollars, your puppets in Afghanistan and Iraq, untold billions, your puppets in Colombia and Egypt, untold billions, your other puppets around the globe endless billions that you don’t really have, thanks to China?

Why are you stiffing the poorest, sickest Social Security recipients, the most feeble and vulnerable elderly, in favor of your rich, corrupt overseas “friends,” with their vacation estates in France?

O’Bummer, what have you given, or done for America’s poorest youngsters, but jobs in the military?

But, thanks for the 12 cents an hour increase in the minimum wage (Courtesy of Lady Gregoire).

O’Bummer, how cynical can you be with your bullcrap that “America is on the right path!”

Of which “America” do you speak, O’Bummer? The Wall Street, NASDAQ, corporate one? Or the other one?

One last question, if I may, since you’re in Seattle: WHY DID YOU ACCEPT THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE?!

–Bob Miller, Seattle

Geov Parrish comments: note that today there’s also a hysterical (in both senses of the term) front page New York Times article wailing that an aide to fraudulently elected Afghan president (and “former” CIA asset) Hamid Karzai is taking “cash by the bagful” from Iran. Given that Karzai and his cronies have gotten literally billions from the Americans, it’s hard to see what they think the problem is, exactly.

The NFL Would Play Football on Friday

Eat the State!:

Dear Letters Editor:

I have been spending a great deal of time studying American history since my stroke. I came up with a question I couldn’t answer; and I am wondering what others will think.

What if the “Pilgrims” were Muslim instead of Christian?

What would this wonderful country be like?

I don’t have an answer.

Respectfully,

–Larry J. Kluth (Lt. Col. USAF, Ret.), Mesa AZ

G.P. again: Given how intolerant the Pilgrims were of other religions, even other branches of Christianity, and given the zeal with which they slaughtered the local (Native American) heathens, burned their own women at the stake as witches, and banished their dissidents, I’d say the similarities would be striking.

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WikiLeaks: Torture and genocide is never pretty

By • on October 22, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Sure enough. And it’s worse than you thought. Which is probably saying something. The Guardian UK has got the scoop in their weekend edition:

A grim picture of the US and Britain’s legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks

The new logs detail how:

• US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.

• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee’s apparent death.

As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: “The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him.”

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record “no investigation is necessary” and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are also detailed in the logs.

There’s more. Much more. And it’s hard to know which is worse: that the war criminals who set all this in motion are not only going unpunished, but are drawing lavish pensions at US taxpayer expense; or that the depradations continue while Americans blithely pretend that “combat operations have ceased.”

Let’s be clear: these sorts of allegations should be tried in The Hague. They won’t be, of course, but that doesn’t make them any less serious.

And if the Nobel Peace Prize had any credibility left after its award to the man who now oversees this fiasco, they’d strip him of the award and give it instead to WikiLeaks – and to the brave American soldier whistleblower(s) who fed them this material.

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Three Cheers for the French Strikers!

By • on October 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm

The strikes and demonstrations that have brought France to a near-halt are provoking the usual patronizing commentaries in the United States and United Kingdom. Those pampered French workers, not to mention school kids, are at it again, raising hell just because sensible President Sarkozy points out that the French pension system is simply not affordable [...]

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This is the News: A Beginner’s Guide to Democratic Mind Control

By • on October 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm

You may have noticed, while reading The Guardian, Le Monde or The New York Times, that no mention is ever made of the fundamental cause of conflict, the origin and nature of history, the best way to experience the centre of the universe while making love, how another person can really be known, what death [...]

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China: Some Thoughts on Tibet, Pt. I

By • on October 22, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Tibet is the most terrifying nightmare place on the face of the planet. The brutality of the Chinese Communist Party on display here would make Goebbels shiver. Summary execution by gunshot is common in the streets, and the only thing that covers the blood splattered throughout Jokhang Square is the ever-falling ash from a hundred [...]

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WikiLeaks may strike again

By • on October 22, 2010 at 11:15 am

The AP is reporting that the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, which has already this year released a damning video of a US massacre of civilians in Baghdad and a huge dump of documents related to the Afghan war, is about to release an even bigger cache of secret US intelligence assessments compiled after the invasion of Iraq.

The WikiLeaks website appears close to releasing what the Pentagon fears is the largest cache of secret U.S. documents in history — hundreds of thousands of intelligence reports compiled after the 2003 invasion of Iraq….

Their disclosure would be the most massive leak of secret documents in U.S. history, and defense officials are racing to contain the damage.

Of course, if history is any guide, Pentagon officials – and their stenographers in US media – will grossly exaggerate the potential for such damage:

That previous leak [of Afghan documents], back in July, outraged the U.S. military, which accused WikiLeaks of irresponsibility.

But The Associated Press has obtained a Pentagon letter reporting that no U.S. intelligence sources or practices were compromised by the posting of secret Afghan war logs.

Of particular interest in any Iraq document release: did the US know at the time that Bush administration claims of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” (including repeated post-invasion claims that it had “found” such weapons) were bogus? Administration officials, up to and including Bush and Cheney, steadfastly maintained that such weapons existed for several years after the invasion, and Cheney has continued to insist that they did.

Such a release might also shine a light on the catastrophic failure of the Bush team to plan for the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad – resulting in massive looting and death – or a subsequent occupation government. Neither Bush, his successor Obama, nor their allies in Congress have been particularly interested in exploring what went wrong with Iraq, so the release may be the best opportunity thus far to understand why and how over a million Iraqi civilians died in a needless and illegal invasion and occupation.

Which might explain why US officials are worried far more than any supposed “compromised” intelligence assets.

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I-1098, biotech, and the politics of entitlement

By • on October 21, 2010 at 6:41 am

One of the most pernicious conservative myths of government spending is its beneficiaries. Supposed opponents of government spending would have you believe it all goes to the stereotypical welfare mother who drives a Cadillac (no appeals to racial stereotypes there…), has six kids in tow, and uses food stamps.

In fact, the biggest typical beneficiary of state largesse is more likely to drive a Mercedes. His kids go to private schools. He owns a food company. (Check out the bloated federal farm bill, most of whose subsidies go to big agribusiness.) And he’s a lot better represented in Olympia and DC—-by a small army of paid lobbyists, no less-—than your average poor person.

This is the best lens through which to understand this week’s Seattle Times editorial blasting I-1098 because it is allegedly opposed by “the biotech industry.” (The Times could only dredge up one local biotech CEO to mouth its preferred meme, but never mind that.) The reflexively conservative Times editorial board, controlled by the intergenerationally wealthy Blethen family, can be reliably counted on for three things: 1) Opposing all taxes; 2) Bashing anyone and anything associated with a union; and 3) Opposing government spending—-unless it’s for them or their country club friends.

This is why, for example, federal spending ballooned under George W. Bush, who turned a budget surplus into record deficits. It’s not that conservatives oppose government spending on principle; they just want all the handouts for themselves, and thus the Bush cabal literally (and liberally) looted the federal treasury. It’s why there was bipartisan support for bank bailouts, but not for mortgage foreclosure assistance. And so on.

Locally, there’s no better example of an industry feeding at the government teat than biotech. Beyond all the federally subsidized R&D, for over a decade local political leaders—-inspired mostly by the desire to lay prostate before the divine figure of Paul Allen—-have poured money into chasing the same elusive jobs from an unproven new industry as are being pursued by every other American city with a Chamber of Commerce with a pulse. No infrastructure investment has been too big, no South Lake Union zoning variance too small that city leaders haven’t been willing (with the enthusiastic cheerleading of the Times) to ignore existing law, common sense, and fiscal prudence in their pursuit.

So it’s more than a little amusing to see the Times try to make the case that the executives whose companies have been such prime beneficiaries of government spending shouldn’t be forced by I-1098 to, you know, pay a little more to make up for the yawning budget gap caused in part by their junkie-like need for infusions of taxpayer cash. That the rest of us, not the people who benefit most from government spending, and who can most afford to finance government, should bear the brunt of cutbacks and an otherwise staggeringly regressive tax system.

The official rationale for all this is the holy grail of jobs. Know how many jobs that huge public investment in biotech has actually created? Of course you don’t, because the numbers don’t add up, so nobody discusses them. You could “create” more jobs, good-paying ones, by mailing checks to people randomly selected from the phone book.

(Side note: the real centers of biotech in this country, notably in Massachusetts, California, and New Jersey, all have robust state income taxes. Yep, I-1098 would drive away those jobs, all right.)

Thirty years ago this faith that the wealthy would reinvest found money in their businesses rather than, you know, keeping it, was called “trickle-down economics,” and in a rare burst of honesty derided by George Bush Sr. as “voodoo economics.” Since then, three decades of experience with corporate welfare and this sort of self-serving ideological nonsense has left us with banana-republic levels of income inequality; most recently, an economy nearly destroyed by eight years of Bush Jr.; and a year in which bank executives again make record bonuses while unemployment roams the land.

This preferred means of “creating jobs” doesn’t really create jobs; in fact, in the case of the bank bailout money, supposedly to provide liquidity to beleaguered small business, it instead eliminated jobs when outfits like Bank of America and Chase turned around to use the money to buy distressed competitors at fire-sale prices. But creating jobs is never the actual intent; that’s just the public rhetorical flourish. The intent is to enrich the wealthy. And the biotech industry is as good an example as any of why government’s primary beneficiaries need to pay their fair share. Which is what I-1098 would start to do.

As for the Times? They were best described, over a century ago, by George Bernard Shaw: “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.”

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