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Archive for the ‘Election 2006’ Category

The Way Forward

In Afghanistan, Election 2006, Election 2008, Global War On Terror, Iraq War, Misc., Progressive Politics, Terrorism on April 5, 2007 at 5:27 pm

I’ve been trying to avoid writing about the War since I started contributing to this blog a few months ago, but comment on a recent post has forced my hand. Much talk has been made on the fact that America must stay in Iraq until is has “acheived victory”, and that “surrender”, “cut and run”, or any option otherwise is paramount to failure. This argument, though, always makes me laugh, while at the same time noding my head, reflecting the intrinsic duality of our mission and our goals in this shattered country.

In many ways, “victory” is no longer America’s to acheive, it’s Iraq’s. When the occupation began in 2002, we dissolved – entirely – any semblance of statehood and public works the country had in a vain hope that we could re-shape it into something more palatable to the West and Iraqis at large. However bad they were, though, the Baathists could at least keep the lights on and the water running. But since we dismissed all public employees and replaced state offices with private contractors, maintaining necessary services became a little tough. The police and army – well-armed, well-trained personnel – were also given their walking papers, making idle hands truly the devil’s plaything. These mistakes, made by acting Pro-Consul L. Paul Bremer, and the administrations desire to deploy half the troops needed to secure a country of this size, helped speed Iraq towards disaster.

We created an immense power vaccum in Iraq which forced it’s people to revert to the only kind of law and order they had left – tribal councils and ethnic divisions – which lead us to the country’s current state of chaos. Though the Maliki government – elected with all of those inked fingers so long ago – has been unable to quell the seething violence throughout it’s country, there is no gaurantee our troops have or will be any more sucessful. If anything, our presence undercuts any authority the government has and intrinsically calls into question its autonomy. High rates of unemployment also fuel both the insurgency and the sense of hopelessness in Iraq. Take away the hundreds of over-fed American corporations “rebuilding” towns and business, give potential insurgents a steady job and a proper wage and see how many are willing to put down their guns for a shovel. We have taken so much from these people, it is time that their home be put back into their own hands. In this way, our vision of Iraq as a stable, legitimately soverign nation will never come to fruition until we leave.

But yet, the omnipresent issue of security surrounds every choice being made, and rightfully so. The fact of the matter is that our men and women sit in the midst of a growing civil war that has the potential to engulf the rest of the region in bloody ethnic cleansing; and the Maliki government is both unable and unwilling to bring the violence to an end at the cost of compromise with their former oppressors. As more and more countries from our “coalition” pack up and leave, the greater our responsibility is to protect Iraqi’s from themselves. It is clear that without our presence, the bloodshed will possibly escalate to ugly proportions, making us neither liberators, nor occupiers, but rather enablers: the country that turned it’s back on the mess it made and allowed it to fester into a horrific genocide. With all these circumstances, though, it is difficult to promote a continuation of a war that has brought to view the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, unprecidented financial misappropriation, the formation of a private mercenary army of over 25,000 that operates outside any jurisdiction and enough tortue and human rights abuses to take the Hague’s present staff into retirement.

One of the most interesting plan I’ve read on constructive disengagement from Iraq came from former Senator and ’72 Presidential candidate George McGovern. In a lenghty, detailed, and amazingly level-headed piece in Harpers magazine last year, George presents a multi-faceted, responsible alternative to a “troop surge”. Though removal of our forces is a key element to this plan, he proposes to replace them with services that would probably prove to be much more effective than our previous efforts. A multi-national security force will be put in place of our military and will include personnel from muslim nations who – unlike us – speak fluent Arabic. Instead of pouring money into Haliburton, we will give our billions directly to established Iraqi government funds for reconstruction, reparations, and the continuing development of State and local government at large, all while being monitored by third party auditors to ensure transparent and responsible spending by both sides. In addition, McGovern encourages the establishment professional training programs for doctors, lawyers, social workers, and more, filling the desperate needs of a country that has experienced a drain of mental capacity along with everything else.

Though my paraphrasing is not doing his plan justice, McGovern’s concept is far more important. Since taking power in the House and Senate, the Democrats have been fervently seeking to withdrawl our troops and finally challenge the administration in an attempt to execute the percieved will of the people. All the while, Republicans have continued to counter their time tables and budget points with shouts of treason and failure. Both parties are desperately trying to make up for their past mistakes and making bold statements to try to carry political favor – Democrats with immediate ends, Republicans with redoubled efforts. Neither, though, is the responsible course of action. The myriad consequences from the abhorrent mishandling of the war cannot be undone by a temporary influx of over-worked troops. And though the sight of these troops coming home is an invaluable photo-op for any Dem who signed their tickets, it must be done in a responsible, methodical, and well planned manner. A quick-fix deadline motivated by political ambition is reminiscent of our “Mission Accomplished” carrier jamboree (case in point, Afghanistan). The point of this horribly long rant is that the issues and consequences involved with Iraq are far more complex than we have been led to believe, and there is no single solution to the war. “Victory” will require compromise between our own warring houses, and will most likely look much different than we have been led to believe. We have been pushed towards dangerous extremism over the last few years, so much so that we have begun to see everything in absolutes. The question before us should not be merely fight or flee, there is a middle ground that must be occupied in order for the country to survive. We must stay in some capacity in order to keep some semblance of security, but we can’t continue such invasive combat operations as the only ones walking the beat. Troops and weoponry must not be the only reflection of America’s presence in the region, either. The surge proposed by the Republicans can have a tinge of bleeding-heart Liberalism if we send an enlarged contingent of benign civilian and financial aid to help heal what we’ve destroyed. For too long, we have represented a single-minded absolutist nation. The way forward must utilize all aspects of American foreign policy, not just the ones that go boom.

A Bit of Good News

In Civil Liberties, Election 2006, Global War On Terror, Habeas Corpus, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism on November 19, 2006 at 3:36 am

From the Jurist

US Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation Thursday that would restore habeas corpus rights to military detainees and make other amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). A key provision in the MCA, which President Bush signed into law last month, strips US courts of jurisdiction to consider writs of habeas corpus filed by detainees classified as enemy combatants. Dodd’s bill, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, would restore those protections. The amendments would also narrow the class of detainees identified as unlawful enemy combatants who are affected by the MCA’s habeas restriction. Among other key provisions are the exclusion of evidence acquired by coercion and the exclusion of hearsay evidence that judges deem unreliable.

Earlier this month, lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay petitioned the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to declare the suspension of habeas rights unconstitutional. In an amicus brief in the case, seven retired federal judges urged the appeals court to rule that parts of the MCA violate the Constitution. Dodd’s bill would also provide for expedited review of the MCA to ensure its constitutionality.

Another Conspiracy Theory

In Election 2006, Election 2008, Iraq War, US Politics on November 16, 2006 at 10:57 am

Heather Wokusch over at Commondreams.org wrote another conspiracy theory about why the Democrats won this year.  She also gives some ideas about how to help stop the republicans from winning in 08.  I reposted the entire piece below:

As much as I enjoyed the midterm rout, I just can’t shake the feeling that it might be a set up.

A number of bloggers have noted the perfect storm which helped drive the GOP out of power: Bob Woodward’s book on the administration’s mishandling of Iraq, intelligence estimates that Iraq had become a recruitment vehicle for terrorists, the steady stream of corruption scandals culminating in Mark Foley’s timely resignation over the Congressional page scandal. Too good to be true usually is.

Curious that the Republicans failed to use its army of attorneys to challenge the election results. Curious also that Rumsfeld’s inevitable departure came after the elections.

The obvious fear is that six years of Bush & Co.’s gross mismanagement will be pinned on the Democrats in 2008.

Take the economy. Why would the administration continue to stave off inflation, a bursting housing bubble and high interest rates if the Democrats will be blamed? Why continue to arm-twist Asian central banks into propping up the US dollar or continue to hide the shrinking economy? Just blame the Democrats for the tough economic times ahead.

And take Iraq. Please. While the Democrats’ recent call for a phased redeployment of troops is welcome news, there’s hardly party unity about how best to proceed. Consider the fact that Tom Lantos (D-CA) is slated to chair the House International Relations Committee in the next Congress. As Paul George of PeaceandJustice.org recently noted, “Lantos isn’t just a Democrat who voted for the Iraq war, he was one of its co-authors. And his name appears high on the list of credits for Gulf War I. Lantos has never met a war he didn’t like. His unblinking defense of Israeli policy gives him tunnel vision with the rest of the Middle East. That’s a potent combination of volatile materials.”

It’s troubling enough that Lantos channels the neo-cons’ Middle East policy and can’t be expected to support sustained troop withdrawals in Iraq or a moderate approach elsewhere in the region. But even worse, if the US and/or Israel actually goes ahead and bombs Iran, Lantos would not be the lone Democrat supporting an escalation of the conflict, ostensibly in order to protect Israel.

Signals from top Democrats that they will stand behind Robert Gates to be the next Defense Secretary are also disturbing, given ongoing questions over Gates’ role in the Iran-Contra affair and charges of his having politicized intelligence at the CIA. If the Democrats give Gates a blank check during his confirmation hearings, they will have some explaining to do in 2008.

It’s also dangerous to ignore the Republicans’ ongoing internal coup – tossing overboard tokens such as Rumsfeld (and soon, UN Ambassador John Bolton) to strengthen the party’s chances in 2008. For that reason, impeachment hearings, if any actually land on Pelosi’s “table,” will have to cast a wider net than merely Bush. He’s already a lost cause to the Republicans and could act as a fall guy for more viable GOP candidates in the next elections. So what would help the Democrats in 2008? Serious investigations into the US electoral system, for one. Victory doesn’t mean the voting was free or fair – to think otherwise is both hubris and a trap. The systematic disenfranchisement of African-Americans and Hispanics, the lack of integrity of voting machines and the multiple dirty tricks demand justice between now and 2008.

In fact, there should be investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings across the board, including into prisoner abuse, war profiteering, executive branch misconduct, intelligence manipulation, taxpayer subsidies for crony energy companies… you name it. (How telling that only yesterday the administration asked for Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against Cheney and others to be dismissed on grounds of immunity. The White House is obviously getting nervous.)

Investigations, subpoenas, and the forced handover of secret administration documents would help the Democrats shed light on many levels of Bush & Co. corruption and malfeasance, which if properly communicated to the US public, could only help the Democrats in 2008. Unfortunately, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has indicated that he’s “not heavily into investigations,” adding, “That should be way down at the bottom of our agenda.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the Democrats prevailed in the midterms. It’s just that Bush’s remaining lame-duck years present both opportunities and traps. The Democrats must be careful not to be blamed for the administration’s wrongdoings. Systemic electoral corruption must be addressed and progressives must challenge Democratic warmongers before it’s too late. 2008 is fast approaching.

Action Ideas:

  1. To learn more about investigations on Bush & Co. already carried out, visit the site of Rep. Waxman’s Government Reform Committee. Topics range from Abstinence-Only Education to the Cheney Energy Task Force. Expect more investigations soon…
  2. Before the 110th Congress is in place, contact your senators and representatives with your ideas and demands. It’s never too early.

I think she makes a lot of good points.  Overall, it seem slike the Democrats aren’t interested in any type of investigations or impeachment hearings.  Pelosi and Dean already said they wouldn’t go after Bush.  Who knows if they’ll go after anybody else.  All of the factors listed in this article, combined with the other conspiracy theory that Keeley posted up recently, don’t paint a pretty picture.  Hopefully the Democrats will prove this all to be wrong, but there’s nothing we can do but wait and see.

Asses Handin’ Their Asses to ‘Em

In Election 2006, US Politics on November 15, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Handin it to em

“Beginnings of an Immigrant Electoral Machine…”

In Civil Liberties, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Election 2008, Immigration, International politics, Labor, Laws & Regulation, New York City, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, US Politics on November 12, 2006 at 5:20 pm

From AlterInfos America Latino:

A majority of voters followed this year’s immigration rallies closely and felt that Democrats did a better job on the immigration issue, according to the New Americans Exit Poll, which was conducted in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle by researchers at Barnard College of Columbia University, the City University of New York, Loyola Marymount University, and the University of Washington…

The surveys found that two out of three voters in New York and Seattle , and three out of four voters in Los Angeles , followed news of the immigration rallies closely or somewhat closely. The high level of interest in the immigration debate was just as prominent, if not more, among native-born voters as among foreign-born voters. Ten percent of New York voters indicated that they or a family member took part in the immigration rallies, while in Los Angeles , a stunning 33 percent of foreign-born voters and 16 percent of native-born voters participated in the rallies…
“This was the year that immigrant groups across the nation conducted unprecedented voter education and mobilization campaigns. A new kind of immigrant voting block is forming. We have the beginnings of an immigrant electoral machine that will continue to build and flex its muscle in 2008 and beyond,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of Hate Free Zone, an immigrant and civil rights group based in Washington state.

Attytood’s Rovian Conspiracy Theory

In Culture of Corruption, Election 2006, Election 2008, Immigration, International politics, Iraq War, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Progressive Politics, US Politics on November 12, 2006 at 4:45 pm

Intersting piece laying out why Bush-Rove may have tanked the mid-term on purpose. I don’t buy it, but it’s worth the read. Below is a snippet:

So why in the name of God would Bush and Rove want to produce a flop in 2006?

Well, on the domestic front, there may actually be some advantages for Bush with a Democratic Congress. For one thing, they’ll probably pass a favorite program of the president and his big-business buddies, the guest worker program for immigrants, since it was the conservatives in the House holding that up. The GOP was probably also ready to relent on the minimum wage, which was becoming a political albatross for them.

The other stuff that Bush wouldn’t like — higher taxes on oil companies and the rich — he can always veto, if his 49 senators (nine more than necessary) don’t block a vote before it gets that far. He’s already been promised by Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean that he won’t be impeached. From what we’ve seen, Bush didn’t like the Republican leaders in Congress (especially the ousted Tom DeLay) all that much anyway.

But it really boils down to one word:

Iraq.

Action Model: Google Bombing

In Culture jamming, Election 2006, Netroots, Progressive Politics, Technology, US Politics on November 4, 2006 at 5:56 pm

Andrea Batista Schlesinger over at DMI posted about the practice of Google Bombing this past week.  I hadn’t heard too much about this before, but given the way that google works, it makes a lot of sense.  For others not in the know, read what she had to say:

Many of you may have read in this morning’s New York Times of a group of bloggers led by the netroots strategist extraordinaire Chris Bowers of MyDD.com (a friend of DMI) who are practicing the new technique of Google-bombing, where the search engine is manipulated so that when you Google certain Republicans you are led to less than flattering news articles about them.

Chris was also interested in pursuing a Google Ad strategy that would purchase ads for the targeted legislators linking people to those same news articles.

Here at DMI, we are fans of using Google to give people more information about their legislators. We were the first think tank in the country to launch a Google ad word campaign that would publicize the records of legislators — first in New York State and then members of Congress – in voting to strengthen and expand the middle class.

Our New York State project, launched in March, has gotten nearly a half-million impressions in the last month alone. Our Congressional project, the much bigger of the two, has been a fantastic success. Over 20 million people have seen our ads, with many clicking through to learn more about the records of their legislators.

Google is a fantastic tool. But, as with blogs and the netroots in general, the real question for all of us is how we will use these tools not just to influence electoral politics, but to influence public policy. An educated force of millions of Internet users would be the real explosion.

Technology is amazing.  People that manipulate it and use it creatively are even more amazing.  I love stuff like this.

NY GOP Candidate Finger: Gay Marriage Should be “Compulsory”

In Civil Liberties, Culture jamming, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Netroots, Progressive Politics, religion & politics, Sexuality, US Politics on October 30, 2006 at 12:53 pm

A libertarian candidate demanding compulsory action. Ya gotta be kiddin’ me…

Making Gay Marriage Compulsory

October 30th, 2006

I’m the Libertarian/Republican candidate for Congress in NY’s 11th Congressional District and I was recently asked my opinion on the subject of gay marriage. I think it should be not only legal but compulsory. I’d like to see those guys get up each morning and apologize just like us straight married guys do. Give us something in common.

Posted by N.Y. GOP/Libertarian Candidate for Congress Steve Finger

“Momma’s Gonna Help Build a Wall”

In Election 2006, International politics, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on October 28, 2006 at 8:50 pm

Thank you, Matt Wuerker, for the great cartoons.

Culture of Corruption, In JPEG Form

In Civil Liberties, Culture jamming, Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Election 2008, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Misc., Netroots, Progressive Politics, US Politics on October 27, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Here is a graphic of a DOJ sheet, courtesy of Roll Call (via TPM). I don’t even need to explain it…

Election Decor

In Afghanistan, Civil Liberties, Election 2006, Global War On Terror, Sexuality, Terrorism on October 26, 2006 at 10:43 pm

McCain: “I’d just commit suicide” if Democrats take control of Senate

In Culture of Corruption, Election 2006, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Netroots, Progressive Politics, US Politics on October 19, 2006 at 12:49 am

That’s all she wrote.

Bob Harris: Drunken Mob Killed Irony in 2002

In Civil Liberties, Culture jamming, Culture of Corruption, Election 2006, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Netroots, Progressive Politics, Technology, US Politics on October 18, 2006 at 10:26 pm

Bob Harris from This Modern World wrote, “I am starting to think that irony got killed by a drunken mob in a bar fight sometime around 2002. Would explain a lot.”

Santorum, Does that Make Bush Bilbo Baggins?

In Culture jamming, Culture of Corruption, Election 2006, Election 2008, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, International politics, International Public Health, Iraq War, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Netroots, Progressive Politics, religion & politics, Terrorism, US Politics on October 18, 2006 at 9:32 pm

For the moment, I’m embarrassed to be from Pennsylvania. 

Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the “Eye of Mordor” has been drawn to Iraq instead…

A spokesman for Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr. questioned the appropriateness of the analogy. “You have to really question the judgment of a U.S. senator who compares the war in Iraq to a fantasy book,” said Casey spokesman Larry Smar. “This is just like when he said Kim Jong II isn’t a threat because he just wants to “watch NBA basketball.’ ”

Tanzania Sees Water Privatization-Driven Resistence, Violence

In Children and Youth, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Election 2008, Environment, Freedom of Speech, HIV/SIDA, Housing, Immigration, International politics, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Netroots, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, Terrorism, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on October 18, 2006 at 8:45 pm

I was living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2003, during the “build up” to the Iraq inavsion. I was about 4 miles from the fortress that was the newly opened US Embassy — it replaced the US embassy bombed in 1998.  It was painful to be an American in another city that had also been victimized by Al-Queda (I was coming from NYC, where I was on 9/11/01) . Many of the people in Dar, like many in NYC, saw the attck on Iraq as a pitiful distraction from the true perpetrators of NYC/DC attacks in 2001, but that is a story for another day…

While in Tanzania, I analyzed a World Bank-induced public utility privatization scheme that was clear to me to be an impending disaster. Beyond the complications that would arise from tiered access to safe water and increased prices, the sheer number of landholders without deeds in Dar es Salaam, I believed, tipped the equation of potential problems beyond even that of Bolivia’s wonderfully horrific water privatization scheme. (My opinionated, poorly written report on Dar’s plan is at my old blog. It includes interviews w officials from the city’s to-be-privatized water utility, representatives from the World Bank  and the Tanzanian government, as well as ‘everyday’ Tanzanians I played basketball with while there.)

My study focused on the land rights of residential properties, not that of unregistered and “unofficial” businesses. The problems, though, are similar in many ways. 

There is unfortunate news from Dar today. As reported by the BBC:

Thousands of Tanzanian market traders are up in arms after being moved away from the centre of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

More than 40,000 traders have been relocated to the city’s remote Kigogo area. They say they now have to pay taxes before they can ply their wares…

But the government insists that the traders have been occupying space in the city centre illegally – preventing the installation of sewage and clean water pipes and reducing traffic in the busy area to a single lane… In March, two people were killed in violent clashes between police and street vendors in the northern town of Mwanza.

Mwanza is the section I lived in and Kigogo is way out there. I mean, it is WAY out there. There is no way these vendors will be able to do the same type of business as they would in downtown Dar. Especially since much of their business is based on downtown-oriented foot traffic, as opposed to foot traffic intending to go to the market.

This is part of a much larger conversation of the suburbanization of the poor.  It is happening in the US (usually boiled down to the concept of gentrification, although these ideas are not synonymous) and it is happening in countless cities throughout the world.

This will have incredibly negative effects on the poor, in terms of their access to social infrastructure — transportation will be losing funding, public utilities such as electricity and water are currently being installed in cities under the guise of the economies of scale (more water users and payers in the city makes the infrastructure investment feasible) while not being supplied to the suburbs. While saying nothing of the access to health services and disaster relief infrastructure,  first-and-foremost in my book, this facilitates the deeding of the unrecorded class and, subsequently, taxation.

If we can’t get our system implemented on them in their squatter town, the thought goes, let’s move their squatter town to where we can implement our system on them. It’s how the government makes money and maintains social control.

Plus, the thinking follows, there’s good times to be had in the city, let’s freshen it up a bit and give the tourists access to it — those low-wage workers will find a way to get into work for them ‘cuz they got nowheres else to work… except that export processing zone

P.S. Hey, investors! Don’t worry, those pesky “existing” Tanzanian exporters have been disallowed from investing in the EPZ… this is strictly for folks like you!

Ohio seems to be changing its mind

In Election 2006, Labor, US Politics on October 18, 2006 at 8:27 am

In the last Presidential election, Ohio came off as being one of the key “swing” states. It was so important, that people from NYC and elsewhere were taking buses out there to try and persuade voters to not re-elect George Bush. But in the end, the majority of voters there still voted for him. Today, the political sentiments in the state seem to be changing.

From the NYTimes (via the International Herald Tribune):

The bellwether state of Ohio appears to have become hostile territory for Republicans this year, with voters there overwhelmingly saying Democrats are more likely to help create jobs and concluding that Republicans have far more corrupt politicians than do Democrats, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll.

 

Home this year to closely watched races for governor, U.S. Senate and a growing roster of competitive House seats, Ohio is one of the most contested battlegrounds of 2006, and one in which voters at this point are strongly favoring Democrats on most issues.

 

The Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate hold commanding, double-digit leads over their Republican opponents in the poll and respondents said they intended to vote for the Democratic candidate for the House in their district by a 50-32 percent margin.

 

The results contained warning signals for President George W. Bush and his party across the nation three weeks from Election Day. The poll found a striking slippage in the president’s standing among white evangelicals, a Republican constituency that has provided the margin of victory in a number of recent elections. In November 2004, 76 percent of white evangelicals in Ohio voted for Bush. When asked in this poll whether they approve or disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president, only 49 percent approved while 45 percent disapproved.

 

Ohio is a Republican-leaning state that twice voted to elect Bush and gave him his margin of victory in 2004. But it is not a perfect microcosm of the country, and in particular has higher levels of economic anxiety, the poll found.

 

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed rated the state’s economy as bad; only 34 percent said it was not. A plurality, 46 percent of voters, said the economy and jobs were the most important issues facing Ohio, while 17 percent cited health care, 15 percent said terrorism and 12 percent said the war in Iraq. Only a third of Ohio voters approve of the job Bush is doing as president or the way he is handling the economy….

Find the whole article here

Freedom of Info News

In Civil Liberties, Culture jamming, Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Netroots, Progressive Politics, Technology, US Politics on October 18, 2006 at 1:03 am

The federal Freedom of Information Act, and its state-level Freedom of Information Laws, are indescribably critical to government transparency. That is, critical when implemented meaningfully. A note from GovExec:

Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act are for the most part complying with an executive order outlining a two-year process for improving the implementation of the 40-year-old law, according to a new Justice Department report…

The report stated that the Justice Department has focused on reducing backlogs by establishing a goal of closing the 10 oldest pending FOIA requests for records from its leadership offices on a regular basis. Other agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, do not have such backlogs, the report said.

And another take from Secrecy News:

…From a public access point of view, however, the results seem less significant, particularly since the executive order did not alter disclosure policy or standards at all. Instead, it sought to improve processing and productivity under the existing disclosure standards, while reducing backlogs.

As a result, some of the reforms of which the new report boasts may loom large within the government, but still appear inconsequential from the outside.

For example, using post cards to acknowledge receipt of FOIA requests instead of more formal letters is a “novel idea,” the Attorney General says in his new report. It “holds great potential for improving the process.” It is “an outstanding idea,” the report strangely insists. “The simple use of postcards rather than standard written letters … could save countless hours.”

Unfortunately, this won’t do. Efficiency, while welcome, is not the same as productivity. And the executive order does little to improve productivity… Even by the yardstick of efficiency, the current FOIA regime shows a certain lack of imagination.

Perhaps the single most important step that agencies could take would be to routinely post FOIA responses on agency web sites... It could be even better than post cards.

Union leader likens Santorum to “the anti-Christ”

In Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Netroots, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, Sexuality, US Politics on October 18, 2006 at 12:49 am

If there was any doubt, PA is officially fiesty right now…

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A union official on Tuesday described Republican Sen. Rick Santorum as “the anti-Christ” on issues affecting working people. Pete Matthews, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 33, made the remarks during a luncheon speech before union retirees.

“I kind of refer to him as the anti-Christ, but I guess I’m not supposed to say that, but that’s what he’s about,” Matthews said, claiming Santorum lacks a record supporting working people. Santorum’s opponent, Democrat Bob Casey, spoke at the same luncheon but did not arrive until after Matthews’ speech…

Last month, Bill George, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, apologized for having said in a newspaper interview that some see Santorum as an Adolf Hitler.

Best Political Picture Ever – FBI Agents’ Frathouse Supports Weldon

In Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Freedom of Speech, Laws & Regulation, Netroots, Progressive Politics, religion & politics, US Politics on October 17, 2006 at 10:27 am

The only thing that could’ve made this better was if this sign just said, “VOTE REPUBLICAN, NOV. 7th.” (If you don’t know, this is a picture of Curt Weldon’s (R-PA) daughter’s house and those guys there are FBI agents raiding it. “Weldon for Congress” reads the sign.)

“The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children,” said Romney

In Children and Youth, Civil Liberties, Economic Justice, Election 2006, Election 2008, Freedom of Speech, Laws & Regulation, Netroots, Progressive Politics, religion & politics, Sexuality, US Politics on October 16, 2006 at 11:07 am

Read this mess here.

“The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children,” said Romney during a brief but peppy speech from Boston duringa forum hosted by the Family Research Council. “The child’s development is enhanced by the nurturing of parents of both genders. Every child deserves a mother and a father.”

Critics called Romney’s attack on Massachusetts for legalizing gay marriage an insult.

“Once again he chooses to demonize loving couples and families in Massachusetts as part of his heartless crusade for the presidential nomination,” said Marc Solomon, campaign director from MassEquality. “Everyone but Romney has moved on and we just wish he’d finally bite the bullet, move out and drop this pretend game of governing.”