Saturday, May 20, 2006

Open thread--now with farm animals!

We had a pleasant little road trip today to Yellow Springs, Ohio, including a nice long visit to Young's Jersey Dairy Farm. We ate ice cream, we visited with farm animals, and we took pictures. Here are a couple of them.

Update on a story I posted about a while back. In When Democrats campaign like Republicans, I shared the story of how Bill Ritter, a congressional candidate in Ohio, had sent out a mailer criticizing his opponent, essentially for being the candidate endorsed by the local Stonewall Democrats group. The Ohio blogs jumped on the story, and by the end of that day, Ritter had lost a key endorsement.

It ended up being a tight race, but the last I'd heard, it was pretty clear that Ritter had still managed a narrow victory over Mike Foley. But then today I saw this post at Buckeye State Blog:

Best Email of the Year - Foley Wins !


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Al: he'd be less Gore-y than George

Oh, heck, I just wanted to put up a link to the blog of An Inconvenient Truth. But I feel compelled to come up with a title for the post. And there should probably be a picture too, huh? Okay, here's the one form the Gore on SNL thread--giving me an opportunity to link to that thread with the transcript again, for anyone who missed it.

Also, check out this from Grist:
Al Revere: An interview with accidental movie star Al Gore

And the Gore Portal, "a Draft Gore 2008 portal"

Draft Al Gore for President 2008

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Open Thread

I was going to head to Cute Overload for a new picture to post, but then I realized I had this great picture my mom sent me. I sent her flowers for her birthday on Wednesday, and in her thank-you e-mail she enclosed this picture.

Puppies don't stay little for long, do they?

Update: Congratulations to Ned Lamont for getting on the ballot in Connecticut! You can donate to his campaign through our Howard-Empowered Act Blue page.

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Friday Comics

Stomach flu has me home, within a couple steps of the throne room, so here's some comics to help make your day less fecal than mine...

And my favorite for today: Surrender Monkey

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A note from Charlie

The High Springs Herald has an update on the goings on in Alachua - and the refusal to provide access to public records in the investigation of the election.

With county official now involved, situation heats up in city of Alachua
By Ronald Dupont Jr.
Herald Editor

Photo By Ronald Dupont Jr.
County Commissioner Mike Byerly (left) speaks with Charles Grapski after the two showed up at Alachua City Hall for an appointment Grapski said he had with Alachua Deptuy City Clerk Alan Henderson. But Henderson wasn't there.

Photo By Ronald Dupont Jr.
As the Alachua City Commission meeting starts Monday, Charles Grapski (standing, right) asks for items to be taken off what is called the "consent agenda." He is told he is out of order, and the commission unanimously approves the agenda.

There is also an editorial on this there too: Stop the games; show Grapski the documents

You can also check the Free Alachua blog for updates on situation. The most recent post is Records Continue to be Denied; Business Done Outside the Sunshine.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Howard Dean at NYC Immigration Forum has a post called "Immigration Forum, NYC" by Tracy Joan Russo...

I attended an immigration roundtable discussion yesterday morning with Governor Dean, Betsy Kim, Deputy Director of the American Majority Project, and three dozen leaders from the Asian American community. The immigration question is a challenge we face as a nation....
Click here for more.

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Frances Strickland on religion and politics

Last night I attended an event put together by the Central Ohio Coalition of Democratic and Progressive Organizations. Buckeye State Blog has written about it here and here. As I was leaving, I saw Frances Stickland, who had been speaking--and singing--on behalf of her husband Ted Strickland who is running for governor of Ohio. She graciously agreed to give me a couple minutes of her time and answer a couple questions. I asked her what kind of response her husband's campaign is getting from people of faith around the state.

Religion is being put into politics to be divisive, and most people that I know, that are sincere about their faith don't like that. And basically what we want to do is just to try to keep the focus on the things like healthcare that really matter, and the things that have gotten this state in trouble. And to try not to participate in any way that's divisive.
Does Ted ever pull on his background as a minister in responding--
Not much. As a minister, that's one of his fears--that politics is going to hurt the church, rather than the church helping politics, or the political field. He just feels that it can cause congregations to divide...split. Somebody said once, "I think in the future some time we're going to have Democratic churches and Republican churches!" And that really disturbs him.

And so, he can--if somebody asks him about a scripture, he'll know it and respond. He can, but it just needs to be appropriate. He will not deliberately use that to try to make points. It would be just in responding in some way to what somebody's asking.
On a semi-related topic, check out this picture of Strickland's opponent, Ken Blackwell, yukking it up with his pal Barbara Bush.

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Lewis Black needs to get his panties out of a wad.

I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I thought that his remark about Dean tonight was not funny. He said he was on his knees at the 700 club, and he was NOT praying. Now I don't belong to the 700 club, but I know a lot of people who do. They are on the whole just regular people who are finding out their leaders have clay feet.

I think Howard is going to continue to talk to the religious community, and I hope he does. Here are a few things he said in a PBS interview last year. I am sure I am in the minority about Black's so-called joke, but it was in very poor taste. Dean made a good impression one person I talked to, someone who had never seen him before. That is how you communicate, the best you can...and you keep trying.

PBS Newshour, Dean and Ifill

HOWARD DEAN: Well, first of all we have to show up. The idea we're going to win by campaigning in 18 states is just not going to happen anymore. We need to be in Mississippi, in Utah, in Texas, and Oklahoma. I've been to all four of those states in the relatively brief time I've been chair.

Secondly, we need to speak about moral values. We really do. The Democratic Party I think has the kind of moral values that most people, particularly the religious community and particularly evangelicals like. I've had numbers of calls from evangelicals and discussions with evangelicals as well as high ranking members of the Catholic Church since I've been DNC chair.

We want to reach out to folks. You know, the Republicans talk about two issues: Abortion and gay rights. I don't think that most Democratic officeholders have been supportive of gay marriage, but I think we are supportive of rights for every single American. We may have some differences of opinion with the religious community on those two issues but the Democrats are much more in sync with the both evangelical Christians and others, Catholics and so forth, on helping the poor, on making sure that we have -- everybody has an opportunity. I am including everybody in the American dream.

Those are the real Christian values. And those are values that appear to be absent from the Republican platform. I jokingly say in my speeches that I have yet to see the biblical injunction that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom heaven. I have not seen that in the Republican Party platform.

So I don't think that the Republicans have any right to lecture Democrats about morals because our morals really are pretty biblical when you look at them. They really are about being good stewards of the earth that God gave us, they really are about helping children, helping the disenfranchised, making sure that everybody gets included. Those are pretty good values.

So keep it up, Howard Dean, in spite of the ugly remarks being directed toward you. I was recently part of that community, and I understand a lot about where they are coming from. We have no right to be insulting to our fellow travelers on this earth. Shame on you, Lewis Black, we usually look forward to your words.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Paul Hackett interview on Plunderbund podcast

Episode 4 of the Plunderbund Podcast went up earlier this week, and I thought some people here might be interested in reading Eric's interview with Paul Hackett. Feel free to crosspost the link on other blogs where people might be interested, because I'm not likely to have the time.

Eric Vessels: I'd like to welcome to the show Paul Hackett, who has been referred to as "a candidate for nothing". (Laughter) I think my friend Chris Baker at Ohio 2nd blog came up with that one.

Paul Hackett: When did Chris come up with that??

Eric: I'm going to attribute it to him because I thought I saw it in a blog post, but I could be wrong. But anyway I think it's pretty funny, and it's a pretty good way to refer to you at this point in your juncture. But, Paul's with us, welcome to the podcast.

Paul: Hey, thanks Eric, AKA Plunderbund.

Eric: That's right, the Plunderbunder.

Paul: What the hell does that mean?

Eric: Well, actually, it is a colloquial term that means political corruption, and I came upon it by accident one day, and I thought, "You know, that's a pretty cool little word" and did the whole search to see if the domain was available, and I saw, "Holy crap, it's available!" And it took me all of about 40 seconds to register that puppy and--

Paul: I like that.

Eric: Yeah, and that's how I started the blogging. And actually, you're to blame for all this. Because I got kind of hyped up--I'm up in central Ohio in the Delaware, Ohio area. I got kind of hyped up in your special election campaign, and read some stuff on blogs on Kos and some other national things, and headed down and helped you.

Paul: Thank you!

Eric: --yeah, and did some canvassing and got really into it. I'm an old canvass guy from from days back, and I credit you and that campaign to kind of firing me up and doing what I do today, so thanks!

Paul: Good deal. Well, I'm glad we could be of service to you.

Eric: Absolutely--and me likewise. Okay, I want to ask the obvious question. We're out of the primary--

Paul: What's the obvious question?

Eric: Have you and Sherrod Brown smoked the peace pipe yet?

Paul: (laughing) I don't smoke.

Eric: Figuratively, of course. Have you guys kissed and made up, have you guys done anything--and the serious part of the question is that there are a lot of people who were supporters of you, including myself, that were still, up to now as far as I know, pretty disenfranchised and disassociated with a lot of what the party bosses did to a candidate that we backed. And I think it pretty important for us to get over that, and Sherrod and yourself would be the two to kind of do that, and to lay that groundwork for us to go into the general. Because, like you've said before, it's important.

Paul: Let me address what at least I hear as a couple of different issues and go from there. First of all, to answer your question, "have Sherrod and I smoked the peace pipe?". And the answer is, no. But with that said, let me give it to you from my perspective and then you can go track down Sherrod. BUT, before I do that, let me just say this.

Nobody should look to Paul Hackett for the answer on what they should or should not be doing in politics. You know, people have to make their own decisions on that, so for those who are, wrongly in my opinion, waiting for Paul Hackett to flash them the thumbs up or the green light to go help Sherrod, they shouldn't be waiting for that. They don't need to look to me for guidance on what to do, with that said, I got out of the senate race for reasons that everybody's, I believe, familiar with, and I've gone back to my life, trying to make money, and I've never felt the overriding drive to pick up the phone and ask Sherrod Brown for anything. And that shouldn't surprise people, because I never picked up the phone in my prior 44 years and asked Sherrod Brown for anything.

Eric: Sure.

Paul: So, I'm somewhat a little bit surprised that I sort of hear that question in different forums, and I sort of echo Sherrod Brown and his criticism of Tim Ryan in supporting me, when he said something like, "I don't really get concerned about what a second term junior congressman from the Mahoning Valley thinks or--blah, blah, blah--something along those lines. Look, I don't get concerned what six-term congressmen from northern Ohio do, number one. (Eric laughs). And what's he want from me besides a check for $2100, which, you know, to pick up on your metaphor of smoking, you're smoking something wild if you think I'm going to stroke him a check.

So, I don't know what I could do for him. I've never made any bones about it. Before I got out of the race, when I was in the primary, I don't like him. I think he's a putz--

Eric: Yeah, that answers the question, but I wasn't really framing it from that angle, actually--

Paul: Okay.

Eric: --and that leads me into what I want to talk about as well, is that my thought is that we can't really afford to have division in the next few years within both the national party and the Ohio Democratic Party. And, who's job is it really to fix that? My view is not that Paul Hackett needs to do something, but I would look at the guy who's running needs to get rid of the division, and we all can be on the same team and head in the right direction. But I just don't feel like there's been any effort to do that, and that's why I asked you have you guys smoked the peace pipe. Because if there was some effort to do that, then I could say as the Plunderbund guy, "Hey guys, we're cool, and let's go, and we're all on the same team!" Which, some people may decide independantly to do that, but that's the crux of my question, is I believe we can't afford to have such division, and we do, and who's job is it to fix that?

Paul: Well, yeah, interesting point, and maybe I'll spin off and try to answer your question from that perspective. I don't really know whose job it is to fix it--it's not my job--

Eric: Right, right.

Paul: You know, my job is to work for a living now, so my job is to make money for me and my family. And beyond that--that's my job. So, you know, is it Sherrod's job? I don't know--I suppose that presumes that somehow or another I could help him. I don't imagine I could, and I don't imagine I'd be willing to put a cork in my beliefs in order to stand next to him and smile, and so my tact is to try to, believe it or not--and for the listeners, remind them, you called me, I didn't call you--and I highlight that because I don't go out of my way to look for an opporunity to bang on Sherrod.

Eric: Right, right.

Paul: But if a question is asked, I will answer the question, as I always try to do with any issue. And if that makes people uncomfortable and they don't want to hear it, well, turn down the volume.

Eric: Good enough.

Paul: Now, with regard to sort of one of the foundational beliefs of your question, and that is, I think, we need to get together in order to be successful in 2006 and 2008, and we need to heal the party, I don't know if, in very broad terms, I necessarily agree with that. I actually believe that we have not, as the Democratic party, hit rock bottom, and that probably until we do hit rock bottom, there's not going to be a realistic opportunity to help fix the party. And I've used the analogy-- some people like it, some people don't, some people think it's funny, some people think it's pathetic--it's like trying to have an intervention with an addict. If the addict doesn't realize that they've got a problem, in the parlance of addiction, if they don't realize that they've hit rock bottom, they're not going to be susceptible to an intervention.

Eric: Right.

Paul: And, unfortunately, I don't think the Democratic party has hit rock bottom. I think that probably November's elections will move us further in that direction which, in some part will sadden me, but in some parts will make me feel more optimistic that we're approaching the end of our 40 years in the desert.

Eric: So, you actually forsee some continuation of our lack of success--

Paul: Yeah--that's just looking at the strategy, or the lack of strategy, both on a state and a national level, and in individual races, I don't see a winning strategy. And I don't just mean sound bites, I mean some fundamental strategic approaches to issues that will allow you to win. And whenever I hear Democrats define their strategies in terms of, "we're going to let the Republicans continue to beat themselves" or "we'll respond to that when it arises", that is a quick tipoff to me that they're going to stand by and then go into defense mode when they're attacked. And once you're attacked, you're responding to an aggressor, and the aggressor necessarily has the upper hand.

Eric: Right.

Paul: I mean, it works in football, it works in dogfighting--dogfighting in the sense of airplanes. The airplane that comes into the attack at a higher rate of speed--

Eric: --has the advantage. Yep.

Paul: Yeah, has an astronomically higher level of advantage. And it works on the battlefield--it's just that--

Eric: It's Sun Tzu.

Paul: Exactly.

Eric: I wanted to ask you about this "running in the 2nd" thing. There were some posts on that stuff. Are people just so used to politicians who say one thing and do another that they just don't get it, and think you might run there?

Paul: I guess. I have not privately or publicly suggested to anybody that I'm just waiting to be asked the right way, but I'm not. I'm not running. I don't know how else I can say it. I try to remove the profanity so that people can actually hear the words. I'm not running, I don't want to run, I don't intend to run--

Eric: Right, well, this is a podcast, so you can curse.

Paul: Uh...yeah...

Eric: Paul's not f*cking running!

Paul: Right. Vic Wulsin is the candidate, people need to get behind Vic Wulsin and do what they can to help her.

Eric: And will you be getting behind her and doing some stuff to help her down there?

Paul: Yeah, I mean, if she asks me, whatever my schedule permits, I'll be happy to do, provided that I don't have any heartburn with it.

Eric: Great--sounds good. Hey, one last thing, Paul, and you hinted to this in some of our discussions thus far, but I wanted to ask you, why aren't we seeing more Democrats speak up and speak out like Russ Feingold recently has, I think just yesterday? He seems like one of the only people that are willing, on a national level--and on a state level I really don't think that I've seen it yet.

Paul: Well, I should first say that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Russ Feingold. I've had the pleasure of meeting him and sitting down and talking with him at great length about the war in Iraq and about some of the more popular social issues that Democrats get flummoxed about. So I have a lot of respect for him. And interestingly enough, with that said, he's probably not the kind of guy I'd want to go out and spend the day turkey hunting or deer hunting with, but I got a lot of respect for him both politically and as a person. He strikes me as a person that is really interested in being successful as a politician for all the right reasons. He stirkes me as a person that knows areas that he doesn't know, and is willing to learn.

But to really get to the answer, it's just a lack of courage from our elected officials, and it's misplaced hope that by avoiding tough issues that they will go away, and, it's just not going to happen. I mean, all of these tough issues, be they social or economic, or other political tough issues such as the war in Iraq are simply not going to go away, and they're not going to be solved by crafty sound bites published by Rahm Emanuel or Chuck Schumer. It ain't going to happen.

Eric: Right.

Paul: The war in Iraq is not going to be solved by sound bites. It's not going to go away by sound bites. It's going to go away and be solved or resolved or however you want to put it, by tough conversations that involve tough decisions that may not be politically pretty, and may involve economic cost and additional cost in lives, and additional political cost. But until politicians, and particularly those who have the D following their name, are willing to stand up and have that conversation, we the people are going to continue to get hosed.

And, let me kind of segue into an issue that I kind of highlight as a demonstrable example of this. When I was running last year in the 2nd congressional district in southern Ohio, I can't tell you the number of elected officials from the state level and the national level that, as my campaign, after the primary, began to catch a little bit of traction, would call up and plead with me--*plead* with me not to make the race a referendum. Plead with me not to be critical of George Bush, and plead with me not to be critical of the war in Iraq. Because in their vast failed experience, it was a losing way to fight the race. They *begged* me to just stay silent about my criticism on Bush, and they *begged* me to just stay quiet on my criticism on the war in Iraq.

And if you go back a year ago now, you'll see Bush's approval rating was above 50%, and there were *no* national--*zero* national Democratic leaders that were taking on the president on the war in Iraq. Not Harry Reid, not Chuck Schumer, not Nancy Pelosi, not Jack Murtha. Not a one of them! Not a one of them except for, forgive me if I sound like I'm blowing my own horn, one loud-mouthed Marine who'd just come back from fighting in Iraq, who was quoted on the front page of the New York Times, calling President Bush a chickenhawk, and telling the American people that it's a resounding failure what's going on. And then some months after that, Congressman Murtha had the temerity to stand up, without, may I add, the approval or Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer--

Eric: Right.

Paul: --and be critical of the Bush administration and its lack of strategy for success in Iraq. Well, here we are a year later--

Eric: 31% now! 31%.

Paul: Yeah, right. Let's be fair and honest here--I lost the vote in that congressional race, but I believe that we, that race, opened up the door on a national level for the Democratic leaders to start having that conversation and that debate. I actually believe that. And unfortunately, though, here we are a year later, and those leaders have not really moved on that debate. They're now kind of flummoxed--they don't know what to say, they don't know what to do. Some say get out, some say stay, Joe Lieberman says that it's a great thing that we're fighting terrorism in Iraq, Nancy Pelosi changes her opinion daily, I haven't heard much from Jack Murtha, I don't have a *clue* what Sherrod Brown believes in it. So, you know, it's a mess.

Well, you know, the only way that war is going to end, is by those who are sucking off the tit of the American government, the American government tit, to stand up, take a stand, and fight for it.

Eric: Yeah, and it's like the door was sort of cracked and the rest of the party wasn't able to bust it down and run right through it, and it's kind of disappointing.

Paul: I broke the door down! It's just, I was the first through the door, which I'm fine with--

Eric: (laughing) No followers!

Paul: Nobody's come in behind. Murtha did, but now he's ducked out.

Eric: Well, Paul, we gotta run, but I appreciate you taking the time to be on the Plunderbund podcast, and I really hope that we don't have to hit rock bottom, but if we do, I hope we're able to come back and I hope that you might be able to be a part of it at some point. And thank you for your inspiration.

Paul: I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk to your listeners.

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Shining a light on the corruption in Alachua County

Here's the latest message from Charlie Grapski--right after some links to previous posts for anyone who may have missed them.

Citizen-activist arrested while investigating election irregularities
"Turtle Stew" author comments on arrest of citizen-activist
Update on arrested citizen-activist in Florida

Hi all,

I figured I would check in and give an update with the endeavors down here in Florida. The good news is that I am not in jail - although this effort to address outright corruption in the government of the City of Alachua has forced me to focus nearly exclusively on this battle while at the same time campaigning for office. But then again - what is a better campaign than actually doing what our elected and other public officials ought to do themselves. That's what they are there for isn't it?

The difficulty is that we have people in positions of alleged authority - who act with the color of that authority - but violate the law. They are, in effect, the law. This is a mirror image of what is happening nationally with the Bush administration.

I went down today to try and file a sworn complaint against the person who arrested me for perjury - he outright lied on the sworn complaint about me. And the State Attorney already has testimony of the only other witness to the events - who stated on the date of my arrest that indeed the individual did lie.

Now to understand the problem - lets look at who the individual is: Clovis Watson is the City Manager of Alachua. He is not a trained manager - although he has been getting correspondence degrees paid for by the City to build his resume ever since obtaining that position. As City Manager I met with him to review the absentee ballots and related documents. This was in regard to an investigation into improprieties of city officials - including Watson - in the conduct of the April City Commission election. Watson is a named defendant in the election lawsuit that we filed the week prior to my arrest.

Watson is also the City Clerk who also serves on the City's Canvassing Board. But Watson was also actively campaigning for a person named James Lewis. Lewis has served on the City Commission in that seat for 39 years - and was "re-elected" (allegedly) this time by a margin of 18 votes which he obtained through the absentee ballot count. Prior to this he was behind 9 votes. I will share a bit more that I know - as Watson has forced some of this out (although trying to spin it).

As City Manager, the day before the election, Watson greeted some of the city's residents (primarily lower-income African Americans) at the door to City Hall the day before the election. That was the day the utility bills were due - and it is customary for a number of people in the community to pay the bill in person at the Deputy Clerk's office. The Deputy Clerk, Alan Henderson, who also supported Lewis actively - also performed the duties of supervisor of elections.

Watson, standing a few feet from Henderson's door, instructed individuals to vote for James Lewis. He then had them brought to vote in Henderson's office - even though there was no formal "early voting" being conducted as required under the statutes. This was illegal - although there are far greater details of what took place making this worse - and clearly a conflict of interest as Watson was one of three members of the Canvassing Board.

Watson and Henderson prevented me from inspecting the ballots when I first appeared to do so. During that meeting I recorded our transactions, as I have a right to do, based upon the knowledge that citizens seeking public records in the City of Alachua are usually not given them in violation of the law. Thus I wanted a record of my transaction in case I needed to take legal action to obtain the records. The recording was done openly and even discussed by Watson and Henderson as it was ongoing. Neither ever asked me to turn off the recording nor refused to talk on the recording. They refused to provide me the documents that day - but set an appointment for the following week.

I was concerned about their possession of the documents during the weekend - but as this was the best we could do - I appeared the following Monday as scheduled.

Watson allowed me to begin inspecting the records - but then appeared out of his office with the Chief of Police and two armed officers to arrest me - on the felony wiretap statute. This despite the fact that Watson, in a memo to the City that night, stated that he was willing to talk on tape and did so with his consent. But again - public officials have no "expectation of privacy" in the conduct of their public business - and the public has a right to document their transactions and interactions with those public officials.

But while I was inspecting the ballots - before I could finish - Watson had me arrested. How? Well, Watson is also the Police Commissioner. As such he ordered the Chief to have me arrested based upon a sworn complaint. Who swore the complaint? Watson - in his capacity as a "sworn officer."

This should seem quite peculiar.

Since that time - I have continued to endeavor to review the absentee ballot process. And these officials have continued to stone-wall me. They even denied Mike Byerly, County Commissioner, a reasonable explanation yesterday as to why we are being denied access to these records.

Meanwhile I tried to file a sworn statement for the offense of perjury in Watson's sworn statement which was the basis of my arrest. The State Attorney's office, however (which is where Watson should have filed a sworn complaint to have me investigated prior to my being arrested), will not accept a sworn complaint but demanded that it be made through the police department.

Of course - the Police Department is who is being complained about. The only other option is the County Sheriff - but they too don't want to get caught up in this. So its like a Catch-22. Who polices the police? Who investigates the public officials and agencies? No one but citizens - but then when citizens attempt this the public agencies and police shut them down.

But I was able to provide a statement of information about the perjury and the problematic events surrounding this. And they go very deep. This created a case file and should force the State Attorney to eventually investigate ... we hope... In the meantime we are now trying to raise $10,000 by morning for a legal front to push this to the next level.

I'm literally exhausted. Last night I went to the City's Commission meeting. They used the "consent agenda" (basically passing laws no one has even seen - without even doing it at the meeting - but behind closed doors - which in Florida is illegal) to pass a number of things - including approving minutes of the Canvassing Board meeting of the election. The problem is - no one in the public has even seen what they passed. Its not even clear that the Commissioners themselves saw it. Here is the catch. I asked for the recording of that meeting. They denied it - and claimed it was not made. But that is not normal as they record all these meetings. Thus this document, passed last night "officially" is the only official account of the election count - and no one has ever even seen what it says.

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Open Thread

Thought I should put up a new thread for the overnight. I was checking out Cute Overload earlier and found this picture.

Now, I know the dog pictured cradling that baby is not everybody's idea of adorable, but in *my* family--ooh, such a face! Anyway, whenever you come by to take a peek at the blog, this one's for you, Mom. Happy Birthday!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Howard on The Daily Show

In case you're like me and you couldn't find a blank tape for the VCR last night, YouTube has the video from Howard's appearance on "The Daily Show."

(HT DNC Blog)

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DemocracyFest Update

The 3rd Annual DemocracyFest will be held July 14th-16th in San Diego, CA.

New information on Day 2 (Daytime Activities) - Saturday, July 15:

The focus of the Saturday sessions is to explore specific core liberal values through in-depth lectures and participatory discussions. The goal is to reconnect with the Framers' vision of a democratic America.

Breaks are plentiful, to enable and encourage participants to connect and exchange ideas and information throughout the day.

Speakers and Panels Confirmed So Far:

David Sirota - Campaign strategist and author, "Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government - and How We Take It Back," regular on the Al Franken Show.



Col. Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserves (Retired); Former U.S. Diplomat, resigned in protest of Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq; a leader at Camp Casey at Crawford, TX, and in the Bring Them Home Tour

Paul Hackett, Iraq War Veteran and 2005 Democratic Congressional candidate in southeastern Ohio.

David Swanson, Washington Director of and; co-founder of the / coalition; creator of and; board member of Progressive Democrats of America



Senator Debra Bowen - Chair, CA State Senate Elections Committee and candidate for CA Secretary of State

Rob Cohen - documentary filmmaker: Votergate, to be released in late summer 2006.

Alan Dechert - President, Open Voting Consortium and Foundation, whose computer scientists have begun programming open source software for voting machines and have developed a working model.

Warren Stewart - Co-Editor of Comprehensive Election Integrity and Election Fracture information from across the US. (Invited)



Wahu Kaara - Executive Director of Kenya Debt Relief Network; 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee; Candidate for President of Kenya, 2007

Debayani Kar -- Communications and Advocacy Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network, Washington, DC; former Communications Coordinator at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR); author and co-author of several papers on the IMF, World Bank, and globalization.

Dr. William Lesher - Pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Berkeley, CA); President of the Board of Trustees, Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions

Bill Harman -- National coordinating committee of the Jubilee USA Network; Board of Directors for the Planned Parenthood Federation of San Diego/Riverside Counties; Southern California representative of the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions; retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)



Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Thos. Jefferson Law School, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, co-chair of the Guild's international committee


Childcare is available between 8:00am - 12:00 Midnight. For more information, click here.

Please Purchase tickets now!

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Thoughts on communicating with "values voters"

Here's something I've been turning over in my mind for a little has to do with things like name calling, making assumptions about what makes others tick as if we can possibly know what is in their hearts. And going from there to deeming people "not worth even trying to talk to".

Howard Dean has gotten a lot of flack lately, not just for misstating the Democratic platform with regard to same-sex marriage, but for even talking to "those people" in the first place. I guess I have an automatic, visceral reaction when I see *anyone* being written off as not being worth bothering with. Probably, as the mother of a gifted, special needs child, I am more sensitized to this sort of thing than most people. Because his challenges, rather than being obvious physical or cognitive limitations, are most often displayed behaviorally, there will always be people who quickly decide "bad parenting" or "bad kid" and at that point the case is closed for them. Anything that I, or anyone else, might say to try to pursaude them otherwise is just "making excuses".

Well, the way I see it, if I don't want people jumping to conclusions about myself and my family, then I really do need to avoid doing the same to others. So, while I admit that there is enough of a body of evidence to indicate that there is little chance of bridging the ideological chasm between myself and Pat Robertson, I simply can't make that same assumption about every person who watches his show.

What I do know is this--there is no real hope of change if we keep only talking to "our own". And the more we choose to immerse ourselves in like-minded environments (via the groups of people we associate with, programs we watch or listen to), the more polarized our thinking is likely to become. And the more we turn people on the other side into caricatures. I loved the calm image of Maryscott O'Connor on The Big Story with John Gibson, because it was a clearly visible contradiction to the "angry left" meme. And I've got to tell you, I have a tremendous amount of respect for people like Maryscott who, like Howard Dean, is able to venture into what is known to be "hostile territory". Because I know myself well enough to be fairly certain that is *not* my calling--I just know I wouldn't be good at that.

But what I *can* do, which might possibly be illuminating, is share a bit of my own perspective, and how that's changed over time. Because, at least early on, you could easily have perceived me as one of "them".

Some of you are probably aware that I was raised Catholic but, after a period of searching, was received into the Episcopal church two years ago. That, of course, is the short version. What it leaves out is the fact that Catholicism was a pretty significant part of my identity through much of my young adulthood. And being a person of faith has been a big part of who I am throughout my whole life, even when I wasn't quite sure what that faith was.

Even though I now identify myself as Episcopalian, my Catholic roots still show. Around the time that the Iraq war was gearing up, I started feeling a need to reconnect with the Blessed Mother. Well, right there is an example of how Mary is complicated for me--what I'm *used* to saying is "the Virgin Mary", but I simply can't buy the "perpetual virginity" teaching.

I am also, by the way, fully aware that Miriam/Mary, the first century Middle-Eastern peasant girl who was the mother of Yeshua/Jesus, looked nothing like the image in my Gravatar.

But it's Botticelli's Madonna of the Magnificat, and I *love* the message of the Magnificat...

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.

Yeah, I'd like to see some of the mighty put down from their thrones. That needs to happen...seriously. But getting back to the Iraq matter what I do or don't believe as far as *teachings* about Mary, I still connect her with the idea of peace. One of her titles is "Queen of Peace". Also, I vaguely recalled that there were stories of Mary appearing to people and enjoining them to pray the Rosary for world peace.

So, in 2002 I started to do just that. Not because I thought that the beads were magic, or the words of the prayers had special power, but because I felt the need to do something to center myself *along with* attending rallies, writing letters, signing petitions and everything else. I even resolved that I was going to pray for George Bush--that God could somehow change his heart.

The funny thing is, shortly after I started this practice of praying the Rosary for peace, I discovered that Pope John Paul II had recently declared October 2002-October 2003 the Year of the Rosary, saying:

I wish once again to entrust the great cause of peace to the praying of the Rosary. We are facing an international situation that is full of tensions, at times threatening to explode. In some parts of the world, where the confrontation is harsher - I think particularly of the suffering land of Christ - we can realize that, even though they are necessary, political efforts are worth little if one remains exacerbated in his mind and no one cares to demonstrate a new disposition of heart in the hope of reviving the struggle and effort of dialogue.

Wow. You gotta believe me--I had *no* idea that the Pope had declared a Year of the Rosary when I started my own practice. For all I know, he somehow got the idea from me. No, probably not, but one thing is for certain, I knew at that point that the Pope was not the boss of me.

I'm also notoriously bad at maintaining any sort of discipline, and after a few months the Rosary habit kind of dropped off. But in its place, I took to wearing a medal. I use it as a tangible reminder of my commitment to peace. I've found that I *need* tangible reminders of that commitment--especially when people tick me off.

This post has ended up a lot longer than I intended, but what I hope I have been able to convey is a sense that I am a sincere person of faith, while at the same time a person who thinks, questions, and reevaluates everything. My views on certain issues have changed over time--there was a time in my adult life when I felt strongly that both abortion and same-sex marriage should be illegal. I know full well what my fellow liberals say about people who hold those positions--and they often aren't kind words. As such, they would have been unlikely to persuade me. But at the same time, years of Catholic schooling had instilled in me the belief that I was compelled to work for social justice and world peace.

But if when you spoke to me, you said things like "If you don't like abortion, don't have one" or called me "anti-choice", chances are you would never have had the opportunity to discover what values we shared. Neither would I. So I believe it is *vitally* important that we talk *with* people who hold different views, rather than *at* them or about them.

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Making the front page locally...our Democratic county chairman.

Reminder: Howard Dean will be a guest on The Daily Show tonight.

From 6 of us at Dean meet-ups in early 2003, to chairman of DFA, to chair of county Democrats...and front page....quite a journey. We are so proud of our friend Richard's calm, cool manner in handling things in the county Democratic party. We have the old school Democrats clashing a little against the "brash" newcomers, so to speak. Richard bridges the gap quite well.

This is probably the best write-up the paper has done on Democrats in a long time, especially on local Democrats. We are very proud here.

New Career for retired lawyer

Richard Blank moved from his lifelong home in Miami to Polk County for space -- room to water ski and boat.

But Blank, 65, gave up semi-retirement to focus on two other pursuits -- representing poor people in the court system and practicing politics.

He's an assistant public defender and chairman of the Polk County Democratic Party.

Political Shift

In 2003 in Polk County, Blank and his wife, a nurse and health-care auditor, became interested in politics -- interested enough to get involved, that is.

"When Howard Dean threw his hat in the ring (for the Democratic nomination for president), Caroll and I became interested. I was watching on television and I thought, `Well hell, here is someone who is real.' "

Dean (I think he means Blank) and Franklin began hosting meetups for Dean -- small gatherings for dinner or coffee where a DVD from the Dean campaign was played and wide-ranging discussions took place about the campaign and the type of government the participants wanted to see.
Very pleased with this write-up, as our political editor is usually very enamored of Republicans, almost to the exclusion of Democrats. We have yet to get him to post the announcement of our DFA meetings, though we have written him personally about the issue. Small steps, they do matter.

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MViMV Guest Blog

Tonight's MViMV Guest Blogger will be Kate Donaghue from the MA Democratic State Committee.

Please join us tonight, 8pm-9pm EDT at the MViMV Blog.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sometimes Letters To The Media Actually Work

If your local news is anything like ours here in my part of Alabama, you see your share of hack journalism for the rightwing. One of the most aggregious in our market is the NBC affiliate, WSFA. This is a station, mind you, that carries James Dobson's "Focus On The Family" I'm in the process now of writing them about their biased coverage.

Last year, and the year before, Senator Russ Feingold came to our region to play golf and meet people in a town called Greenville. He wrote a piece in Salon magazine about his visit in the town the people and how they are being done in by voting for Bush and Repubs. WSFA decided to do a piece on the article Feingold wrote and sent a reporter down to Greenville who proceed in telling the good people there that Feingold had trashed their town and asking their reaction. I couldn't believe it. When Sen. Feingold came back again some months later, it happened again, which prompted me to write the following letter to the station's news director. Below that is the response that I received:


April 2, 2005

Debbie Vickers
10 E. Delano Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36105

Dear Ms. Vickers:
I have watched WSFA for many years, and have always thought your news programming to be the best in our area. But the recent coverage of the comments and visit of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold to Greenville, were frankly, the most unbalanced reportage I have ever seen on your station.

Mr. Feingold's comments deserved a more fair hearing than WSFA afforded them. Instead, what was presented was a rather caricaturized version of the Senator's words and the issues that were raised. It played right into the old divisions of North and South that are beneath us all.

When I saw Mark Bullock's report on Senator Feingold's November 2004 visit, in which he reported that the Senator had "bashed" the city of Greenville, it prompted me to log on to the web to find out what the gentleman said. I was expecting to find a wholsesale assault on the good people of Greenville, instead, what I read was a complimentary, compassionate piece that dealt with the challenges of small towns all across America. He never called people dumb for voting for George Bush.
The Senator's comments about the beauty and the generosity of our state and people were never conveyed in the piece, nor were those about our patriotism, i.e., "Meanwhile, their children volunteer to risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can only be humbled by their sacrifice."

The tone and content of both Mr. Bullock and Mr. Brian Henry's stories seemed uncharacteristically harsh and simplistic. Most of the time seemed to be devoted to asking the people of Greenville what they thought of Senator Feingold bashing their town. I never once heard those who were interviewed asked whether they actually read what the Senator wrote. What's worse is the fact that very little, if any time was afforded to Mr. Feingold to present the essence of his comments.

The economic and personal challenges of people in towns like Greenville, and others like it, deserve real attention from local news organizations across this country. WSFA's presentation of the Senator's comments in that regard not only avoided these issues, but took a point of view, something which served neither the people of Greenville, nor people in this viewing area very well.

Your reporters are some of the best in our state and are too good to have to resort to "attack journalism". I hope that you will consider inviting Senator Feingold back to appear on your Newsmakers program for a reasoned discussion of the important issues, such as healthcare and economic development in small towns, that were the crux of his comments and concerns. More importantly, I hope that your station will present a more three-dimensional perspective of people who comment on our state, one that seeks to engage, rather than enrage the viewer.


Dar (last name)

The station's response

Dear Mr. (last name),

Thank you for contacting WSFA 12 News with your concerns about our reporting of Senator Russ Feingold's remarks about Alabama. I apologize for my tardy reply.

You make very valid points and I respect your opinion. We did not feel that our coverage was unbalanced at the time. In hindsight, you have presented a perspective that we did not consider. Your email will certainly make us consider things differently and will help us do a better job in the future.

Thank you again for such a well worded critique of our coverage.


Denise Vickers

News Director

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Al Gore on SNL

Update: Via this Kos diary by brian77, here is the link to the Gore video online at Ifilm.

Thanks to Howie in Seattle for the heads-up about this. Al Gore was great in the opening sketch on Saturday Night Live, and I've been checking to see if anyone has posted a video. I haven't found one yet, but lavenderdiva at Democratic Underground transcribed it...

SNL opens with a space shot
Announcer: Scientists have long speculated that infinite parallel worlds exist (5 different earths on screen) in different ways than the world we know. On these earths, history has taken different paths, on one, dinosaurs and man coexist, on another, the Russians were the first man to walk on the moon, on another still, Clay Aiken defeated Ruben Studdard. Come join us as we travel through the fabric of time and space to one of these mysteries, one of these parallel earths (earth turns into U. S. Presidential Seal)

Announcer: And now a message from the President of the United States

(Al Gore seated at his desk in the Oval Office)

AG: Good Evening my fellow Americans. In 2000, when you overwhelmingly made the decision to elect me as your 43rd President, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. We have accomplished so much yet challenges lie ahead. In the last 6 years, we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that were once melting, are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine, but I can assure you, we will not let the glaciers win.

And now, in the 2nd week of May, 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas crisis in history. We have way too much gasoline. Gas is down to 19cents a gallon, and the oil companies are hurting. I know that I am partly to blame, by insisting that cars run on trash. I am therefore proposing a federal bail-out to our oil companies because hey, if it were the other way around, you know the oil companies would help us.

On a positive note, we worked hard to save welfare, fix Social Security, and of course, provide the free Universal Healthcare we all enjoy today. But all this came at a high cost. As I speak, the gigantic national budget surplus is down to a perilously low 11 trillion dollars. And don't get any ideas. That money is staying in the very successful lockbox. We're not touching it!

Of course, we could give economic aid to China, or lend money to the Saudis--again. But right now, we are already so loved by everyone in the world, American tourists can't even go over to Europe anymore without getting hugged.

There are some of you, who would like to spend our money on some made-up war. To you I say, 'What part of "lockbox" don't you understand?' What if there's a hurricane, or a tornado? Unlikely, I know because of the anti-hurricane and tornado machine I was instrumental in developing. But, what if? What if the scientists are right, and one of those giant glaciers hits Boston? That's why we have the lockbox.

As for immigration, solving that came at a heavy cost. And I personally regret the loss of California. However, the new Mexifornian economy is strong. El Presidente Schwarzenegger is doing a great job.

There have been some setbacks. Unfortunately, the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Michael Moore was bitter and divisive. However, I could not be more proud of how the House and the Senate pulled together to confirm the nomination of Chief Justice George Clooney.

Baseball, our national pastime, still lies under the shadow of steroid accusations. But I have faith in Baseball Commissioner George W. Bush when he says, 'We will find the steroid users, if we have to tap every phone in America'.

In 2001, when I came into office, our national security was the most important issue; the threat of terrorism was real. Who knew that 6 years later, Afghanistan would be the most popular spring break destination? That 6 Flags Tehran is the fastest growing amusement park in the middle east?

And the scariest thing we Americans have to fear is LIVE FROM NEW YORK, ITS SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE!

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