Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jindahl to west coast: Drop Dead

From Bobby Jindahl's Republican rebuttal to the Obama speech last night:

While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a 'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.'

Now, granted some of this is just plain stupid. The government (like any public or private institution) needs certain resources and unless he is willing to provide us with some context like how many cars the government needs to carry out its duties, what kind of cars they are buying and what the market price is, and how old the cars they have now are and what kind of repair bills they are running up (not to mention the gas mileage of the old and the new cars), his assertion that $300 million for new cars is wasteful spending seems unsupported by any background information. He might be right, but if he is then he has to give us more information than just the price tag.

As for the high speed rail project, again we don't know the context. It certainly sounds wasteful, but for starters is the terminal actually at Disneyland, or is it simply someplace in the greater Los Angeles metro area? And if it is, how many people drive every day between Las Vegas and LA? It may be the best investment of funds we've ever seen, without any background information we don't know if it's wasteful or not.

But the real threat he makes is by attacking funding for volcano monitoring. The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, for the number of active volcanoes. Over twenty are in areas where they represent a significant threat to people, and are being monitored. The metropolitan area most at risk is Portland, Oregon, which lives in the shadow of Mount Hood, which is active and erupts periodically. A Mount St. Helens-type blowup of Mount Hood (which is a distinct possibility and sooner or later is likely) could potentially incinerate or bury up to a million people in the Portland area. Now, granted life goes on in Portland but the idea that we should quit monitoring the volcano is asinine. Coming from a Governor who several times in his speech referred to Hurricane Katrina is obscene (Hey Guv, how about shutting down the National Hurricane Center? What do we spend on it every year? How about it, Guv?)

I live in northern Arizona, a region pretty much devoid of natural disasters, but I recognize as an American that I have a duty to pay taxes to help monitor natural disasters that may threaten people who live in regions that aren't as blessed that way as this one is.

Since I don't believe that Bobby Jindahl is stupid (willing to play politics with anything, yes, but stupid no) I have to conclude that this attack on volcano monitoring is a veiled threat against the citizens of Washington, Oregon and Northern California (the populated areas most endangered by volcanic explosions.) After all, the west coast now elects six Democratic Senators (out of six), a 44-23 Democratic split in the house, and has gone Democratic for President for the past five elections (past six for Washington and Oregon.) Last year the west coast handed Obama 73 electoral votes. So the clear message sent by his honing in on volcano monitoring (as opposed to tornados, hurricanes or other disasters that might affect people in red states) is "If you don't vote for us then drop dead." Literally.

Yeah, I know that there was recently a volcano threatening Anchorage, Alaska. Dang, maybe even Sarah Palin would have done a better job with this assignment than Jindahl.

Perish the thought.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

George Lakoff and the Obama Code

Fivethirtyeight posted a special article written by George Lakoff and submitted to fivethirtyeight, entitled George Lakoff on the Obama Code.

Lakoff was the progressive who caught onto the way Republicans were winning the framing debate some years back and helped educate the left by explaining to us that we can't keep debating on their turf. A prime example of that is the term, "tax relief." Using the terms suggests that taxes are an affliction, so reducing them is always then a good thing. There are many other examples as well in which we stumble into their way of framing things (i.e. 'global warming controversy,' or 'war against terror.') It's like becoming the visiting team every time we debate with Republicans. That's not to say that we can't win a debate (sometimes the visiting team wins the game) but as long as we are debating using their language we are already starting at a disadvantage.

So Lakoff has analyzed the 'Obama code,' and discusses how we are likely to see things work, and the meaning of what Obama says, prior to tonight's speech. I won't repost the whole thing here (since Nate Silver is a guy I respect and he deserves credit for being selected by Lakoff as the outlet for this insightful article) but if you follow the link it's worth a read.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sort of like the Energizer bunny.

Socks, formerly the Clintons' cat, died today. When the Clintons moved out of the White House, they gave Socks to press secretary Betty Curry, who has kept him for the past eight years.

Socks, it seems, had only one life.

But the Clintons do have nine lives.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Republican one-page playbook

DEEP THOUGHT got an exclusive interview with an anonymous Republican Senator, who agreed to the interview on the condition that we keep his name anonymous.

DT: Thank you for coming today, Senator. Would you like some cookies?

S: Yes, thank you, and would you like some tax cuts?

DT: No, thanks. President Obama faces some huge problems. Chief among them is the economy. I noticed that like almost all of your GOP colleagues you voted against the President's stimulus plan, even after it had been watered down in negotiations with a handful of Republican RINOs.

S: It didn't include enough tax cuts.

DT: But by the end of the negotiations, almost 2/5 of the bill was tax cuts.

S: That's not enough.

DT: But Obama won the election, shouldn't he get a chance to do what he feels is necessary to fix the economy?

S: Sure, and we are willing to work with him on ways to cut taxes.

DT: Didn't tax cuts help get us into this mess? The economy prospered under the Clinton tax rates, but after Bush cut taxes in March 2001 companies built new factories overseas and outsourced millions of jobs, and the economy never did grow again after that as fast as it had under Clinton.

S: The problem was that after 2001, we didn't cut taxes enough. Bush's problem was that he wasn't aggressive enough, or he'd have pushed for another trillion in tax cuts the next year, and the year after that.

DT: And then raise them again when the economy is stronger?

S: Of course not. When the economy is good then you need to cut taxes.

DT: So when the economy is bad, we need tax cuts. But when it's good, as it was when Bush was running in 2000, you still need tax cuts?

S: Of course you do. It's sort of like breathing. You always need more tax cuts. Just repeat after me, "I need a tax cut... I need a tax cut..."

DT: Cut it out! Let's change the subject and talk about terrorism. How should the Obama administration approach the issue of international terrorism?

S: With tax cuts.

DT: How will tax cuts help?

S: They will just make things better, so much so that we won't care if terrorists attack again. We'll be able to afford our own private security guards.

DT: You maybe, I'm sure that one would be a bit out of my price range.

S: Offer the security guard a tax cut, maybe you can get a cheap rate.

DT: OK, let's talk about Iraq. George Bush completely lost his way after he started the war. How do you propose we get out of Iraq?

S: With tax cuts.

DT: TAX CUTS?!? How will they help get us out of Iraq?

S: They will cause all the people of Iraq to stop fighting and start hugging each other because they will all realize that they want tax cuts too. Remember, they're still looking for an excuse to throw flowers at us since we got rid of Saddam for them. Tax cuts would be the perfect reason for them to express their gratitude.

DT: So you are saying that tax cuts will fix Iraq. OK, what would you do about internet pornography?

S: Tax cuts.

DT: (sigh). Senator, what would you do about steroids in baseball?

S: Cut taxes.

DT: Pollution?

S: Tax Cuts.

DT: Identity theft and stock fraud?

S: A capital gains tax cut.

DT: Education and all the paperwork created by NCLB?

S: Tax cuts

DT: The flu?

S: Tax cuts are the cure.

DT: Gambling by NBA officials?

S: Tax cuts, for sure.

DT: Orbiting space junk?

S: Tax cuts.

DT: The peanut butter salmonella scandal?

S: They should have given the peanut company a tax cut.

DT: OK. Let's remember some history. What do you think about the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln earlier this week?

S: He is overrated as a President. There would have been no need for the Civil War if he'd just passed a big tax cut when he became President.

DT: Fine. REALLY Off-topic, I have a 2003 Dodge and it keeps squeaking at me when I turn left. Any idea on what I should do fix the problem?

S: A tax cut, definitely would fix it.

DT: Is there ANYTHING that you believe can't be cured by tax cuts?

S: Sure.

DT: What is that?

S: Death. Wait--if taxes aren't a sure thing, then maybe neither is death. On second thought, no there isn't anything that a tax cut won't cure.

DT: OK. Good-bye Senator.

S: Good-bye. Oh, yeah, did I remember to talk about tax cuts?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Don Bivens for Arizona Democratic Party Chair

The other day I put up a post entitled "An open letter to Paul Eckerstrom."

It had to do with how disappointed I was, including in myself, for supporting a guy who clearly was not up to the job as state party chair. He quit after only thirteen days.

In the process I had voted against Don Bivens, who I believe has done a pretty good job over the past couple of years as state party chair. Yeah, we did lose several legislative races last year (when we faced the triple whammy of McCain at the top of the ticket, prop 102 and continuing to run against a Republican gerrymander that we were handed by the supposedly "non-partisan" redistricting commission in 2001.) I know the state party has made getting a fair redistricting following the 2010 census a high priority.

Despite that, under Bivens we have outraised and outorganized the Republicans (this is still a state with a clear Republican voter registration edge, but less so than it has been in the past.) Looking past the legislative losses, we gained a congressional district (this one), and came literally within a couple hundred votes of going from no seats on the five member corporation commission to gaining majority (3 out of 5) control. As it is, we have two seats on the commission and with two more Republican seats up in 2010 I believe there is a very good chance we could pick up a majority. And winning seats on the commission is something that has been a party priority since, well, I became active but we never were able to pull it out until this past year.

More the point, Bivens this week sent out a letter to all of us on the state committee saying that he gets it. I believe him about that. He knows that we are all disappointed about the legislative races. And he's prepared to lead on that. Certainly now everyone in the state has seen point blank what this legislature, with a Republican Governor who would sign whatever budget they send her, will do. I've had conversations with people the past few years, when Janet Napolitano was providing a safety zone against legislative excesses, say "they wouldn't really cut that much out of the schools." Well, they will. They are. People can see that now. So we have a chance to make substantial gains in the legislature this year.

And I believe that Don Bivens is the guy who can help us do it-- he certainly has made it clear that he can and does learn by experience. Further, in picking himself up from the stunning loss of a couple of weeks ago and getting back in the saddle, he's showing that he is capable and willing to shake it off, and to stay in for the long haul. That is exactly the role model we need as we go back to work on the legislative races. The truth is, we all lost those races last year. But the gains that he made, in helping us organize and gain more voters across the state, are long term gains.

One thing that Paul Eckerstrom said in his speech that resonated was to develop a think tank to balance some of the garbage that comes from the Goldwater Institute(something that a lot of us have talked about in the past.) But I found out later that Don Bivens had talked to Vince Rabago about it at a meeting just the night before last month's vote, just he didn't discuss it in his acceptance speech. But he supports the idea too.

So although I did not vote for Mr. Bivens two weeks ago (and told him I hadn't), I will vote for him this time around. It's not often in life that if you make a mistake you get a do-over, but I'm glad that this time I get one. And this time I will make the right decision, and vote for Don Bivens for Arizona Democratic Party chair.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Accident this week highlights how we are making space more hazardous than it needs to be

The astronaut worked carefully, adjusting the solar panel which collected energy for the space station. Space walks were rare nowadays, with sophisticated robots doing most of the routine, and increasingly more complex outside work. But once in awhile there was still a need for a human touch. As she carefully set the final rivet in place, the astronaut felt a sense of exhiliration, not unlike that which anyone would feel upon doing a job better than any robot could....

All of a sudden it happened. A piece of space debris four and a half inches long and perhaps half as wide, weighing about a pound, and probably from some old and forgotten satellite or other relic from the late twentieth or early twenty-first century, ripped through her space suit travelling at several miles per second, many times faster than any bullet that had ever been fired by any gun on the earth. Instantly it passed all the way through her body, and she died in excruciating pain, but very quickly as blood, entrails and other contents of the space suit were ripped out into the icy vacuum of space. The space suit, now useless, shredded as her body blew up in the vacuum and literally exploded.

Even before anything had spilled out, the projectile had shattered the solar panel, depriving the station of power, and smashed into the outside wall. Though the wall had been planned and built extra thick precisely in anticipation of this kind of event, the piece was large enough that it punctured the outer wall. The emergency doors detected the immediate drop in pressure and sealed off the compartment that had been breached, though this meant death for the two astronauts inside it (nothing could be done about that, they almost certainly died nearly as gruesomely as their colleague outside as the air was sucked at an incredible rate through the hole that had been made in the wall.

Science fiction? Perhaps. But this nightmare scenario will be faced by Captain Kirk or any other future astronauts as they venture out into space. It will be confined to the vicinity of earth, but it is our generation's gift to them.

A gift for which we will be cursed probably for hundreds or even thousands of years, just as we today curse those who left such hazards as chemical dumps that continue to poison people who live near them and which we all pay thousands of dollars a year to clean up as those who created them are long since dead, radioactive islands in the Pacific that will not be habitable for thousands of years, or who chose to hunt animals like the passenger pigeon to extinction without giving any thought to what we can't do or see anymore. And remember the tragic episode that happened here in Arizona about a year and a half ago which I blogged about, when a girl lost her life and another was critically injured, courtesy of some now-forgotten miners from a hundred years ago or longer, who simply walked away from the mineshaft they had dug into the earth without bothering to mark it.

Well, now it's our turn to be the miners who don't care what future generations will go through in space as the consequence of our own devil-may-care attitude about it.

As portrayed graphically in this image (though it is a graphic designed to make a point-- the objects are portrayed by scale as miles wide, when they are at most a few meters across), the earth is now being orbited by over 12,000 known pieces of space debris, ranging from fractions of an inch to defunct satellites or pieces of satellites weighing several tons. Pieces now being tracked include such objects as a screwdriver that was once lost on a spacewalk, along with the more mundane such as military, weather or communications satellites that are no longer in use.

But the pieces which are known about and are being tracked are not the ones we have to worry the most about. Rather, it is those which are not being tracked. This problem came into perspective last Thursday when an old Russian military satellite collided with a communications satellite operated by Iridium communications, inc. The fault was clearly that of the Russian government. It is true that most governments don't make the locations of their military satellites public (especially since we know that several nations have the technology to shoot down satellites) but certainly once it was no longer in use the Russians should either have provided tracking data to NASA and other organizations that keep track of this kind of stuff, or else put it into a decaying orbit which would cause it to burn up and fall to earth over water (what is usually done with old satellites.)

God knows how many new, certainly untracked pieces of space junk were created by the collision. Most fell to earth, but many did not and are now orbiting in orbits that no one has a clue about-- until they hit something. Several years ago a tile on the space shuttle was damaged when it apparently hit a fleck of paint-- in other words a tiny piece of orbital debris-- that had apparently flaked off of some long ago space mission. Unneeded trash, human waste (yes, there are shits in space, zipping along hundreds of miles over our head at several miles per second)-- those were once let go into space as well (though to our credit we now recycle everything that can be recycled, and stash the rest.)

Most galling, China test fired a missile several years ago at a real target, a satellite six hundred miles in space. This certainly created thousands of untracked pieces of space debris (well, what do they care? They're China.) Then the U.S. responded with our own missile test last year. The cover story was that we were protecting the population of the earth from lethal hydrazine fuel from a disabled satellite. Of course, even if you found the fuel tank, hydrazine would only be lethal if you stood there and sniffed it for hours (and dozens of satellites with hydrazine fuel tanks have fallen to earth in the past without any consequences.) In other words, it was a missile test to show that we could do what the Chinese can do, but after the flack they took for theirs we had to find an excuse.

Unlike explosions on earth, where nature eventually heals even the most horrific of scars (such as those caused by nuclear testing), an explosion in space is destined to leave debris that will orbit the earth into the far distant future, perhaps forever. It's safe to say that if there is ever a war fought in space then it will turn low earth orbit into a deadly field of orbiting debris that future astronauts will breathe a sigh of relief when they clear. The asteroid belt would probably be a safer place.

Obviously there will always be accidents in space (like dropping a screwdriver) and that can't be helped, but we have an obligation to future generations to begin urging governments and private companies that venture into space to put together a policy by which 1. no dumping of any kind will be allowed (just because we've wised up on this doesn't mean everyone will-- so let's get it in writing while we can and this provision remains relatively non-controversial); 2. all satellites should be tracked or safely removed from near earth orbit (whether that means putting them into a decaying orbit to re-enter over water, as is done now, or whether it means boosting them out of earth's orbit entirely either out of the solar system or into the sun), including military satellites that are no longer in use; and 3. (especially this one) just like the nuclear test ban that the United States and the Soviet Union inked in 1962 when the hazards of atmospheric radiation were becoming obvious and could no longer be ignored, it is time to urge that the U.S., China and any other nation that is developing into space sign a ban against test firing anti-satellite missiles at targets outside of earth's atmosphere (which would in no way prevent any nation from firing a missile not set to explode, into empty space against a virtual target, which a computer could model its motion and indicate whether the missile got there or not.)

But now that we are becoming aware that this is a problem, to do nothing and continue to fill space with thousands of physical hazards and leave it to future generations to fix problems that we could much more easily not cause in the first place, would be the spineless way out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

RINOs are still elephants at the end of the day.

President Obama has said repeatedly that he wants to reach out to Republicans.

He's also put actions behind those words. He kept George Bush's Defense Secretary, Bill Gates, on the job. He named Republican representative Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary (George Bush had a Democrat, Norman Mineta as Transportation Secretary, but Mineta was the only Democrat in the Bush cabinet, while with Gates, LaHood was Obama's second Republican.) He appointed another Republican, retired General James Jones, as his National Security Advisor.

Obama made the trek back to Capitol Hill to hold several meetings with only Republicans (something previous Presidents had not done, insisting that members of the opposition party, especially when they were in the minority, come to the White House instead for consultations and then accompanied by members of the majority party.)

He included billions of dollars worth of tax cuts in the stimulus proposal, despite angering some members of his own party.

He asked Republican Senator Judd Gregg to become the third Republican in his cabinet, as Commerce Secretary. After a bit more than a week as the presumptive appointee, Gregg withdrew his name.

Now, I don't blame a lot of Republicans for voting against the stimulus bill. If someone fundamentally disagrees with something for ideological reasons then they absolutely should vote against it. I understand that and I can respect that.

Rather, what has bothered me is a report on today not only saying that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was disappointed with three RINOs who agreed to support a watered-down stimulus bill, but that apparently there was a plan afoot to vote as a bloc against the bill specifically and for the singular purpose of sticking Obama with a defeat.

What this says is that the GOP in Washington, rather than agreeing with the President that the voters expect everyone to work together to solve problems, are still playing partisan games. The only bullet they have left is a 41-Senator solid bloc sticking behind a filibuster, but instead of using it once or twice when it might prevail, the GOP leadership intends to force the issue more often, even if it is difficult to get all the rinos to hold the line with them.

As Democrats we should be careful though. First, let's get this straight-- a Rino is still a Republican, and is even less a friend of ours than, say, Joe Lieberman. They may be pursuadable on specific issues but if we had 60 Democrats in the Senate the whole question of how far to cut the stimulus would be moot, and we'd have gotten a better bill.

Second, Rinos are notoriously erratic and unpredictable. For example, the prototypical Rino, John McCain, was squarely against the stimulus bill. He might be pursuadable on issues like torture or immigration, on the other hand. But I don't like being in the position of having to depend on a John McCain or an Arlen Spectre or a Susan Collins to be the tie-breaking vote.

Third, as we saw on the stimulus bill, there is a price for support from Rinos. Maybe it is such an emergency that this price was necessary but it still may not achieve a big enough jolt to the economy, thanks to RINO's cutting things out of the bill and diluting it with more tax cuts.

In 2008, Nancy Pelosi's House, though increasing the Democratic margin by a modest number, crossed a key benchmark when the size of the majority outnumbered the number of 'Blue Dog' Democrats. That meant that the conservative caucus no longer can pull the entire House to the right by defining the center.

That doesn't mean that the congressional leadership should ignore the blue dogs, but they also no longer have to bend over for them, and they shouldn't. Listen, let them be involved, incorporate any good ideas they have. But don't let them hold the Democratic Congress hostage. Somewhat similarly, looking especially at the Senate, it would be good if we were able to ignore RINO's. Right now there is little choice-- even if Al Franken pulls out a win in Minnesota, Democrats will still need a vote from a Republican whenever Senator McConnell decides to try and filibuster (which seems to be on most votes.) Rinos may be the most likely ones to crossover, but if it's not such an emergency I hope our leadership remembers that in this election and last, it was Republican ideas that the American people rejected, not Democratic ones.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Oh, no. Not another one.

The President needs support from the Senate, as we saw this week, to get his bills passed.

And equally on display this week was that despite his attempts to reach out to Republicans, the GOP in the Senate is as partisan today as it ever has been.

With this in mind, the Democrats' 58-41 advantage in the Senate (probably 59-41 once all the appeals are exhausted in Minnesota) is one vote shy of the magical 60 vote mark, which prevents the GOP from launching a filibuster.

You'd think after the way this week has gone that the Obama administration would take better note of the numbers game in the Senate than they have been.

In 2010, as of right now there are likely to be 19 Republican and 17 Senate seats up (including special elections for Senators appointed to seats.) So far, The President has chosen four sitting Senators for his cabinet (including Joe Biden for Vice President.) Two of those, in Delaware and New York are probably going to go Democratic (though Delaware Republican Representative Mike Castle could make things interesting if he runs for the Senate, presumably against Biden's son.) In Colorado, Ken Salazar's departure and replacement by a little known Denver schools superintendent certainly puts the seat in play, a seat which Salazar would have held easily. On the other hand let the President appoint who he wants, and he essentially undid the Colorado situation this week when he announced that New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg would be appointed to be the next Commerce Secretary (after Bill Richardson had to withdraw from contention for that post.) Gregg only agreed to go after a deal was struck with the state's governor for his chief of staff to be named as his replacement, which won't change the present partisan balance of the Senate; but she almost certainly won't run in 2010 and while Gregg would probably have held the seat in increasingly blue New Hampshire it looks at least as ripe for Democrats as Colorado may or may not be for Republicans.

Obviously in being elected President, Obama gave up his Senate seat in Illinois. That seat would almost certainly have gone Democratic, pre-Blago scandal, but now it's anyone's guess.

But now let's go beyond current Senators. In selecting Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security Chief, Obama did his election opponent, John McCain a huge favor. A poll out last year showed Napolitano beating McCain in a 2010 head to head matchup. But with her out of the equation here in Arizona I am not sure if we have another Democrat who could do as well versus McCain (Terry Goddard will almost certainly run for Governor.) We saw this week that minus any threat from Napolitano McCain was certainly anything but bipartisan. So Obama may well have handed the GOP a seat (or at least prevented a Democratic takeover next year) with his pick.

Again, he can pick who he wants and I'm sure that Janet will do an excellent job at Homeland Security (or even at the Supreme Court, which she is rumored to also be on the short list for.)

So now after the withdrawl of Tom Daschle, we see that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is rumored to be the front runner for Health and Human Services. Like Napolitano, she has been the popular Democratic Governor of a Republican state. One reason why Senator Sam Brownback is retiring is that he supposedly expected a challenge from Sebelius, one which he might well lose. With him gone, she has to be considered the front runner for the seat.

Except that once again, Obama is going to the Senate 'farm system' to call up a promising prospect for his cabinet.

Like I've said three times here, he has the right to pick who he wants to pick. But this continuing stream of Senators and likely Senate candidates is going to cost him, later if not sooner. If a loss in Colorado, Arizona and/or Kansas ends up costing Democrats the 60 vote margin in 2010 then Obama may have to blame himself if he has trouble getting legislation passed as he is running for re-election.

An open letter to Paul Eckerstrom

BACKGROUND Two weeks ago the state committee of the Democratic Party met and voted out incumbent chair Don Bivens in favor of Paul Eckerstrom, who seemingly popped up from nowhere. In my opinion, Bivens did a pretty good job, outfundraising the Republicans and helping to better organize the party. And we did have an uphill fight this year, with proposition 102 (Gay Marriage) bringing out the Republican base and with John McCain at the top of the ticket.

Nonetheless we did lose legislative seats and from my perspective it seemed like we were more worried about not losing than we were about winning; there was no clear message articulated about why voters should vote for our candidates. Also, the state party seemed at times disorganized. We ran a write-in candidate in the September primary for the state Senate after the Republican incumbent died and a staunch conservative was appointed to replace him. We did our part, and got the write-in enough votes to appear on the November ballot. But then the state party was late or non-existent in support of his campaign, and this is a district where Democrats can win. S

o as such, I was open to looking for new leadership even though I felt that Bivens deserved to be re-elected. Eckerstrom gave a resounding speech after being nominated from the floor at the state committee meeting, and he ran a good campaign that day. For example he got his stuff out on the seats. Of course Bivens probably came that morning expecting to be re-elected by acclaimation, but he had nothing out there. People read what is on their seats while waiting for the meeting to start and if they have no other information about the candidates, as many of the first time members did not, they tend to vote based on what they see on the seats. Bivens had sent out an email but people usually get emails when they have a bunch of others to read, in sharp contrast to the sometimes long waits they endure while sitting in the meeting.

What Eckerstrom said that got my vote (and probably many others) was that he favored a more focused message that concentrated on articulating what we stand for, and also that he favors the creation of a think tank in the state (which the Republicans already have, the Goldwater Institute.) He also said that he believes that the Colorado model for turning the state blue could and should be replicated in Arizona, and I also have said that myself in the past. It took me less than twenty-four hours to regret that vote, when I read the Sunday Arizona Republic and Eckerstrom was quoted as saying he had 'no intention of winning.' ?? If he didn't intend to win, then why did he run? In a group of six hundred voters, it's safe to say that if you get nominated for a position then you might, **gasp** win!

As such, I was personally disappointed but hardly surprised when Eckerstrom sent the members of the state committee an email indicating that he is resigning after two weeks on the job. He said that he did not realize the time commitment that a state chair has to put in (there is no excuse for being surprised by that. Even I know that, which is one reason why I have no intention of ever seeking any level of state party office.) I tried to respond but apparently his email is not set to accept responses. So, I am rephrasing my reply as an open letter:


Dear Paul,

Unlike many of those who voted for you, I had a very difficult time deciding to do so because I felt that Don Bivens has done as good a job as anyone could have done under the circumstances (people tend to forget that we are still fighting against what amounts to a Republican legislative gerrymander that the officially 'nonpartisan' redictricting board handed us in 2001.)

I voted for you because I agree that we need to confront these issues head on and your idea for a think tank is something I have believed is necessary for a long time. However, it was not an easy decision (and I have enough respect for Don Bivens that I told him that I didn't vote for him and why, which was not easy for him to hear.)

In this context I am disappointed with your decision to quit. If you were not fully prepared to serve then it would have been appropriate to officially withdraw your candidacy at the conclusion of your speech (as has been done by others in the past) and move that Mr. Bivens be elected by acclamation. There are many, many new state committee members and it is certainly going to be a drain on their enthusiasm to have to go back next month and elect another new chair, to say nothing of how much it will set our efforts back for the 2010 election cycle.

Paul, if you weren't aware of what the job would entail and if you weren't completely ready and willing to serve then you had an obligation to withdraw your name before the vote, and I am saying that as someone who did vote for you. In a group of six hundred voters, it is certainly feasible that anyone who accepts a nomination, might win.

-- Eli Blake

The good news out of all this is that I will get that rarest of moments in life, a do-over after screwing up (Eckerstrom won by a fairly healthy margin, but I'm still glad I at least get to fix my mistake.) And this time I will support Don Bivens if he runs. If he does not then I will still have a chance to vote for somebody who I feel confident actually wants the job, knows what it will entail and is ready to accept all responsibilities associated with the job.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Howard Dean would be an excellent choice to head HHS

Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Raul Grijalva are both pushing the same idea: Howard Dean as the new Secretary for Health and Human Services. Of course the position is now open following the withdrawl of Tom Daschle.

I can't think of a better choice. Dr. Dean was a practicing physician who has succeeded in providing health coverage for all kids in Vermont, and during his tenure at the DNC did an outstanding job of building our party.

Another argument in favor of Dean is that given the circumstances that led to Daschle's withdrawl the Obama administration can't afford another vetting mistake in making the pick. But Republicans have just spent the past five years digging dirt on Dean, so if there was any don't you think they'd have slung it by now? About all they've got is the 'Dean scream' geography lesson which is old news and irrelevant.

He's not all that popular with Rahm Emmanuel, to be sure, but then whose white house is it, anyway? Dean has certainly showed he is willing to submerge his own ego to help others succeed, and that he is a team player. Picking Howard Dean would help put to rest the rumors that got started earlier this month when Tim Kaine was announced as the new head of the DNC after Howard Dean was off building the party in American Samoa.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Groundhog day roundup.

On groundhog day:

President Obama saw his shadow. It's still larger than anyone else's. But house Republicans are still working on a way to cut it off at the knees.

Vice President Biden did not see his shadow. He's standing in Obama's shadow.

Former Vice President Cheney did not see his shadow. He's in some new undisclosed location, and it's one where the sun don't shine.

Osama bin Laden did not see his shadow, for the same reason as Cheney didn't see his.

Cardinals Quarterback Kurt Warner saw his shadow. It still looks like the Steelers defensive line.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner did not see his shadow. He forgot he had to have one.

Indicted former Congressmen Rick Renzi, William Jefferson and John Doolittle took a long look at their shadow. By this time next year they may not get to look at it.

Mitch McConnell saw his shadow. It's only about 41/49ths as large as it was just last month.

Former President Bush saw his shadow. And it was much diminished from four years ago.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't see her shadow. Spring is here, and she's trying to thaw out some of our foreign relations.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin saw his shadow. And it looks like Lenin, Khruschev and Gorbachev. The fact that he is bald is the second similarity.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps isn't sure whether he saw his shadow or not. It was sort of hazy right where he was standing.

Rod Blagojevich won't decide whether he saw his shadow yet. He said, "A shadow is a bleeping valuable thing. And if I don't get the money then I'll bring six more weeks of winter, and then you'll all be sorry."

United Airline Pilot 'Sully' Sullenberger saw his shadow. And he laid it down perfectly, right where he wanted it.
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