Thursday, December 25, 2008

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

From all of us at ElectBlue, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and, of course, a Happy New Year. May our best wishes find you happy and healthy during this holiday season!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

President-elect Obama's Weekly Radio/YouTube Address

Here is this week's radio/YouTube address from the President-elect:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just In - Vilsack Appointed Agriculture Secretary

According to a local Iowa television station, Barack Obama will announce Tom Vilsack as his cabinet choice for Agriculture Secretary tomorrow.  From ABC affiliate, KCRG-TV...
Democratic sources say President-elect Barack Obama has selected former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and will announce the appointment on Wednesday.

Two sources familiar with the selection process spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the selection.

Vilsack sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 but dropped out after poor showings in early primries. He endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and campaigned actively for her in the long primary campaign against Obama. After Obama defeated Clinton in the primaries, Vilsack endorsed him.

Vilsack served two terms as governor of Iowa, a major farm state. He was first elected in 1998.
Three weeks ago, the Des Moines Register headlined a story that read "Vilsack won't be ag secretary" and quoted Vilsack as never having been contacted about the position.

Speculation that Vilsack might run for Senate in '10 may now be put to rest. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is up for reelection, will be 77 in 2010.  

Video: Prop 8 Musical


Senator Sebelius? It's only been 80 years!

That's how long it's been since a Democrat represented the state of Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

We speculated a few weeks ago about the possibility of Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) running for Brownback's seat in 2010. Adding to our curiosity, just days ago she removed herself from being considered for an Obama cabinet post.  Politico picks up this story along with a few clues about GOP frontrunners, Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt.

Just three Democrats have ever been elected to the U.S. Senate in Kansas, the last being George ("Gloomy Gus") McGill in 1932.  More good reading on McGill here.

Cell Phone Voting In E-Stonia

Ever wonder if voters in the United States will ever cast their votes online? Who knows if that'll ever happen?  But Estonia, which already allows its citizens to vote online, will become the first nation to allow voters to cast their ballots via their cell phone in 2011!  MSNBC has the story on "M-Voting."
The mobile-voting system, which has already been tested, requires that voters obtain free, authorized chips for their phones, said Raul Kaidro, spokesman of the SK Certification Center, which issues personal ID cards in Estonia.
The chip will verify the voter's identity and authorize participation in the electronic voting system...

Estonian officials said the Internet voting system in 2007 proved secure despite worries about hacker attacks, identity fraud and vote count manipulation.
About 30,000 Estonians, or 3% of eligible voters, voted online in parliamentary elections in 2007.

Update: Same-Day Early Voting Ban in Ohio

An update to our report last week regarding GOP lawmakers in Ohio and their attempt to end same-day registration in the state. From the AP:
The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a bill Tuesday that eliminates a weeklong window during which people can register and vote on the same day.

The 19-to-11 vote came over the objections of Gov. Ted Strickland, elections chief Jennifer Brunner and other Democrats, who have said voter convenience is being removed without evidence that the window created problems.

Supporters of the bill have said same-day registration and voting invites fraud.
If passed by the House and signed into law, the bill would eliminate the window by changing the dates when absentee ballots will be made available to early voters.
State Senator Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who sponsored the bill, said it is impossible to know whether fraud occurred in November because Brunner blocked access to some of the identifying voter information needed to do cross-checks. About 13,000 people registered and voted on the same day.

Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega said county boards of elections have always had access to the mismatch information, just not in the format that some might want.
The bill was hastily written and needlessly complicated, Ortega said.

The GOP-controlled House was to continue hearings on the bill Wednesday. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Liberation On A Shoestring

Only if you think a trillion dollars is a shoestring.  

Reminds me of this Austin Powers moment.  "Who throws a shoe?"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Audacity of Corruption

The arrest this morning of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) on federal charges of corruption revealed a scandal so sweeping it surely must establish a new low-water mark in the recent history of American political corruption. It unmasked a politician so drunk with his own power that he ran amok in unbelievably arrogant attempts to enrich himself and his wife while desperately trying to crush anyone who got in his way. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who came to national prominence leading the investigation into the Bush Administration's outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, is in charge of the Blagojevich probe. In a late morning news conference. Fitzgerald said that Blagojevich's actions constituted "a political corruption crime spree". That's putting it mildly.

The federal allegations against Blagojevich fall roughly into three categories:

1. The so-called 'pay to play' scheme in which the Illinois Governor is accused of demanding personal and/or political monetary kick-backs in exchange for awarding state contracts or granting state funds. As appalling as these charges are, they are pretty much the garden variety of political corruption. There is nothing particularly new in this, but it is loathsome nevertheless. In just the past few weeks two long-serving members of Congress lost their re-election bids because of similar corrupt behavior: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) and Louisiana Representative William Jefferson (D). Some fine group of public servants that.

2. Blagojevich is accused of attempting to get at least one political writer for The Chicago Tribune fired in exchange for state backing of renovations at Chicago's Wrigley field, a facility owned by The Tribune's parent company. It seems the journalist(s) had written numerous articles and op-ed pieces highly critical of the Governor. Such overt attempts at muzzling members of the Fourth Estate are very rare in American politics, but are all too common in other countries. For example, Russia's Vladimir Putin would undoubtedly recognize a soul-mate in Mr. Blagojevich. Beyond disgusting, this alleged action earns Blagojevich a very special place in the Political Corruption Hall of Infamy. He will have to fight for a seat with the ghosts of despicable foreign dictators like Haiti's 'Papa Doc' Duvalier and Chile's Augusto Pinochet. Fair enough.

3. If you thought Blagojevich couldn't sink any lower, think again. The Federal criminal complaint asserts that Blagojevich was trying to sell the US Senate seat just vacated by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Although not totally unheard of in American politics, the brazenness of the Illinois Governor's efforts to get cash from such a high-level, high-profile appointment is breathtaking and virtually unprecedented. You'd have to look at the behavior of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe or Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko to find anything comparable in today's world. Great role models those.

Although we must be careful to preserve the very important legal presumption of innocence, it is clear that Blagojevich must go... and go now. If he refuses to resign, then the Illinois legislature should remove him from office immediately. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has suggested that the vacant Illinois Senate seat should be filled by a special election, not by appointment. That sounds like a very good idea. Maybe all the states should adopt that plan for filling Senate and House vacancies.

Fortunately, there is no indication whatsoever that President-elect Obama or anyone on his staff played any role in Blagojevich's nauseating behavior. That's a very good thing indeed. Nevertheless, with an eye to the important notion of the presumption of innocence, Obama must distance himself from Blagojevich in no uncertain terms. The President-elect should throw the Governor under the bus - and then back that bus over him repeatedly. 

As he gets ready to assume the highest office in the land, President-elect Obama must make it crystal clear that this sort of behavior by a public official is utterly unacceptable. No minced words, no nuanced phrases. 

CNN Poll: Obama Ratings At Historic High

Public approval ratings of President-elect Barack Obama are sky-high according to a poll released this morning by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. The survey found that a staggering 79% of those queried approve of the way Obama has handled the transition so far. A mere 18% disapprove. President-elect Obama's approval mark is 14 points higher than the comparable number for Bush in 2000 and 17 points higher than former President Bill Clinton's approval rating in 1992.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said: "An... approval rating of seventy-nine percent [is] the sort of rating you see when the public rallies around a President after a national disaster. To many Americans, the Bush administration was a national disaster.

Amen to that, Mr. Schneider.

Ohio Republicans Seek To End Early Voting

After losing an appeal to Democrats in the the Ohio Supreme Court back in September, Ohio Republicans will try once again try to block one-stop voting in future elections, this time by changing the law. The AP recently reported that Republican lawmakers in Ohio are doing all they can to quickly pass legislation that would end early voting procedures as we know them. Time is of the essence however as Republicans have only one month left of their majority stake in both the state's upper and lower legislative chambers.

While Republican officials were scrambling in Columbus last week, Ohio Secretary of State, Jenniffer Brunner, was focused on hosting an election summit where a few hundred election officials from around the country provided input as to how Ohio can improve in the future.  From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
There was important conversation about provisional voting, registration problems, data bases, poll-worker training, early voting and the merits of touch-screen vs. optical-scan balloting. Not everyone agreed on everything, but one line of consensus did emerge:
Election practices are complex and interrelated, so beware of quick fixes. They tend to cause unexpected problems down the road.
This is the otherwise known as "unable to win by the rules, so let's change the rules" tactic in politics.  There's just one problem however...

Democratic Governor, Ted Strickland, is likely to veto the bill if passed.  Whewww.

Barack Obama won Ohio's 20 electoral votes this year, beating John McCain by more than 200,000 votes (+4%).

Monday, December 8, 2008

English-Only: Bad Policy, Worse Message

According to PostPolitics, the Tennessee Supreme Court today removed the last legal challenge to an English-only ballot measure in Metro Nashville. The state high court refused to grant an expedited hearing on an appeal of a lower court ruling that the referendum could go forward on January 22nd. If approved by Nashville voters, the English-only proposal would mandate the use of English in all official transactions of the city government. The proposed measure provides for a few exceptions but they seem murky and largely unworkable.

What a really bad idea. Not only would such a measure be very bad public policy, it would send an even worse message to the rest of the country (and the world) about the Music City's unwillingness to welcome non-English speaking tourists, foreign businesses and international conferences. 

As public policy, this measure could easily hamstring efforts by law enforcement to keep Nashville safe. Imagine a police officer, fluent in Spanish, who would now be unsure whether he could take the statement of an eye-witness to crime who happened also to be a Spanish speaker with limited command of English.  Imagine undercover law enforcement agents unable to obtain permission to conduct operations in any language other than English. 

For Nashville's large and growing foreign tourism and business investment sectors, the English-only law would have a chilling effect. Imagine city agencies charged with promoting Nashville to foreign tourists and business prospects not knowing for sure if they have to do so in English only. What do they say to prospective visitors and investors who ask about the meaning of this English-only nonsense?

Nashville is home to several internationally prestigious health care facilities and universities with global reputations for their cutting-edge research. How is Nashville supposed to bill itself as a potential host of international conferences for important world-wide health groups when we hang out the 'English-only' sign?  

Finally, we have to wonder what message passage of the English-only law would send to our children and students. Would they not naturally conclude that study of foreign languages is unnecessary and even undesirable? What a terrible lesson for the future leaders of our city as they prepare to take their rightful place in a highly complex and increasingly interconnected world.

The world becomes smaller every day. The citizens of Nashville cannot allow the world to believe that our minds here in Middle Tennessee are also getting smaller. Tennessee's capital city is large and diverse and plays an increasingly important role on the world stage.  Passage of the English-only initiative would be a big step backwards and an embarrassment to those who fight every day to make our city safer, more prosperous and culturally richer.

Those fighting to defeat the English-only referendum have launched a new website to stop this nonsense. It's called Nashville For All of Us. ElectBlue encourages all of our readers, Tennesseans and non-Tennesseans alike, to visit the website and offer help in whatever way you can.

ElectBlue's Focus for the 2009-2010 Election Cycle

Now that the 2008 election is finally over (well, except for the US Senate race in MN - ugh), ElectBlue has fine-tuned its mission statement for the 2009-2010 election cycle. Earlier today we updated our About ElectBlue post to reflect our new focus. The key sentences read:

"In the 2009-2010 election cycle ElectBlue is focused on supporting the progressive policies of President Obama and increasing Democratic majorities in the US House and, particularly, in the US Senate.  We will also target certain state and local progressive issues as well as selected gubernatorial races. Our goal is simple: to create the best possible political environment for the enactment of progressive public policies."

We have also added a sentence encouraging broader guest blogger participation in the up-coming election cycle:

"We will... post, unedited and uncensored, blogs by selected advocates of progressive policies and referenda on public policy changes which we support or oppose (as the case may be).'"

We encourage our readers to take advantage of the opportunity to be a guest blogger on ElectBlue. You can find out how to do that, and learn more about us, by clicking on the About ElectBlue icon at the left side of the page - or by simply clicking the hyperlinked text above.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

All Blessing, No Disguise

There are very few times I find myself applauding a Republican electoral victory, but yesterday's special election in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District produced a result that can only be seen as unequivocally good for everyone. Republican Anh 'Joseph' Cao defeated nine-term Democratic incumbent, and unbelievably corrupt, US Representative William 'Dollar Bill' Jefferson. Cao, a relatively moderate Republican, will become the first American of Vietnamese descent to serve in Congress.

Although voter turnout was extremely low, the people of New Orleans (which constitutes most of the 2nd District) clearly rejected the self-serving, greedy corruption of Mr. Jefferson. Most people will remember Jefferson as the Congressman who was found to have squirreled away some $90,000 in cash in his freezer.  He is currently under numerous federal indictments on charges of bribery and corruption in which that cold cash figures prominently.  Unlike defeated Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, Jefferson has yet to be convicted of anything, but that is a distinction with little difference. Hardly anyone doubts Congressman Jefferson's complicity in a wide range of criminal activities.

The people of New Orleans, the US House of Representatives and both political parties are better off - much better off - now that 'Dollar Bill' Jefferson will not be a member of the 111th Congress.  

Good riddance!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Video: Andy Rooney's Tips On Saving

Good advice .. and quite funny.

President-Elect Obama's Weekly Radio/YouTube Address

Here is this week's radio/YouTube address from the President-elect.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Florida's Martinez Won't Run In 2010

Republicans won't be taking chances with weak candidates in 2010, even if they are incumbents. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Republican Senator Mel Martinez will not seek reelection in 2010.

Here's one good reason why.

A new Quinnipiac poll released this morning shows that just 36% of Floridians would vote for Martinez if they election were held today.

Republican Governor, Charlie Crist, will appoint a replacement if Martinez retires before his term ends.


A statement from Martinez's office.
"So today, with deep love for this country and with sincere gratitude to the people who placed their trust in me, I announce that I will not run for reelection to the United States Senate.

“I thank all of those who helped me reach the highest elected office that an immigrant can hold in this great country. And I especially thank my family, who has supported me every step of the way – especially Kitty, who has sacrificed much more than me and without whom none of this would have been possible.

“Some might try to characterize this decision in terms of political affairs. Some will say a re-election campaign would have been too difficult. But I’ve faced much tougher odds in political campaigns and in life. My decision was not based on reelection prospects, but on what I want to do with the next eight years of my life.

“So with two years left in my term, I make this announcement today in order to give the many qualified individuals who might choose to try to succeed me an opportunity to organize and gather support.

“I look forward to serving out these next two years. There are big problems facing Florida and the nation, and I will continue to do what I think is in the best interests of the people whom I represent.

“Thank you; God bless you; and God Bless the United States of America.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lugar: Obama making 'excellent selections'

Richard Lugar showed his support for Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy weeks before this year's election.  Now with just fifty days until Obama takes office, the Indiana Republican is once again showing his approval. Lugar appears to be quite comfortable with the future national security team. Appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, here's Lugar's vote of confidence for Obama's new team.
Stephanopoulos:  "..we expect to hear tomorrow in Chicago -- the appointment, of course, of Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state; Robert Gates expected to stay on at the Pentagon; General Jim Jones, the former commandant of the Marine Corps, supreme commander of NATO, will be national security adviser; and Dr. Susan Rice likely to come on as U.N. ambassador."

"Senator Lugar, as a Republican, as the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, how do you assess that team?"
Lugar:  "I think they're excellent selections.  I think it will be a strong team. I would just say, as an individual, I look forward to working with each one of them. Bipartisan support of this team really is of the essence right now."
Read the full transcript of Stephanopoulos' interview with Richard Lugar and Jack Reed here. Or watch the full interview here (video).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Help Jim Martin Win In Georgia!

The December 2nd run-off for the US Senate seat in Georgia is coming down to the wire. Democrat Jim Martin is in a tight race to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. The outcome of this race is critical to the Democrats' hopes of winning sixty seats in the Senate. 

ElectBlue urges all of our readers to pitch in and help Martin win. No matter where you live, you can make phone calls to Georgia voters by clicking here and signing up to help. You can also make a financial contribution to the Martin campaign by clicking here.

Let's help Jim Martin win!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

President-Elect Obama's Weekly Radio/YouTube Address

President-elect Obama delivers his weekly radio/YouTube address to the nation today (Thanksgiving Day) rather than in the usual Saturday morning time slot:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving From ElectBlue!

We at ElectBlue hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Exactly the right tone for this holiday season is struck by the President-elect and his family as they volunteered earlier today at a Chicago food bank for the less fortunate.

Now that is leadership we can believe in!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gallup: Confidence in President-elect Obama Remains Sky High

Three weeks out from the election, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in eighty years and with a transition team working at warp speed, President-elect Obama maintains an extraordinary level of support from the American people. 

In spite of unprecedented media coverage of the transition and the fastest-paced naming of important staff and cabinet members in history, the President-elect enjoys wide-ranging support from nearly two-thirds of Americans. 

The latest Gallup poll shows that 65% of those surveyed indicated confidence that Obama will be a good or great President. Only 28% of those questioned expressed a lack of confidence in the President-elect's ability to do a good job. 

These numbers, a three-day rolling average ending yesterday, are unchanged from the day after his election.

2010: US Senate Races


706 days until the 2010 election. Who's ready for some polling data?

For those who just can't wait, here's a list of the 34 Class III Senators who are up for reelection in 2010 (2004 vote % to the right). There will also be one special election in Delaware where Tim Kaufman has opened the door for Beau Biden by indicating that he will not run in '10. Delaware Governor, Ruth Minner, appointed Kaufman (Joe Biden's replacement) as the nation's newest Senator yesterday.

Democrats will have the upper hand once again in 2010 and already have a few Republicans in their crosshairs. Martinez (FL), Vitter (LA) and Bunning (KY) all look vulnerable (especially Martinez). Kansas, believe it or not, could also become a target for Democrats if Governor Kathleen Sebelius runs for that open seat.

ElectBlue will continue to monitor these races and update you as information becomes available..even if it is only 2008.

Bennett, Robert F. (R-UT) - 69%
Bond, Christopher S. (R-MO) - 56%
Brownback, Sam (R-KS) - 69% (retiring) 
Bunning, Jim (R-KY) - 51% (expect many contenders during the  Democratic primary)
Burr, Richard (R-NC) - 52% (following Dole's footsteps?)
Coburn, Tom (R-OK) - 53%
Crapo, Mike (R-ID) - 99%
DeMint, Jim (R-SC) - 54%
Grassley, Chuck (R-IA) - 70% (Grassley is 77 years old. Retiring? Vilsack? He's not in running for Ag. Sec.)
Gregg, Judd (R-NH) - 66%
Isakson, Johnny (R-GA) - 58%

Martinez, Mel (R-FL) - 50% (A Bushy  with very low approval numbers)
**Martinez update 12/2/08 - *Won't run in 2010* *Jeb Bush considering?*

McCain, John (R-AZ) - 77% (appears safe now with Gov. Napolitano out of the mix)
Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK) - 49% (safe for GOP, even if convicted of multiple felonies)
Shelby, Richard C. (R-AL) - 68%
Specter, Arlen (R-PA) - 53% (retiring? Chris Matthews?)
Thune, John (R-SD) - 51%
Vitter, David (R-LA) - 51% (good strategy - female opponent ?)
Voinovich, George V. (R-OH) - 64% (Mike DeWine?)

Bayh, Evan (D-IN) - 62%
Boxer, Barbara (D-CA) - 58% (vs. Schwarzenegger?)
Dodd, Christopher J. (D-CT) -66%
Dorgan, Byron L. (D-ND)
Feingold, Russell D. (D-WI)
Inouye, Daniel K. (D-HI) - 76% (will be 86 in 2010. Gov Linda Lingle?)
Kaufman, Tim (D-DE) - appointed 2008 (special election to fill rest of term)
Leahy, Patrick J. (D-VT)
Lincoln, Blanche L. (D-AR) - 56%
Mikulski, Barbara A. (D-MD) - 65%
Murray, Patty (D-WA)
? Barack Obama's replacement ? (D-IL) - 70%
Reid, Harry (D-NV)
Salazar, Ken (D-CO) - 51%
Schumer, Charles E. (D-NY)
Wyden, Ron (D-OR)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Status of Forces: A Mutually Agreed To Agreement

Only a few days after President Bush admitted making a mistake in 2003 by claiming "Mission Accomplished," White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino, cited the approval of a new security agreement between the US and Iraq as a reason to celebrate.
"This is a mutually agreed to agreement (sic). And that is one of the things that is different about an arbitrary date for withdrawal, when you want -- when you say you're going to leave, win or lose. We believe that the conditions are such now that we are able to celebrate the victory that we've had so far, and establish both a strategic framework agreement, which is a much broader document and talks about all sorts of cooperation that we'll have with Iraq from here on out -- from trade and health care and exchanges on science, and a real strong bilateral agreement that you would hope we would have with any of our allies."
Is this the English translation?  The mutually agreed to agreement?  This as opposed to the unilaterally unagreed to agreement or the agreed to non-agreement? But are we surprised? These are the same people who brought us the Iraq War (WMD and links to al-Qaeda).

The proposed Status of Forces Agreement is not a done deal yet.  The Iraqi Parliament will vote on the agreement next week on whether or not to set a firm deadline for American troop withdraw by December 2011 as well as place restrictions on the US military and their location within the country. A U.N. resolution which expires on December 31st would make it illegal for American soldiers to occupy Iraq unless the Parliament ratifies the deal.

Not everyone is happy about the proposal however. Thousands of Moqtada al-Sadr followers rallied in the streets of Baghdad yesterday protesting the new agreement, calling it a "surrender to American interests." Some were seen holding signs that read, "No, no to the agreement of humiliation." The protesters also stomped and burned an effigy of President Bush in Firdos Square(top picture below), the same location where American soldiers toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein five years ago (bottom picture).

So much for celebrating the victory, right? Not that Bush would take advice from anyone, but maybe he should have listened to Petraeus when he said this back in September. 

President-Elect Obama's Weekly Address

Here you go. President-elect Obama's weekly radio/YouTube address.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Details of Gore Effort on Behalf of GA's Jim Martin

As we reported earlier this week, former Vice-President Al Gore will appear in Atlanta on Sunday, November 23rd, to boost the US Senate campaign of Democrat Jim Martin.  Gore will host a fundraiser at Atlanta's Mason-Murer Fine Arts Auditorium from 7pm to 9pm Sunday evening. 

Martin is facing incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss in a run-off election on December 2nd. Early voting for this election is already under way. Voter turnout, always important, is seen by most observers as particularly critical in this run-off. 

The run-off election for the US Senate seat was mandated by Georgia law when neither candidate got more than 50% of the votes in the general election on November 4th.

Israeli President: Obama Gives Peace A Chance

In an interview today with The Times of London, Israeli President - and former Prime Minister - Shimon Peres says that the election of Barack Obama brings a "chance" of diplomatic dialogue between the Jewish state and its arch-enemy Iran. Peres believes that moving Iran away from its implacable hostility to Israel is critical to eventually securing an overall settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Although the office of Israeli President is largely ceremonial, Mr. Peres is one of Israel's most senior statesmen and is widely respected across the country's broad ideological spectrum. His views on foreign policy issues in particular carry a lot of weight in Israel and around the world. Mr. Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Peres indicated that he believes the President-elect can bring the vehemently anti-Israeli government of Iranian mullahs to the negotiating table provided that Mr. Obama can garner sufficient support from the broader international community. A key factor in getting Iran into productive and meaningful talks about the future of the Middle East, according to Peres, will the "new politial climate" created by Barack Obama's election to the US Presidency. Economic issues, particularly the falling price of oil, will also provide more incentive for Iran to get serious about assuming a more responsible role in international relations. 

"If there will be a united policy on Iran and there is a new [lower] price for oil then Iran will have to come to terms with a proportionate reality of our times," said President Peres.

From your lips to God's ears, Mr. President!

Hillary Clinton: "Keep Going"

It's been more than two months already since Hillary spoke these words at the convention. Allow me to reminisce this unforgettable moment.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cymru Am Byth: Wales Forever!

Metro Nashville Councilman Eric Crafton, Mr. English-Only himself, would most likely not be happy with this bit of news from the European Union. Today, Welsh became the twenty-second tongue to be recognized by the EU as one of its co-official, or minority, languages. 

Such recognition confers mostly symbolic status on the ancient language while enabling some business and governmental transactions to be legally conducted in Welsh. The Welsh language is part of the larger family of Celtic tongues which includes Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Breton. It has a rich literary and historic tradition, including a strong association with the legendary tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Welsh is currently the mother tongue of more than 600,000 people, most of them living in the British principality of Wales. I guess the 'English-only' advocates in Wales have failed completely as the entire area has been under English rule since the Middle Ages. Mr. Crafton's peculiarly monolithic notion of cultural and linguistic exclusion just never took hold in Merry Olde England. A good thing, that.

Several million Americans, many of them in the South, can trace at least some Welsh ancestry in their backgrounds. Interestingly, the most common surname in the US, Jones, is of Welsh origin. Six hundred thousand people, by the way, is slightly more than the current population of Davidson County. 

Losing Their Minds - Republican Anti-Intellectualism

A brilliant piece today in The Economist points out one glaring reason why Republicans were kicked to the curb in 2008.  
"There are any number of reasons for the Republican Party’s defeat on November 4th. But high on the list is the fact that the party lost the battle for brains. Barack Obama won college graduates by two points, a group that George Bush won by six points four years ago. He won voters with postgraduate degrees by 18 points. And he won voters with a household income of more than $200,000—many of whom will get thumped by his tax increases—by six points. John McCain did best among uneducated voters in Appalachia and the South."
Of course, it's difficult to have this discussion without pointing out McCain's choice for VP and her credentials.
"Mr McCain, once the chattering classes’ favourite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. And in a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism, and who was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics."
What follows here reminds me of what Christine Todd Whitman wrote a few days ago when she openly admitted that her party is being held hostage by a group of "social fundamentalists." The Economist piece goes on to say:
"Why is this happening? One reason is that conservative brawn has lost patience with brains of all kinds, conservative or liberal. Many conservatives—particularly lower-income ones—are consumed with elemental fury about everything from immigration to liberal do-gooders. They take their opinions from talk-radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and the deeply unsubtle Sean Hannity. And they regard Mrs Palin’s apparent ignorance not as a problem but as a badge of honour."
Moderate, pro-intelligent Republicans have a fight on their hands. I'm afraid they're going to lose the battle against a highly enthused, zealous (sometimes paranoid) group of nuts to their far right. They don't give up easy (and they're buying up all the guns).  The fight is on in the Republican party. It's the traditionalists who believe the party will win elections in the future by taking a step to the right versus reformers, like Todd Whitman, urging the party to "end its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists."

The crash of the GOP wasn't hard to predict after eight years Bush incompetence, fueled by GOP control for most of Bush's term. Republicans obviously need CHANGE they can believe in too; although I doubt they will stand up to the neo-cons who've been driving the party. I stand by my words from October.
"Republicans need change they can believe in too. They won't find it anytime soon with leaders like John McCain and George Bush who have made a smoldering ruin of the Grand Old Party. Until new leadership emerges and rejects the lunatics who can be heard every day on the radio and television, they will continue to marginalize themselves out of major party politics."

No Harmony in Music City

On the heels of their most crushing election defeat since Reconstruction, you'd think that the (few) Tennessee Democrats remaining in elective office would try to make nice -- at least to each other, at least in public. 

Think again. 

Both Sean Braisted and The Nashville Scene's Jeff Woods are reporting that Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen is letting it be known that he doesn't trust TN State Representative Gary Odom (D-Nashville). Odom is fighting to retain a key leadership position (which will now be Minority Leader) of the Volunteer State's House Democratic caucus. Bredesen is seen as a supporter of soon-to-be-former Houser Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) for the Minority Leader job since Naifeh will lose his Speaker of the House position when the GOP takes control in January.

News of this discord came to light in a story by the Associated Press, citing emails from the governor's office expressing "trust issues" with Odom. Sending an email to the AP was a sure-fire way to keep the dispute out of the public eye - not!  Bredesen and Odom apparently have long standing bad blood between them, dating back to the days when both served in Nashville's Metro Government.

Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way, but having a public food fight between Tennessee's Democratic Governor and a top-ranking Democrat in the state legislature just doesn't seem like a good plan.

Update (Nov.21): According to The Nashville Tennessean, State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) will challenge Odom for the Minority Leader post. Fitzhugh appears to have the support of Gov. Bredesen. Rep. Naifeh's plans, if any, for a leadership position in the new TN House are unclear at this point.

What the GOP is Selling, Americans Aren't Buying

A brand new poll from Gallup indicates that public approval of the Republican Party is at an all-time low. Worse yet, Americans now give the GOP the highest disapproval rating since Gallup began measuring that number over fifteen years ago.

When asked if they have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, only 34% indicated their approval while a stunning 61% of those surveyed said they disapprove of the GOP.

These numbers represent a significant deterioration in the party's position from a similar survey conducted as recently as mid-October.  That poll found that the Republicans' approval rating was 40% and its disapproval mark was 53%. Bad, meet worse. 

The survey, released today, was conducted November 13-16. The numbers present a daunting challenge for Republican leaders trying to figure out how to recover and rebuild from their huge losses in the general election less than three weeks ago. 

Clearly, it won't be an easy task.

Gallup: Overwhelming Majority of Americans Support Madame Secretary

According to a newly-released Gallup Poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans like the idea of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) becoming the next Secretary of State

In the survey conducted on November 18th, some 57% of those questioned indicated they favor the idea of Clinton serving as President-elect Obama's top diplomat. 

Only 30% said they opposed the notion of the junior Senator from New York being in charge of the State Department.

Looks like Hillary has a big green light from the American people! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aye of Newt

Now comes this from Newt Gingrich, in a recent appearance on Bill-O The Clown's Comedy Hour, a prime-time feature of Faux News:

"I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion.”

Newt Gingrich is, of course, a prominent Republican, a former US Representative from Georgia and a former Speaker of the House (1995-1999). He has long been the darling of GOP right-wingers. In spite of obviously knowing little about fascism, he is widely regarded in conservative circles as something of an intellectual and is often considered one of the movement's most profound thinkers.

Mr. Gingrich is a tireless advocate of the sanctity of marriage and family values. He has been married three times... and divorced twice. He is also an admitted liar, cheater, adulterer and hypocrite. Quite the poster boy for today's Republican Party...

Worsening Bush Recession Drives DJIA Below 8000

Investor worries over the deepening recession of Republican President George W. Bush caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to shed more than 400 points today. 

The bellwether market index ended the day below the 8,000 level for the first time in more than five years.

You're doing one heckuva job, Bushie!

Seven Score and Five Years Ago Today

The morning of November 19, 1863, dawned cold and damp in Gettysburg, PA. A thin misty fog hung over the nearby rolling fields and steep hills which had been the scene of one of the nation's bloodiest tragedies only a few months before. 

By noon on that November day, however, the sun had broken through the low clouds. A large crowd had gathered to hear President Lincoln and other dignitaries dedicate a portion of that historic battlefield as a national cemetery.

Lincoln's speech was by far the shortest of the day, but perhaps more than any other address by any sitting President before or since, it captured the very essence of the American experiment in democracy. As our nation prepares for yet another huge step forward in the long march towards fulfilling its promise, Lincoln's words bear repeating on this, the 145th anniversary of their initial utterance:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Engagement is not appeasement and diplomacy is not retreat."

-- Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 
speaking today at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies


Lee Stranahan, writing this evening for The Huffington Post, sums up the feelings and hopes of many progressive bloggers. Batting down the idea that we in the "liberal blogosphere" are somehow up in arms over President-elect Obama's decisions to show leniency to Joe Lieberman and to appoint Senator Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, Stranahan notes:

"Speaking for my tiny little chunk of the liberal blogosphere, I don't like Joe Lieberman. I was disgusted by Hillary's campaign. And I couldn't be happier with Obama's decisions." [emphasis mine]

Stranahan continues: "You see, I took all that talk about new politics seriously. In speech after speech, Obama said we had to move past 'the smallness of our politics' and he didn't single out Republicans. He didn't say the smallness of their politics. The smallness has been in both parties..." [emphasis in the original]

Mr. Stranahan concludes: "...Obama is showing confidence in the idea he ran on; that America was ready for not just new policies but for a whole new approach to governing. It's the biggest possible change I can imagine. It's not just good politics. It isn't some clever move. It's what those better angels that Obama kept mentioning look like. No wonder it's confusing to so many people of all ideological stripes.."

That is exactly why so many of us believe in, and voted for, Barack Obama. Over the past couple of decades, we all have been entangled in the smallness of our partisan politics. It will be hard - very hard - to break out of that habit, but it will be worth the effort to try. It is, at the very least, an uplifting experience to watch our new President-elect's attempts to take us there.

Al Gore to Campaign for Jim Martin in GA Senate Run-Off

Various well-placed sources are indicating that former Vice-President Al Gore will hit the campaign trail this weekend on behalf of Jim Martin, Democratic challenger to incumbent Georgia Senator, Republican Saxby Chambliss. The two were forced into a run-off, scheduled for December 2nd, after neither candidate garnered the necessary 50% of the vote in the November 4th general election.

Although details concerning Gore's campaign swing through the Peach State are still sketchy, the best information we have at the moment is that Mr. Gore will appear with Martin on Sunday, November 23rd, most likely in Atlanta. 

We will post more details about Gore's efforts on behalf of Martin as we get them.