Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Your blog mistress will be taking the week off from politics and blogging to enjoy the holiday season. Ya'll play nice while I'm off the grid, hear?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Will Obama Blink First On Social Security, Hand Presidency Over To Republicans in 2012?

For all the talk of how Dirty Hippies™will hand the White House over to President Palin in 2012, it looks like President Obama, White House officials and Senate Democrats might be on the road to do it all on their own.

The tax deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is just the first part of a multistage drama that is likely to further divide and weaken Democrats.
The second part, now being teed up by the White House and key Senate Democrats, is a scheme for the president to embrace much of the Bowles-Simpson plan — including cuts in Social Security. This is to be unveiled, according to well-placed sources, in the president’s State of the Union address.
The idea is to pre-empt an even more draconian set of budget cuts likely to be proposed by the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as a condition of extending the debt ceiling. This is expected to hit in April.
White House strategists believe this can also give Obama “credit” for getting serious about deficit reduction — now more urgent with the nearly $900 billion increase in the deficit via the tax cut deal.
How to put this politely? For a Democratic president, this approach is bad economics and worse politics.
For starters, cutting Social Security as part of a deficit reduction deal is needless — since Social Security is in surplus for the next 27 years. The move also gives away the single most potent distinction between Democrats and Republicans — Democrats defend your Social Security, and Republicans keep trying to undermine it.
If you think the Democratic base feels betrayed by Obama’s tax-cut deal, just imagine the mayhem when Obama proposes to cut the Democrats’ signature program.

The fun part about all this? If cuts to Social Security are successfully implemented, Republicans will use them against Obama in 2012.

If you're dubious, have a look at this ad against Kentucky Democratic candidate Jack Conway, which falsely claims Obamacare cuts $500 Billion from Medicare, a program Republicans have actually tried to kill since it's inception.

If the White House works with Congressional Democrats to cut Social Security, it's a win-win-win for Republicans. They have a Democratic President and Senate doing their dirty work for them, they get to destroy the social safety net for most Americans so their rich friends can enjoy a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2012, and they get to use it as a campaign issue.

I don't know about you, but if the White House thinks most of us will sit still while they dismantle FDR's legacy, they have another thing coming.

Over the last few days, I've gotten a lot of blowback about this video. Meant as satire, the video is a harsh rebuke not of OFA, but of the brain trust in Washington who decided to corral Democratic activism like so much veal.

Besides ideology, the big difference between Tea Party activists and Progressive activists is that the GOP is afraid of theirs. Ours, they sell "Hope" posters to have them over for cookies and a quick photo op.

That needs to change. 

I learned a hell of lot campaigning for Obama in 2008. I know how to organize, and more importantly, there are thousands of us out there. Retribution won't just be swift, certain and severe, it will be effective. This won't be internet clicktivism, but in your face, in the streets, chain-yourself-to-the-White-House-fence activism that will force a come-to-Jesus showdown between President Obama and Candidate Obama.

Yes, we can.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Face of the Day

A number of readers have asked me about this photo, which I've featured prominently in recent posts about DADT and Lt. Dan Choi.

I took this photo a year ago at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a day before the National Equality March in Washington D.C.  It felt appropriate to repost it now, with DADT no longer the law of the land, but still in effect for at least another 90 days.

Soon, Dan can be open and honest about who he is. Finally, the gag will be coming off.

Your moment of DADT zen

White House Shits in the DADT Repeal Punchbowl

Only hours after DADT repeal survived an historic cloture vote on the floor of the Senate and win passage, the White House is refusing to say if it will issue an executive order to immediately halt discharges.

Saying that they had been "focused" on the vote, a senior White House aide intimately familiar with the administration's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal efforts was unwilling to say whether President Obama agrees with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that DADT-releated investigations and discharges should be halted immediately.
As a statement just released by Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates makes clear, the policy will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

It is ... important that our men and women in uniform understand that while today’s historic vote means that this policy will change, the implementation and certification process will take an additional period of time. In the meantime, the current law and policy will remain in effect.
Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force. With a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect for all, I am convinced that the U.S. military can successfully accommodate and implement this change, as it has others in history.”
Stars and Stripes reports implementation may indeed be an uphill battle:

Even after the repeal bill is signed into law by the president, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” strictures will remain in place until the White House and Pentagon certify a plan to minimize disruption on the services.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he would not do that until the service chiefs are confident the moves will not disrupt combat operations, and refused to set any specific timeline on how long that might take. Three of the four service chiefs have strongly resisted repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law during wartime, although they have testified that troops would adapt if Congress mandates it.

Activists are aware what lies ahead and Dan Choi, for one, has put President Obama on notice.

President Obama, you are not off the hook. The compromise bill passed today puts the moral imperative squarely on your desk. Sign an executive order instituting a full non-discrimination policy throughout the military. If you do not, if you drag your feet and politicize this with your theoretical calculations as you have these past two years, you will be guilty of abetting those who loudly proclaim homophobia from their platforms and pulpits. Provide them no shelter or safe haven. Institute justice now.

I wonder if OFA will put out an "ask" to their members to call the Pentagon and White House demanding an immediate end to DADT discharges.

The Heroes of DADT Repeal

So Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal survived John McCain (who invoked missing legs at Walter Reed until the bitter end) and the Republican filibuster. Final passage is expected later today. But DADT won't truly die until for another 90 days, after the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have all certified repeal to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly.

The Courage Campaign sent out an email to their membership minutes after the vote, and struck, I believe, exactly the right note. Don't thank President Obama, tell him not to drag his feet:

The Senate vote was the last major legislative obstacle. But even after the President signs this law, no one can serve openly. Certification is first required from the President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of Defense.
It’s part of a backroom deal cut months ago, and it’s ridiculous. We’ve seen how the Administration has dragged their feet over the past two years on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. We can’t let that happen again. We have to mount a fight to finish the job, and we need your help.

It's been oppositional activism like this, and the grass roots organization of activists with few institutional ties, that made today's outcome a reality.

They heckled the President at rallies. They threatened to withhold money from Democratic campaign committees. They ruthlessly criticized the President and his advisors for being turncoats, sellouts, and hypocrites. 
Lt. Dan Choi, a gay Arabic translator then awaiting discharge from the New York Army National Guard for coming out, became one of Obama’s fiercest critics on the issue. Choi said in a Harvard speech that the President was effectively telling him, “Our country is not grateful. We do not welcome your sacrifice.” Within one month, Obama and the Defense Department reached a compromise–one that Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen were reluctant to accept–that would create a legislative repeal, with enactment dependent on the President and his military advisors after the Pentagon study and a review period. These same gay rights activists remain dissatisfied with this compromise–Choi went on a hunger strike shortly after the deal was struck–and I expect them to continue to fight right up until the day the actual repeal is signed.
Repealing DADT happened because citizen-activists refused to stop fighting even when they were marginalize by allies who told them, literally, to shut the fuck up.

And their work, even now isn't over. 

Saying that they had been "focused" on the vote, a senior White House aide intimately familiar with the administration's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal efforts was unwilling to say whether President Obama agrees with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that DADT-releated investigations and discharges should be halted immediately.

There are more heroes than I can name - Dan Choi, Robin McGehee, David John Fleck, Dan Fotou, Laura Kanter, Zoe Nicholson, and Michelle Wright, Kip Williams, Stacey Simmons, Cleve Jones, Richard Noble, Heather Cronk, Autumn Sandeen, Rick Jacobs, Julia Rosen - and those I've left out and those I'll never know.

You are the heroes of DADT. Keep pushing, and we'll push with you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hippie Punching For Dummies

Inspired by another cartoon I posted earlier, I've done my own in honor of tonight's bi-partisan clusterfuck of a vote to extend the Bush tax cuts.

Dialogue was pieced together from media reports, statements from administration officials, statements from Obama, various bloggers, MSM pundits, and various arguments I've gotten into with OFA staff, supporters, critics and other interested parties who have way too much time on their hands.  Hat tip to Peterbilt for the closing line.

"A Disgruntled Progressive and Obama Supporter Walk Into A Bar....."

OK, so I don't agree with everything in here, but parts of it are pretty damn funny.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dan Choi Collapses

Lt. Dan Choi, the openly gay Army veteran who has been an outspoken critic of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, has been hospitalized after suffering a mental breakdown, he told colleagues.

"I was involuntarily committed to the Brockton MA Veterans Hospital Psychiatric Ward on Friday Morning after experiencing a breakdown and anxiety attack," Choi wrote in an e-mail Tuesday to Pam Spaulding and Rex Wockner, who blog about gay and lesbian issues.

On her blog, Pam's House Blend, Spaulding shared the contents of Choi's e-mail, in which the Iraq war vet expressed disappointment at the failure by Congress to repeal the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops in the military.

Dan Choi's full statement:

I wanted you to know because you are important to me and I think you can explain my situation best to those in our community who may be still interested. I was involuntarily committed to the Brockton MA Veterans Hospital Physchiatric Ward on Friday Morning after experiencing a breakdown and anxiety attack. ...

I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things: veterans gay or straight carry human burdens. Activists share similar burdens, no activist should be portrayed as super human, and the failures of government and national lobbying carry consequences far beyond the careers and reputations of corporate leaders, elected officials, high powered lobbyists, or political elites.

They ruin lives. My breakdown was a result of a cumulative array of stressors but there is no doubt that the composite betrayals felt on Thursday, by elected leaders and gay organizations as well as many who have exploited my name for their marketing purposes, have added to the result. I am certain my experience is not an isolated incident within the gay veteran community.

At the same time, those who have been closest to me know that I truly appreciate their gracious help and mentorship. I am indebted to their hospitality and leadership.

Monday, December 13, 2010

OFA State Field Director Puts Out Volunteer "Ask" Within Minutes Of Comparing Disaffected Liberals With Tea Party Members

File this under #epicorganizerfail. Minutes after posting a story on their Facebook wall comparing liberals critical of the Obama tax deal to Tea Party members, the same OFA staffer puts out an "ask" a minute later for volunteers to come out to California headquarters to phone bank.

Let me state clearly, I'm thrilled OFA CA is making phones for the DREAM ACT. However, there has to be better ways to recruit help than to turn the mantra of Respect, Empower, and Include into Sit Down, Shut Up and Make Phone Calls.

This is going to be a long two years.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"We are no longer that generation that doesn't care."

We are no longer that post-ideological generation. We are no longer that generation that doesn't care. We are no longer that generation prepared to sit back and take what ever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the "fight back". We are now the generation that will fight with everyone who is fighting back.- Barnaby Raine, 15.

We could use more of this in the States.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CA-DEM Chairman Calls Obama's Tax Cut Plan, "Capitulation"

In an unprecedented break from the national party, CA Democratic Party Chairman, John Burton, just released a scathing email against the Obama tax cut deal.

What some might call it a "deal" or "compromise" I would call capitulation to the Republicans.
Just as we do not negotiate with international terrorists, we must stand up to the political terrorism of the Republicans in the United States Senate.
At some point, the American people have to know what kind of people these Republicans are. They may never find out if the Republicans can force their view point on the Administration, splitting the Democratic Party.
The Republicans rant against the deficit, but they give billions, approaching trillions, of tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.
The email directs the reader to sign on to a petition thanking Reid and Pelosi for "speaking out against this issue and having the Democratic Party stand for something."

While Burton doesn't name in Obama specifically in the email, the intent here is clear. The Chairman of the largest Democratic state party in the country is in open, public revolt against the President's policy.

Party leadership, at least in California, is not afraid of taking Obama on in a policy dispute.


Greater minds than mine have been writing about the Great Obama Tax Compromise, so I won't bore you with my attempts at deep political analysis. You can read that here, here, and here if you so chose.

But after a disastrous press conference - where Obama basically told his progressive supporters that they were sanctimonious purists for harboring considerable reservations about a plan that essentially would force the US to borrow $900 billion from China to put in the pockets of American millionaires, so they could offshore the money to the Cayman Islands - I felt the need to come at this from a slightly different perspective.

Last September, right before Obama was about to give a landmark speech on health care reform, when the fate of the public option was still very much alive,  I wrote this:

To this day I still tear up when I remember how, at the end of Camp Obama, our facilitator told everyone in the room to close their eyes and envision Obama and his family on January 20 - to envision Michelle and her girls as they stood to watch their father take the oath of office. And I can tell you, when I was there on the Mall and watched it happen for real, it was all I could do not to break down.
But whatever alchemy created this understanding during the campaign has all but vanished in the last few months. I know so many OFA staff and volunteers who do everything they can to keep this spirit alive, but it's not really coming from Obama anymore. The arguments for health care, even the pledges OFA asks constituents to sign - contain not one whiff of emotional truth. Even the health care horror stories collected by OFA have been stripped of their emotion, filed away to be trotted out in mild DNC ads or handed over to congressional members. These stories need to be used, repeated, and ritualized for the entire country - they need to become our nation's emotional truth.
That is not happening. Instead the administration is pushing policy arguments, lists of ideas, pieces of paper. And they shrivel and die next to Sarah Palin's Baby Trig and the reptile fear of people clinging desperately to whatever they have left after a brutal recession.
So here we are. What now?
Well, if Obama really does punt on the public option, it will be a disaster for him and for us. 
Those of us who feel the most passionately about this, the "left of the left" if you will (although, I live in Venice, there are people here who equate me with George Bush, honest to god), will see a President who did not respect, empower and include them. We will feel that we have no more voice in this administration than we did the last.
That will be our emotional truth.
Worse, Republicans will see that bullying, being disruptive, and tapping into people's worst fears and instincts works, and will use it on each and every piece of legislation the White House tries to pass for the next 3 years. It's happening on climate change legislation now. Combine that with a disillusioned, disempowered activist left and I'm seeing damage to the Democratic Party well past the 2010 election cycle.

This was written in September, 2009. Today, I read this on Daily Kos. I've edited it a bit for narrative clarity, but the clarity of thought could not be better.

Nobody has empowered the GOP more in the past two years than Barack Obama. He empowered them from the very beginning of his administration by prioritizing their approval ("bipartisanship") over critiquing and superseding their failed philosophy. He empowered them by echoing their talking points on the budget deficit and Social Security. He empowered them by sitting back while Max Baucus bungled health care reform in the vain attempt to get GOP support. He empowered them by engaging in ideological unilateral disarmament. Arguably, he empowered them even before he was inaugurated by choosing Wall Street suck-ups Summers and Geithner to helm his economic team, thereby ensuring the banksters would get off scott free (ceding populism to the Tea Party) and the stimulus would be too small.
We didn't want Obama to fail. All our criticism all along has been to get him to marshal his incredible skills in service of a fighting vision that would rally the American people. Voters are turned off by politicians who appear timid, who seem to have no rudder of conviction. Did the GOP fold their tent after their shellackings in 2006 and 2008? No. They redoubled their assault. But Obama—and many other Democrats—crumple in fear.
The failure is his. He didn't even come to us to push the envelope like he said he would in his campaign. Instead, he cuts his lousy deals and then tells us we suck if we don't like it. 
Or patronizes us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

ACTION ALERT! Call Your Senators TODAY! Don't Cave On Tax Cuts For Billionaires!

This is the make-or-break moment in fight to end George Bush's millionaire tax bailout. So organizations across the progressive movement are holding an emergency call-in day right now.

Venice For Change is joining them in this fight.

If you're in California, can you call Sens. Boxer and Feinstein and tell them that Americans everywhere are counting on them to fight like hell to stop tax bailouts for millionaires?

Senator Barbara Boxer
Phone: 202-224-3553

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Phone: 202-224-3841

Then, please report your call by clicking here

If you're in another state, go to this link to get your Senator's contact information. 

If anything should differentiate the difference between Democrats and Republicans, it should be the issue on weather or not we extend the Bush tax cuts for America's Super Rich. Yet, the White House has made clear that they intend to strike a deal with Republicans that would extend a huge tax giveaway for the top 2%. They've given up on this critical issue without a fight.

But the Senate can still stop this disastrous deal from happening. They will only do it, though, if they hear an overwhelming outcry from all of us telling them that we need them to to go to the mat to stop the millionaire bailout-even if President Obama won't.

That's why we're joining with our progressive allies at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, CREDO Action, True Majority and SEIU for today's emergency call-in day.

Call Sens. Boxer and Feinstein and tell them, "No tax bailouts for millionaires!"

Senator Barbara Boxer
Phone: 202-224-3553

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Phone: 202-224-3841

Then, please report your call by clicking here

If you're in another state, go to this link to get your Senator's contact information.  

If the Republicans are so committed to stopping tax relief for middle class families unless tax breaks for millionaires are extended too, then they should have to defend that position out in the open-not by forcing back-room deals.

They should have to vote over and over and over again against relief for struggling families so the American people can see that their millionaire donors are more important to them than their constituents. They should have to engage in an old-fashioned filibuster, and defend their position on the Senate floor all day, every day and straight through the night.

That is what the American people want the Senate to do. A new poll from CBS shows that only 26% of voters want the tax breaks for millionaires extended.

But time is short so if we want the Senate to fight, they need to hear from us today. Please call Sens. Boxer and Feinstein right away.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

LA Weekly Smears WeHo City Council Candidate Lindsey Horvath With Weirdly Misogynistic Hit Piece

I miss the LA Weekly. I really do.

I miss Michael Ventura, Ginger Varney, Ella Taylor, and Marc Cooper.  I miss LA Weekly's good, progressive voter guide. Remember that? Good times.

That's all gone now. Instead, we get weirdly misogynistic hit pieces based on hidden agendas and innuendo like this.

It was sketch enough when the tight-knit WeHo City Council skirted democracy to appoint the young, blonde Lindsey Horvath to its fifth seat in 2009, after old favorite Sal Guarriello died just short of term.
Now, the 27-year-old appointee is cowering at the prospect of having to actually win the hearts of WeHo voters.
So desperate is the fair incumbent, in fact, that she has resorted to illegally spamming her constituents on the council's Constant Contact listserv, using the official WeHo City Council template and logo to ask for votes and campaign funding.
Horvath's crime? Including in the sig line of campaign emails, and using a stylized West Hollywood city logo on her campaign website.

Have a look. I'll wait.

Here's the deal. Horvath uses her own Constant Contact account, paid for out of her own pocket. Something that the LA Weekly, had they taken five minutes to do the research, could have figured out on their own. As for the West Hollywood logo and website address on her campaign website? Again, I did something the LA Weekly "reporter" evidently couldn't be bothered to do until two days after the original story was written, I contacted Horvath's campaign.

"Along with other City Council candidates, I received a letter regarding the use of the City's logo, and I removed it from the site accordingly." Horvath said in response to my question.

Sure enough, if you look at her website now, the logo is gone. And WeHo is just fine with it. Even the LA Weekly admits that.
WeHo City Clerk Tom West said he sent out an e-mail on Tuesday informing the candidates that printing the city logo on campaign fodder is illegal. However, the original Horvath e-mail up for display at WeHo News shows she was sending out the opt-ins as late as Wednesday. West denies he knew anything about this, and that his initial warning was only sent out after "it was brought to [his] attention that there was a [paper] poster with the city name on it." He said he's sure Horvath won't be punished.
"I think if you take it down, you take it down," West said. "And it's done." 
Sandi Gibbons, the L.A. District Attorney's public-info officer, said she isn't aware of the case, but will keep her eyes out for a complaint to the Public Integrity Division. Update: "We have received no complaint involving that candidate. Sorry."

Right about this time, you might be thinking, "I need to water my plants." Don't run away quite yet, because it gets more interesting. Another WeHo City Council candidate, Mito Aviles, is guilty of "illegally" using the City logo on his campaign website too.

Have a look. I'll wait.

Aviles, unlike Horvath, has yet to comply with WeHo's request to remove the city logo from his campaign website. This has not gone unnoticed by the city. Tom West, when I spoke to him this afternoon for this story, told me an email was sent to Aviles today, this time citing the specific code Aviles continues to violate. This was West's second warning to Aviles (the original was sent snail mail - the LA Weekly incorrectly reported emails had originally been sent to candidates). 

I'm sure the crack team at the LA Weekly are all over this. (Actually, not so much. Type in Aviles' names and you get, well, crickets. )

So what's this really about?

My experience of Horvath is that of a committed progressive and fierce advocate for women's rights, particularly women's reproductive rights. In fact, that's how we met - working together last year to help defeat  the Stupak amendment.

I live in Venice, not West Hollywood, and I'm not going to pretend I understand the inner workings and machinations of WeHo politics. But I do know a hit job when I see it. Based on the LA Weekly story, and the WeHo News story on which their dictation reporting was based (no mention of Aviles' website there either), this was clearly an orchestrated attempt to intimidate Horvath into dropping out of the race early.

I call bullshit. Frankly, I've seen more entertaining palace intrigue - and more ethical reporting - at my junior high class president election. 
The boys behind this - and they're mostly boys - need to stop wasting voter's time and city resources with unsubstantiated innuendo and start engaging candidates on policy. Don't like Horvath's politics? Fine, don't vote for her.  

As for the LA Weekly - trying getting off your ass and do some actual reporting next time. Snarky comments about a woman's hair and eye shadow does not a news story make.

LA Weekly was forced to correct their story once again in response to our story, and have now admitted their original "reporting" on the Constant Contact account was wrong. They've posted this rebuttal from Horvath campaign manager, Park Skelton.

"Councilmember Horvath, like virtually everyone these days, has a wide range of personal contacts from many different sources accumulated during her history as an activist and community leader. No public resources were used in the development or maintenance of her personal contact list. And, as with any e-mail communication, if a recipient does not wish to receive further e-mails they can easily unsubscribe. A political campaign, as you know, uses a variety of means of communicating with voters, including e-mail. It is an essential component of a functioning democracy." 

Mito Aviles has removed the WeHo city logo from his campaign website.

Mr. Aviles said Thursday morning that his web master had been instructed Wednesday to take the logos down from the web site.
“This must have been an oversight” said Mr. Aviles, “he did take the logo off several pages, but must have missed that one.”
On the posters, he said his campaign would be taking them down from walls and window across town as soon as it was possible, replacing them with new art.
According to Mr. Aviles, neither Ms. Horvath nor he meant to deceive in using the logo.
Instead, its use, to him, was a symbolic expression of pride in the city and an effort to express a sense of place.
“Neither Lindsey or I were trying to deceive voters,” he said.