Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bobby Jindal hates... Protestants?

Representative Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) has had his anti-Protestant writings brought to light again, just like they were during his 2003 gubernatorial campaign. The article containing his anti-Protestant screed is linked here, but it requires that you pay for the privilege of reading it, but the word is (and the word that Jindal is denying vociferously) that Jindal called Protestant "religions" as "scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical."

Rep. Jindal has written quite a bit about religion, as the site below (sponsored by the Louisiana Democratic Party) demonstrates. Jindal's attacks on "atheism's gods" is your standard gruel for conservatives, and probably won't matter one whit where his standing with the Republican Party and America's conservatives are concerned. This bit about his going after Protestants, though, is a big deal.

Jindal is running for Governor of Louisiana this year, and is one of the most popular Republicans in the state of Louisiana. He's far ahead in the polls, and Louisiana is pretty conservative, so I'm reluctant to say yet whether this will hurt him. However, Louisiana is largely Catholic in the south and largely Protestant in the north, so these ads, which are unsurprisingly running mostly in northern Louisiana, might have some effect. At any rate, they've been forcing Jindal to publicly explain himself, which is something no politician wants to have to do.

With a name like Jindal, you might expect him to be Hindu, and indeed, he was raised as one, and converted to Catholicism on his own. His last name has also been converted—it's pronounced "jindle," for the record.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Karl Rove to resign by August 31.

The Bush administration's brilliant and amoral political advisor Karl Rove will resign his post at the White House on August 31. A latter-day incarnation of President McKinley's brilliant and amoral political strategist "Dollar Mark" Hanna, Rove gives the old saw that he wants to "spend more time with his family," and to prove it he's moving to a town not far from where his son goes to college. Whatever.

I think it's more that if Rove didn't resign by the end of August, he'd have to stick with the Bush administration until January 2009, and he doesn't want to do that, for whatever reason. Perhaps he wants out because Congress keeps demanding he turn up in court to answer questions about his role in the Valerie Plame sabotage scandal, and his continued refusals to reply to these subpoenas will only serve to further damage the White House.

I don't see why Congress wouldn't continue to subpoena Rove after this, nor do I see why the White House wouldn't continue with their groundless claim of "executive privilege" to cover his oily ass. Regardless, Rove is out, officially, but he'll no doubt remain in some kind of unofficial advisory capacity to the Bush administration, just like Karen Hughes did.

Rove is out, but this thing ain't over. Just because Rove walks out doesn't mean there's any reason to stop investigating the crimes that he and his boss committed.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Who won last night's AFL-CIO debate?

Seriously, I think it was Chris Dodd. He didn't win it by a huge margin—John Edwards was a very close second, and then Dennis Kucinich pulled a respectable third—but Dodd was on fire. So was Edwards, but Dodd was maybe half a degree hotter. My support has been leaning toward Edwards lately, and it still is, but I think I like Dodd more than I used to. I never disliked Dodd, but his stock rose with me tonight.

I thought Clinton was subpar, and I thought Obama was a disaster last night. Both surprised me.

Joe "Loose Cannon" Biden characteristically made good points and made weirdly crazy points sometimes.

Bill Richardson pulled a fair performance, maybe sub-fair at times. He could have done better.

Where's Mike Gravel? I read that his campaign apparently forgot to return the questionnaire for the debate before its deadline. Somehow, I have a hunch that if it were the Clinton, Obama or Edwards campaigns, they would have gotten a little more leeway on the deadline. However, I also think there's a reason those "big three" campaigns managed to get their forms in on time: bigger campaign, bigger staff. Simple enough.

What throttles my mind is the way the talking heads on MSNBC declared victory for Clinton and Obama, said it was a disaster for Edwards, and ignored the other four candidates who were there that night. Were they watching the same debate? Who didn't see Obama's jittery, meek responses to every question except the one about sending troops into Pakistan? Who didn't hear Clinton's evasive, vague answers or notice the boos she got from the audience? The media is clueless. They have no idea what they're talking about. Too often talking heads are afraid to offer opinions that differ too much from what the national polls would predict. Clinton is still leading in national polls, but hell, who couldn't miss the fact that her performance at last night's debate was at best bland and, more accurately, disappointing?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

...And the senators who voted our rights away

Thanks to Kos again for the list of Democratic senators who voted against this curbing of our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights:

Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Tom Carper (Delaware)
Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Kent Conrad (North Dakota)
Dianne Feinstein (California)
Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)
Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Barbara Mikulski (Maryland)
Bill Nelson (Florida)
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Ken Salazar (Colorado)
Jim Webb (Virginia)

Keep those letters coming, especially to your own senators and congresspeople...

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Kansas Republicans demand loyalty oaths.

Wow. The Kansas Republican Party has really plunged off the deep end here. Upset over the many defections of prominent elected Republicans in recent years, they're trying to force Kansas Republicans to sign loyalty oaths, where they promise to endose only other Republicans for any office.

This kind of looks like a party in a state of rapid meltdown, but really: can parties melt down that quickly?

I was watching C-SPAN yesterday morning and Senator Leahy asked a Bush administration official at a hearing if that official had ever read Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22. The official hadn't, so Leahy's point about the Bush official's circular logic ("I can't answer that question because it's classified, but you can read the same answer in the reports already made public by our department.") The Kansas Sacred Loyalty Oaths are even more Catch-22-y, though. This is eerie. Yet still, I must confess a little bit of schadenfreude here. (In case you don't know what that word is, look it up. It describes perfectly the emotion that opponents to the Republican Party must be feeling across the board these days.)

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Blue Dogs versus blue states

It's cold comfort that I believe that Bush's "Protect America" bill will be overturned in the future. Colder still that that probably won't happen before 2009, at least.

Most of the offending Democrats were "Blue Dog" Democrats, who are basically Republicans. True, there were eleven Democrats who aren't Blue Dogs but who voted for this abomination, but those are merely spineless sell-outs who'd trade their grandmother for a half-point leap in their polling data.

America's best hope is still the Democratic Party. It's inexcusable that they sold us out on this bill. I'm having trouble calling myself a Democrat right now. We could stand for a better hope, but who would that be? Some say Ron Paul, but he's just a Republican who happens to disagree with the president now and again (a quality that is much rarer these days than it should be, but still doesn't qualify you to be president.) Ralph Nader is just a washed-up spoiler who makes no real points except that neither political party will give you exactly what you want. (Whaddya want? That's life.)

I'm going to continue to condemn the sell-outs who voted for this travesty. That would be not only the 183 Republicans in the House who voted for it, but also the 30 Blue Dog Democrats and the 11 generic spineless Democrats who voted for it, as well. And the same goes for all the Republican senators and the 16 Democratic senators who voted for it, as well.

Regardless, I'm less than thrilled with my party right now, to say the least. Please: write your congresspeople. Let them know how you feel, whether it's positive or negative, and whether you think they'll listen or not. This is important.

Courtesy of the DailyKos, I'll provide you with a list of the 41 Democratic House memebers who voted for this horrible legislation. I'll try to dig up the list of violating senators later. Also useful is the way the Blue Dogs are identified. Where it doesn't say "Blue Dog," you can read "spineless."

Jason Altmire (4th Pennsylvania)
John Barrow (12th Georgia) Blue Dog
Melissa Bean (8th Illinois) Blue Dog
Dan Boren (2nd Oklahoma) Blue Dog
Leonard Boswell (3rd Iowa)
Allen Boyd (2nd Florida) Blue Dog
Christopher Carney (10th Pennsylvania) Blue Dog
Ben Chandler (6th Kentucky) Blue Dog
Rep. Jim Cooper (5th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Jim Costa (20th California) Blue Dog
Bud Cramer (5th Alabama) Blue Dog
Henry Cuellar (28th Texas)
Artur Davis (7th Alabama)
Lincoln Davis (4th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Joe Donnelly (2nd Indiana) Blue Dog
Chet Edwards (17th Texas)
Brad Ellsworth (8th Indiana) Blue Dog
Bob Etheridge (North Carolina)
Bart Gordon (6th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (South Dakota) Blue Dog
Brian Higgins (27th New York)
Baron Hill (9th Indiana) Blue Dog
Nick Lampson (23rd Texas) Blue Dog
Daniel Lipinski (3rd Illinois)
Jim Marshall (8th Georgia) Blue Dog
Jim Matheson (2nd Utah) Blue Dog
Mike McIntyre (7th North Carolina) Blue Dog
Charlie Melancon (3rd Louisiana) Blue Dog
Harry Mitchell (5th Arizona)
Colin Peterson (7th Minnesota) Blue Dog
Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota) Blue Dog
Ciro Rodriguez (23rd Texas) Blue Dog
Mike Ross (4th Arkansas) Blue Dog
John Salazar (3rd Colorado) Blue Dog
Heath Shuler (11th North Carolina) Blue Dog
Vic Snyder (2nd Arkansas)
Zachary Space (18th Ohio) Blue Dog
John Tanner (8th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Gene Taylor (4th Mississippi) Blue Dog
Timothy Walz (1st Minnesota)
Charles A. Wilson (6th Ohio) Blue Dog

There's the list. Now get writing.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Open letter to Rep. Jason Altmire (R-PA)

Below is a letter I sent to Representative Jason Altmire, a freshman congressman from Pennsylvania's Fourth District, and a Democrat. He unseated the terrible Republican Bush rubber stamper Melissa Hart last year. I was excited, and I donated to Mr. Altmire's campaign. Mr. Altmire's August 3 vote for President Bush's Orwellianly-named Protect America Act has led me to realize that the cash I sent to Mr. Altmire was wasted, and that Rep. Altmire has no respect for the Constitution he claims to uphold. The Protect America Act allows for tapping phone conversations without a warrant, whether the subject of surveillance is in the borders of the United States or not, whether the subject of surveillance is an American citizen or not, whether the subject of surveillance is being monitored for any probable cause or not.

Voting for this bill was irresponsible and runs contrary to everything the United States stands for. As I said to Mr. Altmire: he doesn't deserve to be in Congress, and neither do the other 40 Democrats who voted for this abomination (not to mention the 199 Republicans who voted for it, as well.)

Mr. Altmire,

I will keep this brief. I am a native of western Pennsylvania, from Hermitage. I spent a good deal of my youth in neighboring Farrell, in the Fourth District, where my grandparents lived. Though I moved out of the area long ago, I still feel connected to the area. My concern for western Pennsylvania led me to send you a contribution for your campaign for the House last year.

I see your name appears on the list of representatives who voted for President Bush's "Protect America Act," a bill that does the exact opposite of what its name suggests it does. It causes me pain to know that someone I backed has voted to effectively overturn the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

I will not make the mistake of supporting you again. You do not deserve to serve in Congress--if what you are doing can be realistically called "serving." I was glad to see you push Bush's bootlick Melissa Hart out of the Fourth District, but I can see it didn't make a dime's worth of difference.

You have disappointed your country, Mr. Altmire, and you have contributed to the disgrace of the austere institution you purport to serve. If you are replaced by a Republican next year, I won't care. Considering how loosely you handle our civil liberties, it won't matter at all.

I understand that you will not reply to people outside your district, so I don't expect to hear back from you. However, in the hopes that this letter won't vanish into the ether, I'm posting it on my blog as an open letter to you, for the benefit of all others to read.

Best of luck in your future job search. I hope you won't find it as depressing as I found this very important vote in Congress.

Kurt Kaletka
Watertown, Massachusetts

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why Republicans fear YouTube debates

Last week, CNN and YouTube hosted a debate for the Democratic presidential candidates. It featured questions recorded on film by citizens and played live before the candidates, to which they responded. Some of the questions were ridiculous, and the most ridiculous were weeded out beforehand, but overall the result was interesting and received warmly by the candidates and the media. I was on vacation when it aired so I couldn't catch it, but because it was on YouTube, all the footage was made available later online, allowing me to catch up. The wonders of the age!

Of course CNN and YouTube want to hold another debate in September, inviting questions for Republican candidates and, of course, inviting all the Republican candidates themselves. But instead of all the Republican candidates leaping at the chance, only two have agreed thus far—Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Moreover, two have already publicly balked at the debate. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said he has some vague, unspecified scheduling conflict in the future that will probably preclude his participation. Former Massachusetts Governor Willard "Mitt" Romney has publicly stated that he questions the seriousness of the debate format, and also has cast aspersion on CNN for bias, providing evidence that Governor Romney has never actually watched CNN.

I think the real squeamishness about the CNN/YouTube debate stems from the fact that it demands candor, and that Romney and Giuliani are not at their best when unscripted. Their images are very precisely managed; none of them wants to speak off the cuff, out of fear of having to address controversial questions or to defend their beliefs by speaking to actual citizens. This is the George W. Bush model of getting into office to enact a radical agenda by refusing to address any controversy at all. To put it bluntly, Giuliani and Romney know their carefully-managed images will come undone if scrutinized.

McCain and Paul, on the other hand, are very different. They handle extemporaneous speaking very well; it's their strong suit. They have no problem talking about what they believe in, so the CNN/YouTube debate would be a great boost for their campaigns. Yes, it's refreshing to see candidates speak their minds and opinions, and Paul and McCain will do this. Their campaigns are suffering right now, arguably because they don't manage their opinions and images as carefully as Giuliani and Romney: what you see is what you get. Paul's hard-core libertarian point of view (except where gay rights and abortion rights are concerned) will probably never appeal to mainstream Republicans. McCain's straight talk has appealed to mainstream Republicans in the past, but after selling out to the Bush administration, he's having trouble un-selling out and gaining the veneer of the devoted reformer that he used to have back in 2000 and 2001. Neither Paul nor McCain will likely win the nomination next year, but these debates would help them a lot in gaining traction.

In fact, Ron Paul would probably benefit the most. The most thoughtful questions would be directed toward him, since Paul has the strongest online base of all the Republican candidates—and probably of all the Democratic candidates, as well. Zealous YouTube regulars would ask him the lion's share of the questions, and the plain-speaking Paul would no doubt be in his glory. Sure, the editors would probably arrange things so that each candidate gets his fair share of questions, but since the quantity of questions for Paul would be greater, no doubt the quality would be, too.

What it all comes down to is this: the Republicans know they're starting out for the 2008 election with a built-in disadvantage due to the performance of their party over the past six years, so they realize they have to go negative. The Republican nominee will most likely be Romney or Giuliani, and they're trying to protect their carefully cultivated images by exposing them to as little candor as possible. On the other hand, the Democrats, no matter who their nominee turns out to be, will benefit from candor and exposure, so an open forum and debate would only serve their campaigns.

The only successful Republican candidates in the past twenty years have been ones who ran more on style than substance. That didn't stop George Bush Sr. from losing the 1992 election or George Bush Jr. from losing the 2000 election, but still, their empty strategies were what they relied on all along. Note that when Bob Dole tried to run his issue-oriented campaign that he was crushed utterly, just as were all the other Republican candidates who ran on substance over style in other elections: Phil Gramm, Pete DuPont, Jack Kemp, Pat Robertson, Donald Rumsfeld, Steve Forbes, Bob Smith, Orrin Hatch, Gary Bauer... and, of course, John McCain. After watching Bush père and Bush fils win while Bob Dole lost, Giuilani and Romney seem to be thinking, "Why mess with success?" Sure, it cheapens politics, but hell, that's never stopped anyone before, has it? (The Bushes each won one and lost one, but theirs is currently the best formula a right-wing Republican has going.)

This just drives home just how depressingly hollow the Republican Party has become (as if its radical lurches rightward weren't already bad enough.) I'm sure I wouldn't consider voting for Giuliani or Romney even if they were candid about their beliefs—which is probably how a lot of other people feel, too. So, at the end of it all, who can really blame them for not standing for anything?

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