Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mmmm... this water tastes DuPonty

Stories like this one make me realize that for many parts of our planet we are already too late to stop these criminals.
  From the AP

DOVER, Del. -- Citing new safety assurances, the Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its objections to a plan to treat and dispose of chemical weapon wastewater at a DuPont Co. plant along the Delaware River.

 DuPont, one of the world's leaders in killing us all through poisonous greed has also been given the right to do a bit of self-monitoring by the Bush administration and is now subject to looser oversight.

Acording to the EPA website they are now part of the "Performance Track" program that allows them to have fewer inspections, because Bush thinks they meet this description...

Performance Track is designed to recognize facilities that consistently meet their legal requirements and have implemented high-quality environmental management systems. Performance Track encourages facilities to continuously improve their environmental performance and to work closely with their community and employees.

Dumping nerve gas agents into the Delaware River with less regulatory controls. What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Kerry and Perlmutter on CBS has the feed.

CO-7 Hanging out with John Kerry

  I was sitting on my backpack and waiting for the number nine bus to take me downtown. I missed work the other day, and if I was late today my boss said I could kiss my seven dollars an hour plus tips goodbye. It was already one o'clock, and I worked at five. Adding in the travel time, that would leave me about two hours with Senator John Kerry. I guess that would be fine. I was trying to keep the dirt off my pants as best I could, and I thought, "this must be what they mean by grassroots Democracy." About fourty five minutes later in an opulent room surrounded the rich and powerful I was the only guy without a tie, but I was not feeling out of place one bit. I may not be powerful, and I am certainly not rich, but like the first timid mammals of the Triassic period, I know that fast little creatures like me are the future. To paraphrase Churchill; I know I will go down in history, because I intend to blog it.

  I met John Kerry in the staggeringly beautiful home of Brooke and M.J. Banbury. They have the second floor of a highrise in LoDo, the lower downtown area of Denver. They are supporters of Ed Perlmutter, a former Colorado State Senator who is now a candidate for the House of Representatives for Colorado's seventh congressional district. This swing district in this swing state is considered by many to be the best chance the Democrats have to pick up a seat this cycle, and both parties are doing all they can to get the race to fall their way. Dick Cheney flew in to do a fundraiser for the Republican, and just a couple of days ago President Bush came by here as well. All told, I have heard that this race will consume five million dollars, and most of that will be spent on television. Still, as hard as it is to believe sometimes, politics isn't really all about money. It is about information and access, and for a very long time money has been the gatekeeper to both of those things. I guess that is why they waved the five hundred dollar a person ticket price for me. To them, I am the electronic crackle of the internet. I am information and access, and if they can figure me out, I might just be money too.

  When I got to the room, one of the first hands I shook was that of former State Senate President Stan Matsunaka. In 2004 Stan was in a battle against Marilyn Musgrave for the congressional seat in CO-4. Musgrave had just authored a homophobic constitutional amendment and the netroots responded in force. He was chosen by the Daily Kos community as one of their DKos Dozen, and by the end of the campaign the blogosphere had sent him over $50,000. Matsunaka understands the growing power of web communities better than any candidate I have met, and today he spoke to me about some banner ads he was thinking of buying. I told him that I was skeptical about most ads. What he wants is buzz, and how to get that is by stepping into the community and making himself available. Information and access. Screw advertising just start communicating. Buy an intern a cell phone and a laptop, and you will reach more people than with a static website and all the banner ads in the world.

But it was time for me to shut up, the guest of honor was coming up the stairs, he stayed a long while in the stairwell talking in private with Perlmutter and a couple others. A Perlmutter staffer handed me a camera and asked me to play paparazzi, so I started getting shots of Kerry hugging Ed, and Kerry greeting Jay Fawcett the congressional candidate for CO5. Rollie Heath, the 2002 Democratic candidate for Governor was at the event, as were many other party officials and union and community leaders. I did my best to try to capture what I could in the small space and with the varied heights. John Kerry is just as tall up close as he seemed when I saw him on stage during his run for President. Aside from that, this was a different man. His voice had a better timber than when worn out on the campaign trail, and less arrogance than I remember from television. When I had first seen him live I remember thinking that I would rather he switch places on the ticket with John Edwards so we could have a candidate with some charisma. I was always very happy that I voted against Bush, but for the first time today I felt good about having voted for Kerry. He was relaxed. He was warm and friendly. He was intelligent and engaging. He was, dare I say it, human. I mentioned the change to Ed Perlmutter, and Ed nodded. "That is one of the drawbacks about running for office. I don't care who you are, it tightens you up."

Perlmutter had seen Kerry through many phases of his career. Kerry wasn't just flying in to put in a political good word for some stranger. When he was first thinking of running for President, Kerry came out to Colorado to measure his chances in the West. He and Ed got in a car and they spent the day driving around Denver seeing what there was to see. Ed made it a point to drive Kerry out to the Eastern edge of the city to show him how far the sprawl was encroaching into the open areas. "This is what we are facing. These are the challenges in our future." Kerry continued working with Ed and his wife Dena, and when the votes were counted, fifty two percent of Colorado's seventh district voted for Kerry, and that during a year when they sent a Republican to Congress. A lot of people wanted Ed to run that year, and perhaps if he had he could be the incumbent today, but he felt that it wasn't yet time. Now that it is time, Senator Kerry came back to stand beside his friend and strongly endorse him.

The Senator was asked about the PATRIOT Act, and his answer made me bristle. He said that it had been deeply flawed, but that the most troubling parts had been since removed. He said that as it stood now anyone who read it would have to agree that most of what was there were things we would want in there. He said it may not be the perfect piece of legislation that anyone of us in the room would most want, but that he thought he could live with it and he would probably vote for it when it next came up. I am sorry, but I do not want any law I am legally barred from reading. I don't care if a Senator tells me that if I could, I wouldn't object to most of it. That is just not good enough.

I preferred his answer to a question about the Dubai Ports purchase. The question began, "Is it possible that the President is so clueless that...", and Kerry didn't need to hear any more before saying, "The answer is Yes." After the room laughed, and the question was finished, Senator Kerry explained that while Bush is a hands off president, it still surprised him that so few people on any level seemed to give this any sort of inspection. Not even the Secretary of the Treasury who is required to chair the meeting that runs the mandated investigation even attended any meetings about the deal. It was another example of the Republicans dropping the ball on security issues. In fact, when asked to sum up the message of the Democratic Party he said he could do it in one word, "Security." He said ours was the party of national security, economic security, and personal security. Their party wanted to block the Department of Homeland Security. Their party damaged our security by over-extending in Iraq. He felt we must not yield the issue to the Republicans, but should rather get out the message that it is the Democratic Party that actually the defender of the security of our nation, and we should connect the dots for people so they can see that the funds pouring into the war are eroding every single other program back home and are endangering our country.

Senator Kerry shared his views on the last election. He admitted he had made some mistakes, particularly not spending enough money to push back against the lies they were telling about his military record. Still, he said that he was winning that election with just a few days to go when a recording of Osama surfaced. The media talked about nothing else for several days, and it flattened out his momentum. He felt that it cost him just enough votes in Ohio to save Karl Rove from looking like the poor strategist he really is. I have my own theory about Ohio, but then I have a theory about Florida too, if Al Gore ever wants to hear it.

He answered a few more questions, and then mingled through the room being introduced to some guests and already knowing others. He and I spoke briefly about his blogging, and he was very affable. I still am not sure if he actually writes it himself, but he certainly seemed to think so. Maybe he does, but I do not see how he could have time, his entourage seems to keep him moving at a fairly brisk pace, and it was already time to go down to the street and have a few words with the news cameras.

It was a perfect day out in Writer's Square, and Perlmutter and Kerry were all smiles in front of the wall of cameras. They each said their piece as I skirted the peripheries trying to get a picture that made either of the men look photogenic. Kerry is an imposing figure and Perlmutter has a certain intensity to him when speaking on issues that matter, but my camera was not particularly kind to either man. I kept catching Ed in the middle of the word 'future' with his lips pushed out like a goldfish. I was glad that tape was rolling, because he really is a great speaker when he gets moving, and I have even seen some good pictures of the man. I just regret that I don't have the skill to catch the right moments.

I circled around behind them to get a picture of them standing in front of the media. I was standing over by a candy store called the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. The employees were speculating on who the men in suits were across the square. I told Chuck and Jen that it was Senator Kerry, and when Jen said she had guessed that, Chuck said, "You did not. You said they looked like Republicans."

When the press conference was over, Senator Kerry stayed and greeted everyone who came up to him. He signed autographs and he posed for countless cell phone photos.
  A couple of ladies came up: "This is my friend, she is a Republican but she voted for you. I voted for you too, but I am a Democrat."
  A man walked over and had this bizarre conversation with the Senator: "Who is that?" "I'm John Kerry." "I knew it was him."
  Two other women wanted autographs: "I was standing over at that railing and I looked over and I knew it was you. I saw you from behind but I knew it was you." "I looked down from my office and saw your hair and I said I think that's John Kerry's hair."
  The Senator took time with every person who came by and he listened when they wanted to speak and he spoke when they wanted to listen. In a way I thought it might not be such a bad thing that he was not the President. If he had been, I think our country would have been a better place, but there is some compensation in seeing him being able to be present in a community in a way that George Bush will never know. I am clear that George doesn't want to, but even if he did I am not sure he could. John Kerry seemed to enjoy his entire day, but he clearly was charged by the energy of these happy friendly people who wanted nothing more than to say hello and share their stories.

  Kerry ran out of time, and had to run. He asked his people what was next on the agenda, "Do we have a meeting at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory?" "No Senator, we have to get going." "Are you sure? Check your schedule, I think there was some sort of event over at the Chocolate Factory." "Sorry Senator, we really don't have time."

  As his staffers were whisking him away to other things I finally got the picture I wanted. He and Ed were away from the reporters and the fundraisers and did one of those rockstar handshakes where you punch your fists into each other's. "Run a good campaign my friend." And then Senator Kerry continued on his trip out West, while Ed Perlmutter went back to work winning a fight that he hopes will send him East to the real fight out there.

  I shuffled off in my own direction walking a ways with Stan Matsunaka. He and I spoke about Angie Paccione, who is running for the same Congressional seat that he once did. He likes her, and he had some ideas about where she might be strong and which parts of her district she might find "a tougher nut to crack." His insight into the race was really worth hearing, and I hope to sit down with him again soon, but as I said at the start; today I had to get to a job, and in this Republican economy I can't afford to mess with that.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Preacher, Teacher, Coach and Politician : Drinking Liberally with Angie Paccione

There is a conventional way of talking about American politics, with the Democrats on one side, Republicans at the other, and somewhere in the middle a scattering of the undecided. Maybe that's true somewhere, but that place isn't Colorado. The voters I have met do not fit any neat stereotypes, and it isn't because they are so nuanced or complex. They are straight forward basic people, not at all undecided just very independent. They take each issue and decide what makes sense to them, and if that has them fit under the tent of a particular party than so be it, if not then that's fine too. That is why I think Angie Paccione has an excellent chance to win the 4th Congressional district. She doesn't fit neatly into any of the usual boxes, but she makes a clean sort of sense and stands on her own terms.

"I was born a poor black child," she says quoting a Steve Martin movie, and she began a story about her childhood that was told with such an easy and engaging humor that the amazing challenges she had overcome did not fully hit me until I thought about them later. She grew up in the South Bronx. Her dad was Itallian and her mom was an African-American. Her family was poor, but she had a talent for basketball and she was smart. "And you know where smart basketball players go to college?", she asked. As it turns out, the answer almost was 'nowhere'. This was the '70s and smart basketball players who were also poor and female did not have much of a chance, but she graduated highschool as an All-American player on the US team in 1978. That was the year that Title 9 took effect, and so Stanford had a scholarship to offer her. She went, perfected her game, and picked up an honors degree in Political Science while she was at it.

After school she went pro, but the league shut down because, "none of you bought tickets," and she started to devote herself to spreading the word of Christ through an evangelical basketball program.

That's right, since an epiphany at nineteen she has been a "born again spirit filled evangelical," and when she says that she doesn't say it matter of factly. She says it with a lot of 'church' in her cadence, but then she adds, "I believe you should live your faith - not legislate it." In a way that falls nowhere into the middle of any spectrum she talks with equal passion about her faith,and her commitment to the seperation of Church and State. She clearly voices her determination to represent all of her district and not just those who attend her church.
It reminded me of people like Jimmy Carter who managed to hold the moral high ground and who were called to service by their faith before the religious right started using hypocritical sanctimony as a nightstick.
When asked if she felt that more Dems should be vocal about their religious beliefs she said that to call on others to do that would be mistake because to be a person of faith should never be the criteria for office.
"When the President called Dobson before nominating Myers, when the President called Robertson before putting Alito forward, that was not only unfortunate but dangerous. We are not a theocracy!"

After basketball, she became a highschool teacher, and eventually combined the two as a highschool basketball coach. There was more than a little halftime performance still showing through in her talk tonight.
In a nice demonstration of leadership, if we didn't applaud enough on a line that she felt deserved more, she would do it over until we got it right. And I found myself always agreeing. Each time she did that it was a line that I should have applauded louder. I put my pen down and clapped. My pen didn't do me much good anyhow. She spoke quickly and with fluidity. She generated a lot of energy, and she used her physical presence well; once making a short dash for the door upon discovering that none of the crowd were able to vote in her district.
Generously she returned and encouraged us to work in our districts to send a good team along with her to Washington, and to the capitol here back home. She believes strongly that there should be checks and balances, and that no single party should wield too much power, but she certainly has enjoyed being in a majority in our State House where she served as the Chair of the Democratic Majority Caucus.

After coaching she became Dr. Paccione worked for a while with troubled teens, and then took a job at CSU teaching Teacher Education and Diversity. She started a campaign in 2002 for Congress when no other Democrat was willing to take on Musgrave, but when Senate President Stan Matsunaka decided to enter the race, Angie stepped aside and ran for the State seat. Now she is looking at a race that she says she will win, "not by 55% but 50.2%," and she has been defying the nay sayers by raising $200,000 in the last quarter with half of her contributions being under $100.

CD-7 candidate Herb Rubenstein asked the first question from the audience. He asked Paccione how many volunteers she had, and how she intended to use them. She has an impressive 450 volunteers, and from a house in Ft. Collins they are pushing forward a strategy that despite her denials seemed to me to be focused on motavating and turning out the 85% of voters that are in the population centers of her district. She was not ignoring or conceding the rural areas, but Weld and Larimer counties can probably expect to see more of her than the others. Mike Weissman, Field Director of the Young Dems, was in the room and by the questions he was asking I could tell he had some ideas on how she could have her message reach the more rural areas of her district. I hope the two of them get together on making that happen.

Most of the other questions went to flesh out what she meant when she said that we needed to provide, "a compelling alternative, not just an alternative." When Coloradolib asked what the first piece of legislation she would put forward would be she said she would fight for full funding of No Child Left Behind, and if she could not get full funding she would at least ensure that special education programs were funded. This fit in consistantly with one of her pillar philosophies that seems to support the more specific answers she gave. She feels that we should protect the most vulnerable people in our society. This showed up in comments I heard her make throughout the evening about health care and other issues.

Marshal Collins asked her about the war in Iraq. She said it was a mistake to go in, we should get out as fast as we can, and that the administration drew us in on false pretenses. Going in to bring security to the region we just poured fuel on the fire. She summed her position up in two words; "exit strategy."

Asked if she would support impeachment she said she would if only we could impeach for incompetence, but still she would if she was certain that a crime could be proven. Personally, I would love to hear a candidate say they had the articles written up already, but perhaps that is just me.

Asked about the situation with farmers in her district, she pointed to the very high rate of foreclosures and the fact that ranchers have been borrowing off their equity. Saying that more needed to be done for them, she proposed something that really drew my interest. She said she had a vision for Colorado wherein we were energy independent and we showed the rest of the country how it was done. Harnessing the wind across the Southeast and the Eastern Plains, drawing on the high solar potential, and converting Agriwaste into biofuel sources, we could simultaneously create an energy independent Colorado and add energy revenues to the cash flows of the people engaged in food production.

On Superslab she implied that a deal has been struck that may have removed the issue from consideration, and that while she had originally thought it might be a good idea she grew to be against it as the truth of the project was made clear.

On Alito she said she would never have voted the nomination out of committee.

Asked about abortion law she said, "I am more than Pro-Choice, I am Pro-Privacy." Adding another examplpe, she took on the topic of 'the defense of marriage'.

Marriage is not a threat to marriage. Divorce is a threat to marriage. Infidelity is a threat to marriage. Domestic violence is a threat. Losing your job is a threat.

Asked about lobby reform she proposed that lobbyists be barred from contributing to campaigns, and she supported public campaign funding saying that, "it opens the door for everybody to participate." She wanted the 'aristocracy' to have to share access with the people who had "too much month, and not enough money."

When asked where the money for her social programs was going to be found, she said a place to start was by not making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and by targeting earmarks. This has been a common answer amongst the candidates that have spoken at Drinking Liberally. I think it might underestimate the financial trouble this country is in.

The one place where I was disappointed tonight was when Angie was asked about the War on Terror. Her answer was about the War in Iraq. I think that equivalence does a lot of harm to the truth and plays into the Republican narrative. As far as an answer about Iraq goes, her answer was solid. She said we needed leadership and that she supported the Murtha plan. She said that we needed to be rebuilding the respect that our country enjoyed prior to Bush taking office.

Then the birthday cake arrived. Yesterday was Angie's birthday and Johne made her a cake with a number 4 candle on it. Falling off the side of the cake was a pink marshmallow bunny. Johne said it was a woman in a pink suit being kicked out. Angie said, "I don't care about a pink suit. Let's just send her a pink slip."

I may write more later about the rest of the room, but I wanted to mention two quick things before I log off for the night.

The first was to share something that Herb Rubenstien pointed out to me. Just after Watergate, Jimmy Carter tried to clean up our government by establishing an oversight group called the Office of Government Ethics. Even now, under GWB, the office performs a vital job... or at least it might, if he bothered to appoint a Director or an Assistant Director. Turns out the jobs are both vacant.

The final thing I wanted to share was an invitation to the 10th anniversary of All American Vogue at 18 S. Broadway. Ronnie is holding the party on Fri. March 3rd, and is using it as a fundraiser for CD6 Congressional candidate Bill Winter. It is a great chance to get out and join the 'First Friday' art crowd and mobilize people in the fight against Tancredo.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

BCCI, Bush, and the tangled history of everything

  I am going to confuse myself and try to hack my way through a thicket of history that might reveal layers of context for the purchase of the American ports by Dubai Ports World.

 We will start this out with perhaps the only hat tip I will ever give to Michelle Malkin. She reports about the role of "sukuk" in Muslim finance. Under Sharia law, usery is prohibited, that means no interest in their banking system and they needed to have a vehicle that would act like a bond, to allow a return on passive investment.

  Their finacial systems have been somewhat stunted by this limitation, but if you have a big enough cash cow, you can use it to back enough bonds to make a stock exchange and banking system viable. That is exactly what Dubai wants with the Dubai International Finance Exchange.

  If the Emirate secures this deal, the huge new financial hub will start generating a lot of money for all the players involved and create a channel through which Arab assets can start flowing in some very European capitalist ways.

 The president of the UAE is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan. As his name implies, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed was the son of Sheikh Zayed, who he replaced as Emir of Abu Dhabi and the President of the UAE in 2001.

 The elder Zayed was also interested in banking and in 1972 provided the investment capital to start the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) along with a 25% stake from Bank of America and according to some accounts, the CIA. It seems that the CIA may have wanted the Pakastani bank as a funding route for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The founder of BCCI who approached Zayed with the deal was a Pakastani Oil Banker named Agha Hasan Abedi, who had made a great deal of money and many ties to the West by founding the Pakastani bank United Bank Ltd. which was nationalized the year before he chartered BCCI in Luxembourg. A fact I mention for the twin reasons of underscoring why the CIA might have wanted a presence in the new non-governmental financial institution and because this story didn't have enough Luxembourg in it.

  BCCI was brought down in a financial and criminal scandal that was sparked in 1990 when an audit of their American branch showed hundreds of millions of dollars missing. By 1991, by which time drug trafficking, money laundering, gun running, prostitution and terrorism were all discovered to be nestled in their portfolio, Sheikh Zayed had amasssed a 78% stake in the organized crime syndicate.

  Burned in the spiraling investigation were several people who had ties to the Carter campaign, most notably Bert Lance his director of OMB who was also involved in a banking scandal of his own involving mismanagement of the Calhoun National Bank. Lance had introduced Carter to BCCI figures, and the bank paid a $3.4 million loan for Lance in 1978.

  BCCI maintained accounts for Abu Nidal and his organization Fatah RC. Nidal used the bank to set up a shell corporation that transported grenades, armored cars, night vision goggles, and other arms to be used in terrorist activities world wide. British Intelligence had the cooperation of an agent named Qassem in exposing the nature of the arms shipments, and Qassem signed an affidavit linking an American financier named Marc Rich to the transactions. Rich was later involved in other legal issues, including tax evasion, and illegal oil dealings with Iran during the hostage crisis, but by fleeing the country, and with the aid of his lawyer, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, he was eventually granted a pardon by his close friend Bill Clinton.

  A Democrat who came out of this story looking fairly good was John Kerry. The Bank foundered after Kerry co-authored a report for the CFR called "The BCCI Affair" that linked the bank to the drug trafficking of Panamanian Manuel Noriega. Following that side trip would bury us much deeper in the CIA and Iran Contra and a slew of other Presidents, but let it suffice to say that the Bush family is not unfamiliar with the Emir of Dubai and BCCI. I suppose there is a chance that the blogging Senator will see my post on this at dailykos and correct the errors I probably have made and perhaps he can tie some of this information in tighter, because it was his work that brought down the whole house of cards. Work that also bought him a few enemies in both the major parties.

  So now we are up to more recent history.

  One of the directors of BCCI was James Bath. In the early seventies he started a real estate firm with Lan Bentsen, the son of Democratic VP nominee Lloyd Bentsen. But his real claim to infamy was with the son of another politician. After serving in the Texas Air National Guard with the son of George H.W. Bush, Bath and George W. were partners in Arbusto oil.

 As made famous in the movie Farenheit 9/11, Bath channelled money from the Bin Laden family into GWB's new oil company, and also set up a bank in Houston. Bath then set up an aviation company that supplied jets to the Dubai National Oil Company, which was owned by his old collegue at BCCI, Sheikh Zayed.

 Zayed's son now sits on the throne, and he and his father's advisors have started a new financial institution, and they are buying the American ports to make it work. Bush is standing up for the deal and threatening to veto any attempt to stop him. Somehow I can't help but feel that history, while perhaps not repeating itself, might be continuing on its tangled way.


Orin Hatch thinks you are a moron

Repeating the lie until it becomes true, Orin Hatch said today...

"And, more importantly, we've stopped a mass murderer in Saddam Hussein. Nobody denies that he was supporting al-Qaida."

In a clear attack on Democrats, Hatch added, "Well, I shouldn't say nobody. Nobody with brains."

Hey, is he insulting both Bush and Blair?

[Adam Boulton, Sky News (London):] One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't make that claim.

THE PRIME MINISTER: That answers your question.

Or maybe Richard Clark wasn't clear enough.

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

Clarke says he and CIA Director George Tenet told that to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Or maybe the 9/11 commision misspoke.

"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said Cleland. "There's no connection, and that's been confirmed by some of bin Laden's terrorist followers ... What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

CO-7 Peggy made her bed, now has to find it.

Congressional candidate Peggy Lamm is running into problems for having the wrong luggage tags on her carpetbag.
The lead story on the local ABC affiliate [video here] last night was about her failure to have a clear residence over the last year, and possible voter fraud arising from voting in her new district without actually having a qualifying residence there.

It seems she registered to vote at a Post Office box in the district in April, later claiming that her campaign HQ was an 'apartment' for the purposes of residence.
The Colorado Revised Statutes 1-2-102 states:
Rules for determining residence (c) The residence given for voting purposes shall be the same as the residence given for motor vehicle registration and for state income tax purposes.

Lamm, filed State income taxes in Boulder County where she still maintains her house, and she registered her Audi there as recently as September.
She admits in the Channel 7 interview that she lives in "both places", and when asked about her primary place of residence she responded, "I don’t know, I don’t know who would know."
Nevertheless, Lamm voted in Jefferson County during the November elections, and the Denver Post says the Jeffco District Attorney's office is investigating possible fraud.

There is nothing in Colorado law that would preclude Lamm from running for Congress from outside the district, but if her registration is invalid at this time she may face problems with Party rules that require valid registration 60 days before voting in an election. Lamm has been scheduled to face Democrat Ed Perlmutter in a caucus matchup in fourty days. [update: Party Rules require Democratic affiliation 60+ days out, not registration. Peggy is safe there.]

I am a volunteer on the Perlmutter campaign, and their campaign manager issued the following press release in response to the issue.

Perlmutter Campaign Responds to Lamm Report on 7NEWS
Lamm asked to ‘come clean’ on 7th congressional district residency

(Golden) – Responding to a 7News Exclusive, revealing that Peggy Lamm may have committed voter fraud, Ed Perlmutter’s campaign manager today asked Peggy Lamm to “come clean” on her questionable residency in the 7th congressional district.

“I watched the 10:00 pm news on KMGH Channel 7 with great alarm last night,” said Danielle Radovich Piper, Ed Perlmutter’s campaign manager. “Based on the records exposed by investigative reporter John Ferrugia, it appears that Peggy Lamm broke Colorado law. It’s time candidate Lamm comes clean on her shifting explanations for her questionable residency in the 7th congressional district.”

CRS 1-2-102, which governs residency and voting, states: Colorado Revised Statutes 1-2-102. Rules for determining residence (c) The residence given for voting purposes shall be the same as the residence given for motor vehicle registration and for state income tax purposes.

According to the 7NEWS report, Peggy Lamm admitted that she registered her 2003 Audi last September 2005 in Boulder County, even though she registered to vote in Jefferson County in April 2005. Additionally, she cast a mail ballot in Jefferson County in November 2005. Ms. Lamm also admitted that her address on her driver’s license was still in Boulder County and that she filed her income taxes from Boulder County all in apparent violation of the statute listed above.

Ms. Lamm listed her reason for this saying, “I live in both Arvada and Superior…I think you should vote in the county where you’re trying to represent.”

“Well we agree,” said Radovich Piper. “Unfortunately for Ms. Lamm the law is clear and it seems she broke it by trying to have it both ways with her back-and-forth residency and candidacy.”

When Lamm was asked by John Ferrugia where she lived, she replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know who would know.”

Perplexed by that response, Radovich Piper said, “If Ms. Lamm doesn’t even know where she lives, then how can she serve in Congress? We’re confident that law enforcement will thoroughly investigate this matter and bring it to a speedy conclusion.”

Monday, February 13, 2006

If it quacks like a lawyer

Chickenhawk Cheney shot a lawyer in the face. That'll shut up those Fighting Dems.

But oddly, the VP's office sat on the story for a day. It wasn't until the next day when the property owner had told a reporter, and the reporter called Cheney's office for confirmation, that news about the hunting accident broke.

This got my tinfoil hat buzzing, and I started to dig.

Why wait a day? Someone else on the trip that they wanted to get out of town? Someone needed to sober up? Who knows. What we do know is that Harry Whittington took some pellets in his cheek and upper body in what was described as a minor accident that sent him to the hospital for a day and a half of intensive care.


Who is Harry Whittington?

He is a Texas attorney, who has been winning his domain case against the City of Austin. He owns a piece of property that they want for the Civic Arena's parking structure. He isn't selling, and so far they can't make him.

In an interesting wrinkle, Whitting spent six years as the chairman of the Texas Public Finance Authority Board, a body that allocates the building funds for just that sort of project. No doubt there is more to that iceberg.

But this is the part that grabs my attention...

Just before running for President, GWB was entangled in an affair known as Funeralgate.
A woman named Eliza May was doing her job and investigating SCI; a funeral company which had been using unliscenced embalmers, and reusing graves by digging up corpses and leaving the bodies to rot in the woods.

The owners of the company were large contributors to Gov. Bush, and when Ms. May refused to back down from her inquiry, and after she levied a large fine on the company, Bush fired her.
She sued for wrongful termination, and the suit was settled for $210,000, but not before Bush apparently purjured himself in affidavits to aviod being called to testify.

The scandal would have taken down other politicians, but George was fated to move upwards instead of to jail, and so it was just tossed onto the dustbin of his resume along with the rest of the dirt.
As part of the fallout, Bush appointed a new chairman to the Texas Funeral Services Commission: Harry Whittington.

I don't have a conspiracy theory yet about this, but the conspiracy evidence is starting to pile up.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Catching up

I have been doing a lot of posting over at SoapBlox Colorado about some issues that mostly would have been of interest to people in CD-7.
I took a certain amount of heat for my clearly biased reporting of Peggy Lamm's visit to Denver's Drinking Liberally. I am supporting her opponent Ed Perlmutter, and some of Peggy's supporters didn't like my take on the event. It seems that you just can't please some people, at least not when you are telling them why you feel they should lose.

In bigger CD-7 news our President is coming to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory here. He just cut the funding to about three dozen scientists who were researching biomass, geothermal, and solar energy. He wants to use the visit to underscore his stated priority of reducing our oil dependence. How does cutting funding do that? Well, he is reportedly planning to renew the funding some time in 2007, maybe. I am sure the scientists can be frugal until the money returns.
Interestingly, Ed Perlmutter is a trustee of the Midwest Research Institute, the primary operator of the Natl. Renewable Energy Lab. Restoring the funding has long been a key goal of his, and I will see if I can get comment from him on the developments.

One last thing, the Colorado Democratic Party has a link on it's mainsite to its Blog, DemNotes. Maintaining that blog is Party 1st Vice Chair, Dan Slater. I want to thank Dan for his encouragement, and for adding Heading Left to the DemNotes blog roll. Knowing that we are part of a community helps us to keep doing what we do.

Friday, February 03, 2006

CO-7 Adams Cnty Candidates Forum

I spent the evening as the guest of the Adams County Democrats as they hosted a forum at their headquarters. Ed Perlmutter, Herb Rubenstein, and Peggy Lamm took questions from the crowd, and told why they each felt they should be the Democratic candidate for Colorado's 7th Congressional district.
It was a cozy affair held in conjunction with the AdDems regular meeting, and the candidates had to wait while motions were made to buy a new printer for the newsletter and to release funds for clog dancers at the St. Patrick's Day dinner.

  Before the meeting was called to order, I had a chance to speak with Herb Rubenstein. There are more than a few people who think he has no chance at the nomination, but he is adamant that he is not amongst them. He has me convinced that his candidacy is the true test of the theory, because after all the thought and energy he has put into his attempt, if he fails to get the nomination it must indeed have been impossible. Quixotic or not, he is clearly fighting as hard as anyone could.

When I pointed out that his campaign had just over $900 cash on hand at the end of the last quarter, he shrugged and said that they had gotten another $20k on January 5th. He seems earnest in his intention to have his name on the primary ballot, either through the caucus or through petitions. When ColoradoLib used the word 'thoughtful' to describe what I thought was an excellently written piece by Washpark Prophet, Rubenstein was quick to offer a refutation to the story's suggestion that he was not a serious candidate. A refutation that Rubenstein was very pleased to see get prominent notice when he posted it. I am highly doubtful of his odds in this particular race, but his obvious joy at his interactions with the blogosphere made it clear that he has embraced and understands the new media like no other candidate. As the online community explores and builds the potential of netroots organizing, I expect that this race will give Rubenstein a number of great insights to share with us.

The discussion turned to Israel and Palestine. Herb says it is a topic that he is questioned about a lot lately. His son Jason is in a Yeshiva North of Jerusalem studying to become a rabbi. Herb felt that economic sanctions on Hamas were necessary and inevitable, but he was concerned that starving the Palestinian people could be as dangerous as funding their new violent leadership. His hope was that elements of Fatah could still influence the dynamic from within, and that the people's desire for stability could find expression. He said that if the United States did get involved in a solution, they should not try to do it through back channels. Rubenstein said that we should make use of modern technology and insist that any negotiations or peace brokering must be done out in the open on the internet where anyone could see exactly where people were standing. I am not sure that diplomacy is ready for such transparency, or if he has considered the peril it might create for moderates who tried to come to the table when extremists still wanted the destruction of Israel. It seems to me that if everyone had to maintain public faces, you would wind up with more posturing than progress. Many of Herb's ideas seem to me that way; innovative rather than implementable, but I suppose I have always liked ideas of that nature myself. They are the type that get us uprooted.

I sat with Ed, and we spoke about how long his days have been getting. He spent yesterday walking the precincts and today meeting with leaders of the African American community. He thanked me quickly for helping him maintain his blog, but then had to move up to the front of the room with Herb and Peggy.

Before the candidates spoke, Cary Kennedy addressed the room. She is the Democratic candidate for treasurer and is running against an appointee of Gov. Owens named Mark Hillman. Kennedy was a policy director for Colorado House Speaker Romanoff, and she worked on Amendment 23 that provided a boost to k-12 education funding, and also did technical work on Ref. C. She gets my vote.

Peggy Lamm gave her introduction first. She brought the flack jacket she has been showing around at her campaign stops. It was bought by her family when her brother was in the service, and she uses it to underscore her personal involvement in Defense issues and to underscore her condemnation of an administration that claims to support the troops, but leads them into needless peril. She shared the jarring findings of a Pentagon study that claimed if we had spent just $260 per US soldier in Iraq, 84% of the deaths of servicemen would have been avoided.

  This was the one of the few times she used statistics, or pointed to a particular policy that she felt needed specific changes. Generally, she spoke in broad themes and repeated key words that seemed to have more emotional impact than substance. A number of times she spoke of how we needed people of 'moral courage' in Congress, but she just let the audience decide for themselves what that meant. In one of her answers she used the word 'Leadership' five times. This was unlike the last time I had seen her when the family anecdotes gave support to her points rather than replaced them entirely. If this had been the only time I had heard her speak, I would not have come away with any real sense of what she intended to do in Congress. Even here, where she was specific, I was not clear how she felt about the conflict in Iraq. If we had spent the extra $260 would it have been alright, or was there a deeper problem with our involvement?

  I liked the broad themes she was expressing. It was clear she felt that there were promises that government makes to the citizens, and ours has been breaking those promises. She felt that we need leaders with 'spine'. She felt that representatives should serve the people and not special interests. I like those thoughts. I know what they mean to me. Tonight she didn't give me enough to know what they meant to her.

Ed Perlmutter started of with charm. He spoke of the recent State of the Union address and suggested that sitting through Bush's next one will be one of the toughest jobs any Democratic Congressman would face. He then gave an explanation for the purple mark that his golden retriever inflicted on his cheek, "I wish I could say I got this from mad passionate love, or I got in a fight, or Herb tried to bite my ear off..." He was casual and the crowd responded well.

Then, becoming more serious, he spoke of the American Dream that brought us all to that room that night. He acknowledged the value in things Peggy had said earlier, and it is important to note that all of the candidates were fundamentally supportive of one another. Earlier Peggy said we had "three good people running" and by remaining positive, they allowed me to feel that way to. Each at some point in the evening showed respect for the others.

Ed talked about how ties between the privileged, such as those between Bush and Enron, Cheney and Haliburton, Delay and Abramoff, were depriving Americans of living and fulfilling their dreams, and how he would work to change the focus to the middle.

Herb used his time to tell of his history and how he studied on scholarships and loans and worked his way out of his Louisiana childhood. He spoke of his father, who had worked against racism and for the unions. He spoke of his own work with the Carter administration. Like each of the three candidates, he was able to paint a very human portrait of himself, and give some insight to the formative experiences that shaped his politics.

On many of the questions, the candidates were in agreement. They reinforced one another's statements and took the fight to the Republicans. On one where they differed was in response to a question about how they would deal with the National Debt.

Peggy answered first, and while she did not provide any plan, she reminded everyone that under Clinton we had a surplus, but now under Bush it has all been squandered. While I am always up for a good post hoc argument at the Republican's expense, I would have liked to hear what steps she felt would bring us back to those surpluses.

Ed was next and advocated against making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He said we should look for those programs that were truly not working and trim them, and that if some moderate tax relief was needed it should benefit the "hard working middle" and stimulate small business through paring back the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Herb wanted to establish "very serious Estate Taxes". I think that the proposal, while it might make sense to actuaries and probability theorists, misses how deeply imbedded in the American psyche the idea of leaving an inheritance to our children really is.

On government eavesdropping there was an interesting contrast between Ed and Peggy. While both opposed the overreaching of our Imperial President. they put markedly different stresses on what supports the foundations of our freedoms.

Ed spoke of the 3rd amendment, that prohibits the quartering of troops in private homes in peacetime, and without congressional approval during wartime. He said that the right to privacy, expressed here and in the 4th amendment, was core to all our freedoms. He said the Founding Fathers saw that if you could not keep the armies of King George out of your house, then all of your other freedoms would be lost.

Peggy went in a direction that I think appeals more to those that prefer the USA PATRIOT Act over the Bill of Rights. She said, "I would suggest that if we are not a secure country than everything else is moot."

While I see more in common between Lamm and Perlmutter than I see difference, those two thoughts could not seem farther apart to me. Maybe I misunderstood her, but when she spoke I could not help but think of a quote from Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

When asked about their job would be when they got to Congress, Peggy gave an answer I could not follow. There was a video camera at the event, and I will see if I can get a transcription. Ed's answer was straightforward, and Herb's answer contained one of the most entertaining lines of the evening.

Ed said his first job would be to vote for a Democratic Speaker of the House. After that, his job would be to create an office that was accessible and responsive to the people of our district so that he could serve the needs of the people he represents. And then his third duty would be to change the focus of government back to the people in the middle.

Herb agreed with those priorities but also added more. He said that he would "kick butts and make some noise." A representative should demand good committee posts and talk each day, "about what is wrong with our country." He said he would take chances and be a thorn in the side of the administration. He said the measure of effectiveness would be how many front pages he garnered. The line that made me grin was, "I'm tired of being overshadowed by this idiot in the 6th District."

There were quite a few other questions, and many nice moments. Herb managed to work lasers and crystals into one answer and carbon nano-tubes into another. Ed said, "with this bunch in Washington, if they can do wrong, they will do wrong. They can't help themselves." Peggy called herself the "lobbyist for the people." As always, I have pages of notes I haven't included, and there is still a lot to relate about what the candidates said, but the best moment of the evening was when at the very end, a man in the audience raised his hand and asked to speak.

  He was old enough to be the father of any of the candidates, and was wrapped in a Pipefitter's Union jacket with the name Jim embroidered upon it. He wanted to say something about Social Security, and my assumption was it was going to be about how it affected the lives of Seniors, but it wasn't. He wanted to talk about how it changed families. He spoke of two girls whose fathers had died. He watched as Social Security saved the life and family of one of them, and how she grew to take advantage of the opportunities provided for her through that social safety net.

The other girl was the sister of this man's friend. This girl was raised before there was Social Security. She was a talented writer and poet and filled with hope, but when hard times came there was nothing to keep her family from crumbling and her life from heading in the wrong direction. The girl's name was Bonnie Parker, and she found infamy in the duo known as Bonnie and Clyde.

I think Jim's story summed up the candidates views. Government has a place, and it can provide chances where there are none for people to thrive. These chances are not charity, but they are an investment. What the society gains is always more than it gives, but this is only true when what it gives is invested broadly and fairly. By removing the concentrations of power that allow the short sighted blight of greed and corruption to take hold, we can restore our government to being a healthy system that can elevate us instead of be our oppressor.