Monthly Archives: June 2006

You Could Be Next

The Bush administration argues whether it’s tracking calls or bank accounts, innocent people needn’t worry. They’re only going after terrorists.

Apparently, not so.

Three Kurdish men who transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Middle East in violation of the nation’s anti-terrorism law were spared prison yesterday by a judge in Harrisonburg who concluded that they did not have “evil intent.”

The men, all of whom were granted asylum in the United States, could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison for violating the Patriot Act.

… Although the government did not accuse the men of having terrorist ties, the charges against them were brought under changes adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Under the Patriot Act, those who transfer money can be charged even if they do not know their actions are illegal.

So even if you don’t know you did something illegal and you weren’t involved in terrorism but an innocent transfer of money to relatives abroad, you could be given probation and fined as much $6,600.

One Step At a Time

Before they can take on issues that really matter, right wingers need to get passed a number of issues: gay marriages, crèches on public property, banning of the saying “Happy Holidays,” and now flag burning.

So those of us in the reality-based world have to make some concessions and attack these issues one at a time. So here’s my draft of a proposed constitutional amendment:

Any woman who has given birth to one son MUST abort all subsequent pregnancies.

This way we get the wingers to accept abortion. I’m sorry, my gay friends, but look at it this way: If we reduce the number of men being born, we reduce the number of homophobes. Just a thought.

As Dan Rather Would Say, “Courage”

Democrats apparently reacted “angrily,” according to The Washington Post, when reports surfaced this weekend that the Pentagon is considering withdrawal of troops in the near future. I didn’t see the Sunday morning talk shows (I rarely watch the frantic spinning and the general failure to listen on the part of the show hosts) upon which the adverb was based. I’ll take the reporters’ word for it.

But the Dems needn’t be angry. “Courage, troops.” The country is coming around to their point of view, and I’m beginning to feel like a minority. (O, wait a minute, I am an minority – a reality-based citizen.) It will apparently be the end of the day before we can look at the data, but more Americans are supporting a timetable for declaring victory and retreating.

The American public is sharply divided over whether to set a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, as military casualties mount and the insurgency shows little sign of ending its bloody terror campaign, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

There are still more Americans who oppose withdrawal than support it, but the margin is dwindling. And the latest Post-ABC poll continues to show little backing for an immediate exit from Iraq: Nearly eight in 10 say the United States should keep troops in Iraq for at least six months.

The survey found that 47 percent of the country now favors setting a deadline for troops to exit from Iraq, up eight percentage points since December. Opposition to a firm timetable for withdrawal stands at 51 points, down from 60 percent seven months ago.

But if reports are true that a draw-down is likely before the elections, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has it right.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), one of the two sponsors of the nonbinding resolution, which offered no pace or completion date for a withdrawal, said the report is another sign of what he termed one of the “worst-kept secrets in town” — that the administration intends to pull out troops before the midterm elections in November.

“It shouldn’t be a political decision, but it is going to be with this administration,” Levin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s as clear as your face, which is mighty clear, that before this election, this November, there’s going to be troop reductions in Iraq, and the president will then claim some kind of progress or victory.”

Inoculation against an October surprise is to predict it — loud and often. If Democrats want to minimize what is sure to be a Rove tactic, then predict it, belittle it, and in fact, demand it. Then when it materializes, they look predictable, belittled and crassly political.

What’s Your Cell Phone Strategy?

When my 19-year old daughter said she wanted to come with me to the NDN Conference held in Washington over the past two days, I got excited about the “bonding” potential for us. Little did I know that she would be the most important person there. Not her personally, but what she represents: the Millennial Generation.

Presidential-year voting among 18- to 29-year-olds grew to 52% in the 2004 presidential election. And in the 10 most contested states, voters in the 18-29-year old bracket (which includes Millennials and a year’s worth of Gen X voters) 64% turned out, according to Pete Leyden of the New Politics Institute in remarks made at the NDN Conference. Leyden said that if the electoral vote of only young Americans were counted, Kerry would have won the 2004 electoral vote by 375 to 163. What makes this so compelling is that the Millennial Generation is as large as the Boomer Generation and represents a quarter of the nation’s people. Its sheer size will make it a player in the politics of the future.

The good news for progressives is that Millennials are more engaged in the political process than Gen Xers and more progressive in outlook, according to a study commissioned by the New Politics Institute, which is affiliated with NDN. The study differentiates among 13-28 year old Millennials (Teens, Transitionals and Cusps) and finds some distinctions. The Teens (13-17-year olds) are less tolerant of gay marriage and abortion than their older peers and more skeptical of the political process. But they share with 18-28-year olds a progressive attitude about the government’s role in leveling the economic playing field, making higher education affordable and environmental protection. The older Millennials more often identify themselves as Democrats or progressives than they do Republicans or even Independents. And today, only 40% of them are even eligible to vote. In a word, they represent potential.

William Strauss of LifeCourse Associates said Millennials are receptive to the notion of “the common good” and that it’s important when developing progressive political strategy to “look at the world through their eyes.” Those eyes increasingly belong to minorities. Thirty-eight percent of Millennials are second generation Americans, mostly Asians and Hispanics.

The importance of the Millennial Generation to the progressive movement then begs the question: How do we harness that potential? With the trends in our favor, we’ll still need to market candidates to them. The good news is it may cost less.

Speakers at the NDN convention said most politicians — especially Democrats — fear innovation and therefore continue to invest in inefficient and expensive ad buys for television spots. Part of the reason is that Democratic consultants get paid through commissions on such buys. “The consultant class of the Democratic Party are no longer interested in winning elections,” said NDN President Simon Rosenberg. “They’re interested in getting rich.” That echoes the thesis of Joe Klein’s book, Politics Lost. “The baby boom generation has proved a fairly significant trough in the history of American political leadership; our greatest gift — our only — contribution to the Republic has been the rise of the political consultancy.”

Instead of consultants, argued former Dean campaign manger Joe Trippi, candidates need to hire “19-year old mentors.” He argued that they know how to get to their peers. In fact, the “user-generated content” that is currently in vogue among internet entrepreneurs should be tested in political campaigns. Millennials don’t’ watch as much television as baby boomers (my 17-year old son is an obvious anomaly). But they surf the net almost continually, and their link to the world is their cell phone.

Cell phone usage is skyrocketing, and according to presentations at the NDN conference, it is highest among minority youth. And according to Congressman Arthur Davis (D-Ala.), black males 18-25 in his state vote 20% less frequently than white youth. Meanwhile, one application of cell phones most popular among younger voters is text messaging.

Only one-third of U.S. cellphone owners use text messages — a practice immensely popular in Europe and Asia. Two-thirds of cellphone owners between ages 18 and 29 send text messages — one of many areas where young adults have a more versatile approach to the devices.

More than half, 55%, of young adults take still pictures with their phones; 47% play games and 28% use the Internet, according to the poll of more than 1,200 cellphone users.

And overall, there were 9.8 billion text messages sent in December 2005, a 109% increase from December 2004. I started out paying for 250 text messages a month for each of my three kids, but soon had to migrate to a plan that offers somewhere around 3 million messages a month. So it seems logical that Democrats need to develop text messaging initiatives to reach these potential voters.

Cell phones offer maybe the most important but certainly not the only avenue to the Millennial vote. Appearances on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, email campaigns, My Space and Facebook initiatives and college meet-ups should be part of the mix.

After the conference, my daughter introduced herself to Rosenbergl asking how she could help. Maybe she should instead offer to be Jim Webb’s 19-year old mentor.

What is a Liberal?

I’ve asked this question before in a similar context, but it bears being asked again, especially in the light of two recent stories. In an AP story yesterday, the reporter seems to think “liberals” want us out of Iraq immediately.

On the issue of Iraq, [Sen. Hillary] Clinton has been buffeted by competing forces within her party. Many elements of the party’s liberal base want an immediate or timed withdrawal of troops from Iraq, while others feel such a position may weaken the party’s electoral chances this year and in 2008.

…Last week, many in the audience of a more liberal group booed Clinton when she said she opposed setting a fixed date for troop withdrawal.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s article yesterday again paints “liberals” as the ones wanting us out of Iraq.

Liberals wanted a firm date for troop withdrawals, but others argued for a more moderate approach that would urge, but not compel, Bush to start a drawdown this year. Efforts to reconcile the two camps failed, resulting in the competing measures that were voted on yesterday.

I consider myself a proud liberal, though I like many others have been using the term “progressive” because I think it’s more accurate: I believe in making progress toward a more cooperative, compassionate society that demands both individual and societal responsibility rather than the “live-and-let-live” idea that the word “liberal” connotes. But I oppose setting a public deadline at which time we pull out troops from Iraq. For all the opposition I had before the war, broadcasting a near-term date for withdrawal is unwise, in my opinion. I think the president should say that he’s given the Iraqis clear goals on troop training, governmental progress, etc. that he’ll adhere to, and publicly say that our commitment in Iraq is not open-ended. Does that make me a “moderate”?

And what’s a conservative on this issue? Conservatives have historically shied away from foreign entanglements. And with the war’s decreasing popularity, at what point do those “staying the course” become “extremists,” defined as someone who takes a position farthest from the center?

Finally, at the NDN conference I attended the past two days (more on that later), virtually everyone used the word “progressive.” Even the group that booed Hillary Clinton for her stance on Iraq, uses “progressives” on its web site, instead of “liberal.”

With the media so willing to use the conservatives’ term “death tax” to describe the inheritance tax., why can’t they use the term “progressive” for our side?

Broder Being Broder

David Broder’s column today focuses on the two new Democratic publications launched this week, Democratic Strategist and Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. Not surprisingly, Broder thinks the first Strategist articles are short on data points to back up their assertions. Broder loves to allude to studies that often lead him to write op-eds that are basically, “on one hand, but on the other hand” thumbsuckers.

There’s a disconnect between the guidelines the Strategist posts for contributing writers and the series of articles in its first issue. But I lean toward less poll driven articles and more creative thinking.

Sometimes I wonder how Thomas Jefferson could have written the Declaration of Independence and James Madison the Constitution without testing their ideas through polling.

Promises, Promises

Northern Virginia Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to take advantage of the momentum attributed by many to a demographic shift in Fairfax and Loudoun, where increasingly urbanizing neighborhoods have leaned Democratic in recent elections.

Efforts are underway to draft state and local candidates, Northern Virginia Democrats say.

“Every Republican in Northern Virginia can expect vigorous competition,” said Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.

Vigorous, as in waving of hands and beating of breasts? Let’s see if the Dems can really draft some top-notch candidates.

A Rhetorical Gift

Democrat Senators Carl Levin (Mich.) and John Kerry (Mass.) have competing resolutions on Iraq, but neither has apparently taken the Political Communications 101 course.

“Cut and run, cut and run, cut and run, cut and run — that’s their phrase,” he told Don Imus. “My plan is not cut and run. Their plan is lie and die.”

“The wording is very clear: It’s not a cut-and-run strategy,” Levin protested. “Our amendment is not in any sense a cut-and-run amendment.”

Never, ever repeat your opponents’ charges. It only reinforces them.