Sunday, May 31, 2009

Winograd Campaign activity

I was glad to see the Winograd campaign website and a Facebook page are now up and decently fleshed out. It's a good sign.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Jane Harman Could Have Done

What could Jane have done to blow the whistle on the illegal torture program she was told about by the Bush administration?

It looks like she could have done quite a lot more than simply write the weak letter that she did.


Friday, May 15, 2009

"Off Budget" War Spending: Harman vs. Harman

Jane Harman explained quite clearly in 2007 how wrong it was to be budgeting quite predictable war funds outside of the normal budget process. In a post titled simply enough "Put the Iraq War on Budget", Jane Harman was clear on her thinking:
We have already spent at least $400 billion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But only about 9 percent of those funds were approved through the normal appropriations process.

The rest was passed in "Emergency Supplemental" appropriation bills not subject to budget caps or the normal congressional oversight process. These supplementals - because their numbers do not appear on the budgetary bottom line - allow the White House to pretend it is maintaining a semblance of fiscal discipline. But our deficits are already spiraling out of control and there is no way to bring the budget into balance without taking the staggering war costs into account.

The Bush Administration has claimed emergency spending is necessary because the costs of a protracted war on terror are not known. Nonsense. Both the Korean and the Vietnam Wars were almost entirely financed through the regular appropriations process - not emergency supplementals.

The White House will soon ask for over $100 billion in new emergency war spending, Adjusted for inflation, that is more than we spent in 1968, the most expensive year of the war in Vietnam. And the lion's share of that funding was done through the regular process.

There must be no more blank checks for this President, and I predict this will be the last "emergency" supplemental in the new Democrat-controlled Congress.
This week we saw a repeat of almost the exact same situation: The administration asking for just shy of $100 billion for war spending, without any restrictions (aka a blank check).

Given her clear statement she'd never again approve non-emergency war spending outside of the normal budget process, you'd think it would be easy to predict what Jane Harman would follow her own admonition and vote No when faced with the exact same situation this week. It turns out, she voted Yes.

So, simply using Harman's own criteria about "off budget" war funding, her consistent votes in favor of it show that she supports:
- purposely mischaracterizing war funding to avoid having to budget for it;
- making our deficits which are already "spiraling out of control" get even worse;
- making the Federal budget impossible to balance by refusing to take the staggering war costs into account.

That means that it's not just Marcy Winograd who's criticizing Harman over her support of irresponsible and progligate war spending - the person that Harman sees when she looks in the mirror is too!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

War Funding in Supplemental - Will Harman Support It?

She said no more blank checks before, yet here we go again.

What's Harman going to do?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Changing the 2/3 Rules

On the Secretary of State website, info about initiative petitions that are currently circulating show 2 that deal with the 2/3 rule. Or, to be clear, one (08-0022) deals with reducing the 2/3 rule to 55% for passing budgets, and one (08-0023) deals with reducing the 2/3 rule to 55% for both passing budgets and for increasing taxes (except property taxes).

It seems pointless to deal with the 2/3 budget rule without the 2/3 taxes rule. Here's why: We are staring at a structural deficit of $20 billion, so even if we had the ability to pass a budget with 55% (or even 50%), it wouldn't matter if we couldn't pass the revenue increases necessary to fund it. If Republicans retain their legislative veto over tax increases, then they control the budget - even if a budget can pass with 50% of votes. They will ensure that it's not funded.

As to the politics of what to put in the initiative: Anti-government forces are going to purposely conflate the two issues so that there may be little benefit to only dealing with the "less controversial" 2/3 budget rule. (In fact, I hear they are already doing this.) Why go running scared from these guys? No matter what you do to appease them, it will never stop them from unleashing their worst on you. Nothing to be gained.

As to the right threshold - 50%, 55% or something else, I say base it on principle and change it to majority rule. Picking some arbitrary number between 50% and 67% (such as 55% in this case) makes the change explicitly political (eliminating the Republican veto). This would seem to undermine efforts to make these changes be about budget reform, instead of partisan warfare. Also, trying to establish a different (albeit lower) supermajority for these votes would acknowledge that there should be some supermajority bar to raising taxes (without a corresponding requirement for lowering them I might add). These types of votes need to be taken off the pedestal that Republican anti-government types have put them on.

I won't let perfect be the enemy of the good, so if 55% is going to be what we have to get behind, I suspect I can deal with it. However, I think not addressing the 2/3 tax increase rule is counterproductive, and I just can't see myself supporting such an effort.


Friday, May 08, 2009

CA-36 News: Winograd Challenging Harman; John Amato Might Too

[cross-posted at Calitics]

Via the website Activist Los Angeles comes the announcement that Marcy Winograd will be challenging Jane Harman for the Democratic nomination in the 36th District.

Winograd Challenges Harman – Campaign Kick-Off in Venice
May 7, 2009 by Admin1
Mon., May 11, 4 pm

Join Marcy Winograd and supporters at the Venice Pier as they kick off the Winograd for Congress 2010 campaign to unseat incumbent Jane Harman in the 36th congressional district.

Assembled at the Venice Pier, near the northern end of the district, Winograd for Congress will launch a year-long campaign involving listening tours and grassroots precinct organizing.

“I am challenging Jane Harman because the 36th district deserves a representative who stands for integrity, commitment, and leadership,” says Winograd. “Jane Harman got caught with her hand in the cookie jar – trading favors with a foreign lobby group in order to advance her own political agenda. That’s not leadership; that’s corruption,” says Winograd, adding, “Harman’s apparent willingness to campaign for warrantless wiretapping in order to avoid an FBI investigation reflects a disregard for the Constitution and Americans’ right to privacy.”

Winograd is founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2006, in less than three months of campaigning, Winograd garnered almost 38% of the vote in the June primary challenge to Harman. Daniel Ellsberg, Gore Vidal, Dolores Huerta, and Susan Sarandon all supported Winograd’s challenge.

Winograd’s 2010 campaign has received early endorsements from 36th district notables, such as Mitch Ward, Mayor Pro Tem of Manhattan Beach; Carl Clark, Vice-President of the Redondo Beach School Board; David Greene, President of the San Pedro Democratic Club; Julian Burger, President of Progressive Democrats – Wilmington/Harbor Area; Mickey Oskey, Pres of Westside Progressives and Nativo Lopez, President of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), which has thousands of members in the harbor area.

Winograd’s platform calls for redirecting expenditures on war and occupation to address human needs for jobs, Medicare for All, education and housing. “We need a massive green jobs program, a new New Deal,” says Winograd, “and incentives for cities to mediate foreclosure disputes in order to allow homeowners to modify their loans. It is a time of crisis but also of opportunity as we look at ways to strengthen local economies and reinvest in our communities.”

Winograd teaches English at Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles.

The 36th congressional district includes: parts of West LA, Venice, Westchester, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Wilmington, Harbor
City and San Pedro.

If she can afford to get a professional campaign in place, then she can probably go far. Even without a really polished campaign, she got 38% with a campaign that was only 3 months long. With a well-coordinated and planned campaign, she could probably do a lot better. The initial signs, though, are that we're not there yet.

Winograd's website is currently not much more than an appeal for donations, and her recent diary on Daily Kos about Harman was to impulsive. Just check out the comments - it's really bad optics to have the candidate's spouse be the one doing most of the push back against the critics. If you aren't saying things that are going to have others defend you when you get criticized, maybe it's best not to be posting diaries like that...

Not to mention, if you're having a kick off for your campaign, it would be a good idea to get the word out - and not leave it to other folks to spread the word who might not be 100% supportive (Such as myself. I supported Winograd in 2006, but at this point I'm not picking a candidate and will call things as I see them.) The campaign kick off event is on Monday afternoon, and as far as I can tell from Google, there have been no postings elsewhere on the web (news articles or blog posts) aside from the one I posted above. That sounds strange.

There was an article yesterday in Politico about the possible challenge in which Winograd got a good quote though:

“I think what’s important is that Jane Harman’s charade of being a protector of the Constitution should be challenged and exposed,” said Winograd, who received 38 percent of the vote to Harman’s 62 percent in 2006.

There's also some sounds coming from local musician and blogger John Amato of Crooks and Liars that he might run as well. He says:

But back home in her Southern California-based district, liberal activists who have never truly embraced Harman are just getting started. Several of them, most notably Marcy Winograd, who heads up Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, and John Amato, who writes for the popular Crooks and Liars blog, are now making moves to challenge Harman in the Democratic primary, and the recent controversy will be at the heart of their message.

The wiretapping story “has been very, very damaging to her because it highlights what people most distrust about politicians in general: personal gain taking precedence over the voters they are supposed to be representing,” Amato told POLITICO in an e-mail.

Politico also checked in with another local to get the lay of the land:

David Dayen, a California activist who writes for the liberal blog Calitics, said he expects progressive organizations to ramp up their efforts against Harman in the weeks ahead.

“I don’t get the sense that in May, the year before this primary is happening, there is going to be a lot of clamoring over Harman, but I do think you’re starting to see progressive groups get involved,” said Dayen.

I agree with Dave's assessment. We have a lot more time this cycle, and thanks to Winograd in 2006, it's been proven that there's a real constituency among 36th CD Democrats for a real Democrat.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Hypocrite, Thy Name is Jane Harman


And in this case, the wiretap wasn't even illegal.

One quote from the Washington Post article:
"I will not quit on this until I am absolutely sure this can never happen to anyone else," Harman told the AIPAC audience
Apparently, the "this" she refers to is the outrage that the government didn't warn her that she was being caught on a legal wiretap before she engaged in unethical (and perhaps illegal) behavior. How could they do such a thing!?