Chris Woods

FISA Compromise is Worthless

Just yesterday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was telling us that he’d basically lost control over House Democrats and that they were the ones forcing his hand in this ridiculous compromise over FISA that would grant big telecommunication companies immunity over their warrantless wiretapping and other exercises.  At about 11:30 this morning I get an email from the office of the majority leader telling me that between the House and Senate majority and minority leaders of their respective intelligence committees that a compromise has been reached–and according to the Wall Street Journal, that compromise essentially include immunity.

As David Kurtz points out at TPM, it is a ridiculous compromise that creates such a weak standard for “conditional immunity” that just about any telecom company could meet.

If Hoyer thinks he’s lot control now (but then regained it to tout this compromise) let’s show him what a lack of control looks like when the blogosphere puts the pressure on his office and Congressional Democrats across the country not to vote for this POS compromise.


Here’s the switchboard number for the Majority Leader’s Office: 202-225-3130

You can reach Iowa’s congressmen at these numbers:

  • IA-01, Bruce Braley (D): (202) 225-2911
  • IA-02, Dave Loebsack (D): (202) 225-6576
  • IA-03, Leonard Boswell (D): (202) 225-3806
  • IA-04, Tom Latham (R): (202) 225-5476
  • IA-05, Steve King (R): (202) 225-4426

Remember to be polite and concise, expressing your opposition to the FISA Amendments Act (H.R. 6304) and asking for your representative to oppose it as well.

If you get a response one way or the other on how they’d vote, leave a note in the comments.

Continue Reading...

Obama opts out of public financing

This morning, Barack Obama sent this video an email to supporters explaining his decision to opt out of the public financing system for presidential elections.

You can get some immediate reaction from Jonathan Singer here and from Jerome Armstrong here.  Marc Ambinder gives us McCain’s reaction and has some background info from the Obama campaign on their reasoning behind the decision.

Last fall, Obama told Common Cause that he would participate in the system by aggressively pursuing a so-called “fundraising truce” with the Republican nominee.  But as Ambinder noted in his background statements, McCain and his campaign didn’t seem to want to participate.

My thoughts?  I think this is a good decision, especially after witnessing what happened in 2004 by the Republican special interests and 527s.  The problem itself isn’t money in politics but big money in politics…and the fact that there is a lack of regulation in certain arenas and too much regulation in others.  Obama has raised millions of dollars from millions of small-dollar donors.  And he’s publicly asked and demanded that 527s not support him but instead asked for those individuals to directly support his campaign or the Democratic National Committee.  McCain is doing nothing to keep lobbyists and big money from trying to influence the system even though he says he’s committed to a system of reform and clean elections.  McCain says one thing and does another (tacitly, at least, because he allows it to happen).

You can find the full text of Obama’s remarks below the fold.

Continue Reading...

Global climate change and Iowa's severe storms/flooding

It is probably still an inconvenient or touchy time to be talking about this with all of the truly disastrous flooding coming to an end in Iowa and the cleanup just beginning.  But it has to be said: we weren’t truly prepared for this kind of disaster and we have to take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

Brad Johnson, a research associate at the Center for American Progress and a blogger at their Wonk Room policy blog, brought my attention to a couple of his posts on the terrible flooding and storms in the Midwest this summer, particularly in Iowa.  And in those posts he makes a couple of fascinating points.

First, he notes Sen. Chuck Grassley’s hypocrisy in calling attention to the complacency over severe weather (speaking on the Senate floor about the deadly Parkersburg tornado) yet voted to filibuster the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.

Second, he notes an unfortunate quote from Gov. Chet Culver about our inability to “anticipate or prepare for” these types of events.  The facts are that reports since at least 2000 have been forecasting the types of weather patterns Iowa has been experiencing over the last couple of years.  See the link above for more information at Johnson’s post.

It seems clear that leadership on both sides of the political spectrum in Iowa have failed us.  They are not considering the big picture when it comes to environmental concerns in the state of Iowa.  And statewide environmental groups aren’t putting the pressure on local and state officials to keep them accountable either.

We need better and bolder leadership on the broad issues of global climate change and environmental issues in Iowa.  Whether or not you want to attribute the cause of these terrible weather patterns to global climate change, call them a natural aberration, or simply just call them normal, our leaders should be considering some important things when moving forward with reconstruction.  Bill Becker at Climate Progress offers more details, but here is his list which he deems lessons from an angry planet:

  1. We need to put unprecedented pressure on our national leaders to get serious about mitigation and adaptation.
  2. It’s past time to rethink national flood control and water management strategy.
  3. When we repair and rebuild disaster-damaged buildings and infrastructure, we should do so with cutting-edge mitigation and adaptation in mind.

Groups like the Iowa Global Warming Campaign, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Iowa Environmental Council, and any other group committed to protecting and defending Iowa’s environment should be tackling issues like this.  Granted, there are concerns about hog lots, Iowa’s waterways, and coal power plants to be concerned about as well.  Heck, even 1000 Friends of Iowa should be concerned about future development that not only is environmentally-friendly but that protects families and businesses on or near flood plains.

The state needs leadership on these pressing issues.  We call events like these “100 year floods” and “500 year floods” for a reason.  The frequency with which they occur is not what is implied, but the the likelihood that they will.  In just a 15 year period of time, we’ve experienced drastic periods of extreme drought and extreme precipitation.  You can even go back to periods in the 1980s (particularly around 1984) and see the same type of patterns, but with less severity.  We are certainly experiencing more severity with more frequency.  This is a result of global climate change.  We aren’t taking the threats seriously and we aren’t preparing ourselves for the future–either by accommodating the tragic effects that are likely or by acting to stop these events from happening in the first place.

The big debate in Iowa that is now emerging as the flood waters head downstream and leave the state is how to pay for all of the destruction and prepare for the reconstruction.  Some want to use the state’s rainy-day fund and others are looking at incurring state debt as an option.  In the end, the debate will be politically charged about fiscal issues and not the bigger picture.  Democrats and Progressives in Iowa have to think big picture or our meager political gains (and the state itself) will be washed away, no pun intended.

Continue Reading...

How to finance Iowa's massive flood costs

There seem to be two distinct ideas emerging for financing the massive reconstruction project Iowa will have to enact to deal with the tragic and disastrous floods we’ve experienced this spring (on a quick side note, I sure hope that summer fares us better).  The first is to tap into the state’s so-called “rainy day” fund (no pun was intended, I’m sure) and the other is to borrow money and essentially create debt.  Both are the logical responses to a natural disaster of this magnitude.  I think it was a Johnson County emergency management official who said this was “our own Katrina.”  Whether he meant that in terms of sheer destruction or bad planning or reactions to the event, I’m not sure.  But the statement still leaves an impact.

Once we get beyond the human and emotional costs of the flooding, we will ultimately have to deal with the political ramifications of financing the reconstruction.  Governor Culver seems to prefer using the state’s rainy day fund.  Senate Majority Leader Gronstal says he’s open to incurring debt.  So what are we to do?

At first glance, Gov. Culver’s idea would seem to the most politically feasible and publicly attractive option on the table.  The state and taxpayers won’t have to incur debt or use their taxes to pay off the bills because they’ll just use the extra money they have right now to reconstruct Iowa.  But I think there should be serious consideration of incurring debt to finance the reconstruction.

To me, the root of the problem is whether we want to rebuild or reconstruct what has been destroyed.  Those mean different things.  Rebuilding implies we’ll bring things back to the status quo, maybe with some minor improvements.  Reconstruction implies a step forward and desire to plan and implement improvements and to change the way we do things.  Iowa needs the investment in the future and needs to show that the state has the ability and capability to plan effectively, plan efficiently, and act with speed to solve problems and fix what has broken.

Incurring debt isn’t such a bad thing, as David Yepsen told us yesterday.  There are reasons to consider it.  Tapping into the rainy day fund isn’t a bad idea either.  But will either one be enough?

The special legislative session to deal with this issue is going to happen; it has to.  But the debate will be a lengthy one.  And it will result in tough decisions.  Contrary to what others argue, waiting to see what the federal government will pay for is not an option.  If this truly is “our Katrina” then we all know that federal disaster response is horrid.  The state must act soon.

New Hampshire Results Thread

(So, Clinton wins.  How about that?  I think it is the first time in the modern era that all four early races have been won by four different folks.  Wow. - promoted by Chris Woods)

Well, the results coming in have been surprising so far, at least on the Democratic side of things.  Clinton up with a quarter of the vote in.  Was there anyone predicting that?

You can track live results here from  Jerome Armstrong’s got an interesting discussion going here saying that with Clinton making the contest this close in NH that we’ve still got a tough race going on to February 5th…and even beyond.

So, what’re your thoughts?  How fluid are things?  What’s next?

Looking at the Iowa Caucus results

There has been a flurry of blog posts and news stories talking about the entrance polling and the results of the caucuses.  The basics we know include things like record turnout and a surge in the number of youth showing up to the Democratic caucuses, as well as ‘no party’ folks changing their registration to Democrat.

I don’t have the capacity nor the will power to significantly examine all of the results county by county, candidate by candidate.  But I can direct you towards some very interesting information.

First of all, if you’d like some detailed results and would like to see some maps, feel free to check out which has the detailed information about the results courtesy of the Iowa Democratic Party.  If you provided some information to the party prior to caucus night by visiting then you should’ve received an email notification with a password so you could log in.  If you didn’t and would like to be able to see the information, feel free to email me and I can get you logged in.

Secondly, one of the big things that we’ve seen talked about is the amount of youth turnout for the caucuses.  Whether you call youth 17-24 year olds or 17-29 year olds it seems pretty clear that folks my age showed up and participated.  Iowa Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) put out a release talking about the numbers (which can be found here) and it clearly shows how the youth support was another cushion of support for Barack Obama.  The Register examined the same thing here, while also noting the evangelical Christian support that helped Huckabee.  The Register also provides a county map that shows which candidate won which county, including counties that are “ties” (at least according to percentage totals).  The breakdown follows like this:

  • Barack Obama: 41 counties
  • John Edwards: 29 counties
  • Hillary Clinton: 25 counties
  • Ties: 4 counties

Looking specifically at the four counties where there were ties, they were ties because the number of delegates for first place were evenly divided.  Three were tied for Clinton and Edwards; one was split for Clinton and Obama.

Finally, and I think this is one of most fascinating posts and discussion about the caucus results, go over to the Daily Yonder and read their post about how Democratic and Republican candidates did in rural Iowa.  Edwards’ strategy focused heavily on rural Iowa, and while it paid off for him a bit, it wasn’t the deciding fact simply because of the turnout Barack Obama was able to bring about in both urban and rural Iowa.  Fascinating piece of information alert:

“Both Edwards and Clinton won more votes in rural Iowa than in urban Iowa.”

I’ll leave that little bit of information to you guys to figure out what it means in the grand scheme of things in this presidential race.  Any other interesting demographics or information you think we should talk about?

Continue Reading...
View More...