Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Paul Hackett (at left, with a UAW member, from his site) is a Marine, Iraq War veteran and outspoken Democratic candidate who challenged Republican Jean Schmidt in 2005 for an open Congressional seat in southwestern Ohio. Hackett started at a huge disadvantage in terms of funding and name recognition, and also was challenging a well-known Republican in a district that Warantless Wiretapper had won by a sizable margin (at least according to the pro-GOP Diebold's machines) in 2004. Hackett even had the chutzpah to call out the Warantless Wiretapper on his disastrous management of Iraqmire before the election.

It wasn't suprising, therefore, that Hackett ended up losing to the nutty Schmidt, who managed to distinguish herself later in 2005 when, wearing a US flag sweater and tilting to her side like the Tower of Pisa, she viciously attacked the patriotism of Democrat and war-veteran Rep. John Murtha (PA) on the floor of the House. (SNL's Rachel Dratch lampooned the episode last fall, as the photo below right shows.) But what was surprising is that Hackett lost by only a small margin (or at least according to the Diebold machines).

Hackett is back, again challenging a Republican for a high profile seat. He has tossed his buzzcut into the ring to vie for the Democratic ticket that will face incumbent Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine. I can remember when Ohio had two moderate-to-liberal Democrats representing it, astronaut John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum, but since their retirement in the 1990s, Ohio has seated two moderate-to-right Republicans (the other being George Voinovich, the state's former governor, who broke into tears at the thought of mustering the courage to denounce recess-appointee UN Ambassador and wacko John Bolton). DeWine is moderate only in comparison with the extremist elements in his party, and in general, he tends to vote along party lines. His current favorability ratings aren't good, his party is embroiled in a range of scandals both in Ohio (the ethics, Noe rare coin and money laundering scandals) and in Washington (Abramoff, DeLay, Plamegate, NSA warrantless wiretapping, etc.), and he is hardly what you'd call charismatic. In addition, he had his own brush with scandal when one of his staffers, "Washingtonienne" (also known as Jessica Cutler) admitted that she was screwing all kinds of high profile men in Washington. Not that that's a big deal, except that she was working for a "family values" Republican!

Hackett actually has to defeat Sherrod Brown, a Democratic Congressman with a decent record, in the primaries, in order to face DeWine. I believe current polls show Brown with a slight lead over Hackett, and with a lead over DeWine. But Hackett appeals to me a lot more because he regularly speaks with utter candor and says the sorts of things that Democrats should be saying. And he doesn't back down. (He's a Marine, after all.) Such as when he called Warrantless Wiretapper a "coward" before the election against Schmidt. Or like now, where he basically says what most Democrats, and far too many Republicans, pussyfoot around: that the radical right-wing GOP extremists are extremists.

The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious fanatics that, in my opinion, aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden and a lot of the other religious nuts around the world," he said. "The challenge is for the rest of us moderate Americans and citizens of the world to put down the fork and spoon, turn off the TV, and participate in the process and try to push back on these radical nuts - and they are nuts."

Naturally, this sent the Ohio GOP (which actually has a road show happening right now in which one nutcase compares our democracy and the separation between Church and State to Nazi Germany) into a tizzy. But did Hackett cower and simper and apologize? As Usher might say, "Hell no!" Instead, this was his response:

I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it. Equal justice under the law for all regardless of who they are and how they were born is fundamental to our American spirit and our American freedoms. Any person or group that argues that the law should not apply equally to all Americans is, frankly, un-American.

The Republican Party has been hijacked by religious fanatics, who are out of touch with mainstream America. Think of the recent comments by Pat Robertson - a religious fanatic by any measure - that the United States should assassinate a democratically elected leader in Venezuela, and that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment because Sharon wished to trade land for peace."

Since the Republican Party has been utterly unable to stand for something positive, they have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, and have pandered to religious fanatics not to vote for something they believe in, but to vote against their fellow Americans with whom they disagree. Those among us who would use religion and politics to divide rather than unite Americans should be ashamed.

Tell it, Paul Hackett! Why oh why can't more Democrats be this frank and forthright? I admit that in my scheme of things, I rarely come across people who think that Pat Robertson is a sane person, but I am willing to venture that the majority of people out there do not. And I don't just mean in the Blue states. This man is certifiable. His own wife even said years ago that

Pat, I've tried to adjust to this 'saved' jag you're on, but you've become a fanatic. All you do is read that Bible all day and sit around and talk to Jesus. I'm a nurse. I recognize schizoid tendencies when I see them, and I think you're sick. It's just not normal for a man to walk out on his wife and leave her with a small child when she's expecting a baby any minute -- while he goes off into the woods to talk to God. God doesn't tell people to do things like that. At least, my God doesn't. (Quote via

I've already sent Hackett one donation, and I think I'll contribute something more soon. I want to see him in the Senate, especially if the Democrats win it back. The Warrantless Wiretapper will spend his final two years wishing he had never gotten his gang (including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts) to mob the 2000 election from Al Gore.


Al Gore 2004Speaking of Former Vice President and President Gore (at right, from Al Gore 2004), he gave one of the best and most courageous speeches on Monday, when he laid out the case for the illegality of the Warrantless Wiretapper's domestic eavesdropping on American citizens, which appears to have been far more extensive than W has so far admitted. Gore broke it down, as he's been doing since he stumbled his way out of office in 2000 (where was this fire back then, especially when the media kept tearing him down, as Maureen Dowd saw fit to do yet again today)?

From AFP, via AmericaBlog:

What we do know about that pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and consistently," Gore said during an event honoring Martin Luther King Jr. here.

Speaking on the US public holiday honoring the slain civil rights hero, the former vice president noted that King was himseld the target of secret FBI wiretaps for several years.

"It is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Doctor King was illegally wiretapped, one of the hundred of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the US governement during that period," Gore said....

"Just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law the executive branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years," Gore said.

Gore called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate "what many believe are serious violations".

Naturally, the Warrantless Wiretapper's administration responded with lies and claimed that Gore was a hypocrite because Bill Clinton had done it so that was excuse enough. (Only Clinton hadn't authorized warrantless wiretaps after the change in the law, as has been pointed out in numerous fact-based journalistic organs.) So Gore responded within a day, breaking it down for the liars:

There are two problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. First, as others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law.

Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs - even though factually wrong - ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.

The issue, simply put, is that for more than four years, the executive branch has been wiretapping many thousands of American citizens without warrants in direct contradiction of American law. It is clearly wrong and disrespectful to the American people to allow a close political associate of the president to be in charge of reviewing serious charges against him.

The country needs a full and independent investigation into the facts and legality of the present Administration's program.

We all know, they don't want that....


Another refreshing Democrat gave his inaugural gubernatorial address today: Jon Corzine, the progressive, multimillionaire former Senator and new governor of New Jersey. Corzine's speech was pretty revolutionary; he basically called for a complete ethical housecleaning by Democrats, and a return to government by and for the people of the state. This is the sort of approach that many voters in New Jersey have been hoping for, and he definitely delivered.

MyDD quotes the new Governor Corzine:
What we need is not a new day of reform, but a new era. An era where working with or serving in New Jersey state government is not viewed as a chance to make a deal, but as an opportunity to make a difference. A way to enrich, not the well connected, but the lives of our children, our working families, our veterans, and retirees. Public integrity is not just about reputation or principles, as important as each is. What's at stake is social justice and fiscal responsibility. Every dollar squandered in violation of the public trust is a book not bought for a classroom, a prescription drug with a higher co-pay, meals-on-wheels not delivered, a road or science lab not built. With a multi-billion dollar structural deficit, mismanagement and misappropriation cannot and will not be tolerated.

As to how far he'll get given the entrenched power structure, it remains to be seen, but he's making it quite clear that he's not in office to play footsy as the previous, DL Democrat (also known as James McGreevey) did. I can only imagine that it made the GOP--the less moderate among them--retch, because the better Corzine turns out to be, the more other Democrats in the Garden State will benefit.

A more conservative Democrat but consummate showman, Governor Rod Blagojevich (at right, looking like a bashful 9th grader), gave his Illinois State of the State address today. He managed to make it seem like the Prairie State was approaching a state of true perfection on every level, or close to it, but then Blago has never lacked for the Barnum & Bailey touch. He promised so much, particular to middle-class voters, that it seemed as if he were reading off a wish list that was being whispered into his ear. He also was touting Keno gambling as if it were best pick-you-up since Viagra. I particularly like how he channels John F. Kennedy in his self-presentation and perorations, which have the effect of both being stirring at times and sounding a bit...phony. I don't even he buys all the crap he says, but he knows how to package it. His best lines, I thought, came when he defended women's reproductive rights, and threw down the gantlet to any Republicans (or Democrats or anyone else) who'd attempt to pass greater restrictions not only on access to abortion and reproductive services, but to contraceptives. Last year, in response to a "religious objector" pharmacists who refused to fill day-after pill prescriptions, Blago issued an executive order requiring them to do so. The post-speech commentary by Republicans that I heard was, as always, very negative and dismissive; Blago burns them up. Yet while his popularity has tanked a bit as a result of allegations of corruption (this is Illinois, after all), he laid out an agenda that ought to appeal quite well to the suburbs ringing Chicago, which, with the city, constitute the major population center of the state.

Johnson-SirleafThis week saw the people of Chile electing of an atheist, Socialist physician who also is a single-mother of three as their new President, Dr. Michelle Bachelet (below, at right, photo by Cardenas), and the inauguration of the first democratically elected female president in Africa's and Liberia's history, Dr. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (at left, from

BacheletIn the case of the former, she defeated a multibillionaire right-winger, and will now preside over one of the most high-growth in South America while still following a moderate leftist platform. In the case of the latter, she leads a country that has to be reconstituted, from the ground up. In the cases of both, female voters were key to their wins; poor and working-class women overwhelmingly supported Bachelet over her megarich, Opus Dei-connected opponent, while women of all ages cast votes on behalf of former cabinet member and technocrat Johnson-Sirleaf over her popular but grossly inexperienced rival, former soccer star George Weah. In both nations, issues of women's rights and equality are paramount, and I believe it's likely that both Bachelet and Johnson-Sirleaf will focus on them amidst the myriad other points of concern and responsibilities they face.

I am rooting for both women. But I especially am wishing the best for Johnson-Sirleaf, who has one of the hardest tasks any democratically elected leader in the world must attend to.


NaginThen there the case of the sexy but obviously troubled mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. What to add to all the comments out there in the blogosphere about his comments on Martin Luther King Jr. Day? I do think people are getting a bit too worked up when they complain about him being a "racist" for calling for New Orleans to be a majority-Black, "chocolate" city again (though really, even though DC has had that designation for years, doesn't Atlanta or Detroit or some other city (Gary, Indiana?) deserve it?); though Nagin phrased his comment inartfully, the idea behind it, of bringing back the many thousands of dispossessed people, most of whom are Black, is hardly racist and actually what ought to be done, especially given some of the suggestions for land seizure and a kind of racial cleansing that have been put forth by some non-Black residents and non-residents of the Crescent City. To me the truly wacky and offensive comment out of Nagin's mouth--which I realize is an affect of religious rhetoric, but still, in 2006, quite wacky--was the statement that "God is punishing" Black people. Please, Ray Nagin, you've got better sense than this. You do. I know your job is stressful. I know you have never gotten over having to lay off half your staff last June. I know you wish you could have done a better job when Hurricane Katrina hit. I know you wish your police department had disintegrated before your eyes. I know you wish you hadn't had to preside over scenes of destruction and suffering the likes of which America hasn't seen publicly in a few years. I know you were a Republican who became a Democrat and have only gotten over the strain of actually acting like you cared about the dispossessed Black people is wearing on you.

Because I think the hurricane and its heckuva aftermath probably provoked an epiphany for you. These were your people, not the cable company and business execs and other folks you were palling around with, who were bankrolling you. No, the people crying out and dying in the drowned streets of New Orleans were you people, and you made that pretty clear. You weren't faking the funk. But epiphany or not, blaming unforeseen natural events and the effects of human incompetence on God solves nothing, and isn't going to help you. It may get you a few more votes next time around but you end up looking like a fool, you find yourself having to apologize, which means you make even more ridiculous statements, and then people really wonder if you're not as nutty as, oh, Pat Robertson. As you know, they'll cut him slack they won't cut you.


  1. Oh John, nobody could write this like you do! I don't even know where to begin with a comment! Will try to figure it out soon.

  2. Gosh, you make that Paul Hackett sound so interesting, I want to send money too. I have to call Mom in Toledo, OH and ask her to vote for him. Great, informative post.

    Kai in NYC

  3. Very interesting times politically: Here in the MD, our Governor (Republican "Bobby Smooth" Erlich) introduced a budget that would make a 'big spending' Democrat blush. In fact, he spends more than his predecessor, who he condemmed for being quick to hand out dollars during the campaign. Only a coincidence that the coffers are open now that Bobby is running for re-election....Otherwise he's not doing so well. He's had 2 vetos overturned already: He'd vetoed the 'Wal-Mart' bill forcing large employers to set aside a certain amount for workers' health care or face a state tax, and also rejected a rise in the state's minimum wage. Both went by the boards on the first two days of this year's legislative session -- with other vetos very likely to be overturned before the end of the first week! Hmm...maybe we should ask Mayor Nagin if God is punishing him with these reversals!

  4. "religious rhetoric" . . .that is it!

    Nagin is not the only one that is being confined by outdated modes of thinking and language. Today, I saw President Bush imply that terrorism was an idealogy, and that liberty is a counteracting idealogy . . .huhhhh? He also said that the terrorist already knew ideas of liberty were more powerful. This really does feel like the movie Kingdom from Heaven but without the chivalry.

    I could have heard it wrong, but then again he says everything in such rambled, outlined instead of well formulated, expressions of daffy taffy cluelessness that I wish I had Tivo everytime he is on.

    MLK Day sparked a whole waterfall of misplaced illusions that don't work in our PC world. I mean Hillary talking about "plantations" and Republicans? Between Newt, Strom and Jeese, what could she be alluding too?

    Fox News surely wants to know. And I live in a state where some conservatives find Fox News too liberal.

    NO JOKE!

  5. Sorry.

    I meant "ideology", Man I type too fast and phonetically sometimes. I guess my Southern accent is coming through. Let's blame it on the current White House use of the language.

    And, yes Nagin is a cutie. I have kind of been keeping that to myself. Glad you said it.

    It is that Southern big man machismo matched with his local sense of cool. He is the kind of guy that could live just down the street from you and likes to fix his truck on weekends while playing the GAP band and having a beer.

  6. Mendi, do reply when you can.

    Kai, either Hackett or Brown, but I think either would be a good change of pace. Hackett's candor is pretty refreshing, and when he was on Bill Maher's show last spring, he came off as possibly a little *touched*, but in the best way.

    Reggie, I was going to say something about Ehrlich and Steele, but I held off. I want to talk about Steele and other Black Republicans at some other point. But Ehrlich--whoo! I heard about the reversal on the Wal-Mart policy, but I hadn't heard about his spending binge, which isn't surprising. The Califuehrer also seems to think that tacking to the left is going to save his ass too. Who do you think is going to get the Democratic nod, O'Malley or Duncan? Is Duncan the same big guy who's been head of Montgomery County since C. and I lived in Virginia (the mid-1990s)? Who has a better chance of defeating Ehrlich? What about Cardin and Mfume?

    Littlemilk, so true about Tennessee being conservative. Concerning WW, I long ago stopped trying to sort out his incoherent commentary, particularly around "liberty" and "freedom," which comes out of longstanding conservative rhetoric anyways. He doesn't seem to realize he espouses a particular "ideology" and how it functions. He and the right wing want certain kinds of freedoms, but not others. And it's not even an issue of negative versus positive freedoms. It's about what they construe as freedom vs. what anyone else does. Just look at the speeches of Goldwater, Raygun, duPont, etc. BTW, isn't that State of the Union Speech of his coming up? Someone else will write it, it'll be full of all kinds of code to the right-wing and extremists, the media will duly report on how brilliant it was, and we'll be back to where we've been since he was installed in 2001, though raised several powers of 10 in terms of awfulness.

    Nagin's sexiness to me is physical (I find him to be an attractive man), but also comes from his interesting combination of power and fragility (like when he broke down in tears during the Hurricane Katrina fiasco). I also like that he blends the corporate and the street, and that when he speaks, he sounds like he's got some sugar in his tank.

  7. I find Bush's words to be very simple allusions to all the code words found in our national mythos.

    I just see Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart screaming FREEDOM from the rack. Or the kids in the movie Red Dawn, defending America from the heartland. And all the MacPhersons, MacPrides, MacDougals, and Campbells in my county follow Bush's feeble cry for reasons that defy logic. There is something about these little "town meetings" and the look of the people in the audience that now unnerves me.

    And did you hear his response to the question concerning Laura Bush running for state Senate? I am sure a couple of my NYC feminist friends jumped 10 feet in the air.

  8. I LOVE your use of warrantless wiretapper!

    I go by smiling texan.

    We really should just collect a list for "artistic reasons."