Democrats On Defense

So this came out today. Let’s take a look…

The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World

March 29, 2006

109th Congress, Second Session

Americans want and deserve change. Democrats’ plan for Real Security will protect Americans and restore our country’s position of international leadership.

OK, so far so good. I want to be protected, and want our country to lead.

The first responsibility of our government is the security of every American. In this era of unprecedented and unpredictable challenge, we must be prepared for any threat.

Hyperbole, but OK hyperbole.

The men and women of America’s armed forces and those on the front lines here at home have met every challenge with skill, bravery, and selfless dedication. They, along with veterans, military retirees and the families of those who have given their lives or have been wounded in defense of our country, deserve the gratitude and support of the American people. We will always honor their service and fulfill our promises to them.

Rhetoric, but OK with me.

We believe America is best protected, and freedom best advanced, by national security policies — including homeland, energy, and diplomatic strategies — that are both tough and smart.


Democrats offer a plan for Real Security to rebuild our military; equip and train our first responders and others on the front lines here at home; provide needed benefits to our troops and veterans; fully man and equip our National Guard; promote alternative fuels and reduce dependence on foreign oil; and restore Americans’ confidence in their government’s ability to respond in the face of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

OK, that’s half the problem. What will we do about the elephant in the room?

To protect the American people, we will immediately implement the recommendations of the independent bipartisan 9/11 Commission and finally protect our ports and airports, our borders, mass transit systems, our chemical and nuclear power plants, and our food and water supplies from terrorist attack.

All things I’m generally supportive of – with a caveat. The caveat is simple; we can protect ourselves by giving up all our freedoms (I don’t think that’s what’s being proposed) and we can defend ourselves by eliminating our enemies (which may mean killing or capturing them, or making them not our enemies any more). In general, I like the idea of some of A and more of B. That’s because in reality, without a ‘V for Vendetta’ type police state, we can’t secure ourselves, we’re too big, too interconnected, and too open. So I’m very wary of ‘making ourselves safe at home’ as a core – as opposed to important ancillary strategy. But I do think that we need to do more to secure ports, railroads, key facilities, and the population at large. In part, I think we do it by educating and empowering citizens; in part we do it through government programs.

After September 11, all Americans trusted President Bush to take the steps necessary to keep our country safe. Since then, inadequate planning and incompetent policies have failed to make Americans as safe as we should be. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina showed that the federal government was still not prepared to respond.

I’m wary of the Katrina response as a ‘canary’ issue; first things were not as bad as they were made out to be; many of the immediate problems were local; the size of the disaster has to be seen on a map to really be appreciated; and there’s something about the idea of omnipotent Feds that creeps me out a bit. I’d like my local governments to be somewhat competent, please.

Under President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress, the war in Iraq began with manipulated intelligence and no plan for success; our ports and other critical infrastructure remain vulnerable, while both soldiers in the field and first responders at home lack the basic equipment and resources they were promised. Both in the Persian Gulf and our own Gulf Coast, lucrative no-bid contracts have gone to companies such as Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root, and others with friends in high places and records of cheating taxpayers. And despite record high fuel prices, our country remains heavily dependent on foreign oil because of an energy policy that benefits the big oil interests.

I’ll go for ‘good job’ on the energy policy; suggest that every war and large public works project is skewed toward insider contractors (Los Angeles Red Line, anyone?); I do think that too little has been done to secure infrastructure (note my comment above about the role of citizens in doing that); I do fully acknowledge that postwar planning – and more, management of the critical reconstruction aid – was badly shortchanged; ‘manipulated intelligence’ is pretty much a partisan trope.

Americans want and deserve change. Democrats’ plan for Real Security will protect Americans and restore our country’s position of international leadership.

OK, puffery is approvable in political speech

21st Century Military
To Ensure Unparalleled Military Strength and Honor our Troops, we will:

Boy, ‘Strength and Honor’ – I know it’s an accidental juxtaposition, but didn’t anyone with an ear proofread this?

Rebuild a state-of-the-art military by making the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can project power to protect America wherever and whenever necessary.

The entire game here is “what equipment, specifically?” and “what manpower, specifically?” Depending on the answer to that this could be absolutely great or it could be a boondoggle (Crusader anyone?).

Guarantee that our troops have the protective gear, equipment, and training they need and are never sent to war without accurate intelligence and a strategy for success.

Well, they won’t be going to war much then, will they? That’s just silly. Intelligence is almost never accurate (except in movies) and the strategy for success (except the broadest ones) that is approved on Day 1 of the war is usually invalid by Day 7.

Enact a GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century that guarantees our troops — active, reserve, and retired — our veterans, and their families receive the pay, health care, mental health services, and other benefits they have earned and deserve.

I like that; I think that the GI bill was one of the major levers into middle-class life for the postwar dogfaces, and I think that an intelligently designed set of programs could well be the rope that keeps the modern grunts in the middle class as well.

Strengthen the National Guard, in partnership with the nation’s Governors, to ensure it is fully manned, equipped and available to meet missions at home and abroad.

OK, how would you do things differently than they are being done now? Equipment is sketchy because it’s being used; the only way to have 100% readiness ratings is never to go do anything at all. Enlistment is down, but in the face of the media CW and lack of sales by the Administration, I can see why.

War on Terror

To Defeat Terrorists and Stop the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we will:

Eliminate Osama Bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan, and end the threat posed by the Taliban.

Yeah? You and whose army? I’ve said in the past that I thought our strategy in Afghanistan was genius, because it avoided the cultural and military pitfalls that the Russians found there. I think that the suggestions that things would be better in Afghanistan if we only had 150,000 troops on the ground there are purely and simply delusional, and people who suggest things like that are demonstrating that they know nothing of Afghanistan or military history.

Double the size of our Special Forces, increase our human intelligence capabilities, and ensure our intelligence is free from political pressure.

Where will the new operators come from? Would we lower standards, raise pay? I know a little bit about this, and can tell you that this is going to be damn difficult if not impossible. I’d like to see some specifics, please.

And I’m working on a piece on humint, based in large part on the article in The Atlantic this month about the spies that the UK managed to place in the IRA – and what they had to do to stay there. From the Atlantic:

I put it to Martin Ingram, the former spy handler, that in the case of Scappaticci, the British strategy had gone amok.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it went very much to schedule.”

“So you think—”

“I don’t think, I know. He was acting to orders.”

So the British government knew of Scappaticci’s killings?

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “The one preconception the IRA had is that if you are dirty—that is, if you have killed—then you cannot be an agent.” Scappaticci exploited that misapprehension. “His best protection,” Ingram continued, “was to keep killing.”

If that’s true, the British spy services beat the IRA by appealing to a belief that the United Kingdom wouldn’t sacrifice its own subjects—especially its own agents.

When Nancy Pelosi signs on for this kind of humint, please let me know.

Eliminate terrorist breeding grounds by combating the economic, social, and political conditions that allow extremism to thrive; lead international efforts to uphold and defend human rights; and renew longstanding alliances that have advanced our national security objectives.

So we’ll be promoting freedom as a way of eliminating the “political conditions” that lead to terrorism.

Secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials that terrorists could use to build nuclear weapons or “dirty bombs.”

That’s a good plan…I’ll support that one.

Redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.

What, specifically would they do differently?

Homeland Security
To Protect America from Terrorism and Natural Disasters, we will:

Immediately implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission including securing national borders, ports, airports and mass transit systems.

See my comments on internal v. external security above.

Screen 100% of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin and safeguard America’s nuclear and chemical plants, and food and water supplies.

Nice goal, not happening anytime soon. Note that Jane Harman – arguably the smartest Dem on security (and coincidentally, my Congresswoman) doesn’t think so either.

Prevent outsourcing of critical components of our national security infrastructure — such as ports, airports and mass transit — to foreign interests that put America at risk.

That’s just silly. The issue isn’t who owns the facility – the issue is who manages security there and what programs/policies they follow.

Provide firefighters, emergency medical workers, police officers, and other workers on the front lines with the training, staffing, equipment, and cuttingedge technology they need.

Well, there’s a lot of cutting edge technology out there; how about some basic interoperable communications infrastructure? I’d rather have good, simple, common tools than the latest wizbang items.

Protect America from biological terrorism and pandemics, including the Avian flu, by investing in the public health infrastructure and training public health workers.

Bingo. Applause. Attaboy.


To Honor the Sacrifice of Our Troops, we will:

Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.

How in the world do you ‘ensure’ that ‘ the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country’?? That’s wishful thinking of the ‘declare victory and leave’ style.

Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency; promote regional diplomacy; and strongly encourage our allies and other nations to play a constructive role.

Again, what would be different than what we’re doing today?

Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.

That’s a winning wartime strategy – let’s battle among ourselves.

Energy Independence

To Free America from Dependence on Foreign Oil, we will:

Achieve energy independence for America by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world.

Energy independence is a laudable goal, but there are a couple problems. But I’m still a supporter of greater energy efficiency.

Increase production of alternate fuels from America’s heartland including bio-fuels, geothermal, clean coal, fuel cells, solar and wind; promote hybrid and flex fuel vehicle technology and manufacturing; enhance energy efficiency and conservation incentives.

Golf clap.

So, overall, a few things that I’m very excited about (resources to first responders and public health, energy efficiency). But I’m not seeing anything (doable) that’s bold or different – or even particularly interesting – about the approach to the Middle East, and I’m seeing some particularly unrealistic things.

I’ll try and go deeper into some of the interesting questions in the next week or so – but I’ll bet others beat me to it.

But overall, let’s see another draft, guys.

Those Left Behind

There’s certainly a lot of discussion about immigration (esp from Latin America) this week. Today Marc Cooper blasts off on ostensible liberals who, frightened a bit by the political mass of the recent marches are suddenly sensitive to the pressure immigrants put on our labor movement.

It’s certainly a conundrum – a problem that has to be considered in five or six dimensions to be considered honestly. And I’d like to add one more just because the problem is obviously too simple as it’s formulated today.

The question is the intermediate- and long-term impact of this kind of migration not on the U.S., but on the source countries.The truism is that our American waves of immigrants have been more desperate, hungrier for freedom and success, more flexible, less rooted in authoritarian oligarchy. And that one of our strengths as a nation is the constant refreshing of our fat and lazy population with new, hungrier blood.

I’ve seen this directly from our side of the border as my sons raised their game in high school to compete with immigrant children who didn’t have nearly the sense of entitlement that native children seem to have. I’ve seen it directly in my lunch with Sumi, an Indian immigrant who I believe is destined for grand things.

The question is what is the impact in Mexico or Guatemala?

How much easier is it for kleptocracies to stay in power when those who don’t like them or can’t manage to find a place under them are simply pointed to the border?

How much easier is it for corrupt local officials to preside over a sagging economy when everyone east because of dollars sent home from the United States?

I know this is walking a path somewhere between Marxist “immiseration” and Moynahan’s “benign neglect”; but trust me, I’m personally not calling for either.

I am calling for a recognition that the answer to our immigration problem (as well as a lot of other ones) is a strong, free, prosperous Mexico (and El Salvador, and Guatemala, etc. etc.) that can make lives in Mexico for the people who today feel like they have no choice. And any policy needs to be considered with that goal in mind as well.

The Grace Lee Project

Sorry for the light posting; I’m stepping between projects plus we’re doing a small remodel, and somehow the hours are just blurring by.

I’m working on a post concerning my favorite topic – the war and our views of it – and will try and get it done and up by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Tenacious G (my lovely and tolerant wife) was Grace Lee before we married. She was in turn contacted by another woman named Grace Lee, who is a filmmaker, who did a documentary on women named Grace Lee, called imaginatively enough “The Grace Lee Project“.

I haven’t seen it yet, but will this Saturday night. It’s playing at the Laemmle Theater on Beverly near Fairfax for a few days starting this Friday.

From the website and reviews, it’s an interesting contemplation of Asian-American women’s identity, and an introduction to some incredible women – including, briefly, Tenacious G.

Nobody’s Perfect!

Breaking Voting News

Read the email below the fold from – it appears that the California HAVA (Help Americans Vote Act) registration system – as implemented by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson – is killing over 40% of the attempts to register that were made in Los Angeles County this quarter.

As I’ve said over, and over, and over again, we need voting systems that a) are transparent so that people trust them; b) are auditable so that they can be checked; and c) work.

The vote-input and vote-counting machines are only a small part of that system. It starts with letting people register when they ought to be able to.
—–Original Message—–
From: Conny McCormack
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2006 5:15 PM
To: ‘’; ‘’; ‘’;
Cc: Michael XXXXXXX; Ray XXXXXX; Kristin XXXXXX;

Subject: Calvoter Stats since Jan 1, 2006 for L.A. County

SUBJECT: Follow-up to 3/16/06 meeting at SOS office re Statewide Database process (i.e. post HAVA Calvoter system) -per your request at the meeting for stats to date for L.A. County

There were 34,064 voter registration forms received and data entered by L.A. County, and then sent to CalVoter, between Jan 1 and Mar 15, 2006 (this has been a very slow time for L.A. County. As we mentioned at the meeting, during heavy election periods we routinely receive upward of 20,000 voter registration forms each day). These stats (below) reveal that 14,629 or 42.9% of these individuals’ voter registration records have been returned to us by your office as invalid. Due to SOS regulations, these individuals are now fatally pended on the CalVoter system. Such status means they are not eligible to receive a sample ballot (which also informs them of their assigned neighborhood voting location) nor to receive an absentee ballot by mail if they were to apply for one. Prior to Jan 1, 2006, ALL of these individuals, would have been placed on the voter file at the time of data entry. Additionally, assuming they met the VR deadline, they would have received sample ballots for upcoming elections in their area and would have been allowed to vote either via absentee ballot or at their assigned polling place via a regular (i.e. not a provisional) ballot. (Caveat: beginning in 2004, first time voters in federal elections who did not provide a copy of I.D. when registering to vote by mail would have been asked to show I.D. at the polls prior to casting a regular ballot. Additionally, according to SOS directive at that time, absentee voters would have been verified, and their ballots counted, if the signature on his/her voter registration record compared favorably with the signature on his/her absentee ballot envelope, regardless of whether or not s/he enclosed a copy of I.D. with their absentee ballot or absentee ballot application).

The individuals caught in the first group below (i.e. NO MATCH) actually DID provide their Calif. Driver’s License # (CDL) or CA State I.D. (CID) on the voter registration form they submitted between Jan 1-Mar 15, 2006. However, because of some difference in how their name (or possibly birthdate) appeared in the DMV records compared to the information they provided on their registered voter affidavit, they are being prohibited from being listed on the voter rolls at this time. We (counties) are told to contact them to get “the information needed.” However, they already have provided the info required to be eligible to register to vote. They also provided their CDL or CID # and yet they are still “without Registered Voter (RV) status.” You reiterated at Thurs’ meeting that your CalVoter system, and your own regulations (drawn up in conjunction with the USDOJ), prohibit these individuals from being listed on the voter file in any fashion, i.e. they are “fatal” pends. We suggested a “soft pend” so that they could be included on the RV file, perhaps with a notation to “show I.D.” to verify identify at the polls (or, for absentee voters, provide it in absentee ballot return envelope) but we learned your system has no such capability, i.e. a person attempting to register to vote is either IN or OUT with nothing in-between.

Also, fully 1,594 (4.68%) of these records (below) were not accepted due to CalVoter “system error” such as a “time out” or other “down time” of your system. These individuals’ right to become a RV is now impacted not by eligibility criteria, but by an imperfect system (all systems are imperfect exposing a fatal flaw in having a potential voter’s status impacted – not by Constitutional eligibility criteria – but rather by technology).

Taken together, these two categories comprise 22.65% of the voter registration forms received by L.A. County since the first of the year.

Additionally, 6,438 (18.9%) of the individuals in stats below did not provide a CDL or CID # when attempting to register or re-register to vote (as we explained, 2/3 of the voter registration affidavits we receive are typically re-registrations, i.e. occur due to a voter changing his/her name, address, pol party affiliation, etc. In other words they have been a CA registered voter in the past and many have voted in past CA elections). You indicated that since these individuals have either a CDL or CID (according to DMV records) each one must personally provide it (either on another form or orally via a telephone call) in order to become a RV. In other words, even an exact match of another gov’t agency’s records is insufficient to clear their registrations, regardless of whether or not these individuals are a new registrant or a re-registrant.

The first three categories listed below total 14,153 or 41.5% of the VR affidavits our County received between Jan 1 and March 15.

Of course the FAQs sent to county registrars and posted on your website for the past several weeks also say the same thing as is described above re what the SOS is requiring the counties to do with all VR affidavits received since Jan 1, 2006. Needless to say, the numbers shown below are not small. However, as I mentioned at the Thursday meeting, as well as on several conference calls with SOS staff, even if one person is impacted inappropriately that is one too many with regard to their precious and Constitutionally guaranteed right to register to vote based on appropriate and legal eligiblity criteria.


NO_MATCH – 6121 (17.97%)
EXACT – 6438 (18.90%)
SYSTEM ERR – 1594 (4.68%)
SOUNDS – 130 (0.38%)
SMART – 9 (0.03%)
MULTIPLE – 43 (0.13%)
INVALID – 294 (0.86%)
SUB TOTAL – 14629 (42.95%)

EXACT – 19435 (57.05%)


Say Goodbye, Ben

I’d dismissed the Ben Domenech (the RedState blogger just hired by the Washington Post) issue as a combination of blogger inside baseball and the usual spittle-flecked rant against the right by Duncan Black.

But looking deeper into it, it sure looks like the guy is a) careless with words – a bad characteristic for a professional writer (if he thinks Coretta King was a Communist, and said so carelessly, that’s worse to me than if he’d meant it. If he’d meant it, we could judge him and in this case most likely dismiss him as a moron. If he’s that careless with words, he say anything and we’d wonder what we should take seriously…); and b) a serial plagiarizer.

Now I don’t think that b) is particularly an issue for blogs (if it matters enough to be read, the blogger involved will almost certainly get busted) or for the right (unlike Matt Stoller who says: This Ben Domenech debacle is more than a sad story of a young conservative with integrity problems. The toxic brew of racism and dishonesty is really part of their DNA, and it has practical real world consequences.), but I do think it’s a significant issue for journalism, and since a job at the Post is a job in journalism – I think he ought to step out or be shown the door.

Civil War – In The American Streets

My second-least favorite academic, Juan Cole (I know, I still read him, even though his site is little more than a list of those who have been killed in Iraq) approvingly cites a U Mich study that defines “civil war”:

‘ That there should be a political controversy over whether there is a civil war in Iraq is a tribute to the Bush administration’s Orwellian attention to political rhetoric. By the most widely accepted social science measure, Iraq is incontestably in a civil war.

“Sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter’s ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain.” (Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2000.) ‘

(Note that it’s from a Salon article by the Clueless Professor – I won’t link to Salon, because I’m kinda torqued that they’d sell subscriptions by promising more Abu Ghreib pictures)

Hmmm. Gang warfare in the United States cost over 900 lives in 2004. 153 police officers were killed in the line of duty, and I’d bet a third of them were killed by gang members – so to meet Cole’s standard, we’re on the borderline of a civil war – even as crime rates hit all-time lows.

I’d better buy some more ammo…

‘Till It’s Over Over There…

Neo – Neocon has started a series of posts on propaganda in wartime; her latest is focused on the famous “Four Freedoms” paintings Norman Rockwell did during WWII.

By odd synchronicity, we’d just watched James Cagney’s WWII film “Yankee Doodle Dandy” – it turns out that Littlest Guy shares our affection for musicals, so we’re bringing him from Sondheim to Singin’ In The Rain to Yankee Doodle Dandy as a quick tour d’horizon.

And about fifteen minutes into YDD, I picked up the Netflix sleeve to see when it had been made – and noted, as I’d expected, that it had been made during WWII.

The naked patriotism – bleeding over to jingoism – of the film can be captured in two quotes and an image.

The image is the poster for the film (lifted from Tim Dirks site “The Greatest Films” – as are the cites) seen here:

yank.gifOne quote from the start of the film:

George: (smiling to himself) I was a pretty cocky kid in those days – a pretty cocky kid. A regular Yankee Doodle Dandy, always carrying a flag in a parade or following one.

President: I hope you haven’t outgrown the habit.

George: Not a chance.

President: Well that’s one thing I’ve always admired about you Irish-Americans. You carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open. It’s a great quality.

George: I inherited that – I got that from my father. He ran away to the Civil War when he was thirteen – the proudest kid in the whole state of Massachusetts.

President: So you’ve spent your life telling the other forty-seven states what a great country it is.

One from the end:

President: Why, I wanted to hear the story of your life. It has a direct bearing on my sending for you. Do you know what this is?

George: The Congressional Medal of Honor.

President: Let’s see what the inscription says: ‘To George M. Cohan, for his contribution to the American spirit. Over There and Grand Old Flag Presented by Act of Congress.’ I congratulate you, Mr. Cohan. (He hands the medal to George) I understand you’re the first person of your profession to receive this honor. You should be very proud.

George: Oh, I am proud. In fact, I’m flabbergasted. First time in my life, I’m speechless. Are you sure there isn’t some mistake?

President: Quite sure.

George: (modestly) But this medal is for people who’ve given their lives to their country or done something big. I’m just a song and dance man. Everybody knows that.

President: A man may give his life to his country in many different ways, Mr. Cohan. And quite often he isn’t the best judge of how much he has given. Your songs were a symbol of the American spirit. Over There was just as powerful a weapon as any cannon, as any battleship we had in the First World War. Today, we’re all soldiers, we’re all on the front. We need more songs to express America. I know you and your comrades will give them to us.

George: Mr. President, I’ve just begun to earn this medal. It’s quite a thing.

[emphasis added]

Add the lyrics to one of his songs:

Johnnie, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun
Take it on the run, on the run, on the run
Hear them calling you and me, Ev’ry son of liberty.
Hurry right away, No delay, Go today,
Make your daddy glad to have had such a lad,
Tell your sweetheart not to pine, To be proud her boy’s in line.
Over there, Over there,
Send the word, Send the word, Over there
That the Yanks are coming, The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming ev’rywhere.
So prepare, Say a prayer,
Send the word, Send the word, To beware
We’ll be over, We’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over, Over There.

You’ll have a funny set of reactions to the film if you watch it today – first, you’ll be gobsmacked by the fact that Jimmy Cagney is a hoofer! …and quite a good one.

Then you’ll get a sense of the true datedness of the film from the inferences on race and gender…”… about you Irish-Americans.

But a part of it is that I can’t imagine a film today that wore our flag so nakedly on its sleeve.

And I wonder whether and how we can fight or win a war without doing so.

These Guys Do What For a Living?

The New York Times has an editorial slamming the Administration for their

accommodation of the mining industry — notably by packing the mine safety agencies with pro-management appointees — has produced a marked decline in major fines for negligent companies. A recent data analysis by The Times documented a risky, business-friendly downturn in penalties since 2001.

Sadly, the professional journalists at the Times couldn’t so the five minutes of research that would have told them that – with the exception of an outlier to date this year – deaths under the Bush Administration are significantly lower than those under pro-labor Clinton.

Go back and read my old post (linked above) and marvel at the diligence of our national newspaper of record.