Saturday, November 25, 2006

The End of the Democratic Agenda?

Joe Lieberman recently hired Marshall Wittman, a high-powered and well connected aid with strong ties to John McCain, leading to speculation that Lieberman may be considering running as McCain's VP on a fusion ticket. Hard to tell how this might play out in '08, but everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that that in the shorter term this could determine the success or failure of the entire Democratic agenda.

Control of the Senate depends on Joe Lieberman. He's refused to rule out changing parties and becoming a Republican, and doing so would take control of the Senate away from the Democrats. But Lieberman knows that Democrats are likely to pick up additional Senate seats in '08, regardless of overall political trends, because Republicans will be defending 21 seats, many of them freshman, verses only 12 for Democrats. If Lieberman defected, or just stirred up a lot of trouble, he'd pay the price in two years.

But if Lieberman is thinking of being McCain's VP all bets are off. The constraints are gone, or at least vastly different. My guess is that he would remain a Dem, because a fusion ticket needs members from both main parties, but that he would constantly try to screw up the Democratic agenda in order to prove his "independence".

And there won't be a damn thing Democrats can do about it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Who the Heck Is Steny Hoyer?

(Hint: He's not the one with the green head)

About a month ago one of my contacts who has the proverbial "Friends In High Places" in Washington DC told me that Steny Hoyer was going to be the next majority leader if Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. Despite all the fuss in the media and on the blogs about the race between Hoyer and John Murtha, the insiders knew all along what the outcome was going to be, and the results of the leadership election, 149-86 in Hoyer's favor, shows that it was never even a contest.

So who is Steny Hoyer?

He's a moderate on most issues, but hawkish on foreign policy. A nice guy, liked by most of his colleagues, but also a consummate political hack. A man who puts process and relationships ahead of values and ideology. A man of great ambition and questionable loyalty. As majority leader he could be a huge asset to speaker Pelosi, or he could sabotage her and undercut the Democratic agenda. Hard to say which way he'll go.

The best info I've seen on Hoyer is a Washington Monthly profile article that was published ... about a month ago:
If Hoyer, 67, appears to have an extra spring in his step lately, there’s a good reason. As the number-two Democrat in the House, he’ll likely become majority leader if Democrats win control this November.

Since entering Congress in 1981, Hoyer has forged an identity as a centrist, particularly on foreign-policy issues, that has helped make him the leadership’s unofficial liaison to the Blue Dog Democrats—a group of the caucus’s more conservative members—but has at times created tension with the more liberal Pelosi. On the day last December that she publicly backed a call from Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for withdrawal from Iraq, Hoyer released a statement declaring that such a policy “could lead to disaster.” And earlier that year, he angered the leader by supporting a bill being pushed by the credit-card industry designed to make it harder for people to declare bankruptcy.
Not so good. But here's where Hoyer could really help:
This conservatism has not won him friends among liberal bloggers—who argue that Democrats should have the courage of their convictions on basic issues of war and peace and economic fairness. But if Democrats do indeed retake power next year, keeping the party united will be crucial to many of the tasks that they’ll confront—from working to fix disastrous Republican legislation to conducting the vigorous oversight of the Bush administration that has been all but non-existent over the last six years. Because many of the House’s more conservative Democrats—not to mention its Republicans—simply trust Hoyer more than they do Pelosi, he stands to play a crucial role in holding the often fractious party together, and in working with the GOP, where possible, to pass legislation and hold the president accountable.
On the other hand...
It’s less Hoyer’s centrism that may cause problems for Democrats, and more what might be called his establishmentarianism. [...] In some ways, a leader with a healthy respect for Congress’s traditional procedures would be a breath of fresh air after the last decade, in which Reps Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Tom DeLay (R-Texas) rode roughshod over almost a century of established legislative norms. But the flip side of Hoyer’s obsession with process and old-fashioned relationship building is a reluctance to think strategically about changing the ways that Washington operates—even when doing so would benefit Democrats. Over the last year and a half, Hoyer—a protégé of Tony Coelho, the former California congressman who revolutionized Democratic fundraising in the 1980s—has led an aggressive effort to raise money from K Street lobbyists. Even more important, he has seemed unwilling to fundamentally rethink the unhealthy relationship between lobbyists and legislators that currently drives our political system. If Democrats are not only to regain power, but to maintain it and govern in a fairer and more responsive fashion, they’ll need to unite behind root-and-branch reform. But the evidence suggests that Hoyer lacks the political vision, and the will, to do so.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Our Liberal Media At Work

From Media Matters:

Democrats take control of both the US House and Senate, and this is the cover Time Magazine runs (Click on the images for slightly larger versions):

In 1994 Republicans took control of both the US House and Senate, and this is the Time cover from back then:

(The donkey with his eyeballs popping out as the elephant squashes him is a really nice touch, don't you think.)

Nothing like fair and balanced.

Who and Where?

Read this passage and see if you can figure out where it took place and who the people involved are. I've changed a few details that would give it away immediately:
"They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman--one of the other inmates--had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn't have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell `Are you --------? Are you so and so?' One of the [prisoners] had a fractured wrist from [getting arrested]. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain."
Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Obviously the prisoners must be terror suspects or threats to national security to get treated that way.

Here's a clue: these prisoners were considered so dangerous that their bail was set at nearly a million dollars each. Keep in mind that rape and murder suspects usually have bail set around a hundred thousand dollars.

Figured it out yet? This took place a couple of days ago. The place is Houston Texas. And those dangerous prisoners? Janitors who made the mistake of staging a nonviolent protest to demand better pay and benefits in one of the most Republican cities in the US. Here's the entire statement from Denise Solís, a SEIU organizer who participated in the protest and was arrested with the rest of the group:
"I'm from Texas and I helped organize the union here in Houston. For methe janitors' struggle is very personal. Coming back to Texas is likecoming home. We wanted to peacefully occupy the intersection downtownto make a statement to the city: `Houston can't go on like this, withso many living in poverty.'

We sat down in the intersection and the horses came immediately. It was really violent. They arrested us, and when we got to jail, we were pretty beat up. Not all of us got the medical attention we needed. The worst was a protester named Julia, who is severely diabetic. We kept telling the guards about her condition but they only gave her a piece of candy. During roll call, she started to complain about light-headedness. Finally she just collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was like she just dropped dead. The guard saw it but just kept going through the roll. Susan ran over there and took her pulse while the other inmates were yelling for help, saying we need to call somebody. The medical team strolled over, taking their own sweet time. She was unconscious for like 4 or 5 minutes.

They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman--one of the other inmates--had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn't have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell `Are you Anna Denise Solís? Are you so and so?' One of the protesters had a fractured wrist from the horses. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain.

The guards would tell us: `This is what you get for protesting.' One of them said, `Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.' The other inmates--there were a lot of prostitutes in there--said that they had never seen the jail this bad. The guards told them: `We're trying to teach the protesters a lesson.' Nobody was getting out of jail because the processing was so slow. They would tell the prostitutes that everything is the protesters' fault. They were trying to turn everybody against each other.

I felt like I was in some Third World jail, not in America. One of the guards called us `whores' and if we talked back, we didn't get any lunch. We didn't even have the basic necessities. It felt like a police state, like marshal law, nobody had rights. Some of us had been arrested in other cities, and it was never this bad before.

They tried to break us down, to dehumanize us. But we were stronger. We made friends with the other inmates and we organized them. The prostitutes felt a lot of solidarity with us. All of us together told stories, and played games like telephone and charades. We even did stand-up comedy monologues about what was happening to us and we all laughed. One woman--a woman of deep faith--gave a sermon that was both funny and deadly serious. We showed them that we weren't afraid. We did it all together. Now we're ready to fight on for basic American rights like the freedom of speech and the right to protest."
Welcome to George Bush's America.

More information at the SEIU Houston Justice for Janitors website.

UPDATE 11/20/06: Looks like the janitors and SEIU won! From a SEIU email:
What a difference a day makes! We have reached a tentative agreement for a 3 year contract for janitors.

Wages: $1.15 increase the first year, $1.00 the second year, and $.50 the third year.

Health Care: The third year is when single payer health insurance will kick in and janitors will pay $20 per month into that plan. It is a plan designed and managed by SEIU and we are hoping to get all of our members nationwide on this plan.

Vacation: Two weeks paid vacation per year

Holidays: 6 paid Holidays

Hours: 1st year everyone must work a minimum of 4 hours a day, 2nd year everyone must work a minimum of 5 hours per day, 3rd year everyone must work a minimum of 6 hours per day.

Protection: We have a grievance procedure in place. We have protection for all of the striking workers to get their jobs back with no discipline, We have a disciplinary proceedure in place so that no one can be illegally fired for no reason any more.