Sunday, June 11, 2006

BREAKING: Dam geek realizes lifelong ambition; visits Hoover Dam

We interrupt this conference to bring you my five-hour excursion to the Hoover Dam, complete with tour of turbines, penstocks, intake towers, and diversion tunnels! Yes, I am a dam geek. For reasons too complex to go into here, I have dragged husbands all over this great country to see impounded water. Once when we drove from Maine to New Orleans (already kind of a long trip), I veered us 200 miles off course just to see the Army Corps of Engineers' Old River Control Structure at the junction of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. I especially love it when droughts expose old road beds, turn islands into mountains, and the like. Well, today I was in luck, since Lake Mead is down 70 feet from high water (tant pis for LA, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona). Sadly for you, my camera is checked through security so I can't show you all my turbine pictures.

At the gift store, I bought a history of the dam's construction as reported at the time by Air Compression Magazine. I'm devouring every word. Stay tuned for details!!

Mainstream press reports truth on bloggers for once


Mr. Reid added: "One of the reasons I so admire them is they have the ability to spread the truth like no entities I've dealt with in recent years. We could never have won the battle to stop privatization of Social Security without them."

[...] As became clear from the rather large and diverse crowd here, the blogosphere has become for the left what talk radio has been for the right: a way of organizing and communicating to supporters. Blogging is nowhere near the force among Republicans as it is among Democrats, and talk radio is a much more effective tool for Republicans. (well, it is Wonkette):

The crowd is older and more professional than coverage of the blogosphere might lead one to expect. In the session on recruiting progressive candidates for local office, there's an ER doctor, an AIDS activist, a high-school teacher and a representative from the Organic Consumers Association. There are some that conform to type: thirtyish and pale, sloppily dressed and bleary-eyed. Those are the journalists. There are a lot of them. One organizer put the ratio of conference-goers to reporters at eight to one, which seemed high until I visited one workshop that managed to score drive-bys from the Chicago Tribune, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Salon, The New Republic and the American Prospect. At one point the room held more representatives from the New York Times (three) than workshop leaders (two).

Emphasis mine. There was something a bit surreal in all these journalists covering our discussions of their own failures. Matt Bai was eloquent and plaintive on the subject during a panel on political journalism, telling us that "sweeping statements about failures of political journalism are inaccurate and unfair and beneath the level of acuity you bring to other issues." He complained that we understate the complexity and humility they bring to their jobs, and said "I'm tired of being judged because of Judy Miller."

We absorbed these comments and agreed that for every failure in the press, someone somewhere got the story right and deserved acclaim. But then a blogger got up and restated the issue: our criticism is not about comparing Matt Bai to Judy Miller. It's about complete lack of accountability when they do fail, and the huge consequences flowing from those failures.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Check in

Okay, put me to shame, Leolabeth (go read the comments below for her liveblogging). I'm having trouble getting posts up because the information is flying so fast - unlike, say, the Maine Democratic Convention - that I can't stop to post. And activities are going on every minute well into the night. Moreover, I plead slooowww network...

So this is just a checkin to let you know this conference is tremendous and we're all getting energized, informed, and activated. It's a blast meeting people who have just been screen names up till now - and a bit unnerving discovering how sharp and articulate some of these folk are. I'll have some of the conference content up later, probably on the way home. And I can't tell you how grateful I am to be here.

P.S. Phil, I got your autographs.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kos fever

Joining the migration to Las Vegas. Will keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mehnert update & a blizzard of Snowe statistics

Good Mehnert profile in yesterday's Bangor Daily News. Also a poll, should you care to participate. It shows Hay Bright ahead by six points (53/47), which makes sense given her organizing efforts and lead time. However, I think Mehnert made strong gains among most-likely voters this weekend at the convention.

Get a load of Senator Snowe's voting patterns in detail. Not only is she a Bush enabler, but she votes in strong support of Senate leadership as well. In fact, her Frist-enabling has increased dramatically in the past two years. UPDATE/CORRECTION: That's the past two years measured. The data stop at 2004.

Snowe Voted in Favor of Bush Administration Policies over 82% of the Time…

…But Voted in Favor of Clinton Administrations Policies Only 55% of the Time.

Since Entering the Senate in 1995, Snowe has voted with GOP Leadership 67% of the Time. Snowe’s Party Unity Rating has Dramatically Increased in the Last Two Years.

Party Unity
And yes, I know she voted against cloture today on the Hate Amendment. Forgive me for not considering that cause for celebration. I want Maine's elected representatives to serve in a Congress where that kind of legislation doesn't even come up for discussion. And that means, you don't prop up tyrants, bullies, and incompetents.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Speed reading

We're busy here following up on the convention, writing Mehnert LTEs, digging up dirt on Snowe, and getting ready for Yearly Kos. Meanwhile, check out these don't-miss posts from the last few days:

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Convention highlights

Best speakers:

Russ Feingold. I knew I'd love him but I didn't know how much. Biggest applause lines: " It's not just getting the power; it's standing on principle when we have the power." "We have ideas, bold ones. We just have to express them boldly." "Don't be weak and full of fear." "I thought the NSA wiretapping issue was right in the strike zone of what the founding fathers meant by 'high crimes and misdemeanors...." He said that wherever he went, whoever he talked to, whatever the setting, people said the same thing: "When are you guys going to stand up?" After he left the stage, a discussion in my row ensued as to whether his balls are brass or titanium.

Attorney General Stephen Rowe. Even though I'm mad at him for not running against Snowe, I've always liked and respected Rowe for his solid record of achievements and progressive values. But I've never heard him speak the way he did yesterday. He was on fire. He was unbelievably eloquent on loving and supporting the troops, loving this nation, and the myriad ways the Iraq war is wrong. He sounded like he's an anti-Beltway type, too, riffing on polls, pundits, and consultants. He talked about people's hunger for leadership. And he spoke at length on Democratic values, shouting, "Never apologize for our values! Never apologize for being a Democrat!"

Eric Mehnert. Get this man a campaign manager - he's going to need one after next week's primary. He's not a master orator, but he spoke from the heart, without notes, with absolute command and intensity. His themes are fighting injustice and restoring the social contract. He spoke frequently of moral courage. A civil rights attorney, he would absolutely shred Snowe on warrantless wiretapping, habeas corpus, torture, the 750 signing statements....

Best convention achievement:

The impeachment resolution, of course.

Best complete and utter Maine mensch:

Neil Rolde. Historian, legislator, philanthropist, publisher, founder of Seeds of Peace, did I mention also a nice guy with a genuinely unaffected manner? They don't make citizens any better than this. He introduced Feingold.

Best candidate entrance:

Rep. Mike Michaud, on a forklift.

Best excruciating weirdness:

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Miller, who spoke at length (and slowly) about the dire state of the planet, then showed a video of himself making the same points (only slower), then showed another video set "in the future," with outer-space sound effects, while a comedy duo on stage portrayed future Mainers realizing that all of Chris Miller's dire predictions had come true. The audience sat in stunned fascination.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Impeachment resolution passes!

We took it out of the platform (where it would still be sitting in 2008), did some parliamentary maneuvering, and passed it as a floor resolution. Details later. I have a very sick dog to attend to.

Feingold was stupendous. Comments and photos (we hope) later, too.

Yay, Maine.

Candidates for U.S. Senate

We're still processing the platform but took a break to hear from Jean Hay Bright and Eric Mehnert, vying for the nomination to run against Senator Snowejob, who votes with Bush 82% of the time. Hay Bright has a better organization at the moment (and a three-year head start), but Mehnert won the room. I'll give a full report on him this evening but here's the short version: this man could beat Snowe. Some people are comparing him to RFK; I'm thinking along the lines of Ned Lamont. We have to work to get him the nomination next week.

Great lines heard this morning:
  • I'm a Democrat because I give a damn. - Dean video
  • The middle of the road is where the chickens get run over. - extremely angry teacher from Aroostook County
  • Grassroots movements are not born in hard times. They are movements born of hope. - Eric Mehnert

Saturday morning platform debate

Here is where the rubber meets the road and we see Democratic process and dysfunction in all its glory. This being my first political convention, I'm not in a position to compare today's proceedings with other years, other leaders... I can just give today's impression, and it seems like a mess.

After the AM opening events, slogged through with a distinct lack of adrenaline and coffee, we got down to real business at 10:00. The platform started out with 68 planks, all but 7 of which were adopted or rejected by the platform committee by the requisite 2/3 majority. These constitute the "consent agenda," which is supposed to be voted on as one package by us delegates. Speaker Richardson started to push it through and had actually pounded the gavel passing the agenda when the objections started. Item 2. Item 2. 8 and 9. 10, 17, 22, 25, 36, 42, 53 & 56. Then someone stood up and objected to the ENTIRE platform and suggested reinstating the 2004 platform. Then it was pointed out that half the delegates had not received the list of platform amendments. We adjourned for 20 minutes while the pages ran around to find copies.

Now we're back debating the rejection of the entire platform. [I have to say Richardson seems to have less of a grip on Roberts rules of order than I expected. It is also interesting to watch him try to keep his temper under wraps.] People are shouting "point of order" all over the place, and some of the the microphones are out. Now we're counting delegates. There are 950 of us present and voting.

Back to the motion to scuttle. It fails, so we now go amendment by amendment. I'm going to post this and go offline a bit before I bore you all to death.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday evening remarks

  • Call to order. Marianne Stevens, Vice Chair, state party.
  • Invocation. Rep. Stan Moody of Manchester, president of the Christian Policy Institute.
  • National anthem, pledge of allegiance. The anthem was sung by "Referendum," a political a cappella group. Very good - excuse me, wicked good.
  • Opening remarks. Ben Dudley, Chair, state party. Wades through the list of thank yous. Will see Allen, Michaud to dem majority, reelect Democratic governor for the first time in 22 years… 159 days till election. Stress concerns of the people – the people, the people. Bushco out of step with American values - opportunity, investment, community, shared sacrifice, shared reward. Yet one month ago the GOP proudly displayed Bush’s picture before their convention in this very hall. They have a government that’s about THEM. We want one that’s about ALL OF US. Democratic values are Maine values. In 4 years we’ve “turned the state around” (hmmmm) in jobs, health care. Clinton said “people of modest means if they are of common mind can change the world.” Exhorts people to “invest in Blue” and end boom/bust cycle, 50-state strategy. [ends with clip of “Let’s Get It Started,” obviously not knowing what the real words are.]
  • Welcome. Rita Moran, Chair, Kennebec County dems. The most important people are not up here but are you down there blah blah. Get dems elected to town councils, school boards, county treasurers, sheriffs. Believe it. [actually she’s doing this pretty well.] Give the governor enough people in the legislature so he can get stuff done without obstruction.
  • Welcome. Arthur & Donna Lerman, City of Augusta. Corny. She’s a little uncomfortable… Riff on GOP failures.
  • Report from Maine legislature. Sen. Beth Edmonds, president, Maine Senate. Be proud of your legislature and its work. Democratic representatives include loggers, dairy farmers, mill workers, teachers, retirees. Edmonds is from Freeport where she was a children’s librarian. Was inspired in her leadership career by a female minister when she was growing up [see, wingnuts – WOMAN PREACHERS REALLY DO LEAD TO PERDITION]. Touts Baldacci’s accomplishments in education, including teacher pay, financial aid. Theme of THEY FEAR, WE TRUST… Bushco plays on fears of Americans to hide their real agenda, which is lining the pockets of their corporate friends. Maine has a comprehensive energy policy and acted to prevent gas price gouging. Working to safeguard personal information. Oppose discrimination in any form – historic civil rights legislation. Intervened to save mill jobs. Invested in R&D – helped attract Team ? and IDEXX expansion. Teen pregnancy, teen smoking fallen dramatically. Fighting TABOR, raised minimum wage. They fear the future. We think Maine workers are the gold standard. We imagine a better future.
  • Call of convention. Patsy Crockett, Chair, Convention Subcommittee. Roster of thank yous. Is moving briskly through it. This was the first convention to use internet in registration – saved lots of money though it was a little bumpy at times. Learned a lot. Democrats make Maine a better place to live and work because they believe in investing in Maine people.
  • Report from Credentials Committee. Betty Johnson, Chair. Snore. Oh god……….. I could never do the work those good people did.
  • Report of Permanent Organization Committee. Sally Crowley, Chair. She’s treasurer from Hancock County. Also snore. [a respectful snore, though.]


Remarks. Hon. John Richardson, Speaker of the House. Turns out he’s a good speaker in a large venue. Quite rousing. Another dig at the GOP convention last month… their theme song was “We’re not going to take it any more.” Ha.

Remarks. Congressman Tom Allen. Introduced by Virginia Manuel, Chair Aroostook County dems. Enters with great fanfare, cheering, and waving of placards to the theme of Springsteen's Rising, the anthem written for the police, firefighters, and others who responded on 9/11. He's introduced by a video that sounds like it's narrated by the Catsup Advisory Board, but it gets a strong reponse.

In Maine we understand tides, he says - they go in, they go out. And the worst tide is a red tide.

Touts Baldacci's accomplishments - closed budget deficit without raising taxes. encouraged small business growth, the ground-breaking Dirigo health program, improvements in education. Please send him back to the Blaine House. Gets in digs at Snowe about the Alito nomination. Runs through crimes of the Bush adminstration in his usual polite and eloquent manner. [I'm never excited by Allen from a distance but am always awed by his ability when I see him in person.] It's tempting to try to win on one simple slogan: HAD ENOUGH?

But Democrats have to address four major challenges: foreign competition, health care, energy, and climate change. Then moves on to talk about Iraq. Allen voted against the war resolution and worked to stop the rush to war. Has consistently urged adminstration to change course and says it's time to start orderly withdrawal of troops.

Remarks. Congressman Mike Michaud. Introduced by Eddie Gorham, Maine AFL-CIO. Glad to see labor here and that they're still alive. Michaud drives in (in a forklift!) to "Power to the People" and loud chants of "We want Mike!" Says the man seated next to me, "He's just the nicest, nicest guy," and a man in the row ahead concurs.

He's not my rep and I never see him so it's a pleasure to watch him in action. He has a very solid and genuine presence. He refers to the AFL-CIO leader as "Brother Eddie Gorham" and speaks respectfully of labor, teachers, veterans. When he says he supports the troops 100%, you believe him. He is outraged at the state of veteran's health care and benefits. He says it's time to bring the troops home. He has words on energy, education (repeal NCLB), welfare, jobs, outsourcing, minimum wage, the environment, civil rights, health care, child care. This is a solid, old-time, red-meat Democrat. [And he's anti-abortion. Next time NOW pulls another bone-headed stunt like they did in Rhode Island, they need to come look at Michaud's record and compare him to Chafee.]

Let's return this country to its rightful owners: the American men and women who through their blood, sweat and tears built the greatest country on earth. And P.S. Republicans? You're fired.

Then his staff hands out the words to a union song: "Solidarity Forever." And we stand it sing it together. Pretty cool.

Remarks. Governor John Baldacci. My connected friends - pretty much environmentalists first, second, and third - all hate Baldacci, but I kind of like the guy. Nevertheless, everything he says I somehow instantly forget. Here comes his litany of accomplishments (I think there are five). As my mind wanders, I wonder if Bill Clinton's fundraiser this Monday for the governor will be fully attended. We've gotten two real calls, two invitations, and two robocalls yesterday, which doesn't sound good...

Adjourn. America the Beautiful sung by Matthew Small, a student at Orono. Beautiful voice, beautiful song.

See you tomorrow.

Live-blogging the Maine Democratic Convention

The real convention starts tomorrow, but I'm at the Augusta Civic Center in a training session on grassroots organizing. We're learning how to build a network of volunteers by hosting house meetings, each one of which trains hosts to lead more house meetings, in viral fashion. The leaders know what they are talking about and appear to have their shit together. They're cramming a lot of content into a short period. They have detailed schedules and work plans taking us from now till the election.

I am moderately surprised and really pleased.

More notes to come.

UPDATE: The platform committee is debating impeachment. See the Kennebec Journal and cast your vote on whether the Maine Democratic platform should include a call for impeachment. (At this writing, it's 53% to 47% in favor.)