McCain Debates McCain

The Democratic National Committee has announced a series of debates between the old and new Sen. John McCain at "The one candidate in this debate who could beat John McCain, is John McCain himself," the press release says.

"As the two McCains square off, the American people will have the opportunity to hear the old McCain and the new McCain for themselves. McCain the Maverick, the come-from-behind phenom whose Straight Talk Express sped into New Hampshire eight years ago and knocked Establishment Candidate George W. Bush off his feet, has agreed to debate 2008 Republican Nominee McCain, the third Bush termer and pandering politician who will say or do anything to win and has no qualms selling out his principles to score some votes."

The first debate is on Iraq, and it's hilarious. For example, we hear old McCain calling Hussein a clear and present danger, and new McCain denying that he ever said that.

OH-01: Driehaus (D) Gears Up Grassroots Campaign

Good to see the grassroots campaign of State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill) kicking off in earnest this week. Driehaus is holding a campaign office open house tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 at 3741 Glenmore Avenue, Cheviot, Ohio 45211, and canvassing begins this Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00. For more information, contact Aryeh Alex at field-at-driehaus2008-dot-com, or call (513) 662-0205.

In addition, Driehaus will march in the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade on Monday, March 31st, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. (at Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine).

News and Notes: Ohio Congressional Races UPDATED

News you can schmooze:

OH-01 - Bloggers Harry and Jack of Ohio First Politics note that if Chabot is holding a town hall (and he is, tomorrow night), then it must be an election year. These are "typically nothing more than staged stump speeches with planted questions," although this time he at least put a notice in the newspaper rather than just mailing an invitation to Republican households only (an abuse of the franking privilege that he engaged in previously). Harry and Jack promise to provide full coverage of the spectacle.

OH-03 - On last week's 5th year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, Jane Mitakides (D) released a plan to honor military veterans by expanding educational opportunities, ensuring access to quality healthcare, and guaranteeing that all veterans receive the assistance and benefits they have earned (details here). Opponent Rep. Mike Turner (R-Centerville) has repeatedly voted against expanding benefits for veterans, earning a "C" grade from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in 2006. Mitakides pledges to stand with military veterans 100% of the time, and notes that her family has served in the Army, Air Force, and Marines in every war of the last century, from the Spanish-American War through Gulf War I. *** Mitakides will attend the Warren County Democratic Party Spring Fundraiser on April 3rd.

UPDATE: OH-04 - Mike Carroll (D-Mansfield) will speak tonight April 24th at the Champaign County Democrats Spring Dinner tonight. The event begins with a social hour at 6:00, followed by dinner at 7:00, at the Campaign County fairgrounds, Activity Building, 384 Park Avenue in Urbana.

OH-07 - Although no longer a candidate, Lt. Col. John Mitchel, USAF-ret. (R) continues to hammer retiring Rep. Dave Hobson (R-Springfield) and his hand-picked heir apparent State Sen. Steve Austria (R-Beavercreek) over a huge no-bid contract steered to Hobson contributors by a commitee that including Austria and his wife. In an LTE circulated by Mitchell last week he says that this transaction involved more hypocrisy and corruption than the sweetheart deal involving Rep. Turner's wife that was recently criticized by the Dayton Daily News:

[T]he earmark to Lori Turner’s company was a walk in the park compared to Dave Hobson’s and Steve and Eileen Austria’s intervening with The Dayton Development Coalition to misappropriate $1.9 million from Greene County and other Ohio taxpayers. On the receiving end were The Greentree Group and Paul Magliochetti and Associates (PMA Group), a local defense contractor and a Washington lobbyist, under the pretense both private corporations were required for BRAC support. At least Mrs. Turner provided meaningful work for her company’s $300,000 payday. For nearly a year I’ve been trying to learn exactly what Greentree and the PMA Group did to earn $1.9 million. While campaigning for Greene County Commission before the March 4th primary, Marilyn Reid took all the credit for Wright Patt’s BRAC success, but never once mentioned the $1.9 million earmarked for BRAC support by herself and two other Greene County Commissioners (Madden and Harper) in 2003.

OH-10 - Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) gave a particularly fiery floor speech recently, connecting the misbegotten war in Iraq to the nation's economic woes:

OH-13 - Representatives of Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley Twp) will onduct "Congress in Your Community" events at seven locations this week in order to hear the opinions and concerns of constituents: Strongsville and North Royalton tomorrow a.m.; Avon Lake, North Ridgeville, and Sheffield on Thursday; and Brecksville and Broadview Heights on Friday. Mayors John Hunter of Sheffield and Dave Gillock of North Ridgeville praised the events to Lorain Morning Journal reporter Brian Ross, the former commenting that "It's good for the people, good for the community and the area," and the latter that "More public officials should try to be available locally in the communities."

OH-14 - Sabrina Eaton reported on Openers on Friday that Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Twp) is collecting money from transportation interests (regulated by the House Transportation Committee on which he sits) for his new "Trans PAC," which he will use to help the NRCC and individual GOP candidates in order to beef up his chances for a committee chairmanship. This is classic LaTourette, a backroom-operator devoted to building and using his personal political clout. *** Opponent Bill O'Neill (D-South Russell) will celebrate opening day on Monday with a lunch in downtown Cleveland featuring AG Marc Dann - details here. In the meantime, you can sign an online "Get Well Bill!" card here.

OH-18 - Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) held a successful economic summit on agriculture in Coschocton on Friday, part of his RENEW Ohio 18 initiative. As Brian Gadd reported in the Coschocton Tribune, more than 100 farmers, county leaders, and Farm Bureau officials turned out. They broke into sub-groups to develop ideas for improving the outlook for agriculture. Some of the ideas included more government support for farm management research and education, and supplements or subsidy payments and start-up funds for young farmers. *** Space's opponent Fred Dailey (R-Mt Vernon) was Director of Agriculture in 2001 when the regulation of factory farms was transferred from the Ohio EPA to the Department of Agriculture. He is widely regarded as having given a free pass to new megafarms (he objected to the use of that term and insisted that they are "family farms" that are welcome in Ohio), which rural residents despise because of their stench, pollution of air and water, and relatively minor contribution to the local economy (jobs offered tend to be low-paying and filled primarily by immigrant workers, and factory farms buy very little feed or supplies locally). As Scott Pullins noted last summer, Dailey's permissive attitude toward factory farms could be a big issue in the largely-rural 18th District.

Washington Week in Review Taping in Cleveland 4/4

04/04/2008 - 3:30pm
04/04/2008 - 4:00pm

I absolutely love this show, so I'm planning to attend when Washington Week in Review with Gwen Ifill, celebrating its 40th anniversary, comes to Cleveland on Friday, April 4th, as part of a 10-city tour during the 2008 campaign season. The show will be taped at 3:30 p.m. before a live audience at Waetjen Auditorium at Cleveland State University. The regular show will be followed by a special half-hour Washington Week EXTRA: Northeast Ohio Edition with Gwen Ifill and her panel of journalists answering your questions. Both will air that night on public television.

You can order up to four tickets for the taping. Tickets are free. Pick them up in person at WVIZ, or order from Tickmaster subject to a $0.75 convenience charge for each ticket in your order, and a $1.75 delivery charge for the entire order.

Panelists for the show include Ohio natives Michael Duffy from TIME and Jackie Calmes from The Wall Street Journal.

Event guests may park in PF or S3 Lots on campus. The entrance to PF Lot is on East 21st Street between Chester Ave & Euclid Ave. The entrance to S3 Lot is on East 22 Street between Chester Ave and Payne Ave. The parking fee is $5.00. Click here for a map of the Cleveland State University campus.

Easter in the Cornbread Nation

There are so many different ways to approach spirituality. To me, religion is for those who are afraid of going to hell and spirituality is those of us who have already been there.

Music is my "church." The things that people cite as why they attend services are what I get from truly great music.

Here's two tracks from my buddy (and Grammy winner!) Tim O'Brien who's new release "Chameleon" is set to drop on Tuesday. This is a video clip from the TV show "Mountain Stage." The first song is "Cornbread Nation" with his son Joel ("If God had intended there to be sugar in cornbread, He would have called it 'cake.'") The second is an old traditional Appalachian hymn called "A Few More Years." Just Tim and his fiddle.

Happy Easter, y'all.

Don't forget to check out Mountain Stage on Sunday March 30th at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Ashland, KY. Another epic show featuring Tim O'Brien, Tift Merritt, Sonny Landreth, Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet and Kathy Mattea.

Tickets are available via
Check out

50 State Blog Network Roundup

A light helping for this holiday weekend of March madness:

It's Spring Break here in our neck of North Carolina. We're Tar Heel fans, so are glued to the tube during March Madness. Unfortunately, North Carolina is in for a different type of March Madness as the Clinton and Obama campaigns descend on the state. We have a short roundup this week while many of our state bloggers take a much needed break. Enjoy!

   Steve Novick became the first Senate challenger to publically sign onto Darcy Burner's Responsible Plan for Iraq this week. The Pacific NW stands together!

   Landlord Groups think tenants activists are terrorists.

   Akron blogger Pho contributes a thoughtful essay on Obama's speech, the reaction to the speech, and the reaction to the reaction to the speech.

   Vermont citizen journalism site sued for comments posted on its site is vindicated in court, leaving a few "old media" stalwarts who had waxed excited about the prospect of a clampdown on blogs looking bad.

Why I Make Fun Of Florida and Michigan

Other than that whole angry rat thingy being the MSU mascot, and Mickey Mouse being Florida's state rodent ... those guys are election screw-up amateurs.

When it comes to sinister electioneering and just plain political rat-fucking, nobody holds a candle to the crap my former Secretary of State, Kenny Blackwell, was up to here in Ohio. Some of which only now is coming to light two years after he was thrown out of office -- four years after he arranged for Diebold to steal the election for George Bush.

Ohio's voting machines are now an official crime scene
At least 15 touch-screen voting machines that produced improbable numbers in Ohio's 2006 statewide election are now under double-lock in an official crime scene. And the phony "Homeland Security Alert" used by Republicans to build up George W. Bush's 2004 vote count in a key southwestern Ohio county has come under new scrutiny.

Fortunately we have a crack squad of newly empowered Democrats on the case who found evidence of fraud through the exhaustive process of ... trying to vote.

The touch-screen machines were locked up after Ohio's new Democratic Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, tried to vote last fall. On November 6, she spotted a gray bar with the words "candidate withdrawn" in a slot where the name of Democrat Jay Perez should have appeared. Her husband, voting nearby, told her Perez's name did appear, as it was supposed to, on his machine.

Ahah! Zee Game, she is a foot!

Ironically, Brunner requested a paper ballot in the March 4, 2008, primary, but a poorly trained poll worker gave her a provisional ballot instead. Two other staffers from her office were also given the wrong ballots. Brunner has since pledged to upgrade the training for Buckeye State poll workers.

Girl in "3:00 A.M." Ad Disapproves That Message - Video

Here is the counter-ad for Obama that the actor in Clinton's red phone ad said that she wanted to make:

Just the Right Amount of Black

Cross-posted on Pho's Akron Pages

ver the course of the week we’ve had Obama’s speech on race, and the reaction to the speech and the reaction to the reaction to the speech, and now we are starting to boil down to some meta-points. My first blush reaction was that the speech was so on target, so uplifting, that any attempt to denigrate it would be simple-minded partisan hackery. I blush to admit my naiveté, but I was genuinely shocked at the level of derision directed at Obama, post-speech.

While there has been plenty of reaction that is mere hackery1, the near broadly negative reaction on the right can’t simply be dismissed out of hand. Rather, reaction to Obama’s speech on some level is something of a Rorschach for how people view race and racism, which follows something of a left-right divide.

People who felt the speech fell short tend to believe that a white expression of racism toward blacks is exactly the same in all respects as black expression of racism toward whites. A lot of comments fall along the lines of “what if a white candidate had attended a church where the preacher preached segregation . . .?”2 Obama’s speech begins with an assumption black racism3 is not the same as White racism, and appeals more to those of us who take a more nuanced view.

Under the latter view, racism expressed by blacks is wrong, but of carries less moral and practical consequence than white racism. black racism, as explained by Obama arises from the long history of racial oppression – three centuries during which people were kidnapped from Africa to be sold as chattel, followed by another century during which their decedents were assigned to the bottom rung of a racial cast system.

White racism on the other hand perpetuates a legacy of hatred in service to centuries of oppression, oppression that for most of those centuries materially and psychically benefited the oppressors. One is a form of human weakness, meriting approbation but nonetheless understandable. The other is a legacy of, and perpetuates, a great evil.

The practical consequences of black vs. white racism are also different. Make no mistake, black racism has dire consequences. One of my classes will soon be reading Wisconsin v. Mitchell in which the state applies a hate crimes statute to black defendants who assault a white man simply because he is white. But those consequences are several orders of magnitude lower than the consequences of white racism which, again, seeks on some level to perpetuate the oppression of black Americans.
Continued after the break.

News and Notes: Ohio Congressional Races UPDATED

I've been out of town and preoccupied, so here's some preliminary catching up on the House races:

OH-01 - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is helping State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill) with fund-raising today. Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou seized the opportunity to bash Driehaus as "desperate" and "mortgaging his values" by reaching out to Hoyer, attacking the latter's "extreme values on abortion," support for Section 8 housing vouchers, and opposition to telecom immunity. Driehaus, a right-to-lifer running in a socially conservative district, responded that "there's a large diversity of opinion within Republicans and Democrats" and "the key to being an effective legislator is to reach out to people of differing opinons and bring people together," something the GOP doesn't understand. "It's that type of divisive attitude that keeps things from getting done," he said, and it's why he's running against Rep. Steve Chabot (R-West Wood). *** Meanwhile, Chabot raked in $120,000 on Wednesday at a fund-raiser headlined by the serial marriage vow abuser and ethically-challenged inventor of the 1994 "Contract With America," Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Ironic, since Chabot rode into office under the banner of that compact but has flouted its call for term limits in Congress. "Congressman Chabot has grown so fond of rubber-stamping the failed policies of George Bush that he's decided to try and remain in Washington indefinitely," commented ODP Chair Chris Redfern.

OH-03 - Jane Mitakides (D) has a clever fund-raising campaign based on guessing the candidate's age. Her birthday is March 24th, but she's not telling!

Her husband (who went to high school with Jane) thinks she's 50, so if you agree, click here to contribute $50. ... Daughter Katie SWEARS they are the SAME age (29) and if you agree, click here to contribute $29.

And campaign manager Patrick is convinced that someone with her knowledge and experience HAS to be at least 100. (There may be a job opening soon.) But, if you think he's right, click here to send $100. ... And, if you think they're ALL wrong, click here to enter your own guess (in dollars)!

OH-07 - Blogger Joe R of Fundamental Truths reports that the NRCC sent him a “Ohio 7th Congressional District Survey” replete with misleading (and hilarious) push-poll questions like "Do voters in Ohio’s 7th District agree with the Nancy Pelosi Democrat Majority’s decision to impose massive tax hikes on the American People?" and "Do you support the Democrats efforts to give federal government bureaucrats complete control of your health care costs and choices?" The survey ends with a request for a donation and, failing that, a payment of $11 to help pay for the survey. Let's all give Democratic candidate Sharen Neuhardt (D-Yellow Springs) a boost by donating $11 (at least) through her ActBlue page.

OH-09 - Richard Payerchin reports in the Lorain Morning Journal that Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) has announced a $1 million grant to construct train junction gates and institute a "quiet zone" in Vermilion. She worked with a grassroots group called Concerned Citizens of Vermilion and Mayor Jean Anderson on the effort. "I am pleased to honor this commitment to a more livable community," Kaptur said. "I applaud the city and its concerned citizens for working together toward a solution that will result in a safer, more peaceful community."

OH-10 - Now that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) is no longer a presidential candidate he seems to be getting more involved in working on legislation. The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest blog "Drug Wonks" reports that he is co-sponsoring H.R. 5605, the “Physicians Payments Sunshine Act of 2008," which calls for the reporting of anything considered “a transfer of value” worth more than $25 by drug companies and such to a physician. This stiff measure is intended to enable Medicare beneficiaries to determine if their doctors are acting in patients’ best interests, and to convince doctors to quit taking industry kickbacks. "If the billions of dollars drug companies spend taking doctors on trips to the Caribbean and to expensive dinners at the country’s finest restaurants are above-board, then the pharmaceutical industry should support our legislation," says sponsor Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). "This bill will keep the pharmaceutical industry honest."

OH-12 - David Robinson (D-Columbus) gave an excellent speech at the Central Ohio Peace Network's commemoration of the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq war at the Statehouse Wednesday:

[S]ilence and invisibility are enemies of truthfulness, justice, human rights, and yes, peace. In the case of the Iraq war, those that precipitated it, those that would perpetuate it, seek to hide it from the public —- no taxes are paid to fund it —- and to sanitize it -- no caskets are seen to show the cost of it. They seek to hide the realities of the war in order to continue a policy that the clear majority of Americans, after sober reflection, now reject. And so it is good that we break this official silence, giving witness here and now to the will of the people.

The complete text is on his site. Robinson is an extremely intelligent, articulate, and generally impressive candidate. He is holding an organizational meeting for his campaign on Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Continued after the break.

Clinton Campaign Pushing Wright Controversy

Chris Bowers confirms that Clinton campaign staffers in Pennsylvania are emphasizing the Pastor Wright controversy as a knock on Obama's electability. Adding to the certainty, the New York Times reports today that although Clinton is not talking about Wright openly, "some allies of Mrs. Clinton said they were privately pushing the issue with key party members to lift her candidacy" and at least one prominent surrogate, Lanny Davis, "has publicly challenged Mr. Obama to answer questions about his views on racist speech and Mr. Wright."

As far as Democrat's White House hopes go, racial strife is the nuclear option and yet Clinton's people seem determined to push the red button. I am truly baffled at the Clinton campaign's blindness to the long-term implications here.

OH-14: O'Neill (D) Endorses Responsible Plan to End Iraq War

Matt Stoller reports on Open Left that challenger Bill O'Neill (D-South Russell) has signed on to the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, spearheaded by Darcy Burner (D-WA) and now supported by 22 additional House and Senate challengers around the country.

I read about the Responsible Plan on Open Left last week and immediately contacted all of Ohio's Democratic Congressional challengers about it, as I indicated in my comment here. At the Take Back America conference this week I attended the "Out of Iraq" session where the plan was unveiled, and was extremely impressed with the thought that went into it and the fairly concrete nature of the proposal. [I also met Darcy Burner when we participated in a training session for candidates about using the internet to further their campaigns, and I told her then that I thought O'Neill was likely to commit. Hopefully some of our other challengers will also see the value in this proposal.]

Although the Iraq War isn't listed as the top issue in polling on voters' concerns recently, that is misleading because the war is intrinsically bound up with the economic collapse that now polls as the #1 issue. And voters continue to regard the war as a mistake by a large margin, and a majority want the troops to come home if it can be done in a reponsible manner. Hence, the enormous appeal and fundamental importance of approaching this issue in a direct, thoughtful, informed way.

OH-02: Schmidt (R) Brags About Polling at Only 51%

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) is crowing about internal polling (always to be taken with a grain of salt) that shows her at only 51%, even in her base counties (Clermont and Warren), revealing just how precarious her position is despite her incumbency. Yes, Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) comes in at 33% in Schmidt's polling, indicating some damage from the insanely negative and misleading assault on her by primary opponent Steve Black, but Schmidt barely cracks the critical 50% line even without a serious primary challenge. Wulsin received 14,074 more votes than Wulsin in the March 4th primary, a troubling sign for the incumbent.

Although Wulsin hasn't been picked up by the DCCC yet, I expect it to happen. Strong institutional support was signaled by the visit yesterday of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who said "Dr. Wulsin is committed to serving the families of Southern Ohio and addressing the issues that matter most - solving our healthcare crisis, bringing our soldiers home from Iraq, and working with other members of Congress to invest in creating good jobs. I am dedicated to helping Vic win this November because we need her skills and experience in Washington.”

OH Sup Ct: Scene Details O'Connor's Partisan History

A gruesome profile in this week's edition of Cleveland Scene, titled "Mo' Money, Mo' Justice," spells out the highly partisan past and proclivity for favoring contributors of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor (R), opposed in her bid for a second term by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Russo (D-Cleveland Heights).

O'Connor lost four judicial bids in the 1980s before she was appointed to the bench in Summit County in 1993, stepping down less than two years later to be appointed Summit County Prosecutor. She then displayed a rabid intensity for prosecuting petty crime, while declining prosecution of an apparently strong white collar case (involving kickbacks to secure the sale of medical insurance to the City of Cuyahoga Falls) in which the potential defendant was a contributor to the Republican mayor. She was also cited by the Ohio Election Commission for illegally soliciting employees for a Republican Christmas fund-raiser.

After a few years as Lieutenant Governor under Bob Taft, O'Connor ran for the Supreme Court despite having less than two years on the bench. She helped her campaign by signaling her willingness to uphold GOP-sponsored "tort reform" legislation, and received huge contributions from doctors and insurance companies. She also was the beneficiary of enormous indendent expenditures in support of her candidacy, including $2 million spent on TV ads by an organization run by for-profit charter school tycoon David Brennan.

In 2003, as the featured speaker at a conference luncheon sponsored by the Ohio Medical Association, O'Connor pretty much spelled out her allegiance to her contributors, saying "What I will never forget and always want to recall in sharp focus is the support I received from physicians in the state of Ohio." She subsequently joined in the high court's decision upholding statutory limitations on damages in tort cases.

SUSA Poll Shows Clinton Ahead, Obama Behind McCain in Ohio

The MCDAC Blog notes a Survey USA poll released yesterday, showing Clinton ahead of McCain in Ohio by 50% to 44%, and Obama behind by 50% to 43%. Among white voters, Clinton is tied with McCain at 48% and McCain leads Obama 56% to 37%.

This poll was taken after the Pastor Wright ruckus began but before Obama's major speech on race. This is the baseline for where things stand. The speech by itself will help but won't get Obama all the way back. Much more hard work by the Obama campaign and his supporters will be necessary to recover his support among white voters over the long term.

UPDATE: Looking into today's polling a bit further, it's worth noting that Obama's favorability rating plunged in a Pennsylvania poll released today. His favorability number dropped from 57% to 47% from a prior poll on month ago, and his unfavorability climbed from 16% to 25%. Like the SUSA poll in Ohio, this was taken before Tuesday's speech.

In the daily Gallup tracking poll, Clinton has edged ahead of Obama to a 49% to 42% lead, a trend that was not affected by the speech, and McCain now leads Obama by four points and Clinton by three.

OH-07: Neuhardt (D) Hires Communications Director

The 7th District congressional race is an important open-seat contest that needs to get much more attention from the blogosphere, activists, donors, and the DCCC.

We have a smart, capable, and determined candidate in attorney Sharen Neuhardt (D-Yellow Springs). She recognizes the challenge she faces and is committed to raising the money and hiring the skilled keep necessary to running a competitive campaign.

Yesterday the Neuhardt campaign announced the hiring of Elizabeth Heller Allen, former vice president of marketing and communications for Premier Health Partners in Dayton, as its communications director. She is a veteran of 30 years in communications for top companies like Dell, Staples, Raytheon, Loral (now Lockheed Martin), and Citicorp, and she worked on the 2004 presidential campaign in Missouri.

"Elizabeth brings experience and expertise to this campaign," Neuhardt said in a press release. "Her knowledge of the defense and healthcare industries will help us develop detailed plans that will work for the citizens and the businesses of the 7th district." The new communications director praised the candidate and anticipated a strong campaign:

"Sharen is a natural leader and clear thinker," said Allen. "As a pro business Democrat, she can bring people together to solve problems, like how to grow good paying jobs in the district."

Brown and Kucinich Sign Petition to End Slavery in Agricultural Fields

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) are mentioned as signers of a new petition to combat inhuman working conditions and modern-day slavery among workers in Florida's fields.

The workers in Florida's fields get only poverty wages under an antiquated piece-rate pay system, get no overtime or benefits, and endure physical abuse and miserable conditions. Even worse, there have been six successful federal prosecutions of farm labor operations for involuntary servitude in Florida over the past decade, with a seventh just initiated, involving well over 1,000 workers and more than a dozen farm employers. Read more about this issue and the petition on the AFL/CIO Blog.

McDonald's and Yum! Foods have joined petition sponsor Coalition of Immokalee Workers in efforts to improve farm labor conditions, but Burger King and others have refused. The petition calls on Burger King and other food industry leaders to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes and ensure that the increase is passed on to tomato pickers in the form of increased wages, and to work with the Coalition to establish and enforce a human rights-based code of conduct, including zero tolerance for forced labor.

Ohio Members of Congress Speak Out on Iraq Anniversary

During the day we will hear from Ohio's Democratic members of Congress and challenger candidates on today's dreadful anniversary. (Just imagine for a moment that we could have known on March 19th 2003 that the war would drag on this long, with the greater number of casualties occurring long after the initial invasion!) Here is a part of what Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley Twp) had to say this morning:

“I support our troops and am proud of the work they have done. However, unity in Iraq must be determined by the people of Iraq. Our country has paid an extraordinarily high price in lives lost and dollars spent on this war. It is past time to responsibly deploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on fighting terrorism, winning the war in Afghanistan, and tending to the domestic needs of our citizens. ...

... The time has come for Iraqis to take responsibility for the security and stability of their country. The most effective way to motivate the necessary political progress and spur greater assistance by U.S. Allies in the Gulf region and beyond is to establish a timetable to immediately begin redeploying our troops from Iraq.”

From Victoria Wulsin in OH-02:

... The men and women of our armed forces have done everything we have asked, serving honorably and bravely; but our leaders have failed them, failed us and failed the Iraqi people.

We have lost 3,990 American soldiers in a war that now costs us $12 billion each month. The Bush Administration set 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government before the surge, but only 3 have been met. The price of oil has tripled since March, 2003 and still the President and his allies refuse to change course.

Wingnut Lunacy Tid-Bit of the Day

Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Marvin "Pro-Life" Richardson of Idaho has legally changed his name to just "Pro-Life." No first name, just Pro-Life.

The candidate's 10-year-old son has Pro-Life as a middle name, and "Pro-Life" is a long-standing nickname for the militant anti-choice activist. However, his hopes of appearing on the ballot this year as Pro-Life were dashed by elections officials, since he was already certified as a candidate under his former name and the ballots are being printed.

Five Years and The Bleeding Continues

On today's fifth anniverary of our nations most calamitous and tragic strategic blunder we are treated to the obscene spectacle of George Bush hailing "undeniable successes" in Iraq and arguing that the troop surge has "opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," even as violence escalates, political progress in Iraq stalls, and this tragic and misguided occupation saps our military and makes us less safe.

A CBS poll released yesterday reveals that only 29% of Americans agree with Bush and McCain that the results of the Iraq war were worth it, while 64% say they were not. Massive anti-war demonstrations are planned for today in Washington and smaller events will occur across the nation. Yet Bush continues to demean opposition to the war as "some in Washington" who "still call for retreat."

The troop surge, the purpose of which was to engender political progress, has failed. What McCain and the compliant media call "successes" is the utterly predictable and strategically worthless truism that greater troop presence means fewer attacks where and while the troops are present. Remove the extra troops and the violence will return, as Bush implicitly concedes by warning against troop drawdowns. The purpose of the troop surge was to engender political progress in Iraq that has not occurred, therefore the surge is a failure. As Arianna Huffington pointed out in remarks at the Take Back America conference this morning, the only thing about the surge that is working is the phrase "The surge is working."

Brunner Wins JFK Profile in Courage Award

Just announced this afternoon, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) has been recognized by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for her political courage in taking dramatic steps to assure voter confidence in Ohio elections:

“As we prepare to cast our ballots for the next President of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting process has never been more important,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership in working to ensure that voting systems provide a full and accurate count of the vote. Our democracy depends on voter trust. Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage.

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made "courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences," a phrase which describes Brunner's actions well. It was created in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service, and is named after his famous book about eight senators who took principled stands for unpopular positions.

The committee that selected Brunner includes two Republican U.S. Senators, Thad Chochran (R-MS) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), as well as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Caroline Kennedy and ten other dignitaries.

Jennifer Brunner has endured much criticism but stuck to her guns in ordering that paper ballots be provided to voters who request them and calling for the replacement of electronic voting systems in all 53 counties that use them before November. This is a particularly appropriate and well-deserved award.

Take Back America 2008

Light posting today while I am in Washington DC at the Take Back America 2008 conference. I am here with a delegation from Ohio sponsored by Progressive Majority, the national 527 whose mission is building a progressive "farm team" by recruiting and supporting good progressive candidates for local and state office. Also in the group are Assistant House Democratic Leader Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) and State Rep. Edna Brown (D-Toledo), who are participating in panels, and State Rep. Jennifer Brady (D-Westlake) and candidates Bob Belovich (OH-17) and Matt Patten (OH-18), along with the Ohio Progressive Majority team of David Dettman and Tiff Wolf.

McCain Gains in Ohio While Democrats Fight Among Themselves

Rasmussen Reports has a new general election poll in Ohio, showing that McCain has jumped from a statistical tie to a significant lead over both Clinton and Obama (numbers in parens are from 2/20, before the Ohio primary):

46% (42%) McCain
40% (41%) Obama

46% (46%) McCain
40% (43%) Clinton

I hear some people saying that the protracted primary season is good for the Democratic Party because it keeps the media focus on the Democratic candidates and contested primary elections mobilize the base, but what I'm seeing all around me are accusations and recriminations and Democrats quarreling with Democrats, and this poll doesn't surprise me at all. (The pollster calls McCain "the luckiest man on the planet since Ringo Starr.") We need to get this thing wrapped up and get our artillery pointed in the right direction.

It's interesting that Clinton's numbers have dropped more, perhaps reflecting the negative character of her campaign here, but the difference is very small.

High Gas Prices Because of Rapacious Greed

"It's the economy, stupid."

There are some good aspects to higher gasoline prices. Most countries in the world (Western Europe, the U.K. and Scandinavia, for example,) pay a LOT more for gasoline than we do. It promotes energy efficiency, public transportation, alternative fuels and conservation. All of which are very desirable, as long as they are phased in, over time, in a rational way, that does NOT cripple the lives of low income citizens. Higher gas costs actually make sense, so long as it does not destroy the ability of working Americans to get to their jobs and the grocery store, nor for senior citizens to get to medical care.

But, of course, here in Bush League USA, instead we give billions (That's "billions" with a "b", kids!) of your dollars to the fossil fuel companies, who are among the most profitable businesses in the UNIVERSE already-- and they call it an "Energy Policy."

So how does the dead tree media and the Voice of the Conglomerates cover this story? By endlessly parroting BALONEY from the Lundberg Lies (er, I mean "Letter.") This is the moral equivalent of a rapist telling their victim "it ain't gonna hurt and yer gonna like it."

The excuses they offer to get Americans to willingly accept soaring pump prices are complete manure.

Here's the truth: demand is down, way down. Americans just can't afford to drive. Truckers can't afford to run. Consumer confidence has completely tanked and discretionary spending (at least by anyone in MY tax bracket) is in the toilet.

On the other hand, supply is no problem. There have NOT been any meaningful disruptions (despite the lies from Lundberg) and OPEC has not cut back. The only major drain on supply is the multi-million gallons a day going to the occupation of Iraq.

So why are prices at the pump suddenly soaring through the roof? What about the neo-cons constant blithering about the wonderful power of the free market?

The answer is rapacious greed combined with speculation.

The problem with the reactionary claim that "the market is the answer" bloviating is that nameless, faceless multi-billionaires can MAKE THEIR OWN MARKET. It's all about the collapse of the American dollar versus every other currency in the whole freakin' world. Greed combined with speculation.

Today, we are suffering through the inevitable result of the Shrub Economy. There are no decent jobs for American workers and yet we have a whole new class that pundits are calling the "Super Rich." Real inflation is soaring, yet economic growth is in the tank.

As I mentioned, our "energy policy" is just a multi-billion dollar give away to those super rich. Our healthcare policy is a multi-billion dollar give away to Big Pharma and Big Medicine. Our farm policy is a multi-billion dollar give away to huge agri-business conglomerates at the expense of family farms. Our newest banking laws (written by banking lobbyists) give billions to the banks at the expense of consumers.

Do you notice a trend?

With GOP having effective control of Congress and the Shrub in the White House, the result are the worst economic times in a generation.

Enough is enough.

Obama's Video Response to Controversy Over Former Pastor's Sermons

Here is Barack Obama's video response to the ruckus over controversal sermons by the recently retired pastor of his church:

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