DC Events - inc. Drinking, Motherhood, Feingold, Obama, Durbin, Warner

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1. Drinking Liberally -- Check it Out TONIGHT & every Thursday!

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Funding the blogosphere -- and fighting for fair elections

Cross-posted at DailyKos

A few weeks ago, Chris Bowers posted a diary about "the need for more sustainable funding of the progressive, political blogosphere." I couldn't agree more -- and I'm going to do my own small part by buying some blog ads, which I'll come to in just a minute.

But I think Chris' diary also teed up a broader question:  How can all of the elements of the progressive movement join together to put America back on the right track -- grassroots activists, bloggers, donors, elected officials, party leaders, and everyone in between?  Yes, funding the blogosphere is an important element -- and advertising on blogs may be one part of the solution -- but as Chris has discussed, there's certainly more to it as well.

One thing I know we have to do is communicate and coordinate more -- because only through an open exchange of ideas can we truly develop an agenda and an overall message that all of us can get behind and promote in our own ways.  What's more, by blogging and communicating and producing other forms of rich content (like web video, podcasting, and the like), we're not just mobilizing our existing community, we're bringing more people into our movement as well.  And growing the size of the progressive movement -- much of which is happening at the netroots level -- is how we're going to bring about real, lasting change for America.

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Guess Who Wants to "Micromanage" the President's Policy on Iran?

I know, I know. Accusing Members of Congress of being inconsistent is kind of like telling a rock that it needs to get more exercise. A knowledgeable Congressional staffer once said: "The first rule of Congress is that if Members have the opportunity to vote opposite ways on the same issue, they will."

Still: a key argument being deployed by Republicans against the Democratic effort to compel the President to accept a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is that Democrats want to "micromanage" the President's policy in Iraq.

These same Republicans - and some Democrats - have opposed or failed to support a provision reaffirming that the President needs explicit Congressional authorization if he wants to attack Iran. They don't want to "tie the President's hands."

Now the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - the same folks who lobbied to remove the provision against an illegal attack on Iran from the supplemental - is pushing to strengthen unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran. Guess what their proposed legislation - H.R. 1400 and S. 970 - would do? It would micromanage the President and tie his hands.

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Withdrawal Language Survives!

Looks like the Cochran amendment was defeated and the withdrawal language stays in the bill, for now. That's a big deal.

My earlier cynicism notwithstanding, kudos to Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and the Senate leadership!  I'm told that we lost Pryor, held Nelson, and gained Smith and Hagel. I'll update as soon as I confirm.

Update (Chris): The vote is up on the Senate Roll Call page now, so it is confirmed. Senator Feingold, the first Senator to come out in favor of a timetable, and who once again has turned a majority of one into a voting majority in the Senate, just issued the following statement:
Today marks an important step toward ending the war in Iraq . For the first time, the U.S. Senate will pass binding legislation requiring the President to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq . While this is long overdue, it is a big step in the right direction and it brings us closer to ending our involvement in this disastrous war.
The only Democrat who voted to strike the withdrawal language was Mark Pryor. I don't care what state he is from--that is the sort of issue that could cause you to lose either a primary or a general election. There isn't a state in the country that currently has a majority in favor of the war, or against this bill. Even moderate Republicans are split.

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Earmark Silliness versus Public Financing

I'm as outraged as anyone at Harry Reid's apparent move to protect secret earmarks.  I have a call into his office, and I'm told that there were some negotiations going on that suggest that Reid's work isn't as bad as it's being reported.  I tend to trust Josh Marshall on this, but my general reaction is less annoyance at this specific fight and more frustration at the avoidance of the real issue at hand by various parties involved in the ethics and corruption field.  Let's be honest - quasi-corrupt practices such as secret earmarks are not the result just of bad people in politics, they are the result of structural factors that encourage the legalized bribery of our governing class.  If you restrict secret earmarks without changing any other incentives, you'll simply push the quasi-corruption into another legal vehicle designed to bilk the public and hide the costs.

The good government world simply doesn't recognize this.  Take Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, which does amazing work on corruption and is pushing for various amendments and procedural changes in how members and lobbyists relate to each other.  Or Public Citizen.  Or Common Cause.  Or any of the good government groups.  They are all pursuing the same remedies that failed in the 1970s, process reforms to restrict the flow of money into politics, sometimes on the inflow side (campaign finance) and sometimes on the outflow side (earmarks).

These reforms do not and never have worked and I'm really tired of liberal groups focusing on them as some sort of panacea.  You might be able to make the argument that the Supreme Court in Buckley crippled some of these reforms, but the reality is that you can't pull money out of politics.  You can't.  Not gonna happen.  Can't happen.  Money is political, and restrictions are just another creative problem for election lawyers and lobbyists to tackle.  Te good ones will tell you this themselves.

What you can do is change the incentives for candidates to direct this money for the public welfare, and that means, drumroll, public financing of elections. If you are serious about ending legalized bribery, you would look at a situation where freshman members have to raise $25,000 a week every week for the next two years with corporate lobbyists salivating to hand them cash and say 'Hey, that's a bad incentive model.  We should change it'.

Dick Durbin has a bill to publicly finance elections. It's there.  It's worked in Maine and Arizona.  If a quarter of the effort went into the push to publicly finance elections that goes into this stupid and rather petty fight over earmarks and criminalizing lobbying, we would be a lot further on restoring public ownership of our political system.

I'm getting pretty upset with the Democratic leadership in the Senate, but I'm going to be honest and point out that this is a result of serious strategic flaws in the funding, good government, liberal single-issue, and political consulting communities.  Harry Reid and Max Baucus are not good for progressives, but they are operating in a world we can change.  That we won't change the rules on them is our responsibility.

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Diaries

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