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    • The End of the Rebels in the Ukraine and the Ukraine’s Future
      We’re down to street fighting in Donetsk.  The Russian leaders resigned in the last two weeks.  The rebels appear to be done, at least in terms of their conventional military phase (of course, I could be wrong depending on how much stomach Ukrainian troops have for house to house fighting).  It seems like that would [...]
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Whoo-hoo! Go, Hawaii!

Hawaii lost both of its senators in the last couple of months.  Senator Akaka is retiring and Senator Inouye, who was a senator when I was living there as a child, recently died at the age of 88.  He spent something like 5 decades in the senate.  Amazing.

But do you know what is even more amazing?  In January 2013, Hawaii may be sending not one but *two* women to replace these two senators.  Mazie Hirono is already scheduled to replace Akaka.  And Colleen Hanabusa was Senator Inouye’s preferred replacement for his seat.  She has yet to be appointed by Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii’s Democratic governor but we shall see.

Stop me if this is old news.  I don’t watch cable TV and news of Inouye’s replacement has been scarce.

So that would take us up to how many women in the senate?  Have we cracked 20 yet?

It’s progress.  I’ll take what I can get.

One other note.  Of the Congressional delegation from Hawaii, both Hirono and Hanabusa are Buddhists, first and possibly second ever in the Senate, and the new representative from the second district, Tulsi Gabbard, is a Hindu.

Result: Americans like Gridlock!

Have you seen that electoral map?  That is one scary sea of red.  In actuality, not many House seats changed hands and the ones that are still in dispute this morning are mostly leaning D.  This is what unlimited money will buy you – a lot of red.

And yet, this is a promising sign.  Demographically, the Republicans have seen their high water mark and are now looking at an ebb tide.  With all the money they threw at this election, this is the best they could do.  Even the most carefully crafted legislative districts and poorly educated electorate probably won’t help them next time.

The bright spots last night happened in the Senate with the election of Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin.  It looks like North Dakota will send Heidi Heitkamp to the Senate, bring the total number of women in the senate to 19%.  It’s a shame we couldn’t hit 20% but I’ll take what I can get.  Massachusetts has never had a female senator so this is a step in the right direction.  I wonder if the Democrats couldn’t have won other races if they had run more female candidates.

As for the top spot, well, we were going to get Pete or RePete.  It’s hard to tell which is which.  I didn’t have a dog in that fight.  But it looks like Obama lost a lot of popular support this year, about 10 million people’s worth of popular vote.

The Democrats will incorrectly assume that Americans want more Republican policies. I don’t think that’s what they want. I think they want more forceful Democrats who can cut through all the messaging money can buy. That’s going to be important going forward because the Republican base is going to start to die off in increasing numbers. Democrats and new parties must be ready to go on the attack.  Why not start now?  There is absolutely no reason for Democrats in the House or Senate to yield a nanometer on any kind of “reform” of the social safety net.  The Republicans are stuck.  This House can ram through any stupid thing it wants.  It doesn’t have to go anywhere.

Now would be a good time for the left to get the band back together for 2014.

Warren vs Brown debate: currently in progress

You can watch it here on WBZ.

As Atrios says, document of the atrocities.

International Women’s Day and Chellie Pingree

Gotta make this quick because I have a lot of driving to do today.

Today is International Women’s Day.  I know, I know, it seems like it comes earlier and earlier every year.

So, what did America get for its women this year?  We’re all of 17% of the Senate, which is, by the way, pathetic.  Well, don’t expect that to get any better come November.  Maybe if we’re lucky we can add Elizabeth Warren and we’ll still have only 17%.

In Maine, Representative Chellie Pingree, a liberal Democrat, was disuaded from running for Olympia Snowe’s seat by Angus King, the former governor.  See Digby’s post from yesterday for all of the bloody details.  The summary goes like this: Pingree was going to run for Snowe’s seat but then King decided he wanted to go for it.  The numbers were on her side until King jumped in.  King is going run as an independent.  Pingree did the numbers on a 3 way race and decided it was too risky with King in it.  Sooooo, guess who the Democrats decided to back?

If you guessed Pingree, you would be wrong.  They’ve decided to throw their support behind King.  King has suggested that he will caucus with the Democrats and will become their Lieberman replacement.  Isn’t that special?

To recap: The Democrats had an opportunity to pick up a seat in Maine AND retain one more seat for a woman.  But when they had to make a choice to throw all of their effort behind a candidate, they chose to throw it behind a man who isn’t even in their party.  Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

Now, a lot of you are going to say that this is Maine and we don’t know Maine and King was a popular governor and the tea leaves were inauspicious, blah-blah-blah.  You know, I just don’t see it that way.  I see this as a horribly missed opportunity to replace a woman in a seat which American women simply can not afford to lose to a man.  Sometimes, bigger ideas and concepts should take precedent over Democratic party expediency.

And I’m not buying the Supreme Court argument.  If Olympia Snowe hadn’t resigned, she would have gone on to keep this seat for the Republicans and the burden of getting that Supreme Court justice protecting seat would have gone to the other Democratic candidates who are running.  In other words, nothing would have changed except there would have been one more woman running for a senate seat.  It’s unlikely that the rabid Republican running for the seat from Maine would have changed that.  He only has one vote and he could only vote for the person the Republicans tell him to vote for.  He doesn’t get to nominate a more radical Supreme Court nominee all on his own.

In fact, it’s surprising that any of us are buying this Supreme Court justification for passing over Chellie Pingree.  More likely, the Democrats are more comfortable with King and not with Pingree.  Pingree would be one more progressive voice, another pro-choice woman who might have expected the party to act like real Democrats.  Can’t have that.  It’s not the first time this has happened either.  Here in NJ-07, the Democrats strongly backed Linda Stender in 2006 when she lost by a mere 4000 or so votes but abandoned her in 2008 when she really needed their help.  NJ-07 is a reliably Republican seat so for a pro-choice, anti-war, liberal Democrat to get so close to winning in 2006 was an extraordinary accomplishment and makes it particularly maddening that the Democrats pretty much left her to her fate in 2008.  NJ-07 is now stuck with Leonard Lance, a Republican.  What’s happening to Pingree seems very familiar.  And let me make it clear: Stender’s case was not a cautionary tale.  It was an example of something ugly that crept into the party in 2008.  This district was winnable but the Democrats went out of their way to ignore Stender and didn’t lift a finger to help her.

I’m really starting to have negative feelings towards this version of the Democratic party and to those of you who are starting to feel increasingly uneasy about what you’re seeing, welcome to the club.  It’s just too bad you are 4 years too late.

So, on this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate America’s progress as leaders of, oh, hell, let’s just not celebrate.  I don’t feel like it this year.

Elizabeth Warren runs for Senator from Massachusetts

Dave Dayan has a great post on this at FireDogLake.  Check it out.

Here’s Warren’s announcement video:

I have to say that I’m a little bit surprised by the Eeyore comments I’m seeing around the web.  They go something like “she’s a sacrificial lamb” to “it’s the wrong year for her to jump into this”.  The last one doesn’t make any sense at all.  This is almost an open Senate seat.  Scott Brown took Kennedy’s seat when the Senator died of brain cancer a couple of years ago.  Elizabeth Warren can totally take this seat, provided she resists the standard homogenization procedure for Democrats seeking to run for office.

Snagging my comments from myiq’s Crawdad site, here’s why she can pull this off:

Can she make her case in terms easy enough for a Tea Partier to understand? Yep, I think so.
Can she separate herself from the current Obama administration screwups? Well, Tim Geithner hates her guts. That’s a plus.
Is she passionate enough? Heck, did you hear that interview she had on Planet Money with Adam Davidson?
Scott Brown might be a good senator but does he represent the people of Massachusetts as well as she would?
Her strength is that she is genuinely on the side of the middle class.

There’s some weird concern that she’s going to come off looking like an Ivy League elitist.

I don’t see her as an ivy league elitist despite her job. She’s pretty plain spoken, a strong advocate for the middle class and has demonstrated a clear understanding of the challenges it faces.
One other thing is that she won’t be running to represent Cambridge. She’s running to represent Massachusetts.
What potentially makes her candidacy so strong is that no one in congress is representing the failing middle class and in debate, she’s going to wipe the floor with Scott Brown on those issues. She can effectively argue against austerity.
I’m glad she’s running. Her candidacy could be a real plus next year.

Let’s hope that Elizabeth Warren can motivate voters to take control of their government again.  She should be passionate, define the issues and compare/contrast (see Hillary Clinton’s techniques for this), and she must propel voters to put aside their learned helplessness.  Start by pointing out that big corporations can purchase politicians and comandeer the airwaves but they do not have a vote.  Those votes are like Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  Voters have always had the means to take power away from the rich and well connected.  This is the point that Elizabeth Warren has to make.

Oh, and if Warren needs paid help on her campaign, I am available.  ;-)

Hellooo? Paycheck Fairness Bill? Anyone??

For some peculiar reason, the news that there will be a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Bill today has somehow slipped right under the radar.  How could that be??  Where is NOW?  This issue gets second billing on their front page.

Did anyone really buy that crap the Democrats were floating about Lilly Ledbetter?  I’m not saying it’s not an important bill but it’s sort of like the People’s Front of Judea fighting for a man’s right to have babies even though he ” ‘asn’t got a ‘oomb’ “.  Come to think of it, if men wanted to have babies, that bill would probably get passed first.

C’mon people.  Who’s really going to go to HR and ask to see the salaries of everyone in the department?  It’s like branding your forehead with a giant “L”.  HR is there to serve management, not troublemaking upstarts.  And it’s only after you have the information that you know whether there’s a suit worth pursuing.

In any case, the bill is supposed to fall 60 votes short in the Senate.  Are you frickin’ kidding me??  There are a bunch of lame ducks in the Senate.  If they can’t take a stand for women and do something right now, when can we ever expect such a thing?  And this would be a great boost to the economy that wouldn’t cost the government a cent.  Yeah, actually pay women what they’re worth so they can go and buy stuff.  What we really need for the economy to improve is for wages to increase and we’re half the fricking country.  It’s a no-brainer guys.  Even Republican women will love you for it.  You don’t get better political cover than this.

So, what gives?  Why is the concept of Paycheck Fairness, getting paid the same wages for the same work, regardless of your gender, meeting so much resistance in the 21st century?   If there was only one regulation worth passing on business this session, this bill would be it.

And we hear- nothing.

You can call him Senator Al

Franken takes the oath, proudly (Photo from the NYTimes)

Franken takes the oath, proudly (Photo from the NYTimes)

He’s an occasionally tasteless, egomaniac who declared the 80’s “The Al Franken Decade”, dedicated to him, Al Franken.  But Al Franken got me and millions of others through the darkest nights of the Bush Administration in 2004.  His Sundance Channel rebroadcast of his Air America show was one of my DVR must sees.  Every night.  As I curled up on the sofa sipping my chamomile tea and wondering when it would all end.  We cried together when Kerry lost, not because we were enamoured with Kerry but because the Bushies had four more years to screw things up.

He wrote some pretty scathing books too.  Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Lying Liars were funny in a “kidding on the square” way.  In other words, Franken flayed the bastards with facts.  They were deliciously wicked reads. Not only is he funny but he’s smart as a whip and could always carry on an intelligent conversation with his guests on Air America.

But it was easy to see where Franken was coming from.  He never hid his political leanings.  He is unabashedly liberal who cares about his country in a choked up with pride and concern kind of way.  I remember seeing him in an interview a couple of years ago after Air America started.  At one point, he stopped the sarcasm and got emotional about what was happening to the country.  It’s real.

I think his friends told him to hold off running for Senate in 2006.  He probably wasn’t ready but you could tell he was disappointed to not be able to pick up where Paul Wellstone left off.  But 2008 was a good year for him and he learned what it takes to be a good politician and also how to be patient during an agonizing 8 months of recount.  Now, he’ll have his chance to be a dedicated public servant.

Today as he took the oath, many congressional staffers who wanted to see him sworn in were prevented from doing so.  The gallery was too crowded.  There was an ovation afterwards.  People who still see him as a comedian don’t understand how courageous he looked to the rest of us.  It’s hard to go against the irresistable force of public opinion and conventional wisdom and to put one’s fortune and sacred honor on the line for principle and personal belief.  In this day and age, it’s just not done.  But he did it.

Al Franken has managed to snag some pretty impressive committee assignments. He will be a junior member of the Committess on Aging, Indian Affairs, HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) and Judiciary.  That last assignment is a bit unusual for a guy who is not a lawyer.  But Al has a chance to become our voice in the nomination hearings of Sonia Sotomayor starting next week.  We’ll have to work out a live blog schedule to cover it.  I hope Franken recognizes that Sotomayor probably isn’t going to change the dynamics when it comes to abortion but her opinions on business practices, corporations, the unitary executive theory and discrimination law need to be fleshed out.  I’m looking forward to seeing Franken sink his teeth into it.

So, Good Luck, Al.  We know you can do this.  Make the voters of Minnesota and the rest of us proud.

Now, get to work!


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