NDN Blog

Major Development in USAT Scandal

The internal investigations unit of the Justice Department has admitted the obvious - under Bush, Rove and Gonzlaez, the DOJ was rapidly being turned into a subsidiary of the Republican Party.  From the NYT:

The Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into whether a former senior adviser to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales improperly tried to fill vacancies for career prosecutors at the agency with Republicans loyal to the Bush administration, department officials said Wednesday.

And Karl Rove is under increasing pressure to share what he knows with Congress:

The Senate committee issued a subpoena to Mr. Gonzales for all Justice Department e-mail about the dismissals involving Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.

And more details are coming out about the coverup that followed the politically motivated firings of the 8 US Attorneys:

Three of the dismissed prosecutors provided, for the first time, accounts of telephone calls they said they received earlier this year from Michael Elston, the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, as Mr. Elston squeezed them to remain silent about the circumstances of their ousters, in an effort to tamp down public scrutiny.

The calls came within weeks after each of them had been dismissed, but before department officials, including Mr. Gonzales, had begun in testimony to cite performance failings as the rationale for their removal.

Paul K. Charlton, the former Arizona prosecutor, said he was left with the impression that Mr. Elston “was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.”

John McKay, the former United States attorney from Seattle, said he was disturbed by the entire exchange.

“I greatly resented what I felt Mr. Elston was trying to do: buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony,” Mr. McKay told the investigators in his statement. “I believe that Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.”

H. E. Cummins, the former prosecutor in Arkansas, had raised a similar accusation in February in an e-mail message he wrote to other prosecutors who had been dismissed.

Obama to Dean: make video of debates available to public for free

Senator Barack Obama sent the following letter to DNC Chairman Howard Dean to encourage the DNC to make video from Democratic debates open to the public for free. Sort of off topic, but I wonder whether inciting citizen political participation was a good idea given the Obama campaign's recent MySpace incident.

Dear Chairman Dean:

     I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

     As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.

     The letter does not propose some radical change in copyright law, or an unjustified expansion in "fair use." Instead, it simply asks that any purported copyright owner of video from the debates waive that copyright.

     I am a strong believer in the importance of copyright, especially in a digital age. But there is no reason that this particular class of content needs the protection. We have incentive enough to debate. The networks have incentive enough to broadcast those debates. Rather than restricting the product of those debates, we should instead make sure that our democracy and citizens have the chance to benefit from them in all the ways that technology makes possible.

     Your presidential campaign used the Internet to break new ground in citizen political participation. I would urge you to take the lead again by continuing to support this important medium of political speech. And I offer whatever help I can to secure the support of others as well.


Barack Obama

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

White House goes after one of its own

Iraq Special Investigator Stuart W. Bowen Jr. may have once been a loyal Bushie - he was Bush's counsel when he was Governor of Texas and served in the same role for the Bush-Cheney transition team after the 2000 election.  But now he seems to have invoked the wrath of the White House.  From the WAPO:

The inspector general who uncovered cases of waste, fraud and abuse in the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is under investigation by a presidential panel, according to the White House.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is under investigation after complaints were made by former employees about his work habits and work he required employees to perform. The investigation is headed by the integrity committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which is made up of inspectors general appointed by the president...

In his latest report, released Monday, Bowen credited his office with having conducted 307 investigations. He also said that Iraq was still plagued by power failures, inadequate oil production, shortages of clean water and health-care problems. In the most recent quarter, his inspectors reviewed eight projects and found that seven of them were not well maintained and may not function as well or as long as planned.

Free Judith Miller?

There's a new bill in the House, The Free Flow of Information Act, that would create a federal shield law, allowing reporters to maintian the secrecy of their sources, unless ordered otherwise by a judge.

New Ideas in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Earlier this week, NDN's Globalization Initiative released a major new paper entitled A Laptop in Every Backpack.  Part of our Series of Modest Proposals to Build 21st Century Skills, the paper argures that:

Achieving the American Dream in this century increasingly requires fluency in the ways of this network and its tools – how to acquire information and do research, how to construct reports and present ideas using these new tools, how to type and even edit video.  We believe we need a profound and urgent national commitment to give this powerful new 21st knowledge, essential for success in this century, to all American school children. 

We believe that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child.  We need to commit to a date and grade certain: we suggest 2010 for every sixth grader.   These laptops need to be wirelessly connected to the Internet, and children need to be able to take them home.  Local school districts should choose how best to do this, but there needs to be federal funding and simple, federal standards.  Funds and strategies for how training our teachers to lead this transformation need to be part this commitment. 

And in 10 states, educators are dealing with another challenge, childhood obesity, in an innovative way that takes advantage of emerging technology:

Children don’t often yell in excitement when they are let into class, but as the doors opened to the upper level of the gym at South Middle School here one recent Monday, the assembled students let out a chorus of shrieks.

In they rushed, past the Ping-Pong table, past the balance beams and the wrestling mats stacked unused. They sprinted past the ghosts of Gym Class Past toward two TV sets looming over square plastic mats on the floor. In less than a minute a dozen seventh graders were dancing in furiously kinetic union to the thumps of a techno song called “Speed Over Beethoven.”

Bill Hines, a physical education teacher at the school for 27 years, shook his head a little, smiled and said, “I’ll tell you one thing: they don’t run in here like that for basketball.”

It is a scene being repeated across the country as schools deploy the blood-pumping video game Dance Dance Revolution as the latest weapon in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of childhood obesity. While traditional video games are often criticized for contributing to the expanding waistlines of the nation’s children, at least several hundred schools in at least 10 states are now using Dance Dance Revolution, or D.D.R., as a regular part of their physical education curriculum.

Based on current plans, more than 1,500 schools are expected to be using the game by the end of the decade. Born nine years ago in the arcades of Japan, D.D.R. has become a small craze among a generation of young Americans who appear less enamored of traditional team sports than their parents were and more amenable to the personal pursuits enabled by modern technology.

President Bush Looms Over Tonight's GOP Debate

And that's not a good thing for the Republican Presidential hopefuls, as Adam Nagourney of the NYT points out:

As they gather Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for their first debate, the Republican presidential candidates are thrilled at the chance to associate themselves with Reagan. But they may not be able to escape the challenge created for them by the current president.

As much as Iraq or health care or any other issue, the question of how to deal with President Bush is vexing the Republican field. Do they embrace him as a means of appealing to the conservative voters who tend to decide Republican primaries? Or do they break from him in an effort to show that they will lead the nation in a new direction? Do they applaud his policies or question his competence — or both?

A Party in disarray, a Movement discredited

As the Republican Presidential candidates gather tonight for their first debate, let's step back and reflect on what is now the most important political story of our day - the extraordinary political and intellectual collapse of the American right.  Consider:

  • Democrats won 53% of the national vote in 2006, their highest national share of the vote since 1982, and one their best performances in the post FDR-era.  In a recent Pew Center study, Party self-identification has swung from 43% - 43% in 2002 to a remarkable 50 % D - 35 % R today.
  • In the 1st quarter of this year the Democratic Presidential candidates out-raised the Republicans by 50%, and John McCain, their former frontrunner, raised as much as Governor Bill Richardson, considered a "2nd tier" Democratic candidate.
  • In a column in the National Review this week, William Buckley, an intellectual godfather of the modern conservative movement, raises the question on whether the Republican Party can survive the Bush era.
  • Each week seems to bring another high-level Republican resignation, investigation or scandal, so much so that they barely receive press attention when they happen.  In a piece I posted a few days ago, I make the case that it is critical that the nation openly discusses the profound moral and leadership failings of this disappointing era, an era that will become known as one of the most corrupt in our history. 

But of course what is driving all this is the total failure of conservative government to deliver for the American people.  Out of power for so long, these conservatives finally gained control of all three branches of government in 2003, and had the chance, without Democratic opposition or input, to show the country what they could do.  And what the American people learned is that these conservatives cannot govern; that their policies have left America much weaker than they found it; that they are among the most corrupt and morally bankrupt leaders in our long and proud history; and that faced with overwhelming evidence of their failings, they soldier on, blindly following discredited approaches, angrily smearing their opponents, and continuing to weaken the nation they claim to love, and were so desperate to lead. 

NDN has written extensively these past few years about what we call “the end of the conservative ascendancy.”  You can find this work in a section of our site at http://www.ndn.org/advocacy/conservativechallenge, and we recommend several essays in particular, a couple of which have been widely referenced in the media: A Defining Moment for the Bush Presidency, Defining Leadership Down, The End of the Conservative AscendancyA Day of Reckoning for the Conservative Movement, The State of Conservative Government, 2006 and Absolute Power Corrupts...

Is this all politics? The ravings of an angry lefty?  Perhaps, but think about it – the tragedy of Iraq, the return of the Taliban, the regrouping of Al Qaeda, our failure to halt nuclear proliferation, the weakening of our global alliances and standing in the world, the denial of climate change, the insult of their response to Katrina, the flouting of the Geneva Conventions, the breaking of our proud military, undisciplined spending, the shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class, the purposeful under-funding of their education reform initiative, the lack of progress on trade liberalization, a decline in the incomes of average families, rising rates of those without health insurance, in poverty and with dangerous levels of household debt, the demonization of Hispanic immigrants and failure to solve the immigration problem, their lack of concern for the those caught in a failing health care system, their assault on a women’s right to choose and as discussed earlier their systemic corruption and deceit, all defining leadership down.   

So little went right during this era, so little went as advertised.  Their rhetoric has been compelling, their marketing and communications top drawer, but conservative government has been a farce.  We all must hope that the Republican leaders at the debate tonight, so desperate to align themselves with a different era of politics that they chose to gather in Reagan's shadow, have the courage to address the failings of this age, and help the American people usher in a new era of progress.

Getting to know Fred Thompson beyond SVU

Many questions surround Fred Thompson these days: Will he run for President? Who is he? What would happen if he entered the race? Thankfully there are a few articles covering some of these. The LA Times offers this profile of the former Republican Senator and Charlie Cook offers an analysis on who would be most affected by his decision to run.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

A great NPI event today

We had a great NPI event in DC today on web video.  We will have our own video up soon, and photos, but if you are really dying to see it it is playing a lot on C-Span, and you can watch it on the web on the C-Span website right now.   Congrats to Pete Leyden and the team for putting on one of our better events.   For more on NPI and its thinking about web video visit www.newpolitics.net.

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