NDN Blog

A Quieter and More Effective Approach on Iran

See, not all foreign policy has to be based on aircraft carriers and ivory tower war gaming at AEI.  Treasury and State are running an effective campaign to get banks to deny credit to the Iranian institutions that fund terrorists.

The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects and to pay for imports. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East, say U.S. officials and economists who track Iran.

Would he ride the Metro?!

The Washington Post tells us not to rule out the possibility of NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg running for President.

Immigrant Communities Hit Hard by Mortgage Crisis

In the Senate, Chris Dodd is making his displeasure known, on the subject of lax oversight of sub prime mortgages, which offer tantalizingly low initial payments, followed by sudden increases.  These loans, issued willy-nilly during over the past few years, are leading to a spike in delinquency and foreclosures, and nowhere are the effects being felt stronger than in immigrant communities.  Today's WAPO article is a good way to learn more about the expanding and very negative economic phenomenon, but NDN readers will also find the metric they use interesting: calls to a Spanish language radio talk show.

Tysons Corner mortgage broker Jose Luis Semidey, who has a popular Spanish-language real estate talk show on Radio Universal, is being deluged with calls from desperate homeowners who are falling behind on their mortgages. The calls started in late 2005 and have steadily risen; he now receives 40 to 50 calls a day from throughout the area.

"I see more coming," Semidey said.

NDN works with Spanish language radio stations, shows and personalities across the country to help them engage their listeners in the comprehensive immigration reform debate, and other issues that impact their communities.  Click here to learn more about NDN's innovative ad campaigns on Spanish language radio.

Iraq Vote Moves to the Senate and Looms Over 2008

You know 2008 can't be too far away when you see the byline "North Conway, N.H." in the New York Times.  But the paper of record isn't there to talk Presidential politics.  Instead, they're looking at the War in Iraq and what it means for Senators up for reelection in 2008.  Senators like John Sununu are finding even in the safe Republican ground of New Hampshire there are plenty of people with a keen interest in what the Senate is going to do with the Iraq War supplemental funding bill, and the broader issue of the role of American troops in Iraq, four years after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

On Monday, the Senate resumes its protracted struggle to forge an Iraq strategy. Mr. Sununu and a handful of Republicans — including those facing re-election next year and those who have expressed unhappiness with President Bush’s conduct of the war but are uncomfortable with the idea of setting a date for withdrawal — find themselves searching for balance as they juggle three tasks: responding to the frustrations of their constituents, resisting the demands of antiwar Democrats and not entirely abandoning the White House. 

Read what NDN has been saying about finding a better way forward in the Middle East.

Renewing Our Democracy

29%.   That is the percentage of Americans who approve of the President’s performance today.   To me it is an accurate appraisal, as it has been a disappointing time for our nation.  Despite a sustained economic recovery wages haven’t risen and jobs haven’t been created at historic norms.   Iraq has gone terribly wrong, costing American lives, respect and so much money.   Katrina showed terrifying incompetence, reminding us with Bush we are not safer.  So little has worked as advertised in this age of Bush, and critical challenges like the funding of the retirement of baby boom, really improving our schools, fixing our broken immigration system, offering all Americans access to health insurance, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy and global climate change have gone unmet.

But there is another dimension to this disappointing age of Bush that needs a thorough discussion – its morality.  Has there ever been an American governing party which showed so little regard for the rule of law? Have there ever been so many criminal investigations into a governing party in American history?

Consider the record.   

  • Duke Cunningham receives the longest jail sentence of any sitting Congressman in American history.
  • House Majority Leader DeLay, one of the criminal masterminds of this era is indicted, for among other things, corrupting the redistricting process in his home state Texas. 
  • #3 at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, indicted. 
  • Former House Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis, the architect of the corruption of the earmarking process, has racked up over $1 million in legal bills and seems to be the next to go.
  • A business rival of Jack Abramoffi is denounced on on the floor of the House by now convicted Congressman Bob Ney and is then soon murdered by a known South Florida mafia hitman.
  • Two senior White House staffers – Libby and Safavian – are indicted, brought to trial and convicted. 
  • A senior official at Interior pleads guilty and is on his way to jail.
  • The Republican leadership covered up, for years, the awful sexual recklessness of Mark Foley, and then put him in charge of the Committee for Missing and Exploited Children. 
  • A male prostitute, with a public web site hawking his services, somehow gains a White House press pass, and regularly asks questions at the daily White House press briefing for what is in essence a fictitious conservative organization. 
  • The Administration and Republican Party’s condoning of torture, establishment of secret prisons, regular practice of “rendition,” their repeal of habeas corpus for non-citizens and the overall undermining of the Geneva Conventions.
  • The hanging out to dry of those kids in the Iraqi torture photos, calling them a few bad apples, when we now know that extreme torture policies had been signed off on by Rumsfeld himself.  The warentless spying on our citizens. 
  • The extraordinary and perhaps illegal overstepping of even the generous provisions of the Patriot Act for National Security Letters. 
  • Putting our kids into battle without proper equipment or training. 
  • The incredible politicization of the US Attorney system, starting in 2002 with Rove’s removal of the US Attorney in Guam for pursuing a guy named Jack Abramoff.  Attorney General Gonzales' public, and now exposed, lie about his role in it all. 
  • Jack Abramoff and his corrupt use of non-profits, his ripping off of Indian tribes, his serial bribing of public officials and his countless visits to the White House.
  • The scandal of Walter Reed and other Veteran’s homes, and of the Administration’s repeated attempts to cut veteran’s benefits while sending our kids to fight in his ill-conceived war. 
  • The savaging of two war heroes, John Kerry and Max Cleland, by a President who skipped his National Guard Service and a Vice President who deferred his way out of Vietnam. 
  • The lying to the world about the cause of war. 
  • The corruption and patronage of the Iraqi contracting process. 
  • The buying off of journalists and commentators from Miami to Washington. 
  • Their argument in the 2000 Florida recount that conducting a legally sanctioned recount of what was clearly a troubled election was illegal – an argument amazingly upheld by their allies on the Supreme Court.
  • An FEC audit finds the 2004 Bush campaign overspent their Federal allotment by $40 million, a whole lot of money in a race decided by a single state.  
  • Their systemic efforts to deny legitimate voters their right to vote. 
  • Their ignoring of the cries from New Orleans. 
  • Their cutting the taxes of the wealthiest among us while blocking an increase in the minimum wage, currently at its lowest level of buying power in 50 years.
  • The demonization of Hispanic immigrants in the 2006 elections.
  • The over the top partisanship on just about every issue. The list goes on and on….

I am no historian, but we have to start asking - has there been anything like this in American history? This kind of whatever it takes politics – the abuse of power, the systemic corruption, the sense that the rules don’t apply to them, the trampling of our liberties, the constant and never ending lying?  The conduct of our leaders in this period has extra-ordinary, corrupt and terrible.  It has been a profound betrayal of the public trust placed in them by the American people.

We will probably now see a protracted battle over whether it is proper for Rove and the White House team to offer proper Congressional testimony on the firings of the 8 US Attorneys. While this is an important battle, and of course they should all testify, the real battle ahead for the leaders of both parties is to re-establish the morality and virtue of the American government itself.  The modern conservatives running our nation these past few years have betrayed our noble heritage, betrayed their historic commitment to limited government, and certainly betrayed the “for the people” sentiment of their Party’s visionary first President.  We have lost, temporarily, something that has made America different, and better, than the rest of the world.  Together, we need to bring it back, and re-establish here at home what we have worked so hard to export to the rest of the world – liberty, open markets, the rule of law, and of course, democracy.

But bringing back the moral mission of America in the years ahead, doesn’t mean looking the other way and pretending these terrible years never happened.  Leaders of both parties need to hold Bush and his allies accountable for the way they’ve run our government. We have to take steps to understand what happened, undo things that can be undone, have a public discussion about our democratic heritage and the rule of law, and then, where appropriate, be forceful in holding those who broke American law accountable.  If Republicans are unwilling to do this, Democrats should do it themselves, all under the banner of “renewing our democracy,” and look to broaden the initiative to include things like the webcasting of all Congressional hearings, same day voter registration and other efforts to make it much easier for people to register and vote (like the funding of vote by mail experiments), much stiffer criminal penalties for those acting to deny any voter the legitimate right to vote and better disclosure for all 501 c (3)s, 501 c (4)s and 501 c (6)s organizations which collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars influencing the public debate but have very light reporting requirements.

Another important step in this effort to “renew our democracy” should be a bi-partisan effort to significantly increase the budget of Department of Justice’s Office of Public Integrity for the next ten years, and work to wall off those there from outside political interference.  Because of the deep and broad public corruption of this era, this office, which been the lead anti-corruption prosecutor in recent years, has more work and possible cases to try than it can handle.  It needs more resources to make sure than any significant corruption during this era is pursued, either through investigation or trial.  As it is non-partisan and staffed by career prosecutors, it will be seen as fair and just.   Failure to give this Office more money is a tacit acceptance that those who broke the law in this era will go unpunished, something that no leader of either party can accept.   

The behavior of these modern conservatives running our country these last few years has been disgraceful.  It is critical that our emerging leaders punish those who broke the law, stop other potential betrayals of the public trust, and start a process that will renew our democracy, giving the American people faith that their leaders once again have their best interests at heart.

They had their chance

My Pennsylvania bias aside, I think you'll agree that this video of Rep. Patrick Murphy's closing speech on the Iraq Accountability Act is amazing.

Yet another Bush official goes down on corruption charges...

J. Stephen Griles was the second highest ranking official in the Interior Department for President Bush's entire first term, where he used his position to do the bidding of his former bosses (he was an oil industry lobbyist before joining the administration) in the energy industry.  He's pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges related to the Abramoff scandal.  Learn more from CREW, TPM Muckraker and the AP


This Wednesday night, NDN held a Dinner with Dave Pollak, newly elected Co-Chair of the New York State Democratic Party. Below are two pictures from the event.

NDN Statement on the Passage of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act

This is an important day for our nation.  The US House of Representatives took a critical step towards bringing the failed foreign policy of the Bush era to an end, and have offered America a new and better path.  Though there is much to do in the years ahead to bring greater peace, prosperity and stability to the Middle East, the passage of the US Troop Readiness, Veteran's Health and Iraq Accountability Act is a responsible step in the right direction. 

I congratulate Speaker Pelosi and the entire Democratic leadership for having the courage to challenge our current course in Iraq, and for bringing the Democratic caucus together on such an important issue.  There should be little doubt that the Democrats heard the message sent by the voters last year, and are working to offer America a brighter future. 

MoveOn makes a funny, and Viacom isn't laughing...

MoveOn's "Stop the Falsiness" campaign is a light-hearted mockery of Steven Colbert's send-up of conservative cable news (that's a spoof on a spoof for those of you keeping score at home) and of their own political earnestness.  It's pretty funny stuff, or at least it was until Viacom demanded it be taken off YouTube for alleged copyright violations.  You can watch the video on the satirical campaign's homepage here: http://falsiness.org/ and click here learn more about how MoveOn and the Electronic Frontier Foundation's efforts to get Viacom to stop muzzling online free speech.  You can also read our recent NPI paper on making video for the internet.

It's a sign of how fast the technology and politics are moving that what was meant to be a relatively silly diversion has turned into a flashpoint in the debate over who owns video in the age of the global network. 

Update:  Viacom backed down in a kind of sleazy way.  Whatever, now we can watch the funny:

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