NDN Blog

TNR's "Iraq: What's Next? " series

The New Republic's new "Iraq: What's Next? series is worth checking out.  You can find it at http://www.tnr.com/

And what's up with the  Bush-Maliki dinner getting cancelled tonight? Have the wheels really come off the Bushies to that degree?

If you haven't read the Hadley memo on Iraq, you can find it here

And for what amounted to a Saudi threat to turn the Sunni-Shiite struggle in Iraq into a regional war if America leaves, read this remarkable Washington Post op-ed from this morning by a Saudi advisor. 

Good News on the Minimum Wage

Among other things, hopes increased today for raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. Senate Minority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell look prepared to work with Democrats on a number of things. From The Washington Post:

Senate Minority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell (Ky.) described as "easy stuff" much of the Democrats' opening agenda, including a proposal to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour and a congressional ethics package that would ban gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists, as well as impose new controls on the budget deficit. These issues, however, have not proved to be easy before.

McConnell said he is urging bolder action. He challenged House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to push for a long-term solution to financing the Social Security system and for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

It's nice to see that Republicans will be willing to work with us, especially in the Senate where the majority is slimmer. But isn't it a bit ironic that McConnel is urging Dems to act in areas where the 109th fell short? Time to pick up the slack...

Income Figures: Not Good

The post election debate about the economy - recently couched as the Rubinites against the EPI-ites - rumbles on. But the figures behind it look no rosier than they did before November. An article in yesterday's Times showed latest figures for average incomes still below when the President took office. (Note these are mean, not median figures. This makes the figures less impressive, given that rises at the top of the income scale should drag the average up.)

Reported income totaled $7.044 trillion in 2004, the latest year for which data is available, down from more than $7.143 trillion in 2000, new Internal Revenue Service data shows. Total reported income, in 2004 dollars, fell 1.4 percent, but because the population grew during that period average real incomes declined more than twice as much, falling $1,641, or 3 percent, to $53,974. Since 2004, the Census Department has found, the income of the typical American household has grown along with the rise in average incomes but at a slow pace that, until recent months, had barely kept ahead of inflation.


The Looming Scrum for $67 Billion in Advertising Dollars

This month’s Wired magazine has a cover story on YouTube that puts Google’s $1.65 billion buy more in a strategic context. The subhead of the story cuts to the chase: “TV advertising is broken, putting $67 billion up for grabs. Which explains why Google spent a billion and change on an online video startup.”

On the day they announcement came out I did a blog post here that had a similar quick hit that this purchase was more about putting the pieces in place for inventing the TV of the 21st century. Google is close to figuring out the advertising model that works in this new Internetized environment. And YouTube is onto something about how motion media might work in this space. Connect successful advertising and successful content and you might have a real formula that might work for a long run. By no means this is a done deal, but it does present some interesting possibilities.

All those developments come at a time when the traditional 30-second ad model for TV is breaking down with, among other things, the spread of digital video recorders like Tivo. In other words, the $67 billion dollars that currently is parked there will soon be looking for a new home….

Peter Leyden

NPI Event Tuesday - The Next Wave of Tools for Progressive Politics

Peter Leyden, the Director of our New Politics Institute, just sent this out. This is going to be a great event, so come on out!


The technology and media worlds are in the midst of a transformation that is profoundly affecting politics. In the next few years we can expect to see the accelerating demise of the 30-second television commercial as the main form of political communication. Already, the 2006 election was marked by a spirit of experimentation in new tools and new media.

Understanding the way forward in this new environment is critical to all the work we do as progressives. That is why I hope you'll be able to join the New Politics Institute for a lunch next Tuesday, December 5th, as we gather leading experts and practitioners of these new tools to evaluate what worked best this fall and what we can expect to make an even greater impact in the future. Panelists will include:

  • Julie Bergman Sender on Viral Video in the post YouTube world
  • Tim Chambers on Mobile Media
  • Will Robinson on the Evolution of Television through Cable, Satellite and TiVo
  • Laura Quinn on Data Driven Politics

The event will be held in Washington, DC on Tuesday, December 5th from noon to 2:00pm at the Phoenix Park Hotel at 520 North Capitol Street, NW.
This event is one of a series presented by the New Politics Institute, a think tank helping progressives master today’s transformation of politics due to rapid changes in technology, media and the demographic makeup of America. NPI is building a working network of top technology, media, and demographic professionals who want to help move best practices and innovations into progressive politics. Read our developing body of reports and view exclusive video content at: www.newpolitics.net For more information on the event contact Tracy Leaman at 202-842-7213 or tleaman@ndn.org Feel free to spread this announcement around. The more progressives who understand the powerful new tools and new media we now have at our disposal, the better.

CAP's Plan for the First 100 Days

Our friends over at the Center for American Progress have released a legislative plan for the new Democratic Congress that aims to pick up where Nancy Pelosi's First 100 Hours plan leaves off:

The Center for American Progress Action Fund offers our recommendation for new ideas and policies that the 110th Congress should take on and enact before the August recess, after the first 100 hours. In the weeks and months after those first hours, Congress will have an opportunity to demonstrate progress on fixing the problems Americans face. Indeed, we argue that instead of following the traditional Congressional course of an initial burst of activity followed by weeks and months of less action, the Congressional leadership can show the American people it continues to work to meet their needs by continually passing legislation in the spring and summer.

CAP's First 100 Days' Policy Agenda includes priorities for foreign and domestic policy.  While NDN does not agree with the CAP plan for an 18-month phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, they do have a number of other  innovative and important proposals, such as demanding an updated, unbiased National Intelligence Estimate, assigning a special Inspector General to weed out mismanagement and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan security and reconstruction projects and the complete restoration of military equipment damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to bring the armed forces up to full readiness.

On the domestic policy side, their are compelling arguments for expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, plans to reward good teachers and encourage them to teach in high-need areas, targeting of specific corporate subsidies that are overdue for elimination, creation of a universal 401(k) system, public health reform, a more aggressive approach to renewable energy and (dear to our hearts here at NDN) comprehensive immigration reform.

By now, it shouldn't be a surprise that the myth that progressives don't have any ideas, only criticism, is just that, a myth.  CAP's plan joins other ideas and proposals coming out of an energized progressive movement.  And should give us all confidence that the 110th Congress, working closely with its progressive allies off the Hill, is going to be one we can actually be proud of.   

Afghanistan, not Vietnam

As I wrote the other day, the Soviet experience in Afghanistan is more instructive to those trying to find a way forward in Iraq than the American experience in Vietnam. The failure of the Soviets in Afghanistan hastened the decline of their empire, fueled global jihadism and gave radical Islamic elements a base to export chaos throughout the world. Consider the latest from Iraq, courtesy of the Washington Post:

"The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province...

The Marines' August memo, a copy of which was shared with The Washington Post, is far more bleak than some officials suggested when they described it in late summer. The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across the capital.

True or not, the memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the country before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1."

And this one:

"The Iraq Study Group began two days of intensive behind-closed-doors deliberations yesterday as the White House conceded that Iraq has moved into a dangerous new phase of warfare requiring changes in strategy. In a sign of the growing global concern about Iraq's fate, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed for immediate steps to prevent the country from crumbling into all-out civil war.

"Given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact, we are almost there," Annan said when a reporter asked about the prospects of civil war in Iraq."

Our troops can no longer quell the violence, and as we were reminded this morning, the Iraqi military cannot be counted on to stop what is becoming a Sunni-Shiite conflict. So what is the Iraq Study Group now floating as the big idea for how to deal with all this? Engage Syria and Iran in a series of regional talks. While this is something I have long favored, it seems that policy makers in Washington and their ideas have been overtaken by events in the region; and I no longer see how it is possible for this Administration, this President and even this magical Iraq Study Group to put Iraq and the region back together again.

Whether others can or will step in and help prevent Iraq and the region from sliding into further choas remains to be seen. But without the involvement of the global community, it is hard to see now how Iraq doesn't become a failed state that exports jihadism ala post-Soviet Afghanistan; and for good measure, may fuel a regional Sunni-Shiite conflict to boot.

Update: Tuesday's Times reports,not suprisingly, that Iran and its ally Hezbollah, have been training Shiite militias, and supplying them with weapons:

"WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria."

A Day in the Life of Hispanic Strategy Center (HSC) Director Joe Garcia

In the midst of a well-earned vacation to Paris with his family, NDN HSC Director Joe Garcia found himself in a situation straight out of a Hollywood action blockbuster.  When a man wielding a fake gun briefly took a floor of the Miami Herald building hostage, one of his first calls was to Joe Garcia:

Varela also called Joe Garcia, a prominent exile and friend who was in Paris on vacation. Garcia missed the call but called back and heard him say: ``I'm in control here now. I'm in charge of El Nuevo Herald.''

Garcia thought it was a joke.

''I laughed, and I told him in jest that it was never a good place to be at The Herald,'' Garcia said. ``And then he hung up.''

Growing worried, Garcia later called Fiedler, Mayor Diaz and Chief Timoney.

Thankfully, the situation ended peacefully with nobody getting hurt.  And our man in Miami is a hero (with a healthy sense of humor) once again.

NDN Event Thursday- Crafting a New Economic Strategy for America

We just sent out this invite for an important, relevant event this Thursday. It's going to be very interesting, so I hope you can make it.


The last year has seen a broad, progressive campaign highlighting the ways in which this administration’s economic policies have left America weaker and stalled economic progress for most Americans. While a great deal of attention has been paid to the failure of the new conservative's foreign policy, it is now also clear that their economic strategy has failed. And voters agree. On November 7th, the American people delivered a clear and unmistakable mandate for action on the economy.

With Democrats now holding power in Congress and the 2008 elections looming, what should be the real economic priorities for progressives? What role did the economy play in the recent campaign? And with the American economy perhaps heading into a slowdown and the housing bubble continuing to deflate, what should be the Democrats' strategy for ensuring the broad-based prosperity the country needs?

To talk more about these issues, NDN’s Globalization Initiative has assembled a panel of prominent experts from respected progressive institutions, to look at what our priorities should be.

I hope you will join us this Thursday, November 30th for an important forum on the future of progressive economic policy. The forum will be held from 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm, at the Phoenix Park Hotel, 520 North Capitol Street, NW.

Our panelists will be:

Please join NDN for to discuss all this, as we and others attempt to craft a new economic strategy for America in the early days of the 21st century. RSVP to Tracy Leaman at tleaman@ndn.org or 202-842-7213. I hope you will join us.

Real Ethics Oversight?

Today's (free online) WSJ article on lobbying reform goes beyond the laundry list of restrictions: meals, corporate jet use, former members on the floor during votes, trips to Scotland to research golf and globalization, etc and looks at the broader question of how will these new rules be enforced?

The current system of self-policing through the House and Senate Ethics Committees is strained if not broken.  Beginning in the mid-1990s there was a truce period in which neither Democrats nor Republicans were investigated for potential ethics violations.  The truce made Congress an investigation-free zone for years, until the Delay-Abramoff scandal became too big to ignore.

Is it hoping for too much to think that the ethics committees will take a more robust stance in this new Congress and enforce the new and the old rules?  Or, is it time for an "Independent Office of Public Integrity" empowered to investigate members of Congress, as well as regulate lobbying.  As you would expect, Congress is moving very slowly towards creating an oversight body with jurisdiction over, well, Congress:

House and Senate leaders are mulling creating an office to monitor lobbyists' disclosure reports, or enhancing the powers of existing offices to take on that job.

But so far, neither the House nor the Senate proposal would allow independent scrutiny of the actions of lawmakers themselves. The job of investigating and disciplining them would remain in the Senate and House ethics committees...

...Ms. Pelosi earlier this year proposed enhancing the powers of Congress's inspector general's office to handle disclosure reports by lobbyists. But it didn't extend that office's jurisdiction to ethics allegations against members of Congress. Aides say she is now considering backing the idea of a stronger independent office.

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