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May 31, 2006


My quick take, just from the headline, was that it was an Onion piece. 'Risks of Caution', indeed.

First of all, can we dispense with the myth that the '94 Contract was a manifesto of specificity to rival the Port Huron Statement? It was, rather, a batch of poll-tested pablum (Frank Luntz bragged that every component got 60% or better approval) mostly grounded in process. Even at that, it merely hinted at reform -- saying things like, a balanced budget would be allowed a vote; it never promised the GOP would craft one. And, of course, its biggest specific -- term limits -- turned out curiously nonbinding for all the folks who signed it.

This is not remotely to take the "don't be specific" side of the argument. I think Dems would do well to take solid positions. (Though, please, someone explain why that list Nancy Pelosi provides in the article doesn't qualify. Do Dems have to come out for compulsory gay marriage before the press considers it concrete enough?) I just think there's another year that serves as far better analogy, one that ended in a much more nation-changing landslide: 1980.

I don't know why pundits don't look to that year as germane to this one -- is it the fact there was a presidential election muddling the issue? (Or just that half our press only remembers back to '94?) Because the situation is stunningly similar: a president at approvals hugging 30%; gas prices through the roof (threatening an otherwise growing economy); a foreign policy disaster yielding fresh outrage every day; a sclerotic Congressional majority bickering with the White House. (Today's ethical clouds actually make this a worse year)

I'm sure there were many Republicans who wished, in that context, that Howard Baker or George HW Bush had secured their nomination -- neither of those gentlemen would have made campaign waves, and would have easily reaped the fruits of Carter's difficulties. But that Reagan idiot insisted on scaring people with his right-wing nonsense, leaving him without a clear poll lead right up to the last week (and all those weak Senatorial candidates -- NCPAC acolytes -- made the situation worse).

But we know what happened: the voting public, as it almost always does, voted "No" on major incumbent failure. This gave the out-party a tremendous victory, but, more important, gave it license to proclaim a mandate for its proposals -- after all, people had HEARD everything Reagan and the NCPAC-ers had said, so they must be willing to let them go ahead full-steam. (Polling suggested the public felt nothing of the kind, but the GOP was ready to proceed as if it did)

This is the kind of moxie Dems need to show: stop apologizing and innoculating; make aggressive proposals and ride them out.
I honestly think their failure to do so in recent elections is what's kept a small percentage of the electorate out of their camp, despite the major agreement on issues. If the party can surmount that grit-challenge, Ruy Texeira's Emerging Majority can come to pass.

Just read the latest Declan Butler piece in this week's Nature on the Indonesian H5N1 cluster. All I can say is "wtf?"

There's this:

What caused the suspected human-to-human transmission at Kubu Sembelang is still a mystery. Nature has learned that the cases differed from past Indonesia cases, in that they had much higher viral loads in the throat and nose. Human-to-human transmission is more likely through droplets coughed from the nose and throat than from infections further down the respiratory tract.

Mutations in cases in Turkey earlier this year showed a substitution of glutamic acid with lycine at position 627 in the PB2 component of the polymerase gene. The mutation is thought to allow the virus to survive in the cooler nasal regions. This mutation has not been publicly reported in Indonesia previously, but Nature has learned that it occurred in at least one case in August 2005.

Nature has learned? This ain't the Plame affair here! Now we have to have anonymous leaks on _science_ reporting?

And I'm truly disturbed that the PB2 mutation, one of the known 8 or 9 mutations thought to account for the extreme virulence of the 1918 H1N1, and recently thought to have occurred for the first time in H5N1 back in December-January in the Turkish outbreak, was in Indonesia as early as August?

Further apropos of this, we have:

Malik Peiris, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong who sequenced the virus, declined to comment on any mutations, saying that making sequences public is not his call. "Our job as a WHO reference lab is to report back to the originating country and the WHO," he says. The WHO also declined to give any details. "We will leave that to the government of Indonesia, the owner of the data," says Bjorge.

So if there are any further mutations that could potentially make H5N1 spread more easily among humans, it's up to the gov't of Indonesia to decide whether that information becomes public? How does that make sense?

To top it all off, the article further details the WHO's bungling of isolating the cluster with their "rapid containment" policy, which wasn't very rapid, it turns out.

The first case in the cluster fell ill on 24 April and died on 4 May. Samples were not taken, however, and alarm bells only rang when her relatives started going to hospitals in the days that followed.


Jeremijenko says the response was slow and disorganized. The first WHO official and a team of local officials didn't reach the village until 12 May. Other international experts did not reach the village until the following week, at least in one case because of difficulties getting an invitation from Indonesia's ministry of health, according to Jeremijenko. Villagers also refused to cooperate with the team initially. Several of the H5N1 patients fled hospitals, returning coughing to the community.

I won't post any more of the article, as I'm pushing fair use here, but if you can get access to Butler's editorial in this week's Nature, I encourage you to give it a full read.

Oh yeah, and the title? "Pandemic 'dry-run' is cause for concern"


Honestly, I think the Democrats' biggest problem is not hammering on their agenda at every turn. I understand that the media in general are already in love with the "Democrats have no ideas" narrative, but I feel like the Dems repeatedly roll out ideas, talk about them for a week, and then when they don't catch fire in the media, go back to day-to-day stuff.

The only way to overcome the idiotic narrative is to keep talking about plans (the six-point plan that was out last month isn't bad) until it becomes impossible to ignore. I expect they'll do that when election season gets into swing, but I'm afraid it'll be too late by then.

The Dems are really caught in a bind of their own making. "Weighing the Risks of Caution" does indeed sum up something about the risk-averse Senate Democrats. (That blue-staters like Feinstein and Schumer are so cautious just shows it is temperament, not politics, meaning that they will never change; we need new blood.)

The Cautious Caucus are partly missing the point of what's being said--it isn't a matter of specifics, but broad themes. Furthermore, by standing for nothing, the Cautious Caucus does let the R's fill in the blanks, and that is very dangerous with this crew.

SO--we are for fairness, for increased opportunity for all, a stronger safety net and retirement security, a sustainable economy that works for everyone and where everyone works, an end to corruption and cronyism, and an America that is strong and respected abroad. And we believe that gov't can be a force for good in people's lives.

How we get to these goals should be something individual candidates can fill in at this point, depending on the salient issues in their districts and their areas of expertise and interest. A few specifics, like Pelosi outlined, area good idea, but these are specifics, when what the people want to hear are broad themes. Not ideology, but themes and goals. And many of us want to see some conviction and even a little passion about these themes and goals from our Dem candidates.

But people quoted in the article, and Brownstein himself, are confusing and conflating tactics, strategy, specific programs, tone, themes and goals. These are all different things, and discussions like this should be clear about that.

A question keeps occurring to mr as I read your great web site: Where do you find a DEMOCRATIC PARTY? I thought it dissolved years ago into a crowd of self-conscious stars hanging on desperately to whatever high office s/he has achieved. Each so-called Dem is busy raising his/her own campaign funds, developing his/her own platform and generally acting as s/he saw fit, party be dammed.
Lieberman is the best example, but there are so many of them. Even Ted Kennedy, whom I had believed to be a great Dem, does the damnedest things now.
In the 1950s I converted from Eisenhower
Repub to Stevenson Dem. It was a serious undertaking for me. I don't know where to go now.
Marjie C.

I love the slogan "Had enough?"

The Dems can campaign on 3 issues using great humor without giving away the store: government spying, the new medicare package, disaster preparedness.

And oh yeah, Happy Hurricane Season Eve!

I think it's very dangerous to simply rely on dissatisfaction with the Repugnicans because all they have to do is pull Osama out a hat for another October Surpise and it'll be Game Over. Didn't Reagan make a deal with the terrorists to delay the release of the hostages back in 1980?

Further, Dems constantly react rather proact on issues. They constantly let the Repugnicans define the issues. Take tax cuts for instance. Everyone always assumes that means cuts for the rich. they never suggest tax cuts from the bottom up, for the poor. Reagan got credit for cutting taxes for the rich lowering the top bracket from 97% to 38%, but no one said a word about him RAISING taxes on the poor from 10% to 15%. I say its time to lower taxes from 15% to 1% and rasie the top bracket, quietly to something that will stop the Gluttony of the CEO's. Also, Congress gives itself an annual automatic cost of living pay raise. Why not raise the minimum taxable income to a livable level and raise it every year? The last time it was raised was 1980. Isn't it overdue? I'd love to see the Dems take back the tax cut issue for starters. That and dissatisfaction would be a good combo.

As I posted on dKos Lamont is doing as mimikatz advised. He shows some understanding of the issues but his appeal is his straightforward liberal approach to them.
Otherwise Manny Ramirez has just given back three runs on a triple and an error, after a 2-run homer. Catalanotto is up, Red Sox 7-6. Who said this was fun? B"H Catalanotto is out.

I do think that younger people (under 45) are going to revitalize the party. Lamont is an example. Dean's 50 state treategy and young people who are running campaigns and running for office on something other than the grand dreams of the Boomers are the hope of the party. That is where the party is to be found these days.

"Restore Sanity, Competence, and the Constitution" would have a wide appeal, beyond party ID. But "Had Enough?" sure sums it all up pretty well.

Remember Andy Card's words of wisdom: you don't roll out a new product before Labor Day. We're just barely past Memorial Day: most unobsessed, non-politico weenies aren't paying attention: the start of hurricane season is way more important for many than the dems' plan for whatever.

Democrats DO have a plan -- a fair and effective government that takes care of you, whether you're middle class or upper class or poor.

Please don't join the media parade complaining that "Democrats don't have a plan!"

Too often, the media portray Democrats as 'flip flopping' and then give dreadful flip-floppers like Frist a pass, saying that they are moving to meet current needs.

Just because 'someone' says 'the Democrats dont have a plan' does NOT mean that it's true!

Summer is not the best time. I think that the bored reporters have to be given something to write about, or it'll be "Dems have no plan" simply to fill the vacuum. They can always get that quote from republicans, and their editors always strive for ridiculous and inappropriate 'balance' (i.e if party A lies and party B says nothing, the two sides carry equal weight).

If it were up to me, D's would avoid specific issues and laundry lists until as late as possible.....but as SOON as possible would speak about their narrative for government and the country.

Talk optimistically about the values of accountability, equality of opportunity, our history of making our country a better place for everyone, and that we're determined to do it again -- and the other side has proven that it can't. Or some variation...there are many.

In other words, talk like an exceptional Presidential candidate would. By talking this way you say something of import - you can't get accused of dodging the press - but you also avoid stepping in position traps, and you communicate directly with the large portion of the voting population that won't listen to any policy talk regardless.

It needs to be more. Something like, “We’ve tried the Democrat way and we’ve tried the Republican way; want kind of government do you want?” This:


is an opportunity to repudiate not just this administration but Republican government in general. The Democrat establish isn’t just cowardly to pass up this opportunity to say clearly what everyone can see before their eyes – Republican governing ideology does not work – they are fools.

That is especially true since attacking the Republican movement is a twofer. In addition to putting a fine point on what many nonpartisans are starting to understand and forcing Republicans to respond to the charge of ideological bankruptcy (something the politics-as-sport media would eat up), it makes Democrats look like they have a spine.

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