Tag Archives: Iraq

Leibham Delivers $1.27 Gas

I mentioned on Monday that Nick Leibham would be offering gas to residents of the 50th district discounted to the price in April 1996 when Big Oil first started funneling money to Brian Bilbray.

Today, ExxonMobil posted $11.7 billion in second quarter profits, the all-time record for a U.S. Company, so the $182,818 that Bilbray has received from oil companies throughout his career may seem like a drop in the bucket. But he’s certainly delivered time and again for Big Oil: Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act (Use It or Lose It): No. Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act: No. Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act: No. Energy Independence and Security Act: No.

The response yesterday was- perhaps unsurprisingly- huge. Leibham’s campaign manager described to me “lines down the road…people were so enthusiastic.” Because pain at the pump is inescapable, it’s immediate, it’s obvious, and it’s not a complicated issue. There’s a clear choice being presented between the failed policies of the past- more drilling, and the policies of progress- investment in new and renewable energy, use of existing drilling leases, the elimination of tax breaks for Big Oil.

This is a race that’s often flown under the radar in online circles, but with Bilbray refusing to even enter his district in order to defend his extremist voting record, it could get pretty interesting. Bilbray is desperate to avoid engaging on real issues, crowing about a veterans memorial but voting to continue the Iraq debacle and voting against the new GI Bill. Every chance he gets to bring about positive change, Bilbray stands in opposition. But when he can stand far outside his district and lob rhetoric, he’s all for it.

While Bilbray continues to work against Americans, Nick Leibham got out, in the district, and did something that would actually help a little bit. It isn’t much, but it’s not supposed to be a solution. What it was supposed to be- and succeeded in being- is a sharp line of contrast between the priorities of these two candidates.

One of and for the people, the other bought and paid to oppose the people.

And the Waste Goes On…

So, apparently there’s another contracting company to add to the list of tax dollar abusers. They’re called the Parsons construction group. They were supposed to do improvements on a prison in the flatlands north of Baghdad, but Parsons continually fell behind schedule, causing the Pentagon to cancel the project.

The big problem? The prison was part of an almost $1 billion contract to build border posts, courts, police training centers and fire stations, all in hopes of restoring Iraq’s infrastructure. Yet Parsons only completed 18 out of the 53 project stipulated in its contract, and although they were paid for the minimal work they did on the prison, the structure is now empty and useless, due to structural weaknesses Parsons did not fix. In the end, Parsons made out with a barrel full of cash, and the much blood-stained region of Diyala never got its infrastructure.

“In the pecking order of corruption in Iraq, the dead-end prison project at Khan Bani Saad is nowhere near the biggest or most tangled. Bowen estimated up to 20 percent ‘waste’ or more than $4 billion from the $21 billion spent so far in the U.S.-bankrolled Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.”

So reported Brian Murphy and Pauline Jelinek in the Huffington Post. I read this right after I read a headline about how President Bush will have compiled the largest federal deficit in U.S. history — $482 billion to be exact. So I have to wonder: how much of our tax dollars have been wasted in this same careless manner?

The Bush administration has taken outsourcing of essential government services to new extremes, especially in Iraq. Yet the record is so riddled with waste, corruption and other abuses that you have to wonder: Are these people really that incompetent? Or was the point along to enrich their friends and cronies?

Along those lines, the Wall Street Journal reports that Iraq war architect Richard Perle is part of a group negotiating a deal to invest in oil fields in . . . wait for it . . . Iraq! This, despite the fact that the Bush administration has argued against any oil deals until Iraq passes a new oil law governing the distribution of resources among Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions.

You can find out how much you paid for the Iraq war last year with Progressive Future’s Invest in US Calculator. And while you ponder how much of that money went to enrich KBR, Blackwater, Parsons and the like, you can also see what that money would buy in terms of health care, clean energy and better care for our troops. And when you do, please consider signing our Invest in US petition. We’re planning on  distributing this petition far and wide, from Congress to the Party Platform Committees to the media. It’s time for a new direction for America, where all citizens can be proud of how their tax dollars are spent.

Hidden Casualties of War

Last week, I shared a tragic story of a veteran who committed suicide less than three hours after being assessed as a “low risk” patient, and was released from VA care. The carelessness of his assessment was largely due to a standardized questionnaire that was used to identify high risk patients. This is a serious oversight, especially when you consider the statistic that by the end of the day, 18 veterans will have taken their own lives.

Since these troops make it home from Iraq, Afghanistan or other battlefields alive, they are not counted as casualties of war. In 2007, 6,256 veterans committed suicide. That’s about two thousand more than the number of troops who died in Iraq since the beginning of the war. And yet, these deaths are not counted among the war casualties.  

But what else can you blame for these suicides? Concerns over the rising rate of PTSD among veterans have been escalating. An even more telling statistic of this problem is the fact that the suicide rate among veterans is twice that of the civilian population, evidence that the war is a decisive factor in these suicides.

While Bush and Republicans have kept the troops at war in Iraq — and have gone to great lengths to keep them there, through extended tours of duty, stop/loss, refusing to talk about a timeline for withdrawal — they’ve been less willing to go the extra mile to help the troops when they come home. Witness Bush’s, McCain’s and other prominent Republicans’ refusal to support the Webb G.I. Bill extending further educational benefits to veterans, as well as McCain’s record of voting against increasing health benefits to veterans in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

We need to bring our troops home on a reasonable timeline, but we also need to start taking better care of our returning soldiers — a challenge that would be greatly eased if we weren’t wasting $10 billion a month on the war in Iraq  Imagine the kind of care we could provide our veterans if we weren’t wasting all our tax money on the war.

How much of your tax dollars are going to the war in Iraq? And what could that money buy for a veteran in need? Find out by using Progressive Future’s Invest in US Calculator. The calculator takes a person’s 2007 income before taxes and tells you how much of that person’s tax money went to fund the war (average: $235), and how many seconds of war that bought (average: .04 seconds). Then it tells you, with that money, how many days of veterans’ higher education benefits (average: 5) that money could have paid for, as well as other much needed initiatives at home. Then we are asking users to sign our Invest In US petition, which we plan on taking to Congress, the Platform Committees, and the media to push for new priorities for tax spending.

Is Blackwater Reconsidering Things?

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

Blackwater may be on shaky ground. Despite official protestations to the contrary, it’s starting to look as though Blackwater’s course might be shifting. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is starting to ask why the government is using so many private contractors, asking “Why have we come to rely on private contractors to provide combat or combat-related security training for our forces?” and going on to wonder “are we comfortable with this practice, and do we fully understand the implications in terms of quality, responsiveness and sustainability?”

These are questions that a competent government would have been asking in 2001 when Donald Rumsfeld declared that privatizing national security would be a good idea because…I don’t know why…his friends would make money? It was Rumsfeld shift away from publicly-guaranteed and provided security that brought about the rise of Blackwater and a litany of other, slightly less infamous private security firms. But in light of the continuing legal proceedings probing Blackwater’s Nusoor Square (17 civilians dead for no reason), Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s insistence on eliminating immunity for security contractors in any new Iraq-U.S. security negotiations, and now Gates’ expressed concerns, Blackwater executives have been saying they’ll shift away from private security because it’s causing them too much grief. Blackwater will supposedly “survive with a focus on international training, aviation and construction.”

This has a number of potential implications for the new Blackwater facility in San Diego. If the above list is correct, then Blackwater would be getting out of not only the private security business but also the domestic training business. Which would make their San Diego facility superfluous. They’ve assured the public repeatedly (perhaps protesting too much) that this facility would not be a staging area for aviation surveillance of the border, but we know they’re expanding their fleet of surveillance aircraft and are apparently heading in that direction. We know they’ve received new government contracts to provide training in Latin America and have recently provided security for Sen. John McCain in Mexico. Blackwater officials have sworn up and down that setting up just three blocks from the Mexican border has nothing to do with these other plans to operate multi-million dollar contracts in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, but it remains convenient.

Now maybe the public denials are accurate, but if Blackwater is getting out of domestic security training and moving away from the sorts of contracts that send them to Iraq, (aside from being a welcome development) it means they don’t have any use for their San Diego “vocational school.” I look forward to seeing the thread of logic play out for them.

Pelosi Passes the Buck; Gore Let Off the Hook at Netroots Nation

(I’m under a mountain of work, so I have a lot on Netroots Nation stored up, but this from our pal Paul about the Pelosi/Gore session is good.  And BTW, I asked the Iraq question. – promoted by David Dayen)

From today’s Beyond Chron.

It’s no surprise that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a tough reception at Netroots Nation – as bloggers asked about the Iraq War, impeachment and (of course) FISA.  Pelosi passed the buck on all of these issues – saying that she’s let House Judiciary Chair John Conyers handle executive contempt, blamed Senate Democrats for selling out on FISA and said that only electing Barack Obama will get us out of Iraq.  When Al Gore popped in to make a surprise appearance, the crowd gave a hero’s welcome to the ex-Vice President – posing a sharp contrast with Pelosi.  Bloggers cheered Gore’s ambitious environmental agenda to make the United States 100% free of fossil fuel energy by 2019.  But nobody bothered to ask Gore why he didn’t push for this 15 years ago when he could have done something about it.  Meanwhile, Pelosi’s excuses frustrated the audience – but they each have an element of truth to them.  On the other hand, if Pelosi says she “doesn’t have the votes” in Congress to get what we want, she should start being more supportive of primary challenges that bloggers wage against bad Democrats.

“God bless the impatience of youth,” said Pelosi as she kicked off the Convention’s main event on Saturday morning.  “That’s what gives me hope.  I share your frustration in not ending this War.  We need to be persistent, relentless and unsatisfied at pushing us to where we should be.  And there are only 107 days until the Election.”

Everyone expected Pelosi would get a tough crowd, and about half a dozen demonstrators from Code Pink were there to heckle her about the War.  But liberal bloggers aren’t about direct-action street-level theater, preferring the tactic of asking hard-hitting questions that put politicians on the spot.  Gina Cooper of Netroots Nation even warned attendees at the beginning that anyone who disrupted the forum would be ejected, and the crowd cheered.

At the forum, Pelosi was asked questions like: (a) is impeachment back on the table?; (b) if Karl Rove is still in contempt of Congress, will he be arrested?; (c) if the FISA bill was a compromise, what was the gain? and (d) why hasn’t Congress ended the War?

For the most part, Pelosi passed the buck – saying that she agreed with the frustration of bloggers, but blamed others for why no action has been taken.  On the first two points, she deferred to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers – who is leading investigations of the Bush Administration.  “We passed a resolution of contempt on the House floor,” she said, “and I’m proud that we got every Democrat to vote for it.  But Mr. Conyers is in charge of the investigation, and we’re in good hands with him.”

On FISA, Pelosi blamed the Senate – where 17 Democrats voted with all the Republicans – for sending them a bad bill.  “Our options were limited,” she said.  “It was a moment of taint.  Was the final bill [which passed both houses] a bill that I would have written?  No.  Was it better than the Senate version that had passed?  Yes.”

Pelosi added that as House Speaker she has only had “two major regrets”: (a) the Senate version of the FISA bill that they had to work with, and (b) failing to get 60 votes in the Senate to end the Iraq War.  Later on in the forum, she added that the only way to end the War will be to elect President Barack Obama.  Eventually, moderator Gina Cooper turned to Pelosi and said what was on a lot of peoples’ minds: “it sounds like some of your colleagues must get with the program with the American people.”

There’s certainly truth to what Pelosi said: any effort to impeach Bush or Cheney will start at the Judiciary Committee, Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate, and even voting to defund the War won’t end it until a Democratic President brings the troops home.  But while Pelosi says she is on our side, one conclusion we can draw is that she hasn’t kept her colleagues in line.  The netroots have always tried to hold bad Democrats accountable – and in recent years have waged primary challenges against entrenched incumbents who vote the wrong way on issues.  The bloggers could work with Pelosi.

But Pelosi has not generally supported these challengers, actively working against the netroots.  For example, Pelosi held a fundraiser for Congressman Al Wynn – while he was getting a primary challenge from netroots favorite Donna Edwards.  Edwards won that election, and attended Netroots Nation as a newly minted Congresswoman.  In what must have been an awkward moment, Pelosi acknowledged Edwards at the beginning of the forum.

It wasn’t the first time that a powerful Democrat came to a netroots Convention and faced a tough audience.  But unlike Hillary Clinton (who at last year’s Yearly Kos sarcastically mocked the crowd when they booed her), Pelosi kept her grace while saying much of what the bloggers didn’t agree with.  Whatever you think of her answers, she did not condescend.

While bloggers gave Pelosi a chilly reception, they enthusiastically cheered former Vice President Al Gore – who made a surprise appearance during Pelosi’s forum.  “We have a historic climate crisis,” said Gore.  “It’s connected to an economic crisis, and the national security threat it creates. Drilling oil we won’t use for 15 years to deal with gas prices now is like responding to an attack from Afghanistan by invading another country.”

Gore has always been a sentimental favorite of the netroots (“I feel right at home here,” he said), and the crowd eagerly responded to his challenge to eliminate fossil fuel dependency by 2019.  “I need your help,” he said. “You seek to influence, and I respectfully ask for your help.”  And with only 11 years to get there, we don’t have much time.

But nobody asked the former Vice President why he didn’t agitate on these issues in the mid-1990’s, when he was in a position to get things done.  If we had started this 15 years ago, eliminating fossil fuel dependency would be far more doable.  No doubt Gore is now using his “elder statesman” role to fight global warming – but the Clinton-Gore Administration was lackluster in responding to this climate crisis, such as reneging on their pledge to shut down an incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.  When Gore ran for President in 2000, Friends of the Earth endorsed Bill Bradley in the Democratic primaries.

If the netroots insisted on giving Nancy Pelosi a hard time, why didn’t they challenge Gore as well?

John McCain’s California Adventure

Well, John W. McCain had a great couple of days in the Golden State.  First he went to Santa Barbara, site of a huge 1969 oil spill, to promote his plan to cancel the moratorium on offshore drilling, and he ran into an expert who rebutted his entire premise.

Feeney also took issue with McCain’s controversial proposal to lift the moratorium on offshore oil exploration: “It makes me nervous to think about those who are proposing to drain America’s offshore oil and gas reserves as quickly as possible in the hopes of driving down the price of gasoline, because I think when you look at the good sources of information, were we to open up the California coast or the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, it would be 12, 15, maybe 20 years before those resources came online and got to full productions.”

Adding that some research shows that drilling in ANWR would only “reduce our dependence on foreign oil from 70% to 67%,” Feeney added, “I’m not sure most Americans would think that’s really worth the price of admission.”

Then, in Fresno, he admitted that there would be no material benefit to offshore exploration:

That Charlie Black comment wasn’t McCain’s only off-message moment yesterday. At a town hall in Fresno, CA, McCain admitted that the offshore drilling proposal he unveiled last week would probably have mostly “psychological” benefits, NBC/NJ’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy notes. “Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial.” Uh oh.

Later, at a fundraiser, an attendee very nicely called him an idiot:

“We’re really kind of goosey here about oil spills, and we’re goosey here about federal drilling and oil lands, which are abundant offshore,” the attendee said. “So we ask you to look out there to the south and the southeast and remember the greatest environmental catastrophe that’s hit this state and then balance that with the notion of winning California.”

And McCain topped it off by telling Fresno that we went to war for oil.

I also want to make sure that we will take concrete steps towards eliminating our dependence on foreign oil.

And I am confident that uh, the, the conflicts that we are in in both Iraq and Afghanistan have also a bearing on that.

(Incidentally, is there anyone in America who doesn’t know this?  We’ve been going to war for oil since oil became profitable.  Before that the world used a lot of whale oil, and if we still did America would be at war with Sea World.)

Thanks for coming, Big John!  Please stop by again sometime and further ruin your candidacy!

CalPERS: Divest from KBR

(Great work by True Majority and the local grassroots. – promoted by David Dayen)

Hey Calitics members,  

I’m sure many of you have seen the recent spate of stories about KBR on the front page of the NYTimes a couple days ago and the always fantastic coverage over at TPM At TrueMajority.org we’ve been really focused on the contractor accountability side of the War in Iraq and tomorrow are working with Sacramento for Democracy and the Sacramento Coalition to End the War to highlight CalPERS investments in KBR at their monthly board meeting.  

About a month ago, we kicked off this campaign with a simple petition calling on pension funds and retirement accounts to hold KBR accountable for fraud waste and abuse. You can still sign the petition at: http://www.TrueMajority.org/St…  

CalPERS, the public pension and retirement system in California is one of the biggest investors in KBR, owning over $25,000,000 in shares, so our California members went to work making over 200 calls in one day calling on CalPERS to divest from KBR. The calls had a great response and we received a wonderful grassroots suggestion in one of the reports.  

Armando from Kensington, CA reported on his call:  

I called just now, 10:56 a.m., and spoke with a young woman named, Jackie, she did not wish to give her last name to me, which is okay, but I did ask her to convey my concern, as a retiree member of CalPERS, that I heard learned that the company had assets with KBR. I asked to speak with the president of the Board, Ron Feckner, but was informed he and board were not present, but would be available during their board meeting week, June 16-19, in Sacramento. I suggest you get folks to call during that time. I am deeply concerned as a longtime member of CalPERS that my retirmenet funds are being used to underwrite KBR or any company that makes me complicit in the conduct of the war in Iraq, more than I already am as a taxpayer. I intend to talk to individual members of the board, especially the Investment and Investment Policy subcommittee. Thanks for alerting me.


Tomorrow, together with Sacramento for Democracy and the  Sacramento Coalition to End the War, we will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. and we deliver the petitions to CalPERS at that time. The CalPERS board convenes at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Robert F. Carlson Auditorium, 400 Q Street, in Sacramento.  

If you're in the Sacramento area, please be sure to drop by our event tomorrow:




And spread the word. Investing public retirement funds in companies that commit fraud and war profiteering is bad for the country and a bad investment decision. The time has come to divest.  

Down the Blackwater Wormhole

Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

There’s a protest from 3-5pm today at Blackwater’s new Otay Mesa facility, and tomorrow Jeremy Scahill will be doing a special Courage Campaign Conversation tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.

In a little noticed vote yesterday, the Merida Initiative passed easily through the House of Representatives 311-106. It provides $1.6 billion with an emphasis on training and equipment to fight drug cartels in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, because as Rep. Brian Bilbray explained:

“Either we can go after these cartels in Ensenada, or we can fight them in Escondido,” said Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad), who voted for the plan. “I’d prefer that we move now and take care of this problem south of the border. The drug wars in Mexico and in other regions have grown horrendously violent, and their destructive ways must be quashed.”

It’s tough to directly take issue with any of that, but where does it lead? Potentially to some unpleasant places. In September, the Defense Department opened up five year contracts in support of counter-narcoterrorism efforts to five private companies, including Blackwater USA. “The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract could be worth up to $15 billion for the awardees.” The Army Times analyzed the content of the contracts, describing:

a series of task orders covering a wide range of products and services. These could include anti-drug technologies and equipment, special vehicles and aircraft, communications, security training, pilot training, geographic information systems, and in-field support.

Now back up for a second and compare that to the State Department description of the Merida Initiative:

   *  Non-intrusive inspection equipment, ion scanners and canine units for Mexico and Central America to interdict trafficked drugs, arms, cash and persons.

   * Technologies to improve and secure communications systems that collect criminal information in Mexico.

   * Technical advice and training to strengthen the institutions of justice – vetting for the new police force, case management software to track investigations through the system, new offices of citizen complaints and professional responsibility, and witness protection programs to Mexico.

   * Helicopters and surveillance aircraft to support interdiction activities and rapid response of law enforcement agencies to Mexico.

   * Equipment, training and community action programs in Central American countries to implement anti-gang measures and expand the reach of these measures.

Quite a bit of overlap. However, in a May 22 press release from Blackwater, it asserted

What it isn’t. Critics of the project have used blatant fabrications —       claiming that the facility will be used for border security or immigration purposes — to build support for their opposition of the facility. The proposed facility will be used for training alone…

This might be comforting if there was any reason at all actually trust Blackwater’s integrity. As just one example, Post-Katrina investigations by expert Jeremy Scahill discovered that Blackwater deployed to New Orleans without a government contract. They just showed up, fully armed, and went to work of their own accord. Leaving aside local San Diego concerns (where private firefighters are already being used to combat wildfires), Blackwater’s contempt for law and oversight in New Orleans is hardly an isolated incident. When Blackwater mercenaries killed 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nusoor Square,

the first U.S. soldiers to arrive on the scene have told military investigators that they found no evidence the contractors were fired upon, a source familiar with a preliminary U.S. military report told CNN.

The soldiers found evidence suggesting the guards fired on cars that were trying to leave, and found that weapon casings on the scene matched only those used by U.S. military and contractors.

Yet there have been no successful prosecutions and Blackwater’s contracts with the U.S. government continue to grow and it’s existing Iraq contracts renewed. Why? Because every time a government function is outsourced, the capacity (at least short term) for the government to retake that responsibility is lost. Which means that without dramatic top-down action (the Stop Outsourcing Security Act would be a good start), every step forward by Blackwater is one that’s exceptionally difficult to take back.

Which circles back to San Diego in a number of ways. If Blackwater establishes itself locally, it’s exceptionally difficult to push them out again. With a local base of operations, not only are they positioned for “narcoterrorism” contracting and unauthorized deployments on the streets of downtown San Diego, but it’s a base of marketing operations for what Blackwater itself describes as a private CIA offering “surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets.”  In a land of Minutemen and giant contracts for virtual border fences that “failed to perform as expected,” outside-the-law private intelligence organizations are unlikely to help anything.

Activists are keeping up the fight in San Diego, but this is not a local issue. The Bush Administration and its allies have been trying to sell off the entire government without any concern for functionality or accountability, and the front lines of resistance have extended to San Diego. There’s a protest from 3-5pm today at Blackwater’s new Otay Mesa facility, and tomorrow Jeremy Scahill will be doing a special Courage Campaign Conversation tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.

Two small but important steps to avoid the Blackwater wormhole.


(This is an issue that’s starting to reach critical mass, and Charlie Brown is at the forefront of it.  Between recent reports about record numbers of veteran suicides and foreclosures in military towns tripling the average rate, the care and treatment of our veterans is an absolute disgrace.  And it has fallen to leaders like Brown, BEFORE reaching Congress, to show the compassion and wisdom to get those who served this country what they need.  I can’t have more pride in how he’s run this campaign. – promoted by David Dayen)

As many of you know, back in 2006, first time candidate and Retired USAF Lt. Col. Charlie Brown came from obscurity to within less than 9,000 votes (or 3%) of victory in a district that had been electing Republicans by 30 point margins just two years before.

I worked on Charlie’s campaign in 2006, and I’m proud to be serving Charlie again in 2008. I didn’t come back because I enjoy the 16-hour days. I certainly didn’t come back because of the paychecks. I came back because there’s something different about a “typical day” on the Charlie Brown for Congress campaign—something that can’t be described in sound bytes or talking points…something so important, you want the world to experience it with you…

You want them to hear the desperate cries of the Iraq Veteran who contacts the campaign to say he is contemplating suicide.  Or the e-mail from the married father of two who already tried.  You want them to meet the Gold Star mother who calls for gas money, so she can afford to take one of the guys from her son’s unit to the VA for rehab.  Or the Vietnam Vet who has weeks to live because of Agent Orange exposure, and has had his VA benefits denied for years.  And the list goes on, and on and on…

Every day, these are just some of the people who are reaching out-from across the country—to the Charlie Brown for Congress Campaign.  

They’re not calling to volunteer, contribute, schedule a meeting or inquire about a policy position.  They aren’t even calling to express their support or opposition to Charlie’s candidacy.  

They called to ask for help.

It begs the question, why would anyone call a Congressional Challenger who has never held public office before for help?

You have to remember that Charlie Brown is no ordinary politician—in fact he has, in the span of less than two election cycles, transcended politics as most of us know it.

Charlie’s making history not by virtue of who he is (though one could argue that a Congressman who is a career military officer, husband of a veteran, and father to a son who has done 4 rotations in Iraq is far from typical these days), but what he is doing to address one of the many OLD problems on which politicians have over promised and under delivered for years-the plight of America’s war veterans.

I came back to fight for Charlie because I knew that this campaign took a different approach to solving problems—leadership by example. With Charlie’s “Promises Kept Veteran’s Charity Challenge,” we’re seeing community based organizations that fill in the gaps for veterans get the support they so badly need.  The 5% of campaign contributions that Charlie is giving these groups helps to keep the lights on at shelters, supply those places with blankets and food and office supplies, and help pay for qualified counselors to do outreach on the streets.

But the commitment of Charlie’s campaign goes beyond money.  It’s a frequently something even more valuable–a live voice on the other end of the line when crisis comes.    

And when those calls come, it’s not about winning and losing elections—it’s about saving lives.

The stories of veterans who call us very often break your heart—but they also remind us what a different kind of campaign can mean for people in need right now—long before voters go to the polls next November.  

It also inspires hope—because as we work with callers to help them find solutions, we can’t help but think what a little Charlie Brown in Washington could mean for hundreds of thousands of veterans who are waiting in line for benefits, or struggling to deal with invisible scars, or trying to rebuild lives that have been shattered by war.  

Or what it can mean on energy independence, healthcare, or so many other “old problems” where the results from Washington simply don’t match the rhetoric we’ve been hearing for years.

My entire life, I was brought up to believe that honesty, hard work and determination make up the character of a person. And if you give a little back and fight for those who can’t stand up for themselves, then you have done your share. I fight for Charlie because he embodies what I was raised to believe: that integrity and a sense of duty (not political ambition) win out at the end of the day.

I am flush with inspiration, and every time the phone rings, that much more flush with perspective.  But I know that true change cannot be accomplished in a vacuum—and that’s why I wanted to share what’s been happening here on the ground with the netroots—and I hope you will share it also.

The two leading Republicans in this race-Doug Ose and Tom McClintock—have spent $4 million dollars in 4 months.  Once you get through their endless stream of attack ads, their message comes down to “vote for me I’m more Republican than he is”— and if you are looking for someone to take action, listen, or offer your family a little hope or dignity before November—look somewhere else…  

…I say look no further than Charlie Brown.

Neil Pople

Director of Online Communications

Memorial Day at the Crosses

I just returned from a Memorial Day vigil at the Lafayette crosses.  Built by members of the community over the past two years on a steep five-acre hillside that overlooks the freeway and BART station, the crosses exert a magnetic draw on Memorial Day.  Today, the total number of crosses stood at 4,084.

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About 100 people came together near dusk to honor the soldiers represented by those crosses on the hill, soldiers who have given so much for their country.

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Tony Thurmond, Democratic candidate for AD-14 (l.) and a spokeswoman from Rep. Barbara Lee’s office (CA-09)(r.)

Gradually, a theme emerged from the series of speakers there on that hillside:

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We are incredibly grateful to our soldiers and service members for the sacrifices they have made. Going forward, we can best honor the dead by bringing our troops home from Iraq so that no more are killed, by ensuring that our troops are never again heedlessly sent into harm’s way, and by working tirelessly to make this the kind of country for which they gave their lives, one that provides respect, fairness and opportunity to all.


Online Organizing Director

California Democratic Party