The Democrats’ Civil War

By Kim Strassel

The Democratic primaries are generating nominees who are embracing, or even going beyond, the president’s unpopular agenda.

What do Joe Sestak, Bill Halter and Colleen Hanabusa have in common? The left loves them. This is yet another reason Democrats are in trouble this fall.

Given the obsessive coverage of the Republican “civil war,” you may not realize Democrats are also feuding. Angry and disappointed that their president and Congress has not done more, the party’s liberal base is throwing itself into the primaries, pushing the party to the left even as the country moves right.

Ask Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who on Tuesday will fight to keep her party’s nomination against progressive Bill Halter, the state’s lieutenant governor. Also up for judgment that day is Sen. Arlen Specter. He has his new party’s full financial backing. Recent polls nonetheless show the liberal Mr. Sestak within striking distance.

Later next week Hawaii holds a special election to replace Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to run for governor. His district is Democratic, but the liberal Ms. Hanabusa is siphoning support from the party’s preferred candidate, former Rep. Ed Case. Republican Charles Dijou might win.

These races follow primaries in Ohio and North Carolina where the anointed Democrat fought damaging battles against insurgent liberals. Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher prevailed over Netroots favorite Jennifer Brunner, but not before she had drained Mr. Fisher’s campaign coffers. In North Carolina, the base’s preferred pick, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, has dragged the more conservative state Sen. Cal Cunningham into a June runoff.

True, candidates like Mrs. Lincoln and Mr. Specter are struggling against today’s anti-incumbent, anti-Washington fever. But the primary challenges are also the result of mismanaged expectations. Barack Obama allowed the left to believe he was one of them. Some of his campaign promises certainly fed its hopes: He’d close Guantanamo, pass union “card check,” renegotiate Nafta, leave Iraq. Adding to the left’s exuberance was the party’s filibuster-proof Senate majority.

But Guantanamo is still open, card check is still dead, Nafta is still functioning, and troops remain in Iraq. Meanwhile, the president dangled the public option in front of his liberal supporters, only to further enrage them when he lost that fight. All this has forced Democratic congressmen to take the blame for failures like card check.

The base has interpreted the policy failures as proof that the decision to sit back while the Democratic Party elected more moderates was a mistake. The response has been for unions and grass-roots groups to throw their money and support behind more liberal candidates. Democrats are currently battling as many, if not more, ugly primary challenges than Republicans.

No one exemplifies the dynamic better than Mrs. Lincoln. Over her 12 years in the Senate, she’s been careful to project herself as a Democrat in tune with Arkansas voters and business. The party leadership’s decision to push card check and the public option (both highly unpopular with the general public and the Arkansas public) forced Mrs. Lincoln to push back, which cast her as the spoiler of liberal dreams.

Mr. Halter was the result, propelled from the start by groups such as MoveOn.org. The lieutenant governor has run far to Mrs. Lincoln’s left, and in March, his first month of campaigning, he raised more than $2 million. And the left is unleashing money against his opponent; the Service Employees International Union recently unveiled a $1 million ad campaign against Mrs. Lincoln.

Win or lose, the base’s candidates are pulling the Democratic field left. Colorado’s appointed Sen. Michael Bennet was intending to win re-election by keeping his head down, splitting the difference on tough issues. Then, last September, the grass roots fueled former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff’s entrance into the race, who announced his support for an ObamaCare public option. Not to be outdone in a closed Democratic primary, Mr. Bennet became the Senate’s most vocal public-option supporter.

Unfortunately for both men, the winner will now be on record supporting a position few in Colorado’s general electorate share. In Pennsylvania, Mr. Specter was against the unpopular card check; thanks to Mr. Sestak he’s now for it. Mr. Fisher was ambiguous about the Democratic health bill, until, prodded by Ms. Brunner, he declared “100%” support. These are positions that can’t easily be dialed back.

This lurch toward liberal priorities coincides with polls showing that the electorate— particularly independents—has shifted significantly to the right since Mr. Obama took office. While some Republican primaries are proving bloody, most are turning out candidates largely in tune with today’s public frustration with Washington.

The Democratic primaries, by contrast, are generating nominees who are embracing, or even going beyond, the president’s unpopular agenda. This is the feud that may have the bigger consequences for this fall’s midterms.

Big Brother Wants to Spy on You!

by Capitol Confidential

Thanks to provisions buried within the Obama/Dodd financial deform bill, your personal information — from ATM withdrawals to loans — will now be collected by the federal government with no protections to your personal privacy.

The legislation creates another federal bureaucracy — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that is nothing more than a systematic government invasion of your personal finances of every consumer creating a financial fingerprint for the government to watch over.

Dodd’s bill deputizes the CFPB to act as a new federal watchdog agency to collect consumers’ personal financial information and transactions including records from Automatic Teller Machines from any financial institution or firm.

Don’t believe us — read the bill.

Section 1022 – Under Dodd’s bill the CFPB is granted unprecedented power to write, administer and enforce federal consumer financial law with no Congressional oversight.

Section 1071 – Dodd’s bill compels financial institutions like banks, credit unions and stock brokerage firms to maintain records of all financial transactions including the number and dollar amount and to submit that information to the CFPB.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the bill is it leaves it up to the discretion of the CFPB bureaucrats to determine how to use the personal information collected on American consumers and to share that data with other Federal agencies as it sees fit.

The Dodd bill constitutes an unprecedented intrusion into the privacy of the American people. For this reason alone, it deserves to be defeated.

Military Intelligence?

by Monica Crowley

Over the past decade or so, there’s been a movement in our schools to make every kid a winner. In gym class, in sports events, in spelling bees, in tests of every kind, every child was often given an award or citation to cushion their fragile self-esteem. Competition was eliminated and “winning” was downgraded to a mere technicality. If you came in second, you still won! No losers here, kids. You’re all equally mediocre.

This politically correct virus has now spread dangerously into the U.S. military. The armed forces exist for this reason: if called upon, to kill the enemy. The military also exists to deter the enemy so that lethal force is not needed. But if necessary, our troops are trained and ready to wipe out our enemies before they can wipe us out.

Now, thanks to same Pentagon social engineers who brought us the ideas of gays serving openly in the military and women on submarines, the military is considering a “courageous restraint” award. What on God’s green earth is THAT, you ask? Good question. Apparently, you will now be able to win a medal for “holding your fire” and avoiding civilian casualties. Implicit in this utter ridiculousness is that our troops do not NOW show “courageous restraint,” do not NOW “hold their fire” until absolutely necessary, and do not NOW avoid civilian casualties. This is an insult to the fine and selfless men and women in uniform who give up their lives—in some cases,
literally—to prosecute a war and defend the American people.

Military awards are bestowed for uncommon valor in combat. They should not be given for doing what the good and decent American armed forces are trained to do anyway: use force judiciously.

This is the worst and most dangerous example of political correctness that I’ve seen in a long time. It could work to get our troops—and ultimately us—killed. Consider that most of our current enemies ARE civilians: terrorists who do not wear the uniform of any nation. Holding out an award to our troops for “holding their fire” could get them slaughtered.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like our military to stand ready to fight on our behalf, and yes, use lethal force when necessary. God bless them for doing it so the rest of us can live in freedom and relative security. But there should only be outrage for the crusaders of political correctness who
have infiltrated our fighting forces with a lollipop award for abiding by the liberal platitude that “violence is never the answer.”

Sometimes the violence comes to you, and you have no choice but to use violence to stop it.

The battleground is a life-and-death, hell-on-earth, kill-or-be-killed, no-room-for-error place. Leave the playground awards at the playground.

Troops fire on rioting protesters, explosions thunder in central Bangkok; 5 die in new clashes

April 14: Thai soldiers stand off a crowd of anti-government protesters in Bangkok, Thailand, after initial government moves overnight to blockade them showed no results.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai troops fired bullets at anti-government protesters and explosions thundered in the heart of Bangkok on Friday as an army push to clear the streets and end a two-month political standoff sparked clashes that have killed five and wounded 81.

As night fell, booming explosions and the sound of gunfire rattled around major intersections in the central business district. Local TV reported that several grenades hit a shopping center and elevated-rail station. Plumes of black smoke hung over the neighborhood as tires burned in eerily empty streets while onlookers ducked for cover.

Among those wounded were two Thai journalists and a Canadian reporter, who was in a serious condition.

With security deteriorating and hopes of a peaceful resolution to the standoff increasingly unlikely, what was once one of Southeast Asia’s most stable democracies and magnets of foreign investment has been thrust deep into political uncertainty. The crisis threatens its stability, economy and already-decimated tourism industry.

Violence escalated after a rogue army general regarded as a military adviser to the Red Shirt protesters was shot in the head Thursday evening, possibly by a sniper. A doctor said Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdiphol was still in a coma Friday and he could “die at any moment.”

Thai troops fired bullets at anti-government protesters and explosions thundered in the heart of Bangkok as an army push to clear the streets and end a two-month political standoff sparked clashes that have killed three and wounded 69.

Clashes since then have killed five and wounded 81, officials said.

“We are being surrounded. We are being crushed. The soldiers are closing in on us. This is not a civil war yet, but it’s very, very cruel,” Weng Tojirakarn, a protest leader, told The Associated Press.

Fighting has now killed 34 people and injured hundreds since the Red Shirts, mostly rural poor, began camping in the capital on March 12, in a bid to force out Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They claim his coalition government came to power illegitimately through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, which in 2006 forced the populist premier favored by the Red Shirts, Thaksin Shinawatra, from office in a coup.

Last week, Abhisit offered November elections, raising hopes that a compromise could be reached with the Red Shirts, who have been demanding immediate elections. Those hopes were dashed after Red Shirt leaders made more demands.

Late Thursday, the army moved to seal off the Red Shirt encampment in an upscale commercial district of the capital. Some 10,000 protesters, women and children among them, have crammed into the area.

“Our policy is not to disperse the protesters,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said late Friday. He said their mission was to set up checkpoints and “tighten” the area around the protest, but “there have been attempts to agitate the officers.”

In later speech on national TV, Panitan said security forces hadn’t entered the demonstration area but were attacked and forced to protect themselves.

He said security efforts would be stepped up in the coming days and “many areas would be under control soon.” As he said that a large explosion rang out in central Bangkok.

Friday’s violence was initially centered on a small area home to several foreign embassies, including those of the U.S. and Japan which were forced to close, but by midafternoon had spread around the 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) protest zone barricaded with bamboo stakes and tires. The British, New Zealand and the Dutch embassies, which are in the vicinity, also were shut.

Soldiers crouched behind a raised road divider in one area and fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas shells. Army vehicles were seen speeding on deserted streets littered with stones and debris. Protesters retreated and hurled rocks and insults.

Among Friday’s casualties, a Thai cameraman from the VoiceTV news website was shot in his left thigh and a photographer for Matichon newspaper was shot in the leg, the news outlets said.

Canadian freelance journalist Nelson Rand, who was working for France 24 news channel, was hit by three bullets, the channel reported. One bullet perforated his leg, another hit his abdomen, another hit his wrist. He underwent surgery and was recovering.

Friday morning, protesters captured and vandalized two military water cannon trucks at a key intersection in the business district, just outside the Red Shirt encampment. They ripped the cannon from its moorings and used its plastic barrel to shoot firecrackers from behind a sandbag bunker they had commandeered from soldiers.

They later set fire to a police bus that sent thick plumes of smoke into the sky. Soldiers fired automatic rifles repeatedly.

Soldiers used a loudspeaker to send a message to the Red Shirts: “We are the people’s army. We are just doing our duty for the nation. Brothers and sisters, let’s talk together.”

But a group of aggressive young protesters approached them on motorcycles and on foot, shouting obscenities. Two soldiers fired shotguns into the air and they pulled back but kept up their abuse.

Major roads around the protest site were closed to traffic, and the city’s subway and elevated train shut early. Many shops in the capital also were shuttered.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kornvika Klinpraneat, 28, a worker at a mini-mart near the protest area. “This is like a civil war. The battle is being fought in the middle of a city with innocent people being injured and killed.”

The renegade army general Khattiya, who is accused of creating a paramilitary force for the Red Shirts, was shot in the head while talking to reporters just inside the perimeter of the protesters’ encampment. Director of the hospital treating him, Dr. Chaiwan Charoenchokthawee, said Friday that Khattiya “could die at any moment.”

It was not known who shot Khattiya, better known by the nickname Seh Daeng. But the Red Shirts blamed a government sniper.

“This is illegal use of force ordered by Abhisit Vejjajiva,” said Arisman Pongruengrong, a Red Shirt leader. “Seh Daeng was shot by a government sniper. This is clearly a use of war weapons on the people.”

The army denied it tried to kill Khattiya.

“It has nothing to do with the military. It has never been our policy (to assassinate). We have been avoiding violence,” said Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, an army spokesman. Only a forensic investigation will determine who was behind the shooting, he said.

The two-day clashes marked the worst continuous episode of violence since April 10, when 25 people were killed and more than 800 injured in clashes between Red Shirts and troops in Bangkok’s historic area. Sporadic clashes have occurred since then.

The Red Shirts see Abhisit’s government as serving an elite insensitive to the plight of most Thais. The protesters include many supporters of former prime minister Thaksin whose allies won elections in 2007 after his ouster. Two subsequent pro-Thaksin governments were disbanded by court rulings before Abhisit was elected by Parliament.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire who fled overseas to avoid a corruption conviction, has publicly encouraged the protests and is widely believed to be helping bankroll them. He claims to be a victim of political persecution.

_____

Associated Press writers Vijay Joshi, Jocelyn Gecker, Denis D. Gray and Chris Blake contributed to this report. Additional research by Warangkana Tempati.

Deep prejudice about the deep south

Nina Simone: the acceptable face of the US south for sneering east and west coast liberals? Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

By Seema Jilani

I’m tired of elitist US liberals who ridicule southerners and then profess their love for Nina Simone and crawfish etouffee.

I am tired of apologising. I apologised for being Muslim, post-9/11 and more recently for my Pakistani origins. Now, I apologise for being a southerner too. When an environmental catastrophe erupted in my backyard, I looked to the media to tell our stories and instead, found quotes from experts ruminating on energy policy. Where are the restaurant owners in the French Quarter who still haven’t caught their breath after Katrina swallowed their lives? What about the fishermen? While recently rubbing elbows with fellow liberals from the east and west coasts, I felt that their disdain for the lives of the south was palpable. This led to my quest: to understand why mouths drip with condescension for the south, and particularly its people.

Is it Dubya? Born in Connecticut, he was a member of Yale’s elite Skull & Bones Society. Ah, Sarah Palin? Born in Idaho, raised in Alaska. They claim Texas is imploding with rightwing conservatives: Texas has had 48 governors; six were Republicans. The former Texas governor Ann Richards once delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic convention, where she famously said: “He [Bush] was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

It must be southern racism then. During my medical school interview, I was asked if I would wear a burqa and told I belonged in hell. This humiliation occurred in Chicago, not the deep south. During my Manhattan interview, I was unwelcome because I had done medical work in Gaza. Bigotry traverses the Mason-Dixon line, you see.

Perhaps then this loathing stems from our monochromatic populace, lacking diversity. Except that as a physician in Houston, home to the largest medical centre in the world, I have treated patients from Somalia, Ecuador and Egypt, among others. Our Vietnamese population blesses us with phenomenal pho and necessitates a translator 24 hours a day. Of the 82 majority-black counties in the US, all but one are in the south.

What about our so-called lack of political relevance? Did I mention that every major Texas city has a higher uninsured rate than the national rate? One in four Texans lack health insurance. In 2004, 20% of Texas children were uninsured, compared to 11% nationally. The Pew Hispanic Centre estimates that Texas alone holds 14% of all undocumented immigrants. Of the 40 babies I delivered in medical school, five mothers spoke English. Proponent of immigration reform? It starts at our borders. Want universal healthcare? We are the uninsured capital of the country.

This scorn must be because we don’t contribute to the country’s greater good then. But 35% of active-duty military come from the south. Of the US troop casualties in Afghanistan, 47% were from the south, and from Iraq, 38%.

Oddly, the same people who disparage us also have love affairs with our culture. They ridicule us and then profess their love for Nina Simone, Austin, Johnny Cash or Louisiana’s crawfish etouffee dish when it’s trendy. This brings me to my favourite specimens: cocktail party progressives. You know the type – can’t converse without referencing the New Yorker. Pretentious, self-congratulatory liberals who applaud their own humanity while mocking the south. Curiously, they feign knowledge of Hank Williams when fashionable, but their intellectual elitism forgets that Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were southern geniuses.

I adore our southern nights and the taste of authenticity in Willie Nelson’s voice and Muddy Waters’ blues. I love that we celebrate colossally in New Orleans: Jazz Fest, Crawfish Fest, Mardi Gras, even Jazz Funerals. I was touched when kind neighbours baked us casseroles and stood by us as we endured post-9/11 racism. I am proud that Houstonians opened their homes to 250,000 New Orleans evacuees. That’s genuine southern hospitality. Southerners are not the ignorant, inbreeding, toothless rifle-owning trailer trash that my progressive colleagues paint them as. They are vibrant, passionate Americans with resolve. They have survived and flourished through the civil rights movement, disastrous hurricanes and oil spills, Enron and Halliburton scandals, the Fort Hood tragedy and their loved ones coming home in body bags.

“Think Progress” Blog and George Soros

by Brian Garst

“Astroturf” is one of those common refrains used by the left when they want desperately for opposing views to be discredited. The George Soros funded mouthpiece non-ironically lobbied just that charge at a new, anti-net neutrality website called NoNetBrutality.com this week.

Think Progress claimed the website was part of a “secret plan to attack net neutrality.” CNET News showed otherwise:

On its Think Progress blog, the liberal advocacy group announced it had “obtained” a PowerPoint document “which reveals how the telecom industry is orchestrating the latest campaign against Net neutrality” through a pseudo-grassroots effort. The story was echoed on Slashdot, Boing Boing, and innumerable pro-regulation blogs.

There’s just one problem with Think Progress’ claim: It’s not, well, accurate.

In a case of truth being stranger than astroturf, it turns out that the PowerPoint document was prepared as a class project for a competition in Florida last month. It cost the six students a grand total of $173.95, including $18 for clip art.

And just how secret was this nefarious plot?

Not only was the PowerPoint document presentation no secret, but it was posted publicly on the competition’s blog, along with an audio recording of the event in Miami where the student contestants presented their ideas to the judges.

The online liberal echo-chamber then picked up the false story and ran with it.

Big government regulation supporters also descended upon the social media promotion efforts of NoNetBrutality with some brutality of their own. They declared everyone who doesn’t want government involved in regulating internet speech to be “corporate shills” and otherwise engaged in ad hominem attacks. One emailer to the website even suggested that it was surprising anyone supporting “such obvious transparent moral poverty” wouldn’t want to cut their throat any time they looked in the mirror. These guys really take their government regulation seriously.

Kristen McMurray, one of the six creators of the site, knows that all too well and wasn’t surprised by the pro-regulation tactics. “Labeling me a ‘corporate shill’ avoids any real debate on net neutrality,” she said, “so I’m not surprised it degenerated into name calling.” McMurray added, “Think Progress should have practiced good journalism and fact checked before reporting on our school project.” As the social media arm of an organization that claims to want to “shape the national debate,” Think Progress has a responsibility to ensure that it does so in an accurate and honest manner. It seems like good journalism, honest debate and big government advocacy just don’t go together.