Mark Begich for US Senate

I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich’s campaign to represent Alaska in the United States Senate. I’ll be working as the campaign’s Online Communications Director and I look forward to continuing to bring Democratic politics to Americans in exciting and dynamic ways over the internet. This also means that, for now, I will be shuttering Hold Fast.

I think the Alaska Senate race is going to be one of the most hard-fought opportunities for Democratic gains in America this cycle. Ted Stevens has represented Alaska in the Senate for forty years. He’s not so much a Senator in Alaska, as a symbol. And symbols are hard to beat. But I’m up for the challenge and I know Mark Begich is ready to lead.

It’s time for Alaska to retire Ted Stevens. From his unquestioning support of the Republican party line on endless war in Iraq, to his repeated votes for retroactive immunity for the big telecom companies, to his vociferous — if ill informed — opposition to net neutrality, to the ever-growing clouds of corruption that surround him, it’s clear to me that Alaska can do better than Ted Stevens.

I first spoke to Mark Begich last month. I’d been in talks with his campaign about coming on board and while I had heard good things about him, I wanted to get a better sense of what sort of person he was and what sort of candidate he will be. Ideally I would have had the meeting in person in Anchorage, but for time considerations, that just didn’t make sense. On Mark’s suggestion we instead had a Skype video conference call that lasted 40 minutes.

Beyond learning that Mark was very tech-savvy, I found him to be an interesting, smart person who was ready to take his career of public service for Alaska to another level. What stood out was that Mark is a dynamic politician with a good sense for solving problems. He impressed me with his experience building a successful health care system for Anchorage’s municipal employees in the face of massive rising private costs. Begich’s ideas for using a full slate of non-renewable and renewable energy sources prevalent in Alaska, combined with strong conservation efforts, to build an Alaskan energy policy that would make America more secure strike me as the sort of solution that could both win in Washington and free us from our dependence on foreign oil.

But most of all, when I asked him about what he thought of retroactive immunity and the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping Begich was able to show his appreciation for the US Constitution. Citing his civil libertarian tendencies, Mark made clear that he opposed retroactive immunity and he would stand up for the Constitution as a US Senator. I don’t know yet whether or not civil liberties will be a part of the discussion in Alaska this year, but I do know that Mark Begich will be another vote for the rule of law come January 2009. That’s an issue of immeasurable importance to me and I was glad to hear Mark is where we need more Senate Democrats to be.

There will be much more to come, but for now, please visit (the new version of which goes live later today), join the campaign’s email list, and stay tuned for updates from Alaska on the Begich blog.

Truth & Accountability

The New York Times (finally) editorializes on President Bush’s knowledge and approval of US torture policies.

The amount of time and energy devoted to this furtive exercise at the very highest levels of the government reminded us how little Americans know, in fact, about the ways Mr. Bush and his team undermined, subverted and broke the law in the name of saving the American way of life.

We have questions to ask, in particular, about the involvement of Ms. Rice, who has managed to escape blame for the catastrophic decisions made while she was Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, and Mr. Powell, a career Army officer who should know that torture has little value as an interrogation method and puts captured Americans at much greater risk. Did they raise objections or warn of the disastrous effect on America’s standing in the world? Did anyone?

Mr. Bush has sidestepped or quashed every attempt to uncover the breadth and depth of his sordid actions. Congress is likely to endorse a cover-up of the extent of the illegal wiretapping he authorized after 9/11, and we are still waiting, with diminishing hopes, for a long-promised report on what the Bush team really knew before the Iraq invasion about those absent weapons of mass destruction — as opposed to what it proclaimed.

At this point it seems that getting answers will have to wait, at least, for a new Congress and a new president. Ideally, there would be both truth and accountability. At the very minimum the public needs the full truth.

Some will call this a backward-looking distraction, but only by fully understanding what Mr. Bush has done over eight years to distort the rule of law and violate civil liberties and human rights can Americans ever hope to repair the damage and ensure it does not happen again. [Emphasis added]

I challenge the NY Times editorial board to not forget this editorial nor their request for truth and accountability stemming from the Bush administration’s violations of American and international law. They are right that there will be many – Republicans, DC pundits, and calcified Democrats – that don’t want to spend time finding out what went wrong inside the Bush White House and who must be held accountable for it. In fact, I expect this position to be pushed for with deafening volume. It will be up to major media outlets like the Times to stand in the way of this desire to level down and gloss over the violations of the rule of law. Without major media outlets advocating for truth and accountability, none will take place. Again, I hope that the editors of the New York Times do not forget the words they wrote today come January, 2009.

Better Off?

The DNC has put out their first ad of the 2008 cycle on John McCain and I think it’s a good one. It makes crystal clear how out of touch McCain is from the challenges Americans face now thanks to the failures of the Bush economy. I hope the DNC takes this ad and puts it on the air for a long, long time.

Symbol of Peace? You’re Doing It Wrong

The Olympics are meant to be a symbol of peace, or so we’re frequently told by Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee. The Games are supposed to be a moment where the world comes together, focused on sport and not politics. I think it’s a pleasant fiction that the Olympics are not political, but it must be hard for even the most ardent believers in the peaceful symbolism of the Olympics when you have stories like this connected to the Olympic torch’s ascent of Mount Everest:

Nepalese soldiers and police guarding the slopes of Mount Everest are authorized to shoot to stop any protests during China’s Olympic torch run to the summit, an official said Sunday.

Chinese climbers plan to take the torch to the summit of Everest – the world’s highest peak on the border between Nepal and Tibet – in the first few days of May. During that time, other climbers will be banned from the mountain’s higher elevations.

Police and soldiers “have been given orders to stop any protest on the mountain using whatever means necessary, including use of weapons,” Nepal’s Home Ministry spokesman Modraj Dotel said, adding that the use of deadly force was authorized only as a last resort.

Giving security forces permission to shoot Olympic protesters is about as far as you can get from a symbol of peace.

I wonder if this is what they have in mind when it comes to protests that must be stopped through the “use of weapons”?

Tenzin Dorjee and other Tibetan independence activists protest the Olympic torch on Mount Everest in April, 2007.

I simply cannot understand why any government working alongside the Chinese and the IOC would think it is a good idea to authorize deadly force against those who would protest the Olympic torch. I wonder what Jacques Rogge has to say about Nepal’s willingness to shed blood to defend his flame.


Buckaroo Banzai at Tibet Will Be Free has more.

China’s Crackdown in Tibet Continues On

100 monks were arrested for protesting the detention of other monks.

As many as 100 Tibetans were arrested in northwest China on Thursday after they demonstrated against the earlier detention of monks from a nearby monastery, witnesses and a Tibetan human rights group said Friday.

Local residents reached by telephone on Friday said that the police beat and arrested people at an open-air market in Tongren, a town in Qinghai, a western province bordering Tibet, after they refused orders to leave.

The residents said the town was the scene of several disturbances in recent months, including an unauthorized gathering in February involving 300 monks who were dispersed by tear gas as they tried to make their way to a government building.

Few things more clearly exhibit the lack of freedom in Tibet than the phrase “unauthorized gathering.”