Friday, December 31, 2004

George Bush's New Year's Resolutions

The White House
George W. Bush

My New Years Resalushuns:

End social security
Increase deficit further so we can starve the beast--end stuff which keeps people from being free like government paid health care and education
Talk to Karl about that plan for my third term
Shut up those people on the internets who make fun of me
Invade Iran
Send thank you gift to Osama--I'd be no where without that guy
Have my friends buy up rest of tv networks so they'll all be nice to me like Fox
Read a real book--mamma and Laura would be so proud (don't think I can keep this one--maybe I'll just read a newspaper article or two)

Quotes for the New Year

Quotes for the New Year, recalling a time when the battle lines were more clear to everyone, and lip service in support of free enterprise by its actual enemies was not so easily believed:

" The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power. " --Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"We stand for the maintenance of private property... We shall protect free enterprise as the most expedient, or rather the sole possible economic order."
--Adolph Hitler

Thursday, December 30, 2004

House To Further Erode Ethical Standards

A couple of days ago we quoted reports that the House GOP leadership is considering the removal of the chairman of the Ethics Committee for (shocking!) trying to hold Tom DeLay to ethical standards of behavior. Now they plan on changing House rules to further relax ethical standards. Proposed rule changes include:
  • Eliminate the rule of conduct that allows penalizing members for behavior which brings discredit upon the House even if their behavior is not covered by a specific regulation. (This regulation is important as the House's conduct code cannot anticpate every possible type of questionable behavior by members of Congress.)
  • Relaxation of restrictions on relatives of Congressmen to accept foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.
  • Allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.

Conyers To Object to Certification of Ohio Electors

Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) has sent a letter to each of the 100 members of the United States Senate asking them to join with members of the House in objecting to the certification of the election results on January 6.

Letter from Congressman Conyers to US Senators

Calling for Congressional Debate on 2004 Elections

December 30, 2004

Dear Senator Boxer (sent to all US Senators),

As you know, on January 6, 2005, at 1:00 P.M, the electoral votes for the election of the president are to be opened and counted in a joint session of Congress, commencing at 1:00 P.M. I and a number of House Members are planning to object to the counting of the Ohio votes, due to numerous unexplained irregularities in the Ohio presidential vote, many of which appear to violate both federal and state law. I am hoping that you will consider joining us in this important effort to debate and highlight the problems in Ohio which disenfranchised innumerable voters. I will shortly forward you a draft report itemizing and analyzing the many irregularities we have come across as part of our hearings and investigation into the Ohio presidential election.

3 U.S.C. §15 provides when the results from each of the states are announced, that "the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any." Any objection must be presented in writing and "signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received."1. The objection must "state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof."2 When an objection has been properly made in writing and endorsed by a member of each body the Senate withdraws from the House chamber, and each body meets separately to consider the objection. "No votes . . . from any other State shall be acted upon until the [pending] objection . . . [is] finally disposed of."3 3 U.S.C. §17 limits debate on the objections in each body to two hours, during which time no member may speak more than once and not for more than five minutes. Both the Senate and the House must separately agree to the objection; otherwise, the challenged vote or votes are counted.4

Historically, there appears to be three general grounds for objecting to the counting of electoral votes. The language of 3 U.S.C. §15 suggests that objection may be made on the grounds that (1) a vote was not "regularly given" by the challenged elector(s); and/or (2) the elector(s) was not "lawfully certified" under state law; or (3) two slates of electors have been presented to Congress from the same State.

Since the Electoral Count Act of 1887, no objection meeting the requirements of the Act have been made against an entire slate of state electors.5 In the 2000 election several Members of the House of Representatives attempted to challenge the electoral votes from the State of Florida. However, no Senator joined in the objection, and therefore, the objection was not "received." In addition, there was no determination whether the objection constituted an appropriate basis under the 1887 Act. However, if a State - in this case Ohio - has not followed its own procedures and met its obligation to conduct a free and fair election, a valid objection -if endorsed by at least one Senator and a Member of the House of Representatives- should be debated by each body separately until "disposed of".

Please contact me at 225-5126 to appraise me of your thoughts on this important matter. If your staff has questions, that may be forwarded to Perry Apelbaum or Ted Kalo of my Judiciary Committee staff at 225-6504. Thank you.


John Conyers, Jr.

1 Id.
2 Id.
3 Id.
4 3 U.S.C. §15.
5 In 1969 Senator Muskie and Representative O'hara joined to file a objection against a "faithless elector" who cast a vote for George Wallace and Curtis LeMay instead of the candidate for whom he was expected to vote. The objection was debated and rejected by both houses. This the only objection that has been raised since the 1887 Act in accordance with its requirements.

Poor Returns Predicted From Privatized Social Security

I've tried to avoid knee jerk opposition to George Bush's plans for reorganizing Social Security, recognizing the theoretical value of the time value of money. As much as I'm willing to wait for the details of the plan, the facts being published make it harder and harder to believe private investment of Social Security funds would be beneficial (especially in light of how such a plan would add to the deficit in order to provide benefits to current beneficiaries).

The Christian Science Monitor looked at a case of someone matching Social Security taxes with private investments. The private investments did do better, but not by as much as would be expected--only by $5873 over forty-five years. The timing didn't work out well for this individual, and there is also no guarantee that future stock market returns will match those of the past.

The article also provides an unfavorable look at privatization in Great Britain:
But under Britain's privatized pension system, so many retirees are doing so poorly at this moment that a commission warned this fall that widespread poverty among the elderly may be returning, which could require massive new government spending.
Already polls have shown public opposition to Bush's plans, and opposition may increase due to a planned campaign by the AARP. Ads will start next week arguing that "There are places in your retirement planning for risk, but Social Security isn't one of them."

Are Doctors Learning Perils of Single Issue Voting?

While my colleagues overwhelmingly supported George Bush over John Kerry, it is increasingly looking like doctors (as with the rest of the voting population) are opposing Bush on specific policies. Many doctors are learning the perils of single issue voting, after voting for George Bush on the mistaken belief that he would do more that John Kerry to resolve the malpractice crisis. (I dealt with this issue at length prior to the election in an on line debate at Point of Law.)

Reports out of this year's Interim Meeting of the American Medical Association indicate disagreement with George Bush on issues beyond malpractice reform. There is increased concern about his plans to cut domestic spending, including a reduction in pay for treating Medicare patients. People outside of the medical profession are also concerned about this GOP stance, fearing it will lead to an increased number of seniors who are unable to obtain medical care, as more doctors are unwilling to accept Medicare patients. AMA President John Nelson recently acknowledged that conservative politicians who (in his opinion) support doctors on malpractice reform are not on their side with regards to reimbursement issues. At the Interim Meeting, AMA members also supported reimportation of prescription drugs, provided there are measures to ensure patient safety.

Doctors who voted for George Bush in the hopes of seeing lower malpractice premiums will likely be disappointed by the results of Bush's malpractice proposals, and see a reduction in income. We'll also continue to face the problems of government science policy being dictated by the religious right, including restrictions on stem cell research and abortion rights.

The final straw might be if doctors who voted for George Bush wind up being drafted. The New York Times reported on contingency plans for a draft of health care professionals prior to the election, and the Wall Street Journal repeated the reports after Bush was reelected.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

''Alert: Electile Dysfunction."

Group holds fast to Kerry cause with Beacon Hill vigil
By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff | December 29, 2004

The election is long over. A new year is starting, and even most of the more ardent liberals are moving on. But in Louisburg Square this week, one determined group isn't quite ready to let go. About a half dozen supporters of John Kerry are holding vigil in front of his house, still hoping for a Kerry presidency.

The little knot of demonstrators, calling themselves the Coalition Against Election Fraud, stood shivering in the cold yesterday, hoisting signs and pressing fliers into the hands of bewildered passersby. Taxi drivers, neighbors digging cars out of the snow, and Beacon Hill residents who happened to be strolling by were subjected to earnest pleas to join the cause.

''Who knows? Maybe we'll overturn the election," said Sheila Parks, a vigil organizer.

Parks said the group believes the election was fixed and wants to persuade the Massachusetts senator to oppose congressional approval of the electoral college results Jan. 6. That would set in motion the process of questioning George W. Bush's victory in November. Such a challenge has never been successful, and nobody in Washington expects one now.

For his part, Kerry has said he's satisfied that the American people got their way in the election. He said he would file court papers in support of a recount effort in Ohio, but has said his only interest is ensuring confidence in the election process.

In any case, Kerry wasn't home to take notice of yesterday's demonstrators. A woman answered the door and promised to deliver a message when he returns from vacation at the end of January. Kerry has been in Ketchum, Idaho, for several weeks, and he plans to go to the Middle East for the first two weeks of January.

In a statement, a Kerry spokesman praised the tenacity of the group camped out on his doorstep yesterday.

''You meet a lot of inspirational people who took this campaign into their hearts," spokesman David Wade said. ''They keep their bumper stickers on their cars because they're proud of the fight they fought. John Kerry's campaign touched a chord with millions of Americans, and so many people want the fight to continue. . . . The campaign's ended, but the values we share are worth fighting for."

Parks and her coalition, many of whom worked feverishly on the Kerry campaign, are part of a larger phenomenon since the 2000 presidential election, specialists say. The ballot debacle that year in Florida has helped fuel conspiracy theories and given groups like Parks's a new cause.

''I'm sure that the Dukakis people in 1988 were as heartbroken as the Kerry people are now, but you didn't see this stuff happening," said Elaine C. Kamarck, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a researcher of 21st century government and the role of the Internet in political campaigns.

Kamarck said that while overturning the election is a far-fetched hope, small grass-roots groups might have a role in reforming the voting process.

''While I don't think that much is going to come of this, I'm actually frankly happy they are doing it," Kamarck said. ''It puts a lot of pressure on election administrators, secretaries of state, to fix this system. If we are going to be in an era of very, very close elections for a while, then we've got to have a better electoral system."

Parks, who years ago legally changed her surname to that of the famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, plans to take her group to Washington, D.C., next week to push her cause. In the meantime, the Coalition Against Election Fraud will spend an hour each day in front of Kerry's house in Boston, lamenting the attention that's been paid to national elections in the Ukraine and waving signs that say, ''Senator Kerry: Please Fight for Ohio" and ''Alert: electile dysfunction."


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

House Ethics Panel Chief May Be Replaced

House Ethics Panel Chief May Be Replaced

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 29, 2004; Page A04

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is leaning toward removing the House ethics committee chairman, who admonished House Majority Leader Tom DeLay this fall and has said he will treat DeLay like any other member, several Republican aides said yesterday.

Although Hastert (Ill.) has not made a decision, the expectation among leadership aides is that the chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), long at odds with party leaders because of his independence, will be replaced when Congress convenes next week.


Not Just Republicans Have Balls!

Win or lose on January 6th we will be out in force on the 20th with a Counter Inaugural that will launch the most creative and dynamic political opposition this country has yet seen. Working alongside a host of other organizations, we expect rallies at Dupont Circle and Malcomb X Park and a march to Franklin Park. While some people are coming to get in Bush's way or get themselves arrested doing civil disobedience, our goal is to provide an direct-action-and-teargas-free zone where pro-democracy forces can recapture some of the symbols of American democracy. While the permits have not yet been finalized, we expect to have stages on Capitol Hill near Union Station and at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well, with transportation in between venues for people who do not want to walk.

Our goal is to surround Bush's high security red zone in an ocean of blue. To get you to venture to the Jefferson Memorial we will have Jefferson scholar Clay Jenkinson doing a Jefferson re-enactment -- taking questions from the audience and responding as Jefferson himself might. ReDefeatBush founder David Lytel will reprise a role he performed a decade ago as Alexis de Tocqueville, whose cogent analysis of America's democratic origins helped define the uniqueness of the American experience. He will answer your the questions you may have about democracy and America's experiment with self-government. We expect other musical acts and performers to be announced in the coming weeks.

That night at 7:00 we invite everyone over to our place -- a dinner buffet and open bar for as many as 5,000 people at Dream, DC's premiere nightclub. We have created a bold new identity for ReDefeatBush and an exciting new mission that will be revealed at this Counterinaugural Ball the night of January 20th. It costs just $30 to attend if you're under 30 or $60 for everyone else, and more if you want to be a VIP or want Penthouse access. At 10:00 that night we will show a television program both at Dream and on the Internet with the highlights of what happened in Washington that day at the many stages being used by participants in the Counter Inaugural. Since we are invisible in the commerical media we will make our own instant documentary and news show.

Kerry as Candidate

Americablog has an overly simplistic look at the election: Kerry sucked. The problem with such theories, beyond being incorrect, is that if we blame the candidate rather than looking at the problems which resulted in losses by both Gore and Kerry, we are doomed to repeat such losses.

Following is taken from a couple of my comments disputing the argument that Kerry sucked, as well as follow up discussion:

This post buys into much of the distorted coverage of Kerry from the conservative media. We could complain that first Gore, and then Kerry were bad candidates, but it goes far beyond this.

Of course Kerry wasn't perfect, but many of the problems came from trying to cope with a bad situation which all Democratic candidates would face. Perhaps he didn't handle everything the best, but it would serve our cause better to find better ways to handle such problems.

(The post accuses Kerry of flip flopping over issues such as gay marriage and Iraq). Kerry's problem was that he had to balance a strong support for gay rights against voters who planned to go to the polls to vote against gay marriage. Civil unions seemed like a sensible compromise. On Iraq, he had to balance his opposition to Bush's policies against being labeled a leftist who would not defend America.

Blaming Kerry for the difficult political situation he was in will only doom us to repeat the same pattern. Rather than blaming the candidates, we must take on the system where supporting gay rights and opposing unjust military actions are losing positions.

(A follow comment argued that the key was how many of these issues were presented.)

I agree that many of the issues which are now losers might not be so if we presented them differently. Unfortunately, much of this involves long term arguments, and is beyond what can be done in a single political campaign. The Republicans have been developing their mythology for many years.

There were many things which I might have done differently from Kerry and other Democrats. However, I also admit that if things were done my way, they might still have lost, and perhaps would have lost worse. Even in cases where I disagreed with the campaign's approach, I would not go along with a simplistic argument such as that Kerry sucked.

(In response to further discussion of the IWR vote, and claims that Kerry failed to speak out against the war:)

Kerry did speak out against the war, such as calling for regime change in Washington at the onset of the war. Rove pulled a great trick to divide the left, and unfortunately Kerry did not handle this perfectly.

The Iraq War Resolution was set up to be a no win vote for Democrats--giving choices such as this is Rove's specialty. Bush clearly stated at the time of the vote that a yes vote was not a vote to go to war, but a vote saying that America stood together.

Running against Kerry, the Republicans characterized the vote as a vote to go to war, to portray Kerry as a flip flopper. If a candidate who voted no had run, we would have heard a different story. They would have said that it was not necessary for someone who opposed this war to vote no, and that a no vote meant lack of support for our country, etc.

Rather than a circular firing squad, we need to find better ways to handle such Rove traps. Sometimes I think that it might be best for Democrats to abstain as a group onsuch votes and speak out against the nature of the vote.

LA Times Questions Bush Mandate

Reelection Honeymoon With Voters Eludes Bush, Polls Say

by Peter Wallsten Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Despite a clear-cut reelection and the prospect of lasting GOP dominance in Congress, President Bush prepares to start his second term with the lowest approval ratings of any just-elected sitting president in half a century, according to new surveys.

That distinction, which pollsters and analysts blame on public discontent over the war in Iraq, comes as Bush begins drafting two major speeches that could quickly recast his image: an inaugural address Jan. 20 and the State of the Union soon after. Bracketed between them is the Jan. 30 election in Iraq, another milestone that could affect public impressions of Bush.


A Gallup survey conducted for CNN and USA Today puts Bush's approval rating at 49% — close to his preelection numbers. That's 10 to 20 points lower than every elected sitting president at this stage since just after World War II, according to Gallup, which has been tabulating such data since Harry S. Truman won a full term in 1948.

Bush's Gallup rating echoed a survey published last week by ABC News and the Washington Post, which put his approval rating at 48%. That poll also found that 56% of Americans believed the Iraq war was not worth fighting. Time magazine also put Bush's overall approval at 49%.

"The question is, what happened to the honeymoon?" asked Frank Newport, editor of the Gallup survey.


'Stay the course!' is not enough

Here's some interesting comments on Bush's Iraq policy:

In the aftermath of the suicide bombing of the Mosul mess hall, we are being admonished anew we must stay the course in Iraq. But "Stay the course!" is no longer enough.

President Bush needs to go on national television and tell us the unvarnished truth. Why are we still there? For some of Bush's countrymen, there is a sense of having been had, of having been made victim to one of the great bait-and-switches in the history of warfare.

The president, his War Cabinet and the neocon punditocracy sold us on this war by implying Saddam was implicated in 9-11, that he had a vast arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, that he was working on an atom bomb, that he would transfer his terror weapons to al-Qaida. We had to invade, destroy and disarm his axis-of-evil regime. Only thus could we be secure.

None of this was true. But the president won that debate and was given a free hand to invade Iraq. He did so, and overthrew Saddam's regime in three weeks. "Mission Accomplished!"

That was 20 months ago. What is our mission now? When did it change? With 1,300 dead and nearly 10,000 wounded, why are we still at war with these people?

What far left wing site is this from? Guess again. Actually this is from Pat Buchanan. Unfortunately, the "culture war" trumped other issues during the Presidential race, leading Buchanan to support Bush over Kerry.

Is Iran Next?

The Weekly Standard has discussed the threat of nuclear weapons from Iran, and looked at four options for handling this. They only find one option to be viable--a preemptive military strike:
Four. Realize that the only option that passes the pinch test--that realistically offers a good chance of delaying Iran's nuclear-weapons production by years--is a preemptive military strike against all of the facilities that American, European, Israeli, and (in private) IAEA intelligence suspect are associated with weapons production.
As I warned before the election, the reelection of George Bush (and keeping the neoconservatives in power) could very well mean Four More Wars.

Intelligent Design Not so Intelligent

Some intelligence is clearly needed on the part of the religious right, as they pursue their efforts to confuse religioius beliefs with scientific facts. The Washington Post reported over the weekend on a law in Dover, Pennsylvania:
If it survives a legal test, this school district of about 2,800 students could become the first in the nation to require that high school science teachers at least mention the "intelligent design" theory. This theory holds that human biology and evolution are so complex as to require the creative hand of an intelligent force.
In other words, human biology and evolution are too complex for them to understand, so they strive to ignore scientific research. A common tactic by the religious right is to state that the "Theory of Evolution" is just a theory, confusing the use of the word "theory" by scientists as opposed to the general population. They also purposely ignore the considerable body of scientific research supporting the Theory of Evolution.

It's sort of ignorance by design.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Self-Inflicted Gag Order or What's Blackwell Got to Hide?

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell " is seeking a court order to keep himself from being interviewed as part of a court challenge of the Nov. 2 vote."

Blackwell claims his deposition is not required, and accused 37 voters challenging the election of "frivolous conduct."

Attorney General Jim Petro, representing Blackwell, said the voters "are not trying to actually contest the presidential election but are merely using this litigation to cast public doubt on the voting system of the State of Ohio without a shred of evidence."

On Dec. 21, officials learned lawyers for the voters planned to issue subpoenas to several high-ranking officials, including Blackwell, Bush and the president's political adviser, Karl Rove, according to Petro.

The state Supreme Court "should halt their ability to subpoena any person until such time as they make a good faith showing for the reason to take any deposition," Petro said in the court filing.

However in related news, " This afternoon, an attorney representing the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign filed two important motions to preserve and augment evidence of alleged election fraud in the November election."
The purpose of the motions is twofold: A) To preserve all ballots and voting machines pertaining to the Yost matter for investigation and analysis; and B) To make available for sworn deposition testimony a technician for Triad Systems, the company that produced and maintained many of the voting machines used in the Ohio election. The technician has been accused of tampering with the recount process in Hocking County, Ohio, though other counties are believed to have also been involved. Any officers of Triad Systems who have information pertaining to said tampering are likewise subject to subpoena for sworn deposition testimony.
And, so the big question here is... What has Blackwell got to hide? Today's filing by Kerry attorney's clearly shows evidence of doubt on the voting system of the State of Ohio.

Action Alert: List of Agencies for Donations to Aid Asia

There is no darkness greater at this time than the devastation that has hit Asia. has compiled a list of agencies that are involved in relief efforts (Updated 2:12 pst)...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Conservatives Suppress Academic Freedom

The AP is running an article today reporting that Conservative Students Target Liberal Profs:
For example, at the University of North Carolina, three incoming freshmen sued over a reading assignment they said offended their Christian beliefs.

In Colorado and Indiana, a national conservative group publicized student allegations of left-wing bias by professors. Faculty received hate mail and were pictured in mock "wanted" posters; at least one college said teacher received a death threat.
The article shows how present disputes differ from similar disputes of the past:

To many professors, there's a new and deeply troubling aspect to this latest chapter in the debate over academic freedom: students trying to dictate what they don't want to be taught.

"Even the most contentious or disaffected of students in the '60s or early '70s never really pressed this kind of issue," said Robert O'Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and now director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Those behind the trend call it an antidote to the overwhelming liberal dominance of university faculties. But many educators, while agreeing students should never feel bullied, worry that they just want to avoid exposure to ideas that challenge their core beliefs — an essential part of education.

Some also fear teachers will shy away from sensitive topics, or fend off criticism by "balancing" their syllabuses with opposing viewpoints, even if they represent inferior scholarship.

"Faculty retrench. They are less willing to discuss contemporary problems and I think everyone loses out," said Joe Losco, a professor of political science at Ball State University in Indiana who has supported two colleagues targeted for alleged bias. "It puts a chill in the air."

Conservative commentator David Horowitz is identified as a leader of the movement, while expressing concern over his tactics:

But critics say Horowitz is pushing a political agenda, not an academic one.

"It's often phrased in the language of academic freedom. That's what's so strange about it," said Ellen Schrecker, a Yeshiva University historian who has written about academic freedom during the McCarthy area. "What they're saying is, 'We want people to reflect our point of view.'"

Friday, December 24, 2004

Kerry's E-Mail List Continues to Be a Valuable Resource

Kerry's E-Mail List Continues to Be a Valuable Resource

By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, December 25, 2004; Page A02

Enough about John F. Kerry. What about his e-mail list?

The former Democratic presidential candidate built, over the course of his two-year campaign, one of the biggest e-mail lists in his party. More than 2.7 million supporters signed up to receive his campaign e-mails, which his advisers have said were critical to its fundraising success. Now, as Democrats survey the post-election landscape, some are wondering what Kerry might do with all those e-mail addresses.


Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan

Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan

Major Calls Effort in Iraq 'Mediocre'

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 25, 2004; Page A01

The U.S. military invaded Iraq without a formal plan for occupying and stabilizing the country and this high-level failure continues to undercut what has been a "mediocre" Army effort there, an Army historian and strategist has concluded.

"There was no Phase IV plan" for occupying Iraq after the combat phase, writes Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq. While a variety of government offices had considered the possible situations that would follow a U.S. victory, Wilson writes, no one produced an actual document laying out a strategy to consolidate the victory after major combat operations ended.

The article concludes with:

Wilson contends that a lack of sufficient troops was a consequence of the earlier, larger problem of failing to understand that prevailing in Iraq involved more than just removing Hussein. "This overly simplistic conception of the 'war' led to a cascading undercutting of the war effort: too few troops, too little coordination with civilian and governmental/non-governmental agencies . . . and too little allotted time to achieve 'success,' " he writes.

Full Article

Abortion Rights is Not Where Democrats Should Abandon Principle

The LA Times reports that Democratic leaders might reconsider their position on abortion rights. While there perhaps are issues which Democrats should reconsider, support for abortion rights is not one of them.

We are entering an era in which more and more people are voting based upon moral issues as opposed to economic self-interest. By moral issues I don't mean voting for one set of positions favored by the religious right. I'm referring to considering positions such as abortion rights, stem cell research, toleration of different life styles. While the media concentrated on those who came out to vote for George Bush, there are also many of us who voted Democratic based upon opposing positions. If the Democrats do not stand for principles of individual liberty and tolerance, perhaps I might as well vote for moderate Republicans, and enjoy the tax cuts. (The fact that GOP economic policies have actually become contrary to the economic interrests of even those of us in the upper middle class is a topic for a different post).

Democrats must stand firm on some principles to avoid loss of support from those who vote Democratic on principle. When I say abortion rights is an issue the Democrats should continue to support I say this based not nnly on principle, but based upon pragmatic politics. After all, a majority of voters oppose the type of restrictions on abortion favored by the GOP.

Support Our Troops

They can only dream of holidays at home

In a Christmas column, Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, discusses the soldiers in Iraq. He concludes with what may be the best way to support our troops:

"Support Our Troops" is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Holiday Message from John Kerry

I know many of our visitors are on the email list, but incase you are not, I wanted to share this email from John Kerry :

Dear Pamela,

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones enjoying the holidays. I have been thinking a lot about what our community can do to mark the end of what has been an extraordinary year. We have formed bonds of friendship and commitment that I know will extend far into the future.

So, in addition to thanking you once again for all you have done, I'm writing to invite your participation in one final 2004 act of collective generosity. As a soldier, I remember how much it meant to hear from loved ones - especially at the holidays. So, I thought you and I could work together to make it easier for our soldiers serving in Iraq to phone home and hear a friendly voice.

We've found a program that does just that. Operation Phone Home is run by the USO, which has been an extraordinary friend to American soldiers for decades. The USO buys phone cards at cost and provides them to our soldiers free of charge. You can help the USO help our troops this holiday season right here:

In January, I will go to Iraq to see the situation firsthand and personally visit with our courageous troops who are serving America so well. Nothing would please me more than telling them that hundreds of thousands of us have expressed our thanks to them in this concrete and personal way.

Your gift can help a soldier phone home.

In the New Year, I will be writing you about our 2005 projects and priorities. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy this special time of year. Thanks so much for your constant acts of friendship and your special consideration of this request.

John Kerry

P.S. There are 140,400 U.S. military members serving in Iraq. Any calls they make home to those anxiously awaiting their safe return are at their own expense. A gift of $100 will provide 20 soldiers with a 100-minute phone card. A $1,000 donation would do the same for 200 soldiers. Please help. A friendly and familiar voice can mean so much to a soldier serving America so far away from home.

Second Try for the Far Right Judges

Bush to attempt to move judicial system to far fight in second term, attempting to circumvent Constitutional checks and balances:

Bush to Renominate 20 Judges Whom Democrats Have Resisted


WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - President Bush plans to renominate 20 candidates for federal judgeships who have been unable to win confirmation in the Senate, the White House said today, in a signal that the president is ready for a showdown early next year.

"An effective and efficient judicial system is vital to ensuring justice for all Americans," the White House said. "The president nominated highly qualified individuals to the federal courts during his first term, but the Senate failed to vote on many nominations."

Senate Democrats have maintained for months that they have routinely confirmed nominees who are not right-wing extremists or lukewarm about civil rights - faults that they have ascribed to the nominees that they have managed to block.


Bill O'Reilly: Media Matters 2004 Misinformer of the Year

Congratulations Bill:


Since our launch in May 2004, Media Matters for America has monitored, analyzed, and corrected conservative misinformation in the news media 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our staff recently reviewed the misinformation we've identified and corrected during those eight months in order to choose our first annual "Misinformer of the Year."

Of all the news anchors, columnists, pundits, and reporters whose work we've critiqued and corrected, one stands above all the rest. We're pleased to announce that with at least 75 (we stopped counting) lies, distortions, and mischaracterizations, television host, columnist, radio host, former Inside Edition anchor, man of the people, and Harvard University graduate Bill O'Reilly can now claim the title: 2004 Misinformer of the Year. We've compiled a list of some of his most egregious false and misleading claims of 2004 for your reading pleasure. We've left out comments that were merely offensive, but you can see where he ranks on our list of the Top Ten Most Outrageous Comments of 2004 here.


USA Founder Call for Bringing Troops Home

Al Neuharth, in Christmas Column, Calls for Bringing Troops Home from Iraq

By E&P Staff

Published: December 23, 2004 11:00 AM ET
NEW YORK In a column noting the high number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq who will be far from home on Christmas, USA Today founder Al Neuharth declared today that if he were eligible to serve in Iraq, "I would do all I could to avoid it." He also wrote in his weekly column for the paper that America's New Year's resolution should be to bring the troops home "sooner rather than later."


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Kerry Gear Still Selling Strong!

Despite loss, Kerry gear brings capital gain
By Andrew MigaWednesday, December 22, 2004

WASHINGTON -The Nov. 2 election was over nearly two months ago, but defeated Democrat Sen. John F. Kerry's campaign Web site is still going strong - hawking a full line of ``Kerry for President'' merchandise to the party faithful.

Telephone sales agents at the campaign's official merchandiser are standing by to take orders for Kerry/Edwards T-shirts, bumper stickers, fleece jackets, coffee mugs and motorcycle flags.

Despite last fall's three-point loss to President Bush, Democratic presidential hopes seem to spring eternal in Kerry cyberspace where ``Help is On the Way'' yard signs can still be had for $4.

Kerry returns to only Idaho county he won

December 22, 2004 6:57 PM
The Associated Press

KETCHUM, Idaho John Kerry lost 68 percent of the vote in Idaho.

But in Blaine County, a Democratic enclave where the Massachussetts senator has a vacation home, Kerry won a majority of voters.

Last week, he was back in Ketchum, thanking supporters at a local Democratic Party meeting.
Betty Murphy, the chairwoman of Democrats in Blaine County, called Kerry's visit a wonderful Christmas present.

She said he was upbeat despite his loss a month and a half earlier, when the Democratic party also lost ground in Congress.

He urged 35 party members at the meeting to set their sights on 2008.

He stayed about 45 minutes at the Ski and Heritage Museum in Ketchum.

Bush Monkey Picture Shown on Giant Billboard

Bush Monkey Picture Shown on Giant Billboard

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A portrait of President Bush using monkeys to form his image that was banished from a New York art show last week amid charges of censorship was projected on a giant billboard in Manhattan on Tuesday.

"Bush Monkeys," a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido, created the stir last week at the Chelsea Market public space, leading the market's managers to close down the 60-piece show.

Animal Magazine, a quarterly arts publication that had organized the month-long show, said anonymous donors had paid for the picture to be posted on a giant digital billboard over the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, used by thousands of commuters traveling between Manhattan and New Jersey.


The Latest Rumors out of Ohio

I'll believe it when I actually see something, but the blogosphere is starting to spread a new rumor of hope in the 2004 election. William Rivers Pitt has posted a message on Democratic Underground claiming that "Kerry is getting into the game tomorrow."

Reportedly this may involve allegations of tampering with the vote in Ohio by Triad Systems, the manufacturer of the punch card systems used. Pitt has previously written about Triad on Truthout.

Drug Companies Buy Favorable Government Recommendations

Getting accurate, nonbiased information on medications appears to be getting increasingly difficult in George Bush's America. The recent problems with COX II inhibitors (and possibly NSAID's) may just be the tip of the iceberg. The LA Times has been investigating the influence of pharmaceutical industry money on those who set medical standards at the National Institute of Health.

Here's a few of the examples the LA Times cited today:
• Dr. P. Trey Sunderland III, a senior psychiatric researcher, took $508,050 in fees and related income from Pfizer Inc. at the same time that he collaborated with Pfizer — in his government capacity — in studying patients with Alzheimer's disease. Without declaring his affiliation with the company, Sunderland endorsed the use of an Alzheimer's drug marketed by Pfizer during a nationally televised presentation at the NIH in 2003.

• Dr. Lance A. Liotta, a laboratory director at the National Cancer Institute, was working in his official capacity with a company trying to develop an ovarian cancer test. He then took $70,000 as a consultant to the company's rival. Development of the cancer test stalled, prompting a complaint from the company. The NIH backed Liotta.

• Dr. Harvey G. Klein, the NIH's top blood transfusion expert, accepted $240,200 in fees and 76,000 stock options over the last five years from companies developing blood-related products. During the same period, he wrote or spoke out about the usefulness of such products without publicly declaring his company ties.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Kerry Blogger Responds to Kos: Kos's sour grapes

Wow! Serious sour grapes here, Kos.

Did you ever participate at the Kerry Blog? Doubtful. So instead of trashing the Kerry Blog and what the Kerry Campaign accomplished with their online activists, you ought to look in the mirror first.

That's right... take a good long look in the mirror and see your negative, whining, ranting self for what you are.

You proved your ignorance by stating that Zach Exley "was behind the god-awful Kerry blog". I know the record has already been set straight here by a few, but I will add my 2 cents.

Dick Bell was behind the Kerry Blog and a whole lot more of the Kerry internet activist's role in the Kerry campaign. I know this because I worked closely with Dick Bell from August '03 as a volunteer writer for the Kerry Blog and a moderator. Any questions or doubts on that search the Kerry Blog archives for threads authored by Pamela Leavey.

Likewise you are wrong if you think that Kerry has been abandoned by legions of Democrats. There are legions of Democrats who are still very, very loyal to John Kerry.

I guarantee you that the Kerry internet activists, the Kerry Bloggers are felt as though they were "valued partners" in the campaign and likewise John Kerry had a great deal of respect and thanks for his Bloggers.

There were a lot of things that the campaign perhaps should have and could have done better, but one thing that the core group of original Kerry Bloggers got early on was the need to be positive on the Kerry Blog and focus on the message. So while everyone including yourself was busy ranting and whining on the Dean Blog, the Kerry Blog focused on the positive and spread the word about John Kerry.

Democrats who insist on attacking their own could take a lesson from the Kerry Bloggers who worked hard to keep the Kerry Blog a focused and positive community. We're not helping the party nor any of our candidates when we attack them or rant about them.

I have always disliked the sensationalism that much of the media employs. Funny, I have always disliked the Daily Kos for much the same reasons.

ACLU Reports Documents Show Bush Ordered Inhumane Interrogation Methods

Newly Obtained FBI Records Call Defense Department’s Methods "Torture," Express Concerns Over "Cover-Up" That May Leave FBI "Holding the Bag" for Abuses

NEW YORK -- A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.

"These documents raise grave questions about where the blame for widespread detainee abuse ultimately rests," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Top government officials can no longer hide from public scrutiny by pointing the finger at a few low-ranking soldiers."


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Kerry Speaks on BCCI

Kerry Speaks on BCCI: "Financial transparency is more important than ever"
19 December 2004

John Kerry spoke out today about the BCCI affair calling "for regulators on both sides of the Atlantic to tighten their anti-money laundering procedures." Kerry led the Senate investigation of BCCI in the early 1990's.

Senator John Kerry has slammed the Bank of England over its handling of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) disaster and warned that London remains vulnerable to another major scandal.

Expressing his solidarity with the creditors of the BCCI, Senator Kerry told the Sunday Observer newspaper: "The Bank of England failed to supervise BCCI properly."

Kerry is an acknowledged expert on the long-running BCCI affair, having led a US Senate investigation into the rogue bank more than ten years ago.

BCCI, headquartered in London , collapsed in 1991 with undeclared debts of 7 billion pounds.

He said the banking supervision had improved since BCCI episode but warned it was "still necessary" for regulators on both sides of the Atlantic to tighten their anti-money laundering procedures.

"Financial transparency is more important than ever, and we're going to need to continue to be vigilant to prevent any would-be rogue bank from creating another round of victims," he said.

BCCI's victims are currently suing the Bank of England for up to one billion pounds as compensation, alleging that its officials acted with "willful negligence amounting to misfeasance in public office."

Also see: The Case That Kerry Cracked.

AARP Poll Shows Most Support Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana

December 19, 2004

AARP Poll Shows Most Support Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana


WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (AP) - Nearly three-fourths of Americans middle age and older support legalizing marijuana for medical use, according to a poll taken for AARP.

More than half of those questioned said they believed marijuana has medical benefits, while a larger majority agreed the drug is addictive.


More on the Person of The Year

Is he the first Time Magazine Person of the Year to require special instruction as to how to work a zipper?

Time Person of the Year

Every year Time Magazine gives an award for the person who had the most impact during the year, for good or evil. George Bush has joined this club.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Smart gun recognises its owner

It will be interesting to see if the Republicans oppose this form of "gun control."

Smart gun recognises its owner

Tim Radford
Friday December 17, 2004
The Guardian

US scientists have tested a handgun that can only be used by its owner. Sensors embedded in the handle recognise the owner's grip, so if the pistol is ever grabbed by an unauthorised user it should refuse to fire.

The New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, who secured £550,000 in federal money for the project, said deaths such as children shooting children after getting hold of a loaded gun "can be prevented - or at least reduced".

The New Jersey Institute of Technology developed the system called dynamic grip recognition. Since June five New Jersey police officers have been trained to use it.

Just as people have unique fingerprints, iris patterns and voice prints, so humans also have distinct walks and hand grips.

The team found that no two ways of holding a gun or squeezing a trigger would be identical. The sensors in the prototype grip can read and record the force of the hand during the first second the trigger is squeezed. The idea is to introduce"personalised" guns that only fire for authorised users.

Swift Boat Liars For The AWOL Flier To Continue

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Swift Boat Liars plan to continue to spread their anti-Kerry lies even with the election being over. Most likely they were getting a rush from all the adoration from the right wingers who were willing to listen to their lies no matter how much evidence was raised to dispute their claims.

In a way I see this as a good development. If Kerry is to run again in 2008, it is necessary for the Swift Boat Liars to be blown away. We do not want to have to face these lies in another election, and I bet many Democrats will not support Kerry if they anticipate this happening. It is easier for Kerry to stand up to them if they continue to spread their lies. Demolishing the Swift Boat Liars will also be an excellent first step in fighting the whole right wing attack machine.

In addition to refuting the lies about Kerry's war record, it will also be helpful to clarify the issues of both attrocities and the justification in opposing a mistaken war, especially as we are now facing these same issues again.

The attrocities issues has especially been distorted in two different ways. The Swift Boat Liars aired a commercial which edited Kerry's Senate testimony to make it appear he was making accusations against fellow soldiers when his actual statement made it clear he was repeating the testimony of others. Kerry has made one specific charge of war crimes, and his charges have been verified. This related to the use of free fire zones in which anyone would be shot at without evidence of hostile activity. After returning home from Viet Nam, Kerry found that this was in violation of international law, and Kerry showed courage in raising this issue. It should also be made clear that Kerry's charges were against those at the top who issues such orders, not the common soldier.

It was difficult for Kerry to devote much attention to this group during the campaign (although virtually everyone now agrees it was a mistake to wait so long to respond to them in August). Now that we don't have the rushed schedule of a campaign, Kerry and allies can devote the time to really blow out these arguments.

John Kerry Calls on Rumsfeld to Investigate Why Troops Lack Armor

A quick visit to John Kerry's Senate website gives us an idea what John Kerry has been up to in the past few weeks since the election... Too bad the mainstream media is not reporting this! But then it is no small wonder, they failed to report so much of what John Kerry was saying during the campaign.

John Kerry Calls on Rumsfeld to Investigate Why Troops Lack

When American Companies Insist They Can Provide It

December 10, 2004
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

The recent reports of inadequate armor for U.S. military vehicles in Iraq have been followed by statements from suppliers that they could be doing more to provide armor for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the last two days, Armor Holdings, Inc. stated it is capable of immediately expanding its production by 22%. ArmorWorks has indicated they are only at 50% of capacity in their manufacturing of armor kits. AM General, the manufacturer of Humvees, also indicated it had excess production capacity.

Yesterday, my staff heard from Protective Armored Systems (PAS) of Massachusetts. PAS manufactures bullet-resistant windows and has previously provided kits for Humvees. Foster-Miller, another Massachusetts company, has already provided add-on armor for Humvees to the Marine Corps. Both firms stand ready to assist your efforts to give America’s soldiers and Marines the best gear and protection available.

I know you agree that no soldier should be put in harm's way without adequate armor. I urge you to investigate immediately why troops are going without the equipment they need when American companies say they can provide it.

We must never spare any expense when it comes to the lives and safety of our troops. I encourage you to reach out to American manufacturers, like those in Massachusetts, who are ready and able to contribute to meeting the immediate needs of our men and women in uniform.

If I can be of any assistance in this regard, please let me know.

John F. Kerry

See also: Kerry Fights to Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Kerry Statement on Increase in Debt Limit

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Cost of Bush's Deficits

The Economist (an honest conservative newsweekly, which endorsed John Kerry over George Bush) puts the cost of Bush's deficits into perspective:
According to William Gale and Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, America’s budget deficits are likely to average about 3.5% of GDP for the remainder of the decade. As the government continues to gobble up America’s scanty savings, it will crowd out the investment on which America’s prosperity depends. By 2014, reckon Messrs Gale and Orszag, the deficits will have reduced America’s wealth by roughly 20-30% of GDP. That is no good in anyone’s textbook.

Cost of War To Exceed $200 Billion

During the campaign there was quite a bit of nit picking over Kerry's charges on the cost of the Iraq war as Kerry's figures included expectations for future spending over the next year. The Christian Science Monitor now reports that military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan will surpass $200 billion dollars.

Krugman's Warnings on Social Security Privitization

Paul Krugman looks at Social Security privitization, and warns that:

Information about other countries' experience with privatization isn't hard to find. For example, the Century Foundation, at, provides a wide range of links.

Yet, aside from giving the Cato Institute and other organizations promoting Social Security privatization the space to present upbeat tales from Chile, the U.S. news media have provided their readers and viewers with little information about international experience. In particular, the public hasn't been let in on two open secrets:

Privatization dissipates a large fraction of workers' contributions on fees to investment companies.

It leaves many retirees in poverty.

Contest The Vote!

There is a petition online for Barbara Boxer to contest the vote:

According to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, one senator and one House Representative are required to contest an election prior to inauguration. We have the representatives. We still need a senator. Let Senator Boxer know that we want her to be that senator by signing our petition. The signed petitions will be delivered to her in person by a coalition of representatives from a variety of concerned organizations and individuals.

Letter from David Brock to Bill O'Reilly

First O'Reilly got blown out by Terri Gross. Now he has David Brock, who really understands how the right wing wind bags work, standing up to him:

Letter from David Brock to Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly
The O'Reilly Factor
FOX News Channel
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. O'Reilly:

In May of this year, I asked that you allow me to come on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss your attacks on philanthropist George Soros. Your producer denied my request, saying you were no longer discussing the topic. Yet in subsequent weeks, you continued to discuss Mr. Soros on your radio and television programs. Despite my offer to discuss Soros, you still did not invite me on -- even complaining during your June 1 Radio Factor, "I mean, we really can't get anybody in here [to defend Soros] that's not a raving, raving Far-Left person, and why we would want to do that, I don't know."

In recent months, you have repeatedly attacked me and my organization, Media Matters for America:

  • On the June 28 O'Reilly Factor, you referred to Media Matters as a "Far Left website";
  • On the August 5 Radio Factor, you likened Media Matters to Mao Zedong;
  • On the August 5 O'Reilly Factor, you claimed your critics are "hiding"; in response, I reiterated my willingness to appear on your television show;
  • During your August 7 debate with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on CNBC, you compared Media Matters to the Ku Klux Klan and Fidel Castro;
  • On August 13, Media Matters noted your recent attacks on us, and wondered how long it would be before you compared us to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It took less than a month: On the September 14 Radio Factor, you referred to comments I made as "Joseph Goebbels Nazi stuff";
  • On the December 9 Radio Factor, you called Media Matters "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country";
  • On the December 14 Radio Factor, you called Media Matters "sneaky"; accused us of "tak[ing] things out of context"; called us a "Far Left, deceitful, disgusting website"; and called us "character assassins" and "despicable weasels."

As you can see, Mr. O'Reilly, you have repeatedly and personally attacked me, Media Matters for America, and my fine staff, calling us "vile," "despicable," and "weasels," and comparing us to the Ku Klux Klan, Castro, Mao, and the Nazis. And you have refused my repeated requests to appear on your broadcast.

You once offered your viewers your definition of the word "coward." On the January 5, 2004, O'Reilly Factor, you declared: "If you attack someone publicly, as these men did to me, you have an obligation to face the person you are smearing. If you don't, you are a coward."

Well, Mr. O'Reilly, you have attacked me publicly on numerous occasions, and you refuse to face me. You, sir, are a coward -- by your own definition of the term. You are "hiding under your desk" (to paraphrase your August 26, 2003, claim about a "coward" who declined to appear on your show) rather than allowing me on your program to discuss your insults. You are "gutless," to borrow the phrase you used on January 10, 2003, and February 8, 2001, to describe people who would not appear on your program. I attach additional examples of your pejorative descriptions of those who decline invitations to appear on your broadcast.

Your frequent complaint that your words are taken out of context appears to have spurred your recent assault on my organization. While reasonable people can disagree about conclusions we, or you, have drawn about your comments, you are simply wrong to say that we took you out of context. I remain willing and eager to appear on either your television or radio program to discuss your contention that my organization has taken your comments out of context.

Should you continue to refuse this offer, it is only reasonable that the American people will conclude that you are not only -- as you would put it -- a "coward," but a hypocrite as well.


David Brock
President and CEO
Media Matters for America

No Mandate for George Bush

There's more signs of the weakness of George Bush's mandate in the first Wall Street Journal NBC News Poll since the election:
  • The public, by 50% to 38% believes Bush's proposals to change Social Security are "a bad idea."
  • Americans were more likely to want to leave the tax code as it is rather than having major changes as advocated by Bush.
  • 46% think the country is going on the wrong track as opposed to only 41% who believe it is heading in the right direction.
  • Bush's job approval rating remains under 50% (at 49%).51% approve of Bush's handling of the war on terrorism.
  • 51% disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy.
  • A majority did feel the election gave Bush a mandate to fight terrorism, but not to change social security, push a consititutional ammendment to ban gay marriage, or to limit federal funding of stem cell research.

The poll verifies what many of us suspected all along. George Bush won due to his ability to play on fears of terrorism, while a majority otherwise do not approve of his other actions in office.

If only more realized the truth about how poorly George Bush has handled the war on terrorism.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Former Military Lawyers Object to Bush Nomination

While hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales, are expected to begin next month several former military lawyers are discussing ways to oppose his nomination. Their assertion is that Gonzales's supervised of legal memos that appeared to sanction harsh treatment of detainees, including torture and showed unsound legal judgment.

Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy's judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000 before he retired, said that while Mr. Gonzales might be a lawyer of some stature, "I think the role that he played in the one thing that I am familiar
with is tremendously shortsighted."

"He was not thinking about the United States' history in abiding by international law, especially in the wartime context," he said. "For that reason, some of us think he is a poor choice to be attorney general."

Maybe it's just me thinking this, but those memos from Gonzales seem far more controversial than Bernard Kerik's nanny (or whatever else Kerik was hiding in his closet!).

Take Action: Say No To Gonzales

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Senate Dems Plan Investigatory Hearings

Senate Dems Plan Investigatory Hearings

Mon Dec 13, 5:48 PM ET

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - New Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Monday his party will launch investigative hearings next year in response to what he said was the reluctance of Republicans to look into problems in the Bush administration.

"There are too many unasked and unanswered questions and the American public deserves better," the Nevada senator said at a news conference. He will formally succeed Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., as party leader next month.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who heads the Democratic Policy Committee, said the first hearing will be at the end of January and he suggested it might focus on contract abuse in Iraq. He said the policy committee, which has held occasional investigative hearings in the past, planned to convene at least one such hearing a month.

Dorgan said that with Republicans controlling the White House and both the House and Senate, "the congressional watchdog remains fast asleep in this Congress."

GOP-led congressional committees have held oversight hearings on such subjects as prison abuse in Iraq and Pentagon waste, but Reid and Dorgan said they fell short of fulfilling the role of Congress to oversee executive branch excesses.

They said issues that "cry out" for closer investigation, in addition to contracting abuses in Iraq, include the administration's use of prewar intelligence and its reported effort to stifle information about the true cost of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Reid also mentioned global warming and the "No Child Left Behind" education program as topics that needed a closer look.

The Democratic-organized hearings would not have subpoena powers, but Dorgan said there are plenty of whistleblowers "anxious to tell their story."

The two senators said they would step aside whenever Republicans agreed to hold regular committee hearings on a topic, and they would ask Republicans to provide testimony or witnesses at the Democratic hearings. Dorgan said 12 to 15 Senate Democrats would lead the new oversight effort.

More at the Light Up the Darkness Blog

Monday, December 13, 2004

Sour Grapes? Partisan Hacks?

Members of the Massachusetts Electoral College vented their frustration today with the election results. Their contention is that the election was "marred by voter intimidation and fraud".

In response to this Republicans claimed that the Dem's were having a hard time coming to terms with Kerry's loss and it was a case of "Sour Grapes".

"This is sour grapes," said Tim O'Brien, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party. "There is no dispute Bush won the election. Even John Kerry concedes that."

Republicans also said the views of electors don't represent the views of average voters.

"The people chosen to be electors are the most partisan hacks around. I take what they say with as much salt as in the Rock of Gibraltar," said Republican analyst Jim Nuzzo.

Well, I certainly would think that if Republican analyst Jim Nuzzo feels that way, he must mean that ALL who are chosen to be electors, from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are partisan hacks! If the shoe fits... wear it...

Quite frankly, I agree with Massachusetts Electors assessment that "the country should work to make the elections as accurate and fair as possible, especially at a time when the United States is trying to spread democracy to other countries".

Kerry To Visit Pakistan

John Kerry will visit Pakistan next month to hold talks with President, Pervez Musharraf and other top Pakistan officials. Pakistan's official APP newsagency reported from Washington today that the Democratic Party candidate would visit Pakistan on January 11 and 12. Kerry was expected to hold talks with Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The Future Does Not Look Bright

Taking a look at recent economic news, the future does not look bright...

The working poor are struggling more than ever with little help or end in sight. The Bush administration has turned a blind eye to these people who silently struggle everyday. Frankly, I see no benefit for the working poor, in Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. I'm wondering where the compassion is? I'm looking for the values that we've heard so much about since the election...


Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Sequoia, A Call for Responsibility

Sandy at the LightUpTheDarkness Blog wrote this interesting view on the recent approval for the U.S. to buy back the Presidential yacht:

Considering the full out assault on our National Park System and wildlands by the Bush Administration, the fact that he has created only three new national parks, a record low of any administration since 1900, and that just today, it has been reported that the USS Arizona Memorial's visitors center is sinking and cracking; it is not surprising that President Bush's interest in a Presidential yacht would raise some eyebrows. Particularly a two million dollar yacht when we have soldiers scouring Iraqi dumps to armor their vehicles.

Still, hopefully we can see the value of The Sequoia beyond the tragically misguided Iraq war. After all, the federal government owns $328 billion of real estate, including aristocratic estates like Camp David and the Wye River Plantation. To draw the line at a boat for the President seems a bit trivial, two million dollars isn’t all that much to preserve a National Historic Landmark for future generations and keep it from becoming a riverboat casino in Russia. The Sequoia is perhaps the most famous vessel in America and the scene of some of America 's most historic events. Commissioned during the Harding administration, it was used by FDR and Eisenhower in the planning of D-day; Truman conducted the world's first nuclear arms control summit; Eisenhower entertained Korean War veterans; Kennedy celebrated his last (46th) birthday party; LBJ lobbied for civil rights legislation, and Nixon negotiated the first arms control treaty with the Soviet Union.


Republican Warns Bush on Social Security Reforms

Republican Warns Bush on Social Security Reforms

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican congressional proponent of Social Security reform warned President Bush on Sunday not to rely on a sharp increase in government borrowing to overhaul the federal retirement program.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said reliance on borrowing to finance an estimated $1 trillion to $2 trillion in transition costs would be irresponsible and could undermine Bush's tax- and deficit-cutting goals.

"What I'm asking of the president, when it comes to the transition costs, be flexible," said Graham, who has proposed a temporary rise in payroll tax contributions to finance Social Security's shift to partial privatization.

"I think it's irresponsible to borrow the whole trillion dollars," he told "Fox News Sunday."


Saturday, December 11, 2004

The New Class Struggle

To avoid remaining the opposition party, Democrats must do a better job of selling themselves to groups such as small businessmen and suburbanites. While there has been lots of talk about "moral issues" after this election, and certainly terrorism and Iraq determined many votes, in the long run the economy will always be a major issue.

We may be seeing a transformation, with the major division being not over class, but over religious issues. The Religious right is striving to tear down the separation of church and state, resulting in policies which many "country club Republicans" might not feel comfortable with. The question is whether they can find a new home among Democrats.

The prevailing view among the upper middle class is that the "class struggle" is one of them versus the working people, with the Republicans on their side. In recent years, GOP policies have been harmful to those of us in the upper middle class with the Republicans representing the interests purely of the super wealthy. The Republicans remain in power by mass deception, developing a coalition of the duped. This includes the upper middle class which is not paying enough attention to how things have changed, to less educated people in the lower classes who are easily deceived by GOP propaganda.

I've been fighting a difficult battle in convincing my Republicans friends that the GOP no longer supports their interests. Some recently published data (thanks to Political Animal) might help me present this case. Pay without Performance : The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried notes that:

Aggregate top-five compensation was equal to 10 percent of aggregate corporate
earnings in 1998-2002, up from 6 percent of aggregate corporate earnings during
1993-1997 The top five in each corporation receive ten percent of corporate

That's an amazing statistic. Many people in the middle class voted Republican because they dream of making it big. This shows how few people really achieve the Republican dream. The Economist also points out that:

In 1991 the pay of the average American large-company boss was about 140 times
that of the average worker; by last year, it was over 500 times, and growing.
Last year's 7.2% rise in the average American boss's total compensation is worth
over $400,000?nice work, if you can get it.

The increase in compensation (not total pay) was $400,000. If they are making 140 times that of the average worker, they also remain in a league well beyond the typical suburban upper middle class Republican voter. These people, who now control the decisions of the Republicans, do not have the same interests of the typical Republican. As they increasingly use the power of government to transfer wealth from the middle and upper middle classes to themselves, it is time for new battle lines in the "class struggle." The upper middle class now has far more in common with the average working person than with those who dominate the GOP.

Social Security: Reform or Privatization (The Parties Flip Flop)

As I mentioned in one of the comment sections of the blog, I will not oppose proposals for changing social security purely because they come from George Bush. I am a bit disturbed at how battle lines are already drawn, as can be seen by each side coming up with their own derisive. terminology. What is "reform" to Republicans is "privatization" to Democrats. One reason I supported John Kerry was that he was willing to consider conservative economic ideas when appropriate, such as in balancing the budget. (At least that was a conservative idea at the time.)

I'm willing to consider proposals which take advantage of the time value of money, but the details will be very important. I'm concerned about the effect on the deficit. Such proposals could have been considered more easily before George Bush squandered the budget surplus. While I appreciate the benefits of time value of money and likely increases in the stock market, I also note the basic principle of investing that first you start with safe investments, and have some money in cash before buying stocks. Social Security might be best kept as the fall back, safe money. Most importantly, I'm concerned about more misdirection from George Bush. We already have seen that his idea of reforming Medicare is proposals which are designed to ultimately destroy the program over time. We must not allow this to happen with Social Security.

I also note the irony that some Democrats and Republicans were on the opposite side when Bill Clinton considered such ideas. Among opponents of using investments in the Social Security system was one man nobody has every accused of being a liberal Democrat:

Greenspan Warns of Future of Social Security

29 January, 1999

By Lawrence Morahan
CNS Staff Writer

(CNS) – Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned Thursday that the only long-term fix to the Social Security retirement system may be to cut benefits or raise taxes.

Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee, Greenspan repeated his opposition to investing government money in the stock market and cautioned lawmakers against relying on projections of large surpluses that may never materialize.

"Investing a portion of the Social Security trust fund assets in equities, as the administration and others have proposed, would arguably put at risk the efficiency of our capital markets and thus, our economy," Greenspan said.

"To ensure that taxes and interest income will always be sufficient to pay benefits, Social Security taxes would have to be raised much more – perhaps something on the order of between 4 and 5 percent of taxable payroll" to finance the retirement of the baby boom in the next century, Greenspan told the committee.

Last week, Greenspan condemned proposals for investing a portion of Social Security funds in the stock market, as outlined by President Clinton in his State of the Union address. Greenspan endorsed Clinton's idea of saving rather than spending budget surpluses but thinks government investments in the stock market are too vulnerable to political influence.

Conservatives also have attacked Clinton's proposal. Presidential contender Dan Quayle described the idea as new age socialism in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference last week.

Greenspan has argued the surplus would be put to better use by allowing it to accumulate, thus reducing the nation's outstanding debt, or using some of it to cut taxes.

Greenspan cautioned that the budget outlook depends on the continued good performance of the economy--currently nearing its ninth year of expansion--and the stock market, neither of which should be taken for granted.

Lawmakers Help Wounded Soldier Get Home

Spc. Robert Loria of Middletown, N.Y., lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800. On Friday a platoon of New York lawmakers came to his rescue. Loria found himself stuck in Fort Hood in Texas this week when Army officials said he owed money for travel expenses and for lost equipment.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey and Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton interceded on behalf of the 27-year-old veteran after his wife, Christine Loria, told the Times-Herald Record of Middletown about the problem.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jobless Claims Rise Again...

9 December 2004
Despite claims that the economy is doing better, new applications for for unemployment claims are on the rise again. This can be seen as a sign that employers are still running on the side of caution and looking for yet more ways to cut costs:

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of new applications filed for unemployment insurance rose by a seasonally adjusted 8,000 to 357,000 for the week ending Dec. 4. That marked the highest level since late September.

Last week's increase followed a sharp rise in claims — of 25,000 — in the prior week.
The newest snapshot of labor market activity was a bit disappointing to economists. They were forecasting claims to drop to around 335,000 for last week.

Higher energy bills and expensive health-care costs may be taking their toll on some companies — squeezing profits and forcing them to trim workers.


Iraq faces descent into chaos, says CIA chief

Iraq faces descent into chaos, says CIA chief

Report leaked as 1,000th US soldier dies in action

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Wednesday December 8, 2004
The Guardian

The Bush administration's robust assertions that the situation in Iraq would improve with next month's elections were badly shaken yesterday with the leak of a gloomy end-of-tour cable from the departing CIA station chief in Baghdad.

The bleak assessment, reported in yesterday's New York Times, warned that Iraq would descend even deeper into violent chaos unless the government was able to assert its authority and deliver concrete economic improvements.

It arrived on a day when US forces recorded the death of the 1,000th soldier to be killed in combat since the beginning of the war.

In all, 1,275 US service personnel have died since the invasion on March 20 last year. This figure includes accidents, suicides and other deaths not classed as killed in action. A total of 9,765 US troops have been wounded.