Monday, January 31, 2005

Freedom of Speech? The First What?

“First Amendment No Big Deal, Students Say.”

AP News has an enlightening article today on a new study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The study conducted by researchers at UConn says, “America's high schools are leaving the First Amendment behind.”

The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.
I read the article not once, not twice but three times grappling with the implications of this. Here we are in the midst of a fight to protect our rights that the Bush administration seems hell bent on taking away and high school students do not even fully understand what their rights are. There is something very, very wrong with this picture.


Bush Plan to Privatize Social Security “An Outrage”

In an editorial in today’s Boston Globe, James Roosevelt Jr. said, “The implication that FDR would support privatization of America's greatest national program is an attempt to deceive the American people and an outrage.”

Throughout the six successful decades of Social Security, it has been adjusted in both benefits and revenues. But it has continued to observe FDR's principles of a secure, guaranteed retirement income provided by an insurance system that all workers pay for. Then, as now, the key to taking the fear out of the Social Security debate is speaking truthfully. Instead, the proponents of privatization have not only misused the name and image of my grandfather, they have mischaracterized undisputed facts to create a phony impetus for abandonment of the program.


RNC Spins "’s Baseless Social Security Ad"

In a statement released today, Brian Jones of the RNC, has accused “ and the Democrats” of “shamefully meeting President Bush’s bipartisan effort to strengthen Social Security with fear - mongering and scare tactics.”

The in question from can be viewed on their website. It is simply laughable that this little ad is being called fear - mongering by the RNC. After all the RNC are the people who brought us, “there is a crisis”…”we’re fighting terror” and “there are WMD’s in Iraq.”

It appears from the statement by Jones, that there have been “malicious, anonymous phone calls regarding Social Security to various Congressional districts.” Now, granted there are quite a few efforts by various groups (including the DNC) for those who are concerned by the Bush administration’s insistence that constituents that “rewriting the Social Security law would be cheaper and less risky than leaving it alone.” However, it does certainly seem a bit overboard to insinuate that the phone calls from concerned citizens are “malicious.”

In an attempt to turn the Democrats own words back on them (something so very Rovian), Jones stated, “ and the Democrats should understand that no problem--especially one as significant as the crisis facing Social Security--has ever been solved by a scare campaign.”

Even as many Republicans have expressed doubt about Bush’s efforts to reform Social Security, the RNC seems to be blithely spinning their agenda regardless of the claims by so many that privatization could cause great harm to so many low-income families.

In 2003, Social Security was the largest source of income for seniors, accounting for nearly 42 percent of their income on average, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington. Six out of 10 seniors get more than half their yearly income from Social Security, according to AARP.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Reid and Pelosi to Challenge Bush on Iraq Exit Strategy and Social Security

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid will issue a pre-State of the Union Challenge tomorrow for the Bush administration to outline an exit strategy for Iraq .

"The president needs to spell out a real and understandable plan for the unfinished work ahead: defeat the growing insurgency, rebuild Iraq, increase political participation by all parties, especially moderates, and increase international involvement," Reid will say, according to his prepared remarks.

"Most of all we need an exit strategy so we know what victory is and how we can get there; so that we know what we need to do and so that we know when the job is done."

"There is a gap between saying to reformers that the ` United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors,' and an administration that stands by in virtual silence as Saudi dissidents disappear," one portion of Reid's speech says.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will issue a challenge on Social Security.

"We can solve this long-term challenge without dismantling Social Security and without allowing this administration's false declaration of a crisis to justify a privatization plan that is unnecessary," she intends to say, according to prepared remarks.

"Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind: Democrats will fight to see Social Security strengthened, not destroyed," she is to say.

Bush is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress and a prime time nationwide television audience on Wednesday. While he is expected to discuss Iraq , and the national elections that were held on Sunday, he has signaled he intends to make Social Security a focus of his speech.

Which Way For The Left?

It would appear the anti-war movement is in near as much disarray as the Democratic Party. AlterNet Senior Editor Lakshmi Chaudhry has recently come under attack for supposedly advocating the continuation of the occupation. Patsified asks “if it was worth it”. I’m sure there will be a thorough trashing of Senator Kerry and his MTP appearance in the coming week, even though many, on the left even, support his exact position on Iraq and have since the beginning. BOPNEWS seems to have it right to me, regardless of the validity of the elections or the zeal of the resistance, the real cause of failure has been "the weakness of our policy and execution."

Erik Leaver writes , that “beyond, “bring the troops home,”…that we (the left) have done a poor job of providing a deeper alternative vision for U.S. security policy.” U.S. security policy certainly includes foreign policy, from trade to the environment to social justice as is laid out in Tom Hayden’s Appeal to Global Conscience , which are critical aspects of global peace that I fully support. But it also relates to countries in turmoil, Sudan , Chad , Myanmar and more. If we claim to care about genocide and oppression in these countries, how can we, in good conscience, throw up our hands when discussing the future of our Iraq ? Has anyone thought ahead ten years to the reaction of a humanitarian crisis in Iraq should they have “their dictatorship, their civil war”, as Jonathan Schell also writes? Human Rights Watch already reports that “unlawful arrest, long-term incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees (including children) by Iraqi authorities have become routine and commonplace.” It would seem this is the appropriate time to apply an ounce of prevention.

As Senator Kerry, Senator Kennedy, and everyone on the left has stated, there must be no permanent presence in Iraq . True democracy and freedom means a sovereign Iraq . It would seem to me that this would be the central point on which everyone could rally around, a sovereign Iraq with a government of their choosing.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

Kerry Demands Investigation into SBA Fraud; Small Business Groups Cheer

As a small business owner, I have always admired John Kerry’s work in Senate as Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Small Business is the cornerstone of the American economy, yet we hear so little about the tireless work from John Kerry to protect the interests of Small Business and to help Small Businesses receive funding from programs like the Micro-Loan program.

Although George W. Bush likes to portray himself as a friend to Small Business, in reality he is a friend to BIG BUSINESS. Small Business owners who went along for the ride and voted for Bush are in for a rude awakening, if they have not already figured out that, they have been duped.
On their website, the American Small Business League asks the question, “Is a worldwide company with 26,000 employees really a small business? Thanks to policies that have been established by the SBA the answer is yes.”

There are more than 23 million small businesses in the United States. Almost all of them – 98 percent – have fewer than 100 employees. Yet the basic standard for
many industries is 500 employees.

John Kerry introduced new legislation earlier in the week geared towards further protection of true Small Businesses:


Meet the Press

Sunday, January 30th
Exclusive! Senator John Kerry, D-MA

In his first television interview since the presidential election, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) will appear live on "Meet the Press with Tim Russert" this Sunday, January 30, 2005.

The exclusive interview will cover a wide range of topics including the day's historic elections in Iraq, the senator's own trip to the region, his view on Bush's second term agenda, the Democratic Party, Social Security and his plans for his own political future.

Sen. Kerry's last "Meet the Press" appearance on April 18, 2004, came thirty-three years after his very first appearance on the program as a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Earlier in the campaign cycle, Sen. Kerry announced his intentions to run for the Presidential nomination on "Meet the Press" on December 1, 2002.

Plus, we will have the very latest on Sunday's elections in Iraq with NBC's Brian Williams live from Baghdad.

Monitoring the Reporters

The Washington Post has a must-read article on how the Bush is limiting the ability of the press to cover them:

Don't Mind Me. I'm Just Doing My Job

By Paul Farhi

Sunday, January 30, 2005; Page B02

Reporters who cover the White House are accustomed to being spun by administration officials. The modern presidential toolbox includes carefully rationed press conferences, say-nothing spokesmen, dead-of-night releases of unfavorable news, and phony "town hall" meetings composed solely of sycophantic supporters. More recently, government agencies have issued fake-news videos and secretly contracted with two pundits to promote the administration's policies on education and marriage.

But now the art of press handling has evolved into actual manhandling. The Bush team has expanded the use of "minders," employees or volunteers who escort journalists from interview to interview within a venue or at a newsworthy event.


Details Come Out on Kerry Online Ad Campaign

From Marketing Vox News:

In an effort to boost the industry's use of internet advertising, political ad firm MSHC Partners released research showing how much its $3 million in online advertising billings during the presidential campaign helped the Kerry campaign. MSHC bought more than 800 million impressions over more than 100 websites, indicating an approximate CPM of $3.75. Of Republicans and independents who saw the online ads around the time of the Democratic Convention, 14 percent showed a boost in favorability toward Kerry. When MSHC used the web heavily to try to influence the perception of who won the debates, the firm found it moved opinion from 49 percent pegging Kerry as the winner up to 55 percent giving him the nod. The ads drove about six million people to the Kerry website, a clickrate of about 0.75 percent. The banner campaign also raised $2.5 million directly and registered 11,000 Democrats living abroad.

Friday, January 28, 2005

No on Gonzalez

If bloggers could vote in the Senate, we'd have a different outcome that what is likely here in Bush World, where a man who opposes the rule of law is likely to be the next Attorney General. Daily Kos has accumulated a database which is almost up to 400 blogs with statements opposing the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney General. We made our opposition to Gonzalez clear when his appointment was first brought up.

One of the more interesting emails in opposition to the nomination came today from the American Humanist Association. Besides summarizing the reasons why Gonzalez should not be confirmed, their Action Alert has the potential benefit of getting a small victory out of this if it should lead to forcing the release of government documents on torture. Here is their email:

At the behest of the Bush administration, some Senators are pushing for confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general this coming Thursday, February 3rd. There's still a chance to let our voices be heard in the debate.

The key to halting his confirmation is to insist that Gonzales' nomination not be voted on by the Senate but returned to committee until crucial documents are supplied to the Senate. The documents detail how Gonzales decided to recommend to the president that he has the authority to abandon the rule of law, annul the Geneva Conventions, shield lawbreakers from prosecution, and authorize the use of torture by US forces and, even worse, the "rendition" of U.S. prisoners to other countries known to use the most brutal conceivable forms of torture.

While the Gonzales confirmation seemed a sure thing weeks ago, much has changed and the momentum is favorable to shed light on the administration’s torture secrets. There were eight "No" votes for Gonzales in committee--one short of preventing his nomination--and a real debate about Gonzales is scheduled for the Senate floor that will include the first congressional debate about torture since September 11, 2001.

Gonzales's disregard for the constitutional rights of detainees has contributed to a climate that placed U.S. soldiers at greater risk and brought the American system of justice into disrepute. But Gonzales's justification of torture is only one of our concerns. He's testified that, contrary to current practice, he interprets existing law as permitting our tax dollars to be used for discrimination in hiring by faith-based organizations. And back when Gonzales was a member of the Texas Supreme Court, he accepted a contribution from Halliburton just before the court was to hear an appeal of a case where a Halliburton employee had won a $2.6 million trial verdict against the company. Gonzales didn't recuse himself then and might not in the latest lawsuits against Halliburton. Gonzales doesn't seem fit for the office of attorney general.

The Bush Administration has successfully blocked the release of an array of documents related to policy changes that paved the way for the horrors of Abu Ghraib and other American-operated detention facilities. The Senate and the American public must demand that the government come clean on the actions of high-level officials, and that all civilians who engaged in misconduct be held responsible.

TAKE ACTION! Urge your Senators to demand torture-related documents prior to voting on the confirmation of Gonzales.

Call or write your Senator to urge him or her to oppose confirming Gonzales and insist that this crucial information be made available to the Senate. You can call 202-224-3121 and ask for your own Senator. The Senate website also lists the direct office lines and e-mail addresses for every Senator. It is important that Humanist voices be heard!

Bush is Right on This

Dog bites man is not news. Man bites dog is news. By that logic, Bush saying something idiotic is not news, but Bush saying something sensible is news. In that spirit, this quote is worthy of reporting:
"As a free-speech advocate, I often told parents who were complaining about content, you're the first line of responsibility; they put an off button (on) the TV for a reason. Turn it off."
That's definately the right answer for those who object to what is on television. Let's hope that this is reflected in the hiring of the new FCC chair and in subsequent government decisions.

Evidence against Bush's health care proposals

The Commonwealth Fund has come out with data verifying what I've been arguing for a long time. Republicans often advocate increasing out of pocket payments for health care so that consumers would be more judicious in spending money. The problem with this is that people tend to avoid medical expenses if it comes out of their own pockets, regardless of the value of the health care. The same is likely to occur with Health Savings Accounts. This would likley lead to increased costs in the long run as preventative care and treatment of chronic diseases is ignored. It is far more cost effective to treat problems such as diabetes and hypertension early than to pay for bypass surgery, dialysis, or long-term care following a stroke.

The Commonwealth Fund compared health expenses among people in high-deductible plans as opposed to those in lower-deductible plans. Among their findings are that:
About half of insured adults with a high-deductible health plan have medical bill problems or debts, compared with less than one-third (31%) of those with lower-deductible plans, according to new research from The Commonwealth Fund. Individuals with high-deductible plans are also more likely than those with lower-deductible plans to experience access problems such as not filling a prescription, or skipping a medical test, treatment, or follow-up when needed, due to cost.

"Health savings accounts coupled with high deductible health plans have potential pitfalls, especially for families with low incomes or individuals with chronic health conditions, who are at greater risk of accruing burdensome medical debts and facing barriers to needed health care," said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. "The evidence is that increased patient cost-sharing leads to underuse of appropriate care."

Cartoon characters in the news

Only in George Bush's America would this be news: Sponge Bob is neither gay nor straight. His creator says he is asexual following attacks from the religious right claiming the cartoon is being used to promote homosexuality.

One step towards fair elections

There's some good news with regards to fair elections. Diebold has announced development of a printer for their voting machines which would allow voters to receive a printout to verify that their vote was cast as they desired. The paper records would also allow for a recount. The printers were developed as Ohio, California, and Nevada already have laws requiring that a paper trail be maintained in future elections.

Now, if only something could be done about GOP voter suppression efforts and thier dishonest campaign practices. Wouldn't it be nice if people voted based upon the candidates' real positions and records, rather than based upon the distortions spread by the right wing noise machine?

Kerry-Edwards News

Seems like old times, as we have news on both Johns today.

The Washington Post reports on Kerry presenting his Kid's First health care proposals and criticism of George Bush's health care policies:
"Unfortunately," he said, "the White House plans for health care will actually make health care delivery in America worse. . . . The White House plan is this: Let's not import less expensive drugs. Let's not negotiate better drug prices here in America. Let's ignore the 45 million Americans who have no health insurance at all. Let's forget about patients' rights."
Kerry is also calling on Democrats in Massachusetts to defeat Governor Mitt Romney in next year's election. (Link)

John Edwards is perhaps unofficially starting his 2008 campaign in a speech in New Hampshire in early February as E. J. Dionne discusses Edwards' plans to continue from where he left off in the campaign with his two America's theme.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bring Them Home… “We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule.”

Senator Ted Kennedy said today in a speech to Johns Hopkins University 's School of Advanced International Studies, that Bush should take steps to negotiate a timetable to begin bringing home the troops, immediately after the Iraqi election.

Saying the American military's continued presence in Iraq is fanning the flames of conflict, Kennedy said at least 12,000 U.S. troops should leave at once, and a complete withdrawal should be finished as early as possible in 2006.

The Massachusetts Democrat said America must give Iraq back to its people rather than continue an occupation that parallels the failed policies of the Vietnam war.

"The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution," Kennedy said in a speech to Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. "We need a new plan that sets fair and realistic goals for self-government in Iraq, and works with the Iraqi government on a specific timetable for the honorable homecoming of our forces."

Earlier this week in remarks at the Brookings Institution, Congressman Marty Meehan called for a similar withdrawl of the troops from Iraq . He and Kennedy plan to press Congress for a debate on this in Armed Services committees.

Kennedy said the United States and the insurgents are both battling for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and the U.S. is losing.

"There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course," said Kennedy. "It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq , but we must begin."

It is time to recognize that there is only one choice. America must give Iraq back to the Iraqi people.

We need to let the Iraqi people make their own decisions, reach their own consensus, and govern their own country.

We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever be the potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq, but if we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they, not we, own it.

Read the full text of Senator Kennedy’s speech, including Fact Check.
Read the full text of Congressman Meehan's remarks (PDF—114Kb)

Senator John Kerry’s "Kids First" Address to Families USA

In a speech today to Families USA, John Kerry laid out his plans for the "Kids Come First Act":
For the past two years, I experienced a special privilege of meeting those families every single day all across our country - good people who love their communities, love their country, and are determined to build a better life for their kids.

What I saw and what they told me was moving and motivating. I'll never forget the single mother I met who lies awake worrying that her child's health care might cost more than she makes in a month. Moms and dads who save and save for their kids' college education, but still come up short when they get a bill for their elderly parents' health care that's higher than Medicare will pay. In Erie , Pennsylvania , I met a man named Albert Barker. He wonders how he'll pay thousands of dollars in medical bills. After he suffered a heart attack and underwent surgery, his employer stopped his health coverage just because it was too expensive. His wife said she just prays nothing else happens. The message is clear: In the United States of America, decent health care shouldn't be a faith - based delivery service - - that's wrong, and we can do better than that. In Council Bluffs, Iowa, I met a woman named Myrtle Walck - - 82 years old, she still volunteers at her neighborhood school - - and she doesn't know what she'll do if the price of her medicine rises any higher. As it is, she pays a good chunk of her Social Security check - her only source of income - to the drugstore every month just to cover the cost of her two daily prescriptions. That's wrong, and we can do better than that. And in Jacksonville , Florida I met Renee Harris, who owned a school bus company that was in her family for over fifty years. But recently, she was forced to sell it because she could no longer afford to insure her workers or herself. That's wrong, and we can do better than that. In Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, I met Lori Shelton who said to me that every month she pays her families' bills - - clothes, books, food, and doctor's bills - health insurance - - and she said, "Senator, I'm tired of having to tell my children 'no.'" I met people like Lori every day, and I'll never forget them. Their struggle didn't go away on November 2nd - the issue is as compelling today as it was every day of the campaign, and the mission is clear: we need to make something happen on health care. So today I want to ask you to stand up again and join me in a fight for a very simple proposition - that America can no longer afford to ignore the millions of children who aren't covered by health insurance.

On Monday I introduced the Kids First Act of 2005, which would cover every one of the 11 million uninsured children in America , putting the force of law behind a commitment that so many Democrats and Republicans have supported in principle over the years - - a commitment that this Congress and this administration have failed to redeem for far too long.

Just think about it: nearly seven million of those 11 million kids are already eligible for coverage under the federal and state Medicaid and SCHiP programs. But they aren't getting the insurance we promised to them.

That's wrong, and we break a fundamental promise to those children again and again each day we tolerate the status quo.

The cost of our broken promises - - the burden we place on families, on businesses, on communities, and on the states - - also rises every day.

Read More - Address to Families USA January 27, 2005

Yesterday, launched a campaign to support John Kerry 's "Kid's Come First" Act, the "We've Got Your Back" campaign. Please join us in supporting this important healthcare initiative for children, by linking to our "We've Got Your Back" campaign on your blog or website.

The “We’ve Got Your Back” campaign makes it easy for everyone to send a letter to their Senators urging them to Co - Sponsor the "Kids Come First" Act through our Action Alert on

Is it Heredity or Reincarnation?

The Guardian tracked down Bush's Irish ancestors, finding that the family hasn't changed much over the years:

Scion of traitors and warlords: why Bush is coy about his Irish links

Tapestry artist reveals ancestors of US president as murderous bunch

Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Thursday January 27, 2005

It is perhaps not the best omen for US foreign affairs. Local historians in Wexford have discovered that George Bush is a descendant of Strongbow, the power-hungry warlord who led the Norman invasion of Ireland thus heralding 800 years of mutual misery. With a long line of Scots Irish presidents including Woodrow Wilson, the Irish are normally quick to claim US leaders as their own. But, despite President Bush's large Ulster Scots vote in the American Bible belt, Ireland had let his family escape the genealogical microscope.


Social Security Privitization in Chile

The New York Times looked at privitization of Social Security in Chile. As with the private program in Great Britain, the experience in Chile was not promising. Bush has cited the program in Chile as a model for his plans, but one major difference is that Chile built up several years of budget surpluses before instituting the changes, as opposed to Bush's plans to impose this plan after squandring the budget surplus present when he took office. Other findings in the article include:
Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.

"What we have is a system that is good for Chile but bad for most Chileans," said a government official who specializes in pension issues and who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from corporate interests. "If people really had freedom of choice, 90 percent of them would opt to go back to the old system."

Among the complaints most often heard here is that contributors are forced to pay exorbitant commissions to the pension funds. Exactly how much goes to such fees is a subject of debate, but a recent World Bank study calculated that a quarter to a third of all contributions paid by a person retiring in 2000 would have gone to pay such charges.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

T V Alert:

John Kerry is scheduled to appear on Meet the Press this Sunday in his first major televised interview since the election.

We’ve Got Your Back John Kerry!


John Kerry’s new Kids Come First Act (S.114) deserves our support. We have created an action alert on to make it easy for everyone to send a letter to their Senators urging them to Co-Sponsor the Kids Come First Act in the Senate.

We’re asking that other Blogs join in this effort as well, by posting a thread of support for the Kids Come First Act and linking to our Action Alert. Post a link to your thread in support of the Kids Come First Act here in the comments and we will add you to our list of Bloggers who have “Got John Kerry’s Back”!

More... We’ve Got Your Back John Kerry!

John Kerry's Kids Come First Act

In an email just sent out by John Kerry to his supporters, Kerry states his goal for his Kids Come First Act petition is "to top 500,000 before President Bush makes his State of the Union Address on February 2nd." The petition has already received wide spread support: "To date, nearly 300,000 Americans have signed our Kids Come First petition."

From the email:
This is personal. As I traveled across the country last year, I learned a lot about the dreams, hopes, fears and frustrations of the American people. Nothing touched me more than the parents I met who feared that illness would strike a child who is uninsured.

A sick child is always a worry. A sick child that you can't get help for is a parent's worst nightmare. Helping the 11 million children who have no health coverage isn't even on the radar screen of the Bush administration and the Republican leaders in Congress. But, we're going to put it there.

It is totally unacceptable that, in the greatest country in the world, millions of children are not getting the health care they need. That's why this week I introduced the Kids Come First Act. Help me push through the Republicans' political roadblocks and take care of the 11 million children without health insurance.

The Republican leadership will try to prevent this essential legislation from ever seeing the light of day. Help me gather one million co-signers for the Kids Come First Act, and we'll force them to act or to admit that they just don't care enough to act. Here's why it's so important to do something now:

- 1/4 of children are not fully up to date on their basic immunizations.
- 1/3 with chronic asthma do not get a prescription for medications they need.
- 1/2 of uninsured children have not had a well child visit in the past year.
- 1 in 6 has delayed or unmet medical needs.
- 1 in 5 has trouble accessing health care.
- 1 in 4 does not see a dentist annually.
- 1 in 3 had no health insurance during 2002 and 2003.

For more information on the Kids Come First Act and to sign the Petition, Click Here.

Kerry is working hard in the Senate to garner support for this Bill (S 114). The Bill was introduced on Monday, January 24th. Currently five Senators are Co-Sponsoring this bill: Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Senator Jon Corzine (NJ), Senator Edward Kennedy (MA), Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ), and Senator Patty Murray (WA). Please contact your local Senators and ask them to Co-Sponsor this Bill.

From The Daou Report: Kerry to make major speech on children's health care Thursday - will play hardball with Republicans who obstruct.

Waste in Bush's Big Government

GAO Report Points to Pentagon Waste

Defense Department Home to 8 of 25 Federal Programs Labeled High-Risk

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; Page A19

The U.S. government's biggest department is also one of the most prone to waste, fraud and abuse, raising concerns about the effectiveness of many of its programs, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

The Department of Defense accounts for eight of the 25 federal programs, functions or offices that appear on the GAO's 2005 "high-risk" list. Two DOD functions -- inventory management and weapon systems acquisition -- have been on the list of problem programs since 1990.


Education secretary decries PBS cartoon's lesbian content

The Bush administration remains vigilant in defending us from gay cartoon characters:
WASHINGTON - The nation's new education secretary denounced PBS on Tuesday for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters, saying many parents would not want children exposed to such lifestyles.

The not-yet-aired episode of Postcards From Buster shows the title character, an animated bunny named Buster, on a trip to Vermont — a state known for recognizing same-sex civil unions. The episode features two lesbian couples, although the focus is on farm life and maple sugaring.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Swift Boat Liar to Run Against Kerry

Kerry will be running against the Swift Boat lies again, regardless of whether he runs for President in 2008. The Boston Herald reports that Jerome Corsi, co-author of Unfit for Command, is moving to Massachusetts to run for the Kerry's Senate seat in 2008. In response to these plans,
state Democratic chairman Phil Johnston said:
I know Massachusetts will not welcome a candidate whose calling card is a disturbing track record of slandering Catholics, the pope, Jews and Vietnam veterans. Carpetbaggers spreading lies and smears are not welcome in our state.

Personally I've Been Comparing Them to Pravda

Ted Turner knows about cable news:

Turner Compares Fox's Popularity to Hitler

Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel's popularity to Adolf Hitler's popular election to run Germany before World War II.

Turner made those fiery comments in his first address at the National Association for Television Programming Executives' conference since he was ousted from Time Warner Inc. five years ago.


The Next Generation?

Jenna And Tonic-1Wonkette warns that the guy Jenna Bush is making out with on the dance floor is a former Karl Rove assistant. As Republicans don't believe in things like evolution and genetics, they might not realize the consequences, but we have plenty to fear from the joining of these gene pools.

Hopefully this isn't true, and he's simply a Vampire doing his thing on her neck.

The Bush Deficit

Anyone recall that it was the last Democratic President who left a budget surplus, and the last Democratic candidate for President who ran advocating a pay as you go strategy?

Budget Office: 2005 Deficit $368 Billion

Tue Jan 25, 2005 09:26 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. budget deficit will reach $368 billion this year, the Congressional Budget Office said in new forecasts on Tuesday, a source familiar with the numbers said.

The number is worse than the CBO's previous $348 billion forecast for the 2005 fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Due to a technical quirk, the latest number does not include billions of dollars in expected war costs and analysts said these must be added in to get a true picture of the red ink.

Democratic War Room--Better Late Than Never

It is about time the Democrats begin to respond to the Republicans in a coordinated manner. The Boston Globe reports on the new Democratic "war room" for the Democratic Senators, which will help to coordinate the message. Hopefully this will lead to stronger cooperation between all Democrats to allow them to offer an effictive counter to one-party GOP rule.

After seeing so many surrogates during the campaign who were unprepared to defend Kerry from attacks when interviewed on television, I wonder if this might have made a difference in the past election.

From the Boston Globe:

For the first time, the 44 Democratic senators are coordinating their media messages through a centralized Senate Democratic Communications Center. The new center has its "war room" in an office on the Capitol's third floor, where staff members send out daily talking points to Democratic press secretaries, line up radio and television interviews with senators, and issue "rapid-response" news releases in the style of political campaigns.

The center has an aide dedicated to getting information to Democratic-leaning bloggers and yesterday launched a website,, to better communicate the positions of Senate Democrats.

Democrats in the Senate have already shown a willingness to flex their muscles on major issues. This week, they are holding up the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, even though she is expected to win easy confirmation, to keep the focus on questionable decisions made by the Bush administration in pursuing the war in Iraq.

On Friday, a newly formed Democratic Committee on Oversight and Investigations will hold its first hearing, in an attempt to highlight areas and issues that the Republicans are not willing to. The initial hearing will focus on whether Bush's contention that the Social Security system is in crisis is accurate.

Reid said Senate Democrats do not consider Bush's victory over Senator John F. Kerry to have been a statement in support of Bush's policies, and will continue to fight for their own values.

"Let's not get carried away with the 'mandate' of President Bush," Reid said. "There is no mandate, and the issues that Senator Kerry ran on . . . are good issues."

Monday, January 24, 2005

Cosponsor the Democratic Agenda

Seems the Democratic Leadership is taking a page from John Kerry’s citizen cosponsorship petition of his children’s healthcare plan. I just hope as the discussion over the agenda ensues, some people remember that you can't say "show up in the south" if you dont intend to listen to them once you get there.

Senate Democrats open the 109th Congress steadfastly committed to keeping the promise of America, the promise that all Americans who work hard can build a stronger and brighter future for their families. By embracing and affirming our core values of security, opportunity and responsibility, Democrats are united to help America fulfill this promise.

We need to show them our support. Cosponsor the Democratic Agenda by visiting:

MORE - Cosponsor the Democratic Agenda

Separation of Church and State

I just came across a web site with an interesting collection of quotes on religion:

"The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine." George Washington

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion ..." from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams, June 10, 1797.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State." Thomas Jefferson, in his historic Danbury letter, January 1, 1802

"Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?" James Madison, in "Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785

"The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of church and state." James Madison, March 2, 1819

Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State." The U.S. Supreme Court, 1947

"They have kept us in submission because they have talked about separation of church and state. There is no such thing in the Constitution. It's a lie of the left, and we're not going to take it anymore." Pat Robertson, adressing the ACLJ, 1993

"The national government ... will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality." Adolf Hitler

Just a Theory

Roe v. Wade: 35th Anniversary

From The Blogging of the President: 2004:

All across the country this weekend there were rallies to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That number, 32, is significant. Because it means that for the part of the population most affected by the erosion of Roe's power — young women (and men) in their teens, twenties and thirties — Roe has always been there. It is taken for granted. The loss of its protection, and the practical and symbolic consequences of such a loss, are just not imaginable to most of them.

Justices Uphold Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs in Traffic Stops

Here's just one example of what can happen when you have a right wing Supreme Court which is willing to disregard civil liberties. Considering that a tremendous percentage of cars can be stopped for speeding and other traffic violations whenever desired, this gives the police considerable latitude to conduct searches without any evidence of a crime having been committed.

Justices Uphold Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs in Traffic Stops

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that in making a routine traffic stop, the police can permit a trained dog to sniff the car for drugs without the need for any particular reason to suspect the driver of a narcotics violation.

The 6-to-2 decision set aside a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, which held in 2003 that a state trooper who had stopped a man for speeding had broadened the scope of the encounter beyond constitutional limits by having the dog sniff the car. The dog alerted the police to the trunk, which contained $250,000 worth of marijuana. The addition of the dog impermissibly turned a traffic stop into a drug investigation, the Illinois court said.

In the majority opinion on Monday, Justice John Paul Stevens said the dog's sniff did not amount to an unconstitutional search because it did not prolong the 10-minute traffic stop and did not violate any "legitimate interest in privacy" a driver could have in carrying contraband.


Voter Suppression Wrong, Regardless of Party

A disturbing wire service report:

Lawmaker's son charged in tire-slashing

The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The sons of a first-term congresswoman and Milwaukee's former acting mayor were among five Democratic activists charged Monday with slashing the tires of vans rented by Republicans to drive voters and monitors to the polls on Election Day.

Sowande Omokunde, son of Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and Michael Pratt, the son of former Milwaukee acting mayor Marvin Pratt, were charged with criminal damage to property, a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 3 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The activists — all employees of the John Kerry campaign — are accused of flattening the tires on 25 vehicles rented by the state Republican Party to get out the vote and deliver poll watchers Nov. 2.


Voter suppression is a serious problem and I deplore such acts, regardless of which candidate they are supporting. The right to vote should not be interfered with.

In surfing the web, I note that the conservative sites are frequently posting this news item. While I agree with them in deploring this action, I cannot help but note that many of these same sites have downplayed the many reports of voter suppression by Republicans.

It appears this act was an isolated act of vandalism by misguided young activists. In contrast, acts of voter suppression by Republicans have been traced back to the President's reelection campaign (even forcing the resignation of his New England campaign chair), and voter suppression appears to be a planned aspect of Republican strategy.

If these Republican sites are really concerned with Democracy, rather than just a chance to bash Democrats, they might also show some concern with the many acts of voter suppression organized by Republicans (as well as any other acts which Democrats might be responsible for). Many lists of voter suppression have been accumulated, such as those at Vote Watch 2004.

A Look at John Kerry (the person)

We've all heard the characterizations of John Kerry as being aloof. Personally I doubted this view, but didn't really care. All I really cared about was who would make the best President.

It looks like others may be looking beyond this characterization, such as with this story about John Kerry from Mark Shields:

Let me tell you about a John Kerry much different from that glib stereotype. Seven years ago, Kerry personally recruited Brendan O'Donnell, then 19, to become an intern in his Senate office in Washington. Senate internships are coveted positions, often reserved for the children of well-connected or deep-pocketed campaign donors. Brendan O'Donnell's mother, Kathryn, was an honored elementary teacher and a widow. Her husband and Brendan's father, Kirk, was an enormously talented lawyer-politician had died unexpectedly the previous September. In the cold calculus of power, neither Brendan O'Donnell nor his family could do anything politically for John Kerry or anybody else.

What I forgot to mention is that Brendan is learning disabled. In 1999, he explained his condition this way in a statement John Kerry later quoted on the Senate floor: "I think there should be a different name for learning disabilities ... to me, it's not a disability -- it's just that I have something which causes a storm in my mind. When I look at something, I have to take my time and take it all in." But take it in he does, performing all his assigned tasks in the Senate office with enthusiasm and dispatch.

Will John Kerry run again? The ball is in Teresa's hands

Compiled by Tribune-Review staff
Sunday, January 23, 2005

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry may want to consider running for president again in 2008. But his wife, local ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry of Fox Chapel, has made it clear she won't sit still for another campaign.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," an unidentified Heinz Kerry friend told the Boston Herald. "Teresa will never do it again."

Not necessarily, said Jeff Lewis, a Heinz Kerry spokesman.

"Teresa Heinz is too smart to say that," he said. "She campaigned her heart out, as did her husband ... it was hard work and a great experience and we'll just go from there."

According to the Herald, sources say Heinz Kerry went into a deep funk after President George Bush was re-elected -- especially because her husband came so close to victory.

"She was angry and hugely disappointed and (ticked) off," the Heinz Kerry friend told the Herald. "She wanted to win so badly."

(From Pittsburgh Live)

The Rights of the Individual vs. The State

One problem Democrats have had in recent years is in allowing the Republicans to get away to labeling the positions of both sides. Thus we have seen Republicans labeling themselves as the party of capitalism, despite advocating a form of crony capitalism which is as distinct from true capitalism as socialism is. Republican have labeled themselves the party of small government, while every elected Republican President has enlarged the size of government (and too few Democrats have pointed out that the important distinction is what the government does, not only its size). Republicans have labeled themselves the party which is strong on defense, despite pursuing a foreign policy under the neoconservatives which undermines our national security and places us at increased risk of terrorist attacks.
Republicans have labeled themselves the party of individual liberty and claimed Democrats are supporters of the collectivist state. Or maybe not. Christian Conservative, a blog which advocates Evangelical Christianity, has reversed these labels. The premise of a post today is that:

In spite of how the fundamental values of republicans and democrats have evolved over the centuries, it's still true today that democrats are preoccupied more with "what is good for the individual" rather than "is good for the society", the latter being a republican's first concern.
This turns around many of the Republican claims, ranging from the arguments of the libertarian wing of the Republican party to the battle cry of Ronald Reagan to get government off of our backs. They conclude by drawing this distinction:

Because the liberal democrat asks, "what is good for the individual" while the Republic and the republicans ask, "what is good for the society" Conservatives argue liberty of the society, not the individual, is ultimate in this Constitutional Republic, it is from that premise we argue.
While I don't agree with many of the points they make along the way, I am grateful to Christian Conservative for clearly putting liberals on the side of individual liberty. We have seen what happens when societies from Nazi Germany to Communist Russia and China have placed society over the individual to this degree, falsely claiming this to be freedom.
This placement of the state over the individual is something which not only liberals might find offensive, but which could also raise concerns in many Republicans. There is good reason why previous Republicans have made ignored the policy recommendations of the religious right once they have used them to get into office. They have known that actively pursuing the agenda of the religious right would be offensive to Americans of the left, middle, and even much of the right.
The views of groups such as Christian Conservative give liberals an important wedge between the various factions which resulted in George Bush's narrow victory. If labels such as this become more commonly accepted, it provides a frame work for areas of disagreement which might bring in support from new groups. Rather than being seen as the party which supports gays and abortion, the Democrats could have greater success as the party which supports individual liberties (which would continue to including standing up for the rights of those with different sexual preferences from the majority, and the rights of women to control their bodies without interference from the state). By presenting these as the issues of individual liberty which they really are, there is room to broaden support, and counter the Republican claims of being the party to keep government off of our backs.
Bush can no longer evade responsibility for the consequences of his decisions on stem cell research by claiming his support for research with existing lines represents support for stem cell research:

Study Says All Stem Cell Lines Tainted

By Karen Kaplan
Times Staff Writer

January 24, 2005

All human embryonic stem cell lines approved for use in federally funded research are contaminated with a foreign molecule from mice that may make them risky for use in medical therapies, according to a study released Sunday.

Researchers at UC San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla report that if the stem cells are transplanted into people, the cells could provoke an immune system attack that would wipe out their ability to deliver cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

The finding is a setback to the Bush administration's controversial policy that provides federal funding only for research using embryonic stem cell lines that were created before August 2001. Evidence that all such lines are contaminated supports long-standing concerns among researchers that the lines eligible for federal money are insufficient to propel research forward.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

BioWillie: Family Farmers Growing Fuel for America and the World

A couple of months ago, Willie Nelson set out on a new endeavor to help family farmers and the environment. Nelson and three partners formed Willie Nelson’s Biodiesel, a company that will market Biodiesel fuel to truck stops. Nelson’s brand of Biodiesel, named BioWillie, is produced from vegetable oils, primarily soybeans, and may be burned without modification to diesel engines.

In an interview with the AP News last week, Nelson said, “There is really no need going around starting wars over oil. We have it here at home. We have the necessary product, the farmers can grow it.”

More - BioWillie: Family Farmers Growing Fuel for America and the World

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Survey Finds Church-Going Americans Less Tolerant

Survey Finds Church-Going Americans Less Tolerant

By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Church-going Americans have grown increasingly intolerant in the past four years of politicians making compromises on such hot issues as abortion and gay rights, according to a survey released on Saturday.

At the same time, those polled said they were growing bolder about pushing their beliefs on others -- even at the risk of offending someone.

The trends could indicate that religion has become "more prominent in American discourse ... more salient," according to Ruth Wooden, president of Public Agenda, a nonpartisan research organization which released the survey.

It could also indicate "more polarized political thinking. There do not seem to be very many voices arguing for compromise today," she said in an interview. "It could be that more religious voices feel under siege, pinned against the wall by cultural developments. They may feel more emboldened as a result."


The Shadow President

While others in his shoes have retreated from the public eye, John Kerry still has a job to do in the Senate. He could shrink back from the fray and work quietly for a time until the heat dies down from what has been perhaps the most divisive election in history, but John Kerry has decided to leap into the fire and take a stand.

In a story in tomorrow’s N.Y. Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg suggests that Kerry is setting “himself up as a kind of shadow president, a leader to the nearly 58 million Americans who voted for him.” I have heard this echoed around the internet for the past few weeks by the loyal Kerry supporters who believe that Kerry will rise above the fray and take hold of the Democratic Party in this fight against the Bush administration.

Read more on the Light Up The Darkness Blog

Friday, January 21, 2005

Kerry Shows He's A Class Act (With A Sense of Humor)

A Stoical Kerry on Bush's Day
By Dana MilbankFriday, January 21, 2005; Page A28

It was just as John F. Kerry must have dreamed it would be: There he stood on the Capitol dais on a sunny Inauguration Day, looking presidential in blue scarf and overcoat, as the Marine Band played "Hail to the Chief" before the swearing-in.

But wait! Something was terribly wrong. Kerry's seat assignment was in the seventh row. And every time they flashed his picture on the Jumbotron, the crowd -- full of wealthy Republicans -- jeered.

It's no fun being the runner-up on Inauguration Day. To add to the poignancy for Kerry, it was a year and a day since his surprise victory in the Iowa caucus propelled him to the Democratic nomination and, almost, the presidency. And yet, Kerry seemed to embrace the role of loser with ironic amusement.

The senator from Massachusetts took a seat up front, where he was sure to be seen on television playing the part of Good Sport. When the color guard approached, he clutched his breast as if suffering a bout of arrhythmia. When the national anthem played, he sang as if he were Denyce Graves. When President Bush spoke, he clapped politely -- and gazed over the Mall with a faraway look.

But Kerry betrayed little of the pain that was so evident when Al Gore stood on the same platform in defeat four years ago. For Gore, it was the beginning of his disappearance from public life and his conversion into a chunky, bearded professor. For Kerry, this is a week of reemergence. Before the inauguration, he fired off two e-mails to his supporters, one highlighting his vote Wednesday against Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state and one demanding Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary.

"Democracy means working together for the good of our country; it also means keeping faith with your ideals, never retreating from core convictions even as you work to find common ground," Kerry said in a statement his office released yesterday morning. On Monday, he will introduce a plan to provide health coverage to all children, picking a fight with GOP lawmakers and the White House.

If Kerry has political combat on the mind, it wasn't out of place yesterday. The festivities at the Capitol at times resembled a campaign rally more than the solemn inaugural ritual. The big donors -- the "underwriters" who gave $250,000 for the inauguration and the "sponsors" who could afford no more than $100,000 -- sat up front in "Perfect Party" plastic folding chairs. Farther back, demonstrators unfurled an antiwar sign and booed Bush before they were shouted down by supporters who chanted "USA!"

The result was predictably partisan: dueling cheers, from the orchestra seats for former president George H.W. Bush, and from the cheap seats for former president Bill Clinton. The inaugural committee skipped the likes of "America the Beautiful" for Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch's ditty, "Heal Our Land," and outgoing attorney general John D. Ashcroft's schmaltzy "Let the Eagle Soar" ("This country's far too young to die/Though she's cried a bit for what we've put her through").

In some ways, Kerry has moved beyond his loss. His Inauguration Day breakfast conversation with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, an aide said, was about Sunday's football playoff between his New England Patriots and her Pittsburgh Steelers -- at Heinz Field. But the candidate hasn't entirely emerged from the campaign and a topsy-turvy Election Day in which early exit polls showed him winning. The night before the inauguration, he had drinks at the Hawk and Dove on Capitol Hill to remember his Iowa conquest with former campaign staffers.

Nor has the other side forgotten Kerry. When the former candidate emerged on the West Front of the Capitol yesterday morning and his smiling image was broadcast, the crowd booed and groaned. One man could be heard to call out, "Loser!" Kerry took his seat alongside an old friend, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and quickly got to the task at hand: projecting both equanimity and magnanimity.

He admired Harkin's new Stetson. He playfully knocked a 10-gallon hat that was obstructing his view of the lectern off the head of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). When Vice President Cheney entered, he stood and offered a wan smile. When Bush entered, he stood and applauded politely until the last bars of "Hail to the Chief." When Bush took his oath, Kerry forced a tight, crooked smile -- the sort of expression that, on Bush's face, is commonly called a smirk.

As Bush read an address full of the religious imagery that helped to mobilize voters against Kerry -- "the image of the Maker," "the truths of Sinai" -- Kerry listened politely, applauded lightly and shifted in his seat. When demonstrators interrupted Bush, Kerry looked toward the commotion, where one protester had unfurled a banner proclaiming "No More War" and another was loudly booing the president.

The speech over, Bush and Cheney waved to the cheering crowd. Off to the side, Harkin put his arm on Kerry's back and offered some private condolence. Kerry hugged his colleague and then closed his eyes and bowed his head for the closing prayer. Only when the minister mention those "ensnarled in petty partisan politics" did the former nominee indulge in a wry smile.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Once the President’s Day is Over, The Battle Will Begin Anew

Before John Kerry and other Senators from both parties took their places on President Bush’s inaugural stage, Kerry offered a statement of defiance:

Democracy means working together for the good of our country; it also means keeping faith with your ideals, never retreating from core convictions even as you work to find common ground,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement released earlier Thursday.

“We have strong differences and we argue and fight with all our hearts and energy, and our system endures because we Americans expect nothing less,” he said.

Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had no plans to attend any other inaugural festivities. Former President Clinton met with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid in his office before the inaugural ceremony. Other Democrats including Nancy Pelosi were of the same frame of mind, to avoid the festivities…

Read More

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Democrats Could Delay Rice Confirmation in Full Floor Debate

It appears that Kerry and Boxer are working their magic with Senate leaders on the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice. NBC News via MSNBC is reporting that “Democrats planned to delay her widely expected confirmation by the full Senate.”

Rice was “the first nominee for secretary of state to receive any “no” votes since Alexander M. Haig in 1981.”

Some dismay (mildly noted) has been posted on the internet today about the Democrats who voted to confirm Rice. NBC News reports “Other Democrats, including ranking member Joseph Biden of Delaware, said they were only reluctantly voting to elevate Rice to the nation’s top diplomatic job.”

Rice’s quick confirmation by the full Senate on Thursday had been considered a formality, but Democrats who opposed the nomination were in negotiations with Senate leaders for a full floor debate and a roll-call vote. With most senators attending events surrounding Bush’s inauguration Thursday, those demands could delay Rice’s confirmation into next week, NBC News’ Ken Strickland reported.

Read More.

George Bush, The Divider

Have these people not been paying any attention? Even if some people actually like George Bush, it is hard to believe they are unaware of the degee to which others oppose his Presidency, the degree to which he has pandered to the far right to get reelected, and how he is definately a divider, not a uniter:

Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider

Most say inauguration festivities should be toned down

(CNN) -- On the eve of President Bush's inauguration, a poll shows the nation is split over whether he has united or divided the nation, but a majority believe his inauguration festivities should be toned down because of the war.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush promised to be a "uniter, not a divider."

Forty-nine percent of 1,007 adult Americans said in phone interviews they believe Bush is a "uniter," according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday. Another 49 percent called him a "divider," and 2 percent had no opinion.

The results nearly match those of a poll taken in October 2004, which showed 48 percent considered Bush a "uniter" and 48 percent called him a "divider," with 4 percent having no opinion.

Full Article

Kerry Votes No on Rice

Rice given nod of approval by Senate panel
Committee votes 16-2 with Democrats John Kerry and Barbara Boxer voting no.

WASHINGTON - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Wednesday to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state after two days of hearings in which she faced strenuous Democratic assaults on the Bush administration's handling of Iraq.

Pending approval by the full Senate, Rice would be the first black woman to hold the job. She was confirmed by a 16-2 vote with Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California voting no.

Full Story

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Congratulations George Bush

Congratulations to George Bush. Soon he will be sworn in for his second term--quite an accomplishment for a man with as little understanding of the major issues of the day as he has displayed.

George Bush deserves congratulations for his remarkable political accomplishments as he was reelected (albeit by a tiny margin for an incumbent wartime President) despite the opposition of most voters to both his domestic and foreign policy positions.

George Bush and the Republican noise machine have managed to convince voters they represent less government, when they have become the party not only of big government, but of big government of the worst type. They have expanded the reach of the state to areas of personal morality which only religious dictatorships of the middle east dared go in the past.

George Bush and the Republican noise machine have managed to convince voters they are the party which would keep us safe, while promoting a foreign policy which places us at increased risk of terrorist attack. They have also seriously hampered our capabilities for self-defense by tying down the armed forces in a war against the very type of secular Arab regime which was the worst enemy of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, while confusing them for the enemy.

George Bush and the Republican noise machine have sold themselves as the party of capitalism, while their use of the state to back the same big business interests which contribute most heavily to them is actually the antithesis of the free market. They speak of reducing regulation, but what they really desire is ensure it is the foxes who guard the hen houses.

George Bush and the Republican noise machine have managed to get many to back their plans to aide the insurance industry (naturally one of their biggest contributors) by claiming they are working to solve the malpractice crisis in order to reduce health care costs. In actuality, their plans primarily help the insurance industry, while doing very little for doctors, and virtually nothing to reduce health care costs, as seen in projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

We've also seen them succeed with a remarkable political campaign. Besides succeeding in misleading the public on policy issues as listed above, they also succeeded on a personal level. They managed to make a history of avoiding responsibility during wartime appear more desirable to the personal history of a war hero. They made a virtue out of George Bush's history of incompetence and deceit, distracting all attention from his many flip flops, while casting doubt on an opponent with a history of consistency and wisdom

These were remarkable political achievements which are providing George Bush with another four years in office--or as Teresa Heinz Kerry has predicted, four more years of hell.

We've already had the first clues of what is ahead, as they have invented a crisis in social security to promote a "cure" which could destroy the program, duplicating the same mistakes made by Margaret Thatcher, where her successors are now looking at the American Social Security system as a model for bailing them out of their real crisis brought about by privatization.

If they succeed at that deception, we can count on more to come. Our best hope is that history repeats itself. The last time a President who ruled based upon deception was reelected, and by a much larger margin than George Bush, the people ultimately caught on. The fate of Nixon and Agnew would be an excellent model for Bush and Cheney.

Mr. President, Stop Rewarding Incompetence

Fresh from the Daou Report comes word of a new petition at urging Bush to replace Rumsfeld. (Check the thread on LUTD about Rumsfeld not responding to Gold Star Families' request for a meeting.)

Mr. President,

I was surprised and disappointed that you told the Washington Post last week that no Bush administration official should be held accountable for our failures in Iraq. As the situation worsens and more American lives are lost and troops deployed to the region, it's time to stop rewarding incompetence and to start demanding accountability. For the sake of our men and women in uniform and their families here at home, I urge you to start by replacing Donald Rumsfeld. His record of failure and his inability to play it straight with the American people and our troops overseas make him unfit to serve as Secretary of Defense for one more day, never mind four more years.

If you care about restoring our credibility around the world and our credibility with our troops on the ground in Iraq, you've got to start by removing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. That's why I am joining Senator John Kerry and hundreds of thousands of Americans in adding my name to the petition calling for Rumsfeld's immediate removal from office.

I urge you to act without delay. We can't afford any more auto-penned letters of condolences and shifting stories about what kind of armor we have to protect our troops.

American soliders and their families are counting on you as Commander in Chief to hold those in charge of the war in Iraq to the highest standards.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Kerry PAC to Focus on Voter Disenfranchisement

The Boston Globe notes in tomorrow’s edition that the new Kerry PAC formed after the election will be focusing on voter disenfranchisement and more. Last Wednesday I reported here on LUTD, that some recent changes had been made to the Kerry website.

From the tomorrow’s Boston Globe:

Without offering details, Kerry aides said yesterday that the senator plans to file legislation to correct some of the election problems that occurred in 2000 and 2004. Aides also said that a political action committee he started after the election -- a committee that could lay the groundwork for a second presidential campaign in 2008 -- would also be dedicated to preventing disenfranchisement.

After the disputed vote in Florida in 2000, Congress approved the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and authorized $4 billion so that states could create central computerized voter lists and update voting systems by 2006. But many states have not yet made improvements, and two federal agencies are planning inquiries to look into problems that plagued both old and new systems last November.


With your support, is fighting for a national standard for federal elections that has both transparency and accountability in our voting system. It's unacceptable in the United States that people still don't have full confidence in the integrity of the voting process. I ask you to join me in this cause -- and in working to make our voices heard on the most critical issues of 2005.

I understand the strength, commitment, and passion that are at the core of what we built together -- and I am determined to make our collective energy and organization a force to be reckoned with in the weeks and months ahead. Let's roll up our sleeves and get back to work for our country.

“We must ... never give up on infinite hope”

This morning at MLK Day breakfast in Boston, John Kerry offered some strong words on the problems with voting in the recent election, stressing that we must never give up on “hope.” Hope was the resounding theme of the Kerry campaign, and that hope lives on with so many of us today.

While reiterating that he did not contest the presidential election, Kerry said: "I nevertheless make it clear that thousands of people were suppressed in the effort to vote. Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans (went) through in 10 minutes _ same voting machines, same process, our America."

"Martin Luther King reminded us that yes, we have to accept finite disappointment, and I know how to do that," Kerry said to chuckles from listeners. "But he said we must ... never give up on infinite hope."

From AP News:

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the U.S., saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots.

"In a nation which is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy, we cannot tolerate that too many people here in America were denied that democracy," Kerry said.

Here is a press release from Kerry’s Senate website:

There is no greater gift than the one Dr. King gave to each of us.

Martin Luther King challenged the conscience of my generation, and his words and his legacy continue to move generations to action today at home and around the world. His love and faith is alive in millions of Americans who volunteer each day in soup kitchens or in schools, or who refused to ignore the suffering of millions they'd never met in far-away places when a tsunami brought unthinkable destruction. His vision and his passion is alive in churches and on campuses when millions stand up against the injustice of discrimination anywhere, or the indifference that leaves too many behind. Every Martin Luther King Day, we ask ourselves, "what if Dr. King had lived?" But this year we should challenge ourselves to ask the question not what would Dr. King have done had he lived, but what would he want us to do with the the time we have left.

What would Dr. King want us to do about the injustice of one out of every eight children in our country going without health care? It's time we live up to the ideal of social justice that Dr. King died for on that balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. It's time that we met our responsibility to see that in the richest country on the face of the earth every child has health care and we keep climbing until there's health care for the 44 million Americans without it today.

What would Dr. King want us to do when the right to vote we thought we guaranteed in the 1960's remains incomplete? It's time we live up to Dr. King's dream by making certain that every vote is counted in every county in every state in every part of our nation in every election bar none.

Dr. King led a generation that fought and bled for freedom. The weapons they faced were fire-hoses and night-sticks and dogs -- and intolerance. They braved them with conscience and guts, faith and determination. They fought and many died so that all Americans might be free.

Now it's time for all of us to apply the same sense of conscience - the same guts - the same determination - and the same faith in all we can be - to change our America for the better - and to finish Martin Luther King's work at home and around the world.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Frist Admits GOP Will Cut Social Security Benefits

While George Bush has been trying to play down reports that his proposed changes for Social Security will result in significant cuts for beneficiaries, Bill Frisk has continued to spill the beans:

Frist Hints of Sacrifices In Social Security Changes

By Mike Allen

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 17, 2005; Page A02

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said yesterday that Americans might need to "take some medicine" to fix Social Security, and said he would consider a plan being floated by the White House that would reduce scheduled benefits.

Full Article

Views of the Three Ring Circus

The JibJab brothers, Gregg and Evan Spiridellis of Santa Monica have outdone themselves with their perspective of Bush’s upcoming second inauguration.

Check out Circus Act in today’s L.A. Times.

Here is a round up of a few perspectives in the today’s MSM about the imminent event:

Quid Pro Limo - What VIPs Really Get for That Huge Donation: A Front-Row Back Seat to History

For Inauguration in Wartime, a Lingering Question of Tone - Inaugurations are always balancing acts: part coronation, part celebration of democracy, part touchdown dance in the end zone.

The Address - Bush to Return to 'Ownership Society' Theme in Push for Social Security Changes

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Why Arrogance Is Likely to Destroy George Bush

Here's another example of incredible arrogance from a President reelected by a tiny margin compared to previous Presidents to be reelected (thanks to a combination of running one of the most dishonest campaigns in history, and doing an excellent job of getting every right wing kook to come out of the wood work to vote). Bush clearly ignored all the polls which show that, despite voting for him, majorities oppose him on most issues, including his Iraq policy.

Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy
No U.S. Troop Withdrawal Date Is Set

By Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

The Denial Cruise

It appears that more than a few loyal Kerry supporters have planned to get away from it all, with regards to the upcoming Inaugural ceremonies.

At least one Blogger from the Unofficial Kerry and Light Up The Darkness Blogs, is vacationing at the happiest place on Earth, as I write this. No special plans for this loyal Kerry supporter... it will be just another day here in sunny SoCal (also known as Baja Canada).

Here's a quip from a story I found in the Boston Globe about some former Kerry staffers who are headed for a Denial Cruise:

It started as a joke among John Kerry's young loyalists as the election night results rolled in.

But now, with a second Bush term about to become reality, they're getting out of here. Out of town, out of the country, out to sea.

On Monday, 34 young, once-hopeful Kerry for President operatives will board an 855-foot cruise ship bound for the white sandy beaches of Cozumel, Mexico. They are calling it the Denial Cruise.

They are unwilling to watch as President Bush is sworn into office for his second term on Thursday. No television watching allowed, at least not of that event.

"I've been trying to make believe that this whole thing never happened," said Naomi Greenfield, who volunteered at last summer's Democratic National Convention and worked on Kerry's election night event in Copley Square.

It was the first political campaign for the 26-year-old Somerville resident, and defeat has not been easy.

"It's actually kind of wretched, but I feel like leaving the country is kind of a small way to protest," Greenfield said. "And I get to snorkel."

While other Kerry supporters are holding demonstrations across the country, Greenfield and her fellow travelers are settling on a more mellow resistance: to ignore the inauguration.

Peg Cusack, who runs a Northern Virginia-based event-planning firm that helped coordinate Kerry's election night affair, took the lead in organizing the four-day getaway that will bring the group through the western Caribbean to Cozumel, Mexico's largest island, nestled off the coast of the Yucutan Peninsula.


The Best Supporters Money Can Buy

Looking back to the days when we backed Kerry early on in the primaries, despite considerable opposition from some of the major blogs such as Daily Kos, things are now looking much clearer, thanks to this confession from Zephyr Teachout. This also helps explain why the blogs gave an exaggerated impression of Dean's success, and provides warnings of such potential misuse of the blogosphere in the future.

On Dean's campaign, we paid Markos and Jerome Armstrong as consultants, largely in order to ensure that they said positive things about Dean. We paid them over twice as much as we paid two staffers of similar backgrounds, and they had several other clients.

While they ended up also providing useful advice, the initial reason for our outreach was explicitly to buy their airtime. To be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment -- but it was very clearly, internally, our goal.

This is now getting routine--Simon Rosenberg hired Matt Stoller, presumably not just because he's got good ideas, but because he already has a "commentator," "spokesperson," role within the blogging media. The scale is infinitely smaller, but its odd to live in a world where we don't blink when commentators are hired as spokespeople. Imagine Howard Dean hiring Maureen Dowd!
In the interest of full disclosure, should I say that, while I never received any payment from the Kerry campaign, I did receive a big hug from Teresa Heinz Kerry when we met? A staffer from Kerry's Senate office also passed on a message to me in December expressing "the Senator's warm personal regards."