Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Drug Prices Rise Under Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

Democrats are looking closely at problems with the Medicare drug program including enrollment difficulties and delays in reimbursement to pharmacies. Perhaps the most alarming problem is the increase in drug prices since the plan began last month:

Prices for some of the most popular medicines used by seniors have jumped an average of 4 percent under the new Medicare drug benefit since it began last month, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report, released by the Democratic staff of the House of Representatives Government Reform Committee, found prices for Pfizer Inc.’s pain reliever Celebrex, Merck Inc.’s cholesterol drug Zocor and eight other top drugs offered by 10 major plans rose during the controversial program’s first seven weeks.

In some cases, drug prices rose 10 percent, it also found. . .

Tuesday’s report found Caremark Rx Inc.’s Silverscript Plus plan raised prices 10.2 percent. Under Humana’s Standard PDP plan, prices rose 3 percent, while they rose 4 percent under AARP’s Medicare Rx plan.

Of the 10 plans reviewed, Avantra’s RX Premier plan was the only one to cut prices, an average of 1.1 percent.

A second report, also released by committee Democrats, found current prices offered by plans are higher than those offered during the last two years with Medicare’s temporary drug cards.

The plan has also been a financial windfall for the pharmaceutical industry as the majority of those who enrolled in the program are low income seniors who also have Medicaid. Many previously received their prescriptions through Medicaid programs which negotiated discount prices while the Medicare program is prohibited from obtaining such discounts. Many others who have enrolled previously received their prescriptions at no charge from the pharmaceutical companies through Patient Assistance Programs.

The big winners under the Medicare Part D program have been the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, both large contributors to George Bush. Insurance companies benefit from the subsidies paid to private insurance companies to cover Medicare patients in Medicare HMO’s, which typically cost more than the government program to provide health care coverage.

US Lacked Plan For Rebuilding Iraq

The Washington Times reports on a government report which doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know:

The Bush administration never drew up a comprehensive plan for rebuilding Iraq after the March 2003 invasion, which contributed to a severe shortage of skilled federal workers in Baghdad and to the mismanagement of the country’s oil money, according to a new government report.

“There was insufficient systematic planning for human capital management in Iraq before and during the U.S.-directed stabilization and reconstruction operations,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, in a new “lessons learned” report released yesterday. “The practical limitations ensuing from this shortfall adversely affected reconstruction in post-war Iraq.”

The Pentagon’s initial plans for reconstruction crumbled when it encountered an unexpected foreign and domestic insurgency that looted the country, sabotaged electric and water service, and killed hundreds of Americans and Iraqis in 2003 after the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Troops Deceived About Reasons For War

Having a captive audience makes must make it easier to sell claims which have been totally refuted as nonsense. A new Zogby Poll shows that many are risking their lives based upon lies:

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

“Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there,” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World” was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

At least they don’t buy the WMD story. It would be interesting to know what their main sources of disinformation are. Is this what they are actually being told, or is it a case of better access to right wing sources? Regardless of why they think they are there, most want out. “An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately.”

Intelligent Design Loses in Utah

Another defeat for creationism/intelligent design, this time in Utah:

In a defeat for critics of Darwin, the Utah House of Representatives on Monday voted down a bill intended to challenge the theory of evolution in high school science classes.

The bill had been viewed nationally, by people on each side of the science education debate, as an important proposal because Utah is such a conservative state, with a Legislature dominated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But the bill died on a 46-to-28 vote in the Republican-controlled House after being amended by the majority whip, Stephen H. Urquhart, a Mormon who said he thought God did not have an argument with science. The amendment stripped out most of the bill’s language, leaving only that the state board of education “shall establish curriculum requirements relating to scientific instruction.”

It looks like support for intelligent design is becoming limited to a handful of right wingers who cannot even influence the Republican Party any more:

A spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Joe Conn, said Utah’s vote would resonate.

“If the creationists can’t win in a state as conservative as Utah, they’ve got an uphill battle,” Mr. Conn said.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bush Hits New Low

George Bush, most likely the worst President in U.S. history, may set new records for disapproval as he falls towards the level Richard Nixon was at when he was wandering around the White House talking to pictures of former presidents. CBS News shows that Bush’s approval rating is down to 34% (42% last month). Dick Cheney’s approval is at 18%, down from 23% last month.

The latest poll also shows that only 43% approve of how Bush is handling the “war on terror” and 30% approve of how he is handling the war in Iraq.

The Case For Impeachment

Impeach Bush Harpers

I’ve been hoping that Harpers would put their current issue, with cover story on The Case For Impeachment on line, at least for us subscribers. Finally a portion is available.

I’ve noted several articles recently which seemed to be trying to talk Democrats out of impeaching Bush if they take control of Congress arguing that support for Clinton and opposition to the Republican-controlled Congress increased after the impeachment. I don’t find these arguments very compelling. Clinton was impeached for bogus reasons. Bush’s misconduct is exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when they included impeachment in the Constitution. Besides, even if the impeachment was unpopular with many, Republicans haven’t done all that badly politically since then. An impeachment trial exposing Bush and his cronies might be what is needed to turn this around.

It's Not News Because It's BS

The right wingers never give up, and sure don’t let facts get in their way. Despite all the evidence that Bush’s invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with disarming Saddam, they still persist in distorting information to make it appear that Saddam had WMD and was working with al Qaeda. Power Line makes a rather weak case and then asks:

When the Iraq Survey Group reported that it was unable to find Saddam’s WMDs, it was treated, understandably, as a huge news story. The news media interpreted the ISG’s failure as undermining, to a great degree, the administration’s case for the war. Fair enough. But now it appears that the administration, along with the CIA and the intelligence services of all other countries who assessed the issue, likely was right after all. Why isn’t this equally big news?

It’s not news because it is BS. Sure they might get Fox News, and perhaps the increasingly right wing CNN and NBC to repeat some of this, but there is just not enough there to get any traction.

The question is not whether Saddam wanted to have WMD, whether he at one time had WMD, or even if he had limited WMD to use at home. The only question which matters in terms of justifying the invasion of Iraq is whether Saddam had WMD which presented an imminent threat to us. The evidence is conclusive that he did not present such a threat, and that Saddam and al Qaeda were enemies of each other, unlikely to ever share any weapons.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

To Be Respected in the World

Every day seems to bring more evidence that John Kerry got it, but was a year or two ahead of his time. Recall the title of his plan published during the campaign, Our Plan for America : Stronger at Home, Respected in the World.

The public just wasn’t ready to understand this in 2004, but perhaps they are now. A new Gallup Poll finds that only 33% of Americans believe leaders of other countries respect Bush, the lowest percentage to date. “Further indicating America’s negative image in the world is the fact that only 43% of respondents are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world today, while 54% are dissatisfied. These numbers are worse than those seen in 1966 when America was at the height of the Cold War.”

BBC News notes that “President Bush’s popularity ratings have plummeted,” but questions why “the opposition, the Democrats, are not surfing the opinion polls, capitalising on the Republicans’ misfortunes and preparing to take over Congress when the election comes in the autumn?” While there are many faults in the author’s analysis, he argues that “Democrats do not have a message on the key issues of our time. Or, more precisely, they have several mutually exclusive messages.”

One problem is that John Kerry had the right message, but it takes longer than one political campaign to disseminate the message over the interference of the right wing noise machine. Republicans spent years spreading misinformation and building support before they took control. Our goals are not helped when many Democrats, for a variety of reasons, are working at cross purposes by repeating right wing talking points and smears about Kerry rather than spreading Kerry’s message. Nor are our chances for victory helped when Democrats continue to spread the untrue claim that Kerry supported the war, or the totally misinformed and irrational argument that Kerry conceded in Ohio before all the votes were counted.

There is still considerable hope for 2006 (and even more for 2008 where the numbers are better for Democrats in the Senate). In addition to the Republican collapse in public support, we must keep in mind that few predicted the Republican take over of Congress before the vote in 1994. Those who question the Democrats’ success this year are being rather premature in doing so before anyone has even gone out to vote.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's A Plan

Click here

The Debates: Kerry vs. Bush on Port Security

Kerry brought up port security in the first debate on September 30, 2004:

LEHRER: We’ll come back to Iraq in a moment. But I want to come back to where I began, on homeland security. This is a two-minute new question, Senator Kerry.

As president, what would you do, specifically, in addition to or differently to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?

KERRY: Jim, let me tell you exactly what I’ll do. And there are a long list of thing. First of all, what kind of mixed message does it send when you have $500 million going over to Iraq to put police officers in the streets of Iraq, and the president is cutting the COPS program in America?

What kind of message does it send to be sending money to open firehouses in Iraq, but we’re shutting firehouses who are the first- responders here in America.

The president hasn’t put one nickel, not one nickel into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems. That’s why they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican Convention was there. We hadn’t done the work that ought to be done.

The president — 95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilians get onto aircraft, and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X- rayed.

Does that make you feel safer in America?

This president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security. Those aren’t my values. I believe in protecting America first.

And long before President Bush and I get a tax cut — and that’s who gets it — long before we do, I’m going to invest in homeland security and I’m going to make sure we’re not cutting COPS programs in America and we’re fully staffed in our firehouses and that we protect the nuclear and chemical plants.

The president also unfortunately gave in to the chemical industry, which didn’t want to do some of the things necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure.

And there’s an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists. That’s a whole other subject, but I see we still have a little bit more time.

Let me just quickly say, at the current pace, the president will not secure the loose material in the Soviet Union — former Soviet Union for 13 years. I’m going to do it in four years. And we’re going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.

BUSH: I don’t think we want to get to how he’s going to pay for all these promises. It’s like a huge tax gap. Anyway, that’s for another debate.

So, port security is too expensive. After all, we can’t risk those tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, and attacking Iraq was more important than going after al Qaeda or defending the United States. When Bush said this was for another debate, it did come up again in the third debate on October 13, 2004:

KERRY (FROM THE OPENING STATEMENT): Will we ever be safe and secure again? Yes. We absolutely must be. That’s the goal.

Now, how do we achieve it is the most critical component of it.

I believe that this president, regrettably, rushed us into a war, made decisions about foreign policy, pushed alliances away. And, as a result, America is now bearing this extraordinary burden where we are not as safe as we ought to be.

The measurement is not: Are we safer? The measurement is: Are we as safe as we ought to be? And there are a host of options that this president had available to him, like making sure that at all our ports in America containers are inspected. Only 95 percent of them — 95 percent come in today uninspected. That’s not good enough.

People who fly on airplanes today, the cargo hold is not X-rayed, but the baggage is. That’s not good enough. Firehouses don’t have enough firefighters in them. Police officers are being cut from the streets of America because the president decided to cut the COPS program.

So we can do a better job of homeland security. I can do a better job of waging a smarter, more effective war on terror and guarantee that we will go after the terrorists.

I will hunt them down, and we’ll kill them, we’ll capture them. We’ll do whatever is necessary to be safe.

This was hardly the first time Kerry discussed this during the campaign. From his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 29, 2004:

Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans and the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement all the recommendations of that commission.

We shouldn’t be letting 95 percent of our container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn’t be leaving nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Juan Cole Interviewed on Iraq

MetroTimes, a Detroit alternative newspaper, interviews Juan Cole. From the interview:

In my view. the U.S. government, if it were really worried about al-Qaida, shouldn’t have been invading Iraq. Iraq didn’t have anything to do with al-Qaida. If we had spent the kind of money were spending in Iraq on fighting al-Qaida, it would have been got 10 times over. Now we’re going to end up spending a trillion, 2 trillion dollars on the Iraq misadventure. I don’t know what we’ve spent fighting al-Qaida, but it’s been a relatively small amount. That tells me something — that the Bush administration is far more interested in reconfiguring Iraq than it is in fighting al-Qaida. And yet the rhetoric is all about the war on terror and al-Qaida.

I think the American right has long managed to throw resources to its clients and to scare the American people into giving up some of their rights by looking to external threats like the Soviet Union, communism and now al-Qaida and international terrorism. It always exaggerates the real magnitude of the threat, and the U.S. public seems to be easily scared, easily intimidated into forfeiting its birthright, which is the liberties of the U.S. Constitution, and I think we should push back.

William Buckley: It Didn't Work

It’s not only those negative liberals who are saying it. William F. Buckley, Jr. says that, “One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed.”

Kerry Most Liberal 2008 Candidate from Senate

Rankings based upon votes are not the most accurate way to evaluate a member of Congress, but they are interesting to look at. The National Journal’s rankings are out based upon 2005 votes. Edward Kennedy is most liberal member of the Senate with a score of 96.7. John Kerry is number 8 with an 86.7% score.

Kerry beats other potential Democratic candidates in liberal score. Russ Feingold is # 14 this year at 85.2%. My initial impression is that it might have been particular votes this year which placed Kerry ahead of Feingold this year, but Kerry beats Feingold with a lifetime average of 85.7% compared to 80.6% for Feingold. Kerry also beats Feingold in the majority of years in which both were ranked. Hillary Clinton has a liberal score of 79.8% (80.5% lifetime). Joseph Biden has a score of 80.2% (lifetime 76.8%). Evan Bayh, as expected, is the most conservative 2008 Democratic candidate from the Senate with a score of 70.7% (63.2% lifetime).

Joe Lieberman is towards the liberal edge of the center with a score of 65.7% for 2005. Harry Reid has a liberal score of 78.2% and Richard Durbin falls at 86.8%.

There’s No Controversy to Teach Regarding Evolution

The Flat Earth Party (also known as Republicans) try to justify teaching of creationism (also known as intelligent design) by claiming they are being fair by teaching both sides of the controversy. Evolution is estabilshed science, and there is no controversy. The National Center for Science Education has posted more evidence of the lack of any controversy over evolution in the scientific community:

The “teach the controversy” party’s over

“A mendacious bit of hucksterism” is Robert Camp’s description of the “teach the controversy” slogan frequently used to promote the teaching of “intelligent design” in the public schools. And it’s not just idle rhetoric. Rather, it’s based firmly on the results of a survey that he conducted of the heads of biology departments in colleges and universities around the country. As Camp explains, “If there are authoritative voices on the purported existence of a controversy among biologists regarding mechanisms of evolution, they belong to those individuals who are well aware of the most current scholarship in their field and are in touch with daily discussion of that scholarship.”

In his new article “Turn out the lights, the ‘teach the controversy’ party’s over,” posted on the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal’s Creationism and Intelligent Design Watch website, Camp reports on his survey, in which he asked the heads of biology departments whether, with respect to “intelligent design,” there is “a difference of professional opinion within your department that you feel could be accurately described as a scientific controversy.” Over 97% of his respondents answered in the negative. “As an attempt to put empirical weight behind that which has been well understood all along,” Camp concludes, “the numbers here are unambiguous.”

And the remaining 3%, representing two of the 73 respondents? Camp explains, “One, a ‘No, but …,’ observed that there was virtually no professional controversy within their department but acknowledged that one colleague had spoken favorably of the concept publicly …. And the only assent to controversy came from an institution [which Camp elsewhere describes as “a theological medical university”] dedicated to an ideological view of the world, including the world of biology,” adding, “This may serve as evidence of a ‘controversy’ in that particular university. But in the larger context, its effect is only to put the overwhelming consensus into sharper focus.”

Related Stories at The Democratic Daily

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Victory for ACLU

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) — The federal government agreed to stop funding a nationwide program that promotes teen abstinence to settle a lawsuit alleging the money was used for Christian proselytizing.

The agreement was reached Wednesday between the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under the deal, the Silver Ring Thing program won’t be eligible for more funding unless it ensures the money won’t be used for religious purposes.

“Public funds were being used to fund a road show, really, to convert teens to Christianity,” said Julie Sternberg, an ACLU attorney.

Forward on Why Jews Don’t Buy the GOP Line

Why the GOP Can’t Convert the Jewish Vote
By Eric Uslaner and Mark Lichbach
February 24, 2006

American Jews should not be surprised by the political divorce between televangelist Pat Robertson and his supporters in Israel. Even as President Bush courted the Jewish vote in 2004, Jews remained loyal to the Democratic Party, to a large degree out of fear of the religious right.

Robertson recently said on his television program, “The 700 Club”: “You read the Bible and [God] says ‘This is my land,’ and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, ‘No, this is mine.’” The claim that Prime Minister Sharon suffered a stroke because he withdrew Israeli settlers from Gaza stunned American Jews, most of whom support peace with the Palestinians and most of whom do not view God as seeking retribution for specific deeds.

Such intemperate views confirmed Jewish fears of the Christian right. In the 2004 election, almost 80% of American Jews voted for Democratic candidate John Kerry, according to a survey by the National Jewish Democratic Council that we analyzed.

The president did make inroads among the 15% of Jews who saw Israel as a central voting issue. A far greater share of Jewish voters, however, expressed strong dislike of Evangelical Christians.

On a feeling thermometer ranging from 0, for extremely cold, to 100, for extremely warm, 37% of Jewish voters rated evangelicals at 0. In the 2004 American National Election Study, by comparison, only 4% of non-evangelical Christians rated fundamentalistÄChristians at 0. The average rating of evangelicals was 24 for Jews, compared to a positive 54 for non-Evangelical Christians.

More importantly, American Jews’ negativity toward evangelicals shaped their vote choice. Eighty-six percent of those most fearful of evangelicals cast ballots for Kerry, as compared to 72% of other Jews.

It is true that many non-Jews were also turned off by the Christian right. For Christian America, however, the battle between fundamentalists and mainline believers revolves around the “culture war” in American politics. For mainline Christians, the battle with the religious right is over abortion and gay marriage. American Jews are very liberal on these social issues, but view the cultural wars though identity rather than policy lenses.

For Pat Robertson and his allies, Israel is not simply a homeland for a people who have long faced discrimination and occasionally extermination — it is part of New Testament prophecy. The reestablishment of a Jewish state is a precondition for the final battle between good and evil at Armageddon.

This ultimate conflict does not offer much solace to the Jews. Their choices are to convert to Christianity or to burn. This story is told in Revelations and in the “Left Behind” series of 11 novels that has sold more than 50 million copies.

At the same time that the Christian right is becoming increasingly powerful within the GOP — and when its party leader, George W. Bush, identifies as a born-again Christian — the Republican Party has put a lot of effort into courting the Jewish vote. At least in 2004, however, those efforts failed. The surveys reveal that Jews who voted for Bush in 2000 and for Kerry in 2004 were largely motivated by fear of the Christian right. They were even more negative toward evangelicals than Jews who voted Democratic in both elections.

At a November 2005 meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean said that Democrats “believe that Jews should feel comfortable in being American Jews without being constrained from practicing their faith or be compelled to convert to another religion.” On the other side of the aisle, Ken Mehlman, the chair of the Republican National Committee, tells his fellow Jews that they should support the president who has stood by Israel.

While the political operatives make their cases, it seems, Pat Robertson has unwittingly become Howard Dean’s best campaigner for the Jewish vote — and Ken Mehlman’s worst nightmare, in perhaps more ways than one.

Eric Uslaner and Mark Lichbach are professors of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Joe Republican

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance — now Joe gets it, too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry. In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo.

His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries and government from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. Its noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills.

Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until-some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

Joe is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that Joe’s beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees. “After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

(This is floating around Democratic Underground, original author unknown.)

Medicine Needs Evolution

This week’s Science shows the importance of evolution as “the vibrant foundation for all biology.” While the flat earthers on the right continue to deny that evolution is well established, and that this is a controversy which exists only in their deranged minds, the significance of evolution is demonstrated in such scientific literature.

Medicine Needs Evolution

The citation of “Evolution in Action” as Science’s 2005 breakthrough of the year confirms that evolution is the vibrant foundation for all biology. Its contributions to understanding infectious disease and genetics are widely recognized, but its full potential for use in medicine has yet to be realized. Some insights have immediate clinical applications, but most are fundamental, as is the case in other basic sciences. Simply put, training in evolutionary thinking can help both biomedical researchers and clinicians ask useful questions that they might not otherwise pose.

Although anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and embryology are recognized as basic sciences for medicine, evolutionary biology is not. Future clinicians are generally not taught evolutionary explanations for why our bodies are vulnerable to certain kinds of failure. The narrowness of the birth canal, the existence of wisdom teeth, and the persistence of genes that cause bipolar disease and senescence all have their origins in our evolutionary history. In a whole array of clinical and basic science challenges, evolutionary biology is turning out to be crucial. For example, the evolution of antibiotic resistance is widely recognized, but few appreciate how competition among bacteria has shaped chemical weapons and resistance factors in an arms race that has been going on for hundreds of millions of years. The incorrect idea that selection reliably shapes a happy coexistence of hosts and pathogens persists, despite evidence for the evolution of increased virulence when disease transmission occurs through vectors such as insects, needles, or clinicians’hands. There is growing recognition that cough, fever, and diarrhea are useful responses shaped by natural selection, but knowing when is it safe to block them will require studies grounded in an understanding of how selection shaped the systems that regulate such defenses and the compromises that had to be struck.

Evolution is also the origin of apparent anatomical anomalies such as the vulnerabilities of the lower back. Biochemistry courses cover bilirubin metabolism, but an evolutionary explanation for why bilirubin is synthesized at all is new: It is an efficient free-radical scavenger. Pharmacology emphasizes individual variation in genes encoding cytochrome P450s, but their evolutionary origins in processing dietary toxins are just being fully appreciated. In physiology, fetal nutritional stress appears to flip an evolved switch that sets the body into a state that protects against starvation. When these individuals encounter modern diets, they respond with the deadly metabolic syndrome of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

The triumphs of molecular biology call attention to evolutionary factors responsible for certain genetic diseases. The textbook example is sickle-cell disease, whose carriers are resistant to malaria. Similar protection against infection has been hypothesized for other disorders. Which aspects of the modern environment are pathogenic? We need to find out. Increases in breast cancer have been attributed to hormone exposure in modern women who have four times as many menstrual cycles as women in cultures without birth control. Other studies suggest that nighttime exposure to light increases the risk of breast cancer by inhibiting the normal nighttime surge of melatonin, which may decrease tumor growth. Evolution has also provided some explanations for conditions such as infertility. The process that eliminates 99.99% of oocytes may have evolved to protect against common genetic defects. And some recurrent spontaneous miscarriages may arise from a system evolved to protect against investing in offspring with combinations of specific genes that predispose to early death from infection.

These and other examples make a strong case for recognizing evolution as a basic science for medicine. What actions would bring the full power of evolutionary biology to bear on human disease? We suggest three. First, include questions about evolution in medical licensing examinations; this will motivate curriculum committees to incorporate relevant basic science education. Second, ensure evolutionary expertise in agencies that fund biomedical research. Third, incorporate evolution into every relevant high school, undergraduate, and graduate course. These three changes will help clinicians and biomedical researchers understand that both the human body and its pathogens are not perfectly designed machines but evolving biological systems shaped by selection under the constraints of tradeoffs that produce specific compromises and vulnerabilities. Powerful insights from evolutionary biology generate new questions whose answers will help improve human health.

Randolph M. Nesse, Stephen C. Stearns, Gilbert S. Omenn

Kerry in Minnesota

Kerry: Democrats relevant on war
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Are Democrats losing the war in Iraq — at least as a political issue?

February has been a tough month for two Democrats widely known for their critical stances regarding terrorism and the war in Iraq.

FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley is drawing a primary challenge in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District. Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, who has said the war hasn’t been “worth the price,” was forced out of the U.S. Senate race in Ohio, saying he had been double-crossed by Democrats supporting U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown.

But former presidential candidate John Kerry, who is in Minnesota for a fundraiser, said those developments don’t signal a waning of the war issue for his party.

“I think the war remains a central issue for Democrats … I think people need to be reminded that there were better choices and that there are better choices now,” the Massachusetts senator said Wednesday. He ran his own unsuccessful campaign in part as a referendum on the war in 2004 and even launched a billboard campaign last fall calling for a partial troop withdrawal.

Kerry is coming to Minneapolis to raise money for DFLers in the Legislature, part of a national effort that he has promised will raise as much as $3 million for Democrats across the country this election cycle.

In an interview from Washington, Kerry said the challenges to Rowley and Hackett had more to do with the candidates themselves than with Democratic hesitation to take on Republicans over national security issues.

“An individual candidacy, particularly in Ohio, is based on more than one issue. And Sherrod Brown obviously has very strong views about the war,” Kerry said.

A new Gallup poll this week suggests 55 percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. Only 31 percent of poll respondents think the United States and its allies are winning in Iraq, the lowest ebb for that measure to date.

Banned By Bush, Now Running For Congress

The Atlantic Monthly reports on veterans running for Congress as Democrats. This story is particularly interesting for what one vet had on his wallet and which led to him being banned from a Bush rally:

Command Sergeant Major Tim Walz is a twenty-four-year veteran of the Army National Guard, now retired but still on active duty when a visit from President George W. Bush shortly before the 2004 election coincided with Walz’s homecoming to Mankato, Minnesota. A high school teacher and football coach, he had left to serve overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom. Southern Minnesota is home to a large Guard contingent that includes Walz’s unit, the First 125th Field Artillery Battalion, so the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are naturally a pressing local concern—particularly to high school students headed into the armed services.

The president’s visit struck Walz as a teachable moment, and he and two students boarded a Bush campaign bus that took them to a quarry where the president was to speak. But after they had passed through a metal detector and their tickets and IDs were checked, they were denied admittance and ordered back onto the bus. One of the boys had a John Kerry sticker on his wallet.

Indignant, Walz refused. “As a soldier, I told them I had a right to see my commander-in-chief,” the normally jovial forty-one-year-old recently explained to a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party dinner in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

His challenge prompted a KGB-style interrogation that was sadly characteristic of Bush campaign events. Do you support the president? Walz refused to answer. Do you oppose the president? Walz replied that it was no one’s business but his own. (He later learned that his wife was informed that the Secret Service might arrest him.) Walz thought for a moment and asked the Bush staffers if they really wanted to arrest a command sergeant major who’d just returned from fighting the war on terrorism.

They did not.

Instead Walz was told to behave himself and permitted to attend the speech, albeit under heavy scrutiny. His students were not: they were sent home. Shortly after this Walz retired from the Guard. Then he did something that until recently was highly unusual for a military man. He announced he was running for Congress—as a Democrat.

Walz personifies two of this year’s most interesting political trends, both of which appear to emanate from the country’s growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and the party most responsible for it. The midterm elections this fall will be the first in which a sizable number of veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq run for Congress. At least fourteen have declared so far. But in an era when military and national-security issues have long been the province of the Republican Party—indeed, are thought to have strengthened the GOP’s grip on the White House and Congress in the past two elections—the bigger surprise is under whose banner these veterans are choosing to run. Like Walz, nearly every one of them is a Democrat.

Size vs. Competence in Government

Blind devotion to ideology leads to a difficulty in reasonably analyzing problems. Rich Lowry’s column which both admits that Bush is a proponent of big government and that Bush’s policies do not work, starts out of interest in showing how Bush has even violated conservative principles:

During the past year, one of the philosophical justifications for the Bush administration’s approach to government has collapsed. It held that President Bush was a “big-government conservative,” or in the more striking formulation of the influential, Bush-friendly journalist Fred Barnes, a “strong-government conservative.”

In theory, strong-government conservatism is alluring. If government is going to do something, it ought to do it well. In practice, however strong-government conservatism has mostly been a rationalization for lazy and politically expedient accretions to government. It hasn’t given us a strong government, but a further-sprawling government that in many ways is contemptible.

Where Lowry goes wrong is in using the response to Katrina to argue against big government:

Take the response to Hurricane Katrina. The Department of Homeland Security should be a perfect forum for strong government. Congress and the president identified a goal — preventing terrorists from attacking us on our soil — and named a new federal department after it: Homeland Security. They threw 22 disparate government agencies together, apparently on the theory that bigger is stronger.

In last week’s House report on Katrina, there was one target for criticism that has gone unnoticed — big government itself. The report notes how important it was to share information “within agencies” and “across departments.” It didn’t happen: “Unfortunately, no government does these things well, especially big governments.” The report goes on to say “flexibility and adaptability” were needed. Instead: “We again encountered the risk-averse culture that pervades big government.”

The problem here isn’t big government but incompetent government. Many things are better handled by the private sector than government. Response to a disaster of this magnitude is not one of them. Reducing the size of government may be of benefit elsewhere, but less government will not help with future disasters. The Republican panacea of private charities is no solution.

Republican big government is ineffective as the Republicans do not believe in using government for serving the public good under any circumstance. Instead they see government as a tool for transferring wealth to the ultra-wealthy, assisting their cronies in big business, and imposing their religious views on others in return for the backing of the religious right. We need to return the Democrats to power to restore competence in government, and return the Republicans to the opposition, a role they do sometimes handle better than Democrats.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

GOP Hookers Take on Hillary

Republicans recruit hookers to stop Hillary (hat tip to Sadly No!):

Stop Hillary

In this endeavor, we wish the hookers well (unless Hillary wins the nomination and we are left with little choice but to support her).

Flashback to the 2004 Election Cycle on Port Security: Kerry Was Right

The DSCC released information about Republican Senators and port security earlier today, see my post here. There's a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about this deal, on the left and the right. Ron pointed out in the comments below, that conservative blog was calling Democrats "newly security conscious." However, that is certainly not the case...

On December 17, 2003 John Kerry unveiled a "Plan to Improve Port Security and Prevent Terrorists from Obtaining WMD’s." In another "Kerry was right" moment, John Kerry said:

In this dangerous world, we don’t know what that cargo really contains. And we can’t afford to continue being in the dark. We screen millions of shoes in airports everyday, but less than four percent of the 21,000 enormous shipping containers that arrive in America’s ports every day. Any one of them could have a biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon inside. We need to invest in and employ new technologies to screen the containers, ships, trains, and trucks that come into this country.”

How ironic, that Kerry saw the need to improve port security over two years ago, yet Bush has done nothing about it. Now in the wake of this UAE state-owned Dubai Port World deal to take over 6 major U.S. ports, it certainly seems as though port security is not really a concern of the Bush administration yet during the 2004 election cycle Bush consistently said it was. In October 2004, Bush was playing politics (as Digby pointed out) when he tried to paint Kerry as soft on National Security:

I will never hand over America's security decisions to foreign leaders and international bodies that do not have America's interests at heart.

Yet, now Bush is willing to turn over control of 6 of our ports to an international based, government owned corporation. What is up with that?

Kerry's December 2003 plan for Port Security, was far from soft and certainly disproves the meme that Democrats did not have a plan or are "newly security conscious"...


Neocon Realizes He Was Wrong; Quotes Kerry

Remember when John Kerry said it was “Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time” and the neocons mocked him? One early neoconservative not only realizes he was wrong, but is now sounding a lot like John Kerry:

Neocon architect says: ‘Pull it down’

NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects.

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has “evolved into something I can no longer support”. He says it should be discarded on to history’s pile of discredited ideologies.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads, Mr Fukuyama declares that the doctrine “is now in shambles” and that its failure has demonstrated “the danger of good intentions carried to extremes”.

In its narrowest form, neoconservatism advocates the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones.

Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq and was a signatory to a 1998 letter sent by the Project for a New American Century to the then president, Bill Clinton, urging the US to step up its efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It was also signed by neoconservative intellectuals, such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and political figures Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the current defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Kerry Questions John Snow on Dubai Port Deal

February 21, 2006

The Honorable John Snow, Chair
Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States
Office of International Investment
Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Room 4201 NY Washington, DC 20220

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write to you in your capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) regarding the review and approval of the sale of Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Navigation Company to Dubai Ports World (DP). As you know, this sale would give DP, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, significant operational control over six major US ports.

Specifically, given the national security implications of this sale, I am concerned about the process by which this transaction was approved by CFIUS. First, it appears that CFIUS approved the sale as expeditiously as possible, without even using the additional 45 day investigation process that was clearly warranted under the circumstances.

Further, several media reports have cited ties between Administration officials and DP that raise questions about the basis for the approval of this sale by CFIUS. As you know, the CSX rail corporation, where you previously served as Chief Executive Officer, sold its port operations to DP in 2004. Moreover, the President’s nominee for Administrator of the Maritime Administration, David Sanborn, was DP’s Head of Operations for Latin America while this transaction was being reviewed by CFIUS. In light of these connections, Congress needs to learn more about the relationship between CFIUS members and DP, and whether Administration officials could have unduly influenced CFIUS’s approval process.

Therefore, in the interest of full disclosure and the transparency appropriate under these circumstances, I request that you provide to the relevant committees in Congress all documentation and information relating to contacts between Administration officials, CFIUS members and staff, and DP, including any lobbyists or registered foreign agents working on behalf of DP.

Given the national security implications surrounding this transaction, it is essential that lawmakers have access to this information so that Congress can conduct meaningful oversight.


John F. Kerry

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy

Publisher’s Weekly review of Impostor : How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy makes it sound like this is one book which both liberals and true conservatives might find of interest:

Liberal commentators gripe so frequently about the current administration that it’s become easy to tune them out, but when Bartlett, a former member of the Reagan White House, says George W. Bush has betrayed the conservative movement, his conservative credentials command attention. Bartlett’s attack boils down to one key premise: Bush is a shallow opportunist who has cast aside the principles of the “Reagan Revolution” for short-term political gains that may wind up hurting the American economy as badly as, if not worse than, Nixon’s did. As part of a simple, point-by-point critique of Bush’s “finger-in-the-wind” approach to economic leadership, Bartlett singles out the Medicare prescription drug bill of 2003— “the worst piece of legislation ever enacted”—as a particularly egregious example of the increases in government spending that will, he says, make tax hikes inevitable.

Republicans Not Bounded By Reality

The National Jewish Democratic Council has a post on their blog about Republican slurs on both Teresa and John Kerry: “The Republican campaign within the Jewish community in 2004 was often… well, to put it mildly, they didn’t necessarily see themselves as bounded by reality.”

Monday, February 20, 2006

Honoring Former Republican Presidents

I began the celebration of Presidents’ Day with a satire on the War on Christmas, with a few shots at George Bush’s expense. One thing we must remember with our criticism of George Bush is that these are not purely partisan disputes. Bush’s disregard for the Constitution, and his undermining of our national security with his foreign policy blunders, are problems which transcend political parties

It would be a simple matter on a Democratic blog to argue that previous Democratic Presidents have been preferable. It is more meaningful in showing how George W. Bush has disgraced the office by comparing him to previous Republicans. Of course if we go too far back in time, to Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt, we are faced with the problem than such men would definitely not be Republicans today.

There are lessons to learn from more recent Republican Presidents. At his father's funeral, Ron Reagan, Jr. pointed out the difference between Ronald Reagan and George Bush when he said, "Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage.” George W. Bush' s own father, while generally a mediocre President, had warnings about regime change in Iraq which should have been considered.

Although never elected President, former GOP candidate Barry Goldwater is also worth comparing to current Republicans. Goldwater had no love for the religious right, and even called himself a liberal in his latter years in protest over the direction the Republican Party was taking. Goldwater was also instrumental in getting Richard Nixon to step down. There are finally some Republicans speaking out against Bush's violations of the Constitution, and hopefully we will find a modern Barry Goldwater to fulfill this role.

Of recent Republicans, perhaps the most pertinent message for today came from Dwight David Eisenhower:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Swift Boat Liar Now Caught Lying For DeLay

FactCheck has a report today about a pro-DeLay ad which they found misleading. It should come as no surprise that the ad was misleading. FactCheck says, “Tracking down the source of this ad was something of a chore.” When they did track down the source they found that:

the ad is being financed by a $200,000 donation from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry. As we reported in 2004, Perry was the main source of initial funding for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the time they launched their attack on the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

The full report is at FactCheck.org. Here’s their summary:

A newly formed conservative group is running a TV ad in Houston implying that liberal billionaire George Soros is “the source” of an earlier anti-DeLay ad by liberal groups. The pro-DeLay ad is somewhat misleading. Soros gave the liberal groups early funding two years ago, but there’s no evidence he funded the anti-DeLay ad.

However, the source of the pro-DeLay ad turns out to be a Houston homebuilder who gave $200,000 to air it, and who also was an early financier of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 presidential campaign.

The War on Presidents' Day

The Republicans are waging a war on one of our nation’s holidays–Presidents’ Day. After five years of a Republican in the White House, they have debased the meaning of the office, and therefore the holiday.

While the Constitution lists limited criteria for the office, previous Presidents were expected to have some degree of understanding of the position, or at least read an occasional newspaper. After George Bush there are no longer any expectations of experience or knowledge (at least for those who happen to be the son of a former President, even if a rather mediocre one).

Previous Presidents were expected to show some results before they could be reelected. Hoover was dumped when the economy tanked, but such expectations no longer exist after George Bush was reelected with his dismal record. Previously we expected Presidents to at least make a show of obeying the law. When Richard Nixon crossed the line he was forced from office. Under George Bush the line has been erased and shoved down an Orwellian memory hole.

At very least, Presidents were expected to defend the nation when under attack (and perhaps to pay attention when there are abundant warnings that an attack is imminent). No former President would ignore responding to an attack to read a children’s book about a goat.

With George Bush in office, Presidents’ Day just does not have the meaning it used to. We must respond to this Republican War on Presidents Day and restore the office to a man of intelligence and honor. We tried to do this a little over a year ago, but the country was fooled into believing they could not survive a President who wind surfs. Hopefully by now they are realizing the grievous error they made.

Republicans Solicit Church Directories

The Washington Post reports that the North Carolina Republican Party is requesting that members send in their church directories. Religious groups protested with the Bush campaign did this in 2004, but the Republicans aren’t going to let such protests get in the way of an effective strategy:

The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.

“Such a request is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable,” said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

During the 2004 presidential race, the Bush-Cheney campaign sent a similar request to Republican activists across the country. It asked churchgoers not only to furnish church directories to the campaign, but also to use their churches as a base for political organizing.

The tactic was roundly condemned by religious leaders across the political spectrum, including conservative evangelical Christians. Ten professors of ethics at major seminaries and universities wrote a letter to President Bush in August 2004 asking him to “repudiate the actions of your re-election campaign,” and calling on both parties to “respect the integrity of all houses of worship.”

Bin Laden Reveals Mixed Results From US Response to 9/11

The Miami Herald reviews The Osama Bin Laden I Know by Peter Bergen. Among the items mentioned are Bin Laden’s hatred of Saddam, and that the U.S. response had mixed results, both decimating al Qaeda in Afghanistan but helping rebuild al Qaeda due to increased recruitment due to the invasion of Iraq. Here’s some highlights of the article:

The world’s most wanted and deadly terrorist worries about public relations, watches Larry King Live and carefully cultivates the image of soft-spoken, thoughtful cleric. But he has no real strategy left–just the tactic of extreme violence. And while he may be a legend in the Muslim world after overseeing the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans, he also miscalculated the impact of those attacks and has become a divisive figure among even Muslim radicals.

His conclusions are clear-eyed and credible. He reports that bin Laden badly misjudged the U.S. response to 9/11, expecting either a withdrawal from the region or a massive Soviet-style, conventional invasion of Afghanistan. Instead the attacks sharply divided Muslim extremists, and the U.S. counterattack has left al Qaeda decimated and bin Laden on the run.

Along the way, Bergen puts several myths to rest, such as reports of CIA sponsorship of bin Laden against the Soviets in the 1980s, or an al Qaeda-Iraq connection. In several interviews bin Laden declares his hatred of Saddam Hussein.

Bergen doesn’t think the terrorist mastermind will be taken alive; his bodyguards have orders to kill him rather then allow his capture. In hiding, bin Laden is no longer the operational leader that he was before 9/11. But it’s a big mistake to underestimate him. The Iraq war was a gift and a recruitment tool that bin Laden’s allies are using to gather a new generation of jihadist fighters, gaining experience against U.S. forces, Bergen writes.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Consumer Groups Endorse Senator Kerry's Efforts to Bring Affordable Broadband To All

Today Consumers Union and Free Press endorsed Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) Wireless Innovation Act (WINN Act) that would help bring affordable broadband to all Americans by freeing unused spectrum within the broadcast frequency for use by providers of wireless broadband and for other services.

The legislation would direct the Federal Communications Commission to move quickly to free-up valuable but unused broadcast airwaves - known as empty channels, or white spaces- which could then be used for wireless broadband. In most markets, only half of the broadcast channels are actually used by television stations.

Below is the letter of support sent to Senator Kerry earlier today.

February 17, 2006
The Honorable John Kerry
United States Senate
Washington, D.C 20510

Dear Senator Kerry:

Thank you for your leadership in cosponsoring today the bipartisan Wireless Innovation Act of 2006, the WINN Act, and for your commitment to bringing affordable broadband to all Americans. The Act will go far in providing greater consumer choice in broadband, enhanced competition in telecommunications services, and new opportunities for technological and entrepreneurial innovation. We applaud your commitment to this important issue and strongly support your legislation.

Even as high-speed Internet access and adoption has been increasing, many consumers have been left behind. The problem is particularly acute in rural and urban areas that either lack access entirely, or have only a single service to choose from. Adoption of broadband in rural areas is only half that of urban parts of the country. And adoption by average income families is roughly half that for wealthy households. Without broadband Internet access and other wireless services, Americans in rural and underserved urban areas will continue to be stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide. Communities without affordable high-speed Internet access will lose jobs as businesses that need it locate elsewhere and their residents will continue to face increasingly serious disadvantages in educational and healthcare services.

Wireless, or Wi-Fi, broadband, because of its low deployment costs and ability to reach distant consumers without costly infrastructure or equipment, offers the greatest opportunity for expanding broadband access to consumers who lack it. Indeed, today, wireless Internet services providers and communities are already using the airwaves to deliver broadband to consumers in sparsely populated rural areas who have never had access to it. Broadband and other innovative wireless services offer the promise of increased economic development and jobs, enhanced market competition, improved delivery of e-government services, and accelerated universal, affordable Internet access for all Americans.

Unfortunately, airwaves suitable for wireless broadband are in short supply. Currently, Wi-Fi broadband providers must rely on airwaves that limit the ability of wireless signals to pass through walls and other obstacles. And they compete with hundreds of other wireless consumer devices that use the same airwaves. Without access to more and better airwaves, the promise of Wi-Fi broadband will be frustrated.

Your legislation, by directing the Federal Communications Commission to move quickly to free-up valuable but unused broadcast airwaves - known as empty channels, or white spaces - for nonexclusive use will go far in fulfilling that promise. Each television market in the United States has fifty channels allocated for over-the-air, broadcast television. However, in most markets, fewer than half of these channels are actually used by television stations. In most rural areas, there are more empty channels than used channels. Even in urban areas, a substantial amount of spectrum could be made available for wireless broadband. These airwaves are far too valuable to consumers to allow them to lay dormant. Opening the white spaces for new and innovative technologies is an essential step toward bridging the digital divide, bringing 21st century telecommunications to rural areas and providing affordable access to all Americans.

Thank you for your commitment to this important issue and for working, on a bipartisan basis, toward a competitive, marketplace solution to the problem of inadequate and unaffordable broadband.


Jeannine Kenney, Senior Policy Analyst, Consumers Union

Ben Scott, Policy Director

Friday, February 17, 2006

Few States Approve of Bush

The latest Survey USA state polls show that Bush has an approval rating of 50% or higher in seven states (with approval equalling or surpassing approval in three additional states). Their weighted average shows 40% approval nation wide, placing them close to other recent national polls.

Related Stories at The Democratic Daily: Bush/Bush Admin, Polls

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Glaciers Melting More Rapidly Than Expected

The Washington Post reports that, “Greenland’s glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth’s oceans will rise over the next century.” The implications are serious:

“The implications are global,” said Julian Dowdeswell, a glacier expert at the University of Cambridge in England who reviewed the new paper for Science. “We are not talking about walking along the sea front on a nice summer day, we are talking of the worst storm settings, the biggest storm surges . . . you are upping the probability major storms will take place.”

Related Story: Scientists Warn of Irreversible Damage From Global Warming

John Kerry Leads Military Pay-Raise Effort

Bush’s pay raise for troops is lowest in 12 years

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) led a 10-Senator effort to increase the pay for servicemembers.

The President’s budget specifies a 2.2% increase – the smallest pay raise for our military since 1994.

“Our troops are sacrificing so much, in every corner of the world. Shortchanging them and the families who love them is a lousy way to say thanks,” said Kerry, who authored the letter.

“Our military deserves leadership that matches their service and patriotism. Getting our troops the pay raise they deserve is the very least we can do to show how much we value everything they do for us. I’m going to fight for a fair military pay raise until it becomes a reality, and I thank my colleagues who have joined me in doing so,” added Kerry.

Below is the text of the letter:

February 16, 2006

The Honorable Judd Gregg, Chairman

The Honorable Kent Conrad, Ranking Member

Committee on the Budget

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Gregg and Senator Conrad:

As you begin consideration of the President’s FY 2007 budget request, we urge you to include a pay increase that meets the needs and reflects the sacrifice of America’s military personnel and their families.

The President’s budget request includes a 2.2% increase in military pay—the smallest increase since FY1994. Such a paltry increase neglects the value of their service and the very real challenges of recruiting and retaining an all-volunteer military in time of war.

The men and women of the American military are doing everything we ask of them—and more. They are being deployed at historic rates, many serving on their second, third, or even fourth combat deployments. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they are working with local and coalition partners to increase security so that those nations can stand on their own, free of tyranny. They are fighting terrorists and working with partners to win the War on Terror. They are deterring aggression in key strategic areas. We have seen American forces give aid to innocent victims of natural disasters, both here in the United States and around the world. We know they stand ready to defend our country, our allies, and our way of life on a moment’s notice.

Surely they deserve a raise of more than 2.2%.

Last year, the Army, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve all failed to reach their recruiting targets. The Army, in fact, fell 6,700 recruits short in 2005—its biggest shortfall since 1979. Individuals choose to serve for many reasons: patriotism, a sense of duty, a desire to defend their country and make the world a better place. But we also know that adequate pay is one of the requirements of maintaining a professional, all-volunteer military.

In recent years, Congress has relied on a formula to increase military pay by 0.5% above the Employment Cost Index (ECI). This year, the administration’s request is only equal to the ECI. Congress must do better.


John Kerry
Edward Kennedy
Jeff Bingaman
Tim Johnson
Bill Nelson
Barack Obama
Christopher Dodd
Richard Durbin
Mark Dayton
Frank Lautenberg

John Kerry: “Scientific Censorship Has No Place in the United Sates of America”

“Scientific censorship has no place in the United States of America. Revelations that political appointees at NASA stopped scientific information from being released during the last campaign and that NOAA was forced to retract statements on global warming during last year’s powerful hurricane season raise issues of abuse of power as serious as any I’ve seen in 30 years.

“It’s increasingly clear that every time scientific discovery conflicts with Bush administration politics, this Administration manipulates the process and throws the truth overboard. Whether it’s putting unqualified people in charge, tolerating unbelievable conflicts of interest, disbanding advisory committees, censoring and suppressing reports by the government’s own scientists, or refusing to seek independent scientific advice, science is under assault in Washington.

“The assault on science must end. Future generations’ health and safety is being endangered, and this generation’s free and open debate is being destroyed by this despicable behavior.”

Granholm Challenges DeVos on Jobs and Values

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s reelection campaign is raising money to respond to attacks from challenger Dick DeVos on the economy by pointing out DeVos’s record on outsourcing jobs as CEO of Amway:

DeVos is trying to be someone he is not. He is not a job maker. Dick DeVos is a job exporter. DeVos cut jobs in Michigan but invested millions in China. DeVos has spent money lobbying for the trade, outsourcing and economic policies that Bush has put in place and that have hurt Michigan. Dick DeVos isn’t the solution, he is part of the problem. In addition to backing the policies that have sent our jobs overseas, DeVos has stood shoulder to shoulder with George Bush fighting against the values and principles we hold dear.

Darth Cheney's Powers

AP reports that, “Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Wednesday that he has the power to declassify sensitive government information, authority that could set up a criminal defense for his former chief of staff, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.”

While some blogs, such as Liberal Oasis, are questioning whether Cheney has this power, we cannot help but to question the other powers which Dick Cheney is reputed to have, including the powers of bending spoons, walking on water, and ripping out the heart of a man in under thirty seconds. He’s also been rumored to do some of those Darth Vader tricks on political enemies.

The Baghdad Bounce

Yesterday, when discussing Bush’s temporary improvement in the polls, I referred to it as a Dead Cat Bounce–a common financial term which is sometimes applied to polling. I’ve found that in Great Britian they have a better term–a Baghdad Bounce.

Initially a Baghdad Bounce was used as a positiive move, but after Iraq turned into a quagmire it has been used to mean the same as a Dead Cat Bounce. In each case they refer to a temporary improvement in a downward trend. One example of such use of Baghdad Bounce is here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bush’s Dead Cat Bounce

The Harris Poll provides further evidence that Bush’s popularity remains low, despite frequent claims from his supporters that his polling numbers are improving. The Harris Poll shows his current job approval at 40%. This is up from his low in November 2005 of 34% but the trend is not favorable, with a decrease from 43% in January.

Health Savings Accounts Will Increase Number Of Uninsured

Not only will Health Savings Accounts worsen health care by reducing preventative care and routine care of chronic diseases, a new study shows the plans will also increase the number of Americans without insurance:

A new analysis by one of the nation’s leading health economists finds that the Administration’s proposals to expand tax breaks for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) would cause a net increase in the number of uninsured Americans.

The analysis, conducted by Jonathan Gruber of M.I.T., projects that while 3.8 million previously uninsured people would gain health coverage through HSAs as a result of the President’s proposals, 4.4 million people would become uninsured because their employers would respond to the new tax breaks by dropping coverage and they would not secure coverage on their own. The net effect would be to increase the number of uninsured Americans by 600,000.

It’s Time For Cheney To Go

Bob Herbert says, Mr. Vice President, It’s Time to Go:

Mr. Cheney is arrogant, defiant and at times blatantly vulgar. He once told Senator Patrick Leahy to perform a crude act upon himself.

A vice president who insists on writing his own rules, who shudders at the very idea of transparency in government, whose judgment on crucial policy issues has been as wildly off the mark (and infinitely more tragic) as his actions in Texas over the weekend, and who has now become an object of relentless ridicule, cannot by any reasonable measure be thought of as an asset to the nation or to the president he serves . . .

Dick Cheney is a constant reminder of those things the White House would most like to forget: the bullying, the intelligence failures, the inability to pacify Iraq, the misuse of classified information and the breathtaking incompetence that seems to be spread throughout the administration.

Mr. Cheney would do his nation and his president a service by packing his bags and heading back to Wyoming. He’s become a joke. But not a funny one.

Buckeyes Reject Intelligent Design

From AP: The Ohio Board of Education voted 11-4 Tuesday to delete a science standard and correlating lesson plan that encourages students to seek evidence for and against evolution. Critics had called the material an opening to teach intelligent design, which holds that life is so complex it must have been created by a higher authority.

“It is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about science,” said board member Martha Wise, who pushed to eliminate the material.

NSA Privacy Violations May Be Worse Than Previously Reported

UPI warns that the warantless surveillance might be even worse than initial reports:

A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans’ Constitutional rights.

Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a “special access” electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution’s protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees - members or their staff - because they lack high enough clearance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If It's Sunday, It's Conservative

Media Matters has posted an analysis of the conservative bias of the Sunday talk shows.

Quote of the Day

“But all kidding aside, and in fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil.” –Jimmy Kimmel

Kerry Takes Large Lead Over Clinton

I’m not talking about preference polls here, but as those polls are virtually meaningless at this stage, this measure is no less valid. Kerry’s lead is in blog hits. The Next Prez has the rankings of hits from Google’s blog search:

106,150 — John Kerry
58,867 — Hillary Clinton
48,696 — Al Gore
21,060 — John Edwards
10,296 — Russ Feingold
9,183 — Mark Warner
8,874 — Joe Biden
8,330 — Bill Richardson
6,436 — Tom Daschle
6,140 — Evan Bayh
5,794 — Wesley Clark
4,342 — Tom Vilsack
3,589 — Brian Schweitzer

Conservatives and Blind Loyality to Bush

Glenn Greenwald beat me in commenting on the article on Bruce Bartlett, and had previously discussed these issues in a post the previous day. On Sunday Greenwald asked, Do Bush followers have a political ideology? He found that the only ideology is blind devotion to George Bush:

Now, in order to be considered a “liberal,” only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a “liberal,” regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more “liberal” one is. Whether one is a “liberal” — or, for that matter, a “conservative” — is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush.

Greenwald provides an excellent summary of the degree to which Bush supporters have abandoned principle:

That “conservatism” has come to mean “loyalty to George Bush” is particularly ironic given how truly un-conservative the Administration is. It is not only the obvious (though significant) explosion of deficit spending under this Administration – and that explosion has occurred far beyond military or 9/11-related spending and extends into almost all arenas of domestic programs as well. Far beyond that is the fact that the core, defining attributes of political conservatism could not be any more foreign to the world view of the Bush follower.

As much as any policy prescriptions, conservatism has always been based, more than anything else, on a fundamental distrust of the power of the federal government and a corresponding belief that that power ought to be as restrained as possible, particularly when it comes to its application by the Government to American citizens. It was that deeply rooted distrust that led to conservatives’ vigorous advocacy of states’ rights over centralized power in the federal government, accompanied by demands that the intrusion of the Federal Government in the lives of American citizens be minimized.

Is there anything more antithetical to that ethos than the rabid, power-hungry appetites of Bush followers? There is not an iota of distrust of the Federal Government among them. Quite the contrary. Whereas distrust of the government was quite recently a hallmark of conservatism, expressing distrust of George Bush and the expansive governmental powers he is pursuing subjects one to accusations of being a leftist, subversive loon.

Indeed, as many Bush followers themselves admit, the central belief of the Bush follower’s “conservatism” is no longer one that ascribes to a limited federal government — but is precisely that there ought to be no limits on the powers claimed by Bush precisely because we trust him, and we trust in him absolutely. He wants to protect us and do good. He is not our enemy but our protector. And there is no reason to entertain suspicions or distrust of him or his motives because he is Good.

We need no oversight of the Federal Government’s eavesdropping powers because we trust Bush to eavesdrop in secret for the Good. We need no judicial review of Bush’s decrees regarding who is an “enemy combatant” and who can be detained indefinitely with no due process because we trust Bush to know who is bad and who deserves this. We need no restraints from Congress on Bush’s ability to exercise war powers, even against American citizens on U.S. soil, because we trust Bush to exercise these powers for our own good.

The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary “conservative” is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who – at least thus far – have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.

Not surprisingly, this resulted in many attacks from the conservative bloggers, many of whom were specifically criticized in the post. Greenwald uses this criticism as evidence of this new definition for conservativism in his follow up post today:

I mention all of this because it illustrates what I think is an important point. I’ve been blogging for just over 3 months now. It’s almost certainly the case that the only views of mine that bloggers at LGF and RWNH know are, at most, my opposition to the Administration’s various theories entitling them to violate Congressional laws and my belief that the Administration manipulates terrorist threats for domestic political gain.

In other words, they don’t actually know my political views on most issues in controversy. All they know, at most, is that I am a critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to terrorism policies and the Administration’s insistence that it need not abide by the law — opposition which, in their eyes, is more than enough to qualify me as a “leftist” or “liberal” despite not knowing if I actually subscribe to liberal views on virtually any issue. Mere opposition to the Administration, by itself, is enough to qualify one as a “leftist” or “Liberal” – which, I do believe, was one of the principal points of my post. . .

John Kerry to Introduce Resolution Today to Fix “Royalty Relief Program” for Oil Companies

John Kerry announced this morning that he will introduce a resolution in the Senate today that highlights the need to fix the royalty relief program for oil companies. The NY Times reported today that, "The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years."
It was made public today that the Bush administration will use the royalty relief program to allow oil companies to pump $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal land over the next five years and waive any royalties to the government.
Below is a statement from Senator Kerry:
“It’s not America that’s addicted to oil, it’s the Bush Administration that’s addicted to oil. How else can you explain that buried in the President’s budget is one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years?

“Enough is enough. I will be introducing a Resolution in the Senate today which will put front and center the need to fix the royalty relief program.

“Big oil has gotten enough breaks from the Bush White House. It’s time American taxpayers got one now.”

Conservatives Replace Principle With Blind Support for Bush

Besides the article mentioned earlier from the New York Times on not everyone going along with right wing religious views with regards to evolution, the Times had an additional article about someone not going along with right wing orthodoxy. In this case it is a conservative who has been rejected by other conservatives for being critical of George Bush.

Former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett wrote a book entitled “Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.” This led to him losing his job at a conservative think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis. Bartlett also says, “Nobody will touch me,” and “I think I’m just kind of radioactive at the moment.”

For modern conservatives, there is no longer an ideology. They’ve abandoned their traditional suspicion of power, and have become the party of big government (even incompetent big government). Principle has been replaced by a blind support for authority, as Bush supporters find ways to justify lying the country into a disastrous war, increased corporate welfare, and violations of civil liberties. These conservatives never really opposed big government–they just wanted to be the ones in control.

Churches Celebrate Darwin's Birthday

While proponents of intelligent design try to frame the issue as either supporting evolution or religion, not all churches agree. The New York Times reported on some churches which even celebrated Darwin’s birthday. Here’s some quotes:

At St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, a small contemporary structure among the pricey homes of north Atlanta, the Rev. Patricia Templeton told the 85 worshipers gathered yesterday, “A faith that requires you to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all.”

“There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy,” said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter project.

Mr. Zimmerman said more than 10,000 ministers had signed the letter, which states, in part, that the theory of evolution is “a foundational scientific truth.” To reject it, the letter continues, “is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.”

“We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator,” the letter says.

At the Evanston Mennonite Church, Susan Fisher Miller, 48, an editor and English professor, said, “I completely accept and affirm the view of God as creator, but I accommodate evolution within that.”

To Ms. Fisher Miller, alternatives to evolutionary theory proposed by its critics, such as intelligent design, seem an artificial way to use science to explain the holy. “It’s arrogant to say that either religion or science can answer all our questions,” she said. “I don’t see the need either to banish one or the other or to artificially unite them.”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

ABA: Reject False Choice Between Liberty and Security

The ABA hit the key issue in their protest of George Bush’s violation of the law:

The president of the nation’s largest lawyers group said Friday that President Bush should comply with federal law when conducting electronic surveillance of Americans and refrain from scaring people into giving up their civil liberties in the fight against terrorism.

“Times of conflict have often put stress on America’s liberties. It’s a time when we get frightened and are tempted to take shortcuts with the Constitution,” American Bar Association President Michael Greco said. “But I personally reject the false choice that is being offered Americans that they must give up their liberties to have security.”

Friday, February 10, 2006

John Kerry Calls on President to Fully Fund Disaster Loan Program

With the SBA's disaster loan program on the verge of shutting down, John Kerry, Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, called on Bush today to request full funding to adequately respond to Gulf area disaster needs.

“The Bush Administration’s short-sightedness in short funding the SBA and its Disaster Loan Program has caught up with them again, this time at the expense of Gulf area victims,” said Kerry, noting the President sought to eliminate all disaster loan funding requested in his Fiscal Year 2006 budget. “Last year the President didn’t view disaster loan funding as a priority, and now today, he has waited until just days before the disaster loan program would have been bankrupt to ask Congress for critical funding.”

In a letter sent to the President today, Kerry urged the White House to act immediately on the mismanagement of the SBA, noting that when Committee staff met with the agency’s Chief Financial Officer earlier this week there was absolutely no mention of the funding crisis. This letter comes on the heels of the Administration’s request to Congress for an additional $1 billion in resources to be reallocated from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Disaster Loan Program. Unfortunately, this request is still not enough, as it would only fund the program through July. In order to fully fund the Disaster Loan Program through the end of the September, the SBA needs $1.3 billion.

According to the SBA’s own data, almost six months since Hurricane Katrina hit, 50 percent of homeowners are in bureaucratic red tape waiting for their disaster loan requests even to be processed. Similarly, more than 35 percent of business owners are still waiting.

“Time and time again, the Bush Administration has not requested enough funding for small business or disaster loan assistance, leaving Congress to bail them out,” said Kerry. “Since taking office, President Bush has slashed the SBA’s budget by more than 40 percent, depriving small businesses around the country of the resources that would help them contribute to our country’s economic growth. This has resulted in poor oversight and ultimately the inability for the agency to respond to the needs of homeowners and businesses devastated by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The White House has ignored the deficient and disastrous response of the SBA for too long.”

The text of Kerry's letter can be found here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

John Kerry Talks to Ed Schultz about the "Duke Cunningham Act" and More...

John Kerry was on the Ed Schultz Show today talking about a new bill introduced the Senate today by Kerry and Ken Salazar: the "Duke Cunningham Act".

From WeGotEd.com
...Sen. John Kerry continues to fight for the Americans this president left behind ... all but the richest 1%. Kerry is introducing a bill to strip government pensions from lawmakers who are convicted of official misconduct. The bill, referred to as the "Duke Cunningham Act," is a measure of accountability sorely lacking in a political environment corrupted by some in the GOP. Folks, fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in their upright positions because Big Eddy and Sen. Kerry hit the track at full sprint!
Listen to John Kerry on the Ed Schultz Show here.

John Kerry and Ed Schultz also talked about the Republican Megaphone (aka the Noise machine), that Kerry mentioned a NY Times piece yesterday:
"We are fighting to find a voice under difficult circumstances, and I'm confident, over the next few months, you are going to see that happen," Mr. Kerry said in an interview. "Our megaphone is just not as large as their megaphone, and we have a harder time getting that message out, even when people are on the same page."
Another out of the ball park interview today on the Ed Schultz Show for John Kerry - check it out.