Friday, March 31, 2006

John Kerry" The Bush Administration Gives Small Business the Shaft

A new report by the GAO obtained by AP News on Thursday shows that small businesses lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the Energy Department each year. Instead of awarding some of contracts to small businesses, the government often gives "no-bid work to large firms on flimsy grounds, congressional auditors say." The report looked at small business contracting practices at the Energy department, "whose $22.8 billion in annual awards for research, nuclear weapons maintenance and environmental cleanup make it the largest civilian contracting agency."

The Energy Department actually failed to meet small business contract goals by 5.5 percent or lower in four out of the last five years. The reasoning behind this loss of contracts for small businesses -- "lack of controls, poor planning and questionable assumptions that smaller firms couldn't handle the jobs." Or to put it bluntly, the Bush administration prefers to favor large corporations and friends like Halliburton.

AP reports that the 39-page report is scheduled to be released next month. The reports shows that the Energy Department "is clearly constrained by the department's traditional reliance on a limited group of large firms and universities to manage high-cost projects in which public safety and national security are important concerns."

When asked about the report, John Kerry, D-Mass., the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said, "This administration gives big businesses all the breaks and gives small businesses the shaft.''

"We need to break down big contracts so small businesses can get a piece of the federal pie,'' he said. "This is evidence of a systematic failure by the Bush administration to look out for small businesses, let alone level the playing field.''

The report also notes that "Energy officials gave small firms work mostly in dwindling, noncore areas such as legal services and construction, rather than research and waste cleanup, where most of the contract dollars lie."

Small firms also were typically given subcontracts, which are labor-intensive but much less profitable because of the cuts taken by the large prime contractors.

As a result, the agency missed contracting goals in four of the last five years, leading to missed opportunities for small businesses totaling more than $970 million, auditors said.

The Federal Procurement Data System government database shows that in recent years, "about one-third of total contracts were handed out on a no-bid or limited competition basis."

The GAO audit comes in the wake of increased scrutiny of federal contracting -- due to pressure from John Kerry and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, "particularly in the Hurricane Katrina response and rebuilding effort."

Earlier this month, the GAO found the government wasted millions of dollars on 13 major Katrina contracts - most of which were awarded based on limited bids - that went to large firms with extensive government ties.

Baucus, Lautenberg and Menendez Join Kerry in Blocking Bush’s Federal Highway Administration Nominee

Senator Max Baucus has announced that he will block the Senate consideration of President Bush’s nomination of Richard Capka, to head the Federal Highway Administration. Earlier this month John Kerry announced that he was blocking Capka's nomination over his involvement with Boston’s $14.6 billion Big Dig project. Kerry said, “I’m afraid Richard Capka could be the Brownie of highways.”

Baucus says "he is frustrated with the agency’s refusal to fund a $50 million transportation project for Montana."

The money was designated in last year’s transportation bill for Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun road, which is badly in need of repair.

According to Baucus’ office, the agency approved language authorizing the money before the bill was signed into law and now is refusing to distribute the money.

‘‘Max worked way too hard to secure these dollars to let a bunch of bureaucrats get in the way,’’ Baucus spokesman Barrett Kaiser said Wednesday.

Baucus is the now fourth senator to block Richard Capka’s nomination, which means that Capka will need 60 votes for confirmation.

Both of New Jersey’s senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez said Tuesday that they will also block the nomination. They said "the FHA is rescinding approvals made to New Jersey officials allowing them to use a specific method of paying for transportation projects. Under that process, costs are spread out over several years."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

John Kerry's Radio Double Header

John Kerry made the rounds today on liberal talk radio, with interviews on both the Ed Schultz Show and the Al Franken Show. If you missed both of the interviews (as I did) we've got them both here...

The interview on the Ed Schultz Show covered both the immigration legislation and the Democrats new National Security plan - Listen Here.

John Kerry noted in his interview with Ed Schultz that every theme in the plan, was largely derived on positions he held during the election cycle (as I noted here yesterday). Kerry also drove the point home on energy independence that every single speech he gave in 2004, "bar none," he talked about energy independence.

On the Al Franken Show, which was with a live audience, Franken and Kerry talked about the debates, nuclear proliferation, Bush's incompetence, the Dubai ports deal, yesterday's lobbying bill (which Kerry voted against), how "screwed up" this Congress is and more - Listen Here.

A few jokes were flying with Franken and Kerry, including a dig at the Cheney shooting incident. Al ended the interview thanking Kerry and said, "I wish you were our President."

Two great interviews!

John Kerry to Address National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

John Kerry will be the keynote speaker at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners 27th Annual Conference on Pediatric Health Care on Friday, March 31, 2006 at 10:30 am.

Kerry will speak about his KidsFirst Plan which will provide health care coverage for the 11 million uninsured children in America. KidsFirst has been endorsed by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, along with over twenty other labor, health care and child advocacy organizations; it has also gained over 750,000 citizen co-sponsors. Kerry will also discuss his on-going commitment to strengthening Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP).

WHAT: National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
27th Annual Conference on Pediatric Care

WHEN: Friday, March 31, 2006
10:30 am

WHO: Senator John Kerry

John Kerry on His Vote Against the Senate Lobbying Bill

The Senate passed an election-year ethics package yesterday shaped on the aftermath of the Abramoff scandal (see earlier post on Abramoff's sentencing today). John Kerry and 7 other Senators voted against the measure, including Democrats Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Barack Obama of Illinois and Republicans Tom Coburn and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona.

Below is a statement from Senator John Kerry on the lobbying ethics legislation that passed the Senate yesterday, 90-8, and his vote against the measure.

No wonder people look at Washington and know it’s broken. Today the Senate failed to live up to its responsibility to keep faith with the American people and change the way business is done in Washington.

“It’s not enough to reform the earmarking process. It’s not enough to ban gifts and meals from lobbyists but exempt the organizations that employ them. It’s not enough to reign in pay-to-play schemes like the Republican K Street project. Changing a few of the rules does no good if there’s no enforcement. A major overhaul is still needed. The Senate left the fox to guard the chicken coop.

“We need an independent entity to ensure that no one changes the rules as they play the game—as the House tried to do just last year. The fact of the matter is that Congress has been unwilling or unable to punish its own for ethical violations. Just look at the latest cast of characters. There was no investigation into members of Congress’ dealings with Jack Abramoff, and Duke Cunningham was convicted without so much as a sanction from the House.

“A few weeks ago, former Representative “Duke” Cunningham received the longest prison sentence ever imposed on a former member of Congress, but he’ll still be getting a perk most Americans only dream of – $40,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Most Americans don’t get a $40,000 a year pension, in fact most Americans are working harder for less and less. I don’t see why the American people should send Duke Cunningham his pension checks in jail.

It’s a sorry statement about how broken Washington is that we could not take advantage of this unique and sad moment in history and enact serious lobbying reform. We owed it to the people who sent us to Washington to root out corruption, and the Senate turned its back on a golden opportunity today.”


Kerry Tours iRobot Facility in Massachusetts

On Monday, March 27th, John Kerry visited iRobot Corp. in Burlington, Mass. iRobot is a woman-led business success story:

Co-founder Helen Greiner developed the robotic technology that not only helps keeps households clean with a hands-free vacuum, but also saves lives with robots used by the military to explore dangerous territory. In 2002, Greiner received millions of dollars in venture capital thanks to the business counseling assistance she received from organizations such as Boston’s Center for Women Enterprise.

Programs such as this are critical to expanding the number of successful women entrepreneurs around the country. Today, iRobot is a leader in its field with more than 1.5 million Roomba Vacuuming Robots sold since 2002 and more than 300 PackBot robots protecting U.S. troops. This success story is just one reason why Kerry is fighting the Bush Administration’s proposed cuts to Women’s Business Centers.

Kerry visited iRobot Corp. to congratulate employees on receiving the $26 million order from the U.S. Navy.
Read more »

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Echoing Kerry: Democratic Leaders to Unveil National Security Plan

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will be unveiling a new plan on National Security today. Their goal with the new plan, is to rebut the Republican meme, that has been echoed in some editorial columns, that Democratic party leaders and candidates have not laid out a coherent set of alternatives from the Republican plan on National Security.

"Most of the proposals are not new," the NY Times reports. Much of the plan echoes positions put forward previously by the Democrats and by their 2004 presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry. The plan will include key points from Kerry's campaign, including "a demand for more military equipment and body armor for troops and improved veterans' benefits."

In a set of policy papers titled "Real Security: Protecting America and Restoring Our Leadership in the World," Democratic leaders in the House and Senate plan to join with leading figures in the party, including former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Wesley K. Clark, the retired general and former presidential contender, in presenting the plan on Wednesday.

The policy paper's title is reminiscent of John Kerry's December 8, 2005 "Real Security in the Post 9/11 World" speech. The NT Times reports that the Democrats' policy papers assert that in "combating terrorism, party leaders want to increase financing for Special Operations forces and interdicting terrorist financing and to spend more on economic development in troubled areas like the Middle East and South Asia."

Democrats also want to give greater powers to the office of the national intelligence director and to investigate accusations of abuse and torture of detainees. They say they want increased financing for screening containers at ports and securing nuclear and chemical plants and training emergency health workers.

The Democratic leaders acknowledge that their policies lack detail in some areas, it's a start however, and they have put together a package of proposals which all members of the party can support, including "calling for more money to be spent on a broad array of items, including port security and foreign aid."

Also noted by the NY Times is that the Democratic manifesto "skirted divisive issues like whether the United States should set a timetable on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, as advocated by Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, but opposed or not endorsed by other members of his party."

The plan also echoes Kerry's Iraq plan, in calling for 2006 to be "a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces." They also call for the United States to achieve "energy independence" by 2020 by increasing production of alternative fuels, obviously derived from John Kerry's 2020 Energy Plan.

Congressman Lane Evans of Ill. to Retire

Democratic Illinois Rep. Lane Evans, announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election. Evans has battled Parkinson's disease for more than a decade.

"This is a tough day for me," the 12-term lawmaker said in a statement, adding that he has "come to recognize that the time needed to address my health makes it difficult to wage a campaign and carry out my work as representative."

Evans, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1995, has not been able to attend congressional meetings or cast votes since receiving medical attention on Feb. 14, according to his office. Evans, 54, was briefly hospitalized and has been home in Washington, D.C., since then.

"I will return soon and to the best of my ability complete the important work of this term," Evans said, closing with the Marine Corps motto, "Semper fi."

Evans is the top Dem on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a leading member on the Armed Services Committee. He served in the Marine Corps from 1969-71.

John Kerry issued the following statement today regarding Evans retirement due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease:

“Lane Evans battled great physical challenge to continue serving the constituents and the veterans who meant the world to him, and we should all salute his courage and conviction as he continues to wage his fight against Parkinson’s disease. Service to country has been a way of life for this man who served his country nobly during the Vietnam War and then devoted his life to protecting the rights of his fellow veterans. Whether he was working to compensate the victims of Agent Orange, defending against cuts to veterans’ healthcare or fighting for increased benefits for military families, Lane has been a champion for all who wear the uniform of our country. Now Lane continues in a different kind of battle, one I know he fights with the same grace and courage he’s shown in the Marine Corps and in the United States Congress. Teresa and I will be thinking of Lane during this difficult time.”

John Kerry Urges Students to Volunteer

As I reported below John Kerry spent the day Monday visiting with Massachusetts constituents. In Lynn, Ma, John Kerry urged North Shore Community College students to draw inspiration for their careers from time spent serving the less fortunate."

Kerry spoke during a morning visit to Lynn about the value of public service through volunteering and about the national issues he built his 2004 campaign on.

He stopped short of saying he will seek the Democratic nomination again in 2008, leaving that speculation to NSCC President Wayne Burton who predicted "an all Massachusetts" slate of presidential candidates in two years with Kerry and Gov. Mitt Romney in contention.

Kerry told students involved in an NSCC program that combines their studies with volunteer programs how he visited racially segregated southern communities during a college vacation in the 1960s.

"I will never forget the shock of seeing a sign that said, 'White Only, No Colored.' I almost wish I took a whole year off before I went to college to go out into the community," he said, urging the students to "see the problems of the world around you."

Kerry and U.S. Rep. John Tierney said fewer federal resources are allocated for college volunteer service programs like North Shore's at a time when President Bush is championing faith-based programs.

Kerry has a personal connection to North Shore - his sister, Diana, runs the college's public policy center.

Students asked him how they can get state and national elected officials to provide more college aid for middle class students and more money to train senior care and other types of direct care workers.

Kerry urged them to counter balance "money-oriented" lobbying in Washington D.C. by mustering voter support for their causes.

"The most effective lobbying is to show the power of the ballot box."

In the absence of adequate early childhood education and health care that can help children stay away from drugs, alcohol and lives of crime, Kerry said the nation is "content to run a farm team for prisoners."

He ate ziti and meatballs at the Capital Diner with Tierney and state legislators Thomas M. McGee, Steven Walsh and Capital owner and state Rep. Robert Fennell and renewed an acquaintance with supporter Angelo Bellafinilo.

"He's a stand up guy who is still standing up and doing the job," the Lynn resident said.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kerry on the Bush Administration's Absence of Leadership

John Kerry spent the day in Massachusetts yesterday, talking to constituents on a variety of issues. In the morning he met a group of North Shore business and political leaders at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA. Kerry told the group, "There is an absence of leadership that I have never seen. "(There is a) complete and total abdication of responsibility of serious engagement in issues that affect every single one of you here. It is driven by ideology, partisanship."

In an hour long talk ranging on issues from vocational education to the war in Iraq, Kerry "sounded every bit like a man still running for president." Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, asked the question on everyone's mind: Will you run again in 2008?

"The short answer is, I'm thinking very seriously about it," Kerry said. "I know what it takes. I know how to do it, I know the mistakes we made, and we did make some mistakes."

That — and the rest of Kerry's speech — sounded a lot like a "yes" to many in attendance.

"Whether or not he's made the decision yet, he certainly sounds like a candidate," state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, said after the breakfast. "My unofficial estimation is he sounded like somebody who's running."


DP World's David Sanborn Withdraws Ports Related Nomination

David Sanborn, an executive with the Dubai-owned DP World, sent a letter to Bush on Monday withdrawing his nomination, as head of the agency that oversees ports. In late January, Bush had nominated David Sanborn, DP World's director of operations for Europe and Latin America, to head the Maritime Administration or MARAD, which "keeps data on port traffic, disposes of obsolete ships, runs the Merchant Marine Academy and works with the Pentagon on a program to identify U.S.-flagged ships that can transport military cargo."

In February, the nomination swiftly became embroiled in the controversial DP World port deal, as it appeared that the nomination had implications of another crony appointment by Bush.

Sanborn, a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a retired Naval officer, said in his letter that the day he was nominated was the proudest of his life.

"While I believe my background makes me one of the most qualified people there is for this position, the convergence of a number of factors bring me to the conclusion that I cannot effectively serve my country, you, and the U.S. maritime industry," Sanborn wrote.

Two members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., put holds on Sanborn's nomination, saying "they needed to know more about his role in the process that allowed DP World to purchase the port operations in the first place."

"I hope the withdrawal of this nomination means the administration is finally waking up to the homeland security problems with our ports, not just saving face after the merciful end of the Dubai debacle," said Kerry.

Another "Kerry Was Right" Moment: Federal Investigation Finds Weak Security By Land and By Sea

Where's the security? MSNBC reports that a new report by the Government Accountability Office shows that Department of Homeland Security is "two years behind schedule in installing radiation monitors in ports and not likely to have them all done, even by 2009."

The DHS claims they have made more progress in "installing detection equipment at the borders, but there investigators found another hole in the system." Senator Norm Coleman(R) tells NBC News "that undercover GAO investigators were able to bring enough radioactive material into the U.S. to make two dirty bombs — penetrating both the northern and southern borders." Monitors detected the radiological material, but undercover agents produced fake papers and got the material in.

Eight months ago John Kerry called for an investigation into port security in order to "fix gaping holes in the security of America’s ports." Finding from that report were released on March 16.

Kerry said, “It’s been more than four years since 9/11, and the government still can’t get port security right. The incompetent handling of the Dubai Ports deal was just the tip of the iceberg. Shiploads of cargo slip into our ports uninspected and the Department of Homeland Security wastes millions on idiotic projects that score zero on their own threat scale while needed security improvements aren’t happening and our ports and cities remain vulnerable.”

AP News reported on the GAO finding that "In a test last year, the small amounts of cesium-137, which is used in industrial gauges, triggered radiation alarms in Texas and Washington state. The material was enough to make two small "dirty bombs," officials said, yet U.S. customs agents permitted the investigators to enter the United States because they were tricked with counterfeit documents."

Talk about massive failures in keeping our nation secure! Voters in the '04 election that bought into the Bush meme that they were the national security experts, should have listened to John Kerry, who campaigned on port security and stated over and over again that the Bush administration had failed to protect our nation's ports and other entry points. We hate to have to drive the point home over and over again, but the Bush administration has been proven once again to be miserable failures and John Kerry was right in '04 and subsequently since in speaking out on this issue.

UPDATE: CNN reports, first of two hearings on the GAO reports by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations are scheduled to begin today.

The focus will be on what the federal government has done to protect the country against nuclear terrorism. This week's hearings come after almost three years of bipartisan and bicameral investigations into the subject.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Conservative Accuses Swift Boat Liar of Plagiarism

Debbie Schlussel accuses Jerome Cosi of plagiarism (hat tip to Crooks and Liars):

When I pointed out, not too long ago, that whole portions of a column I wrote were flat-out ripped off by Jerome Corsi, co-author of the best-selling Swift Boat veterans book against John Kerry, his editor, Joseph Farah, refused to do a damn thing (but add a tiny link to my column–Big Deal).

Some conservatives told me to “take one for the team.” Huh? I don’t think so. (Since then, I’ve been told by several conservative writers that this is not the first time that WND and/or Farah have condoned–and engaged in–plagiarism.) Since Corsi has a Ph.D. and has written more than one book, how much of those are also plagiarized. People don’t become plagiarists in their old age.

Why bother with plagiarism when you are making up lies? If the liar had any integrity, he’d write his own lies rather than steal lies from someone else.

Quote of the Day

“If there’s one lesson we learned from 2004, it’s how much the right wing is willing to spend to attack John Kerry’s honor.”
–David Wade (New York Times)

Kerry Considered Formidable Candidate for 2008

From the Miami Harald:


That tall, familiar man walking out of Escopazzo on South Beach Thursday night, posing for cellphone pictures with reveling passersby? None other than 2004 Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, who’s considering another run in 2008.

His dinner with national fundraisers, including Kirk Wagar, Bob Farmer, Milton Ferrell and Alex Heckler, was one of several meetings with South Florida supporters on Thursday and Friday. He also spent time with lawyers Ellen and Philip Freidin, strategist Joe Garcia, and lawyer Mike Eidson, and he spoke at a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy.

‘’The lessons he learned in 2004 make him incredibly formidable, and John was certainly open to the idea'’ of running for the presidency in 2008, Wagar said.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Time: Republicans on the Run

Never underestimate the band wagon effect in politics–there are many voters who just want to vote for the winner. Articles such as in this week’s Time could help increase momentum towards Democrats even further:

If the midterm elections were held today, top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House of Representatives

Taking control of the House does mean many people will not only have to support Democrats generically as the party they want in power. They will actually have to vote out their one Republican representative, generally in districts made safe for the incumbent. Time found that “given the choice between a generic Republican and a generic Democrat for Congress, the nameless Democrat won, 50% to 41%” but “63% of respondents said they approved of the job their local lawmaker was doing.”

Fortunately the degree of dissatisfaction with Republican rule has placed many seats in play. “The danger signs for Republicans show up across the electoral map but nowhere more clearly than in the swing state of Pennsylvania, where the hottest Senate race in the country is being fought and where Republican strategists say as many as five g.o.p. congressional seats are in play, out of a total 19.”

The Republicans running are also faced with having their party led with the man who is most likely the worst President in United States history, whose policies have done harm which the nation will likely be spending the next couple of decades attempting to repair. While some candidates are attempting to distance themselves from George Bush, others fear this plan will backfire:

But party leaders are warning privately against taking that strategy too far. “If Diet Coke criticizes Coke, people buy Pepsi, not Diet Coke,” said Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee. In an internal Republican Party memo provided to Time, Jan van Lohuizen, a longtime Bush pollster, warns candidates tempted to distance themselves that “President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the ‘08 nomination. If he drops, we all drop.” Another Republican strategist describes the problem for g.o.p. candidates this way: “Adding weight to the anchor doesn’t help them.”

While Republicans, lacking real arguments, campaign with the bogus argument that Democrats have no ideas, Democratic sources are outlining their plans should they take control of the House:

Those sources said one of the first steps that a newly installed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take would be to introduce legislation making college tuition more affordable for middle-class families, perhaps through tax credits and lower interest rates on student loans. Democrats would move immediately to tighten port security, seeking to have 100% of incoming container cargo inspected. A Democratic official briefed on the plans said the party would quickly push a bill designed to inhibit future lobbying scandals. The sources said Democrats would push for changes to the troubled Medicare prescription-drug plan, giving more control to Medicare and less to private providers and striking the provision that prevents the government from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The most important difference may be the ability of Congress to hold the Executive Branch accountable. Republicans are trying to get out their vote by using scare tactics, warning that “everything will grind to a halt.”

But Democrats say that if they are victorious in November, they plan to force Bush to be more accountable, and they intend to dig through records of contracts in Iraq, for homeland security and for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California, one of the most dogged critics of the Administration, would be in line to chair the House Government Reform Committee and could write witness lists instead of open letters to the West Wing.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Natalie Portman on V for Vendetta

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman discusses the poltical implications of V for Vendetta, with the report even mentioning her support for John Kerry:

The film, in which the bad guys are Christian arch-conservatives who exploit fear of terrorism and persecute homosexuals, wears its politics on its sleeve — and so does Portman. When she appeared on “Good Morning America” during the 2004 presidential election, she wore a John Kerry t-shirt.

But Portman insists the film is non-partisan.

“Obviously, there are many interpretations of this film — and all of them are valid and any criticism is completely valid,” she said. “I’ve heard Republicans who love this movie.”

The portrayal of terrorism has personal meaning to Portman:

Portman was born in Israel, and her father’s parents died in Auschwitz. Questions of tyranny and terrorism are not idle ones for her.

“I’m the last person to ever want to justify or glorify terrorism,” Portman said. “I have too many personal experiences to convey — and too private to convey — but it is the last thing on my mind.”

Instead, she said, her personal history encouraged her to take the role.

“People have accused the Israeli government of terrorism, have sort of turned the word back on the government,” she said. “So it’s a very two sided thing that made me really question the definition of terrorism.”

NSA Not HIPPA Compliant

The big thing in health care the last several years has been compliance with the HIPPA rules. These rules regulate the privacy of patient medical records. The average person is exposed to HIPPA regulations with those privacy notices every time they see a new doctor or have a prescription filled. Every way in which patient information might be shared with others, such as other health care institutions and business associates such as billing services, must be disclosed. While all of us in the health care profession are bound by the rules, NSA apparently is not bound by patient privacy or requirements for such disclosure.

AP reports that “The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.”

I never realized that the LDL level of one of my patients could be a threat to national security. (In the post-Ben Domenech blogosphere I should note that credit for this last line belongs to my wife, and office HIPPA contact).

Welcome to the Impeachment Belt

Out with the “bible belt ” and in with “the impeachment belt.” The Washington Post takes us on a tour:

To drive through the mill towns and curling country roads here is to journey into New England’s impeachment belt. Three of this state’s 10 House members have called for the investigation and possible impeachment of President Bush.

Thirty miles north, residents in four Vermont villages voted earlier this month at annual town meetings to buy more rock salt, approve school budgets, and impeach the president for lying about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and for sanctioning torture.

Today Republicans win national elections due to the strength of the solid south. Tomorrow Republicans may find themselves limited to electoral votes in the south as the rest of the country rebells agaisnt Republican big government theocracy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kerry Wins in Iowa Rematch

If the election were held today, Kerry (who lost Iowa in 2004) would win the state, leading Bush 49% to 41% in a Research 2000 poll.

King George Has a Secret

George Bush has a secret–lots of them. He is even breaking the law by keeping some of these secrets from Congress. The Boston Globe reveals the latest of George Bush’s secrets to come out. King George believes, once again, that he is above the law and is not required to obey requirements in the Patriot Act that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using expanded police powers provided under the act:

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ‘’a piece of legislation that’s vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people.” But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ‘’signing statement,” an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law’s requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ‘’impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive’s constitutional duties.”

This isn’t the first time King George felt he was above the law. The warrantless NSA wiretaps are the most publicized act recently, but there are many more. Bush kept the cost of his Medicare prescription drug program secret from Congress, even threatening to fire Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if he testified before Congress about the true cost of the program. Bush manipulated intelligence to deceive Congress and the public about the lack of a threat from WMD. The Bush administration also diverted $700 million appropriated for use in Afghanistan for use to prepare for an invasion of Iraq without informing Congress.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

South Dakota May Still Have Abortion Clinic

There may be a way around South Dakota’s Unconstitutional restrictions on abortion (from via Bitch Ph.D.):

Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

“To me, it is now a question of sovereignty,” she said to me last week. “I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.”

America More Liberal on Social Issues

The Pew Research Center is finding increased support for liberal social issues. Opposition to gay marriage is down from 64% in February 2004 to 51% now. Most likley support for civil unions would be even stronger, but if this trend continues such a compromise might not even be necessary long term. My bet is that opposition will continue to decrease as people get become more accustomed to the idea. One idea they aren’t going for is banning abortion. A majority opposes the South Dakota ban on abortions by 58% 6 to 34%.

As I said earlier in the week, Red America is in the minority, not the majority as Ben Domenench claims at The Washington Post.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Alan Shore's Closing Argument

Alan Shore’s closing argument in his secretary’s tax evasion case from last week’s Boston Legal is available on line, along with the video:

Alan Shore: When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out to be not true, I expected the American people to rise up. Ha! They didn’t.

Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.

Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorists suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did.

And now, it’s been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens. You and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, finally the American people will have had enough. Evidentially, we haven’t.

In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we’re okay with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizure, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial - or any trial, war on false pretenses. We, as a citizenry, are apparently not offended.

There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there’s no clear indication that young people seem to notice.

Well, Melissa Hughes noticed. Now, you might think, instead of withholding her taxes, she could have protested the old fashioned way. Made a placard and demonstrated at a Presidential or Vice-Presidential appearance, but we’ve lost the right to that as well. The Secret Service can now declare free speech zones to contain, control and, in effect, criminalize protest.

Stop for a second and try to fathom that.

At a presidential rally, parade or appearance, if you have on a supportive t-shirt, you can be there. If you are wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed.

This, in the United States of America. This in the United States of America. Is Melissa Hughes the only one embarrassed?

*Alan sits down abruptly in the witness chair next to the judge*

Judge Robert Sanders: Mr. Shore. That’s a chair for witnesses only.

Really long speeches make me so tired sometimes.

Judge Sanders: Please get out of the chair.

Alan: Actually, I’m sick and tired.

Judge Sanders: Get out of the chair!

Alan: And what I’m most sick and tired of is how every time somebody disagrees with how the government is running things, he or she is labeled unAmerican.

U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro: Evidentally, it’s speech time.

Alan: And speech in this country is free, you hack! Free for me, free for you. Free for Melissa Hughes to stand up to her government and say “Stick it”!

U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro: Objection!

Alan: I object to government abusing its power to squash the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And, God forbid, anybody challenge it. They’re smeared as being a heretic. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American!

Judge Sanders: Mr. Shore. Unless you have anything new and fresh to say, please sit down. You’ve breached the decorum of my courtroom with all this hooting.

Alan: Last night, I went to bed with a book. Not as much fun as a 29 year old, but the book contained a speech by Adlai Stevenson. The year was 1952. He said, “The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live and fear breeds repression. Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism.”

Today, it’s the cloak of anti-terrorism. Stevenson also remarked, “It’s far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.”

I know we are all afraid, but the Bill of Rights - we have to live up to that. We simply must. That’s all Melissa Hughes was trying to say. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room and speak for her.

The Hope For The Future of Western Civilization

Last Saturday I posted a response to Phillip Longman's fears that the world will become more conservative as conservatives have far more babies than liberals. CBS News reported on my blog post in today's Blogophile. In my response I stated: "While I may have only raised one daughter, my bet is that she, and others like her, will have far more impact on the world than children spoon fed conservative dogma. The ability of conservatives to regurgitate right wing talking points, and even cut and paste them all over the blogosphere, is no match for the ability to think." If Longman is correct, this places a lot of responsibility on our children, including my daughter--pictured above with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (at Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan in September 2004). Although outnumbered, they must carry on the liberal traditions of western civilization and prevent the slide towards ignorance, theocracy, and increased intrusion of big government in individuals lives supported by the conservatives who reproduce at greater rates.

While I've occasionally had blog posts linked at other major sites, for those of us old enough to remember the glory days of CBS News, this link is of special significance. There was once a time when CBS News was one of the major news organizations in this country, the only broadcast network to seriously compete with print journalism. In those days long before CNN and Fox News, ABC was a minor news outfit and NBC, except for brief periods of success with Huntley and Brinkley, did not have the reputation of CBS. If only we had Walter Cronkite reporting on Iraq as he did Vietnam, and Dan Rather back covering the White House as during Watergate.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Factcheck Exposes RNC Distortions on Feingold Censure Proposal

From the summary:

A GOP radio ad accuses Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin of proposing to censure President Bush “for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda,” which isn’t true. Feingold has stated he supports wiretapping suspected terrorists. His measure would censure Bush for ordering wiretaps on US soil without a court warrant, for failing to notify all members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, and for “efforts to mislead the American people” about the legality of the program.

The full report is at

Media Matters Responds to Washington Post on Red America

Earlier today Pamela reported on the firestorm created on the decision of the Washington Post to have Ben Bomenech write a blog. I subsequently commented on his initial post. David Brock of Media Matters has written a letter to the Washington Post protesting this pandering to the right wing and requests real balance by also adding a liberal blogger.

Dear Mr. Brady:

I noted with interest the Post’s decision to add Republican operative Ben Domenech to its roster of bloggers.

Presumably, this decision grew out of reported complaints both inside and outside of the Post that online columnist Dan Froomkin is too liberal. It’s worth noting that Froomkin himself has argued, “I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable.”

But even if one were to grant the debatable premise that Froomkin is, indeed, a liberal, he is also a journalist by background and training, having spent 18 years in journalism, working for the Winston-Salem Journal, the Miami Herald and the Orange County Register in addition to nearly a decade with the Post. He is deputy editor of, the web site of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

By contrast, while he does claim previous employment as a “political journalist,” Domenech is first and foremost a partisan activist — a Republican operative who has worked for the Bush administration and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), is currently an editor at a conservative publishing house, and who describes himself as “the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush.” He is also a co-founder of, which describes itself in nakedly partisan terms — “a Republican community weblog. RedState is focused on politics, and is dedicated to the construction of a Republican majority in the United States.”

You recently wrote of reader comments deleted from the Post blog: “If I had let them, they would have obliterated any semblance of civil, genuine discussion.” Domenech’s inaugural post on his “Red America” blog for the Post referred to “the shrieking denizens of their [the Democrats’] increasingly extreme base” and “the unhinged elements of their base, motivated by partisan rage.” Is that the sort of “civil, genuine discussion” you had in mind? Or do you have one set of rules for your staff and another for your readers, one set for liberals and another for conservatives?

Domenech and Froomkin are simply not comparable. In fact, as far as we can tell, the only other Post blogger with a background in partisan politics is Ron Nessen, who worked for a Republican president and who recently offered a snide and substance-free criticism of the progressive Center for American Progress.

When can we expect the Post to hire a partisan Democratic activist as a blogger to balance Domenech?

David Brock
President & CEO
Media Matters for America

The Red American Minority

The Red America blog at the Washington Post attempts to place the extremist right wing world view in the mainstream and confuse mainsteam Democrats with leftist extremists. Pamela mentioned the firestorm over the start of the blog today so I decided to take a peak. The blog starts with the claim:

This is a blog for the majority of Americans.

Since the election of 1992, the extreme political left has fought a losing battle. Their views on the economy, marriage, abortion, guns, the death penalty, health care, welfare, taxes, and a dozen other major domestic policy issues have been exposed as unpopular, unmarketable and unquestioned losers at the ballot box.

If he really means “extreme left” he may be correct, but I suspect he is really referring to the mainstream Democrats, believing he wins debating points by calling such views extreme. Similarly in defining the leadership of the party he can’t have it both ways–saying later in the blog both that Kos is 0-19 in elections and also consider them a “political anchor” of the party.

If we look at mainstream Democratic views, it is the Democrats and not Republicans who have represented the majority. Poll after poll shows a majority agree that the economy does better under the Democrats. Republican corporate welfare is only popular with the ultra-wealthy who benefit. By marriage I wonder if he is talking about the right wing’s favorite wedge issue. A majority is with the Republicans on opposing gay marriage, but they do support civil unions along with increased toleration of gays, so this is more of a wash. A firm majority backs abortion rights. In mentioning guns he is trying to revive the wild claims that liberals will take away people’s guns (along with thier bibles). I’m not sure off hand where the majority stands on the death penality–I hardly see this as a major issue.

Health care (as long as we stay alway from disasters like Hillary Care) is another winner for Democrats as people are fed up with double digit increases in health premiums which cover less and less. It is a Democrat who took the lead on welfare reform. In the short run Republicans do win on taxes as everyone’s first impulse is to prefer lower taxes. Once confronted with real world choices this changes. For example, a majority will accept higher taxes in return for affordable health care. Once again Republicans also have to cheat to win here, such as when they claimed that John Kerry’s proposal to increase taxes on only those making over $200,000 per year would affect far more people.

This is just the first full paragraph beyond the introductory sentence but you get the pattern. Republicans cannot win with a real discussion of the issues, so they have to resort to creating straw men. Of course if you want to really look at the extremist left he is right that the views are unpopular as views of both the extremist left and right will not be accepted in this country.

The difference is that the extremists of the left have little to do with the Democratic Party, while the extremists of the right are firmly in control of the GOP. Even as the parties are increasingly divided by ideology, we have the Democrats representing the moderate left, center, and even moderate right while the Republicans increasingly only accept the views of the extreme rightj. This is not a majority of America–even if they manage to win elections by pandering to fear and distortion of the issues.

Warned on September 10

Who needs to compromise civil liberties to defend against terorism? Just pay attention to the warnings all ready out there. There’s yet another example reported by The Washington Post:

An FBI agent who interrogated Zacarias Moussaoui before Sept. 11, 2001, warned his supervisors more than 70 times that Moussaoui was a terrorist and spelled out his suspicions that the al-Qaeda operative was plotting to hijack an airplane, according to federal court testimony yesterday.

Agent Harry Samit told jurors at Moussaoui’s death penalty trial that his efforts to secure a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings were frustrated at every turn by FBI officials he accused of “criminal negligence.” Samit said he had sought help from a colleague, writing that he was “so desperate to get into Moussaoui’s computer I’ll take anything.”

That was on Sept. 10, 2001.

The Shrinking Middle

E.J. Dionne warns that the retirement of one of the few remaining moderate Republicans from the House is an indicator that national politics is moving in the wrong direction with the Republicans being dominated by conservatives. He finds that the polarization of parties into left versus right does not actually provide voters with “a choice, not an echo.”

But it turns out that a Republican Party dominated by conservatives is no more coherent than the party that left room for progressives. The huge budget deficit is conservatism’s Waterloo, testimony to its political failure. The conservatives love to cut taxes but can’t square their lust for tax reduction with plausible spending cuts. Oh, yes, a group of House conservatives has a paper plan involving deep program cuts, but other conservatives know that these cuts will not pass, and shouldn’t.

Paradoxically, because the liberal Republicans didn’t pretend to hate government, they were better at fiscal responsibility. They were willing to match their desired spending levels with the taxes to pay for them. It didn’t make for exciting, to-the-barricades politics. It merely produced good government.

If there were really only two views of the world, then dividing the parties along strict ideological grounds might be a good thing. In the real world, there are more choices than left versus right, and viewing the world as liberal, conservative, or moderate is overly simplistic. As the parties become polarized, I fear that we will be given a choice of only one set of views or the other without room for those who disagree with either party’s extreme. The middle is not the answer either as this is merely a viewpoint defined by the extremes, which does not guarantee the best course. Sometimes an a la carte approach is needed which allows the choice of the best ideas of left, right, and center.

We are already seeing polarization into extremes in the blogosphere. Many right wing blogs have abandoned all principle to defend Bush regardless of how much his views both vary from traditional Republican beliefs and are harmful to the nation. The liberal blogosphere threatens to be overtaken by the looney left which demands adherence to a narrow set of views overly repeated in its own echo chamber. Of course there are exceptions, including The Democratic Daily on the left, of those who realize that to be liberal means to keep an open mind to the best ideas offered. I’ve linked in the past to more rational voices on the right, such as, which defends freedom over the authoritarian big-government tendencies of the current Republican leadership. There are also a handful of blogs from the middle, such as The Moderate Voice which has their own comments on this column. The retirement of moderate Republicans might foretell the loss of such analogous exceptions in Congress. There are only rare exceptions in the blogosphere, and hopefully national politics will not remain similarly polarized.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Save Your Money, Don’t Buy Crashing the Gate

A Public Service Announcement from The Democratic Daily:

Knowing that times are tough for some, The Democratic Daily continues to provide valuable tips to save you money. Last week we reported how to get a free cup of Starbucks coffee. Today we will save you even more, $25 to be exact (minus discounts). Our advice: Do not waste your money on Crashing the Gate.

My initial impression from an excerpt was correct. The book is full of the same superficial political analysis seen at Daily Kos. Making matters far worse, Kos and Armstrong take every chance they get to take a cheap shot at John Kerry. In discussing the 2004 nomination battle they white wash every mistake Dean made which cost him the nomination and blame it all on Kerry, Gephardt, and the party establishment. Unsubstantiated attacks previously made on Kerry are presented as facts without any supporting evidence.

Kerry is falsely portrayed as a supporter of the war while Dean is called an opponent despite the lack of any significant difference in their positions. Kerry is blamed for the anti-Dean ads purchased by Americans for Jobs and Health Care based on the flimsy evidence that a former Kerry aide later worked for them. Dean appearances are described as the greatest moment in American democracy while Kerry speeches are described as “tragically comic” as Teresa was “fidgeting by his side.” The DNC election is falsely portrayed as a loss by Kerry, who was “under delusions that he was still in charge of the party,” and a victory for the netroots. No mention that Dean’s victory actually was ultimately unopposed by Kerry and was the result of Dean personally meeting with the DNC members to demonstrate he was a moderate member of the establishment as opposed to a radical from the netroots.

While most thought that the 2004 nomination battles were long over, they continue forever in the pages of this book, and on the blogs of its authors. If Kos and Armstrong have the goal of bringing about success for the Democratic Party, Swiftboating John Kerry in a manner every bit as dishonest as was done by the GOP is a poor way to accomplish this.

(My initial impressions upon receiving the book were also noted in the comments and at Democratic Underground.)

The Best Pre-2008 Poll

We all know that how a question is phrased is important. This poll gets at what is really important in deciding upon the 2008 nominee.

The Democrats Have a Plan

Jonathan Alter writes in Newsweek that the Democrats may have a plan. The Plan: Big Ideas for America is a book by former Clinton aides Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed:

The strategy for getting swing-district voters to fire their incumbents is already taking shape. Just as Harry Truman ran against the “Do-Nothing Congress,” Democrats will run against the “Rubber-Stamp Congress,” which pimped for K Street, took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq) and helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich. Emanuel won’t say yet which votes supporting Bush he plans to wrap around the necks of incumbents. But look for gut-punch ads that highlight the incumbents’ 90-plus percent backing for Bush on issues like cuts in college loans and veterans benefits, privatizing Social Security, selling out to Big Pharma on prescription drugs and halting stem-cell research. Republicans are now scurrying away from Bush, but it may be too late. They can’t take those roll-call votes back.

While bloggers question why they are often not taken seriously by the party establishment, the answer may be seen here. While Emanuel and Reed are writing books on policy (and Harry Reid has sent out a strategy memo based upon national security), bloggers remain distracted by Feingold’s call for censure even when it distracts from the real issues. In contrast, “Emanuel knows that if Democrats turn the election into a referendum on how to punish Bush (censure, impeachment) instead of on the Bush record, they’ll get clobbered.”

To win, Democrats must give voters a reason to vote for them beyond hating Bush.

Whiny Kids Become Whiny Right Wingers

A study reported in the Toronto Star reveals how to identify conservatives versus liberals in nursery school:

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

Now that conservatives can be identified at an early age, perhaps a treatment can be developed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Jennifer Loven, A True Journalist

I recently quoted from Jennifer Loven’s article exposing Bush’s use of straw men.

Doing a little research on her, it looks like Jennifer Loven has a long history of attempting to bring out the truth about the Bush Administration–something too few journalists have been doing.

As expected, the attacks on Loven from the right wing have started. Naturally the right wing bloggers call this bias as they complain about previous times she has reported the truth when other reporters just quoted what Bush said without fact checking. Exposing political leaders when they lie is not bias–it is good journalism.

Bush based his campaign on distorting his own record as well as the record and positions of John Kerry. Most journalists passively reported what Bush said as fact. Fortunately we have a handful of journalists, such as Jennifer Loven, who are willing to go beyond simply reporting what dishonest politicians such as George Bush say.

I even found that the Kerry Reference Library has one of her articles in it on Bush’s National Guard record. Rather than accepting Bush’s claims, she reported on what Bush was hiding.

Durbin Gets Democrats Back on Track

Dick Durbin has responded to Russ Feingold’s call for censure, calling it too soon:

“I can’t rule anything out until the investigation is complete. I don’t want to prejudge it,” said Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. “But if this president or any president violates the law, he has to be held accountable.”

“It’s valuable that Senator Feingold is moving us forward to finally be a catalyst to have the kind of hearings and the kind of deliberations as to what lies behind this warrantless wiretap situation,” said Durbin, calling the overall inquiries so far by the Republican-controlled Senate inadequate.

“We have a responsibility to ask the hard questions, to find out what the nature of the program is and whether the president violated the law,” Durbin said.

Feingold did create a dilemma for Democrats when he blind sided Democratic leaders with his proposal. On the one hand, we certainly don’t want to be on the side against censure of Bush. On the other hand, calling for censure only helps fire up the GOP base–which is not something we need right now. One advantage we have had so far this year is that Democrats are far more fired up than Republicans.

A call for censure or impeachment, however justified, will bring many Republicans to the polls who otherwise might sit at home due to disillusionment with the Republican record. Calling for censure will also turn off many moderates. While one poll showed a majority supporting censure, two other polls subsequently came out with the opposite result.

Calling for investigations and holding Bush accountable is a reasonable position which Democrats can run on,without overly acting to bring out the far right as campaigning based upon impeachment or censure would. There are many who will see the value in restoring the Constitutional checks and balances, but may see calls for censure as too extreme. After the appropriate investigations are conducted and the evidence is out would be a far better time to call for censure or impeachment.

After all, censure is basically a token measure which has no legal meaning. There is no reason to campaign based upon this, especially when it is likely to fail this year, when calling for investigations and holding Bush accountable will accomplish what needs to be done.

ADDENDUM: The censure debate is yet another example where the left blogosphere concentrates on style over substance, and ignores the concerns of the average voter. It’s the same mindset which causes many on the left to continue to dwell on the IWR vote and confuse it with support for the war.

When framed as a question of tolerating wire taps without warrants, a majority were in agreement with us. Once it got reframed as a question of censure, polls started to shift back in Bush’s direction (although many liberal blogs are only commenting on the polls which support their position and ignore the rest). We must concentrate on what is most effective in changing the underlying policy, not what feels good at the moment. Durbin did an excellent job of attempting to bridge our desire for censure or impeachment with the need for an investigation which a majority of the voters would support.

Some commenting on this elsewhere have mischaracterized this as as an urging a move towards the center–confusing the underlying issue with political strategy. I advocate no compromise in opposing warrantless wiretaps. As Feingold’s statement has hindered the fight against this, increasing public support for Bush’s policies and possibly helping the Republicans in the 2006 elections, the proposal creates the dilemma I noted above. I both support censure or impeachment but cringe at poorly executed political moves which ultimately make this less likely.

Kevin Phillips on the American Theocracy

The New York Times reviews reviews American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips. A major question many critics of George Bush have is to what degree he actually believes the things he says. Phillips addresses this with regards to religion:

Prophetic Christians, Phillips writes, often shape their view of politics and the world around signs that charlatan biblical scholars have identified as predictors of the apocalypse — among them a war in Iraq, the Jewish settlement of the whole of biblical Israel, even the rise of terrorism. He convincingly demonstrates that the Bush administration has calculatedly reached out to such believers and encouraged them to see the president’s policies as a response to premillennialist thought. He also suggests that the president and other members of his administration may actually believe these things themselves, that religious belief is the basis of policy, not just a tactic for selling it to the public. Phillips’s evidence for this disturbing claim is significant, but not conclusive.

Republicans Hope to Win in 2006 By Repeating 2004

George Bush ran for reelection by avoiding discussion of his own dismal record and demonizing John Kerry. Republicans find it much easier to campaign against straw men than to campaign on their record or the issues. They realize that if the 2006 elections are a referendum on their own record they will lose.Fred Barnes writes in 2006 they will try to return to the strategy which worked in 2004:

For 2006, the Republican National Committee, the White House, and most Senate and House Republicans are on board with the choice strategy. In fact, some members of Congress are already repeating a phrase first used by Bush in meetings with congressional allies. It’s an assertion that Democrats would “raise your taxes and raise the white flag” in Iraq

Rather than trying to pick up support from the middle, they will concentrate on increasing polarization and winning with heavy turn out from their fringe groups (which recently have been wavering):

House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion.

One clue as to whether Republicans are really all on board with this strategy is whether they continue to distance themselves from Bush or rally around him:

Dave Sackett of the Tarrance Group said, in a memo to Mehlman, that distancing oneself from the president is a “flawed strategy” and would not protect a Republican candidate “from the generic backlash against the administration or the congressional leadership.” Rather, it would turn the campaign into “a national referendum on President Bush and the policies of the administration and the congressional leadership”–just what Republicans fear in 2006. Jan van Lohuizen of Voter/Consumer Research said a campaign that becomes a referendum on Bush could also chill Republican voter turnout. “Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party, for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November.”

After laying out the plan, Barnes is not sure as to whether it will be successful:

Mehlman’s confidence notwithstanding, will Republican efforts to keep the election debate from focusing on Bush really work? The media undoubtedly won’t play along. Some Republicans are bound to trash Bush, figuring that it will give them the best chance of winning. Worse, if Bush falters badly, a referendum on him may be unavoidable. Still, is there a better strategy for Republicans in what looks like an unfriendly year for them? If there is, I haven’t heard of it.

Can this strategy based upon avoiding discussion of their own record work? For another view of the flaws in continuing to win based upon the politics of deceit I will turn to another Republican (who would not be very comfortable in the party today):

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
–Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Demographics of Liberal Thought

Phillip Longman has a cover story in Foreign Policy magazine on the differences in fertility between liberals and conservatives world wide. His findings were also reviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition and in USA Today.

Longman reports findings such as that Utah has the highest fertility rate in the nation with 92 children born each year for every 1,000 women. In comparison, liberal Vermont has the nation’s lowest rate with 51 children per 1,000 women. Similarly, around the United States and Europe those with liberal views are more likely to have smaller families, or possibly never reproduce. He believes this is responsible for the drift towards the right in the United States. The average fertility rate is more than 11% higher in states which voted for Bush as opposed to Kerry.

Longman fears the long term consequences of a world populated by a greater percentage of those raised with conservative values:

Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents’ values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Considering how much harm this country has suffered in just over five years of a Bush presidency, there certainly is cause for alarm. We will undoubtedly continue to have periods in which we move backwards, but I still believe that the overall trend will continue to move forwards. While I may have only raised one daughter, my bet is that she, and others like her, will have far more impact on the world than children spoon fed conservative dogma. The ability of conservatives to regurgitate right wing talking points, and even cut and paste them all over the blogosphere, is no match for the ability to think.

Despite all the obstacles, the overall trend has been for liberty to win out over tyranny and reason to be victorious over superstition. I doubt that even the Republican Party’s recent embrace of authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism will be enough to stop the course of history. While they will have victories, and even additional periods of dominance, if the Republican Party remains a foe of liberty it will wind up in the dust bin of history.

Pandering Gets You Nowhere

George Bush won reelection largely due to motivating the religious right to come out to vote for him. Despite getting Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court, seeing Row v. Wade come under challenge, and anti-gay marriage proposals in many states, the religious right is still not satisfied:

At a news conference in Washington, some of America’s most influential conservative leaders said the current perception among evangelical Christians was that the Republican majority was not doing enough for them.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that apart from confirming two conservative judges to the Supreme Court, “core values voters” did not feel that Congress was advancing their interests.

The leaders appear to be reflecting a growing sense of frustration among the Christian right, over what they see as a lack of legislative progress on issues such as banning same-sex marriages.

They helped the Republicans in 2004, but the Republicans cannot take their support for granted:

Exit polls suggested that more than three-quarters of white evangelical Christians voted for President Bush in 2004.

But according to a recent opinion poll, the number of them who want Republicans to retain their Congressional majority is not much above 50%.

Republicans appear to have two choices. They can either pander even more, ultimately losing what is left of their support among moderates, or they can risk having the religious right remain home. That permanent majority thing we heard about in November 2004 is looking rather difficult.

The Press Has Awoken

We’ve gone through it for years, including the entire 2004 election campaign, but the media remained silent. Finally they are back. Look at this headline from AP: Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches.

Jennifer Loven has finally said what we thought every time we’ve heard Bush speak, but nobody has said. She’s like the kid who had the guts to say, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” She describes exactly what the Republicans do. After quoting a typical Bush attack, she explains:

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.

When the president starts a sentence with “some say” or offers up what “some in Washington” believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he “strongly disagrees” — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

Am I allowed to make a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism?

Does John McCain Have Alzheimer's?

McCain Hugging Bush

I wouldn't really pretend to diagnose someone without seeing them, but at least we might do for fun what Bill Frist thought he could really do. So today we will play a new game I'd like to call "Does John McCain Have Alzheimer's?"

Let's look at the signs and see if they add up.

Is McCain practicing the Richard Fish (of Ally McBeal) philosophy of "bygones" or has he really forgotten what Bush did to him in the 2000 primaries? McCain has been working to get closer to Bush, from the hug pictured above to the Republican straw poll last week. Now he has picked a top Bush advisor to run his PAC. Memory loss or forgiveness? We report, you decide.

Then there's the question of judgement. It might make a sense to hitch your horse to a popular incumbent, but to Mr. 33% And Falling? That's no more sensible than to back the teaching of intelligent design.

We've seen delusions of grandieur as he's imagined being picked as VP choice by both Bush and Kerry.

We've even seen some aberrant behavior this year in his letter to Senator Obama.

There was a time when, compared to the Bush crowd, John McCain seemed to be a Republican who sometimes made sense. Now its getting harder and harder to tell them apart. Perhaps such a descent into irrationality is what is required to communicate with the Republican base these days. Such a theory as to McCain's strange behavior may be even more valid than to think he has Alzheimer's.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Think Tanks and Democratic versus Republican Ideas

I’ve criticized Kos plenty around here, and my review of one excerpt from Crashing the Gate was not very favorable. I’ll balance this today by commenting on an unfavorable review in The Daily Standard (apparently a site for those who cannot wait an entire week to be spoon fed the latest conservative talking points from The Weekly Standard) writes:

Moulitsas and Armstrong’s solution? The Democratic party should develop appendages like the Heritage Foundation–and from those newly spawned organizations, a raft of brilliant ideas will emanate telling progressives what to believe in and what to fight for.

The idea doesn’t bear much scrutiny. What would happen if the Democrats’ version of the Heritage Foundation decided to focus on education and developed a policy prescription that antagonized the teachers unions? Or what if the progressive policy thinkers came up with changes to the legal or healthcare systems that didn’t diligently protect the interests of trial lawyers?

BUT THE MOST DISTURBING question raised by Crashing the Gate is if progressives don’t know what they’re fighting for, then why are they fighting so hard?

In true Rovian style, they attempt to take two of the weakest aspects of the modern conservative movement and pretend they are strengths in the hope that readers will not realize the degree to which liberals are far stronger here. It is the same logic conservatives used to promote their candidate who evaded military service and filed to complete his national guard service over a veteran who served with distinction. They use bogus attacks where the opposition is really stronger, counting on the Republican noise machine to obfuscate the truth.

The reason for liberals to develop structures analogous to the Heritage Foundation is their ability to spread beliefs, not due to the need for liberals to figure out what we are fighting for. Of course, as liberals tend to promote positions based upon their efficacy, while conservatives promote plans based upon the needs of their special interests, liberal thank tanks would be more likely to develop practical solutions to problems. If these foundations have been successful in spreading conservative ideas, imagine how much such a foundation could do if they actually had good ideas to work with! As conservatives in recent years have abandoned their principles in return for power, leaving Democrats as the only party offering meaningful solutions to today’s problems, Republicans try to hide this by claiming liberals have no ideas.

Showing that it is liberals and not conservatives who are proposing ideas to solve today’s major problems is beyond the scope of a single blog post. I have touched on this topic in the past, including here and here. Jonathan Chait addressed this earlier in the week, writing Republicans Are Out of Ideas. John Kerry proposed many ideas during the campaign, many of which are available in Our Plan for America. While Crashing the Gate was intended to be about strategy, not ideas, there are numerous other books which concentrate on ideas. Two which come immediately to mind are The Pro-Growth Progressive: An Economic Strategy For Shared Prosperity by Gene Sperling and The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love by Matthew Miller.

While liberals are the ones today with ideas to solve problems, it is actually conservatives who do what the above quote accuses liberals of. It is Republicans whose plans are devised to protect their interest groups. Republican educational proposals are frequently tokens to maintain the support of the religious right. Looking at health care, neither single payer plans popular with many liberals, or the incremental plans advocated by John Kerry and Howard Dean, in any way protect the trial lawyers as claimed by The Daily Standard. Even with malpractice, John Kerry was not willing to allow the interests of trial lawyers to stand in the way of his health care program. Kerry wrote, in his book A Call to Service:

“Medical malpractice is another area in which my plan would control costs. This is a subject which some Democrats have shied away from, fearing that it might offend trial lawyers, an important source of campaign dollars for many Democratic candidates.”

In comparison, Bush’s major health care initiative which has passed, the Medicare drug plan, was primarily a way to reward the pharmaceutical and insurance industries for their generous financial support (previously discussed here, here, and here). Bush’s other health care proposal, Health Savings Accounts, fails to address current health problems (here, here,and here), while rewarding Bush supporters.

Quote of the Day: Worst President Ever

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that given Mr. Bush’s record, “I really do believe this man will go down as the worst president this country has ever had.”
(From the New York Times)

Kerry on the IWR Vote

Imus asked Kerry about his vote on the IWR. Kerry provided an answer consistent with his several previous answers (which I’ve discussed many times, including here).

IMUS: “Back on the original vote for the Iraq war, if you’d had voted your conscience instead of the way you did vote — No, a serious question, knowing what you know now, would you still have voted to authorize the president to go?”

SEN. KERRY: “Obviously not. No way. And I said during the campaign. I said it’s the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. I said — look, I think everybody has made it clear that at the time, given the information that we were given, I believe it was the right vote. It was a vote based on seven-and-a-half years of destroying weapons of mass destruction, and then we lost the inspectors. We had a two-year period of no inspectors, even though we’d been destroying weapons for seven-and-a-half years, and the CIA tells you, he’s got weapons. I think it was the right vote. If I’d been president, I’d have wanted that power. But the president said he was going to do meticulous planning. He said he would exhaust the remedies of the inspections and the U.N., and he said he would go to the war as a last resort. He broke every one of those promises. And everything, every step of the way — you just listen to Colin Powell, who tells you, there was a small cabal run by Dick Cheney and people in the White House. They captured the policy. They didn’t even look at the State Department plans for the post-war period. I went to Georgetown University in January of 2003, and I said, Mr. President, do not rush to war. The difficult part is not winning the ground war, it’s winning the peace. And that’s exactly what’s happened.”

Bonus Picture of the Day

From Talk Left:


Wouldn’t it be cool if this was a sequence in which after the previous picture Kerry remains inside and this is where Bush wound up?

Picture of the Day

Ok guys, now that I have your attention, here’s how to really fix these problems. . .

(Hat tip to TayTay of DU for the picture.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Friday on Imus: John Kerry

John Kerry will be on Imus in the Morning tomorrow, Friday March 17:

Senator John Kerry (D) MA will join us at 7:29am eastern. Is he considering another run at the White House? What would he do about Iraq? Iran? The ports deal?

“Hidden Wounds” Event at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

Last Friday John Kerry and Max Cleland attended a forum (see my earlier post) at at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government to premier a documentary from NECN -- "Hidden Wounds," about veterans returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Harvard University Institute of Politics has a video of the event online, including the movie "Hidden Wounds" - watch it here.

There's more info here on John Kerry's Push to Help Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

John Kerry on Senate Vote to Allow Drilling in Arctic Refuge

The Senate has just passed the $2.8 Trillion 2007 Budget, which contained a controversial measure to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Below is a statement by Senator John Kerry on tonight’s Senate vote 51-49 to pass President Bush’s budget:

For all the talk of America’s addiction to oil, this budget vote proved it’s Washington that’s addicted to oil. Insisting on drilling in the Arctic Refuge is like treating a drinking problem by suggesting the alcoholic do more of his drinking at home.

“It’s time we stand up and demand a real energy policy that will actually reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We aren’t going to drill our way there, we’re going to have to invest in renewable sources of energy and promote bio-energy and energy efficiency.

“Drilling in the Arctic Refuge will do nothing to bring gas prices down, but it provides special interests with a sweet deal at the cost of real energy independence. Dick Cheney’s friends in the oil industry wrote our non-existent energy policy, and look what it’s gotten us – record home heating costs, some of the highest gas prices in history, and a nation beholden to Middle East oil.

This fight against drilling in the Arctic Refuge is a fight about our principles. It’s about standing up for our environment, our families and our future, and I won’t give up this fight.”

John Kerry Keeps Promise to Funding Health Care for Military Retirees

Kerry amendment will restore funding to TRICARE cut by Bush budget.

Today, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) offered an amendment to restore funding for TRICARE, the Department of Defense healthcare program for servicemembers and their families. President Bush’s budget for next year includes a proposal to increase TRICARE fees and co-payments for military retirees under the age of 65 and their dependents.

“The cost of health care is spiraling out of control and too many families, children and seniors are going without the coverage they deserve. The last people to do without should be those who served,” Kerry said. “We can’t turn on backs on those who wore the uniform of this country. It breaks our longstanding promise to them, and it’s not who we are as Americans. We’ll keep faith with those Americans who served our country for twenty years or more—just as we do with every veteran. They didn’t ask to change the terms of their commitment to the military when things got tough, we shouldn’t be turning our backs on them now,” said Kerry.

Bush’s proposal would essentially triple fees for retired officers, double them for senior enlisted retirees, and demand more from every military retiree under the age of 65 who uses the TRICARE health care system. Kerry’s amendment restores the funding for TRICARE so that military retirees are not saddled with increased fees and co-payments.

In successive budget requests, the Bush administration has asked for increased fees and co-payments for veterans’ health care in an unmistakable effort to shift the burden of care from some veterans onto others while driving yet others out of the system. Their intent is no different here.

“TRICARE is a good program and we’re going to restore its funding. We’ll pay for this by closing corporate tax loopholes. This move to increase TRICARE fees by President Bush is just another sad example how this administration turns its back on our veterans and military families, and I won’t stand for it,” added Kerry.

John Kerry on Halliburton’s Failure to Provide Purified Water to U.S Troops in Iraq

AP News reports the Pentagon will investigate investigate allegations by a Halliburton Co. water expert that Halliburton endangered U.S. troops in Iraq by "failing to provide safe shower and laundry water."
The most serious allegation came from the company's water treatment manager in the war zone whose internal report said troops and civilians in Iraq were left vulnerable to "mass sickness or death."

A former Halliburton water expert who found contamination at the Ar Ramadi base a year ago said he was told by superiors not to advise the military or senior company officials of his discovery.
John Kerry released the following statement regarding the report that Halliburton has failed to provide purified water to our troops in Iraq:
The ugly details of Halliburton’s role in Iraq are more complete today. With this latest revelation, we are reminded again of the negligence and arrogance of some who would put corporate profits ahead of the welfare of America’s troops.”