Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Smug Sanctimony of Joe Lieberman

The MSNBC website has an article dated October 31, 2007 up that shows the smug sanctimony of former Democratic Senator and now Independent Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman is shocked, shocked we tell you, that the amendment he drafted with right-wing Senator John Kyl of Arizona is being used to attack Hillary Clinton. He doesn't understand why we don't trust the Bush Administration not to get us into a war with Iran. To quote Smug Joe: "“At some point, we’ve got to get over this distrust and partisanship.”

Well, here is what's so aggravating about Smug Joe: When he makes comments like the one quoted above, he isn't talking about Bush and Republicans getting over being partisan and distrustful, no, the only people that SJ thinks need to change are Democrats. He apparently wants us to overlook the Bush record of lies, coverups, stonewalling, incompetence, and corruption in Iraq and all get behind Bush's plans for Iran.

Now, SJ doesn't want us to think that he is for war with Iran, no siree, he's not for that, but, then again, “I’m not gunning for military conflict with Iran, but if they keep killing our soldiers, you can’t just sit back and let it happen.”
Now what the hell does that sound like if not an excuse for a war with Iran? Is SJ suggesting that if his economic sanctions don't work, he won't be advocating for war with Iran? Is he telling us that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, he won't be calling for military strikes on Iran? If he isn't talking about war, just what in the hell is he talking about?

This is what the new Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, thinks about a war with Iran:
"[It]has extraordinary challenges and risks associated with it." He went on to say that America should be very, very careful about getting involved in a war with a third Muslim country.

Now see here is the difference between professional military officers like Mullen and people like Cheney, Bush, and Lieberman: he has actually been in war and knows what it is like. He has responsibility for the lives of men and women serving under him. He didn't skip the Vietnam War and then spend the rest of his adult life trying to make up for not going by playing with the lives of other people's children. Wonder if Smug Joe would be so cavalier about a war with Iran if his children were serving in Iraq?

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel Calls for Direct Talks with Iran

The Washington Note, a blog run by Steve Clemons, reports today, October 31, 2007, that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, R-NB, sent a letter to Bush calling for direct and uncontional talks with Iran. He copied the Secretaries of Defense and State, and the National Security Advisor. He apparently did not copy the Vice-President.

In this letter, which the Washington Note has reprinted on its site and which Cleamons says he did not get from Hagel or his staff, Hagel tells Bubble-Boy that:

Unless there is a strategic shift, I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months. I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek. If this continues, our ability to sustain a united international front will weaken as countries grow uncertain over our motives and unwilling to risk open confrontation with Iran, and we are left with fewer and fewer policy options.

Now is the time for the United States to active consider when and how to offer direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. The offer should be made even as we continue to work with our allies on financial pressure, in the UN Security Council on a third sanctions resolution, and in the region to support those Middle East countries who share our concerns with Iran. The November report by IAEA Director General ElBaradei to the IAEA Board of Governors could provide an opportunity to advance the offer of bilateral talks.

Of course, this approach is not what The Duck Hunter wants and so we fully expect that Hagel's suggestion will be rejected, if not explicitly, then implicitly. It is a good reminder, though, that not every Republican has drank the Bush Kool-Aid.

Clinton's Caution Leading to Defense Industry Support?

Alternet, which is a website that complies articles from the left side of the cultural and political spectrum, has a story from the Independent newspaper of Great Britain about Hillary Clinton and the defense industry. This article points out that as of the date of the article more money had gone to Democrats from the defense industry than had gone to Republicans. This is a quote from the article:

Employees of the top five U.S. arms manufacturers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon -- gave Democratic presidential candidates $103,900, with only $86,800 going to the Republicans. "The contributions clearly suggest the arms industry has reached the conclusion that Democratic prospects for 2008 are very good indeed," said Thomas Edsall, an academic at Columbia University in New York.

This illustrates both the potential and the problem with a Clinton candidacy. The potential is that she may be the one Democrat who can tap into support from groups that traditionally support Republicans. Groups like executives from large corporations, the defense industry, the securities industry, and the insurance industry. The problem is that she gets this support because she doesn't challenge the status quo as far as the economy is concerned.

Somewhere I read that the Clintons who had worked for McGovern and seen him defeated, and who had experience in government in Arkansas are convinced that progressive change in America has to be incremental. This belief was only fortified by their experience during his presidency.

Clinton governed from a centerist position. He signed onto the NAFTA treaty. He restored fiscal discipline to the Federal government. He worked with the Republicans on welfare reform. Yet, for all that, he was hounded by the right-wing and had to fight off impeachment. One can only imagine what the right-wing reaction would have been if he would have tried to expand government programs to benefit the poor or reduce the influence of the rich on our goverment.

You can see the impact of those experiences on Hillary Clinton during her campaign for the presidency. She is very cautious in what she says, she doesn't take positions that are too far from the center, she is determined not to give the right-wing an opening to further distort and demonize her and her record.

In one respect this makes a lot of sense. There is a reason why she is leading the polls right now among Democrats. Her name recognition is one reason but another is that she is not giving the right-wing attack machine a lot of openings. The problem is, though, that if there is an opportunity to bring about real progressive change over the next four to eight years she may not, if she were president, recognize it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pics From Mike Tood for State Senate Tailgate Party

The Mike Todd for State Senate campaign hosted a fundraiser that was a tailgate party before the Cleveland Browns took care of the St. Louis Cardinals. Below are some pictures from the event.

Brunswick Ward Two Councilman Vince Carl and Medina County Dem Ed Haddad discussing politics at the Todd fundraiser.

Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman and his wife Karen
talking to some Medina County Dems.

Medina Township Trustee candidate Rita Holt meeting some voters.

Mike's lovely wife Wendy with Kerry and Kathy Jones.

Contrary to What Rasmussen Seems to Think, HRC Can Win in 2008

On October 29, 2007 we posted an entry that argued for the proposition that historical trends indicate that the election of 2008 will be a very close election. This is because Democrats, even when winning re-election very seldom break 50% of the popular vote. Indeed, Truman was elected in 1948 with less than 50% of the electorate, as was Kennedy in 1960 and Clinton in both 1992 and 1996. In fact, only two Democratic Presidential nominees have received over 50% of the popular vote: FDR in all four of his elections and LBJ in 1964.

Given that historical record, it's not too surprising that the Rasmussen polling organization reports that Hillary Clinton seems to have both a ceiling and a floor of around 48%. Most Democratic candidates play at the margins with regard to the popular vote. Very seldom are they going to go above 50% and very seldom are they going to go below 40%. Indeed over the last 76 years only George McGovern went below 40% of the popular vote.

Unlike Rasmussen, however, we don't see this as an acute problem for the Democratic Party nor does it make the 2008 election un-winnable by Clinton. That's because of the electoral college, which while it has a small state Republican bias, can also be used by Democrats to win the presidency.

Kennedy, Clinton and Truman all had close popular vote elections, but substantial electoral college victories, with Clinton getting over 68% of the electoral college vote. This is because of the winner take all nature of the electoral college. In presidential elections winning elections by a 100,000 votes is as good as winning by a million votes.

In 2000 we saw Bush barely win, (if indeed you accept the legitimacy of the Florida vote), the electoral college by winning Florida even though he lost the popular vote by about 500K. Although as we pointed out in an entry dated October 29, 2007, we believe that the electoral college has a conservative or small state bias, we also believe that Democrats can use the electoral college to win presidential elections.

Depending on the Republican nominee it is easy to see Hillary winning all 17 states that Kerry carried, the District of Columbia, which Kerry also carried, and one more or possibly more than one more state to win the presidency. The states that will be up for grab are Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. A dark horse state for the Dems will be Virginia. It will be a down and dirty election, but the one thing about the Clintons, they don't run from a fight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Given Historical Trends 2008 Should Be a Close Election

There is a wonderful site called Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections which has a lot of historical data about presidential elections. Just for fun we did some research on what has been the average Democratic vote compared to the average Republican vote over the last 10 presidential elections, starting in 1968.

Over those 10 elections the Democratic percentage of the popular vote has been 44.64 while the average Republican vote has been 49.17. A big reason for the difference are the large Republican victories in 1972, 1980, and 1984. During the last three elections, however, the average Democratic vote has been much higher. Democratic candidates Clinton, Gore, and Kerry averaged 48.63% of the popular vote. During that same period of time Dole, Bush and Bush averaged 46.44% of the popular vote. Those figures indicate a very evenly split American electorate.

Of course, as we saw in both 2000 and 2004, the American system of having voters choose electors who then actually vote for the president helps conservatives. In the lsat two elections George W. Bush averaged 49.3% of the popular vote but averaged 51.77% of the electoral college vote. This bias comes from the fact that each state, no matter what its population, is assured three votes in the electoral college: one for each U.S. Senator and one for a constitutionally guaranteed Congressional representative.

A state like South Dakota has three electoral votes and an estimated population of 752,103. This means that each electoral vote represents 250,701 people. In California there are 55 electoral votes and an estimated population of 35,594,342. This means that each electoral vote represents 671,170 people. That is quite a discrepancy and applies to other states such as Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. Those states, combined with South Dakota, have a total electoral college vote of 24, four more than Ohio. Their total population, however, is 7,310,773, or about 64% of Ohio's.

Given the fact that the electorate is pretty evenly divided and given the fact that the electoral college has a small state/conservative bias that helps Republicans, the election of 2008, if historical trends are any indication, will be a very close election.

Media Failing 2008 Campaign Coverage

A report was issued by the Project for Excellence in Journalism along with the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard regarding campaign coverage for the 2008 presidential campaign. That report shows that the media is failing to address what consumers of political news want addressed.

This is from the story on the report:

"In all, 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects of the campaign. That is nearly four times the number of stories about the personal backgrounds of the candidates (17%) or the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals (15%). And just 1% of stories examined the candidates’ records or past public performance, the study found."
The report noted that this is at odds with what the public says it wants from political news reporting:

"All of these findings seem to be at sharp variance with what the public says it wants from campaign reporting. A new poll by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted for this report finds that about eight-in-ten of Americans say they want more coverage of the candidates’ stances on issues, and majorities want more on the record and personal background, and backing of the candidates, more about lesser-known candidates and more about debates."

Ever wonder why lesser known candidates can't develop any momentum? Here's one reason:

"Just five candidates have been the focus of more than half of all the coverage. Hillary Clinton received the most (17% of stories), though she can thank the overwhelming and largely negative attention of conservative talk radio hosts for much of the edge in total volume. Barack Obama was next (14%), with Republicans Giuliani, McCain, and Romney measurably behind (9% and 7% and 5% respectively). As for the rest of the pack, Elizabeth Edwards, a candidate spouse, received more attention than 10 of them, and nearly as much as her husband."

So here it is, another important election, and the media wants to talk about fundraising and polls as opposed to issues and positions. It's just too bad that the public can't sue journalists for malpractice.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Inspirational Effect of Political Leaders

During the 1930s & 40s the Democratic Party gained a lot of supporters because of Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the 1960s the Party gained a lot of supporters because of John and Robert F. Kennedy. Roosevelt and the Kennedys inspired young people to consider politics and government service as possible careers. If you look back over the resumes of active Democrats in their 50s and 60s you will often find links to the Kennedys.

The Republican Party didn't have a politician with that effect until Barry Goldwater. Although Goldwater was not successful in gaining political power, he did galvanize a generation of young conservative activists. These activists then helped Ronald Reagan gain political power in the 1980s and became the backbone of the Republican Party.

It is this inspirational effect that was one reason why Republicans could not afford to have Bill Clinton become a role-model for young people. If he could be tarnished, then the inspirational effect of his leadership would be seriously hampered. While this may not have been the main reason why Republicans opposed him, I believe it is one reason.

Which leads to the situation in 2007. After all the damage that Bush has done to the Republican "brand" it is obvious that he isn't going to serve as a role model for anyone except right-wing authoritarians. If the Democrats can nominate and elect either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, they can inspire a whole generation of Americans.

Think of the message that we would be sending the world if we elected either a woman or a black man as President. Young people, and young women in particular, would be energized by a Clinton Presidency. Young people, and Afro-Americans in particular, would be energized by a Obama Presidency. This energy would carry the Democratic Party into the future. Since America is becoming a nation of minorities in the sense that no one racial group will be the majority, the election of Clinton or Obama would also position the Democratic Party to appeal to a very diverse electorate.

None of this will happen without a fight, a fight that will be as vicious as it will be important. People don't give up power without a struggle and the right-wing authoritarians who make up the leadership of the Republican Party are no exception.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

United States Water Concerns Affect Northeast Ohio

One factor that shaped the history of the United States, particularly the part of the U.S. that is east of the Mississippi River, is our country's supply of fresh water. The rivers and lakes of our country allowed settlers to penetrate the inland, transport goods, and provided water for businesses, farms, and households. Like a lot of other things, though, our country's supply of fresh water is threaten by growth in our population and environmental factors like drought and global warming.

The Akron Beacon Journal had a story on its website dated October 27, 2007, which explores what is happening to our water supply. This is a quote from the story:

An epic drought in Georgia threatens the water supply for millions. Florida doesn't have nearly enough water for its expected population boom. The Great Lakes are shrinking. Upstate New York's reservoirs have dropped to record lows. And in the West, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is melting faster each year.

Across America, the picture is critically clear the nation's freshwater supplies can no longer quench its thirst.

The government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess.

This is not just a concern of western and southeastern states, it is also a concern for Ohio. One thing that a lot of Ohioans aren't aware of is that Ohio's use of Lake Erie is controlled by a treaty between the United States and Canada that created the St. Lawrence waterway project. That project opened up the Great Lakes to international shipping, and greatly benefited both the U.S. and Canada, but the treaty creating the Waterway also mandates that water cannot be taken from Lake Erie and pumped over a Continental Divide.

In Ohio there is such a divide that runs through Medina County around the River Styx area. North of that divide water from Lake Erie can be used for municipal water systems. South of that divide, however, the water cannot be used for municipal water systems. This means that water from Lake Erie cannot be used for water systems for cities and villages like Wadsworth, Lodi, and Seville.

Both the U.S. and Ohio need to start looking at this problem and coming up with solutions. If we don't, then our children and grandchildren may end up living in a nation where fresh water is much harder to find.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More Republican BS on SCHIP

So the House Democrats made changes that 38 Republican Representatives said they wanted in the SCHIP bill and, surprise, none of the 38 voted for the bill. The reason this time? They argued that the vote shouldn't take place because of the fires in California. What exactly the fires have to do with SCHIP since most Representatives don't represent areas of wildfire damage wasn't really spelled out, but that's their reason.

It is, of course, BS. The real reason why they don't vote for the bill is that so-called "moderate" Republicans are torn between the Republicans who vote in primaries and the voters who vote in general elections. Therefore, they want to keep saying how they support SCHIP without actually voting to support SCHIP. While such a tactic might have worked in the past, it won't work when Democrats control Congress and can set the agenda.

Another reason why they supposedly voted against the bill is that House Speaker Pelosi wouldn't delay the new vote until next week. This is from a Washington Post article on the vote:

But Republican leaders rallied their wavering troops around a new issue, whether the vote should have taken place when much of Southern California was on fire and nine House members were touring the disaster zone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted she had no choice but to move forward and give the Senate a chance to send the measure to Bush next week.

"If Republicans believe in SCHIP as they say they do . . . then they won't be looking for an excuse to vote against the bill," Pelosi said.

But when Republicans suggested debating the measure yesterday and voting Monday night, she refused, infuriating even her closest Republican allies on the issue.

"I used to think they cared about the policy. Now I think they care more about the politics," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who had been working for the bill and personally appealed to Pelosi for a delay. "Everything from baptisms to bar mitzvahs, we've put off votes for here. But they won't do it for the people of California."

If the Republicans who supposedly support this bill had been able to assure Pelosi that the delay in voting would actually get more Republican votes, that would be one thing, but there was apparently no such assurance. The only benefit to Pelosi would have been that she would have had even more evidence of the Republican hypocrisy on this issue. She apparently decided that she has quite enough.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why Republicans Don't Like the Clintons

So why do Republicans hate the Clintons beyond rational thought? Well, no matter what they tell you, its not because of corruption, or because of her personality, or his sexual indiscretions, or the fact that she stay married to Bill. It's none of that. It's because they can win and what policies they advocate.

While Democrats in the netroots castigate Clinton for voting for the Iraq War or for not being sufficiently liberal, conservatives are afraid of her for a much more basic reason: she'll help those who conservatives don't want helped.

This if from an article by Ron Fournier of the Associated Press on how much conservatives can't stand HRC:

"Most of the people who haven't voted — women, the poor — are going to put Hillary Clinton in office," said Rick Morris, 60, while leaning on his white pickup truck outside the Waffle House, "and I'm just hoping that won't be the case."

This guy is typical of a lot of conservatives. They don't want those they consider unworthy running their government. In this guy's case it is women and poor people. Can you imagine it? A country actually led by a woman? Why, this guy might just have a stroke or a heart attack.

Every so often Democrats are reminded why we are Democrats and not Republicans. We don't think that the poor and women, as well as others such as Blacks, Gays, Latinos, and working class folk are somehow unworthy or not as good as we are and conservatives do. It really is that simple.

Bush Administration Seeking Emergency Funds for Bunker-Busting Bombs

Bunker-busting bombs sounds like a Dr. Strangelovian form of alliteration. What they are, however, are bombs capable of going deep into the ground and destroying fortified structures. You know, the kind that we think that Iran has for developing nuclear weapons.

ABC News reported on October 24, 2007 that buried deep in the Bush Administration's request for additional funding for the Iraq War is a 88 million dollar request for funds to modify two stealth bombers to carry such bombs. This is the one sentence explanation for the funding request: "an urgent operational need from theater commanders."

As ABC News asks in its report, what urgent operational need? We aren't using stealth bombers in Iraq and wouldn't need to use them in Afghanistan against caves where we believe the Taliban is hidden. We might use such bombers, though, to attack Iran.

If Bush attacks Iran, all bets are off regarding 2008 presidential campaign. As the Washington Post reported in an articlee on its website dated October 25, 2007, both Obama and Edwards have been hitting Clinton over her vote to designate a unit of the Iranian Army as a "terrorist organization."

This quote is from the Post story explaining the Senate vote:

Iran sprang up as a campaign issue on Sept. 26, when the Senate voted 76 to 22 for a defense authorization bill amendment sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.). The amendment not only urged the administration to label the IRGC a terrorist organization but also said that the U.S. military presence in Iraq could have a critical impact on Iran's ability to pose a threat to the entire Middle East.

Clinton denies that the Senate vote could be used by the Bush Administration to justify an attack on Iran. Right, and of course, there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush only wanted to "reform" Social Security, not destroy it, and "Brownie" did do a heck of a job during Katrina.

It is dangerous to give this administration any authority assuming that it will act rationally with such authority. Passing that resolution may turn out to be as crazy as giving a loaded .45 to a baby.

Rice Admits that U.S. "Mishandled" Case of Tortured Canadian

If you act on wrong information, seize a naturalized Canadian citizen, send him to Syria where he is tortured, isn't that a little more than "mishandling" his case? Yet, that is the term that our Secretary of State used in a Congressional hearing regarding the case of Maher Arar. Arar was seized by the U.S. when U.S. authorities were told, wrongfully, that he had ties to terrorist groups. He was then sent by the U.S. to Syria, where he was tortured and imprisoned for one year.

The U.S. refuses to apologize to Arar and refuses to remove him from a list of people who are not allowed to enter the United States. What's more interesting is that Rice was elusive when she was questioned about what she knew or didn't know about Arar being tortured. Here is a quote from the AP article about the hearing:

Last week U.S. lawmakers from both parties urged the Bush administration to apologize to Arar, a software engineer who is married with two children.

Rice did not apologize in the hearing and avoided directly answering a question from Massachusetts Democrat Rep. William Delahunt who asked if she knew Arar was tortured in Syria.

"You are aware of the fact that he was tortured?" Delahunt asked.

"I am aware of claims that were made," she responded.

But when asked if the United States had received any diplomatic assurances from Syria that Arar would not be tortured, Rice said her memory of the events had faded and she would have to respond later to the question.

There is a belief among foreigners and Americans that the U.S. seizes people who it believes are involved in terrorist activity and sends them to foreign countries where they are tortured to get information. Rice claims this is not true. This is what she told the committee conducting the hearing:

We do absolutely not wish to transfer anyone to any place in which they might be tortured."

Yet, who is going to believe her if she refused to apologize to a Canadian who his government found was tortured in Syria, where we sent him?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Should Plain Dealer Provide More Opportunity for Feedback?

One of the nice things about the Washington Post is that its website allows readers to comment on most, if not all, of the stories that it runs. This means that if you read something you like, or don't like, you can post an online comment. These comments are apparently read by the Post's writers, who don't always like them.

In the past, journalists were protected from reader feedback unless a reader wrote a letter to the editor, which might or might not get published, or called the writer on the telephone. In either case, the feedback was not immediate and was much more edited.

In the case of letters to the editor it was edited by the paper itself and in the case of calls from readers, the editing process was a self-editing process. People aren't usually going to be as honest in a phone call as they are posting online.

Allowing readers to comment on stories they read online engages them with the story they are reading. That's the upside. The downside is, of course, that sometimes a lack of self-editing is a bad thing. It can lead to opinions or reactions that are not well thought out and are driven more by emotion than by intellect.

All of this brings us to the Plain Dealer's website. The Plain Dealer does not provide an opportunity for readers to post reactions to most of its stories. The question is: should it? Would readers on its website feel more engaged if they could post stories? Would it attract readers to the website? Would such a practice force journalists to confront criticism, and would that lead to better reporting?

Most newspaper websites that we have visited seem to be like the PD's and not like the Post's when it comes to allowing reader feedback. It will be interesting to see if more media websites allow greater opportunities for reader feedback in the future.

Will Foreigners No Longer Buy U.S. Debt?

During the Bush Administration the United States government has managed to avoid trouble from Bush's huge deficits by borrowing money, a lot of it from foreigners. That market may be drying up. Bloomberg, a financial news reporting service, ran an article on its website, which reported on a speech that Alan Greenspan recently gave. The following is from the article:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the dollar's depreciation may reflect growing unwillingness among foreigners to buy U.S. debt.

``Obviously there is a limit to the extent that obligations to foreigners can reach,'' Greenspan said in a speech in Washington today. The dollar's decline to its lowest since 1997 may be ``an indication America is approaching this limit.''

Greenspan's warning came after the U.S. Treasury reported last week that international investors sold a record amount of U.S. financial assets in August. Total holdings of equities, notes and bonds fell a net $69.3 billion after an increase of $19.2 billion in July.

The dollar has declined about 8 percent against the euro this year and 4 percent against the yen.

Most Americans aren't aware of how much the Bush Administration has come to depend on foreigners purchasing American debt to finance the government's operations. During Bush's administration the amount of debt held by foreigners has doubled from about one trillon to two trillon, according to information put out by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

During that same period the amount of debt incurred by the United States has gone up from six trillion to over 8 trillion dollars, again according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. This means that almost one-half of the total debt incurred during the Bush Administration was purchased by foreigners.

This deficit spending has allowed Bush to pursue his reckless tax cuts, fight a war costing half a trillion dollars, and still run the Federal government, albeit not very well. If, however, foreigners cut back on purchasing U.S. debt, then the financial house of cards that Bush built may come tumbling down. The U.S. would either have to cut back its spending, raise interest rates to attract more investors, raise taxes, or some combination of all three.

None of this will happen under Bush. He won't be able to cut spending during the last year and a half of his presidency. He won't raise taxes. He doesn't control what the Federal Reserve pays out in interest payments. It will happen under the watch of the next President while Bush is down at his Crawford ranch playing cowboy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

House Kills Move to Censure Rep. Stark but Stark Apologizes

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, by a vote of 196 to 173, voted to "table" a resolution censuring Representative Stark for his comments about Republicans wanting to fund the Iraq War so that Bush could blow kids' heads off for his amusement. For what it's worth, we agree with both decisions.

Stark shouldn't have been censured since the Republicans engage in uncivil behavior all the time and since their outrage was manufactured. On the other hand, Stark's comments were a distraction for the media and was hurting the Democrats' ability to get the media to focus on Bush's veto of SCHIP. All in all a good resolution for Democrats of this whole Republican created and media driven controversy.

Republicans Putting Anti-War Republicans in Their Crosshairs

The L.A. Times ran a story on October 21, 2007 on how Republican Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives are being challenged by pro-war Republicans, some of whom are recruited to run by Republican leaders. According to the article such opposition is one reason why more Republicans aren't breaking with Bush on the Iraq War.

Their dilemma is seen in the following results from a CBS News poll. While all adults polled opposed the way Bush is handling the war by 67% to 27%, among Republicans the numbers are reversed with 58% approving his handling of the war and 35% disapproving. These figures make it difficult for Republicans who are opposed to the war in the House and Senate to actually vote against Bush's positions.

Of course, these numbers among Republicans stay up because Bush hasn't asked anyone other than those serving in the military and their families to sacrifice for his war. Republican supporters aren't asked to pay more in taxes, or to risk being drafted, or to go without things to support the war. All they are asked to do is put a bumper sticker on their cars and talk about how much they support the troops.

Sandusky Register Story on Finding Docs Who Accept Medicaid

The Sandusky Register ran a story dated Sunday, October 21, 2007 about the difficulty Medicaid recipients are having finding both doctors and dentists. This is a quote from the article:

Health care providers say what the government is willing to pay falls far short of the actual cost.

In 2006, government payments to Firelands Regional Medical Center for Medicare and Medicaid patients fell $15.5 million short of actual costs, according to a hospital brochure.

Earlier this week we ran an entry from a column in the Houston Chronicle by Froma Harrop which contained the following quote:

Note how Bush does this big "compassionate conservative" thing about very much wanting SCHIP for poor people. Programs for the poor are fine, because you can always cut the living daylights out of them. Politicians who mess with middle class benefits find their heads in the return mail.

This article by the Sandusky Register is a reflection of that attitude. Note that it is Medicaid recipients and not Medicare recipients that are having problems finding medical providers. Why? Because Medicare is better funded because the people who receive Medicare vote and politicians know that they vote.

The real genius of the social welfare programs enacted during the New Deal were that they benefited everyone because they weren't means tested. The result is a constituency that puts pressure on politicians to keep such programs going. If you want to help the poor, include the middle class in the program. That's the lesson from the New Deal and Democrats and progressives need to remember it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

To End the Curse Chief Wahoo Has to GO is ran an article about whether fans think that Cleveland sports teams are cursed. While the article goes over what happened in the Boston series that has fans wondering if Cleveland sports teams are cursed, it doesn't go into why they are cursed. Well, here's our take on the reason why: Chief Wahoo.

Now in the past complaints about Chief Wahoo from Native Americans have been treated with amusement and regarded as political correctness gone crazy, but consider these facts:

1. According to Wikipedia, the Cleveland Indians baseball team didn't adopt a caricature of an American Indian until 1947. The present version of Chief Wahoo wasn't adopted until the 1950s.

2. Since the adoption of the Indian caricature as a symbol, only one Cleveland Indian baseball team has won a World Series and that in 1948 when they beat the Boston Braves.

3. Since then we have lost either the World Series or games in the American League playoffs. All of those losses, except to the Atlanta Braves in 1995, have come at the hands of teams that don't mock out Native Americans.

4. The Atlanta Braves from the 1950s until 1986 had an Native American symbol named "Chief Noc-A-Homa". Note that they beat us after they got rid of that symbol.

Now, many baseball fans in Northeast Ohio will see this argument as just one more example of political correctness. We understand that position, but at this point, what do we have to lose by getting rid of the caricature of Chief Wahoo and just using a big red "I" as our symbol? Or maybe even changing the name of the team to something that goes with Cleveland like Cougars, get some alliteration going. Anything to break the Wahoo curse.

What Baseball & Politics Have in Common

Now what do baseball and politics have in common? In both of them organizations that have a lot of money have an inherent advantage over those that do not. A political organization that can outspend its competitors by 2.5 to 1 has an advantage. Likewise a baseball team that can outspend its main competitor by 2.5 to 1 has an advantage.

In 2007 the Boston Red Sox had a payroll of $143,026,214 while the Cleveland Indians had a payroll of 61,673,267, according to a report from KFAN radio. This means that for every dollar Boston spent of payroll Cleveland was spending approximately 43 cents. Unless the team executives spending the money are complete morons, which Boston's are not, this gives Boston a tremendous advantage in assembling a team.

If you look at the report referred to above, you will find that of the four teams that made the 2007 American League playoffs, three of them ranked 1,2,3 in money spent on payrolls. The exception was, of course, the Cleveland Indians. It shouldn't come as any surprise that teams that can go out on the free agency market and purchase good players have an advantage over those that cannot.

Likewise, if you look at the front-runners for the Democratic nomination all three of the leaders have raised more money than the candidates who trail them. Candidates who can go out and purchase advertising time and spend money to build an organization have an advantage over those who cannot.

Given free agency in baseball and the lack of any effective fundraising limits and/or expenditure limits in political campaigns, this state of affairs can be expected to continue.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Insuranization" of Medicine

Radical right-wingers speak of the evils of "socialized medicine" when they attack plans such as the S-CHIP or the health care plans of Hillary Clinton. They act as if the American medical system is some perfect system and that adoption of government programs such as S-CHIP will ruin this perfect system for everyone. They say that if the government assumes a bigger role in providing or guaranteeing medical care for Americans, it will lead to government telling citizens what kind of care they can get and who can provide that care.

What they don't talk about, however, is the fact that for most of us we already exist in such a system, only it isn't the government telling us what care we can get or who can provide it, it is private insurance companies. Companies that aren't accountable to anyone but their owners and officers.

This "insuranization of medicine", to coin a phrase, means that the medical care that you get is dependent on decisions made by your insurance company. The insurance company decides what care is allowed and what care is not allowed. It decides what should be covered and what shouldn't be covered. It decides what medical providers you will be allowed to see and what providers you won't be allowed to see, if you want reimbursement for the cost of those providers.

This system has led to the average cost to employers for medical insurance coverage for a family of four being, on average, $11,500 per year and has led to the average family of four paying $3000 a year toward their own insurance coverage. These figures, by the way, are from the National Coalition for Health Care.

The issue before Americans isn't whether some powerful institutions are going to control their health care and dictate their coverage. That ship has sailed. The issue before Americans is who will hold such institutions accountable, the public or private individuals? That's the real issue and that's what Americans who want health care reform should be pointing out to Americans.

Does This Sound Like Anyone You Know?

In his book Conservatives Without Conscience John Dean talks about right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) which is, according to Wikipedia, psychological personality variable or "ideological attitude" found to a high degree in people who are authoritarian followers. There are also authoritarian leaders who are people who score high in social dominance orientation.

Dean's contention was that a lot of people involved in the Republican Party who call themselves "conservatives" are actually right wing authoritarians and a lot of conservative leaders are actually right wing authoritarian leaders. His point was that such people are not really conservative in the traditional sense because they are quite willing to both use and expand governmental power to get what they want. They are also willing to break with tradition if that will accomplish their goals.

This is what a researcher, Bob Altemeyer, said about RWA politicians:
"Conservative/Reform party (Canada) or Republican Party (United States) lawmakers who (1) have a conservative economic philosophy; (2) believe in social dominance; (3) are ethnocentric; (4) are highly nationalistic; (5) oppose abortion; (6) support capital punishment; (7) oppose gun-control legislation; (8) say they value freedom but actually want to undermine the Bill of Rights; (9) do not value equality very highly and oppose measures to increase it; (10) are not likely to rise in the Democratic party, but do so among Republicans."

Those traits come from the fact that RWA personalities have the following traits:

1: Faulty reasoning — RWAs are more likely to:

Make many incorrect inferences from evidence.
Hold contradictory ideas that result from a cognitive attribute known as compartmentalized thinking.
Uncritically accept that many problems are ‘our most serious problem.’
Uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs.
Uncritically trust people who tell them what they want to hear.
Use many double standards in their thinking and judgments.

2: Hostility Toward Outgroups — RWAs are more likely to:
Weaken constitutional guarantees of liberty such as the Bill of Rights.
Severely punish ‘common’ criminals in a role-playing situation.
Admit they obtain personal pleasure from punishing such people.
Be prejudiced against racial, ethnic, nationalistic, and linguistic minorities.
Be hostile toward homosexuals.
Volunteer to help the government persecute almost anyone.
Be mean-spirited toward those who have made mistakes and suffered.

3: Profound Character Attributes — RWAs are more likely to:
Be dogmatic.
Be zealots.
Be hypocrites.
Be absolutists
Be bullies when they have power over others.
Help cause and inflame intergroup conflict.
Seek dominance over others by being competitive and destructive in situations requiring cooperation.

4: Blindness To One’s Own Failings And To The Failings Of Authority Figures Whom They Respect—
RWAs are more likely to:
Believe they have no personal failings.
Avoid learning about their personal failings.
Be highly self-righteous.
Use religion to erase guilt over their acts and to maintain their self-righteousness.

Sound familiar?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Manufactured Outrage Over Pete Stark's Remarks

Earlier we posted an entry about the "outrage" the radical right-wing and its media allies are manufacturing over Representative Pete Stark's remarks during the debate over S-CHIP. The reason why we believe that the outrage is being manufactured is that we don't think that the Republicans are so timid as to get really upset over Stark's remarks.

I mean, come on, Republican members of the House don't mind torture in the name of the United States, think that the civilian deaths in Iraq are acceptable collateral damage in the bigger "War on Terror", and take turns seeing who can say the most outrageous things about Hillary Clinton. We are supposed to believe that they are offended by Stark's remarks?

Putting the manufactured outrage aside for a moment, however, what is interesting is that no right-winger is able to point to a House Rule that Stark violated with his remarks. Typical is a post that appeared on the Cleveland Plain Dealer's blog. The writer spends paragraphs contrasting the supposed difference between the way that the media treated Representative Jean Schmidt and the way it is treating Representative Stark. The author argues that "Mean Jean" got treated a lot worse.

What he doesn't point out, though, is that Schmidt's remarks were aimed at a particular Congressman, John Murtha of Pennsylvania, while Stark didn't refer to a particular Representative by name. The distinction is not unimportant. This is from the Pocket Guide of Floor Procedure in the House of Representatives:

· Avoid characterizing another Member's intent or motives and discussing personalities.

House Rule 370 of the House Rules and Manual concerns statements made during debates and what is and is not permissible. The quote below is from an explanation of that section appearing on a web page of the House Rules Committee:

Under section 370 of the House Rules and Manual it has been held that a Member could:

refer to the government as “something hated, something oppressive.”
refer to the President as “using legislative or judicial pork.”
refer to a Presidential message as a “disgrace to the country.”
refer to unnamed officials as “our half-baked nitwits handling foreign affairs.”
Likewise, it has been held that a member could not:

call the President a “liar.”
call the President a “hypocrite.”
describe the President’s veto of a bill as “cowardly.”
charge that the President has been “intellectually dishonest.”
refer to the President as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
refer to alleged “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.”

The House Rules also allow a member's words to be "taken down" or removed from the Congressional Record. This is the procedure that is used:

Words Taken Down: A Member should avoid impugning the motives of another Member, the Senate, the Vice President or the President, using offensive language, or uttering words that are otherwise deemed unparliamentary. These actions are strictly against the standing Rules of the House and are subject to a point of order. This is made by a Member "demanding that the gentleman's (or gentlewoman's) words be taken down." If this happens in the Committee of the Whole, the Committee of the Whole rises and the Speaker must return to the Chair and rule on the propriety of the words used. In the case of remarks regarding the Senate and the President, the Chair may take the initiative and admonish Members for unparliamentary references.

Often the offending Member obtains unanimous consent to withdraw the inappropriate words or the demand is withdrawn before the Speaker rules and then the Member proceeds in order. However, if the Member's words are ruled out of order, they may be stricken from the Congressional Record by motion or unanimous consent, and the Member will not be allowed to speak again on that day except by motion or unanimous consent (clause 4 of Rule XVII).

So, the question becomes whether any Republicans made the appropriate motion under the House Rules. If they did, we certainly haven't heard about it. If they didn't, then either they don't know the Rules or they knew that there wasn't a violation. In either case, they should stop their whining.

Voters' Priorities vs. Republican Priorities

This is from a post at

CBS News Poll. Oct. 12-16, 2007. N=1,143 registered voters nationwide..

"Which one issue would you most like to hear the candidates for president discuss during the 2008 presidential campaign?" Open-ended .

War in Iraq
Health care
Social Security
Terrorism (general)

Notice some items that are missing: taxes; welfare; and crime. All issues that the Republicans were able to use in the 1980s and 1990s to scare white middle-class voters into voting for Republican conservatives like Reagan and Bush. Notice what ranks relatively low on the list: immigration, which is the issue currently favored by Republicans to scare white middle-class voters into voting for conservatives. Notice what are the first two issues: Iraq, which is a war that Republicans started and health-care, which is an issue that doesn't really favor the conservative approach to government.

If these priorities stay this way up until the November 2008 election, it will be a hard campaign for Republicans. Their only hope is to throw enough mud at the Democratic presidential nominee that they can obscure the fact that their priorities and the voters' priorities are radically different.

GOP Goes Stark-Raving Mad

Representative Pete Stark from California is driving the GOP radical right and their media allies crazy over remarks that he made on the floor of the House of Representatives. This from an article about the remarks:

"First of all, I'm just amazed that the Republicans are worried that we can't pay for insuring an additional 10 million children. They sure don't care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where are you going to get that money? You are going to tell us lies like you're telling us today? Is that how you're going to fund the war?

"You don't have money to fund the war or children, but you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

He went back to the same point moments later: "But President Bush's statements about children's health shouldn't be taken any more seriously than his lies about the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up in Iraq, in the United States and in Congress."

The right-wingers and their media allies like Fox News are demanding that Stark apologize. John "Bonehead" Bohner, the House Minority Leader, claims that somehow the Stark's remarks were an attack on American troops serving in Iraq. Apparently, to Bonehead, attacking Bush is the same as attacking the troops.

Of course what is at work is that the American public supports the S-CHIP bill and the Republicans are trying desperately to distract them from the real issue, which is Bush's veto of S-CHIP and their support of that veto.

The interesting thing is that the coverage of this non-issue doesn't really help the Republicans. Millions of Americans who support S-CHIP aren't going to wake up and say to themselves "By Golly, I used to support insuring children whose parents don't have health insurance but because of that mean Pete Stark I have changed my mind." Not going to happen.

Would we have said what Stark said? No, because it does allow the GOP to distract people from the real issues in the debate about America's health care problems. Do we think that in the long run it will have any impact on the American public? No. Do we think that it will drive right-wingers absolutely nuts? Oh, yeah.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Houston Chronicle Writer Has Great Article on Why Radical Right-Wing Fears Universal Health Insurance

The Houston Chronicle, of all places, had a great article by a woman named FROMA HARROP on why the radical right-wing fears universal health insurance. It's not because of the cost, its because it might be successful. This is from the article:

So let's discuss what the panic is really about. Republicans know that once government health coverage seeps up into the middle class, there's no stopping it.

Note how Bush does this big "compassionate conservative" thing about very much wanting SCHIP for poor people. Programs for the poor are fine, because you can always cut the living daylights out of them. Politicians who mess with middle class benefits find their heads in the return mail.

The happiest campers in American health care today are the people in Medicare, a government-run program that sets prices. Middle-class families who taste similar fruits will not say: "Please, oh, please. Send my health coverage back into the exciting free market." And their neighbors will ask, "Where can I get some?"

Right-wingers know that their philosophy of having the so-called "free market" handle all of society's problems won't sell once there is universal health insurance. That's why wing-nuts like Michelle Malkin go after 12 year old boys and three year girls and their families. Nothing can be allowed to get in the way of their efforts to destroy government programs.

UPDATE: This is who Froma Harrop is: Harrop is a syndicated columnist based in Providence, R.I. She can be e-mailed at

Bush's Veto Complicates Ohio's Plans to Cover More Uninsured Children

The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article dated October 19, 2007 pointing out that Bubble-Boy's veto of the S-CHIP will complicate Ohio's attempt to cover more uninsured children. The article points out that Ohio's program is supported by both Governor Ted Strickland and the GOP leadership in the General Assembly. While it is possible that the Bush Administration could approve the changes that Ohio wants to make to its program, the article claims that this not likely to happen.

Below is a quote from the article explaining how this program would work:

Ohio currently offers coverage to children whose families earn up to twice the federal poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four. The state plans to raise that in January to triple the poverty level, about $62,000 for a family of four.

The future of Ohio's plan has been uncertain since the Bush administration announced in August that it will oppose state efforts to extend coverage to children in families whose income is above 2.5 times the federal poverty rate unless states meet various conditions that Ohio does not expect to meet. The bill Bush vetoed would have prevented the administration from imposing those conditions.

Ohio officials, uncertain how the battle between Congress and Bush would play out, are now seeking permission from the administration to use money from the Medicaid program to cover children at higher income levels. In an interview with The Plain Dealer this week, however, an administration official who oversees state children's health programs sounded doubtful that the administration would approve such a plan

The article also notes that all six Democratic Congressional Representatives voted to override Bush's veto as did six out of 10 Republicans. It is interesting that Minority Leader John Bohner of Ohio, aka "Bonehead", couldn't get a majority of Ohio's 10 Republicans to vote his way.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

S-CHIP Veto Override Fails; Regula Votes to Override; Fight Goes On

The House failed today, October 18, 2007, to override Bubble-Boy's veto of the S-CHIP bill. Congressman Ralph Regula, R-OH13, voted to override, as did another retiring GOP House member Deborah Pryce, R-OH15. Although the override was not successful, the fight will continue.

This is from an article that appeared on the Washington Post's website shortly after the override attempt failed:

Having stood with Bush against a bill that had overwhelming public support, GOP leaders urged Democrats to come to the table with a scaled-down version. But Democratic leaders were leaning toward a new version that would give Republicans face-saving alterations but no substantive change.

Pelosi said she was determined to provide the resources to ensure that 10 million more children would be added to the rolls.

Democratic leaders suggested they could add legislative language to nullify Republican lines of attack. They would clarify that the program would not cover families with incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty level, about $60,000 for a family of four. And they would tighten language to ensure the children of illegal immigrants could not receive benefits.

Republicans sent signals that the gambit just might work, if not with the president then with balking House members. Much of their protests on the bill focused on allegations that a loophole in the bill could allow 174,000 non-citizens to gain benefits.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) suggested adding an eligibility cap on families with at least $1 million of family assets, a move that would have virtually no impact on the bill's cost. Four moderate Republicans sent Pelosi a letter outlining what they thought could win passage, including a cap at 300 percent of the poverty level, a phasing out of eligibility for some adults and an expressed prohibition on illegal immigrants.

"The modifications needed are relatively modest," said Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.).

And that is likely all the GOP will get. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, pointed out that House Democrats had given up plenty already, scaling back their far more ambitious bill to meet the demands of Senate Republicans, such as Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), who virtually dictated the final bill's parameters.

"We have gone 50 percent of the way," Rangel said. "You have no idea of the pain that [House Energy and Commerce] Chairman [John] Dingell, and I and Speaker Pelosi had when we were persuaded that it was either the bipartisan agreement of the Senate, or we wouldn't be able to get a bill on the floor. It was painful, and we lost votes, and we were charged with selling out."

Republicans will not relish the next round of the fight. Swing-district GOP lawmakers have already weathered a barrage of advertisements from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic allies, accusing them of forsaking the nation's children while standing by the president's war in Iraq.

It will be interesting to see how many GOP members will continue to stick with their radical, right-wing leadership and Bush and how many will decide that compromise is the best of all virtues. Our predication is that by the end of the year a bill will be passed over Bush's veto that is much closer to the Democratic version than to the Bush version.

Ohioans Want Renewable Energy, Republican State Senator Gets Sarcastic

The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article dated October 13, 2007, on a poll that was taken for a group called Environment Ohio on whether Ohioans would support Ohio setting a requirement that energy suppliers get a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources. According to the article, this was the result:

The support for renewable energy cut across political lines. For example, 71 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats said they would support a renewable standard.

Support for the standard was just as high in rural areas, 80 percent; small towns, 81 percent, as in large cities, 84 percent.

By a nine-to-one margin, those surveyed said their legislator's support of a renewable energy standard would be a positive in their vote decision.

More than 90 percent said they would be willing to pay more for green energy, with more than a third saying they would be willing to pay an extra $10 per month.

Not surprisingly, a Republican State Senator, Robert Spada of North Royalton, didn't like the result. Here is a quote from the article:

After a skeptical committee member Sen. Robert Spada, a North Royalton Republican, sarcastically asked whether the poll was a survey of "your members," Bowser told the committee that Public Opinion Strategies, "the largest Republican polling firm in the nation," conducted the telephone survey.

This is very typical of how a lot of Republicans react to information that they don't want to hear. Instead of debating the merits of renewable energy, the Republican response is to try and belittle the person bringing them the information. It doesn't matter whether the issue is the environment, the Iraq War, health insurance for children, just to name a few, the response is always the same: don't debate the issue on the merits, go after the person or organization supplying the information.

If you want to know why nothing gets done on the pressing issues facing our country, the answer lies in the fact that the leaders of one of the two major political parties that run our government is comprised on people who apparently can't handle or process information they don't like.

Different Attitudes About Illegal Immigration in the U.S.

CNN did a poll about American attitude toward illegal immigration and found out that there is a noticeable racial attitude toward illegal immigrants between blacks and whites. This is from a report on the poll:

Blacks and whites differed over whether the number of illegal immigrants should be increased, with 14 percent of African-Americans saying it should, versus 3 percent of whites.

Nineteen percent of blacks said they thought all illegal immigrants should be removed from the country; 35 percent of whites said that.

Blacks and whites overwhelmingly oppose state governments issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, with 76 percent of blacks and 83 percent of whites taking that stance, the poll said.

The races differed more on whether state and local police should turn over illegal immigrants they encounter, even if the immigrants have broken no state or local laws. In such cases, 45 percent of blacks and 61 percent of whites said they believe police should turn over illegal immigrants.

Asked whether people who cannot read or write English should be allowed to vote, 54 percent of blacks said they should, versus 43 percent of whites.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated voting barriers such as a literacy test.

The only area in which there was close to agreement was on the issue of drivers' licenses being issued to illegal immigrants where the spread was seven percentage points.

What is also interesting about this poll were the answers to the question about whether there should be more or fewer illegal immigrants. Here is a quote from the poll:

Seven percent of those polled said they would like to see the number of illegal immigrants increase, 22 percent said they would like the number to remain the same, 16 percent want it decreased "a little" and 22 percent want it decreased "a lot," according to the poll of 1,212 adult Americans

Now, if you add up the above figures, you only get 67% expressing an opinion on the subject of whether they wanted a change in the number of illegal immigrants. That would apparently mean that about 33% had no opinion. Given all the media attention on the subject of illegal immigrants, that's suprising.

Republicans Unite Against Hillary

Instead of defining themselves by explaining to Republican voters why they should be elected, the Republican candidates have decided that they will attack Hillary Clinton. While this may be a great tactic to unite the approximately 30% of the public that calls themselves Republicans, it is a stupid tactic in the long run. It isn't enough to be against something, you have to be for something in order to be elected.

The problem that the Republican candidaes have is that most of the public doesn't want what they stand for, a radical, right-wing agenda that calls for endless war in the Middle East, more dependence on oil instead of renewable energy, reckless tax cuts that add to the national debt, and allowing health insurance companies to control the nation's healthcare.

Ultimately the election for president will boil down to one Democrat versus one Republican. When that happens things will be a lot different. It won't be enough to just appeal to the base of either party. If the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton, the attacks of her will be relentless. They may or may not work, but this is one thing we do know, Hillary Clinton will fight back.

More National Guard Units Going to Iraq

The Huffington Post has an article from the Associated Press that reports that more National Guard units are headed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. According to the article, there will be a total of eight units with seven going to Iraq and one going to Afghanistan. They are being deployed to reduce the strain on the regular Army units that are assigned to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Apparently none of these units will come from Ohio. This is from the article:

Specific brigades were not identified, but they will include units from North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois and Hawaii, according to officials. Some of those being alerted this week have done tours in the war zone already, and others would be going for the first time.

Bush & Right-Wing Radical Republicans Don't Want to Fund S-CHIP at Current Levels

The Washington Post ran an article that was dated Wednesday, October 17, 2007 that was in a question and answer format about the State Children's Health Insurance Program. This particular question and answer is very important:

Q: How much additional money, on top of the $5 billion-a-year baseline funding, is needed to preserve the same size program over the next five years?

A: Keeping the program at current levels would require expanding funding by about $13.4 billion over five years, for total funding of $38.4 billion between 2008 to 2012, according to a CBO report in May. Part of the reason is rising medical costs. President Bush has proposed a $5 billion expansion, for total program funding of $30 billion over the next five years. He has said he might be willing to go higher. The bill Bush vetoed would increase funding by $35 billion over the five years, for a program total of $60 billion. Ultimately, it would cover 10 million people.

In other words Bush and the heartless, right-wing radical Republicans who control the Republican Party aren't willing to even fund the program at current levels. Democrats need to stress this point. They also need to come back with a funding proposal for about 18 months that raises the funding by an amount necessary to keep the coverage the same. It would actually be a lower cost than what Bush is requesting, because it would only cover children to the end of the Bush Administration, and a veto of that bill would be very hard for Republicans to defend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush Sinks to Record Low in Reuters/Zogby Poll

A new poll out by Reuters and the John Zogby polling firm shows that Bush is at an approval rate of only 24%, going below his previous low of 29%. That's the good news. The bad news is that the approval rate for the Democratic controlled Congress is at 11%, tying the record low of September. Here's how John Zogby puts it:

"There is a real question among Americans now about how relevant this government is to them," pollster John Zogby said. "They tell us they want action on health care, education, the war and immigration, but they don't believe they are going to get it."

The dismal assessment of the Republican president and the Democratic-controlled Congress follows another month of inconclusive political battles over a future path in Iraq and the recent Bush veto of an expansion of the program providing insurance for poor children.

The article quotes Zogby as saying that these record low numbers for both Congress and the President pose a problem for both parties. This is how he puts it:

Voter turnout could still be high next year, but the mood has turned against incumbents and into a 'throw the bums out' mindset," Zogby said.

While Zogby maybe overstating the impact on Democrats given that the President is far and away the most prominent political office in the country, he has a good point. Most Americans don't follow the ins and outs of political battles. They want government to work and their problems addressed. On the one hand, except possibly for immigration, the other issues he mentions favor Democrats and a progressive approach to government. On the other hand, Bush's obstructing of the Democrats' agenda could be paying benefits because it stops Democrats from getting anything done.

Democrats need to do a much better job of communicating to voters who is responsible for the gridlock in D.C. They should be running ads in newspapers on how Bush is vetoing the children's health insurance bill while seeking billions more for the Iraq War. Ads like those would make an impact and help set the record straight on which political party is refusing to address the real needs of ordinary Americans.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

AARP Releases Music Video on Covering Kids' Health Insurance

Check out this music video from You Tube on the need to expand health insurance coverage for children:

And This Guy Wants to be Speaker of the Ohio House?

Jill Miller Zimon of the blog Writes Like She Talks first brought this to our attention. Matt Dolan wants to be Speaker of the Ohio House. He is giving money to his Republican colleagues hoping that they will elect him Speaker over State Representative Bill Batchelder of Medina County.

Okay, so we will admit to a bias here. Our position is that if a Republican has to be Speaker of the Ohio House, we would like it to be Bill Batchelder. One reason is that while he is conservative, he is very competent. Batchelder wouldn't pull a stunt like this one by Dolan.

Last spring Dolan pushed for a bill that would allow consumers to buy out-of-state wine from wineries in places like Napa Valley and Sonoma. He was pushing this bill to comply with a ruling from the United States Supreme Court. Something happened, however, in the Senate. It was changed so that only wineries that produce under 63,000 cases of wine a year can ship directly to Ohio consumers. The more than 100 Ohio wineries fall under that threshold, but big out of state wineries do not.

How did this happen? Listen to the explanation from Dolan:

"It was not supposed to apply to consumers," Rep. Matthew Dolan, a Russell Township Republican and chairman of the House Finance Committee, said Tuesday. "When it came back from the Senate, I probably didn't read it as closely as I should have." The above quote is from an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer dated September 25, 2007.

Look our point isn't that this is a bad bill from a policy standpoint or a philosophical standpoint. Our point is that if you want to be Speaker of the House, you ought to know what is going on with legislation you think is important. If you can't follow your own bills, how are you going to follow all the important pieces of legislation in the House?

Richest One Percent of Americans Getting Richer

Reuters news service ran an article dated Friday, October 12, 2007 about a Wall Street Journal report that "[T]he richest one percent of Americans earned a postwar record of 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, up from 19 percent a year earlier..." This is a post World War II high. Meanwhile f"ortunes of the bottom 50 percent of Americans are worsening, with that group earning 12.8 percent of all income in 2005, down from 13.4 percent the year before..." So after six complete years of the Bush Administration the top 1% of Americans have 8.4% more income than the bottom 50%. When asked about this gap Bush attributed the difference to a "skills gaps" among the various classes.

Well, how about the fact that we have an income tax system that taxes investment income at a much lower rate than income from labor? How about the fact that Social Security taxes are regressive and not progressive and stop at around $90,000 or so in income? How about the fact that George W. Bush and his allies have done everything they could do to make sure that government isn't available to help those who are at the bottom of the income scale and have everything they could to help those at the top? Gee, George, do you think that your policies could have something to do with the growing inequality in America?

Three Good Columns in the N.Y. Times

The New York Times has three good columns in the Sunday, October 14, 2007 edition. One is by Frank Rich in which he asks the question: As the Iraq War drags on, are we all becoming "Good Germans"? Paul Krugman talks about the right-wing's assault on Graeme Frost, the 12-year old boy who gave a radio address in support of expanding health insurance coverage for children, and Stephen Colbert does a column for Maureen Dowd at her invitation. Check them out.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Did Ann Coulter Finally Go Too Far?

The L.A. Times has an article by one of its writers about Ann Coulter's remarks on a CNBC show about in her perfect nation everyone would be Christian. Needless to say the host, who is Jewish, was deeply offended by her remarks. He pointed out that her position that Christians are "perfected" Jews is, in reality, a form of anti-Semitism. Coulter, true to form, denied that her remarks showed her to be anti-Semitic.

What's remarkable isn't that Coulter made a bigoted remark. She's been doing that for years. What's remarkable is that her host was actually surprised that she made the remark. Now either he has really bad research assistants who didn't tell him about Coulter, or he actually thought she would have the good taste not to make a bigoted remark on his show. He was, of course, wrong.

Coulter has made vicious remarks about gays and Muslims. She has spread her hate on every forum she has been given. It will be interesting to see if this time network executives decide that she has gone too far and stop giving her venues to spread her bile.

For it is the people who decide to book her on television and radio shows who are just as much to blame for what Coulter says as herself. There is too much evidence for network executives to claim that they don't know what she is or what she stands for. She is a hater and she spreads hate. If network executives decide that they care more for attracting her audience than they do for decency, then they deserve what they get.

Study Shows that More Access to Birth Control Means Fewer Abortions

A study has been released by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute that went from 1995 to 2003 finds that abortions are fewer in countries where they are legal and birth control is easily accessible. In Western Europe there are 12 abortions per 1000 live births, but in North America the rate is 21 per 1000. In countries where the procedure is outlawed, the abortion rate is higher, including 39 per 1000 in Eastern Africa and 33 per 1000 in South America.

This shows that the efforts of the Clinton Administration to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare" may be the best way to lower the number of abortions. Easy access to birth control is one way to make sure that there are fewer abortions.

The sad thing is, however, that too many "pro-life" groups don't want to make access to birth control easier, they want to make it harder. What motivates such groups is a belief that the power of the State should be used to discourage sex outside of marriage. In the real world, however, people don't seem to be having less sex outside of marriage. Therefore, what society should be doing is making it easier to access birth control and educating people about birth control so there will be a need for fewer and fewer abortions.

Bush and his Phony Vetoes

There is an article out on Saturday, October 13, 2007, by the Associated Press on how Bush wants a budget fight with Congress now that it is controlled by Democrats. When Congress was controlled by Republicans and they were running up deficits Bush couldn't bring himself to veto a spending bill. Now, however, that Democrats control the Congress he wants a veto fight to show that Republicans are really, despite their miserable record, fiscal conservatives.

This is really, like a lot of what Bush does, phony. If he and his Republicans cohorts were really interested in fiscal responsibility they wouldn't have pushed through his reckless tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. If he was really interested in holding down government spending, he would have vetoed bills that were passed by the Republican Congresses earlier in his tenure as president. The fact that he waits until he has a Congress that is controlled by Democrats to get fiscal religion is just one more example of the essential phoniness of George W. Bush. It goes along with his fake cowboy routine with his ranch down in Texas and his warlike rhetoric that hides his masculine insecurities.

Here are some items that Bush wants in the budget: Cuts in programs that provide job training, low-income housing and grants to community groups that help the poor, as well as grants to state and local governments.

Here are some things he wants in the budget: More money for the Pentagon, not counting the cost of the war in Iraq.

Where a person puts his or her money reveals a lot about their priorities in life. Bush wants more money for war and less money for people.

Al Gore & Maureen Dowd

Bob Herbert of the New York Times has a column in the October 13, 2007 edition of the Times which talks about Al Gore. In the column he writes out that Gore lost in 2000 not because of his stand on the issues, but because of the media's concentration on his personality. Herbert writes:

Mr. Bush came to mind because, for all of the obvious vulnerabilities he exhibited in 2000, it was not him but Mr. Gore who was mocked unmercifully by the national media. And the mockery had nothing to do with the former vice president’s positions on important policy issues. He was mocked because of his personality.

In the race for the highest office in the land, we showed the collective maturity of 3-year-olds.

Herbert doesn't point out, though, that one of the biggest offenders in the media for that kind of reporting is his colleague at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd. Her continuous mocking of Gore in the most influential newspaper in America had to have consequences.

Yet, neither she, nor for that matter any other journalist/pundit who engaged in that kind of writing has ever, to my knowledge, apologized for what they did in 2000. Just once it would be nice if a writer like Maureen Dowd said something like "you know, I was wrong about Gore in 2000 and looking back I wish I hadn't written some of the things that I wrote." Such an admission, though, would require an act of humility that national pundits just seem incapable of committing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reports Out Gore Has Won Nobel Peace Prize-Should He Run?

AlterNet has an article out raising the idea that since Gore apparently has won the Nobel Peace Prize, he should now consider running for President. What is interesting about the story is that writer references the derision that Gore suffered when he first criticized the Iraq War in 2003 and the way the Washington press corps wanted Bush, not Gore, to be president in 2000.

The reason why that is interesting is that it is one of the few articles on this subject that point out how shabbily Gore was treated by the so-called "media elites" in both the 2000 election and the early stages of the Iraq War. Most articles make a passing reference to the problems that Gore had with the media and then act as if those problems have gone away. We are not so sure about that.

Most writers urging Gore to run in 2008 assume that the Washington media establishment now realizes (1) how much of a disaster Bush has been and (2) how much better off America would have been in Gore had been elected in 2000. What such writers overlook, though, is that while Bush has negatively impacted America, he has positively impacted the after-tax income of owners of newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. He did that with his breathtakingly reckless tax cuts. Combine that fact with the fact that as a group Washington media insiders are arrogant, out of touch elitists and we are not so sure that Gore wouldn't face the same problems with the media in 2000 that he had in 2008.

Of course, this is one reason why we wish he would run in 2008. He is probably the only person who could tell the Washington media to go to hell and still have a chance at winning the presidency. Getting back into the pit of politics, though, after you have been out for eight years is a lot easier for those who won't have to crawl through the slime. If Gore doesn't make that choice, all of us who voted for him in 2000 should understand why.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If You Hate Government, You Shouldn't Run It

Now that is a simple and easy to understand slogan. It makes sense because a person who hates something and then tries to run it will do a bad job. It is true and the truth has been borne out by the Bushies' incompetence in Iraq, with Hurricane Katrina, with the fiscal operations of the Federal government, and with the actual running of the government itself.

The Bushies didn't look upon government service as "service" but as "employment", a place where they could make some money, pick up lines for their resumes, and fight the conservative battle against the evils of "big government." Of course, their conservative values didn't stop from trying to make a buck at the taxpayer's expense.

They were, of course, inherently bad at actually running the government. It is one thing to rant about liberals in some college or law school classroom or over beers at a local watering hole, it is a whole other thing to actually run a government. Time after time their conduct in office has been shown to be incompetent, venal, corrupt, and devoid of any new ideas.

It is not enough, though, to just enjoy the train wreck they are making of the conservative movement. Progressives need a slogan to drive home to the American people why these idiots shouldn't be put in charge of future governments. That's why we are submitting the slogan that "if you hate government, you shouldn't run it."

Be Thankful Ann Coulter Doesn't Have Children

One of the things that is interesting about conservatives like Ann Coulter is that while she praises "family values", she doesn't have a family of her own. She has never been married and has no children. That's why she has no problem attacking others and using their children as a weapon, as she did with John Edwards and his deceased son because she has no idea of the love that a person has for their child.

I have often wondered if that's why Ann Coulter is so enraged by women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards. Like her they are graduates from law school. Unlike her, however, they have also been married, raised children, and actually practiced law. I wonder if, in her own mind, where the rest of us can't see, she measures herself against such women and finds herself wanting?

Of course, society should be grateful she doesn't have children. America doesn't need another child raised by a woman who hates. Such parents too often produce children who hate, who despise others for the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation or their religion. So when you are listing things that you are thankful for, consider adding the fact that Ann Coulter doesn't have children to your list. It's a small thing, but important nevertheless.

NPR Interview with Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman has released a new book called The Conscience of a Liberal. National Public Radio did an interview with Krugman on its show All Things Considered. During this interview Krugman made the point that starting with the Ronald Reagan there has been an conscious attempt by the conservative movement to dismantle the programs of FDR that alleviated the effect of income inequality in the United States. These programs included helping unions organize, increasing the minimum wage, and social security. These programs were aided by the Johnson initiatives such as Medicare, Medicaid, and, perhaps most importantly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Since 1980, though, all of these programs have, at one time or another, been under attack by the political right of the United States with varying degrees of success. Democrats have been on the defensive for the last generation, only occupying the White House for 8 of the last 27 years and losing control of both Houses of Congress for 12 of those years. When asked why he thought that so many Americans were willing to vote against their economic self-interest Krugman replied with one word: race.

He pointed out that other western societies have not seen the same degree of political support for politicians who want to do away with government programs to help the economic middle and working classes. He says that the difference between those societies and the U.S. is race. He points out that the base of the Republican Party in presidential politics is in the South, the 11 states that made up the Confederate States of America. They started voting Republican in 1964 when four of them voted for Goldwater. Republicans increased their vote in the South in 1968 and 1972, and then really expanded it in 1980. White southerners became Republicans after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act. The Republican gains in the South did not take place because white southerners woke up one day and decided to embrace tax cuts. They took place because of race, a fact that Republicans and their media allies don't, for the most part, want to talk about.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Why Don't Dems Just Pass One Year Bills?

There is an article in the New York Times dated October 9, 2007, that reports that Democrats appear ready to give the Bush Administration most of what it wants in a new domestic surveillance bill. This is from the article:

As the debate over the eavesdropping powers of the National Security Agency begins anew this week, the emerging measures reflect the reality confronting the Democrats.

Although willing to oppose the White House on the Iraq war, they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence.

This is also from the article:

A Democratic bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House would maintain for several years the type of broad, blanket authority for N.S.A. eavesdropping that the administration secured in August for six months.

Here's our question: Why for "several years"? Why not for just 18 months and then look at the issue again in 2009, when you may have a Democratic President and a stronger majority in the U.S. Senate and possibly the House of Representatives? Too often the Democrats fall into the trap of thinking that the choice is either one way or the other and they never look for a middle way. This would seem to be one of those times.

Republicans & Wing-Nut Bloggers Attack 12 Year Old Boy & Family

Just one more reason why we are not Republicans: We would find it impossible to be a part of a political party who decides that a 12 year old boy who was critically injured in a automobile crash and didn't have health insurance is a legitimate political target. Here is some background from the ABC News story linked to above:

With debate raging in Washington over children's health insurance, congressional Democrats found a new way to make their case for an expansion last weekend: Rather than have a senator or a congressman respond to President Bush's weekly radio address, they decided to have a child who was helped by the program speak directly to the public.

But the 12-year-old boy whom Democrats chose as their poster child is now at the center of a firestorm in Washington and beyond. Conservative bloggers who uncovered some details of the family's finances are blasting the family, calling the fact that they rely on federal insurance an example of how the State Children's Health Insurance Program has expanded beyond its original intent.

According to Senate Democratic aides, some bloggers have made repeated phone calls to the home of 12-year-old Graeme Frost, demanding information about his family's private life. On Monday, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused GOP leadership aides of "pushing falsehood" in an effort to distract from the political battle over S-CHIP.

Now, you are probably asking yourself why would even Republicans be this mean? Here is what they are alleging:

But after a largely positive story about Frost appeared in the Baltimore Sun, conservative-leaning bloggers began focusing on details of Frost's family situation. They suggested the family makes the conservative argument -- that the children's health insurance program has strayed from its original purpose by subsidizing healthcare for middle-class families, not just poor children.

A blogger on discovered that Frost and his sister, Gemma, attend a private school where tuition costs $20,000 a year. Their father, Halsey, is a self-employed woodworker, meaning that if his family doesn’t have health insurance, it’s because Halsey Frost -- as his own boss -- chooses not to purchase it for himself.

"One has to wonder that if time and money can be found to remodel a home, send kids to exclusive private schools, purchase commercial property and run your own business . . . maybe money can be found for other things," a blogger with the handle "icwhatudo" wrote on FreeRepublic.

Only, of course, being Republicans they didn't bother to check out the facts. Here's what we are referring to:

But Manley say conservative bloggers didn't dig deep enough. It turns out that the Frost children attend Baltimore’s Park School on near-full scholarships; they pay roughly $500 per child per year in tuition, he said.

Like many small-business owners, Halsey Frost can't even afford to provide health insurance to himself, Manley said.

"Last year, the Frost's made $45,000 combined," Manley said. "Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined depending on Halsey's ability to find work."

The Frost family did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Of course, facts don't manner to Washington, D.C., Republicans, whether the issue is starting a war in Iraq, passing reckless tax cuts, or vetoing children's health insurance, they just don't care.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Rant About Baseball & Politics

Seeing Rudy "The Political Transvestite" Giuliani at the Yankees-Indians game in the first was very appropriate. Like Republicans, the New York Yankees and their egotistical owner, George Steinbrenner, have an incredible sense of entitlement. They have all the class of new money, which is to say, no class at all. They both feel that buying what they want is the same as actually going out and earning it.

Republicans feel they are entitled to run the country regardless of their incompetence. The Yankees feel like they are entitled to be in the World Series no matter what the caliber of the other teams. They are both arrogant, graceless, classless, and rude beyond belief. Their supporters share the same traits.

Okay, I am done now. Back to the game.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why Pundits Hate the Internet

Because when they write nonsense like this, readers can check them out like this.

S-CHIP Incease Less Than 8% of What Bush Has Spent on Iraq

If you look on the right of this blog, you will see that we have installed a counter than provides continuous updates on how much the Iraq War is costing American taxpayers. We obtained this counter from the National Priorities Project. As of this morning, the cost of the S-CHIP funding that Bush vetoed is less than 8% of the cost of the war in Iraq. That means that Bush and his Republican allies are unwilling to spend $.08 cents for children's health insurance for every dollar they have spent so far in Iraq. This is a graphic example of the priorities of the Bush and his Republican allies.

Not only do they not want to spend the money, but as Paul Krugman noted in one of his columns in the New York Times, they make jokes about Bush's veto. According to Krugman, this was Bill Kristol's reaction to Bush's veto of the S-CHIP funding bill: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Bill Kristol is the editor of the conservative newspaper the Weekly Standard and an advocate of the Iraq War.

Of course, it is easy for Kristol to joke about someone else's kids not having health insurance, just as it's easy for Bush to veto the bill. Neither of them have ever had to worry about how they were going to pay for medical bills for their children. Even as Bush was bankrupting businesses down in Texas, you can rest assured that "Poppy" Bush and Barbara made sure than his precious twins had health coverage. Well, we suppose we should be grateful for the fact that at least Bush had the decency not to joke about his veto.

UPDATE: See Nancy Pelosi make the point on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.