Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fight Joe Cimperman's DISHONEST attack ad!

The ad Cimperman is running isn't just based on a fundamentally stupid argument (that an elected official shouldn't waste his time running for another office) that may now be used against him next year when he himself is up for re-election; it is fundamentally dishonest.

Kind of dumb, isn't it? Even if you don't like Dennis Kucinich, it's still a dumb ad. Because, really, Cimperman is being a part-time official to run a campaign against an incumbent.

I've spent a only a few minutes doing some research. And as it turns out, contrary to Cimperman's lie regarding attendance records Dennis has not missed nearly as many votes in Congress as some of the other candidates for president (king). Ron Paul missed 684 of 7034 votes (9%) since Jan 7, 1997.1 Compare that to Dennis, who missed 346 of 7034 votes (5%) since Jan 7, 1997.2 Sitting U.S. senator John McCain has missed 584 votes (16%) out of 3,710 since January 22, 1997.3 This is a matter of public record, and easily verified. This information did not take long to find. Just a candidate's name, the key words 'missed votes', and that's it. This information is ridiculously easy to locate. Cimperman must have known that what he was saying in the ad isn't true, meaning he lied when claiming Dennis has missed more votes than any other member of Congress. Either that, or Cimperman is too stupid or lazy to get his facts straight. Either way, we cannot trust Joe Cimperman to be honest with voters.

Help Dennis Kucinich win re-election. Go to Kucinich.us and donate your time and money to his campaign. Because now is NOT the time to silence Progressives voices in Congress.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Breaking down the few truths in Smirky McStumbletongue's final (we hope) SotU

There were so many, many lies in the shrub's state of the union liefest that it is difficult to explain them all. In fact, it would take days to break them all down. It is far easier, in fact, to simply explain the few truths contained within what we all pray is the shrub's final speech on the state of the union. And so I shall. I leave it to far more talented writers than I to explain the multitude of deceptions. I shall point out the few truths. All technical, rendered utterly meaningless by the exaggerations, distortions, half-truths and outright fabrications. But truths nevertheless. Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe. Just remember that one can actually lie with the truth, and the shrub excels at that.

Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum.

Technically true.

In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined.

Also technically true.

rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens. These issues call for vigorous debate,

Again, technically true.

Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose.

True, but not the way the boy indicates.

All of us were sent to Washington to carry out the people's business. That is the purpose of this body. It is the meaning of our oath. And it remains our charge to keep.

See? That's another truth right there.

The actions of the 110th Congress will affect the security and prosperity of our Nation long after this session has ended.

Again, true, but as pointed out before, not in the way the boy indicates. That's where the lie follows.

Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas. Exports are rising, but the housing market has declined. And at kitchen tables across our country, there is concern about our economic future.

Another truth. He doesn't mention that wages are only up because Congress had to sneak a paltry minimum wage increase into a military appropriations bill, but who's counting? Beside the rest of America? And yes, exports are rising while the housing bubble has burst. And working Americans are worried.

I will issue an Executive Order that directs Federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by the Congress.

Given his track record for ignoring the law at his whim, I think we can all agree that the boy is telling the truth when he says he will order his lackeys to break the law.

Our shared responsibilities extend beyond matters of taxes and spending.

Another technical truth.

Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results.

Technically true. They did pass the act, and no one can deny that this unfunded mandate has failed miserably.

When the Federal Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, our Nation was bound by the Articles of Confederation, which began with the words, "We the undersigned delegates." When Gouverneur Morris was asked to draft the preamble to our new Constitution, he offered an important revision and opened with words that changed the course of our Nation and the history of the world: "We the people."

As far as I am aware, this is true. Alrighty-then, there you have it. The shrub's (we hope) last SotU speech, with all the lies removed. There isn't much left, is there? See, if the boy had decided to leave out all those deceptions, he could have spared us -- give or take -- forty-five minutes of his deceipt.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why Kucinich's absence has made the presidential race poorer.

Dennis Kucinich, one of the only REAL voices of truth and Progressive values in the 2008 presidential race, has dropped out. John Nichols of The Nation summed it up best when he wrote:

One of things that most debate moderators found so frustrating about Kucinich was his determination to talk about the bread-and-butter issues that matter most to working Americans, rather than to play their games. Kucinich forced the anchormen and the reporters, as well as the other candidates, to pay a little attention to the problems of factory workers, shop clerks and farmers. There is no question that the Ohioan's determination to do this influenced more prominent and well-funded contenders, especially former North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

Dennis's critics have charged -- falsely or erroneously -- that he has neglected his district for his presidential campaigns. That is true of the two senators running for president on the Democratic side; the senator (McCain) from the Republican side; and the Representative from the Republican side (Paul -- who has missed roughly twice as many votes as Kucinich). As Nichols points out:

Kucinich, who flew to Cleveland rather than to South Carolina or California after the New Hampshire primary in which his campaign received more votes than the "serious" candidacy of debate-regular and one-time media darling Fred Thompson, was anything but an absentee congressman during his presidential run. If anything, the congressman neglected the national race in order to spend time in his district and on the floor of the House -- where he maintained a far steadier attendance record than the senators against whom he was running for the presidential nomination.

The congressman's greatest attention to his district during the course of the presidential campaign took the form of his focus on the economic issues that are most important to a working-class district that includes portions of the city of Cleveland and neighboring blue-collar suburbs. Even as he discussed the essential subject of the war in Iraq, Kucinich usually did so in the context of a discussion about the cost the war was imposing not just on the distant battlefields of Iraq but on the American cities from which needed federal funds have been diverted to fund a fool's mission in the Middle East.

Dennis Kucinich knew he didn't stand a chance of winning the presidential nomination; he knew full well that the moneyed elites would never let him or any other Progressive candidate participate. So winning the nomination was never his mission. His goal, from the very beginning, was to help bring the issues that truly matter to Americans to the forefront of the political discussion and keep it there. If he hadn't, then who would have? Certainly not Barack "the Republicans were the party of ideas" Obama, or Hillary "it's all about me" Clinton. John Edwards has actually spoken like a populist, a progressive-in-training, but unlike Dennis his record in Congress hasn't been consistent with his campaign rhetoric. I could never get over the feeling that if not for candidates like Kucinich and Mike Gravel, Edwards would not have had the courage to run as he has thus far.

As we head into Super Tuesday, and as the Democratic race likely comes down to a choice between two corporate, status quo candidates, the absence of Dennis Kucinich's Progressive voice makes the entire political discussion far emptier than it would have been had he been allowed to participate.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Will this Bush-Cheney lie ever be fully exposed?

So now we have a nifty new catalog of outright deceptions told by the Bush-Cheney regime in the run up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. That's great, it really is, but it only appears to be one for "complete" fabrications. It does not, apparently, devote as much time to half-truths (which are still lies, just not direct ones). If you factor in the lies based on only half the truth, the list grows far beyond the nine hundred thirty-five compiled for our benefit.

One of the deceptions based on half-"truth" was over Halabja.

You may or may not have heard of Stephen C. Pelletiere. He was the CIA's chief analyst on the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. Following George W. Bush's 2003 state of the union address, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times arguing that evidence of Iraq involvement in the gassing of Kurds in March 1988 was spotty -- and that evidence instead pointed to Iranian-used chemicals as the culprit.

This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.

And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

And more:

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent — that is, a cyanide-based gas — which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

In 1990 Pelletiere and colleague Douglas V. Johnson defended their analysis against challenges from those trying to pin the blame on Iraq.

The second alleged gas attack by the Iraqis against the Kurds occurred at Amadiyyah (in the far northern region of Iraq) after the war had ended. This one is extremely problematical since no gassing victims were ever produced. The only evidence that gas was used is the eye-witness testimony of the Kurds who fled to Turkey, collected by staffers of the U.S. Senate. We showed this testimony to experts in the military who told us it was worthless. The symptoms described by the Kurds do not conform to any known chemical or combination of chemicals.

Lacking any gassing victims, and given the fact that the testimony does not seem credible we were unwilling to say that in fact the attacks had occurred. At the same time, throughout the study we cited instances of Iraqi-instigated chemical attacks against Iranian military units. There is no doubt that these occurred; indeed the Iraqis have stated on occasion that they feel justified in using chemicals tactically under certain conditions. However, they deny using chemicals as a weapon of mass destruction, that is against civilians. What our study concludes is that those who claim they are doing so need to come up with some more convincing proof.

Here are a few more links, by the way, pertaining to the Iran-Iraq gas controversy.

http://www.wanniski.com/...

http://www.wanniski.com/...

http://www.wisconsinproject.org/...

http://www.cambridge.org/...

http://www.crimesofwar.org/...

Here's something worth reading.

The battle for Halabja began on March 15, 1988, when Kurdish rebels and Iranian Revolutionary Guards, equipped with chemical warfare suits, moved into the town, driving out Iraqi units in heavy fighting. Townspeople were then stopped from fleeing Halabja and forced by the invaders to return to their homes. This tactic was to cost thousands of lives.

The chemical attack began a day later at 6:20 p.m. and continued sporadically over three days. Wave after wave of bombers—seven to eight in each wing—attacked Halabja, a town of eighty thousand, and all roads leading to the surrounding mountains. They dropped a cocktail of poison gases: mustard gas, the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and, according to a well-informed Iraqi military source, VX, the most lethal of all, which Iraq had just begun to manufacture. Clouds of gas hung over the town and the surrounding hills, blotting out the sky and contaminating the fertile plains nearby.

The townspeople had no protection and the chemicals soaked into their clothes, skin, eyes, and lungs. At least five thousand, and probably many more, died within hours. Many were poisoned in the cellars where they had sought refuge—trapped by gases that were heavier than air. It was the largest chemical attack ever launched against a civilian population.

On the road out of the town, an estimated four thousand were killed near the village of Anab as they attempted to flee to Iran. Many flung themselves into a pond to wash off the chemicals but died within minutes. Their corpses lay undisturbed for months, deadly toxins from their bodies seeping into the earth and reportedly contaminating the water table.

And:

Many people are skeptical of the Pentagon evidence, not least the people of Halabja. I talked to many Halabjans during my visit who were present during the 1988 attack, and all agreed that Iraq alone was responsible. The Kurdish guerrilla armies who were allied to Iran at the time and fought in and around Halabja also concur, and that includes the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Masoud Barzani, whose current relations with the Iranians can only be described as hostile. Why would Iranian commanders whose troops were in Halabja at the time use poison gas against their own men? they ask. Their logic seems inescapable.

Here we use the principle of Occam's Razor, which tells us that the simplest solution is to be preferred. Since no one has suggested that Iranian bombardment was a deliberate act against civilians, and that Iranian forces were fighting what they thought were Iraqi military units, it is reasonable to conclude that in a battle in which both sides used chemical weapons the Kurdish casualties took unintended fire from their Iranian allies. Since the writer acknowledges that Iranian forces and Kurdish rebels supporting Iranian forces were indeed present in Halabja, it undermines the argument that this was not a battle during a time of war but a deliberate and punitive act of genocide. That the writer uses the accounts of people with a reason to lie about Iran's culpability in inflicting casualties is indicative of an attempt at anti-Iraqi propaganda based less on the facts and more on a desire to muddy the proverbial waters in order to justify questionable accusations.

Now lest you think I'm making excuses for Saddam Hussein, bear in mind that I am not claiming that my own interpretation of the facts at hand is necessarily the correct one. I offer this only because there is another side to the allegations of genocide against Iraqi Kurds that has not received the rigorous debate it deserves. It is not been settled conclusively one way or another, and we must take all sides of the debate with a healthy amount of skepticism. But, going according to the facts we do have, and the contradictions in the stories of those who claim Iraq and Saddam Hussein were the primary culprits, we may conclude one thing, at least, is true: the dynamics of the debate are fundamentally altered by the inclusion of this alternative side of the argument. If the deaths of Kurds were the result of crossfire in a battle during which both sides used chemical weapons, it weakens the accusation that Saddam Hussein deliberately tried to commit genocide against Kurds in Iraq.

It is important to keep this in mind when considering the new database cataloging the lies that led to war in Iraq. Not just the flat out lies, but the distortions of actual events.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why the GOP shall win unless Democrats get their acts together.

Tomorrow I'll address something having to do with the new database cataloging the lies that led to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Today I'm going to write about a couple of things that the candidates for president and for Congress really ought to heed, lest they blow it all again. First, the Rude Pundit writes of the stench of Karl Rove hanging in the political air.
Really, Clinton and Obama are playing into Rove's hand. Much of the blame here rests with the Clintons, who, truly, are campaigning as a single, buy-one-get-one-free unit, for when Bill says that he consulted Hillary on every decision he made when president, the implicit promise is that Hillary will consult him and, c'mon, don't we want Bill back in the White House? They are fighting a campaign that is better suited to 2000 or 2004. Someone needs to kick Bill Clinton in the nuts and say, "Down, boy." He's playing the short game, which used to be the way you win elections.
That's not all:

At this point, the Democrats could nominate a sock monkey or a slice of provolone and it would beat John McCain or Mitt Romney. As long as that sock monkey wore a "Bring the troops home" t-shirt. But the Clintons are waging the slash and burn war of tiny marginal advantages here and there that'll let them conquer 51% of the territory and declare victory, very much like the way Rove operates, very much like how Clinton adviser Mark Penn sees marketing. (Rove, by the way, must be chafing at the bit to go after consultant Howard Wolfson and other Glover Park Group members.)

This concern is a very valid one, and it may very well become a realized nightmare. It has been written at Daily Kos that should Clinton win the nomination, Howard Dean's days as DNC Chair are numbered; that we'll go back to the McAuliffe era of losing elections because God forbid the DLC ever allow the Democratic Party to stick with strategies and tactics that actually help the party as a whole win. His Rudeness closes with:

The way to real victory that leads to real potential changes in the nation is not to play Rove's game. He is the master. Win or lose the battle, who cares, the true master knows, the real essence is what happens during the arc of the war. Don't believe it? Ask yourself how much that thrillingly new Democratic Congress actually got done that wouldn't have been done under a Republican one.

Which leads me to the second point. Jerrold Nadler -- who is on the House Judiciary Committee -- is one of Nancy Pelosi's chief allies in keeping impeachment from happening.

Conyers and some subgroup plan to take their proposal for non-impeachment imperial abuse hearings to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to request her blessing. She is, of course, most likely to share Nadler's position. She may have given Nadler his position, or perhaps it originated with Hillary Clinton, but it sounds most likely that Nadler has simply been speaking for himself: he honestly opposes impeachment hearings, even for emperors.

Let's lay it on the table here, again, because it really needs to be hammered home.

Wednesday's meeting was handicapped, of course, because no-one says aloud what the reasons are for opposing impeachment. That Cheney and Bush have committed impeachable offenses is universally understood. But the arguments against impeaching them (other priorities, bipartisanship, we don't have the votes, etc.) usually sound like lame cover for whatever the real reason is. I suspect the real reason is built into Nadler's plan of wasting a year in order to pass bills next year. He assumes that in 2009 there will be either a better Congress or a better president (he backs Hillary Clinton), or both.

Sadly, history says otherwise. For 230 years, the party that brings impeachment wins, and the party that fails to do so when it's called for loses. Conyers was there when the Democrats moved to impeach Nixon and then won big. He was there when they refused to impeach Reagan and then lost. And most of the current committee was there when the Republicans impeached Clinton against the will of the public for a non-impeachable offense and still won both houses of Congress and the White House.

When the Democrats held back from impeachment during Iran Contra, they lost the next elections. When the Democrats led the effort to investigate and impeach Nixon, they won big in the next election, even though Ford was running as an incumbent. When the Republicans tried to impeach Truman, they got what they wanted out of the Supreme Court and then won the next elections. Articles of impeachment have been filed against 10 presidents, usually by Republicans, and usually with electoral success following. When the Republicans impeached Clinton, impeachment was actually unpopular with the public. Even so, the Republicans lost far fewer seats than is the norm for a majority party at that point in its tenure. Two years later, they lost seats in the Senate, which had acquitted, but maintained their strength in the House, with representatives who had led the impeachment charge winning big.

Parties that seek to impeach are not punished at the next election. In fact, they frequently improve their position -- as evidenced by the Democrats in 1974, Republicans in 1952, and all the way back to the Whigs of last century. In every election back to 1842 where House members of an opposition party to a sitting president have -- as a whole or a significant caucus within the party -- proposed impeachment of the president, that opposition party retained or improved its position in the House at the following election. There is no instance of voters responding to a significant impeachment effort by sweeping its advocates out of office. In fact, history points in a different direction, suggesting that voters frequently reward parties for taking the Constitution and the rule of law seriously.

The Democrats have no legislative agenda to distract from. Voters do not care that they don't have enough votes to impeach; they simply want Democrats to try. And impeachment, historically, benefits the political party that brings it up -- while punishing the political party that opposes it. So why are Congressional Democrats so afraid to even try?

I keep coming back to one or both of two probabilities. Congressional Democrats opposed to impeachment approve -- for whatever reasons -- of the imperial executive. They're simply cowards. Whether it's one, the other, or both, the fact remains that voters have a nasty tendency to punish those politicians who deny them justice. 2008 shall be no different, unless we can convince Congress to get its collective act together and initiate impeachment proceedings and the presidential candidates to stop playing by Karl Rove's rules.

One last thing: I just found this posted at MySpace. Consider it a gift for all my fellow Kucinich supporters.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Busting the Myth of Ron Paul, Part Three

The way he talks about going back to the Constitution, you'd think Ron Paul actually believes in it. And yet, when the time came for him to actually stand up for that venerable document, he was and continues to be strangely absent. Consider the case of HR 1955, which amounts to a thought crime bill. It was a sickening display of cowardice on the part of Democrats, voting for yet another of the shrub's unconstitutional police state measures. In ordinary times, no Congress in its right collective mind would be allowed to get away with such a thing. But we do not live in ordinary times. But where was Ron Paul, supposedly the champion of the Constitution, in the HR 1955 vote?

No Vote TX-14 Paul, Ronald [R]

Nay OH-10 Kucinich, Dennis [D]

For that matter, where has Ron Paul been on voting for any legislation that actually protects Americans and the Constitution? Here are a couple more interesting comparisons between Paul and Dennis Kucinich.

Ronald Paul missed 666 of 7012 votes (9%) since Jan 7, 1997.

Dennis Kucinich missed 345 of 7012 votes (5%) since Jan 7, 1997.

Ron Paul voted against a bill, HR 2517, which according to the summary:

Amends the Missing Children's Assistance Act to reauthorize through FY2013, and revise requirements for uses of, the annual grant to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention.

Why did he do that? And why did he vote against HR 3791, which would do the following:

Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act of 2007 or the SAFE Act of 2007 - Amends the federal criminal code to expand the reporting requirements of electronic communication and remote computing service providers (service providers) with respect to violations of child sexual exploitation and pornography laws. Requires such service providers, in reporting violations of such laws to the CyberTipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (Center) to provide: (1) information on the Internet identity of a suspected sex offender, including the electronic mail address, website address, uniform resource locator, or other identifying information; (2) the time child pornography was uploaded or discovered; (3) geographic location information for the offender; and (4) images of such child pornography. Requires the Center to forward each report which it receives from a service provider to a designated law enforcement agency.

Requires service providers to preserve images of child pornography for evidentiary purposes.

Authorizes the Center to provide images of child pornography reported to its CyberTipline to service providers to enable such providers to stop further transmissions of of pornographic images.

Grants service providers and the Center immunity from civil claims or criminal charges for complying the requirements of this Act, except for certain intentional or reckless misconduct.

Where was Representative Paul on HR 4136? And for someone who claims to stand up for the Constitution, where was he on HR 3773? Look at his voting record for last year, and you'll learn he didn't cast a vote. And where was Ron Paul on the impeachment of Dick Cheney, when Dennis Kucinich introduced the Articles of Impeachment in November last year?

Ron Paul joined his fellow Republicans in voting to table the resolution. Then, when the GOPers in the House decided to suddenly keep the bill alive in order to embarrass Democrats into voting against impeachment, he up and joined his fellow Republicans again. Finally, when the GOPers decided they'd had enough fun and allowed Nancy Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney to the Judiciary Committee to die, Paul voted aye.

When it comes to protecting Americans, and when it comes to protecting the Constitution, Ron Paul's record is at best spotty and at worst, indicative of someone who thinks it's a game. A game!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Busting the Myth of Ron Paul, Part Two

Part Two in a series.

It was January 28, 2000. Ron Paul was hellbent on killing "any expansion of OSHAs regulatory authority". [1] Giving his speech to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which falls under the House Education and Workforce Committee, he went on a tirade that might shock his more left-leaning supporters today. What was it, you might ask, that he stated?

Modern technology, such as e-mail and the Internet, allows employees to be productive members of the workforce without leaving their homes! The option of "telecommuting" is particularly valuable for women with young children or those caring for elderly parents. Using technology to work at home gives these Americans the chance to earn a living and have a fulfilling career while remaining at home with their children or elderly parents. Telecommuting also makes it easier for citizens with disabilities to become productive members of the job market. Any federal requirements holding employers liable for the conditions of a home office may well cause some employers to forbid their employees from telecommuting, thus shutting millions of mothers, persons caring for elderly parents, and disabled citizens out of the workforce!

It was a lie, of course, that last statement. To date, no one has been prevented from working out of his or her home because of OSHA requirements.

Paul was railing for the "Home Office Protection Enhancement (HOPE) Act, amending the Occupational Safety and Health Act to clarify that OSHA has no authority over worksites located in an employee's residence." In other words, a bill that denied home-based employees the same OSHA protections afforded to employees who work outside the home. Fortunately the bill, which Paul co-sponsored, never passed. Nor did two similar bills from that session of Congress, both designed to strip OSHA protections from home-based workers. [2] [3]

On the surface, Paul's objection to extending OSHA protections to home-based employees might seem valid. After all, employers cannot control conditions in an employee's home that might lead to sickness or injury on the job. But OSHA's web site explains the need thusly:

Even when the workplace is in a designated area in an employee's home, the employer retains some degree of control over the conditions of the "work at home" agreement. An important factor in the development of these arrangements is to ensure that employees are not exposed to reasonably foreseeable hazards created by their at-home employment. Ensuring safe and healthful working conditions for the employee should be a precondition for any home-based work assignments. Employers should exercise reasonable diligence to identify in advance the possible hazards associated with particular home work assignments, and should provide the necessary protection through training, personal protective equipment, or other controls appropriate to reduce or eliminate the hazard. In some circumstances the exercise of reasonable diligence may necessitate an on-site examination of the working environment by the employer. Employers must take steps to reduce or eliminate any work-related safety or health problems they become aware of through on-site visits or other means.

Certainly, where the employer provides work materials for use in the employee's home, the employer should ensure that employer-provided tools or supplies pose no hazard under reasonably foreseeable conditions of storage or use by employees. An employer must also take appropriate steps when the employer knows or has reason to know that employee-provided tools or supplies could create a safety or health risk.

An employer is responsible for ensuring that its employees have a safe and healthful workplace, not a safe and healthful home. The employer is responsible only for preventing or correcting hazards to which employees may be exposed in the course of their work. For example: if work is performed in the basement space of a residence and the stairs leading to the space are unsafe, the employer could be liable if the employer knows or reasonably should have known of the dangerous condition.

Paul, of course, dismissed this eminently reasonable logic. Why? Because his friends in the telecommunications industry were pressuring Congress to do away with even the minimal safety requirements OSHA had in place for home-based employees. (His contributors include AT&T, and between 1999 and 2001 he had received $2,500 in contributions from telecommunications companies.) Ron Paul is ever the champion of unregulated business. But that's not the only example of Ron Paul coming down on the side of business. Far from it. He has opposed increases to the minimum wage, despite there being no evidence that such increases have harmed the economies of states in which minimum wage increases have been passed.

Economic principles dictate that when government imposes a minimum wage rate above the market wage rate, it creates a surplus `wedge' between the supply of labor and the demand for labor, leading to an increase in unemployment. Employers cannot simply begin paying more to workers whose marginal productivity does not meet or exceed the law-imposed wage. The only course of action available to the employer is to mechanize operations or employ a higher-skilled worker whose output meets or exceeds the `minimum wage.' This, of course, has the advantage of giving the skilled worker an additional (and government-enforced) advantage over the unskilled worker. For example, where formerly an employer had the option of hiring three unskilled workers at $5 per hour or one skilled worker at $16 per hour, a minimum wage of $6 suddenly leaves the employer only the choice of the skilled worker at an additional cost of $1 per hour. I would ask my colleagues, if the minimum wage is the means to prosperity, why stop at $6.65--why not $50, $75, or $100 per hour?

Such nonsensical claims aside, there simply is no evidence to support claims that increasing the minimum wage would have any significant negative impact on jobs. Indeed, just the opposite. [4] [5] [6] [7]

These are but a few examples of Ron Paul's deference to corporate interests. Look past his rhetoric of favoring property rights and dig deeper into his sermonizing on the "virtues" of the free market.

Sources for Ron Paul's speeches: http://www.house.gov/...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Busting the myth of Ron Paul, Part One

I see a lot of support for Ron Paul out there. I don't know why. I mean, yes, he's against the Iraq war and the USA PATRIOT Act. So, by the way, does Pat Buchanan. That doesn't make Pat Buchanan a progressive by any stretch of the imagination. Nor does it make Ron Paul. Who here, who supports the U.S. Representative from Texas (the same state which inflicted George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson upon us, and killed John F. Kennedy), really knows what he's all about?

ZMag.org explains a bit about what Ron Paul stands for, but I want to address something that doesn't usually get covered. Paul thinks the Civil War, which resulted in the legal end of slavery in the United States, was wrong and should never have been fought. Why? Because he thinks it hurt property rights. His asinine alternative to fighting the American Civil War doesn't make sense, either.

Let's analyze Ron Paul's nonsense. He is against the federal government intervening in any capacity to do anything for the common good. He preaches that the free market will take care of all ills (yeah, the Great Depression was just a shining example of this, right Ronnie-boy?). In Ron Paul's twisted imagination, the federal government cannot do anything other than fund the military. That's it. And his 'privatize everything' position makes even that highly unlikely.

But let's get back to the subject of "buying the slaves". With what money? Ron Paul doesn't believe in charging taxes under any circumstances, so where would he have gotten the money to purchase the slaves? From the free market? Doubtful, since the free market dictates that it do only what is in the interests of the market. And it certainly was not in the interests of the free market in 1860 to end slavery, since slavery was a key component in its function. Free labor, and you don't even have to worry about safety regulations or all of that "socialist" claptrap about unalienable human rights. Because slaves were not considered human, they were considered property.

Which brings us to the next problem in Ron Paul's answer. Property rights. The boy is your typical property rights zealot, unwilling to do or allow anything that he thinks would harm property rights. And slaves, as we know from history, were considered property. Suppose the South had refused the sale of its slaves? What then? Ron Paul would have thrown up his hands, given up trying to free the slaves, and put off the problem for future generations to handle.

The sad reality of Ron Paul's anti-Lincoln rhetoric is that it hides the racism of a boy whose hatred for government precludes him from doing anything that might achieve some good for the public, because it would interfere with his precious free market. Had Ron Paul been president in the 1860s, we'd still have slavery today. Or the Civil War would have been fought decades later, but still fought, and probably with even greater loss of life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obama's just another politician.

Like anyone who values truth really needed confirmation. This was posted at Daily Kos originally, but the hyper-partisan candidate trolls seem to have gotten it removed. So here it is in all its glory, courtesy of ClintB and me.
Obama's Real Change Record

Watch the videos below and tell me this guy is about "change." In Chicago, it was more of the same. Obama said he didn't do any favors for Rezko, but that was a lie. Letters were discovered that Obama wrote for Rezko. This story is not going away. He is no better than any other crooked politician. His record speaks for itself and it "ain't" pretty...


Update: Are any of you going to address this scandal with his real record? He wrote letters for this slum owner who let his tenants live in very poor conditions! He was writing recommendation letters for the guy and you're ok with that?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dear John.

I freely admit, you were not my man for most of 2004. I was a Kucinich supporter until convention, and for a long time afterward I couldn't bring myself to be enthusiastic about your campaign. John, let me be blunt: you ran a granny campaign four years ago. This isn't to say I didn't hold my nose and vote for you in November that year, but I knew you were weak as a presidential candidate. It was evident from the way you let the Republican Noise Machine slime your record in the U.S. Senate, in the way you let it tarnish your Vietnam war record. Hell, Chris Matthews did the bulk of the fighting for you on that one!

It wasn't as though you had to stand for that nonsense. You could have fought back, saying loudly and clearly that if an incumbent who can't even account for his own whereabouts during his champagne unit days in the Texas Air National Guard wants to call bullshit on your record he'd damned well better be man enough to fight his own battle instead of waging it through Karl Rove's friends.

It wasn't until I saw you clean the shrub's clock in the debates that my concerns about you began to evaporate. Watching you own that boy's pathetic ass on stage filled me with hope. I'd begun to let myself think -- perhaps foolishly, I knew deep down, but didn't let myself care -- that you were simply saving it all for when it really mattered, going toe to toe with the stammering, whiny little bitch that is Shrubya. You pummeled him into the floor boards. I was surprised the boy's Depends didn't leak all over the place, flooding the stage with his fear-generated ammonia stench. Edwards had pulled his weight, too, against the gargoyle. I wasn't so sure, but the boy behind the throne came off looking like the evil, cranky old piece of filth he is. And that turned a lot of people off. It was beautiful, man. Brilliant. Sure, the punditocracy couldn't bring itself to admit you'd won every debate, settling for calling it a draw. But we all knew who the victor was. You stood up on those stages and eviscerated the incumbent like a trained surgeon with a finely sharpened scalpel.

MAN, was I hoping on election night. But it all began to go sour. I stood in the campaign office that evening listening to the coverage on CBS, watching as Black voters complained that they had witnessed their votes recorded for the shrub on those Diebold machines. It was happening again, I knew it. But part of me still wanted to believe it wasn't over. Later, as I made my way around the campaign party downtown, I watched on the television as the results began to come in. You coming out ahead, only to watch in horror as your lead began to flip. My worst nightmare, I knew, had been confirmed. The shrub had stolen another election out from under us. But you had promised to "let every vote be counted," to fight for your victory to the bitter end. I believed, or wanted to believe, that you would keep your promise.

How wrong I was, how utterly disappointed. Even as revelation upon revelation came to light about how the vote was rigged, still you refused to challenge the electoral result. No, while John Edwards fumed and begged for you to do something, you had already made up your mind to give up. Your heart had never really been in the race, and you didn't want to go through what Gore did, being slammed down by the Supreme Kangaroo Court.

You let us down four years ago, John, and you've been letting us down ever since. You refused to filibuster Gonzales, Mukasey, or any other Bush appointee. You stood by and did nothing to fight the blank checks for the shrub's ill-gotten and monumentally bungled war. You stood up on a stage last year and did nothing but drone on in your usual monotone for "calm" as a student was brutally assaulted and tortured for daring the unthinkable: asking you questions! The horror!

And now you've let us down again, in perhaps the saddest display since your meek capitulation in 2004. You endorsed Obama, stabbing your former running mate in the back and proving once and for all that you are not a fighter for us; you're simply a bystander on the stage of life helping to throw it all away for us again.

You must know, by now, Obama's record does not match his fine rhetoric. Yeah, he came out criticizing the $87,000,000,000 blank check for the Iraq war. But for one supplemental, which he and Clinton had to be shamed into voting against, he has done his part to help this atrocious war run at full steam. Never mind that the steam engine is steadily breaking down, that we'll have to pull out sooner than anyone thinks. You must know, by now, his record on health care is a travesty of pro-corporate capitulating to the health insurance industry. You must also know, by now, his remarks dissing not only labor, but you and Al Gore as well. What were you thinking? Or were you thinking at all when you made your endorsement?

John, dear boy, you've demonstrated your irrelevance and poor judgment once again. No one who's anyone in politics takes you seriously anymore. If you're dumb enough to throw your support behind a guy who just a few weeks ago was trash-talking you, you deserve to remain in political oblivion.

Please don't take this personally. I'm sure you're a nice guy, and that the good people of Massachusetts are quite happy to have you right where you are. (I could be wrong, however; just ask 'Republican Joe' LIEberman.) But there comes a time in a political party's life when it realizes that sticking around in a stagnant relationship can only do more harm than good. It's not that you're a relic of the past, it's that you're weak and don't have good judgment. And 2008 is a year in which Democrats are looking for the opposite in a presidential candidate. I'm sure you and Obama will make a fine couple. But dude, seriously, word of friendly warning: you're not getting the VP slot. Your new man's going to break your heart just as you broke ours.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Even Dowd saw through Clinton's crocodile tears.

When Maureen Dowd -- the New York Times' resident ├╝ber-feminist -- sees through Hillary Clinton's act, that is saying something that ought not to be casually dismissed. In her newest column, Dowd speculates that Clinton might win the nomination by playing the female victim card, as she did in New Hampshire. Now, before I continue, I should point out that I don't care much for Maureen Dowd. She is the NYT's version of MSNBC's Chris Matthews, practicing what I call the schoolgirl characterization brand of political analysis. That is to say, she's all about the shallow, superficial aspects of politics -- chattering on about haircuts and masculinity and clothes, rather than the actual substance of policy positions. But today she was in fine form. She points out:

She won her Senate seat after being embarrassed by a man. She pulled out New Hampshire and saved her presidential campaign after being embarrassed by another man. She was seen as so controlling when she ran for the Senate that she had to be seen as losing control, as she did during the Monica scandal, before she seemed soft enough to attract many New York voters.

Getting brushed back by Barack Obama in Iowa, her emotional moment here in a cafe and her chagrin at a debate question suggesting she was not likable served the same purpose, making her more appealing, especially to women, particularly to women over 45.
Clinton's act the other day was a cynical act of political calculation, one that has served her well. It allowed her to do two things going in the wake of Iowa: gain voter sympathy as the beat-up girl in the campaign; and have cover for her attack on Obama over national security, a page pulled straight from Karl Rove's playbook.

Gordon Brown comes in, the very next day, there are terrorist attacks. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful, from London to Scotland. So, you've got to be prepared on day one with everything ready to go.
It was, as I stated, a cynical calculation. And fundamentally dishonest. For what incoming executives -- other than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney -- would not have a transition team in place long before election day to prepare for upcoming eventualities, both real and potential? Had Clinton not pretended to lose control of her emotions when she did, her attack would not have worked and Obama might have prevailed -- albeit by a narrower margin than he did in Iowa. Instead, the fake tears tipped that statistically marginal balance in Clinton's favor. Never mind that in terms of delegates, Clinton and Obama won an equal number. She knows as well as her chief rival that what matters is how the press reports the results, not how the statistics break down.

I've never believed, as some have suggested, that Hillary Clinton has no emotions. I do believe she has much better control over them than most lay people, by simple virtue of her trade. She knows when and how to display emotion, and use it to her advantage. There is never a time when Clinton is truly out of control. Consider this bit of condescending whining: "I just don’t want to see us fall backwards...some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not." Put the selfish, teary-eyed whining and the Rovian attack together, and Clinton's political calculations become evident. Her phony breakdown became the thing that salvaged her presidential campaign.

This is not to say that Clinton's near-breakdown didn't have a hint of genuine emotion; after running for months on a sense of entitlement to the presidency, the former president's wife had clearly come to believe the hype over her perceived inevitability. As she saw her hopes of becoming president dashed, she honestly felt as though she was being robbed a second time.
[T]here was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.

As Spencer Tracy said to Katharine Hepburn in “Adam’s Rib,” “Here we go again, the old juice. Guaranteed heart melter. A few female tears, stronger than any acid.”

The Clintons once more wriggled out of a tight spot at the last minute. Bill churlishly dismissed the Obama phenom as “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen,” but for the last few days, it was Hillary who seemed in danger of being Cinderella. She became emotional because she feared that she had reached her political midnight, when she would suddenly revert to the school girl with geeky glasses and frizzy hair, smart but not the favorite. All those years in the shadow of one Natural, only to face the prospect of being eclipsed by another Natural?

Kudos to Dowd for being smart enough to see through Hillary Clinton's whiny victim act. The question now is, will the rest of America?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ruminations on the NH primary, and the fate of the Democratic Party.

By this time tomorrow we'll have learned if New Hampshire goes decisively to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. What's really disturbing is the possibility that Iowa and New Hampshire voted the way they did because their citizens really did vote their beliefs -- in which case that's a sad and rather pathetic commentary on the state of our political system: deciding between corporate conservativism and extreme religious conservatism, but no matter how you cut it, choosing conservatism.

Granted, Iowa and New Hampshire are not the beginning and the end of a presidential election; in 1992, conservative Democrat Bill Clinton lost both those states but came back in the later primaries to win the Democratic nomination. Shall we see that happen again, only this time with the eventual nominee being Progressive-in-training John Edwards? Or shall we see a repeat performance of the 2000 and 2004 disasters that handed a fundamentally weak Democrat the nomination because of the 'anybody but Bush-GOP' mentality -- with the the country remaining firmly under the iron heel of the GOP?

It's grounds for serious consideration. Barack Obama's nice-sounding rhetoric masks a Clintonesque conservativism that cannot be ignored. And we all know Clinton's record by now even if many of us would rather make excuses for her (she has to look tough against Republicans, she has to work with the opposition because it's too strong, yadda yadda yadda). If either of these candidates wins the nomination, it shall send a highly unpalatable message about the state of the Democratic party: either it is too easily fooled by snake oil salespeople who ignore the base and will most certainly govern from the right, or its politics really are far too conservative to be considered anything more than Republican-light. And that is a disturbing thought, indeed. I really hope I'm wrong.

On the other hand, there is the 1992 election. As stated before, Bill Clinton lost the early caucuses and primaries, but went on to win the nomination. It is possible, though unlikely, that the eventual nominee shall be former North Carolina senator John Edwards. In such a situation, Edwards is clearly the more progressive candidate. In a recent Democracy for America poll, Edwards came out on top amongst progressives by a significant margin, regardless of which of the two early winners he faces. And whoever the Democratic nominee ultimately ends up being is going to need that progressive base in order to win, no matter what the beltway pundits tell us. It is still possible that Edwards could sweep the Super Tuesday primaries, leaving Obama and Clinton in the proverbial dust, simply by winning over the vital base in the later primaries.

But that remains to be seen. Edwards may not end up with the Democratic nomination, which means the GOP is going to eat Obama or Clinton for breakfast. That is a given. The Republican Party is comprised these days of vicious beasts that think absolutely nothing of gutting a Democrat and using his entrails to decorate their fireplace mantles. Just ask Hillary Clinton after her attempt to get health care reform in the 1990s. After having her butt handed to her on that front, she decided she couldn't fight the health care industry and sold out. Obama, apparently, reached a similar conclusion -- and without having even tried to fight for health care for all Americans; his record in the Illinois State Senate is a testament to this unfortunate fact.

Like I said, I really hope I'm wrong about all this. But it's looking increasingly as though the 2008 Democratic primary battle will end up being a race between two corporate conservatives. Even if the eventual nominee manages to survive the general election against the GOP nominee, even if he or she manages to actually get sworn in upon being elected (we cannot discount more vote fraud on the part of the RNC handing its candidate the White House again), a President Obama or Clinton shall not be able to prevail against a re-invigorated GOP in Congress. No thanks to Pelosi and Reid, Democrats stand to lose control of the legislature in November despite all the polls showing the party ahead. Voters are not forgiving of politicians who deny them justice (just ask the shade of Gerald Ford).

Iowa and New Hampshire should serve as a wake up call for our political party in the rest of the nation. We cannot afford another four to eight years of Republican misrule in the White House. Nor can we afford another four to eight years of conservative Democrats in the White House, waffling under to an emboldened and restored Republican legislature, acting merely as more steady and competent drivers of the corporate wagon that has been dragging America to the political right. The stakes are simply too high. We can only hope that Edwards manages to pull a miracle in the later primary states.

Monday, January 07, 2008

New Hampshire: don't follow Iowa's lead, do the right thing.

The other day I lamented that Iowans had really learned nothing from 2004. I figured that they had jumped on the bandwagon of whichever candidate looked like a winner. Of course, I might have considered before then that maybe, as the Rude Pundit pointed out, "[w]hite people will vote for a black person, especially if that black person is not nearly as liberal as the second place white person." In other words, Iowans might actually have heeded my earlier advice and voted for the candidate they liked best, which speaks ill of the state of our political party. I mean, is Iowa really that conservative? The thought is worrisome.

At any rate, tomorrow the good citizens of New Hampshire have a chance to vote for an actual, Progressive candidate. Or a Progressive-in-training, like John Edwards. Or, as in Iowa, an anti-change, pro-corporate, status quo candidate like Obama or Clinton. Either way, here are some questions the voters of New Hampshire should ask themselves regarding the issues most important to all Americans.

1.) Which Candidate has stood up for the Constitution and rule of law? Comparing the candidates still in the race (Chris Dodd and Joe Biden dropped out after the Iowa results were aired, leaving only six candidates), only Dennis Kucinich has actually led the fight in holding the Bush-Cheney regime accountable for its litany of crimes. By forcing a debate on impeaching Dick Cheney onto the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis has shown that he is willing to stand up and show leadership in answering the demands of the public -- which has been calling for impeachment for years only to go ignored by Democratic "leaders". Now, even though the articles of impeachment against Cheney have been buried in the House Judiciary Committee, several members of that committee have stepped up the pressure on chairman John Conyers to bring them forth and pass them. All of the other candidates for president now running have either opposed impeachment, or failed to speak out in support of it. Neither Barack Obama, the Iowa winner, or Hillary Clinton have shown leadership in standing up in the U.S. Senate to the regime's abuses of the Constitution. Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate now running for president who has shown this vital leadership.

2.) Which candidate will get us out of Iraq in the quickest, safest manner possible? This one is a tough question, because the way the Bush-Cheney regime have bungled the occupation (deliberately, so as to keep us in as long as they can) there is no easy way out, or one that will not lead to a greater short term crisis. Whoever the next president is shall have to go back to the United Nations with the Unites States' collective tail between their legs essentially begging for help in restoring what we've destroyed, and helping us extract ourselves from this mess while maintaining some form of stability. It shall not be easy, and a lot of tough decisions will have to be made. But as it stands right now, Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards have both proposed a more rapid and sensible withdrawal from Iraq than the other candidates.

3.) Which candidates are most likely to reverse the power-grabs and abuses of executive power by the current regime? Neither Obama or Clinton have demonstrated that they would. And John Edwards really doesn't seem to have mentioned much about what he would do to reverse the trend of dictatorial usurpations of power from the other two branches of government carried out by the Bush-Cheney regime. Given his record, Dennis Kucinich is the Democrat most likely to reverse the usurpations of power enacted by the Bush-Cheney regime.

4.) Which candidate is most likely to take drastic and serious action to fix our sagging economy, rebuild vital infrastructure, push for the creation of jobs through incentives, protect labor rights, strengthen unions, restore the dollar, and enact fair trade policies? This is another tough one, because both Kucinich and Edwards have spoken out the most regarding these fundamental components. Obama and Clinton have spent the most time trashing them. And do we even know Bill Richardson's position? And what about Mike Gravel? Kucinich has spoken out most strongly, but he may not be able to put together enough of a coalition to fight the interests of big business. Dennis has burned bridges in his time, I have to admit that, even though it was the right thing to do and his willingness to risk political ruin showed integrity not usually seen in the last forty years. Edwards, too, has spoken out against the interests of big business and for labor -- even though his past record as former senator from North Carolina is spotty; but he may be able to pull enough Democrats and shrewd Republicans together to get us going in the right direction. As has been pointed out, Obama and Clinton have both sold us out to the interests of big business far too often in both the past and in recent months to be counted upon. For me, it's a toss-up between Kucinich and Edwards.

5.) Which candidates are most likely to push for true, comprehensive changes in health care in America? Obama actually fought against health care change as a state senator in Illinois, and his rhetoric of conciliation with the health insurance industry is so unrealistic as to be laughable. Not only is it unrealistic, it is indicative of an anti-Progressive agenda by a man whose true colors expose his fealty to the health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. He is behind only Clinton in U.S. senators receiving the largest amount of payoff money from those industries. So those two candidates should not even be in consideration on the health care issue. Who does that leave? Kucinich and Edwards. As a matter of record, Kucinich's HR 676 is precisely what America needs: single-payer, not for profit health care that covers everyone. John Edwards' health care plan, while not even close to achieving this ultimate goal, is nevertheless a good step forward in the right direction (Ezra Klein offers a very good analysis at The American Prospect). Again, based on the candidates' records, it's a toss-up between Kucinich and Edwards.

6.) Which candidates are all about the progressive taxation? With Obama, Clinton, and Richardson, it's all about the status quo -- Rubinomics versus Bushonomics. Only Kucinich and Edwards have called for raising taxes on the very wealthy. Kucinich and Edwards would deliver on progressive taxation; the others wouldn't.

7.) Which candidate is most likely to take serious, drastic action on the environment and Global Warming? As Obama demonstrated back in April 2007, he wouldn't do more than switch over to different light bulbs. Clinton and Richardson haven't taken a firm stand on this vital issue. Indeed, none of these three candidates seems to take seriously the growing, catastrophic phenomenon we know as Global Warming, and how our nation's energy policy has helped it along. Kucinich alone stands as the candidate most likely to take action.

Summation: When you break it all down, it comes down to which of the two most Progressive candidates -- Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards -- New Hampshire voters should vote for. Mike Gravel isn't even a factor in this race anymore, because of the combination of media blackballing and lack of support. Bill Richardson appears to be merely a shadow in this race, waiting to see which of the two so-called top tier candidates he'll suck up to for a cabinet position. And Obama and Clinton are both in the back pockets of Big Business. Voters of New Hampshire have a choice: vote for actual change and help us win back the presidency, or stick with the status quo and go down in yet another stolen presidential election. If either Obama or Clinton takes the nomination, the Republican Noise Machine will eat that candidate alive -- and the inevitable GOP vote fraud will kick in during the close election to steal it our from under us. But against an actual, Progressive nominee, Republicans (and Big Business) have no hope. It's why they've gone to such great lengths to eliminate all candidates from this race who stand in vocal opposition to the status quo. Don't let them pick our candidates for us, new Hampshire. Speak out with one, Progressive voice, and make the right decision. Don't let us down tomorrow.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Some questions to ask at the next Democratic debate.

1.) Why were Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel again shut out of the latest Democratic debate? They didn't drop out of the presidential race, and there has yet been only one caucus. Is it because the two of them are not moneyed enough? And if so, why is ABC dictating who should be heard? Shouldn't voters make that decision?

2.) Why is Illinois senator Barack Obama using anti-lobbyist rhetoric, when he has been accepting money from the health insurance industry and has previously gutted health care legislation as a state senator? According to the Boston Globe:

When Barack Obama and fellow state lawmakers in Illinois tried to expand healthcare coverage in 2003 with the "Health Care Justice Act," they drew fierce opposition from the insurance industry, which saw it as a back-handed attempt to impose a government-run system.

Over the next 15 months, insurers and their lobbyists found a sympathetic ear in Obama, who amended the bill more to their liking partly because of concerns they raised with him and his aides, according to lobbyists, Senate staff, and Obama's remarks on the Senate floor.

The wrangling over the healthcare measure, which narrowly passed and became law in 2004, illustrates how Obama, during his eight years in the Illinois Senate, was able to shepherd major legislation by negotiating competing interests in Springfield, the state capital. But it also shows how Obama's own experience in lawmaking involved dealings with the kinds of lobbyists and special interests he now demonizes on the campaign trail.

Also:

By the time the legislation passed the Senate, in May 2004, Obama had written three successful amendments, at least one of which made key changes favorable to insurers.

(Snip)

Lobbyists praised Obama for taking the insurance industry's concerns into consideration.

Is Obama's support for the health insurance industry the reason it has made him its number two top recipient of payoff money after Hillary Clinton, according to a New York Time article reproduced on Michael Moore's web site?

One of Mr. Obama’s fund-raisers, Kirk Dornbush, president of Iconic Therapeutics, a biotech company in Atlanta, said, "The contributions reflect the simple calculus of the health care industry, making a bet that Democrats will control the White House and both houses of Congress after the next election."

Drug and device makers have donated about $275,000 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, making her the top recipient of money from that sector, followed by Mr. Obama, with $261,400, and Mr. Romney, with nearly $259,000.

Does this explain why both Obama's and Clinton's health care packages are effectively giveaways to the health insurance industry?

3.) What, specifically, do each of the candidates invited to the debate intend to do about the environment, energy policy, and participating in international efforts to curb Global Warming? It's a legitimate question, and one that deserves more than a mere, "switch to energy efficient light bulbs" answer.

4.) Thus far, only one senator running for president has demonstrated leadership in opposing Iraq war funding, and standing up to abuses of the Constitution. If Senators Obama and Clinton won't show leadership in the Senate, or fulfill their oaths of office as senators, what makes them think they can convince voters they'll do it as president? I think the least we should be able to expect from a presidential candidate is that he show leadership when it matters, and display a deep commitment to the Constitution -- even if it means risking one's presidential campaign.

5.) Will future debates exclude John Edwards, even if he hasn't dropped out? I ask, because it seems the mainstream, corporate media is hellbent on picking our candidates for us. And that is absolutely, 100% wrong.

6.) Of the candidates invited to the debate, which one has actually promised to pull the U.S. out of Iraq within a year? And why should we support any candidate who refuses to commit to such a withdrawal? Remember Iraq? And how about Afghanistan? And let's not forget about Iran, which seems to have dropped off the political radar since the NIE was released.

7.) Speaking of Iran, why have most of the Democratic candidates -- the exceptions being Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel -- swallowed the Bush regime's lies about Iran developing nukes, and spoken as though such a deception was a given truth? Shouldn't Democrats be as publicly skeptical of White House lies as anyone else, if not moreso, given the track record this regime has for deception?

I'll probably add more questions later.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Message to New Hampshire: don't blow it like Iowa did.

Don't hand the primary to a candidate who is not fit to be president. Don't pick him just because he won the first caucus state. Jumping on the bandwagon of the first candidate to win isn't going to get a Democrat elected president. That's the lesson Iowans failed to learn from 2004. You can be different. You have a chance to help us pick a winning candidate. Do not hand Barack Obama the nomination.

And here are the big reasons why:

#1 - His faulty intelligence on Iran. As I pointed out in my blog last April, during the second Democratic presidential debate in 2007 Obama stood up on stage and declared that there was "no dispute" that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and that Iran had admitted to doing so. Both statements were false. As Reuters reported as early as November 2006, the CIA -- and, we have since come to learn, the entire U.S. intelligence community -- issued a report stating quite clearly that there was no conclusive evidence of a weapons program. Tehran has also consistently denied making weapons, so it has never made such an admission. Stating one's intent to build power plants for conventional energy purposes is not the same as admitting to making weapons, no matter how much you might wish it to be. This kind of dangerous ignorance and refusal to be corrected indicates someone not only unwilling to do his homework prior to making a statement, but unwilling to learn from his mistakes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we already saddled with an executive who doesn't bother getting his facts straight or learn from errors he's made?

#2 - His faulty thinking about solving the health care crisis. As Paul Krugman writes,

Look, the point of a mandate isn’t to dictate how people should live their lives — it’s to prevent some people from gaming the system. Under the Obama plan, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance, then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. This would lead to higher premiums for everyone else. It would reward the irresponsible, while punishing those who did the right thing and bought insurance while they were healthy.

Krugman also writes,

The argument began during the Democratic debate, when the moderator — Carolyn Washburn, the editor of The Des Moines Register — suggested that Mr. Edwards shouldn’t be so harsh on the wealthy and special interests, because "the same groups are often responsible for getting things done in Washington."

Mr. Edwards replied, "Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen."

This was pretty clearly a swipe at Mr. Obama, who has repeatedly said that health reform should be negotiated at a "big table" that would include insurance companies and drug companies.

On Saturday Mr. Obama responded, this time criticizing Mr. Edwards by name. He declared that "We want to reduce the power of drug companies and insurance companies and so forth, but the notion that they will have no say-so at all in anything is just not realistic."

Hmm. Do Obama supporters who celebrate his hoped-for ability to bring us together realize that "us" includes the insurance and drug lobbies?

O.K., more seriously, it’s actually Mr. Obama who’s being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries — which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems — will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste.

As a result, drug and insurance companies — backed by the conservative movement as a whole — will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms. And what would Mr. Obama do then? "I’ll get on television and say Harry and Louise are lying," he says. I’m sure the lobbyists are terrified.

As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.

Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate.

There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now. For example, a recent Democracy Corps survey of voter discontent found that the most commonly chosen phrase explaining what’s wrong with the country was "Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington."

And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide. The latest evidence came from focus groups run by both Fox News and CNN during last week’s Democratic debate: both declared Mr. Edwards the clear winner.

But the news media recoil from populist appeals. The Des Moines Register, which endorsed Mr. Edwards in 2004, rejected him this time on the grounds that his "harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change."

And while The Register endorsed Hillary Clinton, the prime beneficiary of media distaste for populism has clearly been Mr. Obama, with his message of reconciliation. According to a recent survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Mr. Obama’s coverage has been far more favorable than that of any other candidate.

So what happens if Mr. Obama is the nominee?

He will probably win — but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform. Let’s be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public.

And nothing Mr. Obama has said suggests that he appreciates the bitterness of the battles he will have to fight if he does become president, and tries to get anything done.

It's a solid set of points that Krugman makes, and worth heeding. But it's not just Krugman who sees something fishy about Obama's health care plan. Michael Moore pointed out that Obama is now the second biggest recipient of payoff money from the health insurance industry, behind Hillary Clinton.

The Republicans won't go down without a fight. Look what happened when Kerry tried to play nice. So Barack, you can talk all you want about "let's put the partisanship aside, let's all get along," but the other side has no intention of being anything but the bullies they are. Get your game face on now. And, if you can, tell me why you are now the second largest recipient of health industry payola after Hillary. You now take more money from the people committed to stopping universal health care than any of the Republican candidates.

Why should you trust Barack Obama, New Hampshire, to deliver on health care reform when he is in the back pocket of the very same industries that created the mess we're in right now? For that matter, why trust Hillary Clinton? The answer, of course, is that you shouldn't. And neither should the rest of the nation.

#3 - His lack of concern for the environment. There is no longer any real or significant doubt about the realities of Global Warming. It's happening, and a lot faster than we all would like to think. We shall probably see drastic alterations to our coastlines before the end of the next decade. And while we're experiencing increased superstorms, floods, droughts, mass extinctions, plagues, and a host of other Global Warming-related ills, we're running out of oil. Fast. But what does Obama plan to do, as president, about this crisis? When asked about this at a debate, his answer did not evoke so much as a smidgen of confidence as to his understanding of the problem. In April 2007,

In the Democratic presidential candidates' debate, Sen. Barack Obama was asked what he personally was doing to save the environment, and replied that his family was "working on" changing their light bulbs.

I saw that debate myself. When the question about what he would do as president to combat Global Warming was asked, he got this deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, shifted uncomfortably, as though trying to come up with an answer, and then gave his answer: "uh...my family is using energy efficient light bulbs...?" How can we trust a candidate who freezes up when asked about a policy decision and can't give a satisfactory answer? We can't. It was a crucial test of leadership, one of many to be faced by Obama throughout 2007. And, like his chief rival at the time, Hillary Clinton, he failed. The presidency is not a learn-on-the-job office. You have to know what you're going to do about any given problem, have some inkling, before even declaring your candidacy. Otherwise, when it comes to crunch time and voters get a chance to see you in action against your opponents, you're going to lose. Big time. And so shall the rest of us.

#4 - Even if he manages to win, the GOP-controlled Legislature will eat him alive. The Democratic "leadership" in the House and Senate have blown it. They've already ceded control of Congress to the Republicans, even though they had official control in 2007. But voters are not going to forgive them this betrayal. 2006 was a mandate for change, but Pelosi, Hoyer, Emanuel and Reid decided they like being in the minority party -- and they've done everything in their power to ensure that there will be no change from the status quo. So voters across the nation are going to punish them by re-electing the GOP to majority status. I guarantee you, if you thought the GOP was vicious in handling Bill Clinton, wait until they return to power in Congress and go to town on Obama. It'll make the worst days of the DeLay-Hastert-Frist Congress and the Monica Lewinsky scandal look like a walk in the park by comparison.

#5 - His trashing of unions, fellow Democrats, and universal health care. See TomP's entry explaining it in more depth. Obama has spent more time dissing Democrats and, by extension, the party's much-needed base, than any presidential candidate should be doing. It's one thing to point out the flaws in a rival's platform, policy positions, and rhetoric. But when you consistently spend time dissing unions, universal health care, and the base itself, you're showing your true DLC colors. Guy almost sounds like Joe LIEberman.

#6 - His failure to lead. As I've pointed out in other diaries, none of the candidates are perfect. Some are better than others, and most of them have spotty records on one particular issue or another. Kucinich was anti-abortion rights until 2003 or 2004. Dodd, Biden, Obama and Clinton didn't even bother to show up to vote in the Senate against Mukasey. And Edwards, Biden, Clinton and Dodd all voted for what became the Iraq war resolution in 2002. But Obama's failure to show leadership goes a bit beyond that of the others, except perhaps for Hillary Clinton's (and even there, that's debatable for a reason I'll explain in a bit). I've already mentioned that Obama has with one exception voted to continue funding for the Iraq war. I've also point out that the one time he did, it was because he was shamed into doing it by Christopher Dodd, and then only cast his nay vote when the supplemental was assured passage and without fanfare. Obama and Clinton presume to be their political party's leaders, running for president as people who can take the initiative to do what's right for America. Clinton is a hawk, always has been despite her inconsistent rhetoric, and so it is understandable that she would not have the courage to vote against funding the Iraq war. But Obama ran for senator on the strength of his self-proclaimed anti-war position. Why did he not lead the fight against war funding once the Senate was back under Democratic control? Why did he let someone else shame him into doing what he was supposed to do? Never mind for a moment that it was the right thing to do; voting against war funding is the least he could have done, and should be doing at any time. Why is it Dodd, and not Obama or Clinton or Biden, leading the fight against retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that have illegally spied on us for the Bush-Cheney regime? Why wasn't Obama (or any of the other senators running for president) rushing back to the Senate to lead a filibuster of Mukasey, a pro-torture appointee to replace a pro-torture attorney general? And yet this is the man we're supposed to believe will show leadership as president? A man who has to be shamed into doing what his job and oath of office require of him, who won't even show up consistently to do even that?

Citizens of New Hampshire -- and citizens of all the United States -- Barack Obama is not the Change Candidate. He is Bill Clinton recycled. He, like Clinton and his wife, represents more of the same bullshit we've had to put up with from DLC Democrats for nearly twenty years. You have a chance to correct a mistake Iowans made this week. Only you needn't -- and most certainly shouldn't -- take this as a message that you ought to hand your state's primary to Hillary Clinton. No, she is even worse than Obama. There are only two candidates who represent real change in this race who now have any chance of bringing it about: John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich. Granted, Edwards did as a U.S. Senator vote for the Iraq war resolution. But he, like Obama, has done a 180 since his initial position. Whereas Obama initially opposed the war and has since used his time in the Senate to help keep it going, Edwards has seen the error of his ways and now advocates withdrawal. Edwards, unlike Obama, has demonstrated that he is capable of learning from mistakes. His health care plan, while not as sweeping or as progressive as Kucinich's (introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as HR 676), is nevertheless a lot closer to what we need than Obama's. Given the awful cost of health care in this country, it is worth considering that Edwards' plan is simply better and more well thought out.

You have a chance, New Hampshire, to do what Iowa wouldn't: give us a candidate who represents real change. Don't blow it like Iowans did.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hey Billary, remember these words?

You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones with which you so flippantly dismissed anti-war voters. These words:
If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from
It's caption time.


Billary W. Clinton: "Whoops, I guess they did choose other candidates."

So Iowans have learned nothing from 2004.

It's sad, really. Rather than vote for a progressive candidate, someone who represents the increasingly progressive majority of this country, Iowans chose to go for a Democrat who is all style and no substance, and a wacko fundie Republican who by comparison makes Pat Robertson on his most batshit insane days look normal. For the Democratic caucus, here's how the final numbers broke down.

Senator Barack Obama : 37.58%
Senator John Edwards : 29.75%
Senator Hillary Clinton : 29.47%
Governor Bill Richardson : 2.11%
Senator Joe Biden : 0.93%
Uncommitted : 0.14%
Senator Chris Dodd : 0.02%

Precincts Reporting: 1781 of 1781
(Percentages are State Delegate Equivalents.)

John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were a virtual tie for second place, with Edwards maintaining the slightest edge. Everyone else got just over two percent of the vote or less. A lot less. But what does this say about the sorry state of the Democratic Party, that a guy who ran -- if such a thing could have been considered possible until now -- to the right of Hillary Clinton won an early state caucus? Hillary Clinton, the de facto leader of the conservative DLC wing of the party.

It seems that Iowa Democrats learned nothing from 2004. Four years ago Howard Dean ran a grassroots campaign that rivaled that of Ohio's U.S. Representative, Dennis Kucinich. He was even handed unearned front-runner status going into the Iowa caucus. But the state Democratic Party decided it wanted a candidate -- John Kerry of Massachusetts -- whose record was at best weak and whose entire campaign ended up being a pitiful exercise in weakness against a Republican incumbent who, by any reasonable account, should have been eminently beatable. Last night, Iowan Democrats did it again.

What was really sad was that Dennis Kucinich instructed his supporters in Iowa to go with Obama as their choice if he failed to get 15% of the vote. Four years ago, he threw his Iowa supporters to Edwards. I really wish he'd done likewise this year, because Edwards is far more qualified for the presidency than Obama. On the flip side, Republican Mike Huckabee handily won his party's caucus in Iowa. The Washington Post breaks down the percentage points thusly:

Mike Huckabee: 34%
Mitt Romney: 24%
Fred Thompson: 13%
John McCain: 13% (Just a few hundred votes behind Thompson, another virtual tie.)
Ron Paul: 10%
Rudy Giuliani: 3%
Duncan Hunter: 0% (At 515 votes.)
Tom Tancredo: 0% (At a laughable five votes.)

So Iowa Republicans, then, want a bugfuck insane wacko religious fundamentalist in the nation's highest executive office. Wonderful. Giuliani apparently wrote off Iowa -- and New Hampshire, too -- hoping to win Florida, South Carolina, and other must-win states. It's a losing strategy, of course, by a doomed candidate who found himself exposed for the monster he truly is too early in the campaign. That's what you get, Giuliani, for thinking you could run for dictator without anyone finding out what was in your political closet. So say goodbye to the former mayor of New York's campaign.

If Iowa is an early indicator of which candidates we'll end up with running for president, then this country is fucked. Let's just hope New Hampshire gives the win to Edwards.

EDIT @ 10:36 AM EST: Michael Moore had these things to say going into the Iowa Caucus, and after the state had been called for Obama and Huckabee.

January 2, 2008

Barack Obama is a good and inspiring man. What a breath of fresh air! There's no doubting his sincerity or his commitment to trying to straighten things out in this country. But who is he? I mean, other than a guy who gives a great speech? How much do any of us really know about him? I know he was against the war. How do I know that? He gave a speech before the war started. But since he joined the senate, he has voted for the funds for the war, while at the same time saying we should get out. He says he's for the little guy, but then he votes for a corporate-backed bill to make it harder for the little guy to file a class action suit when his kid swallows lead paint from a Chinese-made toy. In fact, Obama doesn't think Wall Street is a bad place. He wants the insurance companies to help us develop a new health care plan -- the same companies who have created the mess in the first place. He's such a feel-good kinda guy, I get the sense that, if elected, the Republicans will eat him for breakfast. He won't even have time to make a good speech about it.

January 3, 2008 (After Iowa was called for Obama.)

The Republicans won't go down without a fight. Look what happened when Kerry tried to play nice. So Barack, you can talk all you want about "let's put the partisanship aside, let's all get along," but the other side has no intention of being anything but the bullies they are. Get your game face on now. And, if you can, tell me why you are now the second largest recipient of health industry payola after Hillary. You now take more money from the people committed to stopping universal health care than any of the Republican candidates.