Monday, December 31, 2007

The Economy in 2007 has an interesting article counting down their Top 10 Economic Stories of 2007.

We live in a new Gilded Age, one in which the wealthy are doing amazingly well -- really well -- while the vast majority of Americans try to cover spiraling costs with stagnant wages and struggle to stay afloat. This year, AlterNet writers analyzed the shifts in the American economy during (and before) the Bush years, held corporations accountable for the kinds of outrages the commercial media rarely touch and even found a few bright spots within the gloom.

The list covers everything from the corporate-driven fallacy of painless motherhood to the disintegration of the middle-class in America. There are links to fuller articles for each item on the list. It's an informative read.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Navy JAG Andrew Williams-Letter to Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Williams, A JAG officer with the Naval Reserve, resigned from the Navy, in protest over the accepted use of torture, in particular, water-boarding. Although he doesn't think much will change, he felt the need to take a stand and keep his commitment to honor his country and to defend the Constitution. Sadly, he had to acknowledge for himself that continuing to serve in a military that no longer honours that commitment, was no longer possible. To that end, he wrote a letter to Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, explaining his position.

Lt. Cmdr. Williams says:

The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.

His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.

Below is the text of his letter, a very direct call-out of where we have come to.

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.

In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding “toca” and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947, giving him 15 years hard labor.

Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the U.S. Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.

General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on trial in Nuremberg, and it will not be an excuse for you or your superiors, either.

Despite the CIA and the administration attempting to cover up the practice by destroying interrogation tapes, in direct violation of a court order, and congressional requests, the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out.

That about says it all.

Bill of Rights?...What Bill of Rights?

Whenever I see any kind of concise or compiled list of the damage that has been done to my country by the current administration (and its backers), I am just awestruck at what they have been able to accomplish and get away with. I'm also aware of the pitfalls of believing, without question, in our country. I don't mean to imply that we shouldn't believe in America, at all. I'm talking about that insideous tendency that Americans have to believe that our country is infallible and invincible. It's only been the last year that accusations of "conspiracy freak" and "traitor" have begun to lessen (somewhat) against those who have been speaking out about what has been going on here.

Marktheshark, from Daily Kos, has compiled an eye-opening (and frightening) list of the progressive pecking away that the Bush administration has been doing to the Constitution and, specifically, the Bill of Rights. A couple of examples are:

January 2001

• President Bush signs off on a presidential directive that delays [indefinitely] the scheduled release of presidential documents authorized by the Presidential Records Act of 1978, pertaining to the Reagan-Bush administration.

• The Bush regime begins the process of radically broadening scope of documents and information which can be deemed classified

As Mark points out, "They hit the ground running in January 2001 and took the insidious path to power; taking a little at a time, so we unwitting Americans wouldn’t notice."

The list continues:

February 2001

• The National Security Agency (NSA) sets up
Project Groundbreaker, a monitoring program for domestic call infrastructure.

February -- April 2001

• A secret order issued by the Bush regime authorizes NSA monitoring of domestic phone and internet traffic

...and more recently:

September – October 2003

• The FBI changes its traditional policy of destroying all data and documents collected on innocent citizens in the course of criminal investigations. This information would, according to the bureau, now be permanently stored. Two years later in late 2005 Executive Order 13388, expanded access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined

January 2004

• The FBI begins keeping a database of US citizens based on information obtained via NSLs

June 2006

• Supreme court rules that evidence obtained in violation of the "knock and announce" rules can still be permitted in court

...and it goes on from there.

I began this post talking about the American tendency to believe blindly. I speak to that because Mark's primary point is that we haven't been paying attention. I accept that, but I also believe that it is more than that. There is a fundamental belief by many in this country that it just isn't possible for America to experience the militarism, totalitarianism, and overall degradation of our system that other countries do, that somehow we are different and immune to that. We aren't, and to continue to cling to that falsehood is doing as much, if not more damage than not paying attention.
And here is the rest of it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oregon's Supplemental Session

Barring any traction for Sen. Larry George's (R-Sherwood) lawsuit to halt it, February 4, 2008 is the scheduled start date for the Oregon legislature's supplemental session. Although I don't live in Senator Avel Gordly's district, I do receive her newsletter. Her most recent letter includes the committee schedules (generally) and who is on what committee. I am posting it here so that folks know who to contact on the various issues.

February 2008 Supplemental Session Committee Schedules

Senate Committee Meeting Schedule (month of February 2008 only)

Senate Commerce and Labor

Meets Mon., Wed. & Fri. 10 a.m.-noon, HR B

Chair: Senator Ben Westlund

Vice Chair: Senator Gary George

Senator Richard Devlin

Senator Floyd Prozanski

Senator Jackie Winters

Senate Sub-Committee on Health Care Reform

Meets Tuesday 1-3 p.m., HR A

Chair: Senator Frank Morse

Senator Alan Bates

Senator Ben Westlund

Senator Frank Morse

Senate Education & General Government

Meets Tues. & Thurs. 8:30-10:15 a.m., HR B

Chair: Senator Vicki Walker

Vice Chair: Senator Jeff Kruse

Senator Mark Hass

Senator Rick Metsger

Senate Elections and Ethics

Meets Tues., Wed., & Thurs. 3:30-5:30 p.m., HR B

Chair: Senator Kate Brown

Vice Chair: Senator Ted Ferrioli

Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson

Senate Environment & Natural Resources

Meets Mon. & Wed., 1-3 p.m. Fri., 3:30-5:30 p.m., HR B

Chair: Senator Brad Avakian

Vice Chair: Senator Roger Beyer

Senator Alan Bates

Senator David Nelson

Senator Floyd Prozanski

Senate Finance & Revenue

Meets Mon., & Wed. 1-3 p.m., Fri. 3:30-5:30 p.m., HR A

Chair: Senator Ginny Burdick

Vice Chair: Senator Frank Morse

Senator Jason Atkinson

Senator Mark Hass

Senator Rod Monroe

Senator Bruce Starr

Senator Ben Westlund

Senate Health & Human Services

Meets Mon., Wed. & Fri. 10 a.m.-noon, HR A

Chair: Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson

Vice Chair: Senator Avel Gordly

Senator Margaret Carter

Senator Jeff Kruse

Senator Bill Morrisette

Senate Judiciary

Meets Tues., Thurs. & Fri. 1-3 p.m., HR B

Chair: Senator Floyd Prozanski

Vice Chair: Senator Roger Beyer

Senator Ginny Burdick

Senator Vicki Walker

Senator Doug Whitsett

Senate Rules and Executive Appointments

Meets Tues., 10 a.m.-noon, Thurs., 1-3 p.m., HR A

Chair: Senator Richard Devlin

Vice Chair: Senator Ted Ferrioli

Senator Jason Atkinson

Senator Brad Avakian

Senator Kate Brown

Senate Services to Seniors and People with Disabilities

Meets Tue., & Thur. 10 a.m.-noon, HR B, Fridays, 1-3 p.m., HR A

Chair: Senator Bill Morrisette

Vice Chair: Senator Jeff Kruse

Senator Peter Courtney

Senate Transportation

Meets Tues., Thurs., and Fri. 1-3 p.m., HR C

Chair: Senator Rick Metsger

Vice Chair: Senator Bruce Starr

Senator Gary George

Senator Larry George

Senator Betsy Johnson

Senator Rod Monroe

Senator Joanne Verger

Joint Committee Meeting Schedule

Joint Committee Meeting Schedule

Joint Ways & Means

Meets Mon., Tues., Wed. & Thurs. 3:30-5:30 p.m., HR F

Co-Chair: Senator Kurt Schrader

Co-Chair: Representative Mary Nolan

Vice Chair: Senator Margaret Carter

Vice Chair: Representative Nancy Nathanson

Senator Alan Bates

Senator Avel Gordly

Senator Betsy Johnson

Senator Rod Monroe

Senator David Nelson

Senator Joanne Verger

Senator Doug Whitsett

Senator Jackie Winters

Representative David Edwards

Representative Larry Galizio

Representative Bruce L. Hanna

Representative Bob Jenson

Representative Susan Morgan

Representative Chip Shields

Representative Patti Smith

House Committee Meeting Schedule

House Agriculture and Natural Resources

Monday-Friday. 8-9:30 a.m., HR C

Chair: Representative Arnie Roblan

V. Chair: Brian Clem

V. Chair: Brian Boquist

Representative Jackie Dingfelder

Representative Bill Garrard

Representative Greg Macpherson

Representative Karen Minnis

House Business and Labor

Monday-Friday 3:30-5 p.m., HR C

Chair: Representative Mike Schaufler

V. Chair: Representative Sal Esquivel

V. Chair: Representative Paul Holvey

Representative Chuck Burley

Representative Kevin Cameron

Representative Chris Edwards

Representative Diane Rosenbaum

House Consumer Protection

Monday-Friday 1-2:30 p.m., HR D

Chair: Representative Paul Holvey

V. Chair: Representative Suzanne Bonamici

V. Chair: Representative Donna G. Nelson

Representative Larry Galizio

Representative Vic Gilliam

Representative Fred Girod

Representative Chuck Riley

House Education

Monday-Friday 1-2:30 p.m., HR E

Chair: Representative Peter Buckley

V. Chair: Representative Gene Whisnant

V. Chair: Representative Betty Komp

Representative Brian Clem

Representative Mitch Greenlick

Representative Jerry Krummel

Representative John Lim

Representative Arnie Roblan

Representative John Huffman

House Revenue

Monday-Friday 10-11:30 a.m., HR F

Chair: Representative Phil Barnhart

V. Chair: Representative Tom Butler*

V. Chair: Tobias Read

Representative Vicki Berger

Representative Scott Bruun

Representative Sara Gelser

Representative Andy Olson

Representative Diane Rosenbaum

Representative Brad Witt

House Elections, Ethics and Rules

Monday-Friday 8-9:30 a.m., HR F

Chair: Representative Diane Rosenbaum

V. Chair: Representative Vicki Berger

V. Chair: Representative Peter Buckley

Representative Sal Esquivel

Representative Dave Hunt

Representative Chip Shields

Representative Kim Thatcher

House Energy and the Environment

Monday-Friday 1-2:30 p.m., HR F

Chair: Representative Jackie Dingfelder

V. Chair: Representative Chuck Burley

V. Chair: Representative Ben Cannon

Representative E Terry Beyer

Representative Bill Garrard

Representative Tobias Read

Representative Greg Smith

House Government Accountability and Information Technology

Monday-Friday 10-11:30 a.m., HR E

Chair: Representative Chuck Riley

V. Chair: Representative Chris Edwards

V. Chair: Representative Dennis Richardson

Representative E. Terry Beyer

Representative Kim Thatcher

House Health Care

Monday-Friday 3-4:30 p.m., HR D

Chair: Representative Mitch Greenlick

V. Chair: Representative Tina Kotek

V. Chair: Representative Dennis Richardson

Representative Suzanne Bonamici

Representative Scott Bruun

Representative Ben Cannon

Representative Linda Flores

Representative Sara Gelser

Representative Ron Maurer

House Veterans’ Affairs

Monday-Friday 5-6:30 p.m., HR E

Chair: Representative Jeff Barker

V. Chair: Representative Mike Schaufler

V. Chair: Representative Wayne Scott

Representative Brian Boquist

Representative Deborah Boone

House Workforce and Economic Development

Monday-Friday 8-9:30 a.m., HR D

Chair: Representative Brad Witt

V. Chair: Representative John Lim

V. Chair: Representative Chuck Riley

Representative Phil Barnhart

Representative John Huffman

Representative Fred Girod

Representative Paul Holvey

House Human Services and Women’s Wellness

Monday-Friday 8-9:30 a.m., HR E

Chair: Carolyn Tomei

V. Chair: Sara Gelser

V. Chair: Andy Olson

Representative Jean Cowan

Representative Vic Gilliam

Representative Tina Kotek

Representative Ron Maurer

House Judiciary

Monday-Friday 10-11:30 a.m., HR C

Chair: Representative Greg Macpherson

V. Chair: Representative Jeff Barker

V. Chair: Gene Whisnant

Representative Suzanne Bonamici

Representative Kevin Cameron

Representative Linda Flores

Representative Betty Komp

Representative Wayne Krieger

Representative Chip Shields

House Emergency Preparedness And Ocean Policy

Monday-Friday 10-11:30 a.m., HR D

Chair: Deborah Boone

V. Chair: Jean Cowan

V. Chair: Donna G. Nelson

Wayne Krieger

Mike Schaufler

House Rural Policy

Monday-Friday 5-6:30 p.m., HR D

Chair: Representative Arnie Roblan

V. Chair: Representative Jean Cowan

V. Chair: Representative Fred Girod

Representative Tom Butler*

Representative Phil Barnhart

House Transportation

Monday-Friday 3-4:30 p.m., HR E

Chair: Representative E. Terry Beyer

V. Chair: Representative George Gilman

V. Chair: Representative Carolyn Tomei

Representative Peter Buckley

Representative Greg Smith

Representative Tobias Read

Representative Tom Butler*

* Representative Butler has announced his intention to resign his position. Committee assignments may change once Representative Butler’s successor has been appointed.


Bad Bush Appointees...Tip of the Iceberg

Heather Wokusch has a weekly e-letter that I subscribe to. It's actually really interesting and a good way to catch things that tend to fly under the radar.
This week, the e-letter focuses on Bush's Top 10 Worst Appointees for Reproductive Rights specifically. It's an eye-opening list to read. This administration has so degraded and attacked our government structure that this list only scratches the surface.

1. Patricia Funderburk Ware

In 2001, Bush named abstinence-only proponent Patricia Funderburk Ware to be Executive Director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). Ware’s qualifications for the job of promoting "effective prevention of HIV disease" included criticizing condom use and lobbying against HIV/AIDS being in the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Two years later, Ware recommended that a controversial character named Jerry Thacker join the PACHA panel. Thacker has called AIDS a "gay plague" and homosexuality a
"deathstyle." Amid public protest, Thacker soon withdrew his nomination and Ware
left her PACHA post.

2. Tom Coburn

Bush nominated then-Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to be PACHA co-chair in 2003. Coburn supports mandatory reporting to public authorities of the names of those testing positive for HIV/AIDS.

He favors "the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life."

According to Coburn, the gay community "has infiltrated the very centers of power in
every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the
greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the
rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda."

Who else would you want advising the Bush administration on AIDS?

3. David Hager

Hager was one of three religious conservatives that Bush put on the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in 2002 and only public outcry prevented him from becoming its chairperson. Critics argued that in his gynecology practice, Hager had refused to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women and had recommended Scripture readings to alleviate headaches and premenstrual syndrome.

A memo which Hager wrote helped persuade the FDA to overrule its own advisory panel in 2004, thus preventing the emergency contraceptive "Plan B" from being made more
easily available. Critics assailed the FDA’s decision as ignoring scientific evidence, but in Hager’s assessment: "Once again, what Satan meant for evil, God turned into good."

A downright criminal side of Hager emerged when his former wife went public with the fact that he had been emotionally, physically and sexually abusive during their 32-year marriage, forcibly sodomizing her on a regular basis. As Hager’s ex-wife told The Nation magazine in May 2005, "it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."

Hager left the FDA committee soon after The Nation article was published.

4. & 5. Lester Crawford and Norris Alderson

As Acting Commissioner of the FDA, Lester Crawford was notorious for blocking
over-the-counter access to emergency contraception (EC).

Democratic senators initially halted Crawford’s confirmation to head the FDA, but gave approval in June 2005 after he promised to take action on EC by September 1, 2005. Once sworn in, however, Crawford stalled yet again, despite the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee’s having voted 23 to 4 in favor of making EC available over-the-counter.

Dr. Susan Wood, the well-respected head of the FDA Women’s Health Office, soon resigned in protest - and that’s when things got really bizarre. Weeks after Wood stepped down, the FDA Women’s Health Office sent out a mass email announcing that she would be replaced by Dr. Norris Alderson, who was duly listed on the FDA site as: "Acting Director, Office of Women’s Health, Associate Commissioner for Science."

One small problem. Alderson is a veterinarian.

The administration appointed an animal doctor to be in charge of women’s health. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

After predictable outcry, the FDA tried to pretend that Alderson had never been appointed in the first place. Recipients of the initial mass emailing, of course, knew otherwise.

To make things even weirder, Crawford himself suddenly resigned as head of the FDA in September 2005 (just months after having been confirmed), amid allegations of not having properly disclosed his financial holdings to the Senate.

In August 2006, the FDA finally approved making the EC "Plan B" available
over-the counter to consumers 18 years and older.

6. John G. Roberts

Progressives balked in September 2005 when Bush put forward far-right extremist John G. Roberts to head the US Supreme Court. In Robert’s illustrious career, he had fought against minority voting rights, argued against women’s educational rights, and tried to limit the rights of women prisoners. A legal brief Roberts contributed to said that Roe vs. Wade was "wrongly decided and should be overruled."

Roberts became Chief Justice within weeks of his nomination, and as expected, has dragged the Supreme Court to the right. In the past two years, for example, the Roberts’ court upheld the constitutionality of a federal anti-abortion law (the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Act) and decreased public school students’ rights to free speech.

7. Samuel Alito

In January 2006, the stridently anti-choice Samuel Alito was sworn in to the US Supreme Court. Alito had previously argued that the strip-search of a mother and ten-year old girl without a warrant was constitutional and that women should be required to tell their husbands before getting an abortion.

Alito stated in a 1985 application to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General: "I am
particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion." For good measure, he added, "I am and always have been a conservative."

Alito replaced the moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the nation’s high court. The obvious shift to the right caused by the addition of Roberts and Alito led Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to observe: "It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much."

8. Paul Bonicelli

In October 2005, Paul Bonicelli was appointed as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the US International Development Agency’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA). Bonicelli’s main prior claim to fame was being Dean of Academic Affairs at the fundamentalist Patrick Henry College, where the Student Honor Code mandates: "I will reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage." Patrick Henry College also has a 10-part Statement of Faith which says that hell is a place where "all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity."

Bonicelli’s current office at DCHA is responsible for: "strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights; promoting more genuine and competitive elections and political processes; increasing development of a politically active civil society; and implementing a more transparent and accountable governance."

In other words, a guy who thinks that non-believers "shall be confined in conscious
torment for eternity" has been put in charge of promoting human rights across the

9. Eric Keroak

In 2006, Bush tapped Eric Keroack to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Health and Human Services Department. Keroack opposes contraception, has described premarital sex as "modern germ warfare," and espouses the bizarre, unscientific belief that casual sex depletes "bonding" hormones. He was previously medical director of a Christian pregnancy counseling service which described contraception as "demeaning to women."

And that’s who the Bush administration chose to oversee the distribution of $283 million in family planning funds for the nation.

Keroack resigned in March 2007, after state Medicaid officials began taking action against his private medical practice.

10. Susan Orr

Keroack was replaced by Susan Orr, who had been "Senior Director for Marriage and Families" at the anti-gay, anti-reproductive rights Family Research Council. In her prior career, Orr had opposed the emergency contraception RU-486 and gushed that Bush was "pro-life … in his heart" for withholding funds from international family planning groups which even discussed abortion.

Orr has claimed that contraception is "not a medical necessity." Yet she now is
in charge of facilitating access to both contraception and sex education for low-income families across the nation.

And what is Bush doing now?

""On September 11, we saw clearly that evil exists in this world, and that it does not value life ... Now we are engaged in a fight against evil and tyranny to preserve and protect life." – George W. Bush in 2002, linking abortion rights with terrorism, as he declared the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to be "National Sanctity of Human Life Day."

Bush has used his Oval Office years to limit reproductive freedom and stack critical posts with rightwingers bent on rolling back the clock.

And now it appears yet another reactionary Bush appointee is on track to get a lifetime position as a federal judge...

Bush nominated Wyoming lawyer and former state representative Richard Honaker to the US District Court back in March, but the reproductive rights group NARAL believes he may soon get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Honacker authored a 1991 bill which would have outlawed most abortions, and has said that abortion is "wrong, and no one should have the right to do what is wrong."

If the nomination goes through, Honacker will stay on the bench long after Bush is out of office, and he’ll join a growing list of appointees eager to regulate your sexuality.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Crime is Down...Let's Build More Prisons!

Or so goes the thinking of Kevin Mannix.

I know Mannix' new ballot initiative has been covered in other places, but I feel the need to keep it in the public eye. The initiative system in Oregon is so completely abused that no matter how insane and unneccessary something is, the misinformation campaigns of people like Mannix, or Bill Sizemore always seem to sucker enough votes to be a threat and/or cause harm to the state.

Mannix wants a new law in Oregon, to supplement his Measure 11 success (for him maybe, not so good for the state), that would make prison sentences (18-36 months) mandatory for burglars, car thieves, identity thieves and low-level drug dealers. Well, if you watch nothing but the local evening news, where the first ten minutes of the broadcast are filled with nothing but robberies, shootings, break-ins, assaults and drug busts, than you might think Mannix is on the right track. But is he?Leaving aside that I have absolutely no use for manipulative people like Mannix who profit off of creating fear amongst voters, I decided to take a look around. Lo and behold we are not being crushed under the weight of a rampaging criminal element hellbent on taking everything of value from us. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. 2006 (the most recent available) statistics released by the FBI show that property crimes in Oregon fell by 16.6% from 2005 to 2006, well above the national trend. Yet, Mannix wants to initiate a law, carrying a $400 million price-tag to swell the prison population in Oregon, who is already the third fastest growing penal system in the country. In a time when we consistently fail to meet the educational, health and safety needs of many Oregonians, why would we want to mandate (and it would be a mandate) more money for prisons that are not neccessary?

David Rogers, executive director of the Partnership for Safety and Justice, says it perfectly:

“What is clear from these new figures is that we’re doing a good job of reducing property crimes and making our communities safer without building three or four new prisons and without locking up non-violent drug and property offenders for up to three years, as we will have to do under the Mannix Measure,” said Rogers. “We’re on a path to improved public safety that focuses on treatment, education opportunities and jobs, a much less expensive and more effective way to combat crime than mandatory sentences and costly prison sentences.”

There is absolutely no need for this new proposal from Mannix.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Edwards in Iowa

I just really like this man.

And here is the rest of it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Senators need to EARN that promotion to POTUS

I was, sadly, not surprised when the Clinton, Obama, and Biden campaigns all announced that the SENATORS would not be heading back to Washington to follow through on their commitment to support Senator Chris Dodd (also a candidate for president)in his efforts, including filibuster if neccessary, to get the retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry removed from the FISA bill that came to the Senate floor for debate (and vote). Fortunately, Dodd, along with a helping hand from several other senators (including our own Ron Wyden) succeeded in getting the debate and vote on FISA shelved until January. Hopefully this will give the Senate the time to do, as Wyden suggests, READ the damn thing. But what about the missing candidates/senators? Don't forget that we are still PAYING these people to do a job. And why are we, as citizens, supposed to trust them to lead us and restore the rule of law (not to mention trust) to the Office of President, when they can't even pull away from their own self-serving plans to honor a commitment that they made to Dodd and get to Washington to be the SENATORS that they still are? And if they try and use the excuse that there are larger priorities, they need to take a look at some stats released by Dodd's campaign:

11,300+ people emailed the Senators (candidates)
(16,000 people visited the page, a 75% follow through rate)...
506,000+ emails were sent to the Senate...
5,700+ comments were submitted through the website (350+ were posted on Twitter) in 7 hours...
135+ people joined the Facebook group since 11am...
340 people reported the phone calls they made to the Senate...

And those are just the stats from Dodd's site, not including people (like myself) who called and emailed on their own.

American citizens KNOW what their priorities are, and the candidates will find that showing up and suiting up is a big one.

I spent alot of years in management and I guarantee you that I would never consider promoting someone who not only fails to show up, but also fails to honor the commitment they made to do the work in exchange for that paycheck. Supporters of all three of these people (Clinton, Obama, Biden) need to really put some thought into who it is that they are supporting, and what those candidates' priorities really are.
The fight against immunity isn't over, only delayed. Keep the pressure up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Filibuster in the morning

Chris Dodd is set to take to the senate floor in the morning regarding the FISA bill, and not yield. According to his website,

Senator Dodd will leave the campaign trail in Iowa to return to Washington on Monday to speak on the floor before the vote to invoke cloture on the FISA bill takes place. Sen. Dodd is prepared to offer an amendment which strips the retroactive immunity provision from the underlying bill, and will seek a vote on that measure next week.

During the filibuster, Dodd can take questions from other senators, for 20 minutes each. So far, Russ Feingold and Edward Kennedy have agreed to ask questions. I'm really hoping that Wyden (I wrote off Smith a long time ago) will be there supporting Dodd, as well. As far as I can tell, neither Clinton nor Obama have said whether they will be there, or if they will ask questions. They have both previously pledged to support Dodd in this action. If they don't, this should serve as a wake up call to their supporters. If they can't show their support for a fellow Democratic senator, respect for citizens' privacy over corporate profits, and the rule of law (not to mention their campaigns), than they in no way, shape, or form, deserve the title of President of the United States

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dodd set to Filibuster...will Wyden support him?

I certainly hope so. Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he will let the FISA version that contains retroactive telecommunications immunity proceed to a floor vote on Monday. Back in October, Senator Chris Dodd vowed to do whatever it takes, including a filibuster, to keep this version of FISA from being made law. Also, at the time, the other presidential candidates currently serving in the Senate: Clinton, Obama and Biden all pledged to publicly support Dodd's filibuster. Dodd's campaign is asking folks to remind the candidates of that pledge. We'll see if they stay true to their word and actually demonstrate their worthiness to be president.

This also means that we, again, need to make sure that our senators know that we expect them to stand up for us, even if that means supporting the filibuster. Now, I don't expect Gordon Smith to support anything having to do with choosing citizens over big business money in his pockets, but I do expect Wyden to do so. Or at least I hope he does.Late this afternoon, Wyden released a statement regarding Reid's decision. (Typos and misspells are from the release)

I want to say a word about the process which the distinguished senate majority leader has jus touched on. I was one of two in the senate intelligence committee to oppose the intelligence committee's version of the legislation. I am strongly opposed to granting telecommunications companies total retroactive immunity when they have been accused of wrongdoing in the president's wireless wiretapping legislation. It was the major reasonable why i opposed the legislation.

I do, however, respect Senator Reid's decision to hold the debate on this legislation under the regular senate rules. certainly, the distinguished majority leader has been under a lot of pressure from all sides to change the rules that in one way might favor one side or the other, but i think the majority leader has made the right decision by insisting that this debate go by the book.

I've had the chance now to work with the distinguished majority leader for more than a quarter of a century. I know how much respect he has for the senate and for this institution. He firmly believes in the committee process. He firmly believes in the senate rules and traditions, and he worked to carry those beliefs out as both the minority whip and the minority leader.

I'm heartened by his statement that he strongly disagrees with the immunity, and that leads me to believe that he will definitely vote against it. Ron Wyden is no stranger to the filibuster (big oil) and has used the threat of one on several occassions, particularly around Alito, death with dignity, and net neutrality.

Wyden is known as a nice man and as respectful of his fellow senators. I admire that about him. However, hopefully this respectfulness doesn't extend to supporting Reid over the rights of American citizens against rampant corporate invasion of privacy and disregard for the law.

Calls for Cheney Impeachment

Well, if I didn't already know that the mainstream media picks and chooses its stories, and that major announcements are made at the end of the day on Fridays, when it is assumed that no one is paying attention, it would surprise me that I haven't seen this headline on any major outlets:

Three senior members of the House Judiciary Committee have called for the immediate opening of impeachment hearings for Vice President Richard Cheney.

This is BIG news folks! Is it time to start partying in the streets, or anything? No, of course not, but when you have people in Congress finally standing up and recognizing that the actions taken by this administration are too great to ignore, it needs to be news, particularly when those people belong to the body that is assigned the investigative authority, to begin with:

Democrats Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on Friday distributed a statement, “A Case for Hearings,” that declares, “The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.”

It's fairly well-known that Rep. John Conyers, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is, and has been, open to investigating Cheney. However, evidently Pelosi has kept the pressure on to not pursue an investigation. Something tells me we won't find out her motives until she is long gone.

According to the article though:

It is notable, however, that Baldwin maintains warm relations with Pelosi and that Wexler, a veteran member of the Judiciary Committee has historically had an amiable and effective working relationship with Conyers. There is no question that Conyers, who voted to keep open the impeachment debate on November 7, has been looking for a way to explore the charges against Cheney. The move by three of his key allies on the committee may provide the chairman with the opening he seeks, although it is likely he will need to hear from more committee members before making any kind of break with Pelosi — or perhaps convincing her that holding hearings on Cheney’s high crimes and misdemeanors is different from putting a Bush impeachment move on the table.

Let's keep our fingers crossed. For good measure, drop a note to Conyers, urging him to move ahead with an investigation.

2426 Rayburn BuildingWashington, DC 20515 (202) 225-5126

2615 W. Jefferson Trenton, MI 48183 (734) 675-4084

669 Federal Building231 W. LafayetteDetroit, MI 48226 (313) 961-5670

And here is the rest of it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Recession in Oregon?

Honestly, I don't know. I am not an economist nor do I desire to be one! There is an interesting report that has been released, however, by the real ecnomists at the University of Oregon. Obviously they don't guarantee a coming recession, but if history is any indication, unfortunately the chances are pretty good (bad?) that things aren't going to be pretty.

"As a general rule," according to the Oregon Economic Forum's monthly report released Monday morning, "a decline in the index of greater than 2 percent over six months (annualized), coupled with a decline in more than half of its components, signals that a recession is likely imminent."

The index, maintained by the UO College of Arts and Sciences and its Economics Department, tracks eight indicators ranging from interest rates to payrolls.

In October the index dropped 0.5 percent to 102.0 -- the third consecutive monthly fall. (The index stood at 100 in 1997). Oregon initial unemployment claims rose in October to the highest level since November 2006. Residential building permits issued in the state dropped to the lowest level since September 2000.

Economists cautioned that the "general rule" merely signals, but by no means guarantees, that a recession is coming. But their report highlighted October's negative results, and said: "A decline of this breadth and magnitude preceded the 2001 recession and suggests a weak economic environment in the near term."

This would be one of those times that I hope that the professionals and experts have no idea what they are talking about. I'm not holding my breath.
And here is the rest of it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Still Kennedy's Party?

Religion in America, and the role it plays in how our country is governed is a hot topic these days. The religious right has worked for years to convince us that we are a "Christian" nation and that our laws should be designed and administered in accordance with the tenets of the Christian church. Even worse, they contend that this was the original intent of the founders of this country. Obviously they haven't spent much time really reading Washington, Paine, Jefferson, or even better Madison.

I started thinking about writing this post as I was reading an incredibly powerful Kos diary entry. The author addresses, among other things, the current comparisons between Romney and JFK (which to me is a bit like comparing James Madison with Jerry Falwell, but that's another post) by focusing on the entirety of Kennedy's speech to a collection of Protestant leaders when he was running for president. Contrary to the current spin that would have us believe that he made the speech in order to defend his own Catholicism, Kennedy spoke directly to his unshakable belief in the separation of church and state.

In his speech Kennedy insists that he believes in an American in which "no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference." At no point does Kennedy coddle his audience by suggesting that he will allow a crack in the wall. Instead, he challenges them to put up or shut up.

I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.

He goes on to say:

"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all."

"Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood".

When Kennedy made his speech, he also made it clear that he would much prefer to discuss issues much more critical to the strength and welfare of this country:

"While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida--the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power--the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms--an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space."

Amazing how we have so many of the same pressing issues as almost fifty years ago.

It's on this topic that I think the Kos article really gets to the core of alot of things.

"Any and all of those issues might have been the centerpiece of a Democratic speech today, because those issues remain unsolved. And oddly enough, many of these issues were also on the mind of the man who two thousand years ago stood up in his family church and announced that "I come bringing good news for the poor.""

There is a link in the article that takes you to an audio clip of Republican voters being interviewed in Iowa ahead of the upcoming primaries. At one point, one of them says,

"I make a great deal of money through my own hard work. I don't want to pay for someone else's child to eat breakfast at school anymore."

Here is how the author responds to that, because I cannot say it any better:

Get that? She makes not just enough money, but a "great deal of money." How dare anyone take it away for something so frivolous as feeding a poor child? And yet Republicans, through their actions in blurring the lines between church and state, have become the "party of faith." Because they say so. Because they are bold in their actions and snarling in their defense.

Note that we should not pretend that "a program will take your money." Or "the government will take your money." This is a democracy, and we are the government. I will take your money. I will. Some of that money you worked hard for and want to keep. I will give it to a kid who is hungry. If your concern is that poverty should be addressed by individuals, then there's a simple solution: feed him. If there are no poor children needing food, I won't have to take anything for them. If your position is that people would be more generous if only the government would stay out of it, then sorry. I'm not willing to put this child at risk to as part of your experiment. Besides, if that were true, then why were their more hungry kids before we started these programs to give them a little breakfast? If your position is that your being able to keep all your money is more important than a child being fed, then I simply think you're wrong. And sick. You want to keep that money? You better beat me at the polls.

The strategy of vultures gives us both a party and a nation that would embarrass John Kennedy. The erosion of that barrier between the interest of the state and that of the church gives us a church that Jesus would not recognize. As an American and a Christian, I find both results terrifying.

I've been reading about a growing backlash among evangelical groups against their far-right leadership because they have come to recognize that the racist, classist, hate-filled diatribe that those leaders are spewing and pursuing do not, in reality, truly represent the faith that they pretend so hard to appear to represent. I can only hope that the backlash continues to grow.

I can also only hope that the Democratic leadership will cease cowering behind the selfish need to win races and really stand up for what the party is supposed to be about. Just as it has been apparent for many years that the Republican party is no longer Lincoln's party, we are fast approaching a time when it will be said that the Democratic party is not Kennedy's party. That is a sad day that I hope won't come.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gordon Smith is SO not a moderate or friend of Oregon

The Alternative Minimum Tax Relief bill has stalled in the Senate. What's that you ask? Well, it is a bill that would have "protected millions of middle-class taxpayers from being hit with a surprise tax increase over the next several months" including more than 220,000 Oregon families, to start with. It also would have extended tuition tax credits for 53,000 Oregon college students and their families and the tax credits for 33,000 Oregon teachers who have out of pocket expenses in their jobs.

While Gordon Smith continues to insist on painting himself as a moderate who is not in cahoots with the Bush agenda, he exposes the hypocrisy of this claim when it comes down to actually voting in the best interests of his own constituents, by voting against legislation like this current bill and voting with what the administration wants. How much longer can Smith honestly and truly deceive himself into believing that Oregonians are really so unaware of what he is doing, or that we don't care? I guess we'll find out when Merkley retires Smith from the Senate.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Domestic Partnership, Equality, the Religious Right...and Blackwater

I'm really not easily shocked, and I don't know why I was when I was introduced to some seriously disturbing news last evening. Many may already know that Oregon's Domestic Parnership Law, scheduled to take effect on January 1st, 2008, has been the target of a referendum effort by the anti-gay zealots in Oregon. Recently, they failed to collect enough signatures to get a referendum on the ballot for next November. If they had succeeded, the law would have been put on hold until after the election.

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the referendum sponsors, against the state of Oregon and the Secretary of State, charging that they had collected enough signatures and that the state played favorites in the verification process.

The complaint filed in Federal Court by out of state attorneys alleges that Oregon's Secretary of State and a dozen county clerks erred by not creating special procedures to reinstate the signatures of people who said they had signed the petition, but whose signatures were found to be invalid using well established criteria.

Now, this lawsuit was not unexpected by me. It is pretty much par for the course as far as anti-gay and right-wing extremists are concerned. The lawsuit isn't what shocked me, nor is it what really frightens me now. What I find so disturbing here is who is behind the lawsuit, and their connections to other things.

The anti-gay forces in this case are being represented by an organization called the Alliance Defense Fund, an ultra-conservative group that began as a litigation funding pool for right-wing organizations, like Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice. Eventually, the ADF decided to get directly involved in the litigation fun.

What is so disturbing about this? Well, a little background on the ADF and more importantly, who is bankrolling it.

Much of the ADF's funding comes from some very powerful (and rich) far-right

“Some of the major donors include the Covenant Foundation, financed by the ‘Granddaddy’ of the Texas Christian Right, business mogul James Leininger, and the Bolthouse Foundation, which is underwritten chiefly with profits from Bolthouse Farms, a family-run California company whose products are often seen at organic markets and Whole Foods. Bolthouse requires recipients of its grants to pledge adherence to a statement of faith that includes the declaration that ‘man was created by a direct act of God in His image, not from previously existing creatures’ and a belief in ‘the everlasting blessedness of the saved and the everlasting punishment of the lost', and various members of the Amway-Prince Automotive empire, including the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation"

First of all, remind me not to shop at Whole Foods anymore!

I specifically want to focus on the Amway-Prince Automotive folks. Erik Prince, son of Edgar (who co-founded the
Family Research Council, a leading right-wing Christian group)and Elsa Prince, is vice-president of the Foundation, while his sister, Betsy is wife to Amway magnate, right-wing financier, and unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard DeVos. Erik, a former Navy SEAL and right-wing, born-again Christian, served as an intern in the G.W. Bush Whitehouse. A major Republican contributor, multimillionaire Prince is well-known for something else. As indicated by the title of this post, Erik Prince is tied directly to Blackwater USA, as its cofounder with another ex-Navy SEAL, Gary Jackson (Blackwater's current president). Prince serves as Blackwater's vice-president.

And we wonder why Blackwater gets a seemingly free ride with the administration, or why it makes billions for its work, in the name of the United States government?

Blackwater is a
private mercenary army that operates around the globe, and here in our own backyard. They provide the "security" in New Orleans and are building a huge "training camp" in California. This is a truly scary organization, and the fact that they are being legitimized by the United States government and directed by far-right Christian fundamentalists only makes them even more scary.

I remember reading last year sometime (I forget where) an editorial in which it was proposed that the neocon element of the Republican party had highjacked the religious right for their own purposes. That made alot of sense to me. At the time, and still, the dominant thought is that it is the religious extremists have highjacked the Republican party. I think it's some of both.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hungry? Who has time to think of anything else?

I know I've posted a couple of times on the topic of hunger. Well guess what? People are hungry and as long as they are, I will continue to discuss it. As I noted previously, the Oregon Food Bank is in some dire straits right now. Evidently, it isn't just Oregon in trouble. Food banks and pantries all over the country are seing shortages and increased demand not seen in decades.

In a New York Times article published this weekend food organizations around the United States are in trouble:

“It’s one of the most demanding years I’ve seen in my 30 years” in the field, said Catherine D’Amato, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Food Bank, comparing the situation to the recession of the late 1970s.

“We don’t have nearly what people need, and that’s all there is to it,” said Greg Bryant, director of the food pantry in Sheffield, Vt. We’re one step from running out,” Mr. Bryant said.

The Vermont Food Bank said its supply of food was down 50 percent from last year. “It’s a crisis mode,” said Doug O’Brien, the bank’s chief executive.

For two weeks this month, the New Hampshire Food Bank distributed supplies reserved for emergency relief. Demand for food here is up 40 percent over last year and supply is down 30 percent, which is striking in the state with the lowest reliance on food banks.

Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America’s Second Harvest, which distributes more than two billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually, said the shortages at food banks were the worst the organization had seen in 26 years.

“Suddenly it’s on everyone’s radar,” Mr. Fraser said. “Food banks are calling us and saying, ‘My God, we have to get food.’”

There are more examples in the article. Suffice to say, it isn't a pretty picture.

I've been thinking about this situation, and what increasing hunger means for this country. In a time when we need seriously innovative, creative thinking on things like global warming, Iraq, and even democracy, we have increasingly large numbers of people who don't even have the opportunity to think past their next meal, much less the larger issues of our day!

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a well-known tool for looking at what a human being needs for fulfillment and what motivates us.

Notice the very bottom level, where our most basic needs reside; all about physical sustenance. In the next level we find things like employment and physical self-care. Think about that. This society very much blames those in poverty for their own problems, particularly the extremely poor and homeless. While I do not, at all, advocate complete lack of self-responsibility, how can we expect folks to "get a job" or "eat healthier" when they don't have the opportunity to think beyond their immediate physical needs? Alot of people see food stamps, providing healthcare assistance, or other public assistance as handouts to the undeserving. I see these programs as an investment in the future of our society.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jeff Merkley for United States Senate

There are alot of reasons why I like Jeff Merkley and believe that he would make an outstanding Senator for Oregon. He has a strong record of respecting and caring for our veterans, as well as a specific outline for continuing to do so at the national level. Merkley understands the damage being done by "fair trade agreements" that are anything but fair. He has a very specific outline for ending the occupation in Iraq and for stabilizing that region. In addition, Merkley knows that health care is a neccessity that should be enjoyed by every citizen, not just the have's and that in order to truly secure our nation and our future, we need to take bold action around energy independence and renewable energy.

All of these reasons are excellent and strong enough for me to support Mr. Merkley, in their own right. However, there is one issue that sets him apart for me.
It is the issue that brought him to my attention to begin with, during the 2007 Oregon Legislative session. That issue is education, in particular, post-secondary education. This is the statement that Merkley released during the session regarding this issue, and his stance on it, particularly the connection between investing in education and the corporate minimum income-tax (which has GOT to be increased people...sheesh!):

“Securing significant additional investment in our universities and colleges will be our top budget priority during these final weeks in the legislative session. The good news from the May economic forecast is that we can match the investment requested in the Governor’s budget for the operation of our colleges and universities. But we must not stop there. We can and must undertake additional steps as well, including:

** Implementing the ‘shared responsibility’ model for student scholarship assistance to make higher education much more affordable for our students.

** Greatly enhancing our investment in the construction and repair of our college and university buildings.

** Utilizing the anticipated revenue to make a significant improvement in the
operations budget for our colleges and universities beyond the Governor’s budget.

“Investing in our universities and community colleges is the single most important economicdevelopment strategy we can pursue. We can create a healthy business environment and attract good jobs and investment to Oregon, but we need a long-term strategy to do it.

“As part of that long-term strategy, this is the moment to adopt an increase in the absurdly low
$10 corporate minimum tax and dedicate it to higher education. The resulting revenue will
strengthen higher education today, but more importantly, it will build the foundation for a worldclass university system in the years ahead.”

My primary focus in my position in student government last year was to represent my school's students, and all of Oregon's college students, in the legislative process. In speaking to representatives in Salem, I tried to focus, not just on the difficulties that students face in obtaining their educations, but why it was important for our state to invest in those students and institutions of higher learning. It isn't just about getting a college education simply to get one. It isn't about helping students get a degree simply for their own benefit. It is about the direct impact that an educated citizenry has on the social and economic health of our state. It is about the direct connection between a trained, educated workforce and attracting strong economic growth to Oregon. It is about having trained and skilled professionals to replace all of those nurses and emergency personnel who are getting ready to retire. We can talk until we are blue in the face about emergency preparedness and domestic security, but if we don't have the qualified personnel to ensure that we have those things, than what is the point? Why expend any effort at all in bringing economic growth to our state and improving/expanding our transportation system if we don't have enough skilled and educated personnel to work at the businesses that this is supposed to attract? Education is THE base for a healthy, financially sound, democratic society. Merkley gets this. He understands that connection. That is the primary reason that, when Jeff Merkley announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, I didn't even have to think twice or question it. I knew, and I still know, that Merkley is the best candidate to represent Oregon in D.C.