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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Well that was fun. To catch you up if you are unfamiliar: Redheadedwoman over at Daily Kos posted a diary last Friday talking about Bill O'Reilly's online petition to bring back Phil Donohue in the MSNBC 8pm hour. This, of course, is a total swipe at Keith Olbermann's Countdown, currently in that slot on MSNBC. SO. I posted my own petition to fire Bill O'Reilly for "willfully distributing inaccurate information" thereby exposing Fox News and the shareholders of its parent, News Corp, to revenue-endangering lawsuits. And yes, it was in good fun but it took hold over at Daily Kos and stayed on the recommended list. The petition currently has 768 signatures. All quite fun.

So last night, I was paying bills and on my laptop in the living room with Olbermann on in the background. He featured some really funny comments he had seen on O'Reilly's petiton (now removed, since they are critical of O'Reilly) and them WHAM - he cut to talk about counter-petitions and there was my diary (cross-posted here) on the screen. He even quoted from it. Cool!!


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:04 AM 4 comments links to this post
Friday, February 24, 2006

(Originally posted at Daily Kos and now cross-posted here and at my blog)

Redheadedwoman has a diary at the top of the Daily Kos recommended list about O'Reilly circulating a petition to remove Keith Olbermann from the air.  The reasons he seems to cite are the lower ratings earned by Olbermann compared to his predecessor, Phil Donohue.

Well, after the fold is our own Daily Kos petition to the Chairman of FOX News demanding O'Reilly be removed.  Many examples are provided.  Grounds for removal are that FOX News is not serving its shareholders when it leaves itself open to lawsuits due to either the lies or the total incompetence of O'Reilly.

Make the jump, use the comments to "sign" the petition, and have a little Friday afternoon fun.  ;-)

Mr. Roger Ailes
Chairman and CEO
FOX News Network, LLC
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
212-556-2500

Dear Chairman Ailes,

It pains me to be the one to bring this to your attention, but one of your marquee FOX News personalities is willfully distributing inaccurate information.  Although I don't live "the fast life" like people such as yourself in New York City, I do possess common sense.  "Inaccurate information" results either from idiocy or lying, and your FOX personality, Bill O'Reilly, is distributing "inaccurate information" with alarming regularity.  Here are just a few examples from 2004 and 2005.  If you want more specific details you can visit Media Matters:

June 17, 2004:

O'Reilly distorted 9-11 Commission findings, blamed the press

On both his TV and radio shows, Bill O'Reilly distorted the findings of a recent 9-11 Commission staff report in order to defend the Bush administration's rationale for invading Iraq.

-snip-

Contrary to O'Reilly's claim, the report does not address the September 11 plot at all, let alone the question of Iraq's involvement in it. Rather, the report "focus[es] on al Qaeda's history and evolution," tracing the origins and maturation of al Qaeda through the 1980s and 1990s.

June 30, 2004:

O'Reilly cited phony stats to argue that taxes on rich are excessive

On his June 30 radio show, FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly tried to "blow off" the argument that wealthy Americans ought to pay more taxes by citing phony statistics about the tax burden the rich currently bear.

-snip-

O'REILLY: Just some stats. The top 5 percent of American wage-earners pay 57 percent of federal income taxes, so that blows off the thing that the rich are getting away with it, and they're not paying their fair share. All right? That this is from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Again, 5 percent, the richest five percent pay 57 percent of all federal income taxes.

-snip-

According to the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, the richest 5 percent of taxpayers will pay a more modest 40 percent of total federal taxes (including the payroll tax, income tax, corporate income tax, and estate tax) in 2004.

July 14, 2004:

O'Reilly lied about his French boycott ... again

O'REILLY: [H]ere's the update on the boycott. ... French exports to the USA have fallen by more than a billion dollars from 2001 to 2003. That's according to the U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Division.

-snip-

As Media Matters for America has documented not once but twice in the past, the Census figures prove that O'Reilly's alleged boycott has had no measurable effect on French exports to the United States. Though O'Reilly is correct that Census figures show French exports were about $1.2 billion less in 2003 than in 2001, the decline in that period is unrelated to O'Reilly's supposed boycott.

July 20, 2004:

O'Reilly lied about his own ratings; blasted WSJ for reporting the truth

FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that his nightly TV program, The O'Reilly Factor, attracts "about five million viewers inside the United States." O'Reilly also called a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, which reported the program's ratings accurately, "a lie."

-snip-

Though Nielsen Media Research releases ratings to the public only for the top ten cable shows for each week, the fact that The O'Reilly Factordoes not appear on this list is enough to prove that the show does not attract five million viewers. For the week of July 12 through July 18, Nielsen reports that the tenth highest-rated program on cable television was USA's The Dead Zone, which attracted just under four million viewers.

The Wall Street Journal article (subscription only) that O'Reilly mentioned reported that "Fox News's top-rated program, 'The O'Reilly Factor,' only attracts about two million viewers on an average night." While Media Matters for America does not have direct access to Nielsen's data on The Factor, previous news reports have consistently cited data that roughly matches the Journal's estimate.

November 11, 2004:

O'Reilly falsely claimed all Guantánamo detainees are Al Qaeda

FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly argued that the Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by claiming that "[a]ll of the Guantánamo guys are Al Qaeda. All of 'em!" In fact, according to the Defense Department, a significant number of Guantánamo detainees are Taliban fighters, and even President George W. Bush has taken the position that unlike Al Qaeda detainees, the Geneva Convention does apply to Taliban fighters held at Guantánamo.

December 21, 2004:

Led by O'Reilly, conservative pundits claimed Washington school "banned" A Christmas Carol

FOX News host Bill O'Reilly and his guest, Anthony R. Picarello Jr., said a public school "banned" a stage production of A Christmas Carol because the school feared it would violate the constitutional separation of church and state. In fact, Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, Washington cancelled one performance of the play because the private theater company putting on the play planned to charge admission, a violation of school policy, and because the principal had not approved the event. In a statement, the principal wrote: "The cancellation of this daytime production had nothing to do with religion."

May 10, 2005:

O'Reilly misleadingly claimed Real ID Act passed Senate 100-0

As proof that "politicians are finally feeling the heat on the illegal [immigrant] issue," Fox News host Bill O'Reilly misleadingly claimed that the "the Real ID Act passed 100-0 in the Senate." In fact, the Senate never held a vote specifically on "the Real ID Act," which requires states to verify that an applicant is a legal resident of the United States before issuing the applicant a driver's license. Rather, the legislation was attached to the emergency supplemental appropriation bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only way to vote against the ID measure would have been to vote against the entire funding bill.

June 7, 2005:

O'Reilly's tax falsehoods: 50 percent "don't pay any federal income tax," estate tax "unconstitutional"

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely asserted that "50 percent of Americans don't pay any federal income tax" and that therefore "the other half is waging the whole war on terror." He also claimed that the estate tax is "unconstitutional," an assertion the Supreme Court rejected in a 1921 decision that has been repeatedly upheld over the years.

While O'Reilly claimed that half of all Americans do not pay income taxes, figures from the Tax Policy Center show that only 37.2 percent of total tax units -- single people or married couples -- pay either zero or negative taxes, or do not file at all, leaving 62.8 percent who do pay taxes.

July 25, 2005:

O'Reilly wrongly accused Cyrus Kar of possessing bomb timers

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly wrongly attacked American Cyrus Kar, an aspiring filmmaker detained for seven weeks and later released by the U.S. military in Iraq for suspected links to the Iraqi insurgency. O'Reilly falsely claimed that Kar possessed bomb components when he was captured by Iraqi police. In fact, the Pentagon determined that the components -- washing-machine timers typically used by Iraqi insurgents to detonate bombs -- did not belong to Kar, but instead belonged to the driver of the cab he had hired. Kar was eventually cleared of any connection with terrorists.

August 31, 2005:

O'Reilly falsely accused La. governor of not requesting more National Guard troopsFox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco "failed to ask for more [National Guard] troops from the feds, knowing she only had about 6,000 to control a city of 1.3 million" and that "[i]t was not until Wednesday, August 31st, three days after the storm hit, that Blanco admitted she didn't have enough security in the city." But according to Department of Defense officials, Blanco and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had requested additional Guard personnel before the storm hit.

September 26, 2005:

O'Reilly falsely claimed he retracts his false claims

On the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly claimed that "if we make a mistake ... we will retract, and we will apologize, and we will put it up."

Media Matters for America has identified and corrected hundreds of O'Reilly's falsehoods, made both on his radio show and on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor -- the vast majority of which he has yet to retract. Rather than correct his own falsehoods, O'Reilly lashes out at those who expose them or simply denies that he erred.

October 5, 2005:

O'Reilly wrongly claimed that "about 50 percent of the country's pro-life"

On the October 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that "about 50 percent of the country's pro-life." In fact, less than 40 percent of Americans identified themselves as "pro-life" in a recent Gallup poll, and more than 60 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established the right to abortion.

Ocober 13, 2005:

O'Reilly: Planned Parenthood "encouraging" abortion among teens because they "get paid for every abortion"

On the October 13 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly suggested that Planned Parenthood "would be encouraging" young women to get abortions because "Planned Parenthood gets paid for every abortion that they're involved with."

Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, with a policy of providing services irrespective of income. Many Planned Parenthood clinics offer services on a sliding scale based on ability to pay; the organization's website states that it is committed to "ensuring that financial concerns are not a barrier to necessary health care." These policies and rates extend to all services provided by Planned Parenthood.

December 9, 2005:

O'Reilly falsely claimed a Texas school district banned red and green clothing, called move "fascism"

On December 9, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed on both Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and the nationally syndicated The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly that the Plano Independent School District (Texas) "told students they couldn't wear red and green because they were Christmas colors." He labeled the alleged ban "fascism." On December 12, the school district released an official statement by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Doug Otto refuting O'Reilly's contention.

I have only scratched the surface for two years.  I can provide you with even more examples if you require.

Chairman Ailes, your situation is dire.  You have either a total buffoon or a loose-cannon-pathological-liar in Bill O'Reilly (possibly both).  You owe it to your shareholders in your fiduciary responsibilities to minimize the risk of marginalized profitability due to excessive liability, defamation and slander lawsuits.  I and the undersigned all demand that you protect our investment in FOX News LLC by removing Mr. O'Reilly from the air forthwith.

Sincerely,
RenaRF
Not New York City, USA

Add your signature and a personal note to Chairman Ailes in the comments and I will send it to FOX on Monday.  ;-)

Update [2006-2-24 14:51:21 by RenaRF]: Maxomai made the great suggestion that I use a petition engine online to post a more official version. I have done so, though I had to cut it down to length limitations. My Fire O'Reilly iPetition. Cheers!


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:47 PM 4 comments links to this post
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

While rightfully distracted by the ill-conceived (and frankly ridiculous) proposal to cede control of six major US ports to a company controlled by a foreign government, we have barely registered the fact that a blatant frontal attack is being mounted at the state level which threatens a woman's right to choose.

In the first substantive challenge likely to come before the newly-configured SCOTUS, South Dakota lawmakers are getting ready to vote on a bill that would outlaw nearly all abortions in the state.

Make the jump.

Background

Via the Salt Lake Tribune:

If the bill passes a narrowly divided Senate in a vote expected today, and is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican who opposes abortion, advocates of abortion rights have pledged to immediately challenge it in court - which is precisely what the bill's supporters have in mind.

Optimistic about the new additions to the U.S. Supreme Court, some abortion opponents say they have new hope that a court fight over a ban here could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that asserted the legality of abortion around the country.

With this ominous backdrop, the stage is set, quickly, for the first real test that could come before the SCOTUS designed to return abortion rights determinations to the states.

Worried?  You should be.  Here is what South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds said in his 2006 "State of the State" address (PDF):

We are taking actions to save innocent young lives in South Dakota and to help people better understand the act of abortion before it may occur.

Although this is an initiative that will be undertaken at a state level, success of the bill will lay the groundwork for a challenge at the SCOTUS level.  The provisions of the South Dakota legislation ban abortion in all instances except where there is risk to the life of the mother.  This is in direct opposition to the provisions of Roe v. Wade, which make banning abortion in the first trimester illegal.  The bill has already passed by 47 to 22 in the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee which has to approve the legislation has approved and passed it up to the narrowly-divided Senate.  It will come up for a Senate vote as early as today.  While Governor Rounds has declined to directly discuss the ban, he did say the following:

"I'm not sure how the bill will come down so I'll hold off on discussions until they deliver the bill to me."

Rounds says he knows the state would be sued if the bill passes, but says he's heard there could be donations that would cover the court costs.

It certainly looks to me like he's circling the wagons.

NARAL

I'm going to revisit NARAL and it's not necessarily going to be friendly.  I was greatly disappointed by NARAL's non-response to the Alito nomination.    NARAL went into a fundraising frenzy when Sam Alito's nomination was announced.  Given that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that abortion should remain legal (see PollingReport's abortion numbers here), NARAL was in a favorable position to leverage public opinion in opposing the Alito nomination -- yet they seem distracted by putting their funds towards pro-choice candidates who later betrayed them and their benefactors by allowing the Alito nomination to come to a cloture vote.  I don't know about you, but that's simply not how I want my donations to be spent.

I went looking on NARAL's site for a clear statement of mission and I found it here:

NARAL Pro-Choice America Mission Statement

NARAL Pro-Choice America's mission is to develop and sustain a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion.

Personally, I think it's clear and well-written.  I also think it's high time NARAL returned to serving its mission.  The South Dakota legislative abortion ban is exactly where donor's dollars should be spent.  Yet I found no reference on NARAL's home page to South Dakota.  The only reference is found this way: a visitor has to select the state bill tracker and then select from the map the state about which they want additional information.  Once a state is selected, you can see information about both anti-choice and pro-choice legislation.  The point is, though, you have to know what you're looking for.  I depend on NARAL to get the word out on what I should be looking for because the likelihood that I just stumble upon it in time to do anything about it is very small.  The South Dakota H 1215 bill proves my point exactly.  Finding out about it only today is too late to have substantive influence at the state level.  The vote is occurring as I type.

NARAL is critical in these times of pro-choice peril.  Yet they seem to have strayed from their mission.  While it pains me to say this, drastic measures may be required.  Money talks in this effort, and we can't afford to let NARAL slip into ineffectiveness.  NARAL supporters need to contact them and clearly convey the message that NARAL has to focus on threatening legislation like South Dakota's H 1215.  Write NARAL and tell them that you won't give your money to them if they continue to focus their dollars and effort on electing so-called pro-choice candidates who succumb to party pressure where the rubber meets the road.  Let them know that they should be fighting at every opportunity to give visibility and opposition to these illegal, anti-choice efforts ocurring in our country.

Contact information:

NARAL Pro-Choice America
1156 14th Street NW
Suite 700
Wwashington, DC  20005
Phone: 202-973-3000
Fax: 202-973-3096
Email: can@ProChoiceAmerica.org
Feedback Form


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:48 PM 8 comments links to this post
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Well.  The President has strongly indicated, during a press junket on board Air Force One, that he will veto any attempt to block the Dubai Port deal.

But the troops aren't standing strong behind him on this one.

Make the jump.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN White House reporter, said this about the President's public statements:

He would veto any legislation to hold up this deal and warned that the United States was sending mixed signals by going after a company from the middle east when they said nothing when a British company was in charge.  He goes on to say that it is the lawmakers - members of Congress - that have to step up and explain why a middle eastern company is held to a different standard.  He also took issue with a reporter's question aboard the plane saying what is the - kind of the politics of all of this - and he says that this is not a political issue.  

Clearly, Tony, we've all been waiting to see what the President was going to do, what he would say, and how he was going to come out on this issue.  He has spoken very strongly aboard Air Force One essentially saying he would veto any legislation that would put that deal on hold.

In another shocker, Dennis Hastert has issued a "strongly worded" letter encouraging the President to back away from the port deal.  Via Ed Henry at CNN:

Even as the President is now declaring that he wants this port deal to go through and that he would veto any legislation the Congress passes to try to block the deal, CNN has also just learned that the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, a key Republican ally of the President, of course, has just fired off a letter to the President saying he should halt the port deal.  He's saying he should also "conduct a more thorough review of the matter before it goes forward."  Hastert is also warning that he might introduce legislation if the President does not follow through on that.  

This letter almost directly mirrors... what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sent to the President earlier today.  A prepared statement - not a letter - a prepared statement telling the President - complaining - that there had been very little Congressional consultation in this whole process.  Also complaining about the potential security ramifications of having this Dubai company actually take over the operations of US ports.  Senator Frist had also basically said it's time to halt this deal otherwise he will introduce legislation.  This is coming after rank and file Republicans all up and down the East Coast of the United States, in port cities from New York to Florida, today and in recent days calling for the deal to be halted.  

And finally, Republican senator Susan Collins today, Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, she's saying she'll introduce a resolution of disapproval of this whole port deal.  That's another problem and headache for this White House.  

And finally, Senator Chuck Grassley, key Republican - Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee - just within the last hour put out a statement blasting this entire deal.  You see the President digging in, but Republicans on Capitol Hill really pushing back hard.  This a tremendous political headache for the White House.

My emphasis added in both excerpts.

Whew.  Lots of DVR transcribing there.  A few random thoughts:

  1. Presidential arrogance, apparently, pisses off more than just Democrats.
  2. This is the next "Harriet Miers" effect, only this time common sense will win out over ideology.
  3. Why the HELL is the President so dogmatically sticking to this deal??

Sheesh.  Nice to see them fracturing so publicly on this.  The President has his pants around his proverbial ankles.

The talking heads on CNN are now talking about the unexpected "tsunami of opposition" to the port deal. I suppose it's only unexpected if you don't keep u with the news and statements of other public figures, both Democrat and Republican.

Update [2006-2-21 16:27:44 by RenaRF]: PRICELESS - Jack Cafferty's comments on CNN just now:

Wolf, this may be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back, this deal to sell control of six US ports to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirattes. There are now actually Senators and Congressmen and Governors and Mayors telling the White House "you're not gonna do this." And it's about time. No one has said "no" to this administration on anything that matters in a very long time. Well this matters. It matters a lot. If this deal is allowed to go through, we deserve whatever we get. A country with ties to terrorists will have a presence at six critical doorways to our country. And if anyone thinks that the terrorists, in time, won't figure out how to exploit that, then we're all done. Nothing's happened yet, mind you, but if our elected representatives don't do everything in their power to stop this thing, each of us should vow to work tirelessly to see that they are removed from public office. We're at a crossroads - which way will we choose?

Here's the question: What should be done to stop a deal that would allow an Arab company to run US Ports??

Click here to send an email with your thoughts to Jack Cafferty.

My emphasis added. Send Jack an email - the question, and its setup, were awesome.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:16 PM 3 comments links to this post
Monday, February 20, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Yesterday I did a diary on a proposed Constitutional amendment to give Congress the power to regulate campaign finances. Really, an editorial in /The Washington Post/ caught my eye and I decided I'd do a diary on it. It's not an incendiary or especially "WOW"-ish subject and I was pleasantly surprised to see it make the recommended list and to see some discussion, pro and con, on the issue. The comment thread also produced alternatives and information about other initiatives to accomplish the same essential goal.

One commenter indicated that s/he felt that campaign finance reform (in whatever iteration) and the integrity of the vote were the two single biggest issues with which Dems should be dealing. Whether or not to agree with the prioritization, voting integrity is up there on the list. I subscribe to an email list from VoteTrustUSA.org and below the fold, I'd like to highlight some of the information they've sent me.

The first thing in the email that caught my eye was an area for actions that people can take on a local level:

National: Pass HR 550 As Written! ~ Clicking the link will take you to a page where you can enter your information and write your relevant Congresspeople urging them to pass HR 550 as written.

National: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines! ~ Clicking here will allow you to send a message to all four of the Election Assistance Commission's Commissioners, putting them on notice that citizens are watching the actions of Diebold and others.

Iowa - Support SF 351 ~ Residents of Iowa can follow this link to write their Iowa State House Representative urging passage of SF 351, legislation that creates a paper trail for voting. The Iowa State Senate has already passed the measure.

Maryland: Support HB 244 and SB 713 ~ This will send a letter to your Maryland State Senator urging passage of HB 244, legislation that not only requires a voter-verified paper trail but which also calls for a percentage hand-counted audit to ensure inegrity in Maryland's voting process.

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977 ~ This allows you to write you PA State Representative urging support for HB 2000 and your PA State Senator demanding passage of S 977. Both pieces of legislation call for a voter-verified paper trail.

Washington: Audit All Voting Machines! - Support HB-2532 ~ This will send a letter to your Washington State Representative demanding the audit of all voting system through passage of HB 2532.

VoteTrustUSA.org also has a weekly feature of the top 5 news stories related to voting and voting integrity. Here's what they highlighted this past week:

The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA

#5 - In Arizona the state legislature ignored past voting machine counting errors as they refused to adopt legislation to require a 5% hand-counted audit. As reported by the Arizona Daily Star the legislation did not even make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

#4 - Meanwhile, in next door neighbor New Mexico, VoteTrustUSA reports that in the last few hours of the legislative session the legislature passed a bill to require optical-scan voting and to ban DREs. This bill had the approval of the Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State and was a result of hard work from voting activists from across the state and nationally. Groups like Verified Voting New Mexico, United Voters of New Mexico, and Voter Action deserve a lot of credit for the work they did to get this passed.

#3 - The state of Illinois seems to be in an awful hurry to certify Sequoia voting machines for use in the state. Maybe because Chicago and suburban Cook County have already signed a contract for more than $50M with the Venezuelan owned Sequoia Voting Systems. As reported by Robert A. Wilson of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project in VoteTrustUSA, the system that has been state certified and has already been contracted for is not even 2002 compliant.

#2 - The lines are being drawn in Maryland. On one side are voting activists and the governor. On the other side is the state elections chief, Linda Lamone and her friends at Diebold. Last week was a busy week in the state. The Baltimore Chronicle announced that the state legislature and civic groups had united for voter verified paper ballot legislation with the filing of SB713, with 23 co-sponsors. Then Avi Rubin opined that flawed election machines were leaving state voters guessing. Following this the Baltimore Sun announced that Governor Erlich had stated that the state was not ready to hold elections and that he was now coming out with his support for a paper trail. In the meantime, RawStory revealed that documents show elections and a primary were held on uncertified voting machines. And, BradBlog reported on the potential damage that the news would have on Diebold. In an attempt at 'damage control' Linda Lamone and Diebold ignored the facts and told all who would listen that the state's voting system was the best in the nation.

#1 - This week was a big news week in California. State Senator Debra Bowen held a hearing to discuss open source voting software and voting systems certification. In that hearing one county election official, Warren Slocum of San Mateo County, questioned the use of vendor provided software and voting systems. Then on Friday afternoon just before a holiday weekend, the Secretary of State announced that he was going to conditionally certify two Diebold voting systems; the Accuvote OS and Accuvote TSx. This surprise certification was welcomed with amazement from some in the activist community and with questioning comments from Sen. Bowen. Why was the announcement made late on a Friday afternoon? Why did the SoS see fit to send a letter to Diebold, the Independent Test Authorities, the National Association of Secretaries of State, and the National Association of State Elections Directors but not to the Election Assistance Commission?

You can also have one-stop shopping for other news at both the national and state levels on voting integrity issues:

National Stories

ACM Study Group Issues Voter Registration Guidelines To Assure Privacy and Accuracy

Twists and Turns - Who Owns Sequoia?

News From Around the States

Alaska: Division of Elections Delays Release of Election Records

Arizona: State Senator Huppenthal Guts Election Reform Bill

Diebold in California: Who's Responsible?

California: Why Is San Francisco Rolling The Dice With Sequoia?

Illinois May Have Violated State Law In Desperate Effort To Certify Voting Machines

Maryland: Governor Ehrlich's Letter To State Board of Elections

Flawed Election Machines Leave Maryland Voters Guessing

Paper Ballot Victory In New Mexico

Pennsylvania Citizens' Right To Choose Voting Machines Upheld In Court

Hopefully you get the gist. I am not a voting integrity specialist by any means. I see a valiant focus by some diarists here on Daily Kos on the subject of electronic voting, verified voting, voting integrity and both local and national efforts. These diaries mostly kind of slide by - with the recent exception of this one by *ms in la* on the Diebold/California issue.

So I have a question - would a twice monthly diary of this kind, one that gives you a brief overview of what's going on in the work of voting integrity be useful? I'll post a poll question to see what everyone thinks.

Regarless, VoteTrustUSA.org has been a very valuable source for me to stay informed about the issues, who is championing them, what states are taking action and what states are /not/, which elected officials support voting integrity and verificaiton vs. which ones oppose it, etc. I encourage you to sign up for their weekly newsletter so you can have a top level view of the critical issues of voting integrity as the '06 elections loom.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:13 PM 1 comments links to this post
Sunday, February 19, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and my blog)

It's been a wild week over at Daily Kos.  We hate professional politicians.  We love professional politicians.  We hate liberal talking heads.  We think Kossacks are missing the point.  We post diaries to lift the spirits of our fellow Kossacks, designed to highlight the good and not the bad.  We witness the emergence of a Kossack "leader" (and hopefully get his point in the process), and we debate the ups and downs of actually winning in '06.  All the while we have had both excellent and downright goofy diaries on the birdshot-heard-round-the-world.

So now allow me to switch gears to a discussion of an issue that isn't sexy or necessarily inflammatory.  Money, politics, the power of potential reform, and the value of 624 hours.

In his Washington Post editorial, former Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings makes a simple and compelling case for a Constitutional amendment to drive substantive fundraising and finance reform.

There is a cancer on the body politic: money.

Indeed.  It's so obvious to all of us that money in politics, the need for money in politics and all the activities designed to ensure that money makes its way into politics and into the war chests of politicians is a corrupting issue.  Before reading the editorial, however, I had no idea how much of a politician's time is spent raising money:

When I came to the Senate in 1966, we invariably would have a vote scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday to be sure that we started the week at work. And the Senate regularly was voting Friday afternoon. Now you can't find the Senate until Monday evening, and it's gone again by Thursday night. We're off raising money. We use every excuse for a "break" to do so. In February it used to be one day for Washington's birthday and one for Lincoln's. Now we've combined them so we can take a week off to raise money. There's Easter week, Memorial Day week, Fourth of July week and the whole month of August. There's Columbus Day week, Thanksgiving week and the year-end holidays. While in town, we hold breakfast fundraisers, lunch fundraisers, and caucuses to raise funds. The late senator Richard Russell of Georgia said a senator was given a six-year term -- two years to be a statesman, two to be a politician and two to demagogue. Now we take all six years to raise money.

Let's stop and contemplate that.  People like me, who are (thankfully) employed full-time and hold exempt (salaried, not hourly) status work 2,080 hours in a year.  In my case, 72 hours hours are paid vacation days.  I get 80 hours of paid vacation time and have the option of using 40 hours of sick leave.  If I took all of these optional hours, I would work 1,888 hours annually.

Since time is not altered for public officials, let's work with the same 2,080-hour baseline as in my example above (and yes, I know that many of us - including me - work many more than 40 hours a week - I had to compare somewhere). I'll be kind and only remove Fridays when the Congress is in session from a Senator's "real" work, for a total of 320 hours.  Christmas and New Year's holidays - 80 hours.  February President's week - 40 hours.  Easter week - 40 hours.  Memorial Day week - 40 hours.  4th of July week - 40 hours.  Entire month of August - 176 hours.  Columbus Day week - 40 hours.  Thanksgiving week - 40 hours.  That's a grand total of 816 hours which, when subtrated from the 2,080 baseline, yields total actual work of 1,264 hours.  If you're keeping score at home, this is what it looks like:

Salaried humanity works 1,888 hours annually.
Salaried Congresspeople work 1,264 hours annually.

Call me crazy, but do you think the additional 624 hours would benefit a member of Congress by, say, giving them time to read legislation?  Just a thought.

Hollings does a good job of explaining how it used to be compared to how it is.  He talked about Maurice Stans' fundraising activities for Richard Nixon and explains how that led to legislation in 1974 that limited candidates' spending (and therefore fundraising) to x dollars per voter.  In the case of Hollings and South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, the limit was $637,000 for their campaigns.  Hollings says:

Fast-forward 30 years, taking into account inflation and the larger number of voters. Today a South Carolina race for the U.S. Senate would be limited to $3 million -- if the spending limits were still in effect. But the limits did not survive a court challenge; they were thrown out in a 1976 Supreme Court decision that has had disastrous consequences. So in 1998 I had to raise $8.5 million to be elected senator. This meant I had to collect $30,000 a week, each and every week, for six years. I could have raised $3 million in South Carolina. But to get $8.5 million I had to travel to New York, Boston, Chicago, Florida, California, Texas and elsewhere. During every break Congress took, I had to be out hustling money. And when I was in Washington, or back home, my mind was still on money.

I'm not breaking any ground by saying that spending and fundraising in the process of being elected to office is out of control.  What really caught my attention in Hollings' editorial was this argument:

From the beginning, candidates have had to raise money, qualify and run. It was the candidate's character and policy that attracted contributions -- the more contributions the merrier. But people resented the rich buying elections, either as candidates or contributors. What the court did in 1976 [in Buckley v. Valeo, legislation that declared the 1974 limits an unconstitutional limit to free speech] was to give the rich, who don't have to raise money, a big advantage -- in effect, a greater degree of freedom of speech than others have. No one can imagine that in drafting the First Amendment to the Constitution, James Madison thought freedom of speech would be measured by wealth. The Supreme Court, which has found constitutional other limits on speech, has rendered Madison's freedom unequal. Congress must make it equal again.

Imagine that - the wealthy have freer speech than those of lesser means.  Enter the Jack Abramoff's of the world and the corrupt K Street lobbyists:

Recently the cancer of money has metastasized. The Jack Abramoff scandal has revealed the poisoning of our democracy. The K Street lobbyists have become a cottage industry. A legislator who seeks money will do well to take onto his or her staff someone a lobbyist recommends. The staffer then arranges the industry fundraisers. And K Street tells you outright that if you don't have a Republican lobbyist, your legislation is not going anywhere.

The lobbyists don't bother with the senator; they take the staff to lunch. Legislation is not drafted in the Senate but in the law offices. Staffs are queried to make sure the senator is favorably disposed and once there are enough senators so inclined, the measure moves to the party leadership's staff. The next thing you know, the measure is a party position and becomes "must" legislation. Sometimes a senator is on the way to the floor to vote on it, asking his staff, "What's this all about?" and the staff replies, "You're for this, vote 'aye,' or you're against this, vote 'nay.'"

Although Hollings' conclusion comes in the middle of the editorial, it is simple and it is this:

What is needed is a simple one-line amendment to the Constitution. It would authorize Congress to regulate or control spending in federal elections.

The political pollyanna in me believes with absolute conviction that the vast majority of individuals who decide to run for public office do so out of a sense of duty and a belief that, if elected, they can make a difference for their constituents and Americans as a whole.  In the beginning they are, in my opinion, motivated by ideology.  But the constant necessity to raise and collect money in order to hold one's position to institute change corrupts the politician and therefore the process.  Again - no great revelation there.

The Supreme Court will be taking up the issue of Buckley v. Valeo next month.  From US News and World Report:

That may change next week when U.S. Supreme Court justices consider the constitutionality of a Vermont law that takes on the troublesome partner--the court's own 1976 landmark Buckley v. Valeo campaign finance ruling, which limits individual contributions to political campaigns but allows candidates to spend as much as they please in pursuit of public office.

Fat chance the money- and corporation-conscious SCOTUS will make any groundbreaking decisions, but I can dream, can't I?  Given that it's unlikely the SCOTUS will limit campaign spending commensurate pre-Buckley v. Valeo efforts, a Consitituional amendment is what solves the problem.  In the wake of the Abramoff scandal and the Duke Cunningham scandal and the Delay scandal and [insert your scandal here], the time is right to write your Congresspersons and demand meaningful reform in the form of an amendment.  Public visibility on the issue is high, and all but the most far-right of right-wing Congresspeople have an '06 election advantage to calling for the amendment - they can take the high ground and claim ownership of "meaningful" reform and free all but the most cynical and power-hungry to return to the roots of why they sought public office in the first place.

And remember - if my pollyanna-ish brushstrokes have painted an unlikely scenario, the people - you and I - have the power to amend the Consitution.  Yes, I realize that a Constitutional Convention has never been used to successfully amend the Constitution - but the language is there and if I know one thing, it's that if we don't focus on it it will never happen.

Finally, gaining seats in the 2006 mid-term elections could substantially increase the liklihood of a legislative amendment effort.  If Democrats are to retake one or both houses of Congress, it will be on a desire by the American public to change the complexion on Washington DC.  A huge part of that is any effort to reform Congressional corruption.  This amendment should be a talking point for every Democrat who throws their hat into the ring.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:04 PM 1 comments links to this post
Friday, February 17, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Thunderstruck

That's what I am - thunderstruck.  I am reading a book - nonfiction.  I'll give the details after the substantive body of the diary because I don't want any distraction from the message that floored me.

There has been a lot of talk here lately - much of it very valuable - that centers around the leadership of the Democratic party, the state of the American in which we find ourselves living, and dedication to righting the wrongs we see in front of us.  Attendant to these diaries is a great deal of frustration - a sense that many of us are hanging on by our teeth, fighting the good fight, but becoming slowly worn down by the news, by our perceived (and often very real) lack of progress, and much gnashing of teeth and clenching of fists about the future that lies ahead of each of us.  Things are hanging in the balance.

Allow me to provide a little bit of thunderstruck relevance through historical perspective and then apply that to the challenge we face today.

This begins after the fold.

The book I'm reading has been very enjoyable.  It really has nothing to do with politics, though it is nonfiction and provides history commensurate with the story it is trying to tell.  To wit, allow me to share this excerpt, which I read this morning:

(Speaking about the political and cultural climate of the early 1900's in America)

Forging prototypes of the modern corporation, [the robber barons] built the backbone for America's twentieth century almost entirely without government interference or regulation, and with even less regard for individual human lives.  The resulting Midas-like riches they hoarded exclusively for members of their own class, and greeted protests they should do otherwise with sneering contempt.  By the turn of the century, through the influence of their various "trusts" - i.e., strangleholds - the super-rich controlled virtually every level of the country's financial and political life.  All that was about to change.

Inspired by Teddy Roosevelt's presidential activism and led by a crusading younger generation of reformers, during the new century's first decade the growing labor movement mounted a stand against robber baron capitalism.  A war for the hearts and minds of the nation's middle class ensued.  Newpapers owned by the bosses presented money's side of the argument to a complacent public conditioned to believe what they were told.  The Dickensian realities of the sweatshop and slaughterhouse, the mine and mill, wouldn't be given a national voice until the intellectual muckrakers of Greenwich Village found theirs.

I don't know about you, but I was immediately thunderstruck by the parallels I see to the struggle in which we are embroiled today.  Allow me the conceit of re-writing the above excerpt with relevance to the state of things today:

Forging prototypes of the modern corporatocracy, the Republicans built the backdrop for America's twenty-first century almost entirely without government interference or regulation, and with even less regard for individual human lives.  The resulting Midas-like riches they hoarded exclusively for members of their own class, and greeted protests they should do otherwise with sneering contempt and tax cuts for the wealthy.  By the turn of the century, through the influence of their various "corporate interests" - i.e., strangleholds - the super-rich controlled virtually every level of the country's financial and political life.  All that was about to change.

Inspired by grass-roots activism and led by a crusading younger generation of internet-savvy reformers, during the new century's first six years the growing accountability movement mounted a stand against Republican capitalism.  A war for the hearts and minds of the nation's middle class ensued.  Newpapers and media outlets owned by the bosses presented, almost exclusively, money and security's side of the argument to a complacent public conditioned to believe what they were told and react fearfully.  The Dickensian realities of the state of civil rights and the plight of the working middle class, the mine and factory, wouldn't be given a national voice until the intellectual muckrakers of the blogosphere found theirs.

A close inspection, I hope, will show that I didn't change that many words and that, conceptually, the two paragraphs are remarkably similar with the only variant being historical context.

The point is, although things are bad today - our rights are being shredded; as a population, we show an amazing lack of alarm at a secretive and intrusive government; we seem unable and/or unwilling to demand accountability with an effective consolidated voice - you can insert your most dire issue(s) - things have been bad before and the only reason anything improved was the unwillingness of a group of educated and motivated people to sit down and shut up.

Think again in the context of the modern labor movement of the early 1900's and the suffrage movement of the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Upton Sinclar (among others) was the voice of the labor movement, exposing and giving concrete form to abuses suffered by the workers who built the rising industrial Era.  Alice Paul chained herself to the White House fence and undertook a hunger strike, once incarcerated, to shed light on the egregious treatment of women evidenced by their lack of a right to vote.  There were many other voices who raised the collective awareness for these issues into the general public.  The mouthpieces were activists who probably felt, many times, that they stood utterly alone, screaming into a vacuum.  But their words and their cause broke through despite all the factors that were unfairly stacked against them.

I generally believe that I can't point to a politician, today, who has fully demonstrated the capability to remove themselves from politics enough to lead this cause for change.  But I am aptly and gratefully reminded that it was average people, citizens who picked their heads up just long enough to see what was really wrong, who took up the cause for change and led our nation into a new era.  I'm sure they despaired at times - I'm sure also that they even considered giving up, so precipitous were the forces aligned against them.  But they didn't.  They held fast to the fundamental and inseparable conviction that things were wrong and had to be made right.

I believe with absolute conviction that this is a purpose we can serve effectively.  Look at all the media and political rhetoric we cut through here at Daily Kos.  Look at all the fine works of investigative journalism, unbound by corporate pressure, to which this site has given a platform.  Look at the rise of attention given to blogs and to bloggers in the traditional media within the last year alone.  Look at the influence that we can and have wielded and the attention this brings us from elected representatives.  Look at it.

And realize that the change has to be driven and nurtered and developed - it will not just happen - and resolve yourself to play whatever part you can in that change.

It's coming - make sure you stay on board and keep working at what your heart tells you is right.  The stakes are immeasurably high.  If you remember nothing else from this diary, remember that others have traveled your road of frustration and have gone on to do great things -  injustice and just plain wrongness can't stand forever.

And incidentally, the book is The Greatest Game Ever Played and it's about GOLF - a legendary match between Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet that happened in the 1913 US Open.  I didn't want to lead with the book for fear that some readers might find a golf book not sufficient to provide inspirational political guidance.  But that's what I read in it, and I thought it was important to pass along.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:50 PM 3 comments links to this post
Thursday, February 16, 2006

This is my first and last post on the Cheney Shooting Incident (CSI for short). Just a few random thoughts on the subject...

Now let me just say that I find many, many things about this accidental shooting (and I DO think it was accidental and I doubt that alcohol played a part) so totally representative of Cheney and the Bush administration. It's that "fuck you" kind of mentality that says that they're just going to do what they're going to do and do it their way and if you don't like it, you can just go jump off a bridge. In the case of the shooting incident, probably not so important. But when you're declassifying documents and crafting energy policy in secrecy and refusing to answer questions etc. and so forth and so on, it gets old and you start to see a lot of representative connections between what you don't like generally and the incident particularly.

So if you wonder why the left has been harping on this, that's my explanation. I think it's time to move on from it, however. Enough.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:36 PM 2 comments links to this post
Monday, February 13, 2006

If you've been coming here for a while (thanks if so!!) then you know that I am a Kossack. For the uninitiated, a "Kossack" is someone who blogs also at Daily Kos. I've been active over there for a full year now and I have the privilege of having read some outstanding work. In an effort to give some well-deserved additional exposure to some of the fine authors at Daily Kos, I will periodically dedicate a post to those posts that I found their best.

Allow me to introduce you to Devilstower. He writes very credibly on a variety of subjects but some of the best stuff I've read by him are two posts on the oil industry and several on the evidence that we are killing the planet. These posts require your time - some are very long - but the information is unbelievable and the writing is stellar. Somehow Devilstower can take the most complex information, garnered over a lifetime of experience, and make it understandable to people like me who possess only a willingness to learn.

On the oil industry:

On the impending death of the planet:


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 8:59 PM 1 comments links to this post

On The Left Tip would like to welcome its new renter, Kate's Ramblings and Wanderings.

Kate is a transplanted New Yorker now residing in North Carolina (how does that work??). Kate writes about everything. Her most recent post is about Dick Cheney's recent shooting accident, but scrolling through her blog you can find other blogs of interest, movie quizzes, unique software tips, and a host of links that any blogsurfer would find interesting. This gal's more than a one trick pony - so look to your left, click on her blog, and give her some bloglove.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:44 PM 3 comments links to this post
Thursday, February 09, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and my blog)

I have the good fortune to split my time between an actual office and a home office.  I have the further good fortune of having access to C-SPAN in both places, as well as CNN - either on TV or via my satellite radio setup in the office.

This past week, a lot of the news sources I listen to regularly have been having discussions about Ken Mehlman, Hilary Clinton, Democratic anger, and the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Make the jump.

If you're just catching up, Hilary Clinton gave an infamous (for whatever period of time) speech on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday where she referred to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as a "plantation" where opposing voices are silenced.

Riding the coattails of the news-garnering Clinton speech, Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the RNC, joined the fray:

"When you think of the level of anger, I'm not sure it's what Americans want," said Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican National Committee.

--snip--

"I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates. And whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger," Mehlman told ABC's This Week.

Here is Hilary Clinton's direct response (sort of - through a spokesperson):

When contacted for a response, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said, "If the president and the White House spent half as much time worrying about the runaway deficit and the broken Medicare system as they do about Hillary Clinton, the country would be in much better shape."

Nothing wrong with that statement, right?  It focuses the attention on issues that matter, right?  Well, in my view, yes and no.  While it's important to focus on the issues, and especially the issues that show so clearly the ineptitude of the current administration, I also don't think it's wrong to be angry.  What's wrong is letting the other side define your anger as to whether it's "good" anger (the kind that spurs people to seek justice and right wrongs, etc.) vs. "bad" anger.  Apparently, the post-9/11 variety of anger that led to the Afghanistan invasion is "good" anger.  Anger at corruption and Constitutional defiance is "bad" anger.  By not standing up and saying "I'm angry and now let me tell you why" you cede the definition of good vs. bad anger to those who want to paint you in the worst possible light.

We are angry.  You need only to go and watch this highlight video of speeches at Coretta King's funeral service to understand the why behind the anger - billions for tax cuts.  Budget cuts that disproportionately affect the poor among us, many of whom have joined these ranks from the middle class during the Bush administration.  Civil liberties violated again and again - in this United States, in the year 2006.  Defiantly violated.  Arrogantly violated.  Self-righteously violated.  Untold thousands injured, maimed and killed in Iraq, sent there with a belief that they were defending our nation only to find out that the basis for their incursion was inherently false.

Of course we're angry.

Average, every-day people are angry.  Read a transcript (done by me) of these two calls to C-SPAN not an hour ago - they were entertaining calls on the Republican, Independent and Democratic lines on the subject of whether or not the Democratic party is "angry", whether that anger will work for or against them, and whether or not callers feel the Democratic party serves them appropriately:

HOST: next call is a call on the Democrat's line.  Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, welcome to our dicussion on party politics.

CALLER: Yes... um... You know what - the Democrats are angry - the Republicans are using it as a strategy - but this is the way they operate.  They use something that's true but then they twist it - they use smoke and mirrors.  Their talking heads - the Sean Hannitys the O'Reillys... they are the ones that are out there spewing anger and hatred while Democrats are trying to get across facts.  And most of America is so afraid of intelligent politicians that they like to spin them as angry.  And I'd like to say, real quick, the Democrats by and large - they do not want Hilary Clinton.  So, that's another part of our frustration - she keeps getting shoved down our throats.  We don't want her.  And we have a lot to be frustrated and angry about when Gonzales isn't sworn in and he's lying about wiretapping as over 2,000 men and women are killed over lies... There's a whole lot - America should be angry and should turn it into a very very intelligent message.  And if the rest of America could sit down and listen to it - if they could accept - the truth hurts - if they could accept that we have a lying [inaudible]... This administration is so corrupt and it hurts to see such a great country brought down by the - you know - very corrupt people.  So they - that's what they do.  They use it.  They spin it.

HOST: Thank you for the call Pittsburgh.  Milton Massachusetts - good morning - Democrats line.

CALLER:  Good morning.  I'm a Democrat and I'm very angry.  What I'm most angry about is having 51% of my tax money going into the military industrial complex while our troops in Iraq go unsupported, unarmed, unrelieved, un-everything.  Iraqi-wounded veterans, our veterans, American veterans - they're dying on the streets because Bush has cut veteran's benefits six years in a row now with the 2007 budget.  He's cut them so that ciilians have to build hospitals to rehab Iraqi wounded vets.  

HOST: Now caller, since we're talking politics this morning, where is the outlet for your anger in party politics, is there someone speaking on your behalf and how successful will that message be to the larger public?

CALLER:  Who is speaking on my behalf?  I'm the only one I know of speaking on my behalf.  

HOST: So are you unhappy with the Democratic party for not ... picking up on the message that matters so much to you?

CALLER:  The Democratic party is picking up on it beautifully.  Your so-called liberal media is the people not picking up on it.  What they're picking up on is our anger and not the message because they can't print the message!  They can't print the message that Bush is bankrupting the United States.  That we have Nazi concentration camps and torture prisons.  We have Nazi laws on our books now.  The same law that Hitler used to pick up Jews in Germany we have in the United States.  It's called CAFRA - Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act where someone could be picked up for the act of terrorism  - which is exactly what the Jews were picked up for - the act of terrorism - they even used the same words - and whoever is picked up for terrorism in the United States is picked up outside of our justice system, outside of the court system.  They can be taken to GITMO, all their property can be confiscated, and guess who it's given to?  In the law that I read, which may have be changed now - JOHN ASHCROFT is named in the law as the person to whom all assets are to be consigned to.  Not to a department of our government but to John Ashcroft.  Now tell me that that's not unconscionable.

HOST: Caller, let me - let me jump in.

CALLER: (yelling) In the United States.  In the United States!!

HOST: Caller, we have to move on.

My emphasis added.  Both of those callers are angry and they have no problem giving a voice to that anger and applying a rationale to its emergence that serves as a basis for discussion.

I realize it's important to have our own ideas.  I accept, in certain circumstances, that just saying "we aren't them - they suck" is not a platform.  But we have also allowed the opposition the advantage of defining the playing field on this issue - in my view, they have rather effectively gotten the message out that it's not enough to criticize if you can't offer a proposal of your own.  Yet that argument isn't always true.  It works for issues like health care and medicare/medicaid reform and social security but not for other big issues, arguably the big issues of the Bush administraion.

How would Democrats fight the Iraq war?  Well, we wouldn't.  We wouldn't have rushed in there in the first place.

How will Democrats ensure that they are not participants in corruption?  Well, that's obvious - we'd keep doing what we're doing becuase we are not the ones ensnared in corruption scandals.

How will Democrats balance 4th amendment and civil rights with the need for national security?  We wouldn't.  The processes are already in place that allow for needed national security activities without undue violation of civil liberties.  We'd just follow the law.

See what I mean?  There isn't always a contra-proposal.

I only used Hilary Clinton as an example because her recent comments have sparked this whole discussion.  In it, I can see the emergence of the Next Great Republican Strategy - paint Democrats as angry people who are weak on national security and will get the average voter killed.  I see it because it's obvious - so do many of you here and so have many progressive columists in the nation's larger newspapers.  This isn't rocket science.

So I am angry.  Righteously pissed off.  I fear the 999 days left in this administration.  The only salvation I see is substantive gains in the 2006 mid-terms that build momentum for the 2008 Presidential election.  Yet if we won't clearly state, as a party, that we are angry and intelligently posit the reasons giving rise to the anger, I will be angrier still.  Anger is not a bad thing - it can be used.  It's up to us to use it to our advantage.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:30 AM 2 comments links to this post
Wednesday, February 08, 2006

.001%.  Do you know what it's a percentage of?  It's the percentage of persons killed on 9/11 with respect to the entire population of the United States of America.

Due to inbreeding, insanity, stupidity or some combination of the three, Senator Jeff Sessions seems to think that the denial, by death, of .001% of the American population of their civil rights is justification enough for the executive branch's authorization for warrantless wiretaps.

Don't misunderstand me - those people matter.  They matter to their families and on some level, they matter to each and every one of us who lives here in the United States.  But they don't matter for the reasons Jeff Sessions cites - indeed, invoking their memory in this fashion is sheer profanity.

More after the fold.

Earlier this week, I'd had a day where I had been largely able to listen to the testimony by Alberto Gonzales in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Unless you live under a rock (and you don't, because you're reading a blog), you know that the Committee held the hearing on the subject of the the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, instantiated, authorized and re-authorized by the President for the past four years.

There were some really interesting interchanges.  One that topped my outrage meter, however, was an ignorant comment by Senator Sessions.  It's too soon for an official transcript where I can quote Senator Sessions directly, but, as I indicated in the introduction, he essentially referenced the 3000 Americans (never mind the fact that they weren't all American) who died in 9/11 were denied their civil rights.  The comment was clearly intended to indicate that the events of 9/11 have justified the warrantless wiretaps.

This is wrong on so many levels I'm not even sure where to begin.  

First, the very concept that we are having civilized hearings as though the NSA wiretaps might be legal is mind-boggling.  This is the key issue:  FISA came into existence to settle the question of disparity between the Constitutionality of legislation vs. the Constitutionality of an action.  It's true.  From a diary I did on FISA back in December:

...[the] SCOTUS rejected the statutory argument of invoking the Constitution as a basis for warrantless wiretaps.  Finally, however, note the SCOTUS' validation of the President's right to use electronic surveillance of "would-be subversives" on Constitutional grounds.  I read this as a conundrum.

(From FISA FAQ)  Invoking the "broader spirit" of the Fourth Amendment and "the convergence of First and Fourth Amendment values" in national security wiretapping cases, however, the Court was especially wary of possible abuses of the national security power. The Court then balanced "the duty of Government to protect the domestic security, and the potential danger posed by unreasonable surveillance to individual privacy and free expression," and found that waiving the Fourth Amendment probable cause requirement could lead the executive to "yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech." Justice Powell wrote that the inconvenience to the government is "justified in a free society to protect constitutional values."

The Court emphasized that this case involved only the domestic aspects of national security: "We . . . express no opinion as to, the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents." It invited Congress to act: "Given these potential distinctions between Title III criminal surveillances and those involving the domestic security, Congress may wish to consider protective standards for the latter which differ from those already prescribed for specified crimes in Title III. Different standards may be compatible with the Fourth Amendment if they are reasonable both in relation to the legitimate need of Government for intelligence information and the protected rights of our citizens."

My emphasis added.

Thus was born FISA, legislation that emerged out of a Constitutional and judicial conundrum.

The question of whether or not the NSA wiretaps are legal has already been asked and answered.  They are not.  It took years and many court cases and opinions and back-and-forth to answer the question.  It's ridiculous that we're asking it again.

Back to the .001%.  I find it difficult to reconcile a statement that says that 3,000 people died to give the government the right to violate my rights.  It sounds really stupid when put that way, but that's what Sessions said.  Out loud.  On the record.

What a dingbat.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:23 PM 2 comments links to this post
Tuesday, February 07, 2006

If you missed it, it was worth watching.

Here's a transcript that I did from Rev. Dr. Lowry's speech. My apologies for any inaccuracies:

Thank you. Sit down before I take up an offering.

I am niehter gambler nor bettor.
But who could have brought this crowd together except Coretta.

Lord have mercy. (laughs)

How marvelous that Presidents and Governors come to mourn and praise.
But in the morning, will words become deeds that meet needs?

Leave me alone, Sharpton. (laughs)

I've been asked to recognize the Board of Directors for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Revenerend Steele who is here... would you stand?

Sister Coretta was the first lady of SCLC. What a family reunion!
Rosa and Martin - reminiscing - they've just begun to talk.
With Martin seen not to listen, he started to walk.
The wind was beginning to whisper in his ear...
"I believe someone is almost here.
Excuse me Rosa." Martin said as he did depart;
his soul is on fire - he just couldn't wait.
His spirit leaped with joy as he move towards the pearly gates.
Glory, glory, halleluja, that after forty years - almost forty years - together at last, together at last, thank God allmighty, together at last. (thunderous applause)

Thank you Coretta. DIdn't she carry her grief with digninity?
Her growing influence with humility?
She secured his seed, nurtured his nobility,
she declared humanity's worth and vented their vision,
his and hers, for peace and [inaudible].
She appalled discrimination based on race.
She frowned on homophobia and gender bias she rejected on its face.
She summoned the nations to study war no more.
She embraced the wonders of the human family from shore to shore.

Excuse me, Maya (laughter and applause).

She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war.
She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bums on missions way afar.
We know now there are no weapons of mass destruction over there. (thunderous applause) (crowd gives standing ovation)
But Coretta knew, and we knew, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds.
For war, billions more, but no more for the poor.

Well, Coretta had harsh critics. Some no one could please,
but she paid them no mind. She kept speaking for the least of these.
There, but through as we get older, so I'm told,
we listen in to heaven like the prophets of old.
I heard Martin and Coretta say, "do us a favor, Joe.
Those four little children I spoke of in '63,
they are fine adults now as all can see.
They already know, but tell them again.
We love them so dear - assure then we've always been near.
Their troubles to bless,
and sanctify to them their deepest distress.
Tell them we believe in them as we know you do.
We know their faith in God and their love for each other will see them through.
Assure them at the end of the tunnel awaits God's light.
And we're confident that they'll always strive for the right.
Tell them don't forget to remember that we're as near as their prayer, and never afar.
And we can rest in peace because they know who and whose they are."

What a family reunion. Thank you, Lord.
Just the other day
I thought I heard you say
"Coretta, my child, come on home. You've earned your rest,
your body's weary. You've done your best."
Her witness and character, always strong.
Her spirit a melody, heaven's song.
Her beauty warm like the rays of the sun.
Good night, my sister. Well done. Well done.

Pretty harsh words in general, especially when the President of the United States is seated directly behind you.

I realize that the setting for this is being roundly criticized in some corners - that the POTUS was there and blindsided, held hostage by a hostile crowd. As far as I'm concerned, it's about time someone stood up to POTUS and told it like it was. Hear Hear, Rev. Dr.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 6:59 PM 2 comments links to this post
Monday, February 06, 2006

I have a confession. The main reason I signed up for the 'Rent My Blog" deal-io over at Blogexplosion was to increase traffic to my site. I'd say that about 20% of people who visit because I have rented blog space on someone else's blog wind up coming back - in short, it's a good investment for me for while I enjoy writing I enjoy it even more when people actuall read it.

An excellent side-benefit has happened, however. Because I rent from others, I also rent space on my blog - the renters have been so interesting and I have really found some sites that I like. Not all of my renters are political, either. Case in point: I have a new renter.

Please, pause in your busy day and look to your left and click the little box that will take you to Jalapeno Burns. I've spent a little time on the site. It's owned and maintained by Jesse Gersten, a bonafide comedian. Like - he works as a comedian and everything like that. And he is funny. I was automatically drawn to his site because his feature character is Q*Bert, a video game hero from the days where you would have to actually go to an arcade to play the game. Go figure. So do yourself a favor. Click it and spend some time on his site.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:32 AM 4 comments links to this post
Sunday, February 05, 2006

WOW. It's been quite some time since I clicked the link off my home page that takes me to the Technorati statistics of who links to me. Imagine my surprise when I clicked and followed a link to Wampum where I discovered, wholly by accident, that I had been nominated for the 2005 Koufax Award for Best New Blog!! I have NO idea who nominated me (if it is someone who is reading this, can you please let me know so I can kindly kiss your ass and provide a link as proof??) but I am PSYCHED. Why, I don't know - perhaps it's because this blog has represented an anchor for my sanity in a hectic year. Or perhaps it's because I really do care about the things I write about... The recognition is WAY appreciated.

The link to the nominations as well as other wonderful new blogs for your consideration can be found here. Voting has not started yet but I'll post here when it begins. I also sincerely encourage you to check out the other blogs on the list. Many are ones with which I am already familiar and they are all excellent sites.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:35 PM 3 comments links to this post

Although I am first and always a fan of Washington DC's professional football team, given that they aren't in the show this year, I'm behind the Steelers all the way!!


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:06 PM 1 comments links to this post
Friday, February 03, 2006

Whew. Really tired today so I don't have anything even mildly coherent to write...

Travis over at Trav's Site shot me an email with a link to the pictures I have shamelessly lifted below. Now THAT is commitment!


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:10 PM 1 comments links to this post
Thursday, February 02, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Yes, you read the title correctly: TUCKER CARLSON nailed a crucial point in providing his analysis of the State of the Union speech.

After the flip, I'll tell you why.  So you know, however, I am not a big huge fan of Tucker Carlson's but I don't hate him, either.  He is not, in my opinion, one of the blindly supportive pro-Bush pro-Republican talking heads ala Sean Hannity.  His criticisms of his own party and of Bush, therefore, carry some weight with me.

Specifics below the fold.

I am a Democrat first and a dutiful member of the Bush regime opposition.  As such, I watched the SOTU address on Tuesday night.  I watched Tim Kaine's rebuttal.  I followed the various open threads here and read all the excellent rebuttals  over at Think Progress (I have excerpted their rebuttals and have posted them over at my blog if you're interested - link here).  I watched all the sometimes blathering and occasionally interesting media analysis after-the-fact.  Exhausted, I gave up and went up to bed a bit before midnight eastern time.  I had MSNBC on as I got into bed - content to watch for a while, I started to fall asleep.  Somewhere in that not-asleep but not-awake state, I heard Tucker Carlson's commentary and it was dead on.

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, you`re (sic) thoughts on the speech tonight.  We haven`t gotten to you yet.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, MSNBC`S "THE SITUATION":  Well, you know, I love the fact that Bush is proud of America.  I think it`s--the problem with some of his adversaries, I think, they`re instinctively embarrassed of a lot of things America does.  And Bush isn`t.  I mean, he is just proud of the country and that`s really appealing.

Where I part with Bush and where I think he (sic) policies become really problematic is when he becomes proud of spreading democracy abroad and makes that kind of the end of, you know, the purpose of America.  And democracy is a mechanism.  It`s a means.  It`s not an end, right?

And so, when Bush gets up and says, you know, "Democracy is good for its own sake."  And then the next sentence says, you know, "Hamas need to disarm."  He doesn`t see the contradiction between the two.

Democracy produced Hamas, right?  And so, you know, I`m not an Isolationist, but I think that`s troubling and inconsistent.

My emphasis added.  Democracy is an enabler of some ultimate representative goal, not the goal itself.  So... obvious.  Yet there isn't a lot being made of that or the glaring inconsistency in the Bush administration's stance towards, specifically, Hamas and Iran.  It gets better:

CARLSON:  Hold on and I`ll tell you why I felt that way.  Bush could...

MATTHEWS:  ... whatever his name is.  The guy from--I did memorize the pronunciation.  I`ve lost it now, the one that`s heading up Iran.  He was elected.

CARLSON:  Well, that`s exactly--I mean, look, when tonight--and I`m not [knocking] democracy obviously, you know.  It`s a marvelous system, however...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, Tucker, you know you all.

CARLSON:  Democracy reflects the nature of the people who participate in it.  Stable cultures produce stable governments.

When Bush gets up and he says to the people of Iran, look, you know, "We want you to determine your future and we`re good with whatever you determine, but that doesn`t include your nuclear program."

Let`s be totally honest.  The president`s job is to protect America and protect American interests.  It`s not to make other cultures or other nations happy or prosperous.  It`s to protect this culture and this nation and I just wish he would say that.  That`s my complaint.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, before the war--and I agree completely with Tucker.  I was just joking with him.  Before the war, you know, we`re all talking about democracies in the Middle East and everybody got angry when Turkey opposed us going into Iraq...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ...A democracy of sort in the Middle East.  And it just shows time and time again you`ve got to be careful what you wish for because it`s going to come back and bite you.

Again, my emphasis added.  I came fully awake enough to be impressed with the comments, given their source.  When I woke up Wednesday morning I figured I had misheard - thus the delay in posting this diary.  I was waiting for the transcript.

Indeed, we're fomenting "Democracy" but not in the form we envisioned.  In this we actually weaken the power of Democracy across-the-board... Democracy imposed, and imposed on cultures unprepared to deal with democratic trappings yields some lesser and often dangerous hybrid.  That, I believe, is the simple truth of Carlson's observation.  And the cost of these sort-of-Democracies, in addition to the overall devaluation of democratic systems generally, is proving to be human lives - American, Iraqi, Iranian, Israeli, Palestinian...

Aside, I wonder if anyone whispered to the President that Iran is a Democracy (he included Iran on a list of countries that was not).  I also wonder if anyone in the media and/or the Democratic party will string these simple facts into a truth that underscores the singular arrogance and imcompetence of the administration of George W. Bush.  We have to hit him on security and foreign policy and this, I think, is our stepping-off point.


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:17 PM 4 comments links to this post
Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I wish I could take credit for the work put in by Think Progress, but I can't. In the extended entry is their great responses, point by point, in real time, to last night's State of the Union Address (SOTU). It's GREAT reading.

SOTU: How the Bush Administration Changes the Tone

Bush said: “[E]ven tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another – and I will do my part.”

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: “F*** yourself.” — speaking to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). [Washington Post, 6/24/04]

PRESS SECRETARY SCOTT MCCLELLAN: “It is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing…” — speaking about decorated Marine veteran Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA). [11/17/05]

KARL ROVE: “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” [6/24/05]

SOTU: Bush Rebuked Coretta Scott King’s Call on Affirmative Action

Bush said: “We are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.”

FACT — BUSH REBUKED KING’S CALL ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION:
Corretta Scott King on 2001 MLK day called for opposition to the “attack on affirmative action.” On MLK’s birthday in 2003, Bush announced his opposition to an affirmative action program.
[CNN.com, 1/15/01, 1/16/03]

SOTU: What Bush Doesn’t Mention About Iraq’s Elections

Bush said: “In less than three years, that nation has gone from dictatorship, to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections.”

FACT — WHITE HOUSE WAS AGAINST IRAQI ELECTIONS BEFORE IT WAS FOR THEM: Before deciding to support Iraq elections, the Bush administration wanted to turn control over to the now-discredited Ahmad Chalabi. The Washington Post remembers, the White House “resisted the idea of holding elections…and only succumbed under pressure from Iraq’s most powerful cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.” Iraq expert Juan Cole noted, “It was Sistani who demanded one-person, one-vote elections. So to the extent it’s a victory, it’s a victory for Iraqis. The Americans were maneuvered into having to go along with it.” [Washington Post, 1/30/05]

SOTU: Terrorist Attacks Have Intensified

Bush said: “We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or captured many of their leaders – and for the others, their day will come.”

FACT — GLOBAL TERRORIST THREAT HAS INTENSIFIED: More than four years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still alive, al Qaeda has spawned new terrorist networks, and global terrorism is on the rise. According to the Bush administration’s own statistics, the problem of international terrorism is worse now than it was in 2001. The sum of global terrorist attacks in 2005 was 3991, up 51% from the previous year’s figure of 2639. According to State Department data, the number of international terrorist attacks tripled to 650 in 2004. In May 2004, the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies reported that “al-Qaeda’s recruitment and fundraising efforts had been given a major boost by the U.S. invasion of Iraq,” and the Afghan Defense Minister recently claimed that al Qaeda had “increased its activities in Afghanistan.” [Time, 5/26/04; Reuters, 4/26/05; AP, 11/16/05; tkb.org]

SOTU: Terrorist Threat Remains Strong In Afghanistan

Bush said: “We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan.”

FACT — AL QAEDA RESURGING IN AFGHANISTAN: “Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network has increased its activities in Afghanistan , smuggling in explosives, high-tech weapons and millions of dollars in cash for a resurgent terror campaign, the [Afghanistan] defense minister said.” [AP, 11/16/05]

FACT — SUICIDE BOMBINGS EMERGE IN AFGHANISTAN: “The new Taliban are deploying tactics that have torn Iraq to shreds and Afghanistan is seeing a surge in the previously unknown practice of suicide bombings - 25 in four months. This is seen as the re-introduction of al-Qa’ida into Afghanistan - a devastating example of how over-extending the ‘War on Terror’ into Iraq is rebounding on the West with vengeance.” [Independent, 1/17/06]

SOTU: Bush’s ‘Strategy’ For Iraq Failing On All Three Fronts

Bush said: “First, we are helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased, and the insurgency marginalized. Second, we are continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. Third, we are striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.”

FACT — VERY LITTLE PROGRESS ON SECURITY FRONT: Since the March 2003 invasion, 2,242 U.S. troops have died and more than 16,000 have been injured. More than 500 Iraqis have died since the December 15 elections. While the administration claims that Iraqi security forces are taking the lead, more than 130,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. (Question: If the Iraqi security forces are so competent why can’t any U.S. troops go home?) [icasualties.org, 1/30/05; AP, 1/13/06]

FACT — VERY LITTLE PROGRESS ON ECONOMIC FRONT: A new study shows that one-fifth of the Iraqi population lives in poverty, up since the 2003 invasion. Reconstruction efforts are floundering. According to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “American-financed reconstruction programs in Iraq will not complete scores of projects that were promised to help rebuild the country.” [AFP, 1/25/06; NYT, 1/27/06]

FACT — LITTLE PROGRESS ON POLITICAL FRONT: Despite recent elections, the political situation is highly unstable. Shiites are threatening to unite with Kurds and exclude Sunnis from political power. The New York Times reports “[a]nything short of a unity government, Iraqi and American officials here say, would be tantamount to disaster, with the Sunnis the most likely losers. Leaving them out of the government could very well prompt them to turn away from democratic politics again, and give the insurgency a fresh shot of energy.” [NYT, 1/22/06]

SOTU: Bush Has Failed To Support The Troops

Bush said: “We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.”

FACT — THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S FAILURE TO PROVIDE BODY ARMOR HAS COST LIVES: The New York Times reported that a “secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor.” Body armor “has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field.” Additionally, the Pentagon has refused to reimburse troops who purchased their own armor. [New York Times, 1/7/06; AP, 9/30/05]

FACT — PENTAGON WORKING ON PROPOSAL TO TRIPLE COSTS OF MILITARY HEALTH INSURANCE (TRICARE): The Penatgon is proposing to “triple some Tricare insurance costs for military retirees and their families.” “Increases would be substantial — as much as $1,200 more a year by 2009 — with no end in sight because the plan calls for annual rate hikes in 2010 and beyond that would match inflation.” [Army Times, 1/26/06]

FACT — BUSH ADMINISTRATION NOT PREPARED TO DEAL WITH TROOPS RETURNING FROM THE BATTLEFIELD: “US soldiers returning home from tours in Iraq, meanwhile are initially showing a higher incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than in other American conflicts. Around 317,000 veterans who received a primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD were treated at medical centers” run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Experts say the sharp increase does not begin to factor in the potential impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The Bush administration has consistently underestimated the level of resources needed. [AFP, 1/27/06; Washington Post, 12/27/05, 6/24/05]

SOTU: Bush Approach to Iran Has Weakened U.S. Position

Bush said: “The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions – and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”

FACT — BUSH MIDDLE EAST POLICY HAS WEAKENED OUR HAND: By invading Iraq without enough troops and without a plan for stabilizing the country, the administration allowed an historic expansion of Iranian influence westward into Iraq, even as the country’s new leadership has drifted further towards radicalism and rabid anti-Semitism. The Bush administration substituted a policy of dual containment (of Iran and Iraq) for something more dangerous: a single-minded focus on Iraq that has hampered our efforts to fight global terrorism and strengthened Iran’s influence.

FACT — BUSH OPPOSITION TO NEGOTIATIONS WEAKENED OUR HAND:
The Bush administration dismissed three separate invitations to open back-channel communications with Iran’s government under the more moderate President Khatami. It refused to participate directly in the talks involving Britain, France, and Germany, despite warnings from diplomats and the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) that the talks were likely to fail without U.S. involvement. Instead of being an active player, the Bush administration sat on the sidelines and ceded leadership to others. As Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) stated last November, “The United States is capable of engaging Iran in direct dialogue without sacrificing any of its interests or objectives.”

SOTU: Bush Administration Flunking on Homeland Defense

Bush said: “Our country must also remain on the offensive against terrorism here at home.”

FACT — FLUNKING OUT ON HOMELAND SECURITY: The 9/11 Public Discourse Project (formerly the 9/11 Commission) has given the administration failing grades on its efforts to improve homeland security. Former Gov. Thomas Kean (R-NJ), former chair of the 9/11 Commission, said that homeland security is “not a priority for the government right now. You don’t see the Congress or the president talking about the public safety as number one, as we think it should be, and a lot of the things we need to do really to prevent another 9/11 just simply aren’t being done by the president or by the Congress.” [NBC Meet the Press, 12/4/05]

FACT — FIRST RESPONDERS A LOW PRIORITY FOR BUSH: Just 6 percent of national security spending is devoted to homeland security and the administration still has “no system in place that allows emergency personnel to communicate reliably and effectively in a crisis.” The government has also cut funding for state and local law enforcement and first responders by more than $2 billion from FY 2005 to FY 2006. “While the terrorists have been learning and adapting, we have been moving at a bureaucratic crawl,” said James Thompson of the 9/11 Project.[Chicago Tribune, 12/16/05; American Progress, 10/27/05; American Progress, 9/9/05; American Progress]

SOTU: House Conservatives Are Holding Up Bipartisan Compromise On Patriot Act

Bush said: “These men and women are dedicating their lives to protecting us all, and they deserve our support and our thanks. They also deserve the same tools they already use to fight drug trafficking and organized crime – so I ask you to reauthorize the Patriot Act.”

FACT — HOUSE CONSERVATIVES HOLDING UP PATRIOT ACT RENEWAL: Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire at the end of 2005. Last summer, the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan compromise bill to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act and include amendments to guard against government overreach. The bill was rejected by House conservatives and altered significantly in conference. [American Progress, 11/17/05]

SOTU: Bush Pushes Two Hijacker Myth

Bush said: “We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know their plans until too late.”

FACT – WE KNEW THE TERRORISTS WERE THERE BEFORE THE ATTACKS. BUREAUCRATIC PROBLEM, NOT SURVEILLANCE LAW, WAS THE REASON THEY WERE NOT DETAINED: Cheney made the same claim a couple of weeks ago, and the Washington Post debunked it:

But Cheney did not mention that the government had compiled significant information on the two suspects before the attacks and that bureaucratic problems — not a lack of information — were primary reasons for the security breakdown, according to congressional investigators and the Sept. 11 commission. Moreover, the administration had the power to eavesdrop on their calls and e-mails, as long as it sought permission from a secret court that oversees clandestine surveillance in the United States.

The bigger problem was that the FBI and other agencies did not know where the two suspects — Cheney’s office confirmed that he was referring to Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar — were living in the United States and had missed numerous opportunities to track them down in the 20 months before the attacks, according to the Sept. 11 commission and other sources.

SOTU: Bush Falsely Claims That Previous Administration Did The Same Thing

Bush said: “Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have.”

FACT – BUSH IGNORE THE LAW, OTHER ADMINISTRATIONS FOLLOWED IT:The White House has made this claim before and the AP debunked it:

McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton’s deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.

“I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds,” McClellan said of Gore.

But at the time of the Ames search in 1993 and when Gorelick testified a year later, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required warrants for electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes, but did not cover physical searches. The law was changed to cover physical searches in 1995 under legislation that Clinton supported and signed.

SOTU: Bush Did Not Inform Appropriate Members of Congress

Bush said: “Appropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed.”

FACT – BUSH BROKE THE LAW BY NOT INFORMING APPROPRIATE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: The non-partisan Congressional research service concluded that the Bush administration broke the law by not informing the full Intelligence Committees. The New York Times reports:

A legal analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concludes that the Bush administration’s limited briefings for Congress on the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping without warrants are ‘’inconsistent with the law.'’

SOTU: Bush Job Growth Lowest Since WWII

Bush said: “Tonight I will set out a better path – an agenda for a Nation that competes with confidence – an agenda that will raise standards of living and generate new jobs.”

FACT — JOB GROWTH UNDER BUSH LOWEST SINCE WORLD WAR II: Even since the 2003 tax cuts, job growth has been historically weak, growing at less than half the average rate for similar periods in comparable post-war recoveries. [Center for American Progress, State of the Economy, 1/26/06]

FACT — FEDERAL SPENDING ON WORKER EDUCATION AND TRAINING IS LOW: Federal spending on employment and training for dislocated workers in 2005 was just $1.5 billion, less than the amount spent on highway aid and less than was spent in 2000 ($1.6 billion), when the unemployment rate was lower. [Detroit Free Press, Bruce Katz Column, 1/23/06]

FACT — WORKERS ARE LOSING PENSIONS: The share of workers with a pension declined from 50.3 percent in 2000 to 40.6 percent in 2004. [Congressional Research Service, Pension Sponsorship and Participation]

SOTU: Tax Cuts Didn’t Help Economy

Bush said: “In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left 880 billion dollars in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families – and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth.”

FACT — DEFICITS CAUSED BY TAX CUTS NEGATE ANY POTENTIAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS: Studies by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JTC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) all confirm that deficits undermine economic benefits of the cuts. In their analysis of the 2003 tax cuts, JTC found that any economic benefits of the tax cuts would “eventually likely to be outweighed by the reduction in national savings due to increasing Federal government deficits.” [American Progress, 1/26/05; CBO, October 2005]

SOTU: Making Bush’s Tax Cuts Permanent Would Be Costly

Bush said: “Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly, and make the tax cuts permanent.”

FACT — TAX CUTS WILL COST $3.4 TRILLION OVER TEN YEARS: The cost of making the tax cuts permanent will be $3.4 trillion through fiscal year 2015. This includes the cost of extending the Alternative Minimum Tax relief associated with these tax cuts. [Congressional Budget Office, 1/26/06]

FACT — PERMANENT TAX CUTS OVERWHELMINGLY FAVOR THE WEALTHIEST: If Bush’s tax cuts are made permanent, the top one percent of households will gain an average of $71,420 a year when the tax cuts are fully in effect. By contrast, people in the middle of the income spectrum would secure average tax cuts of just $870. [Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, 12/20/05]

SOTU: Bush Has Overseen Massive Deficits

Bush said: “Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars.”

FACT– BUSH HAS PRESIDED OVER SUSTAINED, RECORD DEFICITS: In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush promised that “our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-term.” Bush has not kept his promise. The 2005 U.S. budget deficit was $319 billion, the “third-largest ever.” Goldman Sachs predicts $5 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years and Federal Chairman Alan Greenspan argued last April that “the federal budget is on an unsustainable path. … Unless that trend is reversed, at some point these deficits would cause the economy to stagnate or worse.” [Bush, 2002 State of the Union; Fox News, 1/25/06; Center for American Progress, State of the Economy, 1/26/06; Alan Greenspan, 4/21/05]

FACT — BUSH TAX CUTS WOULD WORSEN THE DEFICIT: The President’s tax cuts would only “expand the deficit over the next five years,” despite his promises to the contrary. [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Press Myths]

SOTU: Bush Wanted Renewable Energy Cuts

Bush said: “The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.”

FACT — BUSH PUSHED FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY CUTS IN LATEST BUDGET: President Bush’s FY06 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy efficiency and renewable energy programs envisioned “reductions totaling nearly $50 million - an overall cut of roughly four percent.” [Renewable Energy Access, 2/28/05]

FACT — BUSH REJECTED BIPARTISAN PLAN TO SET GOALS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY: Last year, President Bush “oppose[d] efforts to include a national renewable energy requirement for utilities in Congress’ broad energy legislation.” According to the Union of Concerned Scientists it “is a cost-effective, market-based policy that requires electric utilities to gradually increase their use of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and bioenergy,” to between 10 and 20 percent by 2020. A 10 percent standard “would have virtually no impact on electricity prices and could save consumers as much as $13.2 billion.” [Reuters, 2/10/05; Union of Concerned Scientists; Union of Concerned Scientists]

FACT — BUSH ENERGY BILL CONTAINED LITTLE ON RENEWABLE ENERGY: The energy bill supported and signed by President Bush dropped a provision that would have required utilities “to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity through renewable fuels by 2020.” [New York Times, 7/26/05]

SOTU: Bush Wanted Biofuel Cuts

Bush says: “The best way to break this [oil] addiction is through technology. … We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.”

FACT — BUSH PUSHED FOR BIOFUELS CUTS IN LATEST BUDGET: In President Bush’s FY06 budget, “the RBS Renewable and Energy Efficiency Grant/Loan Guarantee Program would be scaled back to $10 million from $23 million in FY05, the NRCS Biomass Research and Development Program would be cut by $2 million to $12 million, and the CCC Bioenergy Program would be slashed $40 million from $100 million in FY05 to $60 million in FY06.” [Renewable Energy Access, 2/28/05]

SOTU: Bush Has Cut Science Education Funding

Bush said: “We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. … If we ensure that America’s children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.”

FACT — BUSH PROPOSED FIRST CUT IN EDUCATION SPENDING IN A DECADE: Bush’s budget for FY 2006 proposed the “first cut in overall federal education spending in a decade.” The administration requested a reduction of a half billion dollars, or 0.9 percent, from the current spending plan. [Washington Post, 2/7/05]

FACT — SCIENCE EDUCATION HAS SUFFERED UNDER BUSH’S TERM: No Child Left Behind has actually hurt science education, by testing exclusively on math and reading. Some “teachers are being told to stop teaching science and get back to reading and math,” complains Gerald Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. [Business Week, 3/16/04]

SOTU: Media Reported Bush Would Focus Speech On Health Care; Only 1 Paragraph Devoted To It

Bush devoted only one paragraph to the topic of health care.

Media Erroneously Claimed Bush Would Focus His State of the Union On Health Care:

Health care will be the centerpiece of the White House’s domestic agenda for 2006. In Tuesday’s State of the Union, the president will focus on rising health costs, with more detailed policy announcements to follow in the weeks ahead.” [Weekly Standard, 2/6/06]

“The State of the Union address this year is to focus on health care, illegal immigration and the nation’s international economic competitiveness.” [NYT, 1/30/06]

“President Bush’s State of the Union address will attempt to shift focus from the polarizing war in Iraq to a more popular domestic priority: taming health care costs.” [AP, 1/19/06]

SOTU: The Bush Administration Has Betrayed The Public Trust

Bush said: “Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility – and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray.”

FACT – BUSH HAS REFUSED TO COOPERATE IN LEAK INVESTIGATION: Bush reportedly knew about Karl Rove’s role in the leak investigation two years ago, yet has not come public with the information, despite his repeated promises “to get to the bottom of this.” [NY Daily News, 10/19/05; Washington Post, 9/30/03]

FACT — BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS STONEWALLING ON ABRAMOFF CONTACTS: The White House continues to stonewall on Jack Abramoff’s contacts with the administration. President Bush refuses to release records of meetings and photos with Abramoff, which Bush has confirmed do exist. A growing bipartisan list of lawmakers have called for the White House to come clean. [White House, 1/26/06; Los Angeles Times, 1/30/06]

FACT — BUSH HAS STRONG CONNECTIONS TO INDICTED CONSERVATIVES: Bush’s election campaign has received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from guilty lobbyist Jack Abramoff and halted a federal investigation into Abramoff’s activities in Guam. Two of Bush’s administration officials — Scooter Libby and David Safavian — have also been indicted and are no longer in serving in federal office. Rep. Tom DeLay, who had to step down in Sept. 2005 as Majority Leader on criminal charges, has been a critical ally to President Bush in pushing his agenda. [Washington Post, 1/5/06; Los Angeles Times, 8/7/05; Washington Post, 9/20/05; CNN, 9/29/05]

SOTU: The Bush Administration Continues To Bungle Katrina Reconstruction

Bush said: “A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency – and stays at it until they are back on their feet.”

FACT — KATRINA RECONSTRUCTION HAS BEEN SLOW AND BUNGLED: “[I]n certain respects, little has changed” in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, according to the Wall Street Journal. Only one-fifth of the city’s original population has resettled. “The Crescent City largely has shriveled to ‘the sliver by the river,’ as residents now call the thin ribbon of neighborhoods near the Mississippi River that didn’t flood,” and “neighborhoods still are abandoned wastelands of uninhabitable homes and sidewalks piled with moldy garbage.” [WSJ, 1/13/06; AP, 1/12/06]

FACT — ADMINISTRATION REJECTED RECONSTRUCTION PLAN: The White House rejected a Louisiana reconstruction plan — the “most broadly supported plan for rebuilding communities,” and instead backed $6.2 billion in block grants that Congress provided last year, which Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA) called “unacceptable.” [Times-Picayune, 1/25/06; New York Times, 1/30/06]

FACT — KATRINA RECONSTRUCTION FUNDING HAS BEEN TAINTED BY POLITICS: The $29 billion in aid passed last month was tainted by politics: the package “gave Mississippi about five times as much per household in housing aid as Louisiana received,” a “testimony to the clout” of Bush’s political ally, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R). [New York Times, 1/5/06]

SOTU: Poverty Has Worsened Under Bush

Bush said: “In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country.”

FACT — POVERTY RATES HAVE INCREAED UNDER BUSH: The poverty rate has risen each year since 2001, with 12.7 percent of the population now living in poverty. African-American poverty has risen from 22.7 percent in 2001 to 24.7 percent in 2004, and child poverty has gone from 16.3 percent in 2001 to 17.8 percent (1.3 million children under the age of 18). [U.S. Census Bureau, Aug. 2005, Tables B-1 and B-2]

FACT — BUSH TAX CUTS TARGETED AT HIGH-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS: The tax bills enacted since 2001 “have helped high-income households far more than other households,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Households with incomes exceeding $1 million have received average tax cuts of $103,000, “an increase of 5.4 percent in their after-tax income.” But in 2005, the bottom fifth of households “will receive an average combined tax cut of $18 from these bills, raising their after-tax income by 0.3 percent.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/17/05]

SOTU: The White House Is Set To Repeat Its Mistakes After Katrina

Bush said: “As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.”

FACT — WHITE HOUSE STONEWALLING KATRINA INVESTIGATIONS: Congressional investigations into the administration’s inadequate response to Katrina have stalled because the “Bush White House is now refusing to turn over Hurricane Katrina related documents or make senior officials available for testimony.” [MSNBC, 1/26/06]


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