I've heard for years from moderate Republicans that the GOP isn't serious about outlawing abortion. This line of thinking says that talk about protecting choice is just a scare tactic by the Democrats, aimed at pro-choice moderates. I dare those people now to explain this, from the New York Times...
WASHINGTON, Saturday, Nov. 20 - House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year.
The abortion language would bar federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers that refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals.
The law currently on the books is that if a woman asks a government-funded healthcare provider about abortion, they have to offer her counseling. This provision in the spending bill will eliminate that, however.
While that may not sound so bad to you, imagine this scenario -- one which the anti-choice crowd has been discussing for years. A newly pregnant anti-choice activist walks into a hospital. She asks a doctor for advice, telling her that she's thinking about terminating the pregnancy. The doctor talks to her for a few minutes and gives her the name of a reputable doctor at a reputable clinic that she can trust will handle her case with great care, confidentiality, and respect. Immediately, this doctor and this hospital are branded as 'pro-abortion' by anti-choice groups, who sweep in to picket and protest the hospital they way they've done with ob-gyn clinics for years. The hospital, recognizing the fear mongering going on outside decides that the angry mob outside isn't worth the trouble. They announce an immediate embargo on abortion counseling from their doctors or within their walls.
What you wind up with is a de facto ban on abortion. This isn't about protecting doctors who don't want to be forced to offer abortion counseling on the grounds of religious belief -- that protection already exists in the current law. This is about putting another weapon in the arsenal of the rabid anti-choice movement.
A number of moderate lawmakers, including one Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, are working to fight this stealth legislation. Unfortunately, a vote is expected today, and it doesn't seem like anyone has got the fight in them to effectively oppose this bill.
So tell me again, moderates, about 'scare tactics'?
posted by Scott |
"Pornography really does, unlike other addictions, biologically cause direct release of the most perfect addictive substance," Satinover said. "That is, it causes masturbation, which causes release of the naturally occurring opioids. It does what heroin can't do, in effect."
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), the subcommitee's chairman, called the hearing the most disturbing one he'd ever seen in the Senate.
Really Sam? Was it seriously more disturbing than the Senate's 9/11 hearings? Because if you think it was, you're f@%#ing cracked.
So that's what your mandate means, GOP. Masturbation is worse than heroin and more disturbing than Islamofascist terrorism.
posted by Scott |
| Friday, November 19, 2004
And we must fight not only against George Bush's extreme policies -- we must also uphold our own values. This is why on the first day Congress is in session next year, I will introduce a bill to provide every child in America with health insurance. And, with your help, that legislation will be accompanied by the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
There are more than eight million uninsured children in our nation.
That's eight million reasons for us to stay together and fight for a new direction. It is a disgrace that in the wealthiest nation on earth, eight million children go without health insurance.
Normally, a member of the Senate will first approach other senators and ask them to co-sponsor a bill before it is introduced -- instead, I am turning to you. Imagine the power of a bill co-sponsored by hundreds of thousands of Americans being presented on the floor of the United States Senate. You can make it happen. Sign our "Every Child Protected" pledge today and forward it to your family, friends, and neighbors...
This is so incredibly exciting. Rather than lashing out at supporters and the media or, gee, I don't know... growing a beard and backpacking around Europe, John Kerry is engaging the American people -- especially the people who came out in historic numbers (not quite as historic as the other guy, unfortunately). Let me just repeat part of this for emphasis...
Imagine the power of a bill co-sponsored by hundreds of thousands of Americans being presented on the floor of the United States Senate. You can make it happen.
No whimpering. No cowering. No complaining. Too many voters, regardless of which candidate they supported, had trouble discerning the Democratic message this year. In fact, that seems to have been our problem for quite some time now. With this bill, Kerry is laying down the gauntlet. It's his way of saying, "you want to know what Democrats stand for? How about universal healthcare for children?"
It's also significant that this is coming out hot on the heels of the Bush administration's 'no more health insurance' proposal. The American people have a distinct choice to make on this front. It's one they should have been forced to make on November 2, but better late than never, I say.
The official statement will apparently be coming out in both text and video form some time today. I'm looking forward to it. But in the meantime...
We made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend
No retreat baby, no surrender
UPDATE: The proposal, video, and petition are now up at JohnKerry.com. Check it out and sign up. I'll be posting more details later.
posted by Scott |
By now, you all know that the House GOP Caucus voted to scrap their 1993 rule dictating that any Representative in a leadership role would be removed from said role if he came under indictment. They all know Tom DeLay's as crooked as a corkscrew and that he's bound to be indicted for illegally funneling corporate money into House races down in Texas. Rather than holding him accountable, they're moving the goalposts.
Anyway, Josh Marshall's been on this story like white on rice. He's been coordinating the campaign to find out how GOP House members voted, posting the findings, and keeping track of the newspapers (especially the conservative ones) who find this rule change to be little more than imperious hypocrisy from the 'mandate' crowd.
So if they won't hold their leadership accountable, it's up to us to hold them accountable. If you live in a Congressional district represented by a Republican, check to see if they're on the list. Check to see how they voted. Did they vote yes to support DeLay? No to stand up to DeLay? Maybe they're stonewalling. Or maybe they're buying time, promising to send you a letter. Or perhaps they're just keeping their mouths shut. It's not even the hypocrisy of the Representatives who voted for the original rule in 1993 that bothers me the most. It's the fact that so many of these 'good government conservatives' are so willing to roll over and play dead, bowing at DeLay's feet, and then refusing to own up to their constituents about their votes.
I put together a chart to help supplement Marshall's effort. I'll be updating it as news comes in. And of course feel free to contact me or post in the comments if there's anything I'm missing.
PS - To anyone who wants to call prosecutor Ronnie Earle a partisan hack, I say check the record. Here's the editorial board of the Bush-endorsingHouston Chronicle on Earle back in March of 2003:
Until recent years, Democrats controlled the Texas Legislature, held most statewide offices and caused the big scandals. Now the situation is reversed, but some Republicans want their scandals to be exempt from investigation.
During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts.
So put the 'witch hunt' nonsense to rest.
posted by Scott |
| Thursday, November 18, 2004
I consider myself pretty well-informed. Politics and policy is something I follow very closely. Usually when my friends or family hear shocking political news, I've already known about for at least a few days.
But I found this news in the Washington Post to be absolutely jaw-dropping.
Instead the administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.
The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
But let's cut the crap out of that to get down to the nitty-gritty.
"[T]he administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment... To pay for them, the administration is considering... scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance..."
If you currently have an employer-sponsored health plan, kiss it goodbye. But don't expect your boss to give you the extra money. That doesn't happen in the real world. This is one of the "encourage economic growth" drivers the administration advisers were referring to.
Here's the bad news/bad news rundown on the possibilities...
1. The bad news is that the proposal could be nothing more than a political trap for Democrats and moderate Republicans, ala the gay marriage amendment. The administration isn't really considering this. They just want to make the Democrats fight it. The bill won't be filibustered, so it will be passed. When it comes time to account for all of the money bleeding from the federal budget, the GOP will blame it on the Democrats who demanded this tax deduction stay in place. Bush tried to make the plan revenue neutral, is what they'll argue.
The proposal is also likely to muddy the debate, focusing all public attention on the healthcare issue while the fact that the plan will, once and for all, shift the majority of taxation on to workers while investment income -- income you can only accrue if you're already wealthy -- goes totally untaxed. The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and the middle class will continue to get pinched.
2. The other bad news is that this proposal could be the real thing. Bush has been pushing for years for individual health savings accounts. Basically, these are tax-free accounts that allow you to stockpile money in case you need it for medical expenses. Forget the fact that this doesn't address at all the importance of preventive medicine. In order to take advantage of this, you need to be able to save money. My wife and I are fairly well off, not even in the lowest tax bracket and we can't save any money. Essentially, this will wind up meaning health coverage for the mega-rich and no one else.
There could be a Christian Right strategic initiative at work here as well. With no coverage, people will need to turn to community health programs. This is something else the President has been keen on. It's a great idea, in theory, as a supplement to our current system. But under the system Bush is putting forward, it will be a necessity -- not a supplement. And who will run these community programs? Don't be surprised if church-sponsored health centers start popping up as offshoots of hospitals with religious affiliations, funded as faith-based initiatives.
This is an extremely disturbing development.
posted by Scott |
We're nearly twenty days out from the 2004 election and we still don't have a nominee for 2008 yet? What are we waiting for?!?!
Anyway, I guess this is the point that DemWatch returns to being the official Democratic primary blog. Without further ado, here's a rundown of the players...
Mark Warner. Expect a lot of interest in Warner among the 'electability' crowd. (A crowd, not surprisingly, which will grow over the next four years.) Warner is a young, attractive businessman, elected Governor in the very red state of Virginia without really having to sell his soul to the right. Gerald Seib has a profile of Warner in today's Wall Street Journal. He very well might be too middle-of-the-road to win a primary.
Evan Bayh. Speaking of 'middle-of-the-road'... The DLC-chairing Senator from Indiana wants in. He'll attract attention, but he couldn't pass Molly Ivins' Elvis test with a sequined jumpsuit on. Next.
Hillary Clinton. What is wrong with you people? I like her, but I don't think she'd be a good candidate. Too polarizing. For one in four Democrats, though, she's the first one who comes to mind. That's just name recognition nonsense, though. Nothing real. Besides, Hillary continues to confound, gearing up to run for re-election to her Senate seat in 2006. Part of me hopes she keeps the rumors swirling just to rile up the GOP.
Ben Nelson. I know. "Who?" Or maybe, "oh, the Senator from Florida." But no. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Here's Nelson opening the door a crack in the Omaha World-Herald:
Nelson was discussing the advantages that former governors - and he is one - have in running for president compared with lawmakers. A reporter asked: Should we expect a Nelson bid in 2008?
"I wouldn't take it off the table, but I'm certainly not making that announcement today," Nelson said. "And I'll tell you what, if I make that announcement, I'll do it in Nebraska."
Uhh... You'd better make the announcement in Nebraska, Ben. No one outside Nebraska knows who the hell you are.
Howard Dean. I've made no secret of the fact that I'd like to see him run again. But he's apparently quite serious about the DNC chairmanship business. That position would put him out of the running.
John Kerry. Some of you are groaning right now. Some are smiling. He's apparently got a $45 million coffer left over from the 2004 race to use as seed money if he wanted to run. He's officially on the record as "not shutting any doors." Incidentally, quite a few rank-and-file Dems are pissed that he didn't use at least part of that $45 million to help downticket candidates in tough fights. I, too, would like an explanation for that before supporting him one more time.
Others in the mix are NM Gov. Bill Richardson, AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano, John Edwards, Ed Rendell, Tom Hanks, etc, etc, etc. I'll keep you posted.
posted by Scott |
| Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Why beat around the bush, right? I'm a straight shooter. What can I say?
From page one of tomorrow's Washington Post:
House Republicans proposed changing their rules last night to allow members indicted by state grand juries to remain in a leadership post, a move that would benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, according to GOP leaders.
The proposed rule change, which several leaders predicted would win approval at a closed meeting today, comes as House Republicans return to Washington feeling indebted to DeLay for the slightly enhanced majority they won in this month's elections. DeLay led an aggressive redistricting effort in Texas last year that resulted in five Democratic House members retiring or losing reelection. It also triggered a grand jury inquiry into fundraising efforts related to the state legislature's redistricting actions.
House Republicans adopted the indictment rule in 1993, when they were trying to end four decades of Democratic control of the House, in part by highlighting Democrats' ethical lapses. They said at the time that they held themselves to higher standards than prominent Democrats such as then-Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), who eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to prison.
I'd comment in more depth, but that would require me to stop throwing up. And seeing as how Uncle Sam is lying bloodied in the street, with a gang of angry right wingers kicking him in the face, my nausea isn't poised to subside any time soon.
Oh, but before I go... Rick Santorum is a welfare queen.
posted by Scott |
| Tuesday, November 16, 2004
There's some speculation that Napolitano might run for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008. When asked about this, she didn't deny it, instead referring to the "things going on in Arizona" as "long-term issues" and "[m]ore than enough to fill my plate."
That certainly doesn't sound like a 'no' to me.
We'll be keeping an eye on Napolitano for a while, especially the issues she concentrates on and how much national money she raises for her re-election campaign. It would not surprise me at all to see a southwestern Democrat on the ticket in 2008. In fact, it would surprise me more if there isn't one.
posted by Scott |
Admittedly, copyrights and intellectual property law are not topics I typically deal with here at DemWatch. However, as a musician (well, a former musician, anyway) and a music lover, it is something I pay close attention to.
In the name of battling piracy, the Senate is set to vote on a new copyright bill that will be a boon to big business. One of the most disturbing aspects of the new law is the new sentencing guidelines attached to copyright infringement. Anyone who violates a copyright with no intention of making money -- say, by e-mail an MP3 to a friend -- "shall be imprisoned not more than 3 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both". For someone who violates a copyright for profit, the prison term could go up to 5 years.
WN: What if the efforts to stop unauthorized music file sharing are successful? How would that change culture?
Tweedy: If they succeed, it will damage the culture and industry they say they're trying to save.
What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.
Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either.
WN: How do you feel about efforts to control how music flows through the online world with digital rights management technologies?
Tweedy: A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.
Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.
People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.
I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic.
But the new law doesn't stop at music piracy. One provision, the "Family Movie Act" also tells you what you can and cannot edit out a movie for personal viewing. For example, if you want to skip gore or sex, fine. But it would be illegal to skip commercials. So I guess rejecting materialism isn't acceptable as a family value.
I don't typically side with conservatives, but I'm with them when they say it's "plain wrong to make the Department of Justice Hollywood's law firm." What they might call "Hollywood," I would call "Big Business," but the goal is the same. Intellectual property law is something that should be taken seriously. But we need to reexamine the laws as emerging technologies blur the lines between "theft" and "use".
The last thing we need is the government throwing people in jail for downloading MP3s and fast-forwarding through commercials.
In an interesting example of what could happen when a party in power oversteps its bounds, moderate Republicans have joined with Democrats in the Alaska House to form a new coalition, stripping hardline GOPers of their leadership.
The partnership nullifies the GOP's organizational vote taken Nov. 5 and reinstalls Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, as speaker, legislative leaders said.
The realignment includes all 13 House Democrats of the 40-member body and about a dozen members of the GOP majority, said Ethan Berkowitz, the Anchorage Democrat who until the latest developments had been minority leader.
The new Senate leadership was unaffected by Saturday's developments.
Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the new House coalition formed because Democrats had a good rapport with Kott last session.
"Ethan (Berkowitz) and I in particular felt very comfortable in talking to him," she said, citing an agreement by House Democrats and Republicans to decide early in the session on the state's contribution to education funding.
"We had a level of trust, and Pete (Kott) really did listen to the Democratic side. He didn't just listen and do whatever he wanted to," she said.
The new coalition includes House members who are willing to set aside partisanship, Kerttula said. And having both of Juneau's House members in the majority can only help Juneau save the capital and grow its economy, she said.
I was with Howard Dean early, paying attention to him in 2002 and blogging at Dean Nation at the opening of 2003. I didn't leave him so much as open my mind to other candidates. In retrospect, it was the right thing to do.
However, I always thought the 'stop Dean' movement among centrists and moderates the DNC old guard was misguided. Rather than reject Dean's energy and passion, they should have been harnessing it. They eventually tried, but it was probably too little, too late.
Now there's talk of Dean taking over as head of the DNC. A number of people are coalescing around Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as their choice. Kos and Jerome at MyDD have some more detailed information about the palace politics of the situation from National Journal, but I'm not going to get into that. Read their sites for more.
I don't support Dean for DNC chair. I do, however, think he should run for the Presidential nomination again in 2008. Looking back at the 2004 race, Kerry was not as "electable" as the party structure thought. It wasn't about being tall or having fought in Vietnam or being a liberal. It was about intellectual honesty and consistency and having a common touch. Long story short, Howard Dean wound up being far more "electable" than John Kerry ever was.
And now those same party structure who annointed John Kerry as the alternative to Dean are coming together to shut reform and new thinking out of the process once again. As if you need any proof...
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), on Dean: "To rebuild this party, we need somebody who's more in the center, and more of a bridge-builder. I don't have any particular choice for that, myself. It's a job that's going to be a tough job. But, with all respect, Howard Dean is not the right man to lead the Democratic Party now."
Need I say more?!?!
No offense Joementum, but you have no idea what the Democratic Party needs right now. Guys like Lieberman aren't part of the solution... they're part of the problem. 'Stop Dean' is the same type of strategy as 'Stop Bush' and, oddly, the first 'Stop Dean'. It's completely reactionary and does not represent a coherent vision in and of itself.
Once again, I endorse the New Democrat Network's Simon Rosenberg for DNC chair. Simon should be moderate enough for the fraidy cats and he's certainly forward-looking enough for the progressives. If we can just get those in charge to see it...
In case I was not clear, I don't not support Dean for DNC chair. I just would rather see him run for President again, which heading up the DNC would preclude him from doing.
It seems that two factions are developing within the party, one backing Vilsack and one backing Dean. On the Vilsack side are Kerry, Pelosi, and Harry Reid. On the Dean side are Bill Richardson, Donna Brazille, and both Jesse Jackson, Sr and Jesse Jackson, Jr. I have absolutely no problem with any of those people, but I do know that in terms of mapping the future of the party, I'm with the Dean crowd all the way.
Again, Simon Rosenberg would make one hell of a compromise.
posted by Scott |
Democrats have to explain why the government must act when the markets are manipulated and working people are harmed. Teddy Roosevelt understood this nearly a century ago. His trust-busting and environmental activism were meant both to protect citizens and to restore the integrity of the markets. He said, "We demand that big business give people a square deal; in return, we must insist that, when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right, he shall himself be given a square deal."
Instead of fighting for a square deal for all, Republicans today place corporate interests ahead of consumer interests. When regulators, such as those in my office, try to call them on their cronyism, they portray our efforts as bureaucratic meddling in free markets. But we did not investigate Wall Street because we were troubled by large institutions making a lot of money; we took action to stop a blatant fraud that was ripping off small investors. We sought to right the wrong, reestablishing the level playing field that is a prerequisite to market competition and ensuring that every investor enjoys the same opportunity to profit that the insiders have.
Similarly, we did not ask the courts to stop predatory mortgage lending because we begrudge lenders an appropriate rate of return. We did so because what was happening to borrowers was illegal and wrong and needed to be stopped so that people could, in fact, have a true ownership stake in society. We didn't investigate mutual-fund companies because of a desire to increase government regulation. We did it to stop a scam that allowed a favored few insiders to benefit at the expense of all other investors.
The Bush administration, in the name of free markets, has allowed business to take advantage of the small investor, victimizing those who want to own a piece of the U.S. economy. The scandals involving Wall Street analysts, banking, and mutual funds all demonstrated the Republicans' failure to protect those Americans who want to play their part in the Ownership Society.
New York Governor or something higher? I guess I have to be patient. Either way, as a party, we're lucky to have people like Spitzer slowly filing into leadership roles. Rumors of Democratic demise have been greatly exaggerated.
posted by Scott |
I can't wait to see what kind of freaky extremists Bush replaces the current, slightly-less-freakish extremists with. I'm thinking Zell Miller at State, Ken Lay at Energy, and Bob Jones at Education. Sound good?
Powell will perhaps be best remembered for that U.N. Security Council appearance on Feb. 5, 2003, during which he argued that Saddam must be removed because of its possession of weapons of mass destruction.
That really says it all, doesn't it?
Powell had a lot of promise. It was always known that he was much more of a moderate than his boss and colleagues, and many of us held out hope that he would serve as a voice of reason among the idealogues and fanatics.
But when the chips were down, Powell did nothing. He never stood up to the bullies. He never spoke out in public. He never bucked the system, proving himself a good company man. During his tenure as Secretary of State, Colin Powell lost all semblance of dignity and self-respect, serving as little more than a mouthpiece for the amateurs and quacks everyone believed him to despise.
He almost showed a moment of strength, spilling at least some of the beans to Bob Woodward on the run-up to the Iraq War in Plan of Attack. But then he denied it all and claimed everything was peachy in the administration. There's leadership for you.
Some are saying Powell's replacement will be Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, but that's doubtful as he's also expected to be on his way out. Others are talking about UN Ambassador John Danforth or National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. I've heard Rice would prefer Defense, but who knows. Beggars can't be choosers.
The other somewhat major resignation being announced this morning is Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. I say 'major' because American energy policy (or the lack thereof) is one of the main drivers of foreign policy and has been for decades. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly knowing this crowd, as a US Senator, Abraham sponsored a bill that would have abolished the Department of Energy.
Of the two candidates being talked about to replace Abraham, I'd have to go with his current deputy Kyle McSlarrow. While he's a big fan of both coal and nuclear, at least he's not the president of "the premier trade association" for energy corporations like Thomas Kuhn. Yeesh.