...as in the imperative (i.e. you, youth, progress). This blog is updated by politically active young people. Issues that will be discussed are those which concern young voters and are of concern to young voters.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Can Dems Win Young Voters with Health Care?

There is absolutely no question that us Americans are about to have a serious problem when it comes to health care. The health care problem is a triple-whammy: the price of treatment is increasing, Americans are becoming unhealthier, and social security is going down the pipes. Tamara Draut, the author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30- Somethings Can't Get Ahead believes that the health conundrum can be used to the Democrats' advantage. But is her viewpoint, perhaps, a bit overstated?

The Problem With Health Care:

Health care is not a sexy issue, especially not in the eyes of young voters. Young voters have less health problems than older demographics, and 1/3 of people aged 18-29 do not have health insurance. According to Draut in the San Francisco Cronicle, "Winning Over Young Voters," "It's not because they think they're invincible. Only 3 percent of young adults are uninsured because they turned down coverage; the rest either aren't offered it by their job or they can't afford it."

Do Young People Care?:

Research from CIRCLE at University of Maryland and Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Council for Excellence (DCCE) suggests that young people do indeed care about health care. When potential young voters were asked to rate the importance of issues on a scale of 1-10, the affordability of health care was rated 8.2, more than security from terrorism, which was rated 8.0. Draut also offers our demographic a grim reminder of what happens when we hurt ourselves or become sick and do not have adequate health insurance: "Not having health insurance has more than physical consequences; about half of young adults ages 18 to 29 without health insurance reported having problems paying medical bills."

The big question for Democrats is: Is it worth it? Is health care a big enough issue to young people that it can be used to drive them to the polls? Experts, such as Draut, CIRCLE, DCCE seem to think so. I'd go with the experts.

Why Should Young People Be Concerned?:

...because we will be old one day too. And when that day comes, if the fiscally-liberal Republicans have their way, we may not have social security. And treatment will cost more than ever. And, if we continue to eat like we eat right now, more of us will have weight-related health problems than any preceding generation.

There are two major problems with social security: 1) social security is in a 10.4-trillion dollar deficit. This sum will keep growing unless new legislation is put into place. 2) One piece of proposed legislation is Bush's plan to privatize, or as the liberal bloggers call it, "phase-out" social security. Though it may be built on the same principle that built the American economy in the first place (ruthless capitalism), it is fiscally wreckless because most Americans would not have the economic expertise to effectively invest their own accounts.

Young voters are concerned about health care, and young people in general should be. But should Democrats be concerned about young peoples' concerns about health care. I am concerned that they are not concerned about our concerns, and they should be concerned. Be concerned.

More Information:

National Youth Survey 2004 - CIRCLE
Does Social Security Really Face a 12-Trillion Dollar Deficit - FactCheck.org
Winning Over Young Voters - Tamara Draut, San Francisco Cronicle (via Young Voter Strategies)

Update #2: Net Neutrality

"Series of Tubes" Stevens is now pushing a cloture vote on Net Neutrality before this week's recess, according to Firedoglake.
Stevens is shooting for a cloture vote on Thursday and has plans to keep everyone in a lame duck session to force a vote on net neutrality after Congress is supposed to be in recess. (Firedog Lake)
In addition, Jim Webb has released a statement to MyDD on his stance on Net Neutrality:
The internet represents democracy in action and must be protected. More than perhaps any other medium, the internet provides an open and free marketplace of ideas and speech, as our founding fathers intended in the first amendment to our Constitution. The internet has been open and free since its inception, and it should remain open and free moving forward. Just as importantly, the blogosphere provides strong checks and balances on the corporate media and on governmental power. This is particularly crucial at at time of serious overreach by the executive branch, as we now are experiencing. Finally, there is a fundamental fairness issue at stake here. Given that the internet is increasingly indispensible to educational and career advancement in today's economy, it is essential that we keep it accessible and affordable to all Americans - not just to the wealthiest corporations and citizens. Allowing big telecom companies to provide preferential service to large content providers over the "little guy" is both wrong and undemocratic. For all these reasons, I strongly support net neutrality.
Finally, in case you didn't hear, the Series of Tubes Remix.

P.S. I e-mailed the Marie Johns (D - Mayoral, D.C.) Campaign to find out her position on Net Neutrality. She is the former CEO of Verizon, the telecom giant that spearheaded the anti-Net Neutrality, "Hands Off the Internet" campaign. Needless to say, I haven't recieved a response.

"Modernity and the Other:" Part 2

"Modernity and The Other:" Part 1

Having already discussed the historical roots of the Mason-Dixon divide, the following segment will discuss its importance in modern voting habits. I will also speculate on global issues related to identity, such as anti-1st-World sentiments among 3rd-World nations, the dangers of xenophobic immigration policies, and the social causes of terrorism.

"In the Name of Identity:"

I recently read Lebanese author/philosopher Amin Maalouf's discourse on ethnic violence entitled In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. Though I am tremendously oversimplifying his argument, the book states that identity is interpreted "in a narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplistic attitude that reduces identity in all its many aspects to one single affiliation." In other words, rather than being a Jewish, American, heterosexual, white male, an Englishman would likely describe me as an American guy, or perhaps a Jewish guy. Maalouf convincingly argues that this hypersimplification of the identity complex leads individuals to defend whatever part of their identity is under attack in a radical and often violent fashion.

Maalouf spends much of his pages describing how individuals of certain identities come to feel their identities are under attack, as he describes in this passage:
The reality is experienced differently by those born in the dominant civilization [the West] and those born outside it. The former can change, advance in life, adapt [to changing times] without ceasing to be themselves. One might even say that the more Westerners modernize themselves, the more completely in harmony they feel with their culture. Only those among them who reject modernity find themselves out of touch.

For the rest of the world's imhabitants, all those born in the failed cultures [sic], openness to change and modernity presents itself differently. For the Chinese, Africans, Japanese, Indians and American Indians, as for Greeks, Russians, Iranians, Arabs, Jews and Turks, modernization has constantly meant the abandoning of part of themselves. Even though it has sometimes been embraced with enthusiasm, it has never been adopted without a certain bitterness, without a feeling of humiliation and defection. Without a piercing doubt about the dangers of assimilation. Without a profound identity crisis.
Is this applicable to the American South? A region with a different history, with much greater poverty, with a different culture, and even a different dialect? Could the South be one of Maalouf's so-called "failed cultures?" The "Plantation Culture" was, after all, defeated in the Civil War, though its ghost still lingers today.

I think this is a reasonable comparison. For the population of the South, progressive, modern values will not be "adopted without a certain bitterness, without a feeling of humiliation and defection. Without a piercing doubt about the dangers of assimilation. Without a profound identity crisis."

Targeting the South:

1. Approach the South with cultural understanding. Example: Webb's victory speech and reception in Crystal City, Arlington, VA, had a country band.

2. Understand the poverty of the South. The South (as in the traditional Southern states), has some of the poorest counties in the US. A good way to show that one has come to this understanding is to support economic affirmative action, like Jim Webb. Webb has always supported affirmative action for all African-Americans, but would also like to see affirmative action programs in place for all poor Virginians.

3. Your policies are better for farmers, low-income families, and middle-class families than the Republicans'. Keep them that way.

Certainly there should be more to your Southern Strategy than what I have listed above. Consult Southern Democrats to learn of the best way to target Southern constituents.

Identity-Conscious Foreign Policy:

Now, switching to a more global perspective... When Democrats seize control of the legislative body of the US government come November, they will have a chance to show this nation some truly effective anti-terrorism efforts. And I don't just mean running an effective Congress when it comes to counter-terrorism legislation...

It should be the goal of Democrats to urge the executive branch to rethink its foreign policy. Currently, our Middle East inflames the terrorist sentiments created by globalization. Why globalization? Globalization is seen by Maalouf's "failed cultures" as an oppressive force which wishes to further efface 3rd-World nations' cultures. What is needed, according to Maalouf, is a new, more encompassing form of identity, but I hope that a more just and understanding foreign policy may be somewhat affective, as the first is probably impossible to implement.

Identity-Conscious Immigration Policy:

As I said before, there is great danger in xenophobic immigration policies. One need only to quickly glance at Europe to see its largely unhappy Muslim population, and how many of its members have been radicalized into terrorism. For example, 3 of the 4 bombers in the July 7 London Bombings were Muslims born in Britain, one was born in Jamaica.

Ironically, the Administration and its congressional cronies are now looking to European countries whose xenophobic immigration policies has lead to outraged and radicalized immigrant populations, such as France and Germany. Specifically, I speak of the proposed "Guest Worker" program. The problem with such programs is that children of Guest Workers born in the US would not necessarily be US citizens, instead they would be children devoid of fatherlands, with no identity to attatch themselves to except one of hate for the nation that robbed them of indentity at birth. Democrats need to distance themselves from the Bush on this issue, they need to, for the first time in their history, think up a sensible approach to immigration.

Democrats need to approach issues surrounding identities with sensitivity and level heads.

(Article will not be hyperlinked)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

"Modernity and The Other:" Part 1

As my friend and co-author of this blog pointed out in his last entry, it should be asked by the Democratic Party why the ordinary citizen who votes Republican seems to vote entirely against his best interests. Certainly it must be noted that the spin can confuse some voters into thinking, like 52% of American young voters, that the Republicans have better ideas when it comes to National Security, per se.

But there is reason in the madness. (Indeed, voting for Republicans is madness). It is as complex as our individual identities, and the history of our nation.

Lessons from Lincoln:

1864 - Much of the US has been reduced to rubble during the worst war in American history. While President Lincoln and his army are in the midst of fighting the Civil War, he and Congress debate over how to reincorporate the South into the Union. He believes that in order to recreate the functioning, though unhappy, union that the US was only 4 years past, the South must be forgiven of its misdeeds and reconstructed as quickly as possible, while the "Radical Republicans," sought to punish the former Confederate states for the atrocities of slavery, as well as gross harm, and near overthrow, of the US government.

In July of that year, the Wade-Davis Bill would be brought before the President. The bill, pushed by Radical Republicans, whom had taken control of Congress, had the following five provisions according to Wikipedia:

  1. Until states were readmitted, they would be under the control of a governor appointed by the president.
  2. The provisional governor would enroll all white men. If over 50% of them took the "Ironclad Oath," these same loyalists would be allowed to elect a constitutional convention. No one who held any Confederate office or served in the confederate army would be allowed to vote for this convention. The "Ironclad oath," attested that the white male had never borne arms against the Union or supported the confederacy. Considering the numbers in the Confederate Army, historians believe it would have been impossible for a southern state to meet this requirement, leaving the states in limbo.
  3. The new constitution must abolish slavery, punish Confederate leaders by distributing their property, and repudiate debts collected during the war. After meeting these conditions, a state could finally be readmitted to the Union.
  4. Freedmen, although not citizens, were to be granted federal Habeas corpus rights, and former masters who denied freedom to the enslaved were subject to federal fines and imprisonment. If the bill passed, the federal government would be able to intrude into any state by emancipating slaves immediately and transferring legal authority over ex-slaves from state to federal courts.
  5. Senior Confederate civil officials and military officers of the rank of colonel and higher would lose their U.S. citizenship.
Lincoln, realizing that a successful democracy was one in which all citizens are engaged by their government, pocket vetoed the legislation. The War ended on April 9, 1865, and at that time both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line anticipated an immediate repatriation of the Confederacy into the Union with the moderate Lincoln at the helm of the nation. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was even famously allowed to keep his sword and his horse at the surrender at Appomattox. But the rejoining of the Union would soon take a very different timbre. On April 14, 1865, America's greatest president of the past two centuries was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer, John Wilks-Booth.

...And the Failures of Johnson:

During the 1864 election, Lincoln had chosen Tennessee Democrat Sen. Andrew Johnson, the only Southern Senator to remain loyal to the Union, as his running mate, in hopes of providing a more unifying ticket to the soon-to-be reuniting nation. After his assassination, Johnson assumed the presidency of the US, to disastrous consequences.

Johnson soon pardoned even the most divisive figures of the former Confederate army, and restored all land back to its pre-War owners. He allowed "The Black Codes" to be instituted, which prevented the newly emancipated African-American population of the South from being full-fledged American citizens, and, of course, denied their right to vote.

In response to Johnson's outrageous actions, the Congress passed the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, guaranteeing some rights to the ex-slaves. The Bill was vetoed by Johnson. Later, in furthered defiance, the Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill, which was also vetoed by Johnson. This veto would result in the first overturned veto in US History. It would be a precursor to the rest of the Johnson presidency. The Congress later passed the 14th Amendment, which was intended to provide full citizenship and equal rights to all African-Americans. The Congress even tried to impeach the president, and only failed by one vote.

The relationship between Johnson and Congress was a nasty power battle, in which both sides sought to damage the other by attacking cronies and constitutuents. Johnson sought to damage the Republican vote in the South by keeping ex-slaves from voting, and verbally attacking Radical Republicanism. Congress not only sought to limit the powers of the president and remove him from office, but also attacked and embittered the reconstructing South. The fiery battle continues today in the US: The political divide in this country still rests upon the Mason-Dixon Line.

Next Time:

In my next segment of "Modernity and The Other," I will discuss why this conflict has lead to the identity gap between Northerners and Southerners, why white Southerners refuse to vote for progress and Democrats, why the third-world rejects the modernity of the first-world, and how the rejection of the values of the progressive values of the North by white Southerners has lead to an America that pre-emptively and without reason invades fellow sovereign nations, denies global warming, and runs itself into bankruptcy, and how the rejection of "modernity" by third-world nations has lead to global terrorism.

...And I will hyperlink everything, and spellcheck everything, etc. But right now, I must get to sleep. For those of you who don't know, I have a contracting job which requires me to wake at 6:10.

American Life

The biggest issue facing America and the world is not political, it is psychological. The world has the capabilities to solve the most challenging problems, from Global Warming to the crisis in Middle East, but we are not doing so. We could blame our lack of impetus entirely on the Bush Administration, who has refused to acknowledge human involvement in global warming, and has made every effort to gut environmental policy, has invaded Iraq, cut taxes for the rich…the list goes on.

But the Bush Administration is not the root cause of our societal problems. In 2004 the majority of Americans voted for Bush. We could simply say "the root cause is the stupidity of the electorate, too ignorant to understand the nuances and sophistication of effective government." After the election, a common chain e-mail purported to show how superior the average IQ of blue staters to of red staters. But the American people are not stupid, they are you and me. John Kerry, while succeeding in rallying much of his Democratic base, failed to communicate with them. Furthermore, by framing the election as some kind of intelligence test, one downplays the critical morality of politics. John Kerry did not make clear the immorality of Bush's policy. He talked about economic issues not in terms of the poor, the suffering, the millions of Americans without health insurance, or how it is wrong to leave a gigantic debt for future generations. It is no surprise that the biggest issue in the election was moral issues. But George Will is right, every political issue is a moral issue.

People in liberal circles would rather Bush bash, and feel superior to red staters, but they never try to understand why people vote Republican. They do believe they are doing the right thing and they do care about America. The root cause is a psychological backlash against the capitalist economy's incessant message of materialism, hedonism, and cynicism. The philosophy of our culture is extreme individualism. Today in America, the well being of the community is deemed much less significant than satisfying the desires of the individual. John F Kennedy’s lofty ideals are deemed quaint and historic. The result of this individualism is a loss of connection, a deep loneliness where no one is willing to sacrifice his or her interest for the sake of others. This philosophy is particularly evident in generation Y, our generation. ADD and depression are considered the norm, because every child is led to expect instant gratification and constant stimulation. Individual success is the ultimate goal, and people are judged not by their character, but where they go to school and their earning potential. Success, as defined by our society, devoid of any ethical standards, and disconnected from any cause bigger than the self, is unfulfilling and lacks meaning. This is in turn is why many kids my age turn to drugs and alcohol to escape the feeling of emptiness and to numb the present experience.

In order to overcome our deep psychological malaise reflected in our individualistic culture, we must as a whole embrace the unity of humanity, weather red state or blue state, American or Middle Eastern, pacifist or terrorist, with equanimity. Global problems will not be solved through more intelligence but by the cultivation of collective compassion. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The great problems facing modern man is that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live…The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make it a brotherhood.”

People vote Republican because they are more concerned with the lack of meaning in our culture, than with their economic interests. Thus, the evangelical movement swallows more voters, while the Democratic party sits on its hands.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Personal Milestone: 1st Recommended Diary, & Quick Notes

1. I am happy to report a personal milestone for me: A crosspost of mine, entitled "Wooing Young Voters on Social Issues," has become a "Recommended Diary" by Maryscott O'Connor, the founder of My Left Wing, and the MLW Community. You like me! You really like me! URL: http://www.myleftwing.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=10722

2. Remember how Tom Davis (R-VA, District next to mine) got caught in bed with the oil companies? Now he's caught again, this time in bed with his wife! (errrrrrrrrr) Washington Post: "Wife, Friend Tie Congressman to Consulting Firm." Kinky?

3. Webb is woefully behind Felix Jr. in fundraising. Please donate HERE!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Guest Post: College Graduates' Wages Drop 5.2% Since 2000

This was posted by (guess who) Bonddad at Daily Kos, My Left Wing, and other sites. For those of you who are not yet acquainted with Bonddad, he provided more than half of my sources for my post entitled "Raid on Student Aid."

Biography of Guestposter Bonddad (from NetRoots, Research, Strategy & Analysis (NRRSA)):
Hale Stewart (aka "bonddad") is a tax and business attorney in Houston, Texas, specializing in small to medium sized business issues. He writes on economic issues on the Web for Daily Kos, BOPnews and MyLeftWing. He also provides economic commentary for the Fighting Dems newsletter and chaired the economics panel for the first Yearly Kos convention. Before law school, Mr. Stewart was a fixed income trader and broker.
Crossposted from Daily Kos and My Left Wing:
Wage stagnation, long the bane of blue-collar workers, is now hitting people with bachelor's degrees for the first time in 30 years. Earnings for workers with four-year degrees fell 5.2 percent between 2000 and 2004 when adjusted for inflation, according to White House economists.

It is a setback for workers, and it may explain why surveys show that many Americans think President Bush has not managed the economy well.

Not since the 1970s have workers with bachelor's degrees seen a prolonged slump. These workers did well during the last period of growth, with average wages rising 12 percent from 1995 to 2000, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Analysis, this expansion started in November 2001 when according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic the average hourly pay of non-supervisory workers was $14.70. This figure was $16.62 in May of 2006 for an increase of 13.06%. Over the same period, the inflation gage according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics increased from 177.4 to 202.5, or an increase of 14.15%. Therefore, wages for non-supervisory employees have decreased a little over 1% since this expansion began.

However, the unemployment rate dropped below 5% in December 2005, signaling "full employment". Has the decrease in labor supply increased wages? No. In December 2005 the average hourly wage of non-supervisory employees was $16.35. In May that number was $16.62 for an increase of 1.65%. Over the same period, the overall inflation measure increased from 196.8 to 202.5 or an increase of 2.89%. Therefore, since the economy hit "full employment" wages have decreased 1.25%.

Two sources confirm this information. The Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances 2001-2004 and the Census Bureau's median wage statistics. The Census Bureau documents that national median income has dropped from $45,000 in 2000 to a little under $44,500 in 2004.

This problem is effecting a large percentage of the workforce:

Although earning a bachelor's degree is still worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in lifetime earnings, on average, the recent wage slump has affected a substantial part of the workforce. About 30 million Americans ages 20 to 59 have a four-year degree and no advanced degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

White House economists did not lay out wage trends for people with advanced degrees. But other studies have found that wages for those workers were flat between 2000 and 2004, when adjusted for inflation, while confirming the decline for people with undergraduate degrees.

So, what's causing this?:

Off-shoring, which has shifted manufacturing and call-center jobs to Mexico and India, is increasingly affecting the white-collar sectors of engineering and software design. Companies have continued their long effort to replace salaried positions with low-paid, nonsalaried jobs, including part-time and freelance positions without benefits.

A recent study by the New Democrat Network adds:

Globalization is changing two of the most basic economic dynamics in our economy. First, it weakens the long-standing connection between increases in the productivity of American workers and the wages they earn. Since 2001, labor productivity in the United States has grown, on average, more than 3 percent a year. That's the best performance in decades. Yet, despite five years of strong productivity growth, wages are stuck. Even when we include the value of health insurance premiums and pension contributions, the compensation of an average American worker has increased little, for all the economy's productivity improvements.

Increases in productivity are theoretically supposed to translate into higher wages. The intuitive way to think about this concept is a simple bonus for getting more work done. As a company produces more with the same amount of resources, it raises wages as an incentive and reward. However, as productivity has increased during this expansion wages have not followed suit.

Second, globalization has measurably weakened the relationship between growth and job creation. The first evidence came in the 2001 recession, when job losses relative to the actual decline in economic growth were six times greater than in previous postwar recessions. Five years into the current expansion, job creation is still running at half the rate of the preceding recovery. Despite this historic slowdown in job creation, the official U.S. unemployment rate remains low - but only because the number of working age people looking for jobs has also declined, even as the economy has grown.

Despite Bush's continual touting of recent job numbers, this expansion's job creation rate is the lowest of any recovery in the last 40 years. NDN is arguing that US job growth is occurring in other countries as well; that US companies are instead hiring employees in other countries who in turn provide goods and services to the US.

The wage/globalization issue is incredibly complex. However, it is now hitting people who are solidly middle class. Maybe Democrats could start to reach out to these people? Sorry - a fleeting hope emerges.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Road to Despotism

The Constitution is the most sacred and powerful document in US Law. It, and its amendments, contain all of the guaranteed liberties of American citizens, as well as provide the blueprint for a fair and just democracy. Yet, there are those who wish to undermine this holy doctrine. There are those who think that America would be a better place without it. The leader of these sinners is a devil named George W. Bush, who has ascended the throne of our great nation in a pursuit to raise the fiery depths of hell. (Pst, I'm an atheist. This is an allegory.)

Why should the youth be concerned about an abstract legal battle? Because, my fellow youngins, this is our Constitution too. This is the supreme protector of our rights and liberties, and it is under attack by a despot!

Signing Statements:

President Bush, and David "Satan's Little Helper" Addington, formerly chief legal council to Vice President Dick "Dick" Cheney who replaced Scooter Libby as Cheney's chief of staff, has.... well, I'll let the Boston Globe spell it out for you:
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
And, Boston Globe, what about the scope and aggression of this Constitutional instrusion?:
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
I would like everyone to note the last sentence ("Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional."). Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe that the founding fathers had bestowed that power, to declare things unconstitutional, upon the Judiciary Branch of our government, via the Constitution. In fact, Article 3, Section 2 states:
The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
But I am no lawyer, not yet anyways. What do the lawyers have to say? (via US News and World Report):
In a report to be released Monday, the task force [of the American Bar Association] will recommend that Congress pass legislation providing for some sort of judicial review of the signing statements. Some task force members want to simply give Congress the right to sue over the signing statements; other task force members will not characterize what sort of judicial review might ultimately emerge.
To paraphrase this, all members of the ABA task force wish to reduce the power of the signing statement, some want to see Congress sue Bush. In fact, this may already be in the works.

On June 28, 2006, the Boston Globe reported that "the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter (R-PA), said yesterday that he is 'seriously considering' filing legislation to give Congress legal standing to sue President Bush over his use of signing statements to reserve the right to bypass laws." 12 hours ago, the Seattle Times reported, "A powerful Republican committee chairman [Specter] who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue the president in federal court."

Conservatives are quick to point out that the signing statement had been used about 600 times before Bush Jr. took office, including by his predecessor President Clinton, and as early as the James Monroe Administration. There are two major differences between signing statements prior and during the Bush Administration:

1. The Bush Administration has used the signing statements about 750 times. That's about 150 more signing statements than every single other administration in history combined.

2. The Bush Administration has used the singing statements in an unprecedented and extreme manner, as mentioned above.

The Constitution is a living document; I think it is perhaps time to do away with the signing statement and let real balance of power prevail.

Other Crimes of the "See no Constitution, Speak no Constitution, Hear no Constitution" White House:

NSA Warentless Surveillance Scandal:
In the case of this scandal, the executive branch ignored a law it had found to be inconvenient at the expense of the right to privacy. The New York Times broke the story in December of 2005 that the NSA (which acts under the authority of the President) had been illegally bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts in order to more expediently conduct domestic spying on suspected terrorists. This was grossly illegal in two ways: 1) it violated the Fourth Amendment, which states the "right of the people to be secure... against unreasonable searches," and 2) it violated the president's Constitutional duty to inform Congress.

Terrorist Finance Tracking Scandal: This scandal violated the same laws as the NSA Warantless Surveillance Scandal. It too was conducted by the NSA. The President claimed to have the power to monitor overseas bank transactions without notification. I have covered this here.

Pakistani Nuclear Silence:
As Rep. Hoekstra (R-MI) said, "the Congress should not have to play 20 questions to get the answers it deserves under the Constitution." It was revealed this week that the Administration did not tell Congress about Pakistan's plans to build heavy-duty nuclear reactors to build nuclear weapons in response to the US promise to "share civilian nuclear technology with India." (As reported in an AP article idiotically titled, "Critics Oppose US-India Nuclear Deal.")

These are but a current few examples that I have chosen to highlight. There are others known, and undoubtedly others yet to be revealed.

The importance of the erosion of American, Constitutional values cannot be overstated. America is on the Road to Despotism.

More Information:

Bill Would Let Congress Sue Bush - Seattle Times
Bar Association Task Force Urges... - US News and World Report
Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws - Boston Globe
United States Constitution - The Founding Fathers

Monday, July 24, 2006

"Strategery," or Lack Thereof

The three greatest tests we are facing now are in the Environment, Global war, and the income inequality. On all three of these issues the United States Government is moving in the wrong direction. In this post I will only focus on Global War. I say Global war because I believe the world as a whole needs to make a concrete effort for global peace and when one takes a nationalistic view one looses sight of this goal, and has an us vs them mentality. This is why Bush and many in the US have looked at the death of 40,000 innocent Iraqi civilians as excusable for the sake of victory, while 2, 500 U.S. soldiers is a tragedy. The real truth from a humanitarian perspective is that this enormous loss of life is a great tragedy. The Iraqi death toll cannot be overlooked; civilian deaths are unacceptable and hurt the US cause. Because Iraq is in a civil war, the US is killing more and more civilians. To make matters worse, Donald Rumsfeld and the military do not seem to care. They refuse to give a body count of the Iraqi civilians because they are more concerned with protecting the administration’s political image then actually helping the Iraqi people. As a result, the Iraqi people are treated as subhuman, and they view the US presence as the problem. To see more about the rampant civilian casualty rate look at "What's an Iraqi Life Worth?", by Andrew J. Bacevich (appeared in the Washington Post Outlook section July 9th). The way the US treats civilians in Iraq represents a logical error in the premise for the war on terror and the war in Iraq. The Bush Administration and its supporters believe that we can bring peace to the world through our military power by destroying Al Qaeda and people whom we perceive as a threat. However, the logic of this plan falters because the Administration assumes that we can violently eliminate these terrorist groups and simultaneously bring peace to the region. But violence begets more violence and we cannot expect to make the world a better place by killing people. The death of Zarqawi did not end the insurgency, in fact violence has increased since his death. The Administration views terrorists as separate tumors that can be weeded out but terrorists arise because of the violence in society. Witness the Israeli-Lebanese Wars, and how the ongoing violence in the Middle East has encouraged this violence further. The second error in the logic in militarism is that a moral democracy can be created by the point of the gun. A democracy is peaceful and we can not force people into democracy through violence. We assume because we have a moral democracy our military might is automatically moral as well. This is not true. Might does not make right. We did not beat Saddam because we were a free society and he was a despot, we beat him because we spend trillions on our military and have the biggest and most powerful army in the world. Our aggressive militarism will encourage other nations to build up their armies, like our nuclear weapons spur other nations to seek nuclear weapons. Since Bush rattled his saber at the “axis of evil” in 2002, Iran and North Korea have increased their military build up, because they recognized that the Administration viewed national strength soley based on military power. Meanwhile, Iraq is a blood bath, because we thought we could build a stable country at the point of a gun.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Weighing in on Israel/Hezbollah

In case you haven't heard, a crisis looms in the Middle East which threatens regional and global stability. In response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and the constant rocket bombardment of Northern Israel (one which targeted civilians, not Israeli forces), the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been engaged in widespread attacks against Hezbollah guerrillas, as well as its supporting civilian infrastructure. The Bush Administration has been quick to support the Israelis, arguing that "Israel has a right to defend herself against terrorism." At the same time, many have alleged that Israel has used excessive force, leading to unacceptable collateral damage and civilian deaths.

The Historical Roots of Hezbollah:

I will begin my explanation of the current conflict in 1979, when a revolution overthrew a pro-Western, secular, constitutional monarchy in Iran, and placed the Iranian government in the hands of the Islamic extremist, Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini wished to see the Iranian Revolution exported into a broader war to rid the Middle East of Western and secular influence. This policy quickly swept Iran into conflict with its neighbor Iraq - and its secular, US-backed leader Saddam Hussein - in 1980. There were other obstacles to Khomeini's vision, such as the Jewish state of Israel, and the half-Christian state of Lebanon, which was at the time engulfed in an ethnic civil war. In 1982, Khomeini would find an opportunity to gain regional support in Lebanon against Israel.

In that year, a war began between Israel and the South Lebanon Army, an Israeli proxy force largely made up of Lebanese Christians, against the Islamic forces of Lebanon, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Syria. The 1982 Israeli-Lebanese War was the direct result of rocket attacks from the PLO in Southern Lebanon against civilians in Northern Israel, which had been occurring with varying intensity since 1968, and the attempted assassination and parylization of the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Shlomo Argov, by Fatah, a rival terrorist organization to the PLO that was also operating in Lebanon. (Today, Hamas, an off-shoot of the PLO, and Fatah are the two mainstream political parties in the Palestinian Territories. Fatah is the more moderate group, the party of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, which supports a two-state solution.) IDF responded with a land invasion and occupation of parts of Southern Lebanon. In response to the Israeli invasion, Khomeini helped form, funded, and armed Hezbollah in an effort to further destabilize the Lebanese government in the hopes of creating another fundamentalist regime and to wage a proxy war on Israel. A peace agreement was reached between all sides after the Israelis pushed north to Beirut, and threatened to invade the capital. The PLO and Syria agreed to withdraw, and Israel agreed to return to a 40-kilometer security buffer zone (SBZ) in Southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah Continues to Terrorize, Lebanese Govt. Looks the Other Way:

After the peace accords, Hezbollah's official mission changed to fighting the Israeli forces occupying the SBZ. Hezbollah went about their mission both by attacking IDF forces, as well as civilians. In 1989, the Lebanese Civil War officially ended with the signing of the Taif Agreement, which established a representational parliament in Beirut, mandated that all Syrian forces be withdrawn from Lebanon (Syria supported and still supports Hezbollah and other guerilla groups), that all militant groups, such as Hezbollah, disarm, and that the Lebanese military be deployed to Southern Lebanon to prevent violations of the agreement to prevent militants from attacking Israel, thus starting another war. The last clause mentioned did not come to fruition, and Hezbollah ignored the Taif Agreement and continued to attack Israeli forces and civilians, even after the complete withdrawal from Lebanon by Israel in 2000. At no time between the Taif Agreement and today did the Lebanese government attempt to stop the attacks from Hezbollah against Israel.

In 2000, Israel was forced to withdraw from the SBZ after continued attacks from Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (Labor Party) had hoped the complete withdrawal from Lebanon would help ease tensions between the two states. But Hezbollah terror campaigns continued, in fact from the very same territory from which Israel withdrew "in an effort for peace."

The 2006 War:

The purpose of the current Israeli invasion of Lebanon is to destroy Hezbollah, thus stopping its rocket attacks on Northern Israeli cities, and to rescue the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah.

Given the facts, I agree that military actions must be taken by the Israelis to defend themselves against Hezbollah. What I may strongly disagree with in hindsight is the way the Israelis are conducting their operations. I disagree with one step taken so far: Israel should have gone to the UN. The UN General Assembly would likely not have endorsed the military actions of Israel because of oil interests, anti-1st world country sentiments, etc. but it would have stirred some international outrage against Hezbollah, therefore stopping some of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli ugliness that is sure to come out of this whole ordeal.

However, there is grave danger lurking ahead. The first is that Israel would drag the US into WWIII with Iran and Syria. This could be instigated by a Syrian or Iranian invasion of Israel or vise versa. The second is that Israel could destabilize major oil suppliers, crashing the US Glass-House economy. The third (and most likely) is that Israel will conduct this war with inadequate discretion, cause massive loss of civilian life, and explode anti-Semitism world-wide. Israel must conduct itself with the utmost discretion, and from all evidence, it does not appear to be doing this.

The Elements of a Cease-Fire:

Of course, we would like an end to the violence. But if a cease-fire were to be called now, Hezbollah would continue to terrorize Israel, while the IDF would be powerless to stop it. Thus, in order for a cease-fire to occur, a third-party force must be deployed to the border to ensure Hezbollah guerrillas cease their attacks on Israeli cities. The Israelis should also demand that Iran and Syria stop supplying Hezbollah with funding and arms.

This article will not be hyperlinked, as I am working on another and it would take up too much time. For more information, check Wikipedia.

Update: I encourage the Israeli government and Jews world-wide to not stoop down to the level of our enemies by using phosphorous bombs, per se. (That's not to say that you are using phosphorous bombs, but if you are, STOP IMMEDIATLY!)

Update #2: If the aforementioned Israeli government would please stop bombing Lebanese ambulances, us Jews would be very much obliged.

Update #3: I lied about the hyperlinks, check out this fascinating article in Ha'aretz. (Thanks TPM)

Update #4: It now unfortunatley appears to be the matter of fact that Israel is conducting this just war with inadequate discretion, and many allege, total disregard for human life. I expect more out of my fellow Jews than to stoop down to the level of our enemies.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jim Crow 2.0

One of my missions here at Progress, Youth to increase young voter turnout for the Democratic Party. But a serious question lurks: Is it worth it? I am not referring to this blog's viewership (which is steadily climbing, thank you) or the effectiveness of blogs in increasing voter participation (which research suggests is not very effective at all, but hey), I am asking, "How representational is our so-called representational Democracy?" Some outstanding investigative journalism by BBC reporter Greg Palast suggests that it may not be that representational at all.

2000 Black Voter Purge:

In 2000, Florida was a hotbed of political scandal. While the media focused on hanging chads, recounts, and the US Supreme Court, and later the Diebold Voting Machines Scandal, Palast was investigating far more sinister ongoings. Palast's website reports:
In the two years before the elections, the Florida secretary of state’s office quietly ordered the removal of 94,000 voters from the registries. Supposedly, these were convicted felons who may not vote in Florida. Instead, the overwhelming majority were innocent of any crime, and just over half were black or Hispanic.
The Florida Secretary of State's Office was ironically assisted by the Voting Rights Act, which requires that the race of the voter be listed next to his or her name. Then, those "who's name, birthdate, and gender loosely matched that of a felon anywhere in America were targeted for removal." Palast points out the absurd examples of Floridas many African-Americans named Thomas Butler:
One Thomas Butler (of several in Florida) was tagged because a “Thomas Butler Cooper Jr.” of Ohio was convicted of a crime... [reportedly committed] on 1/30/2007.
How was this able to happen legally? Florida was the first state to have a computerized voting roll, one which allowed for the systematic removal of black voters when placed in the hands of elected, therefore inherently partisan, politicians. African-Americans were an easy target, as the vast majority vote Democratic, and in 2004, they were targeted again.

Caging List:

In October of 2004, two e-mails sent by a GOP official and intended for "the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director" were intercepted by the political satire site WhiteHouse.org, which turned the e-mails over to Palast. The e-mails contained a 15-page list of Florida voters, 98% of which were black, labeled "Caging List." Palast claims he sent a reply e-mail inquiring about the list, to which the GOP responded that it was a donor registry. This was an obvious farce, and Palast promptly raised concerns on a BBC Newsnight piece entitled "New Florida Vote Scandal Feared" on October 24. Palast speculated that the so-called "Caging List" was a list of potential voters that Republican activists would challenge at the polls, which is allowed under Florida law. Such a mass challenge had never been attempted in state, or even national history, but the Republicans were aided by the computerized voting rolls. Later, Palast's speculation would be revealed as fact, though the mainstream media, ever oblivious, did not question the validity of the 2004 Florida elections.

Black Voter Intimidation:

Palast interviewed Tallahassee voter supervisor, Ion Sancho, for his BBC piece:

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee [Sancho], when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day."

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter "in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections."

"Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

Sancho calls it "intimidation." And it may be illegal.
In fact, it is illegal. Palast writes that civil rights attorney Ralph Neas noted that "US federal law prohibits targeting challenges to voters, even if there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters."

But Palast notes that Republicans did not stop at Jim Crow era-like challenges to African-American's right to vote, they hired a private detective for the sole purpose of intimidating black voters. On election day, BBC "filmed a private detective filming every "early voter" - the majority of whom are black - from behind a vehicle with blacked-out windows."

"The private detective claimed not to know who was paying for his all-day services."

"Help America Vote Act:"

In 2002, congress passed a GOP initiative called the "Help America Vote Act," which will allow, indeed mandate, the Florida-style computerized voting rolls in all 50 states. This will allow the most significant denial of voting rights to minority voters since the time before the Voting Rights Act by allowing the similar voter purges in all 50 states. The deadline for the last step of the bill is January 1, 2007, but most of the bill went into effect before the 2004 presidential election, no doubt interfering with the representation of minority votes in that election.

The last two elections were hoaxes. It's mis-representational democracy, it's Jim Crow 2.0.

More Information:

Jim Crow Revived in Cyberspace - Greg Palast and Martin Luther King, III (via GregPalast.com)

New Florida Vote Scandal Feared
- Greg Palast (via BBC Newsnight)

Introductory Post on My Left Wing

Hello, my name is progressyouth, and I and one other young person keep a blog called "Progress, Youth" on issues that concern young voters and are of concern to young voters. My diary here (I also keep one on DailyKos and Raising Kaine) will focus on the same subject.

But enough about me, let's talk about my demographic, the "DotNets," and how the Democrats can perpetuate and extend their success with us.

Here are some facts about young voters:

Young People are Becoming Increasingly Active: Voter turnout between the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections increased among young people by 11%, more than any other demographic. 73% say it's likely they will vote in 2006; that's 73%, for a midterm election, (Young Voter Strategies of George Washington University). In the 2004 election, more "DotNets" attempted to persuade others to vote, and more displayed a bumper sticker, sign, etc. than any other demographic, (Pew Research).

Young People are Becoming Increasingly Liberal:
Though young people only preferred Gore to Bush by 2%, young voters preferred Kerry to Gore by 14%, (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement of University of Maryland). The plurality (not the majority) of young people identify themselves as conservatives, 34%, but nearly as much identify themselves as liberal, 33%, and 23% identify themselves as moderate. But, the good news is Democrats are more popular among young voters by 8% (Young Voter Stragegies). Pew Research found the majority of young people prefer Democrats, and Republicans do not fair much better in our demographic than independents. 60% to 63% of young people "believe the country is on the wrong track.

The Top Issues in Need of Congressional Action according to Young People are:

1. Gas Prices
2. Education
3. Jobs and the Economy
4. Iraq

(according to Young Voter Strategies)

Here are some difficulties that Democrats and Progressives need to overcome with young voters:

Republicans lead Democrats on National Security among Young People:
Republicans lead Democrats on the issue of National Security by 19%, (Young Voter Strategies).

Republicans lead Democrats on Moral Values Issues:
Sorry, don't have a percentage here. My source is an AP article.

Democrats have not Convinced Young People that they are Better on Immigration:
Approval ratings for Republicans and Democrats are split among young people on immigration, (Young Voter Strategies).

Young People are Split 48/48 on Gay Marriage:
According to Pew Research.

Young Voter Turnout is Still Around 50%:
According to Pew Research, and only 24% of young people say they always vote. But 60% say they're registered.

This diary will explore how Democrats can A) improve their stats among young voters on specific issues, and B) galvanize the young vote.

I look forward to being a member of the My Left Wing community, thank you!



Friday, July 21, 2006

AP Reports on the College Democrats' National Convention

"Students say Democrats misunderstood"

The national college-aged wing of the Democratic Party, the College Democrats, met this week in St. Louis to discuss things and to hear from party leaders and presidential hopefuls, such as DNC Chairman Howard Dean, House Minority Leader Nancy Pilosi, Iowa Gov. and presidential candidate Tom Vilsack, Sen. Barack Obama, and former NATO Gen. and presidential hopeful Wesley Clark.

The article said, "Many of the 400 in attendance were upbeat about the party's prospects in the midterm elections, especially with polls showing a preference for Democratic candidates," but "They complained that Democrats have been unable to explain themselves to voters and Republicans are perceived as the party of moral values."

Rather than repeating my previous statements on this phenomenon, I direct you to my previous post, "Wooing Young Voters on Social Issues."

Moving on...

Republicans countered (I guess the fact that the Democrats are having a national college conference; this isn't in reference to anything in particular) that they will continue to make inroads with college students who they say have increasingly turned conservative.

"I think that the Republican Party is one that speaks to students who are just graduating from college, offering hope and economic growth. I think you see that in a pro-business agenda and a small-business friendly tax plan," said Paul Gourley, chairman of the College Republican National Committee.

First of all, I haven't seen a shred of evidence suggesting that college students are becoming more conservative. In fact, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at University of Maryland reports that college students who voted in the 2004 election preferred Kerry to Bush by 14%. The post-election study on those who did not vote found preference to be split, but the study notes that a separate study concluded that the non-voters favored Kerry to Bush again by 14%.

Secondly, though the Republicans may claim to have a "pro-business agenda," their economic agenda is not favorable to young people seeking jobs or even long-term economic growth. The Republican economic policies have created a Glass-House Economy. All it takes is one stone... What do I mean? Republican energy policies have caused the American economy to be reliant on a resource - petroleum - that can only be supplied in sufficient quantity by nations with populations that are extremely hostile to the US and by nations with extremist governments. Due to this crisis-waiting-to-happen, our economy is vulnerable to the most catastrophic disaster - a mass oil shortage - in our nation's history. Republicans have done nothing to shift our reliance off foreign oil.

Moreover, young people shouldn't care about the recent upturn in the economy, because we will not benefit from it: We have the worst job creation rate in 40 years!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Raid on Student Aid

While economic disparity increases and the cost of university education increases (40% since 2001 according to the Campaign for America's Future), the Republican-lead congress voted in February to cut 12.7-billion dollars from federal student aid. In addition, interest rates on college loans were raised by 2%, the largest single-year increase in history. The Campaign for America's Future (CAF) has thus estimated that 400,000 students who would have attended 4-year colleges 5 years ago will now be forced to enroll in community colleges this fall, and 200,000 individuals will now not be able to attend any college.

The cut was passed in this year's Fiscal Year Budget in an effort to curb the rising national budget deficit. According to Rep. George Miller (via My Left Wing)
"Republican leaders say these cuts are necessary to reduce the nation's budget deficit. But they also plan to push soon for a bill that gives tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, many with annual incomes exceeding $1 million. That bill wipes out any 'deficit reduction' from the budget-cutting bill, laying bare the Republican leadership's true agenda: to reward their friends and campaign contributors at the expense of everyone else."

The cuts also fall on broken promises. Earl Hadley of TomPaine.com reports, "President Bush'’s most recent budget, for the sixth straight year, leaves the maximum Pell Grant - the nation's primary grant assistance program - well below the $5,100 he promised while campaigning for a second term."

Because this is an economic issue, it should be noted that 61% of Americans disapprove of Bush's glass-house economy. Perhaps this is because, as My Left Wing points out in bold over and over and over again, we have the "worst rate of job creation in 40 years." This is bad news for those who can afford college; when you graduate, you are less likely to land a job than any other group of college graduates since the 60's. In addition, if you do get a job, you'll probably be paid $9000 less per year than the same job 3 years ago, according to Global Insight. My Left Wing quotes, "the top 10 areas of job creation for the years 2003-2005 pay on average $9000/year less than the top ten areas of jobs lost in 2001-2003." My Left Wing's 3rd talking point for Democratic leaders is the likelihood that if you get a job, one which will likely pay $9000 less, assuming that you had the money to go to college in the first place, you will probably not get a raise. It's not because you'll do bad work, though you may not be able to do your best because of the declining quality of education in America, but because, to quote My Left Wing:

According to the National Bureau of Economic Analysis, this expansion started in November 2001 when the average hourly pay of non-supervisory workers was $14.70.This figure was $16.62 in May of 2006 for an increase of 13.06%. Over the same period, the inflation gage increased from 177.4 to 202.5, or an increase of 14.15%. Therefore, wages for non-supervisory employees have decreased a little over 1% since this expansion began.

However, the unemployment rate dropped below 5% in December 2005, signaling "full employment". Has the decrease in labor supply increased wages? No. In December 2005 the average hourly wage of non-supervisory employees was $16.35. In May that number was $16.62 for an increase of 1.65%. Over the same period, the overall inflation measure increased from 196.8 to 202.5 or an increase of 2.89%. Therefore, since the economy hit "full employment" wages have decreased 1.25%.

It is unclear to what extent can Democrats gain young votes on this issue, as young voters already favor Democrats to Republicans on the issue of college affordability 61% to 20%, according to Young Voter Strategies of George Washington University. Democrats certainly not going to attain any more converts from this, but it may be a useful tool to galvanize young voters if they continue to promise to reverse the gutted federal assistance programs. Jobs and the economy is the most important issue to 12% of all young voters. Thus, Democrats should focus on the college affordability crisis as one of the many problems of its parent issue, the economy. Bonddad of My Left Wing, who wrote half of my sources for this article, has issued the following three talking points for Democrats on the economy:




Rinse, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat, Democrats.

Special Thanks to Bonddad of My Left Wing for making this post possible.

More Information:

Energy, Education, Economy: Young Voters' Top Concerns in '06 - Young Voter Strategies
The Raid on Student Aid - TomPaine.com
Economic Talking Points for Democratic Leaders - Bonddad of My Left Wing
Cost Keeps 600,000/Year From 4-Year Colleges - Bonddad of My Left Wing

Update: Net Neutrality

Sen. Dorgan now believes he has the votes to pass a Net Neutrality bill.

MyDD has interesting coverage of how badly the telecommunications companies'"Hands off the Internet" (anti-Net Neutrality) campaign failed.

Also, here is a YouTube clip of the Daily Show's take on Net Neutrality:

Here is a clip of Jon Stewart ripping Sen. Stevens for his cluelessness on the issue he was vehemently opposing (from a few weeks ago):

Unrelated Update: My mom, who's a national security and anti-proliferation lobbyist, got Murtha to sign my copy of the Constitution!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Salsa Revolution

During October of this year, the population of the US will reach 300-million according to estimates by the US Census Bureau. USA Today pointed out in an article last month that "it's a good bet the milestone baby — or immigrant — will be Hispanic." The Hispanic population in the US increased by "more than 50%" from the 1990 to the 2000 census, surpassing that of African-Americans. According to the aforementioned article, in the 2040s when the US population is estimated to hit 400-million, about 25% of the general population will be Hispanic, and whites will make up just over 50%.

The growing influence of Latinos - their culture, purchasing power, and political importance - is becoming increasingly apparent in American life. For example, it was reported in 1998 that sales of salsa surpassed that of ketchup (though a conflicting report by American Demographics suggested that salsa had not surpassed sales of ketchup, nor even of mustard). Latin culture, especially music, is having an unprecedented effect on American culture.

Yet, with increased immigration comes increased xenophobia.

But this blog is not about Hispanic voters, so why do I mention it? First of all, the Salsa Revolution will have a dramatic effect on American politics, especially in the Southwest. Despite the efforts of President Bush to reach out to Hispanic voters, this demographic is, and is increasingly Democratic. NDN (don't ask me what it stands for) recently had this to say:

In 2004 Kerry beat Bush 59%-40% with all Hispanics, and 52%-48% with those Spanish-dominant. In this survey Hispanics confirmed the closeness of the 2004 result. When asked who "did you vote for in 2004?" the result came back 38%-36% Kerry-Bush.

When asked how they would vote if the Presidential election were held today, this group gives Democrats a remarkable 36-point advantage (59%-23%). For Republicans this is a dramatic drop from the 52%-48% Kerry-Bush result with the Spanish-speaking sub-group in 2004.

Bush's standing with this group has plummeted. In the 2004 cycle, Bush regularly received a 60% favorable rating from Hispanics. In our survey this was reversed, as 38% see him favorably, 58% unfavorably, with 40% very unfavorable towards the President.

Democrats have a very significant advantage in favorability, with a 65%-25% favorable/ unfavorable result. Republicans come in at 41%-51% favorable/unfavorable. For the first time in any Hispanic poll we've seen, The Republican Party is seen more favorably than Bush. It is would not be a stretch to now say that President Bush has become a drag on the Republican Party with Hispanics.
Granted, that is only Spanish-speaking Hispanics, but I think it is fair to assume that a large percentage of the Spanish-speaking demographic was convinced to vote Democratic by bilingual Hispanics.

The second reason I mention Hispanic voters is because the average age of Hispanics is lower than any other race in the US. According to the AP, "Hispanics are young, with a median age of 27, compared with 40 for white non-Hispanics. Turnout, in general, has increased among young voters (by 11% (vs. general voter increase of 4%)), but they still vote at rates lower than for any other age group (currently, wait for the next election)." Thus, Hispanics represent an even larger percentage of young voters than voters in the general population. Thus, by targeting Hispanic voters, Democrats can also reach large numbers of young voters.

Democrats are currently doing a good job with Hispanic voters, but they need to adopt less conservative immigration policies if they really want to capture the demographic. According to the AP:

A poll by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 16 percent of Hispanics support Republicans on immigration, down from 25 percent two years ago. Support for Democrats on the issue fell from 39 percent to 35 percent.

One out of four Hispanics said neither party has the best position on immigration, compared with 7 percent two years ago.

Could you imagine a Blue Texas? It could happen!

More Information:

Bush, Republicans Plummet among Spanish-Speaking Latinos - MyDD
Hispanics in the USA - US Census Bureau
Hispanics Poised to Play Pivotal Role in National Elections - AP

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Maloney Catches the Bologna

While the right-wing throws a tantrum over the New York Times "leak," and virtually no one seems to question whether or not it's a leak, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY, Manhattan, Queens, NYC) catches the Bologna.

In a statement in front of a House panel last week, she revealed that "It was public knowledge that wire transfers including SWIFT, CHIPS, and Fedwire transactions were being monitored by the US Government, [and that] multiple newspaper articles and testimonies revealed the existence of government searches for terrorist activity in SWIFT and similar wire transfer databases long before the New York Times article."

Her evidence for this was released in a 14 page document revealing 5 years of repeated international and national media coverage of the illegal, wire monitoring programs, which she claimed her interns had prepared in only one week. The first of these reports was by the Baltimore Sun on September 21, 2001. According to Maloney's office, the report included that "that the NSA was electronically intercepting wire transfers through SWIFT," and "that this wouldn't of caught the hijackers [of the 9/11 plot]." In addition, Maloney's press release points out that the "classified program" was mentioned in an unclassified Senate Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing by a Fed spokesman in January of 2002.

Maloney also provided convincing testimony that the revealed anti-terrorism program is ineffective: "It was no secret we were tracking wire transfers. Any terrorist with a DVD player and an interest in popular American television would have figured that out by now (She had previously a West Wing episode in which the president learns that the leader of Qumar was supporting terrorism with wire transfer through this type of program). In fact, they have – at least that is the conclusion of former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind in his book, the One Percent Doctrine. Released two days before the Times story, this is an in-depth description of how the U.S. worked with Western Union to track international wire transfers through that company. Suskind concludes that by 2003 most suspected terrorists had wised up and were no longer using wire transfers at all."

So, the New York Times "leak:" Not illegal, not even detrimental to national security. That's not to say that there's not some stinky business afoot. There was a crime committed by the Bush Administration, the same one the Administration committed in the NSA Domestic Spying Scandal. Unfortunatley, we are so used to scandal by the Bush Administration that the media won't report on the real scandal because it's too mundane for its viewers...

The Hoekstra Letter:

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI 2, Central Lake Michigan Shore), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a "sharply worded letter" to the Administration reminding it that the "U.S. Congress should not have to play Twenty Questions to get information that it deserves under the U.S. Constitution.” Hoekstra has been a public supporter of the Administration and also supported the NSA Domestic Spying program. Some blogs have raised questions about the legitmacy of Hoekstra's desires, such as Talking Points Memo, which asked, "does Hoekstra really want to oversee what the Administration is doing or is he distancing himself from the nastiness that will eventually come out?"

One thing the Republicans do quite frequently is throw tantrums at liberal institutions or Democrats over things that they've done as well. Take sex scandals, for instance. Do you think their outrage over the Lewinsky Affair will stop Giuliani from being a major candidate in the national Republican primaries, despite his well-publicized sex scandals? Leaks are another instance of this. Take the Plame Affair, did you hear "treason" flying around when that broke? Let's go even further back - 1971 - to another New York Times leak:

The Pentagon Papers:

There are still those today who contend that the Vietnam War was winnable if not for liberal dissent. The only article that I nearly submitted to my high school's newspaper was written by a young sophomore who had obviously not taken US History yet. He contended that the liberal dissent of the Iraq War was dangerous for the same reason. He quoted North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin, who had told the Wall Street Journal in 1995 that similar dissent back in Vietnam was responsible for the arguable US defeat. Never trust your enemies.

Here is an excerpt from the rough draft of my article:

The “United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense,” which became known as the Pentagon Papers, was a series of top secret documents leaked by Department of Defense employee Daniel Ellsberg in early 1971 and subsequently printed in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Papers were a comprehensive, 7000 page study instituted by Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Lyndon Johnson in 1967, and observed all aspects of the combat until the study’s public debut. The study was written not by politicians, but by military analysts and operatives within the Pentagon, the DOD, and Vietnam. The exposure of the Pentagon Papers all but forced then President Nixon to seek an end to the Vietnam combat. One of the study’s many conclusions was that American forces would have to kill 3700 NVA for every 2100 American troops: “On the most optimistic basis, 200,000 more Americans would raise their weekly losses to about 3,700, or about 400 a week more than they could stand. In theory, we'd then wipe them out in 10 years. But to bank on that, you have to assume that (1) enemy losses are just proportional to friendly strength, and (2) that the unusually favorable kill ratio of the first quarter of 1967 will continue. However, if the kill ratio should be no better than the 1966 average, their losses would be about 2,100--less than 2/3 of their sustaining capability.” As the war continued, the “kill ratio” became, in fact, less “friendly,” worse than the 1966 average.

The Papers also reported that the Viet Cong was running its operations from Laos and Cambodia. Though the extent of this is unclear, the Papers reported that the Viet Cong’s operations were vital to the North Vietnamese war effort, and thus winning the war would require the invasion of Laos and Cambodia. With the US and South Vietnamese militaries already exhausted, such an invasion would have been virtually impossible. Another study found that intelligence had determined that China was supplying the North Vietnamese effort with supplies and munitions. No doubt, the Chinese would have seen the defeat of North Vietnam as a threat to the spread of Communism, and would have enlarged the scope of their involvement. Bearing these facts in mind, it is utterly absurd to think that the US could achieve its goals in Vietnam.

Right-wingers would like you to believe that all "leaks," indeed everything reported that is negative towards the present policies of the US government, are treasonous and aimed at damaging US interests. The Pentagon Papers saved potentially millions of lives from a war doomed from the start. Perhaps the attention now cast on the Administration's illegal NSA programs will save our most precious civil liberties, or stop the executive office's erosion of checks and balances and law and order.

More Information:

Press Release - Rep. Maloney

More Information on the Hoekstra Letter:

Hoekstra: Administration Must "Keep the Intelligence Committees Fully Informed of What They Are Doing - Think Progress

More Information on the Pentagon Papers:


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Palpable Hatred

The July 16 edition of the Washington Post Magazine featured an absolutely ridiculous - and anti-Semitic - article about the Israeli lobby in the US. A pair of well-respected professors, Stephen Walt of Harvard University, and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, released a preposterous essay slamming the lobby and its purported effect on US foreign policy. The professors' viewpoint was the same old "Jewish conspiracy crap": A "cabal of powerful Jews" controls the US government and steers it towards objectives not in its best interest. This is the viewpoint of the most radical reactionary groups in our country, such as the KKK and the skinheads. In fact, David Duke, a well-known white supremacist, wrote the Two Professors to say "that the essay vindicated his views." The essay and the article reflect a disturbing trend in recent leftist politics - increasing and unbased hatred of Israel - and of America - rising anti-Semitism.

One would like to think, as time and the political climate of the US advances, so would its citizens' attitudes about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. This, in the last 20 years, however, has simply not been the case. Statewide constitutional gay marriage bans are springing up across the country, conservative talk show hosts become increasingly xenophobic with regards to Hispanic immigration, Muslims, Arabs, and brown-skinned people in general face appalling, unconstitutional harassment at airports, etc. Things are no different for Jews. Recently, a Jewish family was forced to flee a rural, Delaware town due to anti-Semitic incidences, which included:

1) The local pastors comments at an invocation at a high school graduation included "requests for 'our Heavenly Father's guidance... for one specific student, that You be with her and guide her in the path that You have for her. And we ask all these things in Jesus' name."

2) A middle school teacher told a Jewish student that "there is only one true religion."

3) "The district board announced the formation of a committee to develop a religion policy. And the local talk radio station inflamed the issue.

On the evening in August 2004 when the board was to announce its new policy, hundreds of people turned out for the meeting. The Dobrich family [the Jewish family] and Jane Doe [the mother of the family] felt intimidated and asked a state trooper to escort them.

The complaint recounts a raucous crowd that applauded the board's opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him 'take your yarmulke off!' His statement, read by Samantha, confided 'I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy.'"

It would be difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of the rising anti-Semitism in the US, but perhaps locating the reasons that the left-wing is becoming more anti-Semitic is more feasible. This is could be due to the the Israeli lobby, which most people identify with the right-wing. Several organizations lobby on behalf of American Jews on Israeli issues. These organizations are extremely diverse in their overall place on the political spectrum, but none have the manpower, financial power, grassroots support, or connections in congress like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a focus of the WPM article. AIPAC is a right-wing organization, but like the various conservative Jewish pundits (David Brooks, to name one), it does not represent the overwhelming political persuasion of American Jews: Liberal Democratic. AIPAC is a powerful organization, but its power is overstated by Democrats because it is their political impotence and their incompetence that has lead to the neoconservative age in America, and they need a scapegoat.

But how far does this anti-Semitic blame game go? Walt and Mearsheimer would like the American public to believe that "Israel and its lobby... was the main factor that had sent American policy off the rails when it came to Iraq." This, besides being patently absurd, flies in the face of what seems to the truth in retrospect, the "Frontline Theory," which was presented in a Frontline Documentary on PBS. This theory, which has been verified by all of the political and intelligence insiders I know personally, contends that Gulf War II was the off-shoot of a war in the Bush Administration between Tenet and Powell on one side, and Rumsfeld and Cheney on the other. The short story is that Rumsfeld and Cheney are arrogant, and like the rest of the administration, surround themselves only with information they want to hear. Thus, when their wild guesses about the nature of Iraq's weapons programs were seemingly discredited by CIA intelligence, they set up their own intelligence "agency" under the authority of the Office of the Vice President, which was housed in the Pentagon (this piece of information is not theory, it's fact). It was all about the superiority of the DoD over the CIA, of braun and guns over intelligence and prudence. This program knowingly provided false information to the rest of the Bush Administration, the CIA, and congress; those who doubted it were swiftly dealt with (Powell and Tenet, for example).

There were other feasible explanations too. Cheney seemed to believe in some sort of "Middle East Big Bang" Theory, reported a Post editorial. Cheney thought that the insertion of democracy into Iraq would ignite a democratic revolution throughout the Mideast. Some have speculated on more dubious motives, such as oil or personal vengeance by Bush on Hussein for the attempted murder of Bush I. All of these explanations command more merit than that of the Two Professors.

Walt's anti-Semitic dribble didn't stop with Iraq: "My belief is we would not be contemplating preventative war [with Iran] if we did not have a powerful domestic interest group [referring to the Israeli lobby] pushing this issue." AIPAC, which represents the minority, right-wing American-Jewish viewpoints on Israel, has commented publicly that it, in fact, does not want either the US or Israel going to war with Iran. In all likelihood, the Administration has warned the Israeli government that it will not support preemptive military action in Iran, as it has not militarily or financially (directly) supported the current campaigns in Gaza or Lebanon.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the article was not the claims made by the people whom the author was writing about, but those made by the author, Glenn Frankel. Frankel, probably more due to ineptitude than intention, equates the usually unrelated agendas of the Israeli lobby and the Neoconservatives. I remind you again that most Jews are liberal Democrats, and that the majority of them view that Iraq war as a threat to global and regional stability. Frankel writes, "...the essay saves its hardest shot for the neoconservatives - that group of pro-Israel ideologues, many of them Jewish, who steered the Bush Administration toward the Iraq war." As if the neocons needed the Israeli lobby to act like waccos! As if the Administration needed a lobby in the first place to be morally compromised, damaging to national security, and silly enough to enter the Iraqi quagmire!

So, with all the other theories on why the America is taking bad turns in its approach to foreign policy, why is the WPM dedicating so much space to this wild theory. Anti-Semitism, or stupidity?

I would like to make clear that my stance on public perception of American-Jewish politics does not mean that I support everything Israel does, or neocons, or the huge amount of US foreign aid to Israel, etc. Anti-Semitism is the focus of this article, not foreign policy. I would also like to make clear that my pro-Israel views do not affect my views on the mistreatment of Arab and Muslim people in the Western world.

More Information:

Jewish family flees Delaware school district's aggresive Christianity - Jews on First
American Fascism - Daily Kos

The Aforementioned Article:

A Beautiful Friendship? - Glenn Frankel, Washington Post Magazine