Tuesday, July 31

HAVA (Not so) Nice Day!

HAVA (Help America Vote Act) was designed to help states update antiquated voting systems so that hanging chads will be a thing of the past. However, despite allocating almost $4 billion dollars to do this, many states are slow to do it, even with the help of the Election Assistance Commission who reports this progress.

For instance, 5 states have spent less than 10% of the funding available to them (CT, MA, NH, NY, OK). While 12 states have spent less than 50% of the funding (AL, AK, AZ, DE, DC, FL, HI, ME, OR, SD, TN, WA, WI, WY). This would be more of concern if these states had antiquated machinery.

What should be of more concern is that, as of January 1, 2010, all voting systems may only contain software certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Not only are States limited to using systems that meet the guidelines established by the EAC, but they are also prohibited from using systems that have not been certified for use by the EAC. This essentially means all of the systems currently in place.

This could mean, based on who's running the show that certain vendors are favored with software that is breachable. Currently Dianne Feinstein has sponsored a bill S1487 that is co-sponsored by Dodd, Clinton and others. But it has some problems. Another bill HR 811 sponsered by Rush Holt and co-sponsored by 216 others (including all the Dems in the Iowa delegation) has more promise because it would be enacted before the 2008 election.

Ant Behavior

On my way to work this morning, I couldn't help but notice what the ants were up to. When you walk to work, you get the chance to pay attention to such things. I noticed that most of the ants were massing at the divider lines between each sidewalk slab.

It got me to thinking about caucuses and how we all are like those ants. If you imagine each candidate and their campaigns as a divider line in the sidewalk and the ants as people who are circling the candidates, it really does sort of graphically represent the caucus process.

Each camp is a small distance from the other camps, each person is sure that their candidate is the best one, and energy is created by talking it up with folks who are like minded.

Ocassionally, and I noted this this morning, there are a bunch of ants who hang out on the edges of the grass and they go along the border of the walk. They don't ever seem to join the circles. What are they-- uncommitted caucusers, non-caucusers, the Press? Who really knows what's on the mind of an ant or a voter for that matter--maybe they have the good sense to stand clear of the big feet of committed walkers like me who may snuff out their hopes and dreams much like the results of a caucus do to campaigns.

Where There Are American Interests at Stake

"Settling Sunni-Shiite rivalries over who occupies what street in Baghdad is not in the vital interest of the United States," said Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who said she is considering her options. "And we should only have Americans in harms' way where there are U.S. interests at stake." And where are these U.S. interests that Rep. Wilson speaks of-- the border of Iran, the oil fields of Iraq, or the skies above the Middle East? If Rep. Wilson is honest, she'd probably say "all of the above."

This is the faulty thinking of the Republican party. The mission is not about being peacekeepers--which President Bush has always been against anyway, then it must be about planting our corporate flags in the oil fields and keeping Iran from influencing the body politic in Iraq. The problem is that the legitimate government is going on a month long hiatus and the U.S. will be in the position of acting as the sherriff in Tombstone thanks to the politics at home that make it impossible for this President to do what is right.

What makes anyone believe that the war is moving or can be made to move in the right direction when so many wrong turns have been made from day one?

The only thing in our national interest is to bring our soldiers home--NOW!

Monday, July 30

Report Says Dems Not Making Headway

So is it really a surprise that some people feel like the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have blown their hard fought political capital? Passing the minimum wage bill while simultaneously funding the war may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but was politics over pragmatism the way to go?

A report from the Democracy Corps says "Optimism for the new Congress is quickly waning. Many voters still express a wait-and-see attitude, but most have now returned to the same concerns we heard last year -- accomplishing nothing, career politicians just trying to get re-elected, do nothing but argue with each other, lobbyists, wasteful, paid too much money, and most of all, out of touch."

The bottom-line is the presidency and congressional elections of 2008 are not going to be a shoe-in for the Democrats, particularly if they are seen as ineffective. Here's a suggestion to Harry Reid and Diane Pelosi: Stop being meek about ending the war and pushing the "100 day agenda" to the president's desk. Stop pussy-footing around about the administration's wrong-doing and put a couple independent council investigations together.

Mostly, because it appears to the public that the Democrats are being overly deliberative about doing something about the VP and Alberto Gonzales, the best thing that can done is to "walk the walk" of being the party of change.

Say "No More Spying on US": Nix Wilson "FISA Modernization" Bill

From the Bill of Rights Defense Committee

It's up to each of us to stop Congress from acting out of fear. Your elected representatives are being called on by the White House to vote this week to expand the administration's powers to spy on your telephone and e-mail communications without warrants. Using the threat of a terrorist attack, the administration is urging reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is meant to protect Americans from warrantless government spying.

Before Congress begins its recess at the end of this week, the House may vote on a bill (HR 3138) offered by Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) that would expand the National Security Agency's (NSA's) access to the telephone conversations and e-mail communications of Americans who have no connection to Al Qaeda or terrorism. The administration is warning that if the Democratically controlled Congress fails to take this action before recess, it will be blamed for any terrorist attacks.

Please phone your representative today and ask that he or she oppose the Wilson FISA modernization bill if it comes up for a vote before recess.

Call the Capitol switchboard, (202) 224-3121, 24 hours and ask the operator to connect you, or ? Look up your representative's direct number here

Why is this bill troubling?

The Wilson bill changes the definitions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in order to allow the NSA to acquire millions of Americans' international communications without any warrant or oversight. Under the new definition, the NSA would not need a warrant to conduct "vacuum cleaner surveillance," seizing whole streams of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails, so long as it does not "intentionally direct surveillance at a particular known person in the U.S." when it initially acquires those private conversations. On Saturday, the New York Times revealed that the 2004 dispute within the Bush administration over the program hinged on a data mining component that collected millions of our telephone records from telecommunications companies without FISA warrants.

The bill would also allow the NSA to seize Americans' domestic communications without a warrant, if the NSA does not "reasonably believe" (READ: "does not bother to check") that the caller or the recipient is located in the U.S.

The administration has publicly claimed that Congress needs to fix a "foreign to foreign" issue "loophole" to ensure that certain foreign-to-foreign communications that are rerouted through the U.S. would not require a warrant. Representatives Schiff, Flake, Harman and others have introduced language that would make that clear. But Wilson's bill to amend FISA is a sea change in the law and the rights of Americans.

Internet Access in Rural Communities

Affordable access to high-speed broadband technology is key for rural communities to educate, develop economically, and generally survive in 21st century America. This is why legislation that guarantees access is so important. the information superhighway needs farm to market routes too, and Dave Loebsack supports it.

He says, "I am committed to providing all of my constituents with access to affordable Internet access. Rural communities have been especially underserved in this area. Technology experts have stated that rural America is missing out on jobs, economic development and civic participation. Laying access cables across remote and often rugged land presents a challenge to providers as well, which leads to the increased service fees."

"There is currently legislation I am a strong supporter of which aims to address this inequity. The Universal Service Reform Act, H.R. 2054, would require all telecommunications companies to pay into the Universal Service fund, regardless of whether it provided service between states. It would also promote the use of broadband technology. Currently, the legislation is being reviewed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I also recently voted in favor of H.R. 2419 (Sec. 6103. Enhancement of access to broadband service in rural areas).the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007 which will make broadband telecommunications more accessible in our rural communities. "

Loebsack Responds to Workplace Discriminiation Bill

Iowa, as you may know, recently outlawed discrimination in housing and the workplace based on sexual orientation. A huge step would occur if the federal government should pass a comprehensive bill. Below are Dave Loebsack's thoughts about H.R. 2015 which he co-sponsored.

"Discrimination in the workplace remains a very real and significant problem in this country. Congress has created and passed legislation to bar discrimination based on race, ethnic background, religion and sex. As a co-sponsor, and strong supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, I am eager to see the end of yet another form of discrimination, based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identification.

The legislation would not only end this type of discrimination in the workplace, but also in other organizations and committees. It would prohibit the use of quotas and preferential treatment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would not be allowed to collect data on the amount of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identification as well. H.R. 2015 is currently being reviewed by the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Committee on Education and Labor."

John Edwards - at RAGBRAI

Pork chops over pork barrel politics

John Edwards in Creston, IA

Watching the Color Pictures Flying Through the Air

Tom Snyder, curmudgeonly, cerebral TV celebrity newsman and talk show host succumbed to leukemia at the age of 71. No that anyone though that he would ever live that long, the way he smoked. However, as a kid growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Snyder was a giant. Who else interviewed John Lennon, Ayn Rand, and Charles Manson? And he interviewed that person for an hour--can you imagine?

With his constant banter with people both on and off screen, he spoke as if it he didn't give a damn who was on the receiving end of the TV camera, the show was for his entertainment and elucidation. He said, “I have never fallen in love with my own voice, but I've always had an attraction for it.”

So Tom, if you are out there, "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."

1/3 of Iraqis in Crisis

From the BBC

Oxfam say basic services cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people

Nearly a third of the population of Iraq is in need of immediate emergency aid, according to a new report from Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs.

The report said the government was failing to provide basics such as food and shelter for eight million people.

It warned of a humanitarian crisis that had escalated since the 2003 invasion.

Meanwhile, the US agency overseeing reconstruction in Iraq said economic mismanagement and corruption were equivalent to "a second insurgency".

Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction Stuart Bowen was appointed by the US Congress to audit how billions of dollars of US money is being and has been spent.

In a BBC interview, he described corruption as "an enemy of democracy" and said that it could not be allowed to continue at current levels.

More The Report

Saturday, July 28

Rockin' the Pentacrest

Over 90 people crowded onto the corner of Washington and Clinton streets to support the efforts of March for Peace activists Ashley Casale, an upstate New York native attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Michael Israel a recent high school graduate hailing from Jackson, California. Michael and Ashley have marched together over almost 6 states since May 21st when the march kicked off in San Francisco.

Some local protesters who were called upon by the efforts of the University of Iowa Antiwar group, walked with the Ashley and Michael from the edge of Iowa City to the Pentacrest vigil from 5:15 to 5:45 Friday evening.

At the vigil many children, men and women of all ages, and relatives of soldiers serving in Iraq. Some shook tambourines, beat on drums, while others held protest signs, and others raised their voices joining in protest chants.

A small number of Iowa City activists have been protesting the war on the same corner since the beginning of the war, while other activists have participated in silent vigils at noon on the Ped Mall, marched in parades, or joined in civil disobedience efforts joining in sit-ins at the offices of Senators Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin.

There will be a reception today for the March for Peace duo with free food and music will begin at 3pm at the Wesley Center, 120 N. Dubuque St. Singer/guitarist Marv Hain will perform as will duo Jamie Fredericksen & Matt Kearney. If you would like to volunteer to bring food or other necessities, please e-mail Keri George at
keri.k.george@sbcglobal.net or call her at 847-287-0175.

The final event for the weekend will be accompanying the marchers out of Iowa City on Sunday, July 29, starting at 11am at College Green Park on the corner of S. Johnson St. and E. Washington St.

For more about the marchers see this from Common Dreams

Friday, July 27

Tell Them What You Want, What You Really , Really Want

Your homework: this weekend contact all the candidates and tell them that you won't vote for them if they promise to end the war in Iraq.

How to Contact the 2008 Presidential Candidates

Joe Biden
Biden for President, Inc.P.O. Box 438
Wilmington, DE 19899
(302) 574-2008

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton for President Committee
1717 K Street, N.W.Suite 1001
Washington, D.C. 20036
PHONE (202) 263-0180FAX (202) 263-0181

Chris Dodd
Chris Dodd for President
P.O. Box 270701West Hartford, CT 06127
PHONE (860) 561-8843FAX (860) 561-8893

John Edwards
410 Market Street
Suite 400
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
PHONE (919) 636-3131FAX (919) 967-3644

Dennis Kucinich
Kucinich for President 2008
11808 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, OH 44111
Phone: 1 (877) 41-DENNIS

Barack Obama
Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL 60680
PHONE (866) 675-2008

Bill Richardson
811 St. Michaels Dr., Suite 206
Santa Fe, NM 87505
PHONE (505) 982-2291FAX (505) 982-3652

Sam Brownback
Friends of Brownback Committee
P.O. Box 2008
Topeka, KS 66601-2008

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee, Inc.
295 Greenwich St, #371
New York, NY 10007212-835-9449
Communicate with Rudy's webteam: webteam@joinrudy2008.com

Mike Huckabee
Huckabee for President Committee
P.O. Box 2008
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203
PHONE (501) 324-2008

Duncan Hunter
Hunter For President, Inc.
9340 Fuerte Drive Suite 302
La Mesa, CA 91941
Phone: (619)463-3896 Fax: (619) 463-2970
Inquiries: breanna@gohunter08.com

John McCain
John McCain 2008 Exploratory Committee
P.O. Box 16118Arlington, VA 22215
PHONE (703) 418-2008

Ron Paul
3461 Washington Blvd., Suite 200
Arlington, VA 22201
PHONE (703) 248-9115

Mitt Romney
Romney for President Committee
P.O. Box 55899
Boston, MA 02205-5899
PHONE (857) 288-6400

Tom Tancredo
Tancredo for a Secure America
501 Church StreetSuite 212
Vienna, VA 22180
Phone: (703) 255-9898Fax: (703) 255-9899

Tommy Thompson
Thompson Presidential Exploratory Committee
PO Box 15191
Alexandria, VA 22320
PHONE: 515-422-5100

Edwards in Des Moines: Helping the Poor and Middle Class

This article doesn't do justice to Edwards' plans to help the poor, but does mention some of his ideas to help both the middle class and the poor.

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards on Thursday unveiled a plan that would increase taxes for the wealthy and create tax breaks for the middle class.

"It's time for us to put America's economy back in line with our values. It's time for us to put an end to George Bush's war on work," he told a packed theater at Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa. "It's time to restore fairness to a tax code that has been driven completely out of whack by the lobbyists in Washington, by the powerful interests in Washington and by those who value the few above the interests of many."

He added that, "It should not be in America that the middle class carries the tax burden, and that's exactly what's happening."

Edwards' plan would fix what he called a "rigged" system by ending tax breaks to Washington insiders with wealth and corporate power. Those are the same people, he said, who keep politicians in power.

"We have crony capitalism. We have lobbyists who are there every single day working to rig the system, and it is rigged," he said, referring to insurance, oil and drug companies.

Among the proposals, Edwards would make long-term savings easier for low-income families with "Get Ahead Accounts" that would match savings up to $500 per year. He also would provide a tax credit he calls work bonds, which would also be matched and would go directly into savings accounts. He proposes exempting the first $250 in interest, capital gains and dividends to allow low-income families to get a start on savings tax-free.

In addition, Edwards proposed reforming the earned income tax credit for low-wage workers. He called for changing tax laws to cut the marriage penalty for up to three million families. He also wants to expand the child care credit, and allow families to use those credits to save for their future.


Thursday, July 26

Global Warming: Union of Concerned Scientists Scathing Cartoon

Go see the others--they are great and SCARY!

Agency Abuses: The Environment
Deleting Scientific Advice on Endangered Salmon: Scientists asked to remove science-based recommendations from an official report
Endangered Species: Florida Panther, Bull Trout, Trumpter Swans: Research at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is distorted and suppressed
Mountaintop Removal Mining: Administration officials intentionally disregard extensive scientific study on mountaintop removal in Appalacia
Climate Change: Administration officials undermined science behind climate change by suppressing reports and publicly misrepresenting scientific consensus
Mercury Emissions: White House suppressed information about the impact of mercury on public health
Multiple Air Pollutants: The Environmental Protection Agency withheld an analysis showing the benefits of a bipartisan alternative to President Bush's Clear Skies Act
The Endangered Species Act: Administration officials are manipulating the scientific underpinnings of the policy making process
Forest Management: A "review team" primarily composed of non-scientists overruled a science-based plan for managing old-growth forest habitat and reducing fire risk

"Compassionate Conservative" Doing It For the Kids?

President Bush has threatened to veto an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that would provide 9 million more children with health care but could face the first veto override of his presidency, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The House and Senate have yet to pass the bill but many Republicans have said they would join Democrats in an override. Some Republicans have expressed concern that Democrats could use the president’s opposition to hurt GOP incumbents in the 2008 elections.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows 65 percent of those polled disapprove of the president's job performance, second only to President Nixon's all-time low of 66 percent. The White House's new strategy is to veto bills in order to look strong and to play off a Congress that is also not very popular.

Here's A Surprise: Gonzo Perjures Himself

Whose pants are on fire? The AP and John Stewart "reports":

Documents show that eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

Gonzales, who was then serving as counsel to Bush, testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department objections to renew it. Those objections were led by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who questioned the program's legality. More

Now This

Finally the Spin - Watch this

Hell No We Won't Go: Protesters Protest Protesting?

I love being part of the progressive community, I really do. I marvel at the many voices in it and the heartfelt sense of right and wrong that people have.

For instance, this week there will be a pair of protesters making their way through Iowa on their way to Washington. People are looking forward to this and coming out to support these intent folks at the weekly vigil at the edge of the Pentacrest.

Locally, we are no slouches either. We have anti-war folks who are willing to be arrested to end the war in Iraq, some stand in silent vigil, some hold signs (needlepointed, printed, or hand-scrawled), and some bang drums or fill plastic pop bottles with coins and shake 'em. There has been a substantial amount of flack on the ICProgressive listserv about method of protest and people are seemingly mad as hornets. THIS IS GOOD!

If people don't feel free to express their opinions, how are we ever going to arrive at a place of real peace, let alone end this insane war? It is exciting to see more people come out on the war and it is important that people find a way to do it that fits their core beliefs. For some folks headcount matters, for some folks expressing their feelings about their sons and daughters who are serving is why they are there. Everyone has a reason, everyone has a method, but most importantly everyone agrees on one CRUCIAL point, this war must end.

If you feel this way, put aside your differences (or bring ear plugs, like I will) and be a presence for peace. This is too important.

Come to the corner of Clinton and Washington at 5:15 on Friday 7/27 and support those who are just passing through.


The U.I. Anti-War Committee and Iowans for Sensible Priorities invite you to attend a weekly vigil to protest the Iraq War on Friday night at 5:15 on the corner of Washington and Clinton in downtown Iowa City.

This will be a great chance for you to both raise your voice in a call for peace in Iraq and to welcome the 3 members of the March For Peace who are walking across America this summer. They will be coming into downtown I.C. along with marchers from the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area who will meet them on the corner of Hawkeye Park Rd. and Melrose Ave. around 3pm. It would be fantastic if a large contingent of people will be at the vigil to show our solidarity with them in their efforts in service of nonviolent resistance to war.

If you have any questions about the weekend's events, please reply to this e-mail or contact me at timothy-gauger@uiowa.edu. You reach me by phone at 319-936-2307.

August 2 to 5, the March to ReEnergize Iowa

Whit Jones is a Field Organizer with the Sierra Student Coalition's ReEnergize Iowa Campaign and he passed along this information.

From August 2nd-5th We will be walking from Ames to Des Moines in the March to ReEnergize Iowa. The March will culminate in a large rally in Nollen Plaza, which we hope will be a landmark event for the Midwest. The rally will feature Iowa native, Dr. James Hansen, NASA's chief climatologist and a leading voice on the imperative for action on global warming.

Their website also has some interesting information: http://www.climatesummer.org/

If you don't mind using ped power, this could be a lot of fun for a really important--nay, crucial, effort.

Wednesday, July 25

If You Want the Facts, You Need a Fact Checker

The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania has done a very good job of checking candidates' facts against the record. Here is their link from the latest debate.

For example:

Chris Dodd was rhetorically accurate but intellectually disingenuous when he said, “But I believe I'm the only candidate here, along with Al Gore, who's called for that, is (sic) a corporate carbon tax. You've got to tax polluters.” Dodd is the only candidate to call for a “corporate carbon tax,” and indeed, Al Gore has advocated the same, though he often refers to it as a “pollution tax.” But two other candidates offer similar plans. Both Richardson and Edwards have proposed some form of carbon permitting by which companies would have to apply and pay a fee for the right to emit carbon pollutants. It is worth noting that all three candidates have also called for a reduction in greenhouse emissions of at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Belated Happy Minimum Wage Hike Day!

For those of you who missed it, yesterday was the beginning of the much vaunted minimum wage hike. And for those of you who have been bumped from $5.15 an hour to $5.85, enjoy the first wage hike since Bill Clinton was President. This now should mean you can afford 1 bedroom housing that is no more than $334 a month (that is using the HUD formula of no more than 1/3 of your income (that's before taxes, by the way). If you are a single parent--good luck.

Fortunately more help is on the way, in a year you will be up to $6.55 (of course, that means you won't be getting a merit raise) and in 2009, you will be all the way up to $7.25. Historically, the minimum wage has typically at least tripled every 20 years, which would mean you should be earning $11.40--talk to your Congressperson, I'm sure he or she will get right on that.

Leahy on NSL/Patriot Act

Leahy does an admirable job and Gonzo looks like a deer in the headlights.

Transportation for March for Peace Events

Here is some information about transportation and parking for the two marches in Iowa City this Friday and Sunday in support of the March For Peace. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Michael Christoffersen at http://commcenter.mchsi.com/wmc/v/wm/46A78AB5000CFE48000011A1219792676103010CD2079C080C03BF0E9901070B9DCC0A089B?cmd=ComposeTo&adr=alphaproxy%40msn%2Ecom&sid=c0 or 319-351-2265.

Friday's March: The meeting place to get on the Cambus to go out to Hawkeye Park Road and Melrose Ave. is on the corner of Washington and Capitol St. on the Schaeffer Hall side of the street, along that half-block stretch with all the old wood-slatted benches. The route is 'Hawkeye-Interdorm' and the bus leaves at 2:11 and 2:41. It should take approximately 25 minutes to get to the meeting point with the March For Peace. One block from this bus stop is the corner of Washington and Clinton where the Anti-War Vigil will take place at 5:15 on Friday. We are hoping to march from West Iowa City into downtown in time to take part in the vigil. Hopefully, we'll have a crowd waiting for us when we arrive.

This is the MapQuest link to the downtown Hawkeye-Interdorm Cambus stop:http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?formtype=address&addtohistory=&address=E%20Washington%20St%20%26%20S%20Capitol%20St&city=Iowa%20City&state=IA&zipcode=52240&country=US&geodiff=1

The staging area for the march into downtown I.C. is at the corner of Hawkeye Park Road and Melrose Ave. We are hoping to be ready to go by 3pm, so please get there early if you can. However, if anyone is running late or need directions, don't hesitate to call Tim Gauger at 319-936-2307.MapQuest link to march staging area:http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?formtype=address&addtohistory=&address=Melrose%20Ave%20%26%20Hawkins%20Dr&city=Iowa%20City&state=IA&zipcode=52246&country=US&geodiff=1

For anyone who wants to join the march into downtown I.C. at the halfway point, just go to the corner of Melrose Ave. and Hawkins Dr. To take a bus, go to the same bus stop at Capitol and Washington near Schaeffer Hall as indicated above and take the Red Route Cambus at 3:28. It's a 7 minute ride directly to the Hospital bus stop, and a one block walk from there to the Melrose & Hawkins Dr intersection.MapQuest link to Melrose Ave. and Hawkins Drive:http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?formtype=address&addtohistory=&address=Melrose%20Ave%20%26%20Hawkins%20Dr&city=Iowa%20City&state=IA&zipcode=52246&country=US&geodiff=1

As indicated above, if you have any questions about transportation and parking, please contact Michael Christoffersen at http://commcenter.mchsi.com/wmc/v/wm/46A78AB5000CFE48000011A1219792676103010CD2079C080C03BF0E9901070B9DCC0A089B?cmd=ComposeTo&adr=alphaproxy%40msn%2Ecom&sid=c0 or 319-351-2265. Any responses to this e-mail will be forwarded to him. More e-mails covering details about the event at the Wesley Center on Saturday and the march on Sunday morning will be sent out in the next few days. Don't hesitate to e-mail questions about any of the events to this address, or call me at 319-936-2307.

A Picture that Speaks a Thousand Words

Note the Bush wink and the enthusiasm of the GIs behind him.

US Ignore Brits Rendition concerns

Apparently the British didn't help the US to send political detainees to "cooperative" nations and was peeved at its former colonists, but not so much as not to cooperate in intelligence gathering.

The BBC Reports

British concerns did not appear to "materially" affect US actions in its "war on terror", the UK's intelligence and security committee has said.

The committee, which reports to the prime minister, was probing possible UK involvement in rendition flights.

It said America's "lack of regard" for UK concerns had "serious implications" for future intelligence relations.

In response, the UK government said the countries' intelligence relationship was "close" and "must continue".

Albert Ellis: Distained Irrational Beliefs Like Politics

Albert Ellis, a profane figure who loomed large in the field of pschology/counseling, died yesterday at the age of 93. He was the father of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, an action-oriented therapy aimed at making emotional and behavioral change through challenging self-defeating thoughts. Ellis, I'm know had found great humor in the Bush Administration ("I don’t damn any person, including Stalin, Hitler, and President Bush") and probably the Democratic leadership. After all, he distained the irrational.

Ellis, who was known as a 'blunt instrument' to many counselors who prefer a client-centered, empathetic approach, noenetheless was a pioneer. Ellis once said, "I get people to truly accept themselves unconditionally, whether or not their therapist or anyone loves them."

He also said, "The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny. " He was right.

Tuesday, July 24

County Auditor Slockett Apologizes and Pleads Guilty to OWI

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett today pleaded guilty to drunken driving and issued a public apology.

Slockett announced his guilty plea in a fax to local media outlets:
"Today I entered a plea of guilty to Operating While Intoxicated."In this plea I admitted that on June 10, 2007, I drove after having too much to drink. I made a terrible and irresponsible choice and in doing so placed others, as well as myself, at risk. I take full responsibility for my actions and deeply regret what I did. Today I offer those whom I serve, the people of Johnson County, my most sincere apology.

"As a public official, it follows my failure in judgment is also public, and my hope is that through this admission and apology I can impress upon the citizens of Johnson County the dangers of drinking and driving. I have learned a great deal as a result of this arrest, both about myself and about the dangers of drinking and driving. While I cannot change what happened on (June) 10, 2007, I pledge to do better as a person and never allow this failure to occur again."

I believe Tom Slockett to be a good person who has not used good judgment because of a dependency to alcohol. I hope he is seeking treatment as well as forgiveness.

It is easy to kick a person when they are down, and the public eye is no place for the thin skinned. I respect Tom for admitting his mistake and dealing with the consequences.

Stats Quo

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted over the weekend, 42 percent of Americans said that looking back, taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, while 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.

But two-thirds of those polled said the United States should reduce its forces in Iraq, or remove them altogether. Support for the invasion had been at an all-time low in May, when only 35 percent of Americans said the invasion of Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out. The latest poll made clear that a two-thirds majority of Americans continue to say the war is going badly.

However, the number of people who say the war is going “very badly” has fallen from 45 percent earlier in July to a current reading of 35 percent, and of those who say it is going well, 29 percent now describe it as “somewhat well” compared with 23 percent just last week.

Another Statistic - Number of American troops killed through today: 3636

Two More Years in Iraq?

The NY Times reports:

While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security. More

John Edwards - Post-Debate Webcast

Great follow up to CNN debate questions.

John Edwards - Hair

This puts the "haircut" in proper perspective.

Democratic Debate - John Edwards on Special Interests

This is another reason.

Democratic Debate - Edwards on Health Care

This is one reason why I support John Edwards.

March For Peace Events

Dear Friends,

This is an open invitation to anyone interested in taking part in the March For Peace festivities happening this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 27-29 in Iowa City. If you aren't familiar with the March For Peace, it consists of three people marching from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. in the name of nonviolent resistance to war. For more information on the March, go to http://www.marchforpeace.info/, or go to the Facebook page under 'March For Peace'.

In Iowa City we will be doing three events to support the marchers. On Friday, July 27 at 3pm we'll be meeting the marchers west of Iowa City on Melrose Avenue and Hawkeye Park Road to march into downtown I.C. to take part in the weekly peace vigil held 5:15-6pm at the corner of Clinton and Washington across from Old Capitol Mall. The coordinator for rides and parking out near the meeting point is Michael Christoffersen. You can reach him at http://commcenter.mchsi.com/wmc/v/wm/46A625C3000E7E100000490D219791299503010CD2079C080C03BF0E9901070B9DCC0A089B?cmd=ComposeTo&adr=alphaproxy%40msn%2Ecom&sid=c0 or 319-351-2265 for more details.

On Saturday, July 28, a reception for the marchers with free food and musicwill begin at 3pm at the Wesley Center, 120 N. Dubuque St. More details will follow during the week as to the musical acts performing, but so far we have singer/guitarist Marv Hain, as well as duo Jamie Fredericksen & Matt Kearney. If you would like to volunteer to bring food or other necessities, please e-mail Keri George at http://commcenter.mchsi.com/wmc/v/wm/46A625C3000E7E100000490D219791299503010CD2079C080C03BF0E9901070B9DCC0A089B?cmd=ComposeTo&adr=keri%2Ek%2Egeorge%40sbcglobal%2Enet&sid=c0 or call her at 847-287-0175.

The final event for the weekend will be accompanying the marchers out of Iowa City on Sunday, July 29, starting at 11am at College Green Park on the corner of S. Johnson St. and E. Washington St.

One of the keys to the success of these events will be spreading the word around the progressive community in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area, so please forward this e-mail (and successive ones) widely. Also, it would help greatly to make a few phone calls to family, friends, or anyone else you think would be remotely interested in attending any of the events. Supporting these three steadfast marchers with a large contingent will be a great way of showing how much we appreciate their efforts on behalf of peace.

Monday, July 23

Edwards to Ride With Lance Armstrong in RAGBRAI on Wednesday

CNN reports on the Ticker

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Sunday he plans to get in on a well-known Iowa bike race, cycling this week with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
Edwards will join Armstrong and thousands of other cyclists in Hampton on Wednesday — the fourth day of the weeklong, 472-mile Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

The former North Carolina senator said that he and his wife, Elizabeth, who has breast cancer, have admired Armstrong for his work against the disease. Armstrong survived testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain.

“I am looking forward to joining with him and so many other RAGBRAI riders to call attention to this important cause,” Edwards said.

Armstrong has become politically active as a cancer activist since retiring from professional cycling. He plans presidential candidate forums on cancer next month in Cedar Rapids.

“For me personally, it’s just to make sure that whatever candidates we have now, and then ultimately the two who want to be president, discuss the No. 1 killer in this country, just like they would discuss war or terror or taxes,” Armstrong said in a video statement on his foundation Web site.

“I think whoever wants to be commander in chief ought to answer the cancer question,” Armstrong said.

Apparently Partial Ignorance is Bliss

From the Press-Citizen

A University of Iowa political science professor has won an award for a book he co-authored.
The book, "How Voters Decide: Information Processing During Election Campaigns" argues that informed voters don't always do the best voting.

"Voters who don't try to learn everything vote better," said associate professor David Redlawsk, whose co-authored book won the Alexander George Book Award from the International Society for Political Psychology.

Redlawsk and Richard Lau of Rutgers University received the award at a July 6 conference in Portland, Ore. The award is given to the best book published in the past year in the field of political psychology, an area that fuses psychology with political science.

"Voters encounter a lot of information during campaigns, and we were interested in what kind of information they encounter and use," he said.

McCain Derails Straight Talk Express

I do not like to take up valuable space talking about what conservatives are up to, but this was on my turf, so to speak, and therefore fair game.

In Urbandale yesterday, John McCain told reporters he would not address his faltering campaign saying "I am happy about the state of our campaign. We will do fine… I will not discuss it any further as much as you want me to.” I'm sure the captain of the Titanic said something similar.

However, the really irksome thing that he said related to the debate on putting a time line in place for removing troops from Iraq that occurred last week. According to CNN, "before McCain opened the event up to reporters, he began by commenting on Tuesday’s all-night debate over troop withdrawal from Iraq, something he likely knew would not be the subject of many questions.

It was a joke and waste of the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We can not set a date for withdrawal, and if we do, it will guarantee failure and it will guarantee the loss of additional brave young Americans’ lives. I will hold that stand no matter what, and that is the correct stand for the future of this mission.”"

There is no joke in this Senator McCain, as you would know having been in the Vietnam War. And as far as a waste of taxpayer's money, well how about the cost of a war that should have never been waged? And the preposterous idea that removing the troops will make them more unsafe, what the hell are you thinking? I'm glad that people are going off the rails on the Crazy Train that once passed for the Straight Talk Express.

Note to Castro--er, I mean Chavez, Freedom of Speech is a Good Thing

The Beeb reports

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has vowed to expel foreigners who publicly criticise him or his government.

"No foreigner can come here to attack us. Anyone who does must be removed from this country," he said during his weekly TV and radio programme.

Mr Chavez also ordered officials to monitor statements made by international figures in Venezuela.

His comments came shortly after a senior Mexican politician publicly criticised the Venezuelan government.

"How long are we going to allow a person - from any country in the world - to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?" Mr Chavez said during his "Hello, President" broadcast on Sunday.

"It cannot be allowed - it is a question of national dignity," he said.

Gark note: Presidente Chavez, where I come from it is called freedom of speech. Of course, if your goal is to consolidate power, yeah, you probably would want to put the kabash on it. "Offender" Mexico's National Action Party President, Manual Equino told listeners at a pro-democracy conference in Caracas a plan by Chavez to end term limits on Venezuela's presidency were a threat to democracy.

Robo-callers Beware

A note to future candidates for public office who love to use automated phone calling/messaging systems, DO NOT ROBO-CALL me. So far we have received no less than 100 such calls from the campaigns and I gotta tell you, in the words of Shania Twain, "it don't impress me much." If Chris Dodd (I'll pick on him because his 'botcall was most recent) really wants me to show up to one of his events, Senator Dodd, have a volunteer call or, if you have a moment between bills (and outside the Senate, please), call me.

Now I realize that there are practical implications, but I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that robo-calls turn me so far off, I may never hear a candidate's message--and no, it doesn't impress me if Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen, or Sheryl Crow calls on your behalf either.

And if you are a 527 group, don't use this method--seriously, it probably hurts more than it helps your cause.

Sunday, July 22

Saturday Reflections and Sunday with 'Sicko'

Every now and again it is important to remember that not everyone thinks about things the same way, but it is also important to remember that people can surprise the the holy bejeebies out of you. Yesterday at a fundraiser for our friends, Ashley and Shannon, who are dealing with massive bills, despite Shannon being insured through the National guard. I watched a community come together which included people like me, gung ho soldiers, middle-of-the-roaders, and rambunctious kids to help friends who are going through the worst of times that a family can go through. No matter what I might think of someone else's politics or life choices, the love of our fellow human beings can make you believe that we aren't as far apart as we can think we are. Simple human kindness is a great equalizer.

Today, my wife and I go to see 'Sicko' with our friend Nancy who is a recipient of health care (physical therapy) almost daily due to a stroke she had when she was 41. The audience was not exactly full of flaming progressives, but more of your elder-after-church set and a few of us 40- to-50 somethings. Was I surprised when the closing credits rolled to hear people applauding the movie with the same enthusiasm one usually hears after the National Anthem is played at the ballpark.

And it deserves it, despite its small flaws (like Michael Moore giving a self-serving, sharp jab to a guy who runs an anti-Michael Moore website who needed help paying the bills after his wife became very ill. Mike makes a big deal about how he helped by sending a check "anonymously" to his detractor).

The fact is we do not give health care the importance it deserves as a nation.

Moore points out that his film isn't about the 47-50 million without health insurance, it is about those of us who do and how the insurance industry does it utmost to keep us from getting what we think we are paying for (not even "deserve"--just what is owed us). The horror stories are exactly that and the walls that we are up against are not only that industry, but also the people who supposedly guard our interests in Congress.

Moore shows us Canada, France, and England's versions of universal health care and dispels the often dispensed myths about the long waits, the lack of equipment, and so on. Then he shows us Cuba, poor Marxist, Cuba. Somehow, despite the lack of wealth, they manage to provide universal health care which, while overall is ranked 2 spots below the US, does allow for less infant mortality and a population that outlives us on the average.

Now do I believe that Moore cherry-picks data? Yep--but it doesn't matter. For all the hoopla over "the facts", Moore (whose facts are accurate, that is they are attributable to real sources, but not always in an apples-to-apples way that research people appreciate) asks a very important question: Given the wealth of this nation (and we are the seventh wealthiest country based on per capita GDP), shouldn't everyone have access to the best medical care (or even the 7th best medical care, if you want to be a stickler--we are 37th right now)?

If countries like Afghanistan*, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq*, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the United Kingdom can all have universal health care, why can't we?.

*Universal health coverage provided by United States war funding

Two Hours and Five Minutes

Apparently Veep Dick Cheney, under the authority of the 25th amendment to the Constitution no less, was acting as president on Saturday for two hours and five minutes while President Bush under went a colonoscopy and polyp removal procedure. The White House reported that Cheney performed "no official acts" in that period of time, but come on, if you had presidential powers, you'd use 'em. At the very least I'm sure Cheney said to his wife, "How does it feel to be sleeping with the president."

On the other hand, he has been running the shadow government, so maybe it was no big whoop?

Or maybe he was unable to do much because Bush ordered the CIA to practice his latest executive order reauthorizing the use "harsh interrogation techniques" on Cheney? It's a little hard to invade a country when you are being waterboarded.

Friday, July 20

Michael Moore Wants You to See "Sicko" (and Perhaps) Paris, London, or Toronto

According to to Moore's Web site, "All you have to do is send us your ticket stub (make sure it says "Sicko" on it and has the name of the theater and this weekend's date on it -- Friday, Saturday or Sunday - July 20th, 21st, 22nd).

Attach the stub to a piece of paper with your name, address, phone number and email and send it to: 'Sicko' Night in America, 888c 8th Avenue, Suite 443, New York, NY 10019. (Yes, you have to use that old 18th century device called the U.S. Postal Service, and it has to be postmarked on or by Tuesday, July 24th).

First prize is a weekend in the city of your choice: Paris, London or Toronto. This includes airfare, hotel, meals and, most exciting, a representative from their fine universal health care system who will give you a personal tour so you can see how they treat their fellow citizens.

You'll meet people who pay nothing for college and citizens who are in the fourth week of their six-week paid vacation. Oh, and you'll have time to see the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or whatever they have in Toronto that is old and tall. (If you don't have a passport, we'll pay for that, too!)"

News from around Iowa

IOWA – Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed meaningful legislation to begin safely and responsibly winding down the war in Iraq, despite Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District Representative Tom Latham’s vote against the measure. Since the very beginning of the war in 2003, Rep. Latham has voted to enable President Bush’s reckless Iraq policy with vote after vote after vote. With no more than 70 percent of the American public calling for the withdrawal of nearly all troops from Iraq by April, local educators in Clear Lake, Fort Dodge and Ames, IA will simultaneously deliver Rep. Latham a failing Iraq ‘report card’ to each of the Congressman’s constituent offices at 11AM on Friday, July 20th detailing his abysmal record supporting President Bush’s costly, irresponsible and failed policies in Iraq. The Iowa Educators will deliver remarks outside each office calling on Rep. Latham to represent the vast majority of Iowans and vote to bring a safe and responsible end to the war.

WHO: Mason City Area Educators
WHAT: Delivery of Representative Tom Latham’s Failing Iraq Report Card
WHEN: July 20th, 2007 at 11AM
WHERE: Latham Congressional Office: CLEAR LAKE/MASON CITY OFFICE:812 Hwy. 18 EastClear Lake, Iowa 50428

An Unreasonable Man

WHAT: "An Unreasonable Man" - documentary film biography of Ralph Nader

WHEN: Saturday, July 21, 2007 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Iowa City Public Library, Room D

WHO: You and anyone else who wants to see the film *not yet distributed in this area

*Free and open to the public.The film will be preceded by a short meeting of the Johnson County Green Party, starting at 3:00 p.m.

(Your Name Here) School of Public Health

Whether a school is named for an entity or a person, there are risks. Take Roger Williams University who will remove the name of Ralph R. Papitto, the former board chairman who used a racial slur, from the university’s law school. But they aren't alone, in 2005 Seton Hall University removed the name of L. Dennis Kozlowski, the felonious former chief executive of Tyco, from a building and a rotunda.

Who knows how long it might be before the the University of Iowa could remove the name of a certain influential donor from one of its buildings? Perhaps the rule of thumb should be to assign building numbers only, that way they would be easier to find on a map (and numbers are seldom involved in scandal).

John and Elizabeth Edwards: The Public Eye Never Blinks

Elizabeth Edwards has breast cancer. She and John have lost a son. To most of us, these are personal matters. To the press and campaign operatives, they are motives to be questioned and less than subtly, implying that there is something more sinister there, as I watched this morning on CNN when John Dickerson from Slate was interviewed about his less than insightful commentary. CNN's news team asked Dickerson if he thought that Elizabeth Edwards had been talking about her and John's personal losses in the new Edward's campaign ad.

Elizabeth Edwards responded to his commentary by suggesting that he look at John's record as a trial lawyer, as therein lies examples of the "toughness" that is referred to in the ad. But that wasn't enough for CNN or Mr. Dickerson. There was a need to dissect the ad which, is intended to battle a different issue, the barrage of innuendo about Edward's "manliness".

Whether it is the droning on about the haircut or the oft repeated "Breck Girl" comments, Edwards is being set fire to, not unlike how Harold Ford, Jr. was in his Tennessee Senate race. This version of Swift Boating is the latest in an attempt to sink the campaign of a very qualified candidate, in terms of knowledge of issues and his ability to connect to people.

Whether you support Edwards, as I admittedly do, or not, we all should be outraged at the underhanded tactics that are being employed. Clearly the same knives that are out to gut John Edwards will be out for whomever the Democrats ultimately choose.

Thursday, July 19

Ed Fallon to Appear at Fundraiser for Mike Wright

Ed Fallon—Iowa State Fair champion accordionist, 2006 candidate for governor, and founder of the progressive group I’M for Iowa—will headline an August 26th fundraiser for Mike Wright, candidate for an at-large seat on the Iowa City Council. Ed will play his accordion, explain why he supports Mike, and introduce the candidate.

The event will take place at 6:30 pm on August 26th. Location to be announced later. Suggested donation is $25, but all are welcome.

Edwards Wrapping Up Poverty Tour in Iowa: Raps Bush

From the Des Moines Register

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards drew applause in Knoxville today for his sharp words blasting President George W. Bush’s record on poverty.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and trial lawyer stopped in Knoxville following a three-day anti-poverty tour. “I want George Bush to come to these places that I just visited with me and look in the eyes of the people that I saw and tell them why he’s turned his back on them,” Edwards said. “Tell them why he thinks it’s okay for people to live like this. It’s not okay. It’s wrong. This president has not only turned his back on these people, he’s actually made their lives worse. More

Happy Blogosphere Day

July 19th is officially "Blogosphere Day"--which means it is virtually a holiday. To all you bloggers and blogreaders out there CHEERS! What to do something nice, go here.

Rural/Urban: Two Views on Fighting Poverty

While I have been critical of Dems other than John Edwards on their plans to address poverty, the report by truthout's Scott Galindez, was informative with regard to Barack Obama. I think he has a good plan to address urban poverty, but his plan does not take into account the rural poor. Johnson County, for example, has a poverty rate of 15% with 7.7% living below 50% of the poverty line. Most of those people in poverty live in the rural/unincorporated parts of the county. Edwards plan takes into account all persons living in poverty.

t r u t h o u t Report By Scott Galindez

Thursday 19 July 2007

According to census figures, just under 13 percent of the US population lives in poverty. The American middle class is vastly larger and middle-class Americans, unlike poor Americans, have time and money to give to political campaigns - which is why most presidential campaigns prefer to champion middle-class causes, while paying only lip service to the poor.

That is not the case for the campaigns of former Senator John Edwards and Senator Barack Obama. Edwards recently went on an 11 city, anti-poverty tour, while Obama delivered a major policy speech on the urban poor.

Focusing on poverty issues is not new to either candidate. Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, and Edwards, following the 2004 election, focused his energies on fighting against economic inequities.

Edwards and the Two Americas
In the 2004 Presidential primaries, John Edwards was languishing in the polls. He then sharpened his message; here is an excerpt from the speech that may have turned his campaign around:
"Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing, because its children are already set for life. One America, middle-class America, whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose very wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even Congress and a president."

This time around, Edwards isn't playing it safe and referring only to the middle class. He launched his campaign in New Orleans's lower ninth ward; there were no balloons, no loud music, and there weren't hundreds of supporters with colorful signs. Edwards was in jeans, wearing work boots and gloves. He spoke to reporters while taking a break from cleaning up the front yard of a women's house that was damaged by Katrina. Behind him were kids wearing "One America" t-shirts.

Now a little over seven months later, Edwards returned to New Orleans to launch what the campaign is calling his "Road to One America Tour" which went to 11 cities over three days.
According to Heather McGhee, a domestic policy adviser to Edwards, they visited the home of Mrs. Sammie Henley who hosted Dr. King in 1968: "Her house was surrounded by flood waters, and Dr. King had to paddle a boat to her front porch. He famously described places like Marks as 'an island of poverty' surrounded by an ocean of American wealth. Unfortunately, it certainly still feels that way today."

Mr. Edwards's campaign platform calls for reducing the number of Americans living in poverty by 12 million over the next decade and wiping out poverty entirely within 30 years. He also recently called for raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012, a proposal that goes beyond a law recently signed by President Bush raising it from $5.15 to $7.50 over two years. To view Edwards plan go to http://johnedwards.com/issues/poverty/.

Obama Would Create White House Office on Urban Policy
Senator Barack Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he said he learned firsthand "urban poverty is more than just a function of not having enough in your pocketbooks. It's also a matter of where you live - in some of our inner-city neighborhoods, poverty is difficult to escape because it's isolating and it's everywhere."

On Wednesday, Senator Barack Obama unveiled his plan to fight urban poverty. Obama pledged to appoint a Director of Urban Policy who would report directly to the president and coordinate all federal urban programs. Obama argued that today, government programs aimed at strengthening metropolitan areas are spread across the federal government - including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Labor and Department of Commerce - with insufficient coordination or strategy. He pledged to create a White House Office of Urban Policy to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs.

Obama went on to make specific proposals that you can read here.
He opened his speech with his own version of the two Americas:
"We stand not ten miles from the seat of power in the most affluent nation on Earth. Decisions are made on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue that shape lives and set the course of history. With the stroke of a pen, billions are spent on programs and policies; on tax breaks for those who didn't need them and a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. Debates rage and accusations fly and at the end of each day, the petty sniping is what lights up the evening news.

And yet, here, on the other side of the river, every other child in Anacostia lives below the poverty line. Too many do not graduate and too many more do not find work. Some join gangs, and others fall to their gunfire.

The streets here are close to our capital, but far from the people it represents. These Americans cannot hire lobbyists to roam the halls of Congress on their behalf, and they cannot write thousand-dollar campaign checks to make their voices heard. They suffer most from a politics that has been tipped in favor of those with the most money, and influence, and power."

Different Approaches
While there are a lot of similarities in the two plans, there is one major difference: Edwards argues providing vouchers for families to move out of impoverished communities could relieve the concentration of poverty in certain communities.

Obama argues that will only leave people behind. Obama would focus on fixing our broken urban centers.

While both arguments have merits and critics, one thing both candidates have in common is a commitment to ending poverty. What remains to be seen is if these issues will resonate with the American voters.

Bush to Support Cigarette Makers Over Children's Health?

President Bush on Wednesday reiterated his threat to veto Senate legislation that would substantially increase funds for children's health insurance by levying a 61-cent-a-pack increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes. The tax increase would be used to subsidize health insurance for children and some adults with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to afford insurance on their own. -AP

Pomerantz or Pomer-"Rants"

A former president of the Iowa Board of Regents has called for the firing of the dean of the University of Iowa's College of Public Health. Marvin Pomerantz, a Des Moines businessman and prominent university donor, said Jim Merchant should be fired for rejecting a $15 million give from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance company. Merchant has been dean of the college since it was founded in 1999, and he plans to retire next year. ``We need to pay him off and get him out of there,'' Pomerantz said Wednesday.

Why does Pomerantz not see the humor in his own statement? He was willing for Wellmark to "pay off" the School of Public Health, for crying out loud. Higher education prepares people for the workplace, but should not kowtow to such silliness. Pomerantz seems to think that university donations should buy carte blanche.

Time For Poverty to Eradicated

According to Time

It [Poverty] is certainly something most politicians don't talk about and most voters don't ask about. Democrats with national aspirations have been avoiding the issue for the last quarter century or so, since Ronald Reagan cast them as the party of welfare-queen-coddling big gubment. But with economic anxiety, inequality and private equity billionaires grabbing national attention, [Jonh] Edwards believes all that might be changing. Barack Obama gives a speech on poverty this week. Hillary Clinton has assailed trickle-down economics without the trickle. But no other candidate is talking about poverty the way Edwards does — at length and to the exclusion of all other subjects for three long days. From time to time he tries to link the problems of the poor to the vulnerability of the middle class at large, touting, for instance, his plan for universal health care. ("It's not just about the poor," he says in one speech during the tour. "Everybody's at risk. Everybody's vulnerable.") But mostly — remarkably — he avoids that broader argument and focuses on costly programs to help the truly impoverished: one million WPA-style "stepping-stone" jobs, guaranteed paid sick leave for everyone, a minimum wage that isn't just raised to $9.50 but indexed so it goes up automatically. More

Washington Post Reports about Cheney's Secret Energy Meetings

The Washington Post has a story about the energy policy meetings that took place in 2001 and led people to believe that there was something fishy going on in Cheney's office.

The Post reports, "In all, about 300 groups and individuals met with staff members of the energy task force, including a handful who saw Cheney himself, according to the list, which was compiled in the summer of 2001. For six years, those names have been a closely guarded secret, thanks to a fierce legal battle waged by the White House. Some names have leaked out over the years, but most have remained hidden because of a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that agreed that the administration's internal deliberations ought to be shielded from outside scrutiny."

Sneaky Meetings?

"Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who unsuccessfully pushed for details of the meetings, said it is "ridiculous" that it has taken six years to see who attended the meetings. He described the energy task force as an early indicator of "how secretively Vice President Cheney wanted to act."

Waxman said he was not surprised to see the prevalence of energy industry groups on the list of meetings. "Six years later, we see we lost an opportunity to become less dependent on importing oil, on using fossil fuels, which have been a threat to our national security and the well-being of the planet," he said."

Or Learning From History?

"The development of a new energy policy was Bush's first major initiative after he took office. He turned over responsibility of it to Cheney, a former chairman of Halliburton Co., a Dallas-based energy services firm.

Mindful of the disastrous fate that befell Hillary Rodham Clinton's unwieldy health-care task force, which included about 500 staff members and 34 working groups, Cheney kept his energy task force small and lean. Instead of a 1,300-page report, he aimed for something much shorter: The final product was 170 pages."

Ashley Gillette Benefit at the Mill This Saturday

A local "Sicko"- like story. Friends of mine and my wife Betsy are going through a very difficult period. If you read today's Press-Citizen, Ashley and Shannon Gillette's story is there for all the world to see. Shannon is a supply clerk in the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2003-2004. We were all glad when he returned unharmed, but last year Ashley developed a severe migraine headache that would not go away. To date, the cause has baffled her doctors, but the treatments and hospital stays have racked up massive debt for them, even though Shannon has insurance through the Army. Due to her chronic pain and accompanying medications, she has not been able to take care of their three young children by herself and they have relied on family, friends, and currently, a nanny to watch them. Not to put too fine a point on it, Ashley and Shannon are in financial need.

If you are out and about on Saturday, there is a benefit concert and raffle at the Mill on Burlington St. from 3 pm to 1midnight this Saturday to help them out. All around good guys Dave Zollo and Saul Lubaroff, Dick Watson and his trio, and many other musicians have volunteered their time to help out. Bring the kids, its an all ages benefit.

What is Wrong With Congress?

With the 52-47 vote the other day in the Senate to stop the filibuster by Republicans on the war (Although as Political Forecast points out, Harry Reid may have the last word) , we have got to ask ourselves what can be done to let those members of Congress know that we will hold them accountable on election day. It is clear that they are unable to see that many voters were serious last year about ending this war.

Anyone who has been paying attention realizes that there is no good way for us to extricate ourselves. The truth is, there will likely be more bloodshed when we leave, because Iraq, largely due to our actions, is and will be in a civil war. Our exit strategy needs to include international or regional humanitarian aid for Iraq. Many Iraqis are likely to seek asylum and we should do everything in our power to address that need.

Beyond that, some of our troops need to be redeployed in Afghanistan with the international coalition that is still there to finish the mission (Remember Osama Bin Laden?) there and the rest, to come home.

We are past the idea of "cutting and running"--we need to cut our losses and make it possible for Iraq to stabilize itself. But we can't do it if Congress is playing politics with people's lives.

I don't question that some members of Congress are acting on their convictions, but I don't think they all are. Bipartisan legislation for drawing down troops should include a plan for helping to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, offering asylum and humanitarian aid, and appropriate funding to the returning soldiers and their families and the VA for the aftermath of the war.

Remember Kosovo?

From the BBC

The United States warned Russia against blocking a UN Security Council resolution on the future of Kosovo.

US Ambassador at the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in case of failure the process could lead the Security Council losing control of the process.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner cast doubt on Russia's cooperation over Kosovo.

Moscow has constantly opposed any move towards separation from Serbia of the ethnic-Albanian majority province.

Mr Khalilzad told reporters that Russia would be responsible for blocking the draft resolution and warned of the consequences.

"Either the Council deals with this, with Russia playing a constructive role, taking a step in the right direction, or Russia will be responsible for pushing this process outside the council", Mr Khalilzad said on Wednesday.

Just a few hours earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was not optimistic about a deal on Kosovo.

"I hope there will be a compromise with the Russians on the resolution... but I very much doubt it," he said.

Russia is unmoved

Earlier in the day, the Russian Ambassador at the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, had rejected the latest version of the text, even though a reference to an automatic path to "supervised independence" had been removed.

This new draft is the UN's third attempt to seek support from Russia, which insists that Kosovo can only become independent with the consent of its ally, Serbia.

Moscow says the revised draft being drawn up in New York attempts to achieve independence for Kosovo through the back door.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority want independence from Serbia but its minority Serbs - and the government in Belgrade - oppose this.

The province has been under UN administration since 1999, when a Nato invasion drove out Serbian security forces accused of repressing ethnic Albanians, some of whom had taken up arms.

No date has been set for voting on the new draft, which is likely to be presented to the UN Security Council despite Moscow's objections.

Russia is one of five members of the council with the right to veto resolutions.

Wednesday, July 18

Former First Ladies Speak on Behalf of Mental Illness Bill

Update: H.R. 1424 "mark-up" bill was passed in committee 33 to 9 and goes to the full House for approval.

From the Washington Times, July 18, 2007

By Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter

If you were diagnosed with a brain tumor, would you seek treatment or would you ignore it and hope it goes away? Would your answer differ according to whether your health insurance covered treatment? A diagnosis such as a brain tumor, or Parkinson's disease, is a serious matter. Just as serious are the diagnoses of mental illnesses and addictions. But depending on the location of the illness in your body, the decision to seek treatment may be harder to make.

Mental health and addiction patients are discriminated against because employers and insurers often do not classify these disorders as diseases of the brain. Yet we know after decades of brain research that they indeed are diseases, and that effective treatments exist.

As it stands now, health insurers offer coverage and reimbursement if you need cancer therapy or treatment for Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes or any other physical illness. But if you are diagnosed with a mental illness or need treatment for an addiction, you are likely to face unequal and unfair insurance barriers that can be catastrophic to your health, your financial security and even your life. This is unconscionable. Patients affected by these disorders should be treated with the same urgency and diligence as patients with any other disease, and should receive the same health-care options and coverage.

And lest you think this doesn't affect very many of us, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness (57.5 million Americans in 2004), and 21 percent of children ages nine to 17 suffer from a mental illness or addiction disorder. Yet less than half of individuals who need help are able to receive the appropriate level of care they require (Surgeon General's Report 2000). According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 23 million Americans suffer from alcoholism and other drug dependencies, yet only 1.5 percent of teen-agers and adults with these challenges received treatment in the past year for these illnesses.

Approximately 65 percent of Americans have some form of health insurance, but these plans usually impose higher co-pays and deductibles, as well as restrictive annual and lifetime limits on the number of visits and days of treatment covered for addiction and mental illnesses.

Untreated mental illnesses and addiction cost American taxpayers close to $600 billion per year through indirect costs related to unemployment and reduced productivity, and through diverted costs to other areas, such as criminal justice, homeless shelters, foster care, etc. But the personal costs are inestimable if you lose a loved one to suicide because of untreated mental illness or addiction. Almost as many people die from suicide each year as from war and homicides combined. This kind of tragedy can hardly be measured in dollars.

Our country can afford to end this discrimination. The costs to our society for untreated mental illnesses and addiction must compel us to work toward fixing our broken system. A recent report by the research firm Milliman (2007) found that providing coverage for mental health and addiction treatment services in parity with other diseases would cost less than a loaf of bread per person per month (or less than one tank of gas per person per year).

The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, was a passionate advocate for those with mental illnesses and addiction, and beginning in 1992 he and Sen. Pete Domenici, Arizona Republican, worked tirelessly to pass legislation that would stop insurers from discriminating against people suffering from these illnesses. In 1996 they were partially successful with the passage of the Domenici-Wellstone Mental Health Parity Act. While this was an important first step that did result in the elimination of lifetime and annual dollar limits on the treatment of mental illnesses, 87 percent of complying health plans replaced the dollar limits with limits on inpatient days and outpatient visits or another part of their benefit plan. Until his tragic death in 2002, Mr. Wellstone continued to work with Mr. Domenici in trying to pass stronger legislation.

This week, a House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Rob Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, heard testimony regarding the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424), which ensures that mental health and addiction patients are treated no differently than other medical or surgical patients. The Wellstone Act does not force companies to offer mental health or addiction treatment benefits, but if such benefits are covered, they must be offered in the same manner as other medical and surgical coverage in the plan.

Mr. Wellstone fought long and hard for those who had no voice and he demonstrated a strong personal commitment to those with mental illness and addiction issues. It is our prayer that congressional lawmakers will honor his legacy, and help the millions of Americans suffering from these diseases by passing this bill and sending it to the president.

Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow

As a progressive, I often think of where we could be, if a truly progressive agenda were in place. So here is my summary of what we are missing out on:
1) Our troops in Iraq would be home and relations with foreign countries would be on the mend.
2) All Americans would have access to affordable medical and mental health care (by either a single-payer or hybrid model).
3) Lower income Americans would have a liveable wage and an increase to the earned income tax credit which would lead to a better quality of life.
4) Savings from defense spending would be invested to strengthen borders, increase inspections at ports of entry.
5) Education would address reasons for gaps between high performing and low performing schools.
6) More incentives would be available for renewable energy and mass transportation systems.
7) Social Security would be shored up by savings from defense and a robust economy fueled by new, clean industries.
8) The United States would be in a leadership role to battle the effects of global climate change.
9) State governments would benefit from dependable funding streams for education, roads, and needed economic development projects.
10) Civil liberties would be restored, Guantanamo closed, and rendition programs suspended.
11) Upper income earners would pay their fair share.
12) Environmental issues would be addressed in ways that improve air and water quality.
13) Predatory lending and exorbitant credit card rates would be addressed.
14) Persons seeking union representation would have the ability to do so with all workers who receive benefits chipping in.
15) Human services and housing would be funded at appropriate levels and private/public partnerships would be encouraged that seek to maximize the raising of people out of poverty into sustained employment.
16) Moderate judges would likely be selected to fill vacancies at the district, appellate, and federal courts.
17) Agricultural policies would support the family farmer's interests as well as big agribusiness.
18) Legislation for publicly-funded election would see daylight.

John Edwards talks about Global Warming in Cedar Rapids

I Missed This and Wish I Hadn't

From the P-C

As Elizabeth Edwards greeted the standing ovation that met her at the hotelVetro, her first words to the audience were, "Less clapping, more talking."
It was an example of her straight-forward politics and sense of humor she brought to her town hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is campaigning for her husband despite her breast cancer relapse.

"I'm convinced that John needs to be president. ... I know he will be president. I'm not a sadist. I would not spit in the fan in deciding how to spend the rest of my days," she said.

During her 20-minute speech and a question-and-answer session before a standing room-only crowd, Edwards addressed her husband's support for reducing carbon emissions, a women's right to choose an abortion, ending the war in Iraq, stem cell research, raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and strengthening Social Security.

She said that he would reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, which she claimed was the second toughest environmental plan amongst the possible Democratic nominees, and enstate an auctioning program where organizations bid for carbon emission rights.

She said she and her husband strongly support stem cell research.

"In fact, most stem cells are thrown away. ... People need to stop thinking about babies and start thinking about trash cans," she said.

On Social Security, Elizabeth Edwards said her husband wants those of the highest income level to contribute a higher percentage of their wages to social security. More