Wednesday, October 31

Democracy for America Straw Poll: The Gore-y Details

DFA's poll shows support for Nobel Peace Prize Winner Non-Candidate Al Gore. the polls are still open, if you want real change.

Candidate (Votes/%)

Al Gore (write in) 27356 26.4%
Dennis Kucinich 25438 24.55%
Barack Obama 18555 17.91%
John Edwards 15354 14.82%
Bill Richardson 5798 5.6%
Hillary Clinton 4602 4.44%
Other 2429 2.34%
Christopher Dodd 2192 2.12%
Joe Biden 1029 0.99%
Mike Gravel 862 0.83%

Vacations Being Vacated

In case you missed it, October 24th was Take Back Your Time Day according to Take Back Your Time (A project of Cornell university's Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy) who say:

Millions of Americans are overworked, over-scheduled and just plain stressed out.

We're putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000.

In fact, we're working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.

Mandatory overtime is at near record levels, in spite of a recession.

On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe do.

Working Americans average a little over two weeks of vacation per year, while Europeans average five to six weeks. Many of us (including 37% of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.

Take Back Your Vacation

Vacations are vanishing. Only 14% of Americans will get a vacation of two weeks or longer this year. A third of women and a quarter of men get no annual leave anymore, as annual leave benefits are being eliminated like pensions. Many others are afraid to use their paid leave for fear they could be laid off or demoted if they do. No wonder the average American vacation is now down to a long weekend.

It's time to protect vacations before they disappear altogether. Unlike 127 other countries, the U.S. has no minimum paid-leave law. Australians have four weeks off by law, the Europeans four and five weeks. The Japanese two weeks. We have zero. The lack of annual leave standards means many Americans never get time off, says "No Vacation Nation," a recent report by the Center for Economic Policy Research.

But you can change that by joining the campaign to pass The Minimum Leave Protection, Family Bonding and Personal Well-Being Act of 2007. This amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act would guarantee that anyone who's worked at a job for a year would get three weeks of vacation.
The principle behind minimum paid leave is the same one that has been long enshrined in the minimum wage, to protect those who can't protect themselves. The minimum leave amendment would appear after the minimum wage section in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The bill would:
Protect you from having your vacation cut or eliminated by an employer
Protect you from chronically cancelled vacations
Protect you from losing vacation time when you change jobs. You will always get three weeks after a year at a job.
Protect you against retaliation for taking your vacation time, and end the fear of replacement, demotion, or lost promotions when you take all the time in your company policy.
Provide a pro rata share of the three-week vacation after three months until the one-year mark is reached. For example, after six months, you would get 1.5 weeks off.

When millions of the hardest working people in the world are afraid to take their vacations because they could be replaced or bypassed for promotions, we need Leave Protection.

When the volatile economy forces workers in their 40s, 50s and 60s to start their paid leave banks over again with a new company at one or two weeks as if they were at their very first job, we need Leave Protection.

When paid leave is being cut and eliminated by companies across the nation, we need Leave Protection.

Join the campaign and spread the word far and wide. Let's make this the last summer without vacations in the USA! Click here to learn more about "Why We Need Minimum Paid Leave Now"

Which Renewable Fuel is Best

A new tool from National Geographic helps to see that not all renewable fuels are created equal (come to think of it, some renewable fuels aren't available, yet). This shows the retail cost, the conversion rate of energy to produce, and the reduction in carbon dioxide, if used.

Thanks to DFA organizer Cliff Day for sending this information.

Iowa Sportsmen Not All About 2nd Amendment

From the National Wildlife Federation:

Three-quarters of Iowa sportsmen say we have a strong moral responsibility to act now to curb the worst effects of global warming and protect our children's future. That's according to a new statewide poll of hunters and anglers released today by the National Wildlife Federation. It also shows that of the sportsmen who say they'll vote in January's caucuses, just nine percent have decided who they'll support.

"Despite a majority calling themselves conservative politically, Iowa sportsmen know climate change is not an issue of left or right, it's a matter of right or wrong," said Joe Wilkinson, lifelong Iowa sportsman and Iowa Wildlife Federation president. "Sportsmen believe global warming is the top conservation issue facing Iowa. Any presidential candidate that comes through Iowa needs to know global warming is at the front of sportsmen's minds."

Among the highlights:
- 69% believe global warming is currently occurring
Three-quarters (75%) agree the United States should be a world leader in addressing global warming
- An amazing six out of seven (84%) agree we can improve the environment and strengthen the economy by investing in renewable energy technologies that create jobs while reducing global warming
- 66% of hunters and anglers say conservation is just as important, if not more important, to them as gun rights issues

Complete poll results are available at or

Wilson: Edwards Shines

From Real Clear Politics

Edwards Shines, But Clinton Still Leads
By Reid Wilson

PHILADELPHIA - In a debate long hyped as the battle many have waited for, when Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would finally engage in hand to hand combat, it was a third candidate, former Senator John Edwards, who stole much of the show. Edwards, who has of late seen his poll numbers decline in Iowa, the state seen as crucial to his presidential bid, turned in a strong performance that his campaign hopes will set him up as the leader in the Anybody-But-Clinton primary.

Obama, who in a weekend New York Times interview suggested his campaign would take after Clinton in a new bid to cut into the front-runner's support, began the debate by backing off his statements. "I think some of this stuff gets overhyped," he said, in his first answer. "In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed."

Later in the debate, Obama seemed to find his stride and recognize some of the urgency many of his supporters feel. He criticized some of Clinton's previous positions on Iraq, NAFTA and others, but he didn't rise to the bait offered by moderator Brian Williams until the middle half of the debate. Obama suggested that Clinton's leadership is neither consistent nor principled, though he did not name his opponent.

Obama, standing to Clinton's left, spent much of the early parts of the debate addressing moderators Williams and Russert, a pose that forced him to look away from his chief adversary. The visual, coupled with a reticence to strike rhetorically, gave an early impression of a candidate once again unwilling to go negative, even as it increasingly appears his only option.

On Clinton's right side stood John Edwards, who began the debate, unlike Obama, backing his campaign's assertion that the New York Senator engaged in "double talk." Accusing Clinton of changing positions on social security and other issues, Edwards reserved his most biting criticism for a recent vote designating an elite Iranian military unit as a terrorist organization. "A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way: That you give this president an inch, and he'll take a mile," Edwards said.

Rattling off the similarities between the Kyl-Lieberman resolution, of which Clinton alone among Democratic candidates voted in favor, Edwards sounded exasperated. "Has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted," he proclaimed. "How in the world is that ... Democrats standing up to this president and saying, 'No, we are not going to allow this, we are not going to allow this march to war in Iran'?"

As Edwards seeks to distinguish himself as the electable alternative to Clinton, he repeatedly bettered Obama's attack lines. After Obama suggested Clinton was a popular target of Republicans because the GOP relishes the ability to run against her, Edwards' hand shot up. The former senator sharpened the line, using it to suggest that Clinton should be unacceptable to the Democratic primary electorate as well. "If people want the status quo, then Senator Clinton is your candidate," Edwards said.

"The alternative to Senator Clinton is John Edwards," campaign manager David Bonior said after the debate. Bonior said his candidate succeeded in making the leap over Obama. "The distinction is very important, and Senator Edwards is the one who made it, not Senator Obama."

Clinton, for the first time, was forced to play defense virtually the entire night. She handled the broadsides from other candidates, hoping to prove to primary voters that she can weather the coming Republican storm. But her opponents' focus on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, Clinton backers suggested, were based on false premises. "They've drawn a false alternative," said retired General Wesley Clark, who is backing Clinton. "And that shows their inexperience in foreign policy." Clark compared other candidates' answers to "Little League baseball," while Clinton, he said, was in the Major Leagues.

The attacks were something her campaign clearly saw coming: Instead of holding public events, Clinton's campaign kept her out of the public eye, hunkering down in debate preparation. That preparation, it seems, paid off.

The focus on front-runners was interrupted only briefly by good moments for some second-tier candidates. While Republican debates have been marked by frequent Clinton mentions, it was left to Joe Biden to take on GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani. "There's only three things [Giuliani] mentions in a sentence: A noun, a verb and 9/11," he said, to laughter.

Bill Richardson stood up for Clinton at one point, calling attacks from Edwards and Obama a "holier than thou attitude." "It is pretty close to personal attacks we don't need," he said.

Even Dennis Kucinich, who longtime friend Shirley MacLaine recently suggested had seen an unidentified flying object, finished the debate on a high note, forcing moderator Tim Russert to admit that 14% of Americans claim to have seen a UFO. Kucinich, who had fun with the answer, made Russert repeat the figure twice.

The debate, though, focused primarily on the scuffle between front-runners Clinton, Obama and Edwards. And while Obama seemed to find his voice against Clinton late in the evening, it was Edwards who stood out, offering the clearest distinctions and the sharpest rhetoric in order to distinguish himself.

In the end, that outcome could benefit Clinton. With Obama in solid second place in most of the polls and suffused with enough cash to outlast at least a month of early contests, Edwards still will help himself to a sizable chunk of the Anybody-But-Clinton crowd. That constituency remains fractured, and by the end of the day, that's good news for Hillary Clinton.

Philadelphia, home more than 200 years ago to America's first angry political debates when framers of the Constitution haggled over the founding language, saw another contentious brawl this evening, the hottest of the 2008 Democratic campaign. But the scrum did little to shake up the race, and Clinton's rivals will now have to wait to find the next opportunity to make their case to the electorate.

Clinton Tested and Testy in Debate

Being the proclaimed frontrunner is no picnic as Howard Dean learned in 2004 and Hillary Clinton is learning now.

According to an AP story:

[Hillary] Clinton grew testy when pressed on whether she agrees with a proposal her home state governor has to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. She first expressed support for the idea. But when [Chris] Dodd objected, Clinton grew defensive and said she wasn't saying it should be done, although she recognizes why the governor is trying to do it even though she doesn't think it's "the best thing for any governor to do."

Edwards pounced. "Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes," he said. "America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them."

[Barack]Obama piled on. "I can't tell whether she was for it or against it," he said. He said he supports the idea.

Obama also criticized Clinton for her refusal to release records from the National Archives about her time as first lady, even as she's running on her experience in the White House with her husband.

"We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history," Obama said, "and not releasing these records at the same time, Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem."

Clinton said it wasn't her decision to keep the records sealed, even though her husband has written a letter asking that their communications be sealed until 2012.

Frank Cordaro's Latest Report from Bridewell

Thanks to Mona Shaw at the School of Moral Courage for providing this latest update from Frank Cordaro who is serving time for his participation in a sit-in at Se. Charles Grassley's Des Moines office:

We Build Them. We'll Fill Them.

Polk County (along with most county jails in Iowa) has had an over-crowding problem for years. I remember Blessed Bishop Dingman leading the community call to build a new eight-floor jail in the 1970s. I also remember we Catholic Workers disagreed with the good Bishop on that call.

(This was one of a few times we've disagreed with Dingman.)

We told the Bishop that if we built it, we would fill it. Catholic Workers believed that what we needed were more community-based correctional options. This was before the national move away from a rehabilitation-driven prison system to one that is strictly punishment-based. It was also before Ronald Reagan's war on drugs and the national push for mandatory sentences.
Thirty years later, the war on drugs has been lost; our justice protections have been gutted; and we have a prison population that is exploding. (In fact, the prison system is one of a very few growth industries in Iowa.) Local, County, and State governments continue pouring our limited tax dollars into the bottomless hole of building and maintaining more and more prisons.

It wasn't long after the 1970s that the newly-constructed Polk County Jail was filled to capacity and that the overflow of prisoners was then transferred to other county jails in Iowa. This transferring continued until Polk County figured it made more fiscal sense to add the Annex—an old warehouse located two blocks from the "new" jail that was converted into additional incarceration space. This "fix" didn't last long. Soon, both the new jail and the Annex were overflowing, and inmates were again being transferred to other county jails. They were, that is, until it was discovered that it was cheaper to transfer overflow prisoners out of state to a private, for-profit prison in Pattonsburg, Missouri. The decision was such a hit that the Polk County Land and Leasing Group (LLC) built another for-profit prison in 2004 in Bethany, Missouri.

My short stay in the Polk County jail lasted for just two nights. On Sunday, October 7, I was loaded into a van with eleven other inmates and driven to Bethany, Missouri, and the Bridewell Detention Facility ( An hour and a half out of Des Moines, we were in Bridewell's Receiving and Delivery Unit, where we were issued a new set of jail clothes, reporting to medical staff, and assigned to a pod and bunk. I was assigned, then taken to Pod Two, Bunk 80.

I've spent time in many county jails through the years. They are all fundamentally warehouses for human beings. Phil Berrigan used to call them "human dust bins." Some are certainly better than others. None of them are good.

There are no educational programs, no inmate work assignments (except for trustees), little or no outdoor access or exercise space, limited religious services, and paltry libraries or access to reading materials. The food is always poor and nutritionally inadequate. People are just stored in very small, crowded spaces locked down, out-of-sight from the rest of society.

I would rate the Bridewell Detention Facility on the high end of incarceration facilities. A large, metal-framed, steel building, it doesn't look like your typical jail. It sits just off Interstate 35 on the north side of Bethany in an industrial zone. The facility has four separate wings called "Pods" in which most inmates are placed. Inmates can also be held in the "Hole" (or the disciplinary cells) and lately in the recreation room, a place for the overflow of inmates that Bridewell, too, is experiencing.

Each Pod has 32 steel, two-tiered bunk beds and holds 64 inmates. Pod Two is 80-by-20-feet with a 20-foot ceiling. There is a wall-mounted television and eight steel tables with benches. Each table seats eight. There is a row of eight urinals and two toilets along the wall in one corner and six showers along the other wall in the same corner. There is a bank of ten sinks that also serves as a four-foot partition wall for the showers and toilets. There are two telephone polls with four phones on each. Each Pod has a door that leads to an outdoor 20-by-40-foot smoking area. There is an Officers' Station in each Pod.

What first impressed me was the Pod's cleanliness. Each Pod is well-lighted, and, with its high ceiling, you don't experience the claustrophobia that usually comes with time in jail. Bridewell provides plenty of clothing, i.e. you get three clothing changes per week and a weekly bedding change. Toilet paper and cleaning materials are replenished promptly.

The food earns a poor rating (as it does in all jails). The meat is the poorest quality. There is far too much starch in the diet, and nearly everything comes in a can. The dietary highlight of the day is the banana or orange served at breakfast.

Those who receive money from home (not all inmates do) can also buy things at the Jail Commissary. The Commissary list is very limited, and there are no healthy food items on it. It's also very expensive. A three-ounce bag of Ramen Noodles is $.75 and a stamped-envelope is $.60. This routine pricing for jail commissaries is also a way to unfairly tax or punish low-income families who send money for these items to inmates—families who've done nothing wrong but care about someone in jail. Someone is making a lot of money off of their love. One good thing, however, about the Bridewell Commissary is that inmates may place orders seven days a week, and their orders are filled the following day.

The biggest plus--for most inmates--that Bridewell offers are its liberal smoking privileges. Inmates are permitted smoke breaks every two hours between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Since many facilities don't allow smoking at all (and while I don't smoke, at least 80% do), the privilege is quite appreciated. Add to this the cable television (of course the only way to broadcast television inside any facility is through a cable system), and daily movies (sadly the most popular films are also the most violent); a lot of guys are doing rather well here.

The inmate-friendly policies, however, are not driven by concern for the inmates. The motivation for these "liberal" policies is to create a safer and more efficient environment for the guards. A distracted and less-agitated inmate population is easier to manage.

I am most impressed here by how well the guards interact with inmates. They are friendly, professional, and always pleasant. At least one guard is present in the Pods at all times. Usually, though, there are more, especially at meal times, during head counts, and when clothing and bedding are exchanged. There is always at least one guard on-duty in the smoke break area. Since most of the guards are smokers, this duty seems to have mutual benefit.

If there is any sign of trouble, support guards are always on-hand to assist the guard assigned to the Pod. So far, their tactics to maintain order are effective without being Draconian. Very impressive.

There are downsides to being held at Bridewell. It is 75 miles from Polk County, and the distance makes it harder for inmates to stay connected to their families and support. It's far more difficult to do legal work for one's case or to have access to attorneys from here. Making the trip to visit is hardly worth the effort, since the maximum length permitted for a visit is twenty minutes and can be limited to as few as ten minutes. This means a visitor would usually spend between two and three hours on the road to spend a few minutes talking to someone on the phone through a plate glass window.

Not that the option of making phones calls to home is a financially feasible one for many. The cost for phone calls (which is typical of most jails and prisons) can be called immorally obscene. It costs a dollar per minute to place a collect call (another way to burden families who are already financially stressed). Phone cards may also be purchased through the commissary at the "bargain" price of fifty cents per minute.

The comprehensive downside of it all for Polk County is all about the money it's costing all of us. At it stands now, Polk County is filling its own jail, its Annex, the two for-profit centers in Missouri, and still farming out inmates to other jails as well. The County's present solution to the problem is the soon-to-be-completed and second "new" jail on the north side of Des Moines.
Despite all the promises and hype made about the new jail, we in the Catholic Worker community still maintain, "We build them. We'll fill them."

Edwards Speaks On Behalf of Laid Off Maytag Workers

From the LA Times

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards criticized executive pay and declining worker benefits Friday in an economic-policy speech timed to the closing of an iconic Iowa manufacturer.

The former North Carolina senator called for universal retirement savings accounts that would follow workers from job to job, universal healthcare, and stronger corporate-responsibility laws and consumer protections. Edwards also pledged to create new credits where savings of up to $500 a year would be matched by the government, something he would pay for by raising capital gains taxes for high-income households.

But it was his introduction by a former assembly line worker that helped stir the crowd. Doug Bishop, a burly former Maytag Corp. worker, does not look like the type to fight tears in front of a room full of people.

For many in Iowa, this was an emotional week, as Maytag closed its last production line Thursday in Newton, sending home 550 workers for the last time. For the first time in 114 years, Maytag products will no longer be produced in the company's longtime home. Whirlpool Corp., which bought Maytag last year, closed the plant.

Bishop said he would never forget what Edwards told his son when he met him in 2004 as Sen. John Kerry's running mate: " 'I'm going to keep fighting for your daddy's job.' "

Tuesday, October 30

Edwards, Clinton, Obama: No to Mukasey

Reuters reports that the top 3 Democrtic candidates all do not support the nomination of Michael Mukasey for US Attorney General because of his nuanced stance on waterboarding as torture.

The three leading Democratic White House contenders on Tuesday opposed President George W. Bush's nomination of Michael Mukasey to be attorney general, citing concerns about how the retired judge views torture.

Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, along with former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, said they were troubled by Mukasey's refusal to denounce as torture an internationally criticized interrogation method known as waterboarding, simulated drowning.
Critics have accused the United States of torturing suspects in the war on terrorism, with the CIA reportedly using waterboarding shortly after the September 11 attacks.

Despite Bush's assurances that he prohibits torture, it's unclear how detainees are treated since he has refused to disclose interrogation techniques.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards, rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in the November, 2008 election, also said they were concerned about what they characterized as Mukasey's excessively expansive view of presidential powers.

The retired federal judge and former U.S. prosecutor from New York may still likely be confirmed as attorney general by the 100-member, Democratic-led Senate, party aides said.

On the Homefront: Who Wins the Horserace?

As the Iowa City Council race winds down, the question is how will the 21 ordinance vote impact the outcome of the at-large race. If history is any indication, it may not have the impact that some think.

In 2005, Amy Correia who was a pro-public power supporter was elected. I was also a public power supporter, and was not. In fairness, Amy also received the second highest amount of votes in the primary, while I came in fourth. In the general election, Amy received the most votes, and I stayed in 4th place.

Fast forward to this race, Matt Hayek received the most votes in the primary (by far) and Mike Wright and Terry Smith were about 200 votes apart for second and third. Dee Vanderhoef, the incumbent came in 4th place.

Given that Brandon Ross was eliminated and had 660 votes, it is likely that his primary votes will most likely go to Wright, as the only true progressive left in the race. Vanderhoef, Smith, and Hayek will likely fight three ways for two votes, which leaves one of them the odd person out--and at this point, it looks like it may be Vanderhoef.

The big unknown is how many students who are voting against the 21 ordinance are also voting for council candidates. The footage I saw from KCRG last week indicated that it is equally likely that a student voted only for the 21 as a student who voted for the 21 and at least one candidate. If half of the students who voted early voted for only the 21 issue at a satellite, that would mean that 1500 or so had also voted for a candidate. If the students only voted for candidates who did not support the 21, that would mean that Smith and Hayek would have at least a 1500 vote lead before polling on Tuesday.

What nobody is talking about is how many "yes" to 21-only voters will turn out to vote before or on Tuesday. If the number of "yes" voters mirrors the "no" voters in terms of selecting candidates based on their support of the 21 ordinance, it is anybody's guess how the race will turnout because more "yes" voters are likely to vote for candidates and the referendum items.

Not that you asked, but my crystal ball predicts with high voter turnout (30% or more):

1) Matt Hayek--by a metric mile
2) Mike Wright--by a tip of an eyelash


3) Terry Smith
4) Dee Vanderhoef

In any case, the crystal ball, while cloudy today, will be, well "crystal" clear somewhere around 8:30 Tuesday night. Good luck to all the candidates and your campaign teams--the hard slog is now.

The last forum?

John Deeth blogged Gary Sander's "No Baloney" City Council Forum

My as-it-happened take on the forum is here:

Monday, October 29

John Edwards from New Hampshire: Clinton Bus Stops at Lobbyists' K Street Addresses

John Edwards addressed St. Anselm's College on "The Moral Test of Our Generation." In his speech he addressed corporate influence on politics and said:

"Recently, I was dismayed to see headlines in the Wall Street Journal stating that Senate Democrats were backing down to lobbyists for hedge funds who have opposed efforts to make millionaire and billionaire hedge fund managers pay the same tax rate as every hard-working American. Now, tax loopholes the wealthy hedge fund managers do not need or deserve are not going to be closed, all because Democrats — our party — wanted their campaign money.

And a few weeks ago, around the sixth anniversary of 9/11, a leading presidential candidate held a fundraiser that was billed as a Homeland Security themed event in Washington, D.C. targeted to homeland security lobbyists and contractors for $1,000 a plate. These lobbyists, for the price of a ticket, would get a special "treat" — the opportunity to participate in small, hour long breakout sessions with key Democratic lawmakers, many of whom chair important sub committees of the homeland security committee. That presidential candidate was Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton's road to the middle class takes a major detour right through the deep canyon of corporate lobbyists and the hidden bidding of K Street in Washington — and history tells us that when that bus stops there it is the middle class that loses.

When I asked Hillary Clinton to join me in not taking money from Washington lobbyists — she refused. Not only did she say that she would continue to take their money, she defended them.

Today Hillary Clinton has taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any candidate from either party — more money than any Republican candidate.

She has taken more money from the defense industry than any other candidate from either party as well.

She took more money from Wall Street last quarter than Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama combined.

The long slow slide of our democracy into the corporate abyss continues unabated regardless of party, regardless of the best interests of America.

We have a duty — a duty to end this."

Faked FEMA Press Conference May Cost Philbin NIA Job

From Talking Points Memo

John "Pat" Philbin's choice to fake a FEMA press conference on the California wildfires late last week isn't looking like the greatest career move.

Before setting up the phony press conference -- in which FEMA staffers pretended to be journalists while real journalists on a conference call couldn't ask fire-related questions -- Philbin, FEMA's press chief, was all set to take a job helming public affairs for the director of national intelligence, Admiral Mike McConnell. McConnell's credibility has come under attack recently over misstatements concerning surveillance, so Philbin's arrival at the DNI's office might have looked a bit fishy. When I asked McConnell's spokesman, Ross Feinstein, about Philbin, Feinstein commented simply, "We do not discuss internal personnel matters."

But while today was supposed to be Philbin's first day, he's still transitioning from FEMA to the high-secrecy world of the DNI, starting with instruction on how to handle classified information.

That process was supposed to consume Philbin's first day -- think of it as an Intel Flack 101 crash course -- but now Feinstein tells the AP's Pam Hess that Philbin might be in bureaucratic limbo a little while longer, if he ever emerges. According to Hess, Philbin's new job is "on hold" while McConnell reviews Philbin's record. That doesn't augur well for the man whose old FEMA online bio page has been speedily expunged from the site.

Polls: Give the People What They Want

Perhaps nothing is more telling about where the public is than what pollsters are learning. As the poll below shows, prospective voters are more interested on positions and the person than ranking in the polls.
What Topics the Public Wants Covered: More Coverage / Less Coverage

Candidates’ position on issues 77% /17%
Candidate debates 57% / 32%
Candidates’ personal backgrounds and experiences 55% / 36%
The candidates who are not front runners 55% / 37%
Sources of candidates’ campaign money 55% / 35%
Which candidate in leading in the latest polls 42% / 45%

Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press September 28 – October 1, 2007

What some other pollsters are learning:

Just five candidates have been the focus of more than half of all the coverage. Hillary Clinton received the most (17% of stories), though she can thank the overwhelming and largely negative attention of conservative talk radio hosts for much of the edge in total volume. Barack Obama was next (14%), with Republicans Giuliani, McCain, and Romney measurably behind (9% and 7% and 5% respectively). As for the rest of the pack, Elizabeth Edwards, a candidate spouse, received more attention than 10 of them, and nearly as much as her husband.

Democrats generally got more coverage than Republicans, (49% of stories vs. 31%.) One reason was that major Democratic candidates began announcing their candidacies a month earlier than key Republicans, but that alone does not fully explain the discrepancy.

Overall, Democrats also have received more positive coverage than Republicans (35% of stories vs. 26%), while Republicans received more negative coverage than Democrats (35% vs. 26%). For both parties, a plurality of stories, 39%, were neutral or balanced.

Most of that difference in tone, however, can be attributed to the friendly coverage of Obama (47% positive) and the critical coverage of McCain (just 12% positive.) When those two candidates are removed from the field, the tone of coverage for the two parties is virtually identical.

There were also distinct coverage differences in different media. Newspapers were more positive than other media about Democrats and more citizen-oriented in framing stories. Talk radio was more negative about almost every candidate than any other outlet. Network television was more focused than other media on the personal backgrounds of candidates. For all sectors, however, strategy and horse race were front and center.

Clintons Hope for Parallels with Argentina

As the wife of the current president of Argentina won the presidency there, I'm sure a certain power couple living in New York are hoping for a similar outcome here.

According to the NY Times: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the wife of Argentina’s president, Néstor Kirchner, has become the first woman to be elected president in Argentina’s history, according to the latest official results published today.

Mrs. Kirchner, 54, the center-left Peronist party candidate and a senator, defeated a fractured opposition and avoided a runoff.

More than anything, Mrs. Kirchner’s victory would serve as a referendum on the four years under her husband, who steered Argentina out of its worst economic crisis in 2001, when it defaulted on $80 billion in loans.

Argentina is poised to record a sixth year of growth averaging about 8 percent. It is enjoying higher prices for exports of soybeans, corn and meat, has increased its reserves and reduced unemployment and inflation.

While voters appeared to favor a continuation of Mr. Kirchner’s policies, the next president faces the challenge of taming inflation and a looming energy crisis.

Despite approval ratings of more than 60 percent, Mr. Kirchner decided in July not to run for re-election, in what many analysts believe is a strategy to rotate the couple through the Pink House, the presidential palace here, for 12 years. Argentine election law allows a former president to run again after waiting four years on the sidelines.

Bush: Irrelevant on Darfur?

George Bush has over-spent his political capital to a degree that even when he is correct on actions that should be taken, such as calling on the international community to work on a solution to the continued horrific story in Darfur, his hands are tied. The Washington Post has an important story that spells the Catch 22 out.

Essentially, it shows a world leader who understands what needs to be done, but can not muster the political clout to change the course of events. As an unnamed source says, "Bush probably does want something done, but the lack of hands-on follow-up from this White House allowed this to drift. If he says, 'There is not going to be genocide on my watch,' and then 2 1/2 years later we are just getting tough action, what gives? He has made statements, but his administration has not given meaning to those statements."

This is an extremely important lesson for the person who next occupies the Oval Office: Choose your battles carefully.

Investor Class-ists Say It's Likely to Be Clinton v. Guiliani

It may be too early to tell, but that has never stopped trendspotters, augurers, and pundits...

Traders on the Iowa Electronic Markets, which have been predicting U.S. elections with surprising accuracy for 20 years, are expecting a tight presidential vote next year, with the Democrat narrowly defeating the Republican.

And the most likely match-up? Hillary Clinton vs. Rudy Giuliani.

The non-profit market, run by professors at the University of Iowa in the key early voting state and allowed to operate since 1988 by special permission, is unique in the United States because it is the only one where investors put real money -- small amounts under $500 -- on the line.
It was started by the academics to see if markets, which are good at translating economic and financial information into a price, would be as good at synthesizing political information.

Joyce Berg, an accounting professor and member of the Iowa markets board, said the markets turned out to be better than national polls in predicting the final election results just days before the vote.

They scored even better against polls the farther away they were from the election.
"In just about 75 percent of the cases," Berg said, "the price in the market is closer to the actual outcome of the election than the polls were."

But Berg cautioned the numbers were constantly shifting as new information reached the market. Candidates can surge and plummet.

"It's not like you look in the magic crystal ball and you can see what's going to happen in the future," she said. "It's pulling together all the available information that's out there, saying ... this is what we think is going to happen."

Edwards' Camp Has Fun With Colbert Candidacy

John Edwards' campaign team makes a good point with humor intact --According to Talking Points Memo,

Stephen Colbert went to South Carolina this weekend to promote his favorite-son candidacy, and he extolled the state's virtues and potential.

"In the 19th century, South Carolina was the first to secede. In the 21st we will the first to succeed," said Colbert. "First to secede. First to succeed. I own the copyright on that phrase, if you use it you must pay me a royalty."

The campaign of South Carolina's other native son, John Edwards, is hitting back/playing along. Edwards spokesperson Teresa Wells attacked Colbert for taking the corporate sponsorship of Doritos.

"What is more troubling than his quest for a status his own mother won't grant him (favorite son) are his ties to the salty food industry," Wells said. "As the candidate of Doritos, his hands are stained by corporate corruption and nacho cheese. John Edwards has never taken a dime from taco chip lobbyists and America deserves a President who isn't in the pocket of the snack food special interests."

Iranian Sanctions - Other Issues

Sunday, October 28

New UN Report Card: Humanity Gets an "F"

Whatever we think the most important issues will be for the 2008 election, we are delusional if we don't consider the impacts of humanity on our environment. From Spiegel online:

Dangerously declining amounts of drinking water, over-fished lakes and seas, a warming planet, plus a rising population: A large-scale report by the UN says the world is living beyond its environmental means.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released its first environmental report card in 20 years on Thursday, and the grades are jarring: Despite some praise for certain treaties and reductions, the report blasts the world community for "woefully inadequate" measures and "a remarkable lack of urgency."

In particular, the 550-page report entitled "Global Environment Outlook" (GEO-4) warned that climate change, species extinction, dwindling fresh water supplies and other threats will drastically -- and irreversibly -- alter life on Earth, if global action is not taken.

The program's Executive Director Achim Steiner praised some government and NGO action so far as "courageous and inspiring." But he also said most nations had failed to "recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet."

He summarized the report by saying the world had seen a rise in demand for natural resources over the past twenty years -- coupled with a dramatic loss of them. "That equation cannot hold for much longer," he said. "Indeed, in parts of the world it is no longer holding."

A Tipping Point in Awareness?

The report took five years and 388 scientists to produce and comes 20 years after the last report in 1987. Since then -- on the positive side -- international response to the production of ozone-depleting chemicals has lowered production of those chemicals by 95 percent. Some emissions treaties and carbon trading and offset schemes were also cited by the report as solid steps forward over the last 20 years.

But the report also warns that such efforts have been grossly insufficient, and that countries must make major cuts in emissions by 2050, or the impact will be severe and most likely irreversible. Major cuts here means between 60 and 80 percent, compared to 1990 levels. MORE

Friday, October 26

Democrats Messaging Heartless

Noted linguist, philosopher, and all-around thinking man, Noam Chomsky said, "If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion." Nobody helps us do that better than the Republican party. With "Healthy Forests" that involve clearcutting miles of acres of trees and "Clear Skies" that increase the levels of carbon dioxide emissions leading to faster global warming, the "Way Forward" is well-- "Mission Accomplished." The turn of a phrase has won the hearts and minds of the masses, at least until the 2006 mid-term elections. But, as it turns out, some jackass Democrats want to tear a page out their playbook and get a leg up on their peanut consuming, never forgetting elephant counterparts.

According to The Hill

Democrats are losing the battle for voters’ hearts because the party’s message lacks emotional appeal, according to a widely circulated critique of House Democratic communications strategy.

“Our message sounds like an audit report on defense logistics,” wrote Dave Helfert, a former Appropriations spokesman who now works for Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). “Why are we defending [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program] instead of advocating a ‘Healthy Kids’ plan?”

Helfert sent the memo this week to an e-mail list of all Democratic press secretaries and communications directors after staffers met on Monday to discuss rolling out the Democrats’ latest message.

He said the meeting left him cold because it focused on what polling shows voters want rather than how to present persuasive messages. Republicans have done a better job by developing poll data into focus group-tested messages like “culture of life” and “defending marriage,” along with attacks like “cut and run” and “plan for surrender” in Iraq, he argued.

In particular, Helfert points to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who helped develop the 1994 “Contract with America” and is credited with helping Republicans come up with terms for polices like “Healthy Forests” and “Death Tax.”

“Republicans have been kicking our rhetorical butt since about 1995,” Helfert wrote.
Democratic leadership aides were not impressed, and indicated that the memo did not have a vast and immediate impact.

So, if I understand this, Dems, like the Repubs, want to find better catchphrases to help the rest of us "get with the program." I know words are powerful, but there is something to be said for telling people the truth. As I recall -- actions speak louder than words. Try speaking plainly.

We are waiting for leadership--actions, not just words. You want to appeal to our emotions, show us that you will end the war, take care of our children's health, and keep us safe and employed. As the late Paul Wellstone said, "A politics that is not sensitive to the concerns and circumstances of people's lives, a politics that does not speak to and include people, is an intellectually arrogant politics that deserves to fail.”

Part 2 - City High School Journalism Raises Principal's Hackles

Iowa City has some pretty amazing young people. Andrew Sullivan, the student editor at City High has a great head on his shoulders and should be commended for the heat he has been willing to take for the First Amendment.

The Gazette reports:

The editor of the City High School student newspaper said Thursday the paper will explore discrimination in its next issue despite the school's principal confiscating copies of the paper last week after a front-page story caused racial unrest.

"I think student publications should set a trend and let people know they'll take on controversial subjects," Adam Sullivan, 17, the executive editor of the Little Hawk, said.Sullivan spoke to about 160 student journalists at the Iowa High School Press Association's state conference at the University of Iowa. The high school senior described what he characterized as the censorship of the student-produced Little Hawk last Friday.

He said the next edition of the monthly paper would include stories about students who have faced discrimination."Not only will it cover the issue, but it will give students who feel they were discriminated against a voice," he said.

The paper printed the results of a survey completed by 350 of City High's 1,500 students on race, religion and sexuality. Among the findings was 13 percent of respondents had unfavorable views toward black students, while 2 percent had unfavorable views toward white students.

City High Principal Mark Hanson said he reluctantly removed the remaining papers from the school's halls at 1:30 p.m. after three near-fights over the story between students of different races.

Iowa law prevents the censorship of an official school newspaper unless it includes material that is obscene, libelous, slanderous, or encourages students to commit unlawful acts, violate lawful school regulations or causes the disruption of the orderly operation of the school.

Hanson said Thursday Little Hawk staffers are to meet today with students who question the story's appropriateness.

He said he hopes the student journalists take what they learn from that meeting and last week and use it to create a balanced report.

Hanson, who said he wants the newspaper to operate as normal, did not dispute that City High has racial issues.

"I think there certainly are at our school, as there would be at any school of our size that's as diverse as us," he said.

That diversity has been growing. City High's minority enrollment is more than 26 percent this school year, up from 14 percent in the 2002-03 school year, Associate Superintendent Jim Behle said. By comparison, Iowa's population is 95 percent white, according to the Census Bureau.

Edwards Won't Settle for Business As Usual

John Edwards today announced a plan he said would demand more corporate responsibility, including limits on executive compensation packages and requirements that big businesses operate more transparently.

Edwards said his plan would also restore retirement security for the middle class through tax reforms and savings help, allowing more people to put aside money and purchase stock from companies. He said those companies would perform better for regular workers under his proposed corporate reforms.

"What does Washington do while corporate profits climb and the wealth of the very wealthiest grows _ all at the expense of the vast majority of hardworking Americans? It circles the wagons around the people who are already doing the best," Edwards said in remarks prepared for delivery that were provided to The Associated Press. "Instead of protecting the compact of equal opportunity and shared prosperity, Washington protects corporate profits and hoards prosperity."

Under his plan, Edwards wants to:
_ Require corporations to disclose lobbying activities, political contributions, environmental impacts and government contracts and subsidies.
_ Give shareholders new rights regarding corporate governance, allowing them more say in decisions such as executive compensation.
_ Protect consumers from abusive financial products, such as high-cost mortgages and lines of credit, and payday loans.
_ Modernize labor laws to help workers join unions and bargain for better pay and benefits.
_ Create universal retirement accounts that would require employers to offer savings plans for workers who can't access pensions.

Edwards said it's important to force companies to honor their pension promises. In recent years, he said, about two-thirds of companies have frozen their plans, and many workers are seeing cutbacks in their pensions. Companies also should not be allowed to classify workers as contractors to avoid paying them benefits, Edwards said.

Edwards, who wants to mandate universal health care, said businesses should be required to provide coverage for their workers, or help them purchase coverage.

Thursday, October 25

Paul Wellstone Iraq War Speech

Paul Wellstone "It's Not about Me"

Today is the 5th anniversary of the death of Senator Paul Wellstone, his great wife and partner, Sheila, and their daughter, Marcia in a tragic plane crash as he ran for re-election in 2002.

I wonder what he would make of the current situation in Washington and his colleagues equivocations concerning children's health care (I recall when he said "The welfare rolls may have been cut in half, but not poverty. I don't quite understand how the White House, or any Democrat or Republican, can proclaim this policy a success when we have done so little to actually reduce poverty in our country, especially the shameful poverty of women and children. Rather than all this boosterism, let's have an honest policy evaluation to find out what is really happening to poor families.") .

Glenn Hurowitz and Daily Kos have columns about his legacy that are well worth reading about the popular, progressive Senator from Minnesota.

Fortunately, his legacy lives on through the Wellstone Action. Many people I respect in Iowa City have gone through their training camps and are now walking his walk.

Its ON! January 3rd

Democrats apparently will be joining their Republican counterparts to hold their caucuses on January 3rd, Mike Glover from the Des Moines Register reports via Talking Points Memo.

SCHIP Sailing Again

In a move that is likely to put more pressure on Republicans in Congress and the White House, the NY Times reports:

Sensing a political advantage, Democrats rushed Wednesday to move a health care bill for children back to the House floor, having made minor changes to win over more Republicans.
Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote Thursday on the new bill. Like the original, which President Bush vetoed three weeks ago, it would cover 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and increase spending on the program by $35 billion, for a total of $60 billion, in the next five years.

But the new bill would tighten eligibility for the program, generally barring the use of federal money to cover illegal immigrants, childless adults and children of families with incomes exceeding three times the poverty level: $61,950 for a family of four.

“The bill addresses all of the concerns that were expressed by our colleagues and by the president,” Ms. Pelosi said. “We hope the Republicans will take yes for an answer.”
Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, said the changes would improve the bill and would pick up some Republican votes.

Mr. Upton was among 44 Republicans who voted last week to override the president’s veto of the earlier measure. Supporters fell 13 votes short of the number needed to override in the House. The bill had passed in the Senate with more than the two-thirds majority needed to override. More

O'Reilly, You Are Dead to Me...Not That I Ever Thought You Were Among the Living

Thanks to an e-mail from Justin Cole from Media Matters, I sent my first fiery e-mail to Fox's Uberblabberer, Bill O'Reilly. I have no reason to pay much attention to him, as I usually keep clicking when I see his face, but he made a huge error and needed to be called to task on it.

Not that I expect an on-air retraction, but O'Reilly has really crossed a line when he called John Edwards a "pinhead" declaring that he would abolish anti-terrorism measures if elected President. First, he is dead wrong and second O'Reilly doesn't have the cajones to fess up to his shoddy punditry which he attempts to pass off as news reporting. Of course, he must get pretty dizzy in the no spin zone.

My e-mail to him:

Mr. O'Reilly,

If John Edwards is a "pinhead," you would qualify for the "prick" end of the pin for your statement that he would abolish anti-terrorism measures. In fact, John Edwards has called for bold anti-terrorism measures as Media Matters points out:

From the September 7 speech:

EDWARDS: "It's the right time for a bold new direction.

As president, I will launch a comprehensive new counterterrorism policy that will be defined by two principles -- strength and cooperation.

The centerpiece of this policy will be a new multilateral organization called the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO).

Every nation has an interest in shutting down terrorism. CITO will create connections between a wide range of nations on terrorism and intelligence, including countries on all continents, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. New connections between previously separate nations will be forged, creating new possibilities.

CITO will allow members to voluntarily share financial, police, customs, and immigration intelligence. Together, nations will be able to track the way terrorists travel, communicate, recruit, train, and finance their operations. And they will be able to take action, through international teams of intelligence and national security professionals who will launch targeted missions to root out and shut down terrorist cells.

The new organization will also create a historic new coalition. Those nations who join will, by working together, show the world the power of cooperation. Those nations who join will also be required to commit to tough criteria about the steps they will take to root out extremists, particularly those who cross borders. Those nations who refuse to join will be called out before the world.

It's important to note that CITO is not a panacea, nor will it be perfect. But it would represent the first step in a new direction. As President John F. Kennedy observed when he signed the treaty that first limited the testing of nuclear weapons, we must begin with the common recognition of a common danger. President Kennedy said then, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." Today, this new anti-terrorism organization would be such a first step.

Organizations are only as strong as the people who help make them run, and so we must also improve the quality of our human intelligence -- agents better able to understand local culture and make local connections in countries with active terrorist cells. As president, I will lead efforts to improve human intelligence through 1,000 new annual scholarships to improve language skills for students who pursue careers in intelligence and diplomacy.

A terrorist should not be able to escape detection in Europe or the Middle East if a foreign agency could have caught him with the help of American technology and advice. Within six months of taking office, I will direct the secretary of State, working with the attorney general and other national security officials, to launch comprehensive strategies to support agencies in other countries."

Frankly Mr. O'Reilly, I hope your prediction about John Edwards is wrong, but if it is not, it is because you, like so many in the pundit biz, do not do your due diligence.

Garry Klein
Iowa City, IA

Feel free to fire an e-mail to him.

Wednesday, October 24

To 66,100 Iowans Jobs Are the Chief Issue

The Gazette reports that 1,200 more Iowans are unemployed despite 4,100 payroll jobs in September. With the latest numbers, 66,100 Iowans or 3.9% are looking for work--though in Johnson County, the unemployment rate holds steady at 2.9%.

Iowa's economy produced no job growth in August, and job growth in July was weak. Iowa Workforce Development Director Elisabeth Buck said the stronger September numbers eased worries about a possible economic slowdown. The number of working Iowans climbed to another record in September, but the number of unemployed Iowans also climbed.

The highest unemployment rate for any cities in the state was 6.1 percent in the Fort Madison-Keokuk micropolitan area and the lowest was 2.3 percent in West Des Moines.

To all you campaigners visiting the state, don't forget the economy--what are your ideas to grow it?

Bordering on Deceit

I'm haven't spent a lot of time on the issue of building the Berlin Wall - South in Texas, but apparently those affected by it have. And it might surprise you how they have reacted to the government offering cash for land access.

The AP reports

Feds Scrap Plan to Pay Texas Landowners
Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 2:05pm
EL PASO, Texas

Cold, hard cash is apparently not enough to quell the anger among landowners over a planned fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Opponents of the fence refused federal workers access to their land last month in South Texas. About the same time, the government offered to pay some property owners $3,000 in exchange for permission to conduct surveys for the project.

After many of them balked at the money on principle, the government abandoned the plan.

"I think it's blood money, bribery," said Brownsville Mayor Patricio M. Ahumada Jr.

The proposal to build 370 miles of steel fence is widely opposed in the Rio Grande Valley, the most heavily populated part of the Texas-Mexico border and a region with an economy and culture dependent on cross-border traffic.

The payments were being offered in a region where the median family income is about $30,000. But instead of welcoming the windfall, many residents were outraged when federal officials described the payment plan.

Ahumada, whose border city has already denied fence-planners access to city property, said the payments were insulting and disingenuous.

"The federal government is doing all it can to get access," Ahumada said. "They are thinning the herd (of opposition), so to speak, one by one. These tactics are not unusual when they want to get something done like this."

Dodd Joined by Clinton, Obama

Earlier this month Dodd said, "Today’s report that Verizon provided the Bush Administration with personal information of American citizens absent judicial authorization is deeply troubling. We must be told the full extent of Verizon’s activities and what other private information they have provided to the Bush Administration.

“More troubling still is that the United States Senate would sanction those telecommunications companies that have violated the law and the privacy of our citizenry, enabling this Administration’s assault on the Constitution.”

Open Left and other blogs have been following MoveOn's challenge to the Obama and Clinton campaigns to support Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Biden on a move to filibuster the FISA bill if Telecoms have immunity.

Senator Obama has serious concerns about many provisions in this bill, especially the provision on giving retroactive immunity to the telephone companies. He is hopeful that this bill can be improved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But if the bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form, he would support a filibuster of it.

And here's Clinton.

I am troubled by the concerns that have been raised by the recent legislation reported out of the Intelligence Committee. I haven't seen it so I can't express an opinion about it. But I don't trust the Bush Administration with our civil rights and liberties. So I'm going to study it very hard. As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently.

Florida Taser Case: Officers Actions "Okay"

From the AP via TalkingPoints Memo

University of Florida police were justified in using a Taser against a student who refused to stop questioning Sen. John Kerry on campus last month, according to a state investigation released Wednesday.

Some had questioned the use of force in using the stun gun against student Andrew Meyer, leading to the investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A summary of the agency's report was released Wednesday.

"In short, the FDLE determined that our officers acted well within state guidelines," university President Bernie Machen said in a letter to students, faculty and staff.

Two officers who were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation were reinstated Wednesday, Machen said.

Rob Griscti, Meyer's attorney, said he had not yet reviewed the report and had no immediate comment. The journalism major is known for posting practical jokes online on his Web site.

The scuffle between Meyer and police started during the Sept. 17 speech by Kerry when Meyer refused to leave the microphone after his allotted time was up, police said. The videotaped altercation and Meyer's cries of "Don't Tase me bro!" were played frequently on the Internet.

The report says the officers' intent was to escort Meyer from the auditorium, but he broke away and refused to follow the officers' instructions.

Interestingly, charges against Meyer are still pending.

Rice's Solution to Blackwater Misdeeds--Cultural Awareness Training

This is tough love...NOT!

From the BBC

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has ordered new measures to improve government oversight of private security contractors used in Iraq.

It follows a review by an independent panel ordered after an incident last month involving the US firm Blackwater, in which some 17 Iraqi civilians died.

The steps include tightening the state department's rules of engagement so they are line with the military's.

Contractors will also have to undergo improved cultural awareness training.

There will also be better co-ordination with the US military and tighter restrictions on the use of force.

Boards will be set up to investigate any future killings involving private contractors in Iraq, and will have the power to refer cases to the US justice department.

Contractors will also have to have Arabic speakers on hand.

Bankers End the War!

Here is an idea I hadn't thought of before. Attention patriotic bankers who have loaned the US government money to fight the war--call in your loans!

From Reuters

The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money, according to a study released on Wednesday.

With President George W. Bush indicating a large contingent of U.S. troops likely will be engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years to come, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the total tab for the wars from 2001 through 2017.

CBO estimated that interest costs alone from 2001-2017 could total more than $700 billion.

City High School Journalism Raises Principal's Hackles

In a story that is being covered in the national media, City High School is embroiled over a frontpage survey and editorial in its student newspaper which dealt with a on hate (racism, rel;igious intolerance and homophobia) there. At issue was a frontpage story that referred to a survey of 350 City High students showed that 2 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view toward white students and 13 percent said they had an unfavorable view toward black students, and 28 percent said they had an unfavorable view toward gays/lesbians and transgender students.

According to the Quad-Cities Times, Adam Sullivan, the editor of the award-winning City High Little Hawk said 'I've been on the paper for three years — we've never had a case of censorship before'.

The story, which had previously been reviewed by Mark Hanson, the school's "asked, but did not insist that it not be published."

According to Editor and Publisher, " Jeff Morris, the Little Hawk faculty adviser, said "under Iowa's student press law, school administrators have the right to censor student publications if they deem it a 'substantial disruption' to the school."

Factoid: Iowa's law on student journalists says the publication of a school newspaper can't be stopped unless it contains information that is obscene, libelous, slanderous, or encourages students to break the law, violate school regulations or cause the disruption of the operation of the school.

If Hanson did what he did, it's his call," Morris said. "Obviously, Adam is the executive editor and of course, he wouldn't want (the paper) pulled."

Hanson, spurred by three "near-fights," made the decision to remove the newspaper from the school.

Sullivan said the confrontations over the story show there are racial issues at the school that need to be dealt with.

'I think by pulling the paper, they (administrators) showed they didn't want to deal with it,' he said.

More in the Gazette, Press-Citizen, Daily Iowan

Tuesday, October 23


People, if you can...details at

Are Dems Ready For the Country?

Rural voters are listening to all comers, this is being made crystal clear by turnouts at rural campaign stops. The Reagan Democrats are returning to the fold as their concerns haven't been met by the Conservative revolution.

As the Rocky Mountain News pointed out:

Now, the Republican Party is saddled with an unpopular president with an unpopular war. And on top of that, the party's rural base now faces anxiety over home foreclosures, gas prices, job outsourcing, trade agreements, the growth of corporate agriculture and soaring health care costs.

Democrats see an opening. So they're trying to reconnect with working class folks in rural areas who, especially since the Reagan Administration, have been pulled into the Republican column over cultural issues.

The clamor by rural voters for someone who better represents them plays well to campaigners like John Edwards who spent last week courting voters in places like Lyon county.

Eunice McCarthy, a Democrat at a firehouse event where Edwards spoke, said."After all the things, they may be willing to listen at least. A lot of times you don't brag about being a Democrat, but it's getting better."

Again from the Rocky Mountain News

That could explain the elbow-to-elbow crowd that greeted Edwards at the firehouse -- and the grin Edwards had when he was talking to reporters afterwards."I do have to say, I was remembering the last time I was up here," Edwards said, thinking back to the 2004 campaign. "We had five, seven people..."Times have changed.

Follow-up to Scorning Corning:

The political snubbing for the good folks of Corning, Iowa is over, Joe Biden was there on Saturday and John Edwards will be there on Thursday at Corning High School (Home of the Red Raiders) at 12:15. Factoid: Edwards will have visited all 99 counties in Iowa with this trip--a first for all the candidates, Democrat or Republican.

Hillary: Playing the Gender Card

Hillary is counting on Iowa's sense of pride and fairness to help her win the state. Apparently she feels by drawing a comparison between Iowa and Mississippi in terms of the fact that neither has elected a woman governor, senator, or congressperson due to cautiousness is a way to get voters in her corner.

Speaking to everyone's favorite egalitarian Iowa gadfly, David Yepsen, she said:

"I was shocked when I learned Iowa and Mississippi have never elected a woman governor, senator or member of Congress. There has got to be something at work here," she said, theorizing it may be the risk-averse nature of a state built around agriculture.

"I think not only do I have to bring people to me, I have to maybe reassure people here maybe more than I do in New Hampshire, which has had a woman governor," she said."

I think Iowa poses a special burden, or a special obstacle to me because when you look at the numbers, how can Iowa be ranked with Mississippi? That's not what I see. That's not the quality. That's not the communitarianism, that's not the openness I see in Iowa."

"As well as I do, I still have to go over a much higher hurdle in Iowa than anybody else," Clinton said. (Obama may quarrel with that. Iowa's black population is only 2.1 percent.)

And she may have it easier than other women who have run for office in Iowa. Her target audience is 175,000 people who may turn out for a Democratic caucus, and those folks are a lot more female and liberal than Iowa's general-election electorate.

Of course, it is also true that the US has never elected a woman president and I'm not sure that is due to the "risk-averse" voters in Iowa.

FAIR to Endorse Candiates and Issues

(October 23rd)

Tonight at 7 pm, Johnson County progressive group FAIR! will endorse candidates for Iowa City Council and will discuss endorsing the two referendum items regarding 21-only bar entrance and beefing up of the Police Citizens Review Board.

The meeting is in Meeting Room A of the public library from 7 to 9 pm. Interested persons are welcome to attend. Candidates will be on hand to speak to the group. Members will vote on endorsing candidates and issues.

More information can be found on FAIR's website.

Earley Right on Time

Former Washington Post journalist and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, Pete Earley, spoke to a crowd of about 200 people last evening at the invitation of Eastern Iowa NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) at the Englert Theater. Earley spoke about the plight of the metally ill in the US and the the criminalization of them because of a lack of care for persons with treatable mental illness. In his book, Crazy, Earley speaks from a father's perspective in writing about his own son who has a bi-polar disorder. He spoke of the frustration of just wanting to get help for his adult son when "authorities" told him there was little they could do unless his son was an imminent danger to himself or someone else.

The experience with his son drove him to use his journalism background to research the state of mental illness in the US and what he conveyed to the audience last night is nothing short of horrifying. Read this article from Salon for more.

He spoke about the 9th floor of Miami-Dade County jail and the mentally ill held there in inhumane conditions because there are holes in the system that did not allow people without insurance to be treated in hospitals and a system that removes psychiatric beds because they are "money losers" to allow for more surgical beds which are "money makers." He spoke of prisoners drinking from the toilets because there was not clean water running to the cells and naked prisoners kept in frigid cold conditions because of a poor air conditioning system.
We are relatively fortunate in Johnson county to have a sherriff who believes in alternatives to jailing for the mentally ill, but as a state, we don't do very well by those with severe mental illnesses. In fact, our state in 2006 got an overall rating of "f" for services to the mentally ill according to NAMI's report.

Iowa Stats:
Per Capita Mental Health Spending $73.70 Rank: 27 of 50 states
Per Capita Income $27,575 Rank: 34
Total Mental Health Spending (in millions) $217 Rank: 29
Suicide Rank: 35

To the credit of the state, health care parity rules have made it more likely that those with health insurance to receive services for mental illnesses. More needs to be done:

According to NAMI:

Iowa is experiencing significant problems with an overall lack of inpatient psychiatric beds for people with acute treatment needs. Nationwide, many community hospitals have gotten out of the business of operating psychiatric units - increasing the burden on state hospitals. The few community hospitals that continue to operate inpatient psychiatric units are overwhelmed by demand and do not have enough beds to meet that demand. For example, in Des Moines there are virtually no hospital beds available for people with acute or long-term care needs.

As acute care beds in community hospitals decrease, the number of state hospital beds decrease as well, worsening the crisis. There are only four state hospitals in Iowa right now that can serve patients with serious mental illnesses, a low number when you consider the geographic size of Iowa.

Iowa's mental health system is in serious trouble. The state needs to move forward with a bold restructuring of its mental health system, which should include removal of legal settlement rules and increased access to mental health services that work for Iowa's residents with serious mental illnesses

Monday, October 22

Bush Pushing for $42 Billion More in War Money

From CNN

The Bush administration on Monday asked for an additional $42.3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the 2008 request for total war funding to $189.3 billion.

President Bush says Monday he is requesting billions more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The request comes on top of $147 billion already sought for in the wars. Most of the money goes to Iraq, which is costing the Pentagon an estimated $2 billion a week.

"Parts of this war are complicated, but one part is not -- and that is that America should do what it takes to support our troops and protect our people," President Bush said in an appearance with members of veterans groups at the White House.

Bush said the money will cover basic operating expenses, plus additional armored vehicles and countermeasures designed to protect U.S. troops from roadside bombs.

"Congress should not go home for the holidays while our troops are still waiting for the funds they need," he said.

The president also called on Congress to finish the appropriations bills that fund the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs before lawmakers' holiday recess, set to begin in mid-November.

The request is bound to kick off another debate on Capitol Hill over the course of the Iraq war. Bush's last supplemental spending request led to a showdown with the Democratic leaders of Congress, who pushed for a withdrawal of American combat troops in 2008 -- a demand dropped after the president vetoed the measure.

Frank Cordaro Speaks

On October 5, 2007, peacemaker Frank Cordaro was sentenced to 30 days in jail for the criminal trespass charge that came from his participation in an occupation of Senator Charles Grassley's office on September 21. He joined an effort led by Iowa high school students who are members of the group, Students beyond War.

After being taken into custody, Cordaro was transferred to the Bridewell Detention Center in Bethany, Missouri, where he is serving his sentence. This is his first report from there.

First Report from Bridewell

By Frank Cordaro

October 14, 2007

It's All About the $.

"I want you to know it was a great privilege to act with those young people stand against the unjust, immoral, and illegal war. Any time I serve in jail will only add to that honor and privilege."

I addressed Judge Moisan with these words just before she sentenced me to thirty days in jail for my criminal trespass charge from the September 21 high school occupation of Senator Grassley's Des Moines offices.

Though they are noble words, and I stand by them and the truth they state about the U.S. war in Iraq and the courage of the young people with whom I was arrested. These young people had nothing to do with the severity of the sentence I was given. Sending me to jail was all about the money I owe Polk County.

Since the year 2000, when I was protesting the Iowa National Guard's and the F-16's participation in the U.S.-enforced "No-Fly Zones" over Iraq, to the beginning of the Iraq invasion in March of 2003, to today; I've been convicted eight times for criminal trespass in Polk County. For most of these convictions, I have refused to pay any of the fines and court costs that resulted from these convictions. Added to these fees are additional fees assessed for time spend in jail at the rate of $48/day for an incarceration in December, 2004. If I add to these my per diem fees for my current incareration, I estimate that I will owe Polk County between $4,000 to $5,000 by the time I am released on November 3rd.

It used to be—when I first began getting arrested—that we could tell the judge up-front that we refused to pay any fines, and the judge would send us to jail in lieu of the fines and court costs. You did your time, and that was the end of it.

Today, if you are found guilty, the judge must assess a mandatory minimum fine, court costs, arrest fees and/or any number of potential surcharges in addition to imposing incarceration time. Now however, a criminal trespass conviction carries a minimum $65 fine, court costs, arrest fees, and surcharges that bring the total minimum bill for the crime to $300. There are fees for every institutional contact in the process, even including fees for time spent in community service.

Obviously these "pay as you go" policies are an egregiously unfair burden on the poor. Nowhere is this unjust tax more clearly demonstrated than the $48-a-day fee for being an inmate in the Polk County Jail system. The outrageously potential outcome is that a poor person could be held in jail indefinitely from the inability to pay these accumulating costs.

My biggest concern is that my sentence will serve as a deterrent to others considering joining us in the Iowa Occupation Project. So far those arrested in IOP actions have only received fines and the added charges for their convictions. Whether or not, some judges will begin to impose jail time is unlikely.

However, the impact of good citizens putting their personal liberty on the line has clearly swayed public opinion toward a desire to end the war, and we know that these efforts, as expensive as they may become, are ultimately saving lives. How much is a human life worth?

Since the financial liability is not affordable for many of those willing to risk arrest, saving those lives requires more help from those with the resources to do so. Now, more than ever, the larger peace community needs to step up and support those willing and able to take this risk.

I don't know what I am going to do about my own growing debt. I plan to continue refusing to pay it as a principled position of solidarity with the poor who are disproportionately burdened with these unfair and unjust taxes of the criminal system and by the war itself. Should the day come that paying the debt becomes more prudent than not paying it, I trust that God's providence will supply me with what I need.

This I know. What I lack in money is more than compensated in my richness in friends and family. My most valued asset is my membership in the Des Moines Catholic Worker community. I am abundantly blessed to part of a community of people committed to lives of material poverty and dedicated to their service to the poor. It is a community that values the peace-making and affords me the luxury of being in jail while they continue our work of hospitality and the other works of mercy for which Catholic Workers are so widely known.

I am reminded of something M. Gandhi once said, "It takes a lot of rich people to keep me in poverty."

This is certainly true for those of us who live and work in the Des Moines Catholic Worker community, and for this we remain constantly grateful.

In my next reflection, I intend to share more about life here in the Bridewell Detention Facility in Bethany, Missouri. Please know that I am doing well and stay busy with the challenges placed before me each day in this confined space.


You can donate to a fund for fees for those arrested through the Iowa Peace Network at the link below:

Or you can make donations to the Des Moines Catholic Worker at:

Updates on the Iowa Occupation Project can be found on the web page:

Information about SODaPOP: