Friday, November 30

John Edwards on Front Line of Writers' Strike Unlike Hillary

Edwards Shows he has the Write Stuff...

Iowa Caucus: Animated Edition!

This is a good explanation of the Iowa caucus.

Edwards Rocks the DNC for One America

Take a look at the person who should be our next president. As he points out, the election is not about what happens to him, it is about those who fall in the cracks that our government creates or ignores. And he is right, we need a president who is a fighter--who will fight for and stand with us to improve the country and the world we live in. Watch now.

Thursday, November 29

Putting the "You" in Universal Health Care

After spending this past week with my M.O.M. (Mother On the Mend) in Ohio, I come back with a renewed belief in the need for universal health care (though whether it is a single-payer system or not is open to debate). Between looking at the stacks of papers from the many services she uses and she has to keep straight (thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, she manages) and the twenty or so prescriptions she has to keep track of, it is mind-boggling how she has time to live life in between. I would be thrilled for her or anyone to have this system streamlined.

And check this out from the National Coalition on Health Care
  • In 2005, the United States spent 16 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. It is projected that the percentage will reach 20 percent in the next decade.
  • Although nearly 47 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.
  • Health care spending accounted for 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  • In 2006, employer health insurance premiums increased by 7.7 percent – two times the rate of inflation. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $11,500. The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,200.
I know that the pursuit of universal health care will be an uphill battle. One statistic I looked at showed that the pharmaceutical industry alone has spent 1.2 billion dollars lobbying Congress for its interests since 1998. Health Care lobbying in 2000 was $237 million

For a universal health care system to work well, everybody needs to be in the pool. Some candidates call for mandates and others do not. Mandated health care for children makes complete sense, we want healthy kids and it shouldn't matter if their parents can afford it--it is an investment in all of our futures to insure kids. With adults, there is an expectation that we can make decisions that serve our own best interest...and yet we don't. At least not with health insurance. Those in poor health are more likely to apply for insurance and more likely to need treatments requiring high insurance company payouts. Those with good health may find the cost of insurance too high for the perceived benefit, and some will remove themselves from the risk pool and this keeps the cost up for everybody.

In the European model of universal health care, everyone is mandated to be in the pool and the monies are divided such that those likely to be in poor health are subsidized by those likely to be in good health. Hence, the cost of insurance is affordable and covers even the "riskiest" person. And, yes, it does cost everybody--but isn't democracy about equality?

In the US, industries are hemorrhaging because of the cost of benefits to employees and contribute to the exporting of jobs. Ford Motor Co. spends $3.2 billion a year on health premiums and General Motors that spends more on health than on steel. in 2005, it cost employers in private industry on average $1.64 for health benefits for each hour worked by employees. If we want to protect American jobs, we need to invest in universal health care because it will lighten the load for employers.

If health care is an issue you haven't thought that much about, I encourage you to see what the candidates are saying:

Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton
Chris Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
Barack Obama
Bill Richardson

Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson

Wednesday, November 21

Happy Thanksgiving

Blogging is a fairly solitary endeavor, but it is not without its ample rewards. I want to give my sincere thanks to the small, but loyal group of readers that check in on Popular Progressive on a regular basis (and for you that may be reading this for the first time).

What makes it worthwhile to me are the comments that you offer and the ideas that are generated to make the community, the state, the country, and, dare I say, the world a better place. In my small way, I try to live up to the memory of Paul Wellstone and his belief that "Politics is about doing well for the people." In the grumbling and grousing about those who serve the public good, it is too often forgotten that most are doing their best.

I will be taking a week off to spend time with my family. It is important to say that we really do stand on the shoulders of giants and I wouldn't be who I have become without my Mom and Dad who struggled to provide myself and my three siblings with their version of the American Dream. It is because of those struggles that I see the world through the lenses I do.

I leave you with this. None of us know how long we will be on this planet, so while you are here: If you have the chance to help someone who is without hope to find it, will you take on the responsibility? If there is a wrong that you can help right, will you take it on? If you have the opportunity to make a difference whether it is to a patch of earth, a person, or a set of ideals, will you be brave enough to act?

Know that you can. Those who came before you did. Those who will come after are waiting for your example.

Do and be well.

Tuesday, November 20

Better Advocacy for the Homeless

The story about Sonny Iovino that I posted from the Gazette this morning produced a good question from reader John Neff who asked what would do about our homeless situation. John, since you asked (and I welcome your solutions too!):

I would have trained community advocates who would be called on by either the person in need or by service providers to act on behalf of the person when they were not capable of acting in their own best interest. Similar advocates work in the court system on behalf of children in domestic violence situations such as CASA. The city of Houston has a "Homeless Court" which specializes in addressing the needs of homeless persons who have minor offenses.

The movement to community mental health services has left a gaping hole for those who have no community supports. It seems apparent that a way to help persons with mental illness is to have community trained advocates to help them to find a safe place and to access services that they need when they are unable to care for themselves.

Iowa does not have well organized advocacy for the homeless, as compared to other states, as this directory from the National Coalition for the Homeless shows.

Additionally, we need to have shelter space that is available to those with mental illness and drug/alcohol dependencies. Without basic human services and access to treatment, there is no chance for a homeless person to become productive. This does not mean making a bigger jail. This means affording access to services for those that need them without rolls and rolls of red tape.

We need to close the hole in the safety net, that allows people like Sonny and others to perish.

Judgment or Cracks in the System?: Why Sonny Iovino Died

Who advocates for those who can't do it for themselves? As the story below shows, the buck gets passed in following the letter of the law. I count at least four opportunities to intervene for a man who clearly didn't have the capacity to advocate for himself (due to a treatable mental illness, I'll add).

This courtesy of the Gazette and journalist Jen Hemmingsten.

Two days before Sonny Iovino died of exposure, he was released by a Veterans Affairs Medical Center doctor and turned away from the Johnson County Jail after police repeatedly found him behaving erratically and shedding his clothes.

On the advice of a social worker, police didn't try to take Iovino, 55, to a shelter, according to University of Iowa police incident reports The Gazette obtained.

Medical Center spokesman Kirt Sickels told the newspaper Monday hospital officials did all they could.

"If somebody doesn't want to be treated, you can't treat them," Sickels said. He could not disclose details about Iovino's medical history or immediately get information about Iovino's military service.

The nearly naked body of Iovino, a homeless Vietnam-era veteran who had frequented Iowa City for years, was found under the Benton Street bridge around 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 7. An autopsy confirmed he died of hypothermia.

Advocates say there's little the community can do to help if mentally ill people refuse treatment.

"If they don't want to go and if they aren't committed there's nothing anyone can do," said Gene Spaziani, former chairman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Johnson County. "They're on their own. That's the way it goes."

Reports The Gazette obtained show that, on Nov. 5, UI police found Iovino at 8:42 a.m. lying on the ground near the corner of Burlington and Madison streets. He wore no shoes, seemed confused and talked constantly as he dug in the mulch, the reports show.

"He was lying near the exhaust vent to keep warm," officer Eric Werling reported. "We asked Iovino to leave and he would not respond to our questions, but kept talking and crawling around on the ground."

Police persuaded Iovino to put on his shoes, cited him for trespassing and told him to move. At 11:29 a.m., they were called back to the UI's Lindquist Center and found an agitated Iovino wearing only pants. Again they got Iovino to dress and leave, reports show.

When police were called again less than two hours later, they took Iovino to a psychiatrist at the VA center.

Iovino asked the psychiatrist for medication, but the doctor said he first needed an evaluation. When the doctor asked to take his vital signs, Iovino made what reports called an inappropriate comment. "I take that as a no," UI Police Officer Alton Poole reported the doctor as saying. The doctor released Iovino back to police.

A blood-alcohol test showed Iovino hadn't been drinking, but a medical center social worker said Iowa City's Shelter House wouldn't take him in his condition, reports showed.

The officers arrested Iovino and took him to jail, but deputies there wouldn't take him either. Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek told The Gazette the jail won't admit anyone with an immediate medical need. He said the doctor's note indicated Iovino needed hospitalization for mental illness.

Police cited Iovino for criminal trespass and released him with notice to show up for court on Nov. 20. He signed the charge and left the jail, walking south along Court Street — toward the Benton Street bridge, the reports said.

Monday, November 19

Edwards and Company Raise the Roof

John Edwards, against a colorful backdrop of supporters on the stage of the Opstead Auditorium at City High, made an impassioned speech promising "hope" for those who need health care and "hell" for insurance and "big pharma" lobbyists and Washington politicians who stand in the way of universal health care in front of an auditorium full of supporters and curious undecided potential caucus-goers.

With the crowd suitably warmed up by Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt (with help from Iowa legends Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey, as well as Iris DeMent on a splendid version of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery"), Edwards was welcomed by an over-capacity crowd that overfilled the auditorium. "Elizabeth sends her love" he said to the crowd and then went on to explain how his stand on the war in Iraq, health care, global warming, and campaign financing differed from his Democratic caucus competitors, saying Iowans "ought to know where I stand" as they deliberate who to support in January.

A number of the audience asked questions ranging from his stand on global warming and public education to how he made decisions. Edwards said that he listened to people on all side of an issue to educate himself and believed that, unlike President Bush, he would decide based on what was best for the people, rather than politically expedient as his litmus test.

Edwards, Browne, and Raitt were scheduled to be in Cedar Rapids to conclude a day trip of Iowa which brought them to Davenport and Iowa City.

Aid Begins to Arrive in Bangladesh

In the aftermath of a cyclone that struck Bangladesh and killed as many people as those who perished on 9/11, the world community is promising and delivering aid to address the thousands that have been displaced. More form the AP.

The official death toll from Thursday's cyclone has reached 3,113 after reports finally reached the capital of Dhaka from storm-ravaged areas that had been largely cut off because of washed-out roads and downed telephone lines, said Lt. Col. Main Ullah Chowdhury, an army spokesman.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross, warned the toll could hit 10,000 once rescuers reach outlying islands.

The society's chairman, Mohammad Abdur Rob, said the estimate came from the assessments of thousands of volunteers involved in rescue operations across the battered region.

The country's interim leader, Fakhruddin Ahmed, toured some of the worst-hit areas Monday, handing out food to survivors and promising, "We will help you as best as we can."

Helicopters airlifted food to hungry survivors while rescuers struggled to reach remote areas. The army helicopters carried mostly high-protein cookies supplied by the World Food Program, said Emamul Haque, a spokesman for the WFP office in Dhaka that is coordinating international relief efforts.

International aid organizations promised initial packages of $25 million during a meeting with Bangladesh agencies Monday, Haque said.

But relief items such as tents, rice and water have been slow to reach many. Government officials defended the relief efforts and expressed confidence that authorities are up to the task.

"We have enough food and water," said Shahidul Islam, the top official in Bagerhat, a battered district near the town of Barguna. "We are going to overcome the problem."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that several million dollars were available from the U.N.'s emergency response funds, depending on the need.

He expressed his "profound condolences to the people and government of Bangladesh for the many deaths and the destruction involved, and the full solidarity of the U.N. system at this time of crisis," the statement said.

The government said it has allocated $5.2 million in emergency aid for rebuilding houses. Many foreign governments and international groups have also pledged to help.

The United States offered $2.1 million.

An American military medical team is already in Bangladesh and two U.S. naval ships, each carrying at least 20 helicopters, among tons of other supplies, will be made available if the Bangladesh government requests them, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.

Other governments and organizations that pledged aid include the German government, which offered about $730,000, the European Union with $2.2 million, and the British government with $5 million. France pledged some $730,000, while the Philippines said it would send a medical team.

Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and John Edwards: Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About

At 5 pm this afternoon (Monday 11/19), City High School in Iowa City will become the scene of a rally for John Edwards with special guests Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt (yes, they will be playing!).

I expect this to SRO, so RSVP

Phone: 319-338-7268

If I had my way, Bonnie and Jackson could do this John Prine chestnut...

Sunday, November 18

The FISA-bility of Debate Moderators

Media Matters offers this asssessment

Through 17 debates this year, roughly 1,500 questions have been asked of the two parties' presidential candidates. But only a small handful of questions have touched on the candidates' views on executive power, the Constitution, torture, wiretapping, or other civil liberties concerns. (A description of those questions appears at the end of this column.)

Only one question about wiretapping. Not a single question about FISA.

There has, however, been a question about whether the Constitution should be changed to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to be president.

Not one question about renditions. The words "habeas corpus" have not once been spoken by a debate moderator. Candidates have not been asked about telecom liability.

But there was this illuminating question, asked of a group of Republicans running for president: "Seriously, would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?"

Though Republicans often claim that the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping of Americans is necessary to prevent "another 9-11," debate moderators have not once asked candidates about recent revelations that suggest the administration began its surveillance efforts long before the September 11, 2001, attacks, not in response to them.

But NBC's Brian Williams did ask the Democratic candidates what they would "go as" for Halloween.

No moderator has asked a single question of a single candidate about whether the president should be able to order the indefinite detention of an American citizen, without charging the prisoner with any crime.

But Tim Russert did ask Congressman Dennis Kucinich -- in what he felt compelled to insist was "a serious question" -- whether he has seen a UFO.

No moderator has asked a single question about whether the candidates agree with the Bush administration's rather skeptical view of congressional oversight.

But Hillary Clinton was asked, "Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?"

That last question came from an audience member at the end of the November 15 Democratic debate. It turns out, as first reported by Marc Ambinder, that the questioner would have preferred to ask a substantive question, but CNN only offered her the opportunity to ask about jewelry.

As Ezra Klein has noted, this is particularly shocking in light of the fact that the cable channel has made a big deal about the Clinton campaign planting a question about global warming in an audience recently. Planting questions about the future of the earth? Bad. Prompting someone to ask the first woman to have a legitimate chance of being elected president about jewelry preferences? That's just good television.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time CNN has gotten caught prompting an audience member to ask a frivolous question during a debate. According to a November 11, 2003, Associated Press report:

A college student who asked the Democratic presidential candidates at a debate whether they preferred the PC or Mac format for their computers says the question was planted by CNN.

The news network acknowledged Tuesday that a producer went "too far" in telling Brown University student Alexandra Trustman what to ask.


In an editorial written for the Brown Daily Herald, Trustman said she was called the morning of the debate and given the topic of the question CNN producers wanted her to ask.

Trustman said she was "confused by the question's relevance," and constructed her own question "about how, if elected, the candidates would use technology in their administrations."

But when she arrived in Boston for the debate, Trustman wrote, "I was handed a note card with the Macs and PCs version of Clinton's boxers or briefs question" and told she couldn't ask her question "because it wasn't lighthearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions."

There are few matters more significant to the nation's future than whether the Bush administration's assumption of broad powers once considered to be the domain of dictators rather than presidents will prove to be a temporary condition, like the internment of American citizens during World War II, or the beginning of a sustained slide into totalitarianism, as described in recent books by Joe Conason and Naomi Wolf.

These are serious times. There is no guarantee that the next president will quietly abandon the Bush administration's embrace of torture and wiretapping and detaining people without charging them with crimes. There is no guarantee that the next president will ignore Bush's precedent and treat Congress as an equal branch of government. The political media's shocking indifference to these matters suggests that they think the nation will simply and spontaneously return to normalcy the moment George W. Bush leaves office, governed once again by the laws and principles and freedoms that have long constituted America's essential qualities.

But this is by no means a certainty, and helping Americans understand the approach the various candidates would take to these matters is perhaps the most important thing the media can do over the next year.

It's easy to imagine one excuse some journalists will offer for ignoring these matters: The American people just don't care about habeas corpus and wiretapping. They care about "likability" and whether they'd enjoy having a candidate "in their living room" for the next four years and whether candidates are "comfortable in their own skin." They just don't care about things like the Constitution.

That's bunk. Pure bunk, as recent polls demonstrate.

According to a poll conducted for the ACLU in October, 61 percent of Americans think the U.S. government should have to get a warrant before wiretapping conversations between American citizens and people in other countries -- and 51 percent strongly think that. Only 35 percent think the government should be able to perform such a wiretap without a warrant; only 24 strongly feel that way.

As The Mellman Group, which conducted the poll, explains, there is "both deep and wide" support for the notion that the government must get a warrant before wiretapping phone calls:

Support for this constitutional right is both deep and wide, cutting across every demographic segment. Whether they are old or young (age 60+ 53% warrants required, age 50-59 60%, age 40-49 64%, age 18-39 65%), more or less educated (post-grads 59% warrants required, college grads 61%, some college 63%, high school or less 60%), black or white (black 72% warrants required, whites 58%), upper class or lower (upper/upper-middle 62% warrants required, middle 57%, working/lower 68%) voters favor requiring warrants for government wiretaps of Americans' international conversations. Indeed, there is no segment of the electorate other than Republicans and conservatives among whom support for requiring warrants is less than 53%. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Democrats, 60% of independents, and even 46% of the President's own Republicans oppose tapping Americans' international conversations without a warrant.

Public demand for requiring warrants for government wiretaps of Americans' international conversations also cuts across geography. Large majorities in every part of the country favor requiring warrants: 66% in the West, 61% in the Northeast, 60% in the Midwest, and 58% in the South.

The same Mellman Group poll found that 75 percent of Americans -- three out of four -- think it is important for Congress to "take action now to require the government to get a warrant before wiretapping the international phone calls and emails of American citizens." Just as striking is the intensity of support for this position -- 48 percent of Americans say it is "very important" for Congress to take such action, while only 22 percent say it is "not too important" or "not at all important" (and only 12 percent say it is "not at all important").

The Mellman Group further found that only 28 percent of Americans said the following statement would be a "very convincing" reason to vote against a member of Congress: "The Member voted to make it harder to stop terrorism by requiring the government to get a warrant every time they wanted to wiretap the phone of an American they thought might be helping the terrorists." They added:

Going deeper, we explored whether a vote requiring individual warrants would call into question a Member's commitment to the war on terror. The answer was a resounding no. Just 36% said they would worry that a candidate who "took the view that wiretapping American citizens should require an individual warrant from a court ... was not tough enough to deal with terrorism." A 56% majority would not worry about a candidate's ability to deal with terrorism as a result of such a position.

Another recent poll, this one conducted by Belden Russonello & Stewart, found:

1. Majorities of American voters want the next president to support all five of the ACLU's core initiatives to restore the Constitution -- restoring habeas corpus, closing GITMO, not allowing the president alone to determine who is an enemy combatant, ending torture as U.S. policy, and outlawing eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant.

2. A large number of voters are unhappy that Congress has not done enough to check the president and protect our constitutional rights. Many more voters believe that Congress has not done enough (49%) compared to only one in four (25%) who believe Congress has interfered too much with presidential power, and 24% who believe Congress has done a good job working with the president.

And just this month, a CNN poll found that 69 percent of Americans consider waterboarding to be torture and that 58 percent think the U.S. government "should not be allowed to use this procedure to attempt to get information from suspected terrorists."

The American people take these things seriously. It's time for the journalists who determine what the candidates have to talk about to begin to take them seriously, as well.

At least as seriously as questions about Halloween costumes, UFOs, and jewelry.


Summary of questions about presidential powers, the Constitution, torture, wiretapping, civil liberties, and other related matters:

  • During the May 3 GOP debate, MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked candidates if they would support a constitutional amendment to allow California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who was born in Austria, to be president.
  • During the May 15 Republican debate sponsored by Fox News, candidates were asked whether "enhanced interrogation techniques to include, presumably, water-boarding" should be used.
  • During the July 23 CNN/YouTube Democratic debate, candidates were asked, "Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights?"
  • During the August 5 GOP debate, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked the candidates a question submitted by a viewer: "What authority would you delegate to the office of vice president? And should those authorities be more clearly defined through a constitutional amendment?"
  • During the September 5 Fox News GOP debate, Fox's Wendell Goler asked a question about "ending abortion as a two-step process -- rolling back Roe v. Wade, which would leave it legal in some states, and then a constitutional amendment to ban it nationwide."
  • During the September 5 debate, Fox's Carl Cameron asked about a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
  • During the September 5 debate, Goler asked about wiretapping mosques "even without a judge's approval."
  • During the September 5 debate, Goler asked, "Would you approve the use of torture if you felt it would prevent a terrorist attack?"
  • During the September 5 debate, Goler asked, "[D]o you feel President Bush may have overreached his constitutional authority in some actions after the 9-11 attacks?"
  • During the September 5 debate, Goler asked about the Defense Department's detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.
  • During the September 5 debate, Goler asked, "On the issue of executive power, would you grant your vice president as much as authority and as much independence as President Bush has granted to Vice President Cheney?"
  • During the September 26 Democratic debate, NBC's Tim Russert asked candidates whether they would support a "presidential exception to allow torture."
  • During the October 9 GOP debate, MSNBC's Matthews asked whether it would be constitutional to give the president a line-item veto.
  • During the October 9 GOP debate, Matthews asked candidates if they thought they would need congressional approval to take military action against Iran.
  • During the October 21 GOP debate, Fox's Cameron and Brit Hume asked about a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
  • During the November 15 Democratic debate, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked candidates if "human rights [are] more important than American national security?"
  • During the November 15 Democratic debate, an audience member asked about post-9-11 profiling of "hundreds of thousands of Americans." Blitzer followed up by asking about the PATRIOT Act.

John Edwards Speaks On Energy and Global Warming

Watch Edwards address League of Conservation Voters. He was first candidate with a plan that was endorsed by environmental groups and the first to state honestly that we need a sustained effort to address both Global Warming and alternative energy.

Put Yourself on the Peace Map

Looking for peace, so are all these people...As John Lennon said, "I hope someday you'll join us and the world will live as one." --Pass it on.

Friday, November 16

Clever Clip of the Week: Joe's Right

It seems the less Joe Biden says the better he sounds ;-)~ you'll see in this clip.

What's Up With the Farm Bill, Tom?

Tom Harkin speaks:

As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I was very pleased when my colleagues and I unanimously passed the 2007 farm bill out of committee last month. Our bill - The Food and Energy Security Act - is a forward-looking, fiscally responsible measure that provides new investments in conservation, renewable energy, nutrition assistance and rural development.

While our bipartisan bill passed the committee on a voice vote without a negative vote voiced, it is now stuck at a standstill. Unfortunately, so far, leadership of the minority party in the Senate has been unwilling to work with us to limit the number of non-relevant amendments so that we can pass this bill to move rural America forward.

This bill improves farm income protection and promotes new income opportunities for farm and ranch families – such as in farm-based renewable energy, along with more help to dairy farmers and particularly to specialty crop producers. It boosts economic growth, jobs and the quality of life in our rural communities. It has excellent new initiatives to help restore our national energy security by promoting biofuels and other renewable energy sources and rural energy initiatives. It makes major new investments in helping farmers and ranchers conserve and enhance the resources on their land – to save soil, increase water quality, conserve wetlands and restore wildlife habitat. It will allow low-income Americans to put more food on the family table, and it will help improve the diets and health of kids by providing access to more fruits and vegetables in our schools.

Regrettably, through vetoes and veto threats, the president seems to be setting up a procedural and budgetary train wreck at the end of this session of Congress that threatens legislation that is in the best interests of our country. Our new farm bill must be spared this fate. Be assured that I will continue my fight to get this strong, bipartisan farm bill through the Senate and enacted into law.

I'm In a Nevada State of Mind: From Plants to Pearls

Last night's "Dustup in the Desert" in Nevada showed off a strange side of "we the people." Apparently audience members of the Democratic debate thought they were at a WWF cage match event, as they whistled and booed at candidates' statements. Seemingly CNN ringmasters Wolf Blitzer and John Roberts, not unlike a professional wrestling referees, were oblivious to this.

Clearly it was important to all the candidates to perform well, but to a front-runner, "well" is not good enough. The word to HRC organizers was probably to turn out the troops. And turn out they did. This time instead of planted questions, there seemed to be a potted (if not "planted") audience.

Sour grapes you say? I'll confess that the boos did seem focused on the two-closest-to-Hillary-in-the-polls candidates--John Edwards and Barack Obama. But you tell me, what other debate's decorum was like this?

And what about the final question of the evening? Do you prefer pearls or diamonds? I don't suppose that Dennis Kucinich even minded being passed over on that one--it was such a meaningless softball (right up there with the boxers or briefs question that WJC was asked by an MTV audience some years back).

Despite the theatrics of the evening, it is up to the rest of us to pay attention to what these candidates actually say and to decide which one we believe will be the best leader to win back the White house in November 2008.

Pakistanis to Musharraf: I Want My TV

At the request of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, the government of Dubai has pulled the plug on two Pakistani owned TV stations that operate from there. GEO-TV and ARY Digital both offer a variety of programming, including news, entertainment, sports and music.

Police raided GEO TV in March after it aired live coverage of clashes between police and lawyers supporting Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the independent-minded chief justice who was removed from his post following Musharraf's state of emergency. Equipment was broken and journalists were beaten.

Currently journalists are protesting in the streets of Islamabad and elsewhere to protest Musharraf's strongarm tactics which limit how news may be reported there. The Daily Times reports:

The journalists said the government had asked the owners of the media organisations to sign an undertaking to abide by the code of conduct and two ordinances of the Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), which have not been finalised so far.

The newsmen said the government could not deceive the people by imposing bans on specific popular talk shows and that the government would have to give full freedom to the media organisations to talk about the problems being faced by the people. They said freedom of press meant the freedom of people as the media highlighted the suppression of people who need the attention of the government.

Musharraf had pulled the plug on Pakistani national television stations, but today allowed two of them back on the air (minus their "most popular programmes", according to the Hindu). following talks between the owners of the channels and the government. The channels back on Thursday were Aaj TV and Dawn News. Two international channels, CNN and BBC, were also back.

Cedar Rapids Adopts "Smart-Growth" Rating System

Something governments in Johnson county should consider.

From the Gazette

Come the new year, Cedar Rapids plans to use a "smart-growth" score card to grade development projects brought in front of the city for approval.

Such a move is a new direction for City Hall, and it is intended to encourage developers to design projects in line with the City Council's goals and vision for the city.

In broad terms, the council has talked at length over many months about trying to discourage urban sprawl, which is costly for cities because it requires them to extend police and fire and other services to a wider and wider area. In-fill development that builds in the existing city is less costly to service.

As now proposed, the score card will give a project a score on 32 particular goals in six categories: proximity to infrastructure and city services; protection of the land; housing options; mix of uses; transportation options; and character and design.

"This will be very controversial," City Manager Jim Prosser advised the City Council at its noon discussion Thursday of the proposed development score card. "It certainly will be viewed by some developers as more bureaucracy, more paperwork."

In recent years with other city councils here, City Hall task forces made up largely of members of the development community have focused on streamlining the development approval process. More

Chris Dodd Makes A Good Point

From the CNN Ticker

Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd's Iowa campaign announced that with the addition of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's campaign on Wednesday all the Democratic campaign offices in Iowa–except New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's–have signed on to a pledge asking the campaigns to prohibit their staff or out-of-state volunteers from caucusing.

Dodd's campaign said the point of the letter was to prevent campaigns from registering large amounts of staff — many of whom arrived in the state only months ago — from influencing the results of the caucus.

In a statement, the senator from Connecticut's Iowa state director Julie Andreeff Jensen said, “It’s still confusing and disappointing that the Richardson campaign has refused to join every other campaign in making this commitment. It’s troubling that I am forced to conclude that they are in fact intending to use paid staff to influence precinct caucuses.”

The Richardson campaign first refused to sign the pledge the same day it was created. State caucus director Shari Fitzgerald–a lifelong Iowan, according to the campaign–said, "I have participated in every Presidential caucus since 1972 and refuse to be bound not to caucus for the candidate of my choice by any candidate or their campaign–ever."

Thomas Friedman Column is Genius!

If you have a few minutes, read this Tom Friedman column and then ask yourself--why aren't we doing this?

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
Two dates — two numbers. Read them and weep for what could have, and should have, been. On Sept. 11, 2001, the OPEC basket oil price was $25.50 a barrel. On Nov. 13, 2007, the OPEC basket price was around $90 a barrel.

In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a “patriot tax” on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.

But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. They were all going to let the market work and not let our government shape that market — like OPEC does.

You’d think that one person, just one, running for Congress or the Senate would take a flier and say: “Oh, what the heck. I’m going to lose anyway. Why not tell the truth? I’ll support a gasoline tax.”

Not one. Everyone just runs away from the “T-word” and watches our wealth run away to Russia, Venezuela and Iran.

I can’t believe that someone could not win the following debate:

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: “My Democratic opponent, true to form, wants to raise your taxes. Yes, now he wants to raise your taxes at the gasoline pump by $1 a gallon. Another tax-and-spend liberal who wants to get into your pocket.”

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: “Yes, my opponent is right. I do favor a gasoline tax phased in over 12 months. But let’s get one thing straight: My opponent and I are both for a tax. I just prefer that my taxes go to the U.S. Treasury, and he’s ready to see his go to the Russian, Venezuelan, Saudi and Iranian treasuries. His tax finances people who hate us. Mine would offset some of our payroll taxes, pay down our deficit, strengthen our dollar, stimulate energy efficiency and shore up Social Security. It’s called win-win-win-win-win for America. My opponent’s strategy is sit back, let the market work and watch America lose-lose-lose-lose-lose.” If you can’t win that debate, you don’t belong in politics. More

What Writers Do When They Are On Strike...And The Media Companies Who Love Them

From You Tube (who is being sued for $1 Billion dollars)-- a humorous look at worker's rights...

Edwards Press Conference (After Nevada Debate)

"I think we have had too many politicians and not enough leaders."

Thursday, November 15

Another Post-Game Analysis: Jefferson/Jackson Dinner

Caucus Countdown: Dems' fundraising dinner offers preview of race to caucus finish line

By Chris Dorsey

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards did exactly what they needed to do -- give energizing and crowd-pleasing speeches -- Saturday night at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

With both candidates trailing New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in Iowa and in national polls, they seized their opportunity on the state and national stage to garner new support as well as secure existing backers going into the final weeks of the caucus contest.

After discussions with party insiders and some of the 9,000 people in attendance, the consensus seemed to be that the candidates who have generally polled in the top three -- Clinton, Edwards and Obama -- all did well, with Edwards and Obama excelling in particular. Among the other three candidates -- Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson -- the crowd seemed to be moved the most by Dodd and Biden, but not enough to significantly affect their chances in January, interviews afterwards suggested.

The Dem fundraising dinner traditionally marks beginning of the stretch run to the caucuses, and that's even more true this year with the early January caucus date. More television ads will start hitting the airwaves and campaigns are making their final push to garner support.

"This is the official beginning of the stretch drive," a Democratic insider said. "All the teams are beefed up with staff and advertising dollars. This is where everybody at the top are having targets put on their backs. The gloves will definitely come off."

The week leading up to the Nov. 10 dinner gave Iowans a taste of what things will be like through the end of the year, with a flurry of campaign visits across the state. According to an tally, the six candidates who spoke Saturday night spent a combined total of 25 days in Iowa in the seven days preceding the fundraiser.

Four years ago the 2003 Jeff-Jack Dinner saw the emergence of Sen. John Kerry in Iowa. He used the momentum gained from the IDP event to secure a win in the 2004 caucus, overcoming one-time frontrunners Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt in the process. Dean and Gephardt launched television ads attacking each other, then watched as Kerry and Edwards finished first and second on caucus night.

"It will be interesting to see if campaigns will be more clever," a campaign source said. "Will candidates (be on the attack) or handle it through surrogates?"

If her speech Saturday is any indication, it doesn't look like Clinton's planning on attacking right now. Early on she discussed need to focus criticism on Republicans, not on other Democrats, and to focus attention on the nation's problems. However, Clinton did have veiled references to Obama in her speech, arguing that "change is just a word if you don't have the strength and experience to make it happen."

Though neither Edwards nor Obama mentioned Clinton by name, both challenged her indirectly on lobbyist fundraising, foreign policy and other issues. It's an indication of the direction their campaign strategy could take over the next seven weeks.

For some time Obama's camp has signaled that it's ready to directly challenge Clinton and that's just what he did Saturday night. Obama criticized "triangulation" and "poll-driven positions," reiterated that he had not voted for the war in Iraq and criticized the influence of lobbyists in government.

Edwards, who has seen his lead in the Iowa polls dwindle away this year, may have reinvigorated supporters with a fiery speech that featured more criticism of lobbyists' influence on government. He was passionate and emotional as he promised to give America hope and give entrenched interests "hell.'' He highlighted his work as a lawyer, saying he had repeatedly beaten special interests in court and that he would do it again as president.

IDP Chairman Scott Brennan called the event the most successful Jefferson Jackson Dinner in history. As they work to catch up to Clinton, Edwards and Obama are hoping their speeches mark a historic turning point in the 2008 caucus race.

-- Dorsey is the Des Moines bureau chief for the non-partisan political news site To learn more about the Iowa caucuses and the field of Democratic and Republican candidates, go to

Congratulate Chet Culver But Tell Him No To Coal-Fired Plants

Courtesy of Mark Kresowik, Iowa Organizer, Midwest Clean Energy Campaign and National Coal Campaign along with Mike Carberry of I-Renew and many others who are fighting global warming and for sustainable renewable energy.

This is a historic day in the battle against global warming in Iowa and the Midwest. Today six Midwest Governors and the Premier of Manitoba, including Iowa Governor Chet Culver, signed a regional greenhouse gas reduction accord and agreed to lower global warming pollution 60% to 80% by the year 2050.

"I am very pleased Democratic and Republican Midwest Governors, along with Premier Doer of Manitoba, were able to come together to support such a worthy goal," said Governor Culver. "The threat of global warming is real and it is our responsibility to take steps to reduce greenhouse gasses… Iowa's leadership in renewable energy, combined with our strong manufacturing base, makes us perfectly situated to become the renewable energy capital of the nation."

Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said:

"Today the Heartland went from being a part of the country at the center of America's global warming problem to a region eagerly seeking to take the kind of bold, visionary action that is needed to combat the problem… It is particularly important that these Midwestern governors move to take aggressive action on this issue, as the Midwest is the epicenter of the Coal Rush. Though we have been successful in slowing the Coal Rush, it could yet derail all efforts to reduce our emissions for decades to come. Kansas' decision to reject a future wedded to dirty coal sets a strong precedent that we very much hope will be followed by other states in the region. The region stands to gain over 289,000 new manufacturing jobs if it makes a real commitment to renewable energy—a far better deal for the environment and the economy than anything on offer from Big Coal."

It is now our turn to take action - as citizens of Iowa and advocates for a new clean energy economy that reduces global warming pollution, lowers energy costs through energy efficiency, and bolsters job creation through renewable energy. We need you to do one or more of these things at the local, state, and national level to support Governor Culver and the Sierra Club's efforts in Iowa.

1) Call Governor Culver at 515-281-5211 to thank him for his support of this accord and ask him to prevent the construction of two new dirty coal burning power plants in Waterloo and Marshalltown. If built those two plants would eliminate all of the good work that Governor Culver is trying to accomplish by emitting as much carbon dioxide every year as the entire passenger vehicle fleet of the State of Iowa, more than 1.6 million cars. Now is the perfect time to call!

2) Join with your community members in taking action to protect the environment and create a clean legacy for future generations:

Global Warming Campaign Special Meeting - Cool Cities/Counties Next Steps
Monday, December 3rd, 7:00 PM
Iowa City Public Library Meeting Room B, Iowa City
For more information on this and other activities contact Mike Carberry at or Jim Baker at

3) On January 3rd Iowa will host the nation's first caucus and play a pivotal role in selecting the next President of the United States. There are great ways to support a clean energy economy through this process and you can start now by contacting Andrew Snow of the Sierra Club team in Iowa at or 515-331-0260.

4) This Saturday, November 17th, Iowans will be joining other advocates from across the region for a rally in St. Louis, Missouri to celebrate the Midwest Governors accord and call on Peabody Coal, the largest coal company in the world, to take action to fight global warming and stop supporting new coal burning power plants. Contact Juliana Williams of the Sierra Student Coalition at for more information about free transportation and the event.

Stunning Conclusion: Solution for Homelessness? Affordable Housing, Employment, Health Care

According to a new Gallup poll released by Fannie Mae (FNM/NYSE) today, more than nine in ten Americans (92%) believe more effort is needed across the nation to address the issue of homelessness, and nearly a third (28%) of Americans indicate they were at one point concerned that they may not have a place to live.

The survey also reveals that 48% of Americans indicate lack of affordable housing is a major cause contributing to homelessness, and 45% believe home foreclosures are a major factor. Also, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans believe job loss/unemployment is a major factor contributing to homelessness, while more than half (51%) think that the inability to pay medical expenses is a major contributor.

"It is clear from this poll that Americans are very concerned about homelessness and do not feel enough is being done to address this critical issue." said Stacey D. Stewart, Senior Vice President of the Office of Community and Charitable Giving at Fannie Mae. "There needs to be greater attention directed towards preventing and ending homelessness. Fannie Mae is committed to providing real solutions through permanent supportive housing and has invested more than $4 million in grant funding this year."

Other key findings include:

* A strong majority (58%) of Americans think the number of homeless people is increasing compared to ten years ago and only 6% of Americans believe the nation is doing a very good job in dealing this issue.
* 71% agree that many homeless people could get back on their feet and become self sufficient with proper housing.
* 44% of Americans indicate they have taken in a friend or relative who was facing homelessness had shelter not been provided.

"In our nation's capital, we know all too well the challenges that face our homeless neighbors and have been working hard to provide solutions," said District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. "We applaud Fannie Mae for raising awareness about the issue of homelessness and their commitment to helping solve the problem."

Through Gallup, Fannie Mae also polled people in the eight cities that partnered with the Fannie Mae Foundation to raise awareness and funds through the Foundation's 20th Annual Help the Homeless Walkathon on November 17. This year, the Fannie Mae Foundation's Help the Homeless Program has expanded to include Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Each of these cities has engaged organizations and civic leaders to help address the unique issues surrounding homelessness in their local communities.

Some key city specific findings include:

* 71% of Seattle respondents believe homelessness in the nation is increasing compared to ten years ago, the most in any of the seven cities.
* 50% of the respondents in the cities believe the inability to find affordable housing is a major factor people might be homeless.
* Over 75% of all the respondents in the cities agree that communities should construct more affordable housing to serve all its citizens.
* 70% of the respondents in Denver and 68% in Boston believe their community is doing at least a good job in addressing homeless issue.

"Homelessness is one of the major challenges facing our nation and we need to do all we can to support the solution of permanent housing," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "I was pleased to see that Bostonians are personally committed to this cause as 84% of those polled in the city said they would be willing to make a donation to an organization working with homeless people. It is with community involvement, increased federal support, and committed organizations like Fannie Mae that we can make a difference in addressing the issue of homelessness."

The general population survey of 1002 adults was conducted from September 4 through October 17, 2007 with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. The city specific survey of 3216 adults (approximately 400 in each metropolitan statistical area for each of 8 cities) was conducted from September 4 through October 17, 2007 with a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

For more information including the full poll reports, please visit

Wednesday, November 14

Watching the Wedge Grow

As I have discussed before on this blog, immigration policy will likely be used as this presidential election's #1 wedge issue. As NY's Gov. Elliott Spitzer has learned, when there is a political football to be kicked, even the folks on the sideline jump in the game.

Spitzer said he wanted to act because of the failure of the federal government to deal with immigration policy and the impact that failure was having on New York.

"I would suggest to you what everyone already knows, " Spitzer said. "The federal government has lost control of its borders. It has allowed millions of undocumented workers to enter our country and now has no solution to deal with them."

So, because there are no simple solutions, rather than actually deal with immigration policy straight on, candidates from both parties will be praised or pilloried depending on where the pundits and public sit--and, as I have said before, there are strange bedfellows who want to influence those sentiments.

In a survey by political scientists Dr's. David Redlawsk and Caroline Tolbert at the University of Iowa in April said 84.9 percent of Democrats and 96.1 percent of Republicans believed that the candidates' stance on immigration is a "very" or "somewhat" important factor in who gets their vote.

The poll also showed that Iowa voters favor "earned citizenship" over other immigration reform options. Earned citizenship was defined as allowing undocumented immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens if they meet certain criteria, such as learning English and paying back taxes.

Earned citizenship was favored by 56.9 percent of Democrats and 56.7 percent of Republicans. UI political scientists found this level of agreement surprising, given the extensive media coverage of anti-immigration sentiment.

So where do the candidates stand? The non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations provides the following

The rise of globalization, combined with growing concerns over security and terrorism, has transformed immigration into an issue with significant foreign policy implications. In the 2006 midterm elections, immigration emerged as a significant issue in a number of campaigns, although it is not clear how decisive a role it played. The importance of a reformed immigration policy in a broader homeland security strategy has made it a major subject of debate in the 2008 presidential election. This debate escalated recently surrounding the controversial immigration reform legislation that would have granted temporary guest status to millions of illegal immigrants. That bill stalled in the Senate June 7, 2007 after a cloture motion was rejected, although nearly all of the presidential candidates currently serving as senators voted for that motion.

Democratic Candidates on Immigration

Joseph Biden, Jr. More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Immigration is not listed as a priority issue on the campaign website of Sen. Biden (D-DE). As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden has focused efforts on the problems in Iraq. He said in November 2006 that Mexico’s corruption, inequality, and its “erstwhile democracy” (AP) are to blame for illegal immigration.

Along with most of his colleagues in the Senate, Biden voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. He also voted for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which he said "enhances our control over the border, allowing us to better deal with future illegal immigrants as well as drug traffickers and potential terrorists." He also supported the act because it provided a path to legalization for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.

Biden opposed an amendment (FOX) to the recent immigration reform bill that would have prevented criminals from becoming citizens. That amendment failed.

Hillary Clinton More from On the Issues Campaign Website

As a New York senator, Sen. Clinton's voting record on immigration has been mixed. In May of 2006, she voted in favor of the Senate Immigration Reform Bill (PDF), which allowed for the establishment of a guest-worker program, increased border security, including a virtual wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. That bill, which never made it into law, also established criminal penalties for immigrants who illegally enter the country and those who employ undocumented workers. Clinton voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006 but against the separate amendment making English the country’s official language. That bill, which was largely viewed as an anti-immigrant action (Washington Times), eventually passed.

Like Biden, Clinton opposed an amendment (FOX) to the recent immigration reform bill that would have prevented criminals from becoming citizens.

Christopher Dodd More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has expressed uneasiness regarding some of the commonly proposed immigration reform initiatives, including a border fence and a blanket guest worker program. Dodd voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, though, he said in a conversation with Felix Rohatyn at the Council on Foreign Relations, “I’m uneasy about these walls being built, although I understand the American public’s appetite for security.” He also voted for the comprehensive Senate Immigration Reform Bill of 2006, though he criticized the bill for including conflicting provisions with regard to the English Language, “one of which,” he said, “could result in some of our own citizens being denied full participation in our society and opportunities to improve English proficiency.” He also said in May 2007 that he is not comfortable with a "blanket guest worker program" (DesMoines Register), though he said he is not opposed to it necessarily.

Dodd voted for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program in 2006, which grants federal aid to states with a disproportionate number of incarcerated illegal immigrants. Dodd also voted in favor of a failed “compromise amnesty” proposal in April 2006, which would have increased the allotted number of visas for foreign workers.

Dodd opposed an amendment (AP) to the 2007 immigration reform bill that would have prevented immigrants with a criminal record from becoming citizens.

John Edwards More from On the Issues Campaign Website

The former senator of North Carolina, a state which has experienced a major jump in immigration in the past fifteen years, is in favor of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. At a public event in North Carolina in September 2006, Edwards told the audience that solving the illegal immigration problem “is not rocket science,” and went on to argue that walling off the border is not the solution. Rather, he believes that there should be a path to citizenship (Greensboro News-Record) for illegal immigrants that includes learning English and paying fines. Edwards co-sponsored the Save Summer Act of 2004, which would have increased the legal limit on H-2B visas for seasonal nonagricultural laborers by forty thousand.

Mike Gravel More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Gravel favors a guest worker program and supports providing illegal immigrants with a path to legal status. Gravel cites of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a primary cause of the immigration problem. He has said that attempting to deport all the illegal immigrants would be equivalent to Andrew Jackson's "Trail of Tears" campaign against the Native Americans.

Dennis Kucinich More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) has generally supported amnesty for illegal immigrants and has called immigration in its current state “a system that is really a form of slavery."

Kucinich was against most of the key immigration bills that his Democratic colleagues voted for, including the Secure Fence Act, the Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006, and the Border Security Bill of 2005, among others. With Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Kucinich co-sponsored the Family Unity Legalization Act, which would grant legal status to those who have been living in the United States for over five years. The act was not passed.

Barack Obama More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Sen. Obama (D-IL), the son of a Kenyan immigrant, has spoken out on immigration and voted on numerous immigration bills since taking office in January 2005. Obama, whose Illinois constituents include a high percentage of Mexican immigrants, voted against the English as a National Language Amendment in 2006. Obama proposed three amendments that were included in the Senate Immigration Reform Bill last year, including one that mandates that jobs be offered to American workers at a “prevailing wage” before they are offered to guest workers. Another of these amendments makes it a requirement that employers are able to prove that their workers are all legally permitted to work in the United States. His third amendment grants the FBI $3 million a year to improve efficiency for background checks on immigrants applying for citizenship. Obama has also called for sweeping amnesty for illegal immigrants. However, he voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Obama opposed an amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill of June 2007 that would prevent immigrants with a criminal record from gaining legal status (AP).

Bill Richardson More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Richardson’s perspective is distinct among candidates because of his Mexican upbringing. As governor of New Mexico, he declared a state of emergency (CNN) on his state’s 180-mile border with Mexico in an attempt to halt smuggling of illegal immigrants and drugs in 2005. On the other hand, Richardson spoke out against the plan to build a fence on the Mexican border, saying it “gets in the way” (AP) of U.S. relations with Mexico. He has argued that border security on both sides of the border is inefficient, and has demanded increased federally funded border security (PBS). In a speech at Georgetown University in December 2006, Richardson criticized criticized proposals by House Republicans for mass deportations.

Republican Candidates on Immigration

Rudolph Giuliani More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Giuliani supports some type of path (NYT) to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “If you have twelve million people, to thirteen to fourteen to fifteen million that are here illegally, it is much easier for terrorists and drug dealers to hide,” he said recently. He also said that he is in favor of a border fence and a database with which to keep track of all immigrants. Giuliani opposed the recent Senate immigration deal, which he called a "typical Washington mess."

As former mayor of the large immigrant melting pot of New York, Giuliani has sought to balance a law-and-order approach with practical measures to handle the illegal immigrant problem. Giuliani has said that House legislation making illegal immigration a felony punishable by up to five years in prison “could not possibly be enforced.” (NYSun) He has said he backs comprehensive immigration reform, as envisioned in the Senate’s 2006 bill.

As mayor of New York City, Giuliani opposed a law (NYT) that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security, food stamps and health care benefits.

Mike Huckabee More from On the Issues Campaign Website

The former Arkansas governor has openly sympathized with the needs of illegal immigrants. He has advocated prenatal care for pregnant immigrants and has proposed a scholarship program for illegal immigrants who graduate from Arkansas high schools (Arkansas News Bureau). He also criticized a 2005 federal immigration raid (AP) in Arkansas. Huckabee has expressed support for amnesty for illegal immigrants under some conditions. In an interview with ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos, he said, “We should have a process where people can pay the penalties, step up and accept responsibility for not being here legally.” He added: “The objective is not to be punitive. The objective is to make things right.” He has also expressed support for some type of barrier along the border with Mexico.

John McCain More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Sen. McCain (R-AZ) has been a moderate voice who supports both increased border security and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. McCain was the only GOP candidate (FOX) to support the recent immigration reform bill.

He was also a co-sponsor of the Senate Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which called for establishing a guest-worker program as well as setting up a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. At a May 2007 debate with Republican presidential candidates, McCain defended his position in this way: “(W)e've got to enforce our border. That's our first and foremost priority. But we also have to have a comprehensive solution and it has to be bipartisan. And I believe we're close to reaching that, and that's what the American people expect us to do.”

McCain voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006. With John Edwards, among others, McCain co-sponsored the Save Summer Act of 2004, which would have increased the legal limit on H-2B visas for seasonal nonagricultural laborers by forty thousand.

Ron Paul More from On the Issues Campaign Website

On the Texas Congressman’s campaign website, Paul stresses the importance of secure borders and lists a six-point plan for immigration policy that says the U.S. must secure borders, enforce visa rules, and end birthright citizenship. Paul is against amnesty and “welfare for illegal aliens.” Paul voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Mitt Romney More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Romney has generally taken a hard-line approach to illegal immigration. He spoke out against the comprehensive immigration reform bill that stalled in Senate (NYT) in June 2007, calling it "a form of amnesty." (ABC)

Romney says the United States should implement an "enforceable employer verification system" using biometrically-enabled identification cards (PDF) for non-citizens. On the Bill O'Reilly Show in 2006, Romney said, “you have to have a tamper-proof document to make sure that people who are here [and] are aliens are identified and registered, and people cannot hire them unless they're here legally.”

As the governor of Massachusetts, Romney received Washington's approval to allow state troopers to enforce federal immigration law (BosGlobe) and arrest illegal immigrants.

Romney advocates cutting federal funding illegal immigrant "sanctuary cities." This has been a key talking point of his campaign rhetoric, and he has often criticized Giuliani, (FOX) saying he turned New York City into such a sanctuary during his time as mayor.

Romney opposes amnesty measures.

Thomas Tancredo More from On the Issues Campaign Website

A former chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) has focused his campaign on combatting illegal immigration. Newsweek has called the Colorado congressman the “loudest, angriest voice against the estimated 11 million illegal aliens now living in the United States.” Tancredo adamantly opposed the recent Senate immigration bill, which he called "the worst piece of legislation to come down the pike in a long time." He criticized the idea of amnesty (WashPost), saying “it rewards people who have broken the law, and makes a mockery of our legal system.” Tancredo also co-sponsored a bill that would deny “birthright citizenship” to the children of illegal immigrants, despite concerns that such a law would violate the 14th amendment.

Fred Thompson More from On the Issues Campaign Website

Thompson emphasizes tougher border enforcement to impede illegal immigration and opposes a path to citizenship for the estimated twelve million currently in the country illegally. He was critical of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that stalled in Congress in 2007. “We should scrap this ‘comprehensive’ immigration bill and the whole debate until the government can show the American people that we have secured the borders—or at least made great headway,” he said in May 2007.

He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, and supports increased border security. In 1996, Thompson voted in favor of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which provided for additional border security personnel. It also made penalties for immigration document fraud and smuggling more stringent.

NY Times Poll: Top Three Tied in Iowa

According to CNN

It's a dead heat among the top three Democratic presidential candidates in the crucial early-voting state of Iowa, according to a new CBS/New York Times poll out of the Hawkeye State Wednesday.

Less than 50 days before Iowa voters kick off the presidential primary process, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, holds a statistically insignificant 2 percentage-point lead over former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (25 percent to 23 percent.) Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is only 1 point behind at 22 percent. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson registered 12 percent and the rest of the field is in single digits.

But nearly half of those backing the top candidates said they may change their mind before caucus day, an indication the final outcome of the presidential season's first caucus is extremely unpredictable.

Tuesday, November 13

Clinton Campaign: Edwards = Bush--Huh?

This is odder than a UFO sighting via CNN

In a sign of the increasingly bitter feud between the leading Democratic presidential contenders, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign Monday accused John Edwards of acting like President Bush and dividing Democrats.

On Saturday, Edwards, while campaigning in Iowa, criticized the Clinton camp for planting a question in the audience, saying the practice is "what George Bush does."

"George Bush goes to events that are staged, where people are screened, where they're only allowed to ask questions if the questions are favorable to George Bush and set up in his favor," the former senator from North Carolina said.

But it is Edwards who is acting more like the sitting Republican president, the Clinton camp says.

"What George Bush does is attack Democrats and divide the country," Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said Monday. "Sen. Edwards' campaign resembles that more and more every day."

Other "dividers" include Barack Obama who also sniped gently at Clinton, "I'll let Sen. Clinton answer for her campaign," Obama told reporters. "When I go into a town hall meeting, I never know what questions to expect and that's a good thing, because the people of New Hampshire should expect that their candidates are going to hear what's on the voters' minds and not what's been concocted by the candidate's staff."

Sen. Chris Dodd, when asked about Clinton's staff planting questions, said, "It's not a terribly wise thing to do."

Pentagon Budget Overages Okay, Money for Jobs, Health, Education Not So Much...

From Market Watch

President Bush vetoed legislation Tuesday funding federal health and education programs, marking the latest turn in an ongoing budget fight with the Democratic-led Congress.

"The bill is nearly $10 billion over the president's request and is filled with 2,000 earmarks. He will call on Congress to take out the pork and reduce the overall spending level and return it to him quickly," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush traveled to Indiana to deliver a speech on the budget.

Democrats said Bush lacks credibility on budget issues. The $606 billion bill -- which would provide funding for the departments of labor, health and human services, and education -- passed the House of Representatives just three votes short of a veto-proof majority.

Headlines from the War

On October 24th, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the two 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.

Today, Washington Post and the AFP say a new study by congressional Democrats estimates the economic costs could send the price tag of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ballooning to 3.5 trillion dollars by 2017, Democrats warned. This report estimates the conflicts “hidden costs,” which include oil prices, interest payments on money borrowed to pay for the wars and treating wounded veterans. "The full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall U.S. economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported." Through 2008, it is estimated that the combined wars will cost a family of four $20,200 in taxes.

On the brighter side...

The U.S. military is sending 3,000 soldiers home from Diyala province, the second large unit to leave Iraq as troop levels are cut after a 30,000-strong "surge" earlier this year.

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, will not be replaced by a new unit when they leave the ethnically and religiously mixed province north of Baghdad by January, military officials said on Tuesday.

Instead, troops from the larger 4th Striker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, located near Baghdad, will take over the area, said military spokeswoman Major Peggy Kageleiry. There are around 162,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the Pentagon said.

About 2,200 Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit left western Anbar province in late September under President George W. Bush's plan to cut troop levels in Iraq.