Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Monday, December 31, 2007

Report from the campaign trail

Over at the Daily Kos, Golden Treasure has this report from Iowa:

Edwards events are drawing huge, enthusiastic crowds. I went to an Edwards event yesterday evening in Knoxville, 25 miles east of here. Based on the fact that Knoxville is small (population 7,800), largely Republican, and has been trending among Democrats towards Clinton (the County Dem. Chair has been campaigning for Clinton for months), turnout was expected to be about 150. Based on the number of chairs that were set out and filled (280) and at least 50 people standing, Edwards staffers literally had their jaws drop at the size of the crowd.
I timed the speech and counted the number of times that applause forced Edwards to either pause or raise his voice. In 23 minutes, he was interrupted 11 times, with many other instances of lesser applause. My personal favorite among the applause lines (and this is a paraphrase): "No corporate CEO is any better than any of you." The crowd gave him a standing ovation at the end of the formal talk, and then again at the conclusion of the 25-minute Q&A session. Incredibly, among those standing and applauding were at least fifteen Republicans who came to the talk and have told former Kossack AnthonySF that they intend to change their registration to caucus for Edwards.
Every evening in the Indianola office, we tally up the results of our phone calling and canvassing. The most significant number is this: when we look at the likely caucus-goers who told the campaign in the past that they were undecided and who are now committing to a candidate, 60% are committing to Edwards. Since the 40% who are committing to others are split among Clinton, Obama, and others (Richardson, Biden, Dodd, Kucinich), this is a truly significant movement towards Edwards.
Last week - before I left New Mexico - I heard the talking heads on Meet the Press say that Obama and Clinton are worried about Edwards in Iowa rather than each other. From what I've seen, in terms of organization, enthusiasm of volunteers, and response of Iowans, they have reason to be worried.
Edwards' stump speech talks a lot about corporate control and the need for a president who feels in his gut the need to take on the corporations and political powers - but I repeat myself - that have been running the country, as opposed to one who has figured out in his head that it's important to say that. He definitely speaks with passion, and we can all hope that he speaks with real commitment, because if he can turn the enthusiasm he is generating in Iowa into a national force, we may yet have someone to vote for rather than against in a presidential election.

I find this deeply encouraging-- the mere fact that a Daily Kos diarist has taken the trouble to come all the way from New Mexico to Iowa, and do some last-minute campaigning, is fantastic. The enthusiasm John Edwards generates is, as the diarist points out, a positive one. I feel good about what Edwards could do as our President, he is far more than the least bad candidate, he is the most inspiring progressive candidate out there. We'll soon see if all the hard work of all these fired-up volunteers pays off in Iowa!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why we need to resist the warmongers!

Wartime brings the ideal of the State out into very clear relief, and reveals attitudes and tendencies that were hidden. In times of peace the sense of the State flags in a republic that is not militarized. For war is essentially the health of the State. The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of man, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. Its idealism is a rich blood flowing to all the members of the body politic. And it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned. The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing down to the lowest level of the herd, and to its most remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or a military defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become - the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men's business and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, toward the great end.... Joining as it does to these very vigorous tendencies of the individual - the pleasure in power and the pleasure in obedience - this gregarious impulse becomes irresistible in society. War stimulates it to the highest possible degree, sending the influences of its mysterious herd-current with its inflations of power and obedience to the farthest reaches of the society, to every individual and little group that can possibly be affected. And it is these impulses which the State - the organization of the entire herd, the entire collectivity - is founded on and makes use of.... In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas.... Only when the State is at war does the modern society function with that unity of sentiment, simple uncritical patriotic devotion, cooperation of services, which have always been the ideal of the State lover.

Fortunately for us today, the American people have grown to know the state dominated by the Cheney/Bush junta, and this familiarity has bred well-deserved contempt. Yet in these dangerous times, following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, the war-mongers will be out in force, attempting, as always, to turn our sense of unease into an argument for us to surrender our liberties. We must harden our resolve to continue exposing the crimes of our so-called "leaders" in the executive branch, and call to account those in our other branches who would obstruct this search for justice. Let your representatives in Congress know that you're watching what they do. If they can't accept the need for impeachment hearings, they must at least be brought to see the vital importance of greatly increased oversight.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

IRS on the FraudEx Case

The situation at FraudEx continues to worsen for their Ground and Home Delivery units:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 22, 2007) - The U.S. Internal Revenue Service delivered the latest massive blow – which could wind up costing upwards of $1 billion - to FedEx’s scheme of misclassifying thousands of Ground and Home Delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, lawyers for the drivers said today.
FedEx disclosed the IRS decision, including the $319 million levy in fines and penalties, in its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It also revealed that while the decision only involves the tax year 2002, the IRS is looking at subsequent tax years. It is likely that the IRS assessment will top $1 billion after more recent years are added to the 2002 tally. The IRS ruling came during a week in which the Massachusetts Attorney General issued an opinion stating that FedEx ground/home delivery drivers in that state should be reclassified as employees and fined the company $190,000 in penalties. Its investigation continues.
FedEx’s practice of avoiding tax liabilities and foisting its operating costs onto its drivers has been under continuous attack at the state and federal level for several years. The IRS and the Massachusetts rulings are just the latest.
Class-actions lawsuits by drivers who have been victimized by FedEx’s practices have been multiplying across the country. Over 50 suits have been consolidated already in federal court in South Bend, Indiana. Lynn Rossman Faris, Esq., a lead counsel for the drivers in these actions said, “The IRS decision is another milestone in this long battle. It is wholly justified and totally consistent with every thorough investigation of the FedEx "independent contractor" model. The IRS action is further validation that FedEx has been perpetuating a sham to conceal the fact that the drivers are actually FedEx employees who have been exploited to the huge monetary benefit of the company.”

You can read the rest of this press release here. Lynn Faris is right to call this a "long battle." Yet, after years of struggle on the part of drivers and their attornies, it does seem that FraudEx's misdeeds are finally starting to catch up to the company.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Cheer

This contribution of Tom Tomorrow gives us good reason to sigh, as well as chuckle. I'm optimistic the Iowa caucuses will launch John Edwards on the road to the White House! Merry Christmas everyone!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Krugman's take on populist tide

Paul Krugman has an interesting analysis of why John Edwards seems to be winning the "electability" race in the Democratic Presidential primaries campaign:

There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now. For example, a recent Democracy Corps survey of voter discontent found that the most commonly chosen phrase explaining what’s wrong with the country was “Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington.”
And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide. The latest evidence came from focus groups run by both Fox News and CNN during last week’s Democratic debate: both declared Mr. Edwards the clear winner.

People in this country are simply fed up with the greed and corruption that infects so much of what goes on in our nation's capital. Krugman is absolutely right when he suggests that the surest route, to a Democratic landslide in 2008, is to rally behind someone who has spent his entire career fighting big-money interests-- John Edwards.

I've read more than a few bloggers, sympathetic to Edwards, criticize his campaign for operating under the truly cumbersome restraints that go along with receiving matching federal funds. These criticisms miss the whole point of Edwards' appeal. Its not about raising huge mountains of cash-- something Senators Clinton and Obama are able to do better than John Edwards-- its about rousing huge numbers of voters that don't have a lot of cash. These voters, liberal, moderate, and conservative alike, are united in their strong desire to have their own champion in the White House. Edwards understands this, and that is the reason he has the best shot of becoming our next Democratic President.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sen. Dodd strikes a nerve

Here's our Commuter and Thief at his latest press conference:

I'm also disappointed that Congress failed to pass legislation to ensure that our intelligence professionals can continue to effectively monitor terrorist communications. Those of us in public office have no greater responsibility than stopping new attacks on our country. And this summer, Congress passed a bill that -- called the "Protect America Act," which strengthened our ability to collect foreign intelligence on terrorists overseas. The bill closed dangerous gaps in our intelligence; it was a good piece of legislation. It wasn't perfect, but it was good. Unfortunately, Congress made this law effective until February 1st of 2008, as if the terrorist threat is going to go away on February the 1st, 2008.
The first priority of Congress when it returns in the new year must be to pass a good bill and get it to my desk promptly. They have a duty to give our professionals the tools necessary to protect the American people. The bill should include liability protection for companies that are facing multi-billion-dollar lawsuits, only because they are believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend our nation following the 9/11 attacks. And it must ensure that our intelligence professionals have all the tools they need to keep us safe.

The fear-mongering won't work with any of us citizens who are paying attention. Retroactive immunity to giant telecoms who enabled illegal spying on U.S. citizens has nothing to do with "monitoring terrorist communications," and everything to do with protecting Cheney/Bush and their minions for being held accountable for their crimes.

Likewise, the "Protect America" act is not focussed only on "terrorists overseas," but rather gives the Cheney/Bush junta broad powers to intercept any communication between any American and any foreign telephone number!! We all need to redouble our efforts-- in supporting folks like Sen. Chris Dodd, and Senator Russ Feingold, when they bravely stand up to the Bush/Cheney enablers in their own party, who are only too willing to give Bush/Cheney the totalitarian "tools" they crave. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of our liberty!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Massachusetts AG is on the FraudEx case

BOSTON – The Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley has assessed penalties of more than $190,000 against FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. for intentionally misclassifying 13 drivers as independent contractors rather than as employees. The Attorney General’s Office cited FedEx Ground for violating the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law by misclassifying the drivers, failing to provide a proper paystub, failing to provide workers’ compensation, not paying overtime to certain drivers, and neglecting to deduct and withhold state income taxes. In addition to the penalties, the citations require FedEx Ground to rectify the violations and provide restitution to the 13 drivers.
“Our office places a high priority on the proper classification of individuals in the workplace. The practice of misclassification does great harm, not only to misclassified workers and to the Commonwealth in the form of lost revenues, but also by putting law-abiding businesses at a disadvantage,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “We intend to pursue aggressively employers such as FedEx Ground when they violate the Commonwealth’s Independent Contractor Law.”
The Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law provides that an individual performing any service shall be considered to be an employee unless: (1) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under his or her contract for the performance of service and in fact; and (2) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and, (3) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.
Attorney General Coakley’s Office commenced an investigation into the practices of FedEx Ground during the summer of 2007 after receiving a driver’s complaint. Investigators concluded that FedEx Ground intentionally violated all three prongs of the Independent Contractor Law by directing and controlling the activities of drivers and restricting the drivers’ ability to deliver for any other entity. In addition, the investigation found that the drivers are performing the core business of FedEx Ground.
By misclassifying the drivers, FedEx Ground deprives their drivers of health care benefits, access to unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation benefits, and in some cases, overtime pay. In addition, FedEx Ground deprives the Commonwealth of tax revenue by not deducting and withholding taxes from employee pay checks.
At least 400 drivers work for FedEx Ground throughout the Commonwealth and FedEx Ground has terminals in Billerica, Northboro, Wilmington, West Bridgewater, and on Martha’s Vineyard. The Attorney General’s investigation into FedEx Ground is ongoing.
Upon receiving the citations today, FedEx Ground has 10 days to inform the Attorney General’s Office whether it intends to appeal the citations. An appeal would be heard before the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA), an administrative agency within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Joanne Goldstein, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Fair Labor Division, Assistant Attorney General Lillian Hirales, and Inspector Scott Simpson of the Fair Labor Division.

While its unclear what sort of impact this may have on the national class-action lawsuit recently certified by Judge Miller in Indiana, it is certain to be very bad news for the FraudEx legal team.

This action, coupled with the clear statement that an investigation is ongoing, moves beyond earlier state and federal actions that challenged the legality of the FraudEx misclassification scheme. This is not narrowly confined to an individual's right to unemployment benefits, or a single terminal's right to hold a union election. No, this action suggests that the Commonwealth of Massachussets deems the entire statewide operations of Fedex Ground package systems to be illegal. We'll have to stay tuned for further developments!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

12/19 Christopher Dodd - Comments After the FISA Victory

Senator Dodd has some kind words for us troublemakers out here in the netroots!!

Sen. Feingold weighs in...

Here's a brief excerpt from Sen. Russ Feingold's statement on the floor of the Senate during the historic mini-filibuster of Sen. Chris Dodd:

Mr. President, the stakes are high. I want my colleagues to understand the impact that the Protect America Act and the Intelligence Committee bill could have on the privacy of Americans. These bills do not just authorize the unfettered surveillance of people outside the United States communicating with each other. They also permit the government to acquire those foreigners’ communications with Americans inside the United States, regardless of whether anyone involved in the communication is under any suspicion of wrongdoing.
There is no requirement that the foreign targets of this surveillance be terrorists, spies or other types of criminals. The only requirements are that the foreigners are outside the country, and that the purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, a term that has an extremely broad definition. No court reviews these targets individually.
Only the executive branch decides who fits these criteria.
The result is that many law-abiding Americans who communicate with completely innocent people overseas will be swept up in this new form of surveillance, with virtually no judicial involvement. Even the Administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program, as described when it was publicly confirmed in 2005, at least focused on particular terrorists. What we are talking about now is a huge dragnet that will sweep up innocent Americans

Senator Feingold hits the nail on the head when he uses the term "dragnet." How many academics planning an international conference want the government to listen in on their phone calls? Importers/Exporters? Simple tourists? Its patently absurd to suggest that we should just surrender our privacy rights in such a wholesale fashion.

You can read more of Sen. Feingold's statement here. Its too bad more Senators didn't show the same awareness of this issue's importance.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Warmth of Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)

Today our local paper had a story about a program that benefits a lot of folks up here in Rhode Island during the winter months: LIHEAP. The Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program was on the chopping block, because Bush didn't feel that keeping poor Americans from freezing deserved the same resources as a week spent chasing our tails in the bloody quagmire of Iraq. Fortunately our Senior Senator, Jack Reed, was on the case.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
By Timothy C. Barmann,Journal Staff Writer

Despite a prediction of record winter heating costs, congressional leaders and White House officials have agreed to allocate roughly the same amount of money as last year for federal heating assistance.
The agreement, which was contained in a bill expected to be voted on by the House last night, would provide a total of $2.57 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, according to Sen. Jack Reed....

Even though the money won’t go as far this year, Reed said, the agreement to provide $2.57 billion was a victory of sorts, because President Bush’s budget had called for funding of $1.8 billion.
“We have prevented the president from gutting the program,” Reed said in an interview. “His intent was to cut it back dramatically and we prevented that.
“We’ve got the opportunity now to at least maintain the basic grant, and also go after contingency funding. This is a battle we fight year in and year out.”
Reed said the agreement was reached after four or five days of “sensitive negotiations” between the House leadership, the Senate leadership and the White House.
Reed said he and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, have been lobbying for increased funding for the federal heating assistance program. They weighed in with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, during the negotiations, Reed said.
He said he doesn’t expect any major changes in the bill by either the House or the Senate.
“This deal is one of these things, if you pull out one of the cards, it might collapse,” Reed said.
Assuming the bill passes both chambers and is signed by the president, Reed said, he’ll press forward on getting the president to release the contingency money.
“We’ll make the case relentlessly that higher prices and colder weather requires the president to release the contingency funding,” Reed said.

Thank goodness we still have some decent folks left in D.C., like Sen. Jack Reed, who continue to fight the good fight in determining the priorities of this wealthy nation. Warmth, not warmongering, we could say in the case of Sen. Jack Reed, who continues to be one of Cheney/Bush's toughest critics on Iraq.

Monday, December 17, 2007

From the Chris Dodd political blog:

Constitution Protected... For Now

posted by Matt Browner-Hamlin, Campaign Blogger on December 17, 2007 - 7:48pm

Majority Leader Harry Reid has just pulled the FISA bill from consideration in this session. It will be brought up at some point next month.
Without Senator Dodd's leadership today, it is safe to assume that retroactive immunity would have passed.
This is a great victory for the American people. His outspoken opposition to retroactive immunity and the Intelligence Committee's FISA bill made it impossible to move forward now. From a process standpoint, that took the persistent shadow of a Dodd filibuster on this legislative process, a "hold" against any legislation that included retroactive immunity, and today, a refusal to grant unanimous consent to rules of debate that would have made it harder to strip retroactive immunity from the Intel Committee's bill through the Dodd-Feingold Amendment. He brought along some of the Senate's most passionate voices -- Senator's Feingold, Kennedy, Boxer, Wyden, Brown and Bill Nelson joined him to stand up to the President today.
Throughout the day Senator Dodd stood on the Senate floor and spoke out against the Bush administration's abuse of executive powers. He spoke out against granting retroactive immunity for telecom companies who helped the Bush administration spy on Americans without warrant - noting that if we grant immunity now, we may never know the full extent of what happened behind closed doors and what arguments were used to justify warrantless surveillance.
For now, the FISA debate is over. It will come up again down the road, but for now everyone who supported Senator Dodd's leadership against retroactive immunity and supported his promise to filibuster should be proud of their work to defend the Constitution and the rule of law...

This is truly a historic moment, we all owe Senator Dodd a debt of gratitude. Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty!! This is a moment to be savored, a time when big-money interests found unexpected resistance from a man who stood by his principles. The big-money interests will be flooding through the halls of power again tomorrow, make no mistake. Yet maybe this one instance of bravery will stiffen the spines of others on Capitol Hill-- and give them the courage needed to do the people's work.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mr. Dodd goes to Washington

Patrick Henry, ca. 1776

After witnessing the craven cowardice of Harry Reid and others in the U.S. Senate, it is refreshing to see that at least Sen. Chris Dodd from Connecticut has a little fire in his belly! Filibuster away my friend... the telecom giants shouldn't be given blanket immunity for aiding and abetting the Bush/Cheney administration's intolerable invasions of our privacy.

If the good Senator from the Nutmeg State is looking for some rousing words, to fill up the long hours on the floor ahead, he could do a lot worse than Patrick Henry:

Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands... Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation.

A nice summary of the issues involved in this FISA bill, and a call to act in support of Sen. Dodd's brave resistance can be found over at Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rep. Wexler Wants Cheney Impeachment Hearings

Let's hope Nancy Pelosi is listening!!!

Impeach Cheney?

Here's the conclusion of a nice op-ed piece that you won't see published in the New York Times or the Washington Post:

A Democratic Congress can show that it takes its constitutional authority seriously and hold a sober investigation, which will stand in stark contrast to the kangaroo court convened by Republicans for President Clinton. In fact, the worst legacy of the Clinton impeachment – where the GOP pursued trumped up and insignificant allegations - would be that it discourages future Congresses from examining credible and significant allegations of a constitutional nature when they arise.

The charges against Vice President Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the actions of this Administration, and deserve consideration in a way the Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a majority support hearings according to a November 13 poll by the American Research Group. In fact, 70% of voters say that Vice President Cheney has abused his powers and 43% say that he should be removed from office right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to catch up.Some people argue that the Judiciary Committee can not proceed with impeachment hearings because it would distract Congress from passing important legislative initiatives. We disagree. First, hearings need not tie up Congress for a year and shut down the nation. Second, hearings will not prevent Congress from completing its other business. These hearings involve the possible impeachment of the Vice President – not our commander in chief – and the resulting impact on the nation’s business and attention would be significantly less than the Clinton Presidential impeachment hearings. Also, despite the fact that President Bush has thwarted moderate Democratic policies that are supported by a vast majority of Americans -- including children’s health care, stem cell research, and bringing our troops home from Iraq -- the Democratic Congress has already managed to deliver a minimum wage hike, an energy bill to address the climate crisis and bring us closer to energy independence, assistance for college tuition, and other legislative successes. We can continue to deliver on more of our agenda in the coming year while simultaneously fulfilling our constitutional duty by investigating and publicly revealing whether or not Vice President Cheney has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Holding hearings would put the evidence on the table, and the evidence – not politics – should determine the outcome. Even if the hearings do not lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is important for the sake of history. For an Administration that has consistently skirted the constitution and asserted that it is above the law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using it.

Written by Reps. Robert Wexler (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) of the House Judiciary Committee, this piece was rejected for publication by the Miami Herald, as well as the Post and the Times.

The mainstream media will never succeed in stifling the American people's outrage over the criminal abuses of power by Dick Cheney. These hearings are the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Like taking medicine from a baby...

Today our Commuter and Thief took a break-- from plotting to drag our country into another disastrous war of aggression-- to take a firm stand against helping uninsured children obtain medical coverage:

President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the popular program.It was Bush's seventh veto in seven years _ all but one coming since Democrats took control of Congress in January. Wednesday was the deadline for Bush to act or let the bill become law. The president also vetoed an earlier, similar bill expanding the health insurance program.Bush vetoed the bill in private....

You can read the rest of Jennifer Loven's AP report here. Perhaps the most sickening aspect of this whole thing is that supporters of the legislation actually bent over backwards to make substantive changes-- in order to meet Republican objections to the former bill. I mean, why did they bother? You're dealing with an administration dominated by pathological liars, after all. These are the folks who put the "con" into compassionate conservatism!

The rationalization sometimes offered for these SCHIP vetoes is that Bush wants to show his fiscal restraint. Ha!! This is the guy who pushed us into the Iraq quagmire so deep that we're throwing millions down the same rathole every day with nothing to show for it. No, anyone who inherits a budget surplus and rapidly racks up a huge deficit isn't going to impress folks with his "fiscal conservatism" anytime soon! I'd rant some more, only my insurance probably wouldn't cover me in case I really blew a gasket!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Electable Edwards

The other day I called attention to an Iowa newspaper editorial endorsing John Edwards, and argued that they were correct to emphasize his electability in explaining their choice. If he's right on policy, and can beat the Republicans, what's not to love? Well it turns out this electability thing is not just the product of us Edwards supporters' fevered imaginations. CNN's polling director Keating Holland tells us:

On the Democratic side, Edwards performs best against each of the leading Republicans. In addition to beating Huckabee by 25 percent and McCain by 8 percent, the North Carolina Democrat beats Romney by 22 percentage points (59 percent to 37 percent).
While the survey shows McCain and Edwards performing best in their respective fields, both candidates continue to significantly trail their parties' front-runners significantly. In the national horse race numbers released Monday, McCain trails Giuliani by 11 percentage points, and Edwards is behind Clinton by 26 percentage points.
"Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans, and McCain is the only Republican who beats any of the three Democrats," Holland said. "Some might argue this shows that they are the most electable candidates in their respective parties.
"But Edwards is in third place among Democrats, and McCain is in fourth place on the GOP side. Maybe electability is not as important as it was in 2004."
The poll, conducted between Thursday and Sunday, surveyed 912 registered voters. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage point.

Electability is more important now than ever! With the Rethugs likely to try every trick in the book (with Diebold's help)-- we need a candidate who will crush his opponent by large enough margins to make rigging the outcome very difficult, if not impossible. Edwards in 2008!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Al Gore in Oslo

Here is Al Gore, accepting his Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, Norway:

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now.
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.
Even in Nobel's time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, "We are evaporating our coal mines into the air." After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth's average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day....

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act? "
Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
So let us renew it, and say together: "We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act."

Please take the time to read the rest of this fine speech here. After you've read it, think about how you plan on rising, and acting, to save our planet.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

20071207 - senator sheldon whitehouse - part 2

This stuff is dynamite!! It's a bit long, but well worth hearing!

20071207 - senator sheldon whitehouse - part 1

This video, unlike most that I post here, is completely serious. Our own junior Senator from Rhode Island has eloquently and forcefully defended our Constitution on the Senate floor.

A more likely story

The other day I expressed a faint hope that the recent release of the NIE, downgrading hype of Iran's supposed nuclear weapons program, might signal that lil'Bush was finally standing up to Uncle Dick Cheney on a matter of substance. The more likely explanation is that offered by Dr. Steven Jonas over at BuzzFlash:

So what's really going on here? As reported on BuzzFlash, Seymour Hersh believes the BushCheney Regime has been sitting on this intel for a year. So why does it come out now, and indeed why at all? In part, it's because the military absolutely does not want another war on its hands, especially one it cannot win. But it goes further than that. Since the release of the Iraq Study Group Report a year ago, it has been apparent there is a battle between Cheney and Jim Baker, each representing a major branch of the U.S. power elite. The Cheney wing clearly wants Permanent War abroad, among other things to support the imposition of fascism at home. The Baker wing clearly doesn't want either. His ISG Report pointed the way out of the Iraq mess, with a major emphasis on diplomacy, not any kind of "surge." BushCheney went the other way because their objectives are entirely different. This new shot across the BushCheney bow clearly has more power behind it, because it comes primarily from the Pentagon. Gates is a Baker man, there are lots of generals and admirals over there, and nine of the 16 intelligence agencies that sign off on the NIEs are in the Pentagon.
This report is not the product of some rogue, unhappy mid-level bureaucrats. Cheney and his power elite faction ain't done yet, but he is going to have to circle the wagons closer and deal with the fact that the military have clearly told both him and Bush that they ain't going to war in Iran

Thus we see more of a smackdown of lil'Bush and Uncle Dick Cheney, by Jim Baker and other elder Bush cronies, and less of a real recognition on lil'Bush's part that Cheney could be wrong. Either way, I sure ain't going to relax until a new Democratic President is inaugurated in January, 2009.

Connecting with small-town America

In an earlier post I pointed to the "electability" factor in my decision to support John Edwards for President. This is what distinguishes him from, say, Dennis Kucinich, who has equally progressive policy positions on nearly all of the issues I care about. Edwards simply does well in small-town, "red-state" type environments. A strong piece of evidence for that was just given to us in the form of an endorsement from a small-town Iowa newspaper, The Valley News Today:

There are many reasons why we're supporting John Edwards as the Democratic nominee for President - not the least of which is his proven ability to unite voters from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Unlike his Democratic challengers, Edwards' support doesn't come from a single demographic, but rather from all demographics.
Simply put, he represents the best of what this country has to offer.
If given the opportunity, we believe the former senator from North Carolina will work tirelessly to fight for the little guy as he has done for the past 30 years.
As the only Democratic candidate with rural roots, Edwards knows first hand about the daily trials and tribulations of the working poor. As a result of his upbringing, he has by far the most specific, most progressive and most far-reaching ideas to improve our nation.
Born the son of a blue collar mill worker, Edwards learned about the importance of hard work and perseverance from his parents, who taught their son to roll up his sleeves and fight for the things he believed in.
That tenacity helped push him to become the first member of his family to attend college - eventually earning a law degree from the University of North Carolina.
For more than two decades, Edwards dedicated his career to representing the little guy. He earned a name for himself as a lawyer by his willingness to stand up against - and ultimately defeat - the powerful insurance industry and their armies of lawyers.
His passionate advocacy for people like the folks who worked in the mill with his father earned him respect and recognition across the country.
Twenty years later, he's still championing the cause of the little guy by being an outspoken advocate against poverty.
In the 2004 campaign, Edwards brought the plight of the working poor to the front of our American conscience by speaking out about the "two Americas" - one for people at the top who have everything they need and one for everybody else who struggle to get by.
Edwards' powerful message continues to resonate with voters all across America - particularly in Iowa where he has spent the past four years crisscrossing the state to bring his message to each of our 99 counties.
As a result of his time spent here, we believe he has developed a true understanding of what matters most to us.
Among other things, he has vowed to create a true universal health care system that covers everyone in America, brings down costs, and creates more choices and security.
And if Congress won't cooperate, he has promised to do everything within his power to take away their own government-provided health care.
John Edwards is a family man who, if elected, will be the first president since John F. Kennedy to bring young children with him to the White House.
And we think that's a good thing.
Each morning when he rises, he will have his children, Jack and Emma, to remind him how important each decision he makes really is to our future generations.
Edwards isn't afraid to speak out against the political machine that has corrupted our system for years and has pledged as a candidate to refuse contributions from Washington lobbyists - a personal decision that is an important first step towards true campaign finance reform.
In an unusually strong field of contenders, Edwards is by far the least polarizing of the other top tier candidates and will clearly provide Democrats the best chance of defeating the Republicans next November.
Vote for John Edwards on Jan. 3.

Let's hope Iowans are listening!!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Walking for Justice

This story has already garnered a lot of national attention, while here in New England it has become a source of pride for many...

AP, Dec. 1, 2007

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. - John Nirenberg has waterproof sneakers, a bright yellow poncho and a plan. He also has outrage in his heart and much of his retirement savings tied up in his cause.
The 60-year-old author and academic plans to walk from Boston to Washington, D.C., to confront House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in hopes of persuading Congress to take up the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney....

He plans to hit the road Sunday, leaving from Faneuil Hall and walking 15 miles a day until he gets to Capitol Hill, stopping at the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall and other symbolic locations as he makes his way to the U.S. Capitol.
Wearing a "Save the Constitution, Impeach Bush and Cheney," sandwich-board style sign, Nirenberg hopes to rally support for an issue Pelosi has said is no longer on the table.
"This is about satisfying my conscience. I just don't want to be the guy who says in five years that I regret not having stood up and said something.
"With a name like Nirenberg, you're very sensitive to that kind of environment," he said, referring to the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.
Nirenberg, a New York native who was a member of the Civil Air Patrol as youth and later served in the U.S. Air Force, was a social studies teacher, college professor and organizational consultant. A former dean at the School for International Training, in Brattleboro, he has also written three books.

In October, frustrated by what he sees as constitutional abuses by the Bush administration, Nirenberg decided to "activate my citizenship" and do something about it.
He settled on marching, set up a Web site and made cards, pencils and literature in support of his plan. He has accepted donations and plans to wear the names of his supporters on yellow 6-by-24-inch panels hanging off his body as traverses U.S. 1 through eight states and into the District of Columbia, walking six hours a day.
With one supporter riding along in a car and another occasionally walking with him, Nirenberg plans to stop for events with anti-war and impeachment advocates along the way.
Among them is Stuart Hutchison, 49, an actor and producer from Wayne, N.J., who is trying to organize a Statue of Liberty event with Nirenberg while he treks south.
"People like him are the real heroes," said Hutchison, an impeachment activist. "These are the people who are going to save this country...."

Stuart Hutchison is absolutely right on the money. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, putting principles over their own private comfort. That was the spirit in which this country's democracy was founded, and that is the spirit in which it may be restored.

To learn more about John Nirenberg's journey visit his website: http://www.marchinmyname.org/

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Nearly sixty years ago the United Nations, following the invaluable leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, agreed to the principles set forth below:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, therefore,The General Assembly
This Universal Declaration of Human Rights
as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Article I
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Article 8
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 13
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 15
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Article 16
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 17
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 21
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Article 22
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Article 27
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Article 28
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Article 29
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 30
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
G.A. res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at 71 (1948)
All of us U.S. citizens need to bear in mind that the Cheney/Bush junta routinely violates not only our own Constitution, but the most fundamental principles governing all peoples, everywhere in the world. All of these articles are important, not just those banning torture... FraudEx and WalMart routinely violate Article 24!!
As the presidential campaign heats up, I would love to see more candidates measure themselves according to this sixty-year old yardstick. Dubya and his war-criminal cronies have demonstrated that security cannot be won by indiscriminate violence. It is high time we return to leadership by example, set our own house in order, and make the world a truly better place.

National Intelligence Estimate

Former CIA man Robert Baer has this assessment of the recently revealed National Intelligence Estimate, that suggests Iran does not now have an operation in place actively seeking to build nuclear weapons. According to Baer's piece in Time:

Bombing Iran, it seems, is now off the table. There's no other reasonable take on the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concludes Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

But there is also no doubt that the Bush White House was behind this NIE. While the 16 intelligence agencies that make up the "intelligence community" contribute to each National Intelligence Estimate, you can bet that an explosive, 180-degree turn on Iran like this one was greenlighted by the President.

And explode is what the hawks in and outside the Administration are about to do. They were counting on Bush being the one President prepared to take on Iran. As recently as last month, Bush warned of World War III if Iran so much as thought about building a bomb. Bush's betrayal is not going to go down well. The neocons, clinging to a sliver of hope, will accuse the intelligence community of incompetence, pointing out that as late as 2005 it estimated "with high confidence" that Iran was building a bomb.

Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, put the best face on the new report, claiming that it was our diplomacy and saber rattling that forced the Iranians to back down. As for the intelligence community, it explained its reversal by hinting that new intelligence had surfaced.
Neither explanation is entirely accurate. The real story behind this NIE is that the Bush Administration has finally concluded Iran is a bridge too far. With Iranian-backed Shi'a groups behaving themselves, things are looking up in Iraq. In Lebanon, the anti-Syrian coalition and pro-Syrian coalition, which includes Iran's surrogate Hizballah, reportedly have settled on a compromise candidate, the army commander General Michel Suleiman. Bombing Iran now would upset the fragile balance in these two countries. Not to mention that Hizballah has threatened to shell Israel if we as much as touch a hair on Iran's head.

Let's hope Mr. Baer is correct. If our Commander and Thief has decided to stand up to Dick Cheney in this instance then we should indeed give thanks. Myself? I'm going to have to wait and see...

VideoVets: Peter Granato

As the drumbeats continue for starting a new war with Iran... let's listen to a veteran of the war in Iraq.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Investors losing confidence in FraudEx?

Perhaps the troubles at FraudEx will not be swept under the rug for very much longer. The Corporate headquarters for Fraudex are located in Memphis, Tennessee. Here's what that town's paper had to say recently about investors' wary eyes turned towards the nationally certified class action lawsuit:

What surprised Wall Street is the degree that FedEx seems have been caught off guard. Nov. 16, when it downgraded its earnings projections 5 percent for the rest of the quarter and fiscal period, the share price fell like the New Year's ball in Times Square, closing at $96.80, the lowest since February 2006.
"FedEx has a reputation in the investment community of being very much on the ball for having visibility into their business for a quarter or so in advance," said Satish Jindel, transportation analyst in Pittsburgh. "Because of the systems they have in place, you don't expect such change to come between quarters at FedEx."
Seasoned investors jumped on the chance to buy FedEx at a bargain rate. But when UPS didn't offer a similar downgrade, people wondered what was going on at FedEx, Jindel said.
"That contributed to the drop in the share price," he said.
The question for investors now is whether earnings for the second quarter will be on par with predictions when the company releases results Dec. 20.
"They are not doing a good job on air freight volumes, and even in the ground package business there is a slump," said Dick Armstrong, an investor analyst in Stroughton, Wis.
"FedEx has no business line that has the growth activity like they've had in the last few years," Armstrong said. "Everything is kind of stagnant."
While it isn't good news for the company, FedEx certainly isn't alone.
DHL's North American Express business shows shrinkage in the period.
But FedEx also has the concern of growing angst over its classification of FedEx Ground drivers as independent contractors. A suit, brought by workers who contend they are employees, was initially filed in California in 2001 and has mushroomed into a class action covering suits in 36 states.
"It's on every FedEx investor's radar screen," said Rick Paterson, analyst at UBS in New York. "I doubt it's causing many to sell, but it's something you're paying attention to."
With the freight division doing poorly, he said, and the U.S. domestic business long since matured, the company is relying on its robustly growing ground division and international business to carry the weight.

This is the perfect moment for all of us concerned with the welfare of these misclassified drivers to turn up the heat on these corporate crooks at FraudEx. Keep writing those e-mails and signing those petitions!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Poverty in the U.S.A.

In Saturday's post we mentioned some of the key reasons so many smart Democrats are lining up behind the candidacy of John Edwards. Another factor, that sets him apart, is that he is willing to move beyond platitudes, and begin to seriously tackle the very real problem of poverty in the United States. This problem, as a recent report from a big-cities mayoral commission shows, is a lot bigger than it would appear from a glance at federal statistics:

U.S. Poverty Measurements

The current method used by the federal government to calculate poverty thresholds was designed in the early-1960s as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Essentially, it is a measure of severe deprivation – the minimum amount of money needed for subsistence. Poverty thresholds are absolute dollar amounts (e.g., $10, 210 for an individual; $20,650 for a family of four). The thresholds vary by family size, but not by geography. In other words, the same dollar amounts officially define poverty in both low-cost-of-living rural areas and high-cost big cities. Poverty thresholds are adjusted periodically using the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation.The overwhelming consensus of economists, policy analysts, social scientists, and mayors is that the official federal poverty measure is seriously outdated. Most analyses find that a revised poverty calculation would increase the number of Americans classified as poor. Therefore, a major barrier to redefining poverty thresholds is political. US presidents are reluctant to have official poverty numbers revised upward during their terms in office. Another barrier is financial, since expenditures for many federal programs are tied to the official poverty rate – the more poverty, the more the federal government would have to pay into these programs.

The Canadian model

In Canada, America’s neighbour to the north, poverty thresholds are not absolute income levels as they are in the US. They go beyond measuring only society’s most impoverished and most economically deprived and encompass a broader range of economic hardship.Poverty in Canada is determined by a Low-Income Cut-Off Line, the point at which individuals or families must devote 60 per cent of their annual income to basic necessities such as food, clothing, rent, transportation, insurances, child care, school supplies, and household supplies. Each metro area in Canada has a different Low-Income Cut-Off Line to account for regional differences in the cost of living.The conceptual and fundamental differences between the American and Canadian poverty measures are striking.For example, if we used Canada’s Low-Income Cut-Off Line to measure poverty in Rochester, New York – a typical mid-size American city – the poverty rate would not be 25.9 per cent, as officially defined by the US government, but 38.4 per cent.Using the Canadian standard, New York City’s poverty rate would not be the official 21.2 per cent, but 38.2 per cent.In San Jose, California – the center of Silicon Valley and the symbol of wealth and power in the US – the poverty rate would leap from 8.8 per cent to 20.9 per cent, when calculated according to the Canadian method.ConclusionIt is clear that the official federal US poverty measure is woefully outdated.The application of Canadian methodology to the US situation is not merely an academic exercise. It illustrates that poverty in America goes well beyond the stereotypical image of the homeless vagrant or the drug addict. The new face of American poverty often includes the restaurant dishwasher, office clerk, deli worker, maintenance worker, single working mother with children, and, in some high-cost-of-living cities, the nurse, the firefighter, and the school teacher.The federal government’s reluctance to acknowledge the extent of economic hardship in the US doesn’t make poverty disappear. As the US Conference of Mayor’s report makes clear, it simply pushes the problem down to the local level and turns financially-strapped mayors into beggars for more federal support.

The situation is made even more complex by questions of cultural difference between regions, ethnic groups, and even neighborhoods within the same city. For example, in Providence, Rhode Island, recent immigrants from Russia enjoy tremendous support from thriving synagogues, and other cultural institutions, on Providence's affluent East Side. Recent immigrants from Southeast Asia, on the other hand, have to struggle mightily to avoid falling into the traps of gang violence, drugs, and inner-city destitution-- that afflict the dangerous West Side and South Side neighborhoods that most of Providence's Southeast Asians call home.

We need a President committed to ending poverty through empowering workers. Organized Labor is indeed the best anti-poverty program we have in this country, and John Edwards is not afraid to point this out. He, along with Kucinich, are the only Democratic candidates squarely in the corner of working families.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

More Reasons to Support Edwards

I've often claimed that the reason (besides the Diebold vote-theft in Ohio!) the Kerry/Edwards ticket "lost" in 2004, was the reluctance of John Kerry to stand firmly as the populist candidate willing to take on "big-money" interests. This would have been difficult for him-- as an actual distant cousin of George W. Bush, with as many old, wealthy New England blueblood connections as the current White House resident. Fortunately, John Edwards isn't shackled to a privileged background. Son of a mill-worker, he earned his money attacking huge corporations as a trial lawyer.

It is very heartening to see other progressive bloggers on the same wavelength, here, as regards the real electability of John Edwards:

Why John Edwards wins in a landslide
by adamterando, Fri Nov 30, 2007

Many polls now have shown that John Edwards typically is the best general election candidate against any Republican opponent. And John Edwards supporters (such as myself) have made note of this as part of his appeal. But some might argue that these trial heats are merely an illusion based on people liking Edwards's sunny disposition or even his wonderful wife, and that once he was actually in the general election, people would turn away from him as a flawed candidate. I don't believe this is true and I actually think his general election poll numbers grossly underestimate his actual strength were he to go up against any Republican in 2008. Here's why.

I don't think there's any argument that of the three major candidates, John Edwards has devoted the most attention to the organized labor movement. He's walked picket lines, he's worked on poverty issues, and just about every chance he gets, he talks about the importance of organized labor as the backbone of the middle class, but more importantly, as the foundation of a strong progressive movement. Edwards gets the fundamental reality that there are class differences in this country. Progressives seek to address the inequalities that arise from these class differences. Organized labor does so through bargaining for better wages and working conditions for their members. But perhaps more importantly, they provide a political education for their members and help to expose the inequities in society while giving their members agency to address these issues through solidarity and political action.
Now why is this important for electing Democrats in general and a Democratic president specifically? Because when class differences are muted, Republicans win. And when class differences are brought to the forefront of the debate (with a skilled politician, sorry Dennis), Democrats win. This does not mean that the candidate has to go out waving a red flag and calling for workers to revolt with a general strike. But it does require that the Democratic candidate makes an effort to draw attention to gross inequalities in society that are hurting families in this country so that multinational corporations can pad their bottom line. In short, it's about subjugating corporate interests to the interests of the people, i.e. populism

Read the rest of this excellent post here.