Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Of Course Hillary Is In to Win

Hillary Clinton made her first trip to Iowa over the weekend. She held a townhall meeting in Des Moines and met with the Democratic State Central Committee (video here), as well as events in Cedar Rapids and Davenport.

What struck me most with her visit are Hillary's campaign slogan of "I'm in to Win". Most would admit that Hillary is one of the frontrunner's in the Democratic Primary. She has the greatest name recognition of any candidate, she has the most money of any candidate, and she has the a former President that can attend every campaign rally she holds. If she is the favorite then why does she need to stress that she is in the race to win. I sure hope so, you are the favorite.

"I'm in to Win," would be a decent slogan for a candidate like Bill Richardson or Tom Vilsack. These candidates don't have the money or the name recognition yet and are rumored to be running for vice president.

John Edwards stresses action with his campaign theme, "Tomorrow Begins Today." Barak Obama speaks about hope for a better America with "the Audacity of Hope." Hillary is focusing on talking herself up with "I'm in to Win."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Join the Troops, Stop the Escalation

Braley Visits UNI to Discuss Student Loan Releif

On Friday, Bruce Braley visited UNI to discuss the recently passed bill that lowers interest rates on student loans. From the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier...

"This bill affects the 5.5 million students who currently receive subsidized Stafford loans," he said. After completing four years of college, such students are typically $13,000 to $14,000 in debt. The bill's effect "will be $4,000 over the life of their loans, just in terms of the interest they will pay."

Under provisions of the bill, the average Iowa student beginning college in 2007 would save $2,300 by the time the subsidized loan is paid off. An Iowa student beginning college in 2011 --- when the lower interest rate is fully phased in --- would save $4,460. Current UNI students have taken out 6,385 Stafford loans, which total more than $23 million in debt.

"It's a staggering impact on this university," said Braley. "That's why I was proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill."
Braley also favors other steps to make college more affordable...
He favors increasing the maximum subsidized student loan per year from $4,050 to $5,100 and expanding the eligibility. He also favors allowing students to have more than one of the variety of tuition tax credits available to them.
With college tuition more than doubling over the past 6 years, it is great to see Rep. Braley making this a priority. It looks like he sees the big picture and the student loan relief bill is only a start of lowering the cost of college and making higher education more accessible.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Will the Real Chuck Hagel Please Stand Up?

Senator Chuck Hagel (R -NE) has gotten a lot of attention for breaking party ranks and being outspoken on the Iraq War. Hagel impressed the lefty blogosphere when he ripped Joe Lieberman apart on a recent appearence on Meet the Press.

Hagel is considering running for President and he even mentioned he might run as an independent. When looking at where Hagel stands on the issues, Hagel is not the straight shooting maverick that he seems. He is very conservative and hasn't found a corporate give away that he does not like.

What Happened to My Country
takes a look at Hagel's record and brings up this important information on Hagel's background: Hagle used to be CEO of a company that made electronic voting machines.

In 1996 when Hagel first ran in Nebraska for the U.S. Senate, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election.

According to Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.

Six years later Hagel ran again, and as his website said, Hagel "was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska."

What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel.
Some candidates have fundraising ability, some have name recognition, some are great public speakers, Hagel has voting machines.

Lobby for Clean Elections in Iowa on Monday

Monday, January 29th
Clean Elections Lobby Day at the Iowa Statehouse
11:00 Briefing in Room 118
12:00 Rally featuring former Congressman Berkley Bedell
12:30 - 3:00 Lobby your local legislators
5:30 - 7:30 Receiption at Iowa CCI offices at Forest Ave. and MLK Blvd.
Thanks to Blog for Iowa for posting this letter from Ed Fallon earlier in the week...

Lobby for Clean Elections in Iowa on Monday
By Ed Fallon

... In this weeks update... I want to talk about a bill setting up a system for voluntary public-financing of elections.

The bill sometimes called the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections act, or VOICE is under consideration by the House State Government Committee. VOICE provides qualifying candidates, i.e., those who agree to limit their spending and reject contributions from private sources, with a set amount of public funds to run for office. Supporters feel it will help restore the principle of “one person, one vote, reduce the influence of special-interest money, and restore public confidence in government and elections.

Nine states now offer some form of this law. In Maine
, after four election cycles, 84% of Maine lawmakers were elected without a penny from a PAC, lobbyist or big donor. In Arizona, nine of eleven statewide office holders, including the governor, were elected using that state clean-election system.

The bill before the Iowa House State Government Committee is based on these states laws. It funds the system in part with a 1% sales tax on political advertising, a voluntary $5 check-off on Iowans state tax returns, and a tax deduction of up to $200 in personal contributions to Iowa
clean-election fund.

For those of us who want to take a bite out of big money, Monday, January 29th is an important day at the Statehouse. Former Iowa Congressman Berkley Bedell will be there to push for state and federal campaign finance reform. If you can get off work, even if just for the
noon rally, it would be great to have a strong public showing.

Monday activities start at
11:00 in room 118 for a briefing on the proposed legislation and a discussion on how to be an effective citizen lobbyist. At noon, there will be a rally featuring Berkley Bedell. From 12:30 until 3:00, participants will have time to lobby their representatives and senators. That evening, between 5:30 and 7:30, a reception is planned at the Iowa CCI office (Forest Avenue and M L King Blvd in Des Moines).

Please be a part of this effort! Campaign finance reform was THE central issue in my campaign for governor last year. Last Saturday in Iowa City
, I heard it resonate powerfully in John Edwards presidential campaign (the loudest ovation from the crowd of 700 came after Edwards announced his support for voluntary public-financing of elections). This year, Iowa has a real opportunity to become the 10th state in the nation to enact a clean-election law. Come to the Statehouse next Monday. That may not be possible for a lot of you, but you can still weigh-in with an e-mail or phone call to your legislators.

To find out your state representative and senator, go to http://www.legis.state.ia.us/FindLeg/.

For a complete list of legislators, go to http://www3.legis.state.ia.us/ga/legislators.do?.

To contact a lawmaker by e-mail, use the following formula: FirstName.LastName@legis.state.ia.us.

To reach a lawmaker by phone between Monday and Thursday, call (515) 281-3371 for Senators and (515) 281-3221 for Representatives.


Ed Fallon

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Feingold to Hold Hearing on Congress's Power to End the War

On Tuesday, January 30th, Sen. Russ Feingold, chair of the Judiciary Committee's Constitution subcommittee, will hold hearings on Congress's power to end the war in Iraq. Sen. Feingold had this to say...

“Congress holds the power of the purse and if the President continues to advance his failed Iraq policy, we have the responsibility to use that power to safely redeploy our troops from Iraq,” Feingold said. “This hearing will help inform my colleagues and the public about Congress’s power to end a war and how that power has been used in the past. I will soon be introducing legislation to use the power of the purse to end what is clearly one of the greatest mistakes in the history of our nation’s foreign policy.”
Feingold also said that Democrats are being too timid on opposing the war in Iraq...
“It’s a walk in the park right now to oppose the idea of this war. It’s also very easy to oppose the escalation,” Mr. Feingold said. “They are once again being too timid and too cautious.”
Political Insider thinks the hearings are a good idea because it will force the media to discuss the issue.
As Sen. Feingold prepares to hold hearings on Congress's authority to cut off war funds, let's see if the media can keep a few questions straight: 1) will the Democrats really try to do this? 2) do they have the Constitutional authority? 3) should they -- meaning, is it politically smart and/or the right thing to do? 4) what would the real-world effect of cutting funding be?
Feingold is trying to hold an intelligent discussion on the issue and hopefully the media picks it up. However, it is more likely that the media will continue name calling and letting emotions prevent any actual discussion to take place.

I was originally against pulling funding for the war, but if Bush is deadset on putting more troops in harms way then I don't think he gives Congress any choice, but to pull funding.

Hillary Faces an Uphill Battle in Iowa

Here's the story form Political Wire...

When Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) arrives in Iowa "for her first presidential campaign events this weekend, she will encounter unfamiliar terrain -- a landscape where she is not the perceived front-runner for the Democratic nomination," reports the Washington Post.

"That puts Clinton in the unusual position of having to prove herself against other Democrats, and having to build up a political infrastructure in Iowa at a time when many rivals already have a head start. Her appearances [in Iowa] -- her first in more than three years -- are certain to start a media frenzy, potentially intruding on the direct access to candidates that caucus-goers have come to expect."
I have not heard many activists that excited about Hillary's campaign. Some would like to hear more and said they might for her because she is a woman. Some on the other hand said there is no way they would vote for her because she is too divisive.

Right now I would put Hillary in 4th place in Iowa, Vilsack and Edwards have a leg up on her when it comes to organization and I think Obama has an advantage from being from nearby Illinois. It will be interesting to see how the media plays up her visit in Iowa today.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bush on the Serious Challenge of Global Climate Change

At the State of the Union address, Bush surprised many when he acknowledged the "serious challenge of global climate change." Bush said...

America's on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.
Here is a video of Will Ferrell as George W. Bush discussing the effects of global warming...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Democratic Nomination Calendar Looking Messy

The Democratic nomination schedule is looking like it is going to be a mess. Some large states that are feeling left out might move up in the schedule creating a scrum in February of 2008.

From Political Wire...

"As many as four big states - California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey - are likely to move up their 2008 presidential primaries to early next February, further upending an already unsettled nominating process and forcing candidates of both parties to rethink their campaign strategies," the New York Times reports.

"The changes, which seem all but certain to be enacted by state legislatures, mean that the presidential candidates face the prospect of going immediately from an ordered series of early contests in relatively small states in January to a single-day, coast-to-coast battlefield in February, encompassing some of the most expensive advertising markets in the nation. The changes would appear to benefit well-financed and already familiar candidates and diminish the prospects of those with less money and name recognition going into such a highly compressed series of contests early next year."
These states want to move up because they felt Iowa and New Hampshire had too much influence in 2004. I agree, but adding more states to the early portion of the calendar only makes the problem worse.

Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are ideal states to have at the beginning of the schedule because to win a candidate must participate in retail politics. These smaller states allow candidates with limited funding a chance to get off the ground because it is cheaper to buy ads.

If these larger states do move up, it only benefits the well funded candidates. If the changes do take place, it is likely we will have Hillary Clinton as our nominee by Valentine's Day. What needs to be done is stretching the nomination process out, so the nominee isn't decided until April or May.

Local Control of Clean Elections

David Sirota wrote this post about local control of clean elections for Congressional races. Sirota writes...

In 2001, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) offered legislation to simply allow states to create voluntary public financing systems for their congressional elections. This legislation cost no federal money at all, nor did it create an unfunded federal mandate: it was simply a "local control" issue. If a state is sick and tired of its congressional delegation whoring for special interests instead of the state’s constituents, the Wellstone legislation said that the state’s legislature could set up a public financing system for its federal elections. States that are happy with their legislators being bought and paid for by special interests are allowed to continue in the current pay-to-play system. It’s the state’s choice. That’s about as "local control" as you get.

Unfortunately, the bill was voted down, with just 36 Democrats supporting it. But six short years later, 27 Democrats who voted for this legislation remain in Congress, a number of Republican Senators who voted against this legislation have been replaced by Democrats (Tester, Webb, Casey, Brown, Obama, etc.), and at least some Republicans still in the Senate have voiced their support for the concept of public financing of elections. Translation: this proposal really could pass with a little push.

Clearly, a full federally funded public financing system is ideal, but the state option would be a pretty great step too, and actually would offer more in the way of organizing potential for the progressive movement.

This is just one of those ideas that just makes sense and might just work. Local control is at the heart of a representitive democracy and having the people in the states decide who they want to fund their representives should appeal to people on both sides.

Anti-War Rally in Des Moines on Saturday

Anti-war March and Protest Rally
Des Moines, Iowa
Nollen Plaza and Hy-Vee Hall
January 27, 2008

11:30 am Gather at Nollen Plaza for March to Hy-Vee Hall
Protest Rally---12:00 pm-2:00 pm
Hy-Vee Hall Rooms 1 & 2

Anti-war rally with Featured Speakers
ß Ed Fallon
ß Frank Cordaro
ß Jean Claussen
ß Kathleen McQuillen
ß Jamie Woodsen

Sponsored by The Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa (Iowaprogressives.org), Catholic Worker House, Des Moines for Darfur, Move-on, NOW, STARPAC, and WILF.
I found it interesting that Hillary Clinton is holding her event in Des Moines at the same time as this rally. That won't help win over the anti-war caucus goers.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

DNC to Model 2008 Campaigns on Loebsack's Victory

From Kos...

New DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen outlines his 2008 strategy. Amongst the requirement for DCCC support is this encouraging one:

The support of net-roots organizations was key to Democrats success in 2006. Frontline members will be required to build an aggressive online operation with the goal of acquiring 30,000 e-mail addresses by November 2008.

DCCC support for candidates will also be conditional on building a strong local grassroots/netroots presence. In the past, money was the deciding factor. Now, after seeing cash-poor Demcorats like Loebsack and Carol Shea-Porter win, and others like Larry Kissel come up painfully short, the party has finally realized that people-power can act as a significant substitute for big money.

I read somewhere that of all the Democrats that won in November, Dave Loebsack raised the least amount of money. He didn't have money to run ads. Heck, he didn't even have that much support from the national Netroots. Loebsack won by focusing on the grassroots. You know the people on the ground, the ones who actually go out and vote.

Jim Webb Gives Democratic Response to the State of the Union

I missed the state of the union speech, which I didn't really care about anyway. I caught the important quotes on cable news and saw the analysis.

What I really wanted to see was Virginia Senator Jim Webb giving the official Democratic response. I have read that Webb tore up the prepared remarks given to him by Democratic leadership and gave a speech that he wrote himself. Webb's speech was an intelligent and strong statement of beliefs that focused on the economy and foreign policy. It is these issues that helped Democrats get elected like Jon Tester in Montanta, Claire McKaskill in Missouri, Heath Schuler in North Carolina, and Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack in Iowa. Democrats must push these issues if they want to hold Congress and win control of the White House.

Webb closed the speech by saying...

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other. And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the general who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War II. And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.
Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some New Iowa Blogs

There are 3 new Iowa blogs that I would like to direct your attention to.

  • Bleeding Heartland is written by Drew Miller. Bleeding Heartland is a community blog, meaning that you can have your own diary and post your own stories there. To post comments and to have a diary, you have to register. Another new blog is
  • Leftist Logic is written by Tyler, who is a student at Central College, who has been following the candidates for president and any political events in south central Iowa.
  • Popular Progressive is based out of Iowa City and has had some good posts on Dave Loebsack, Iraq, and progressive issues.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Loebsack Keeps His Word On Troop Redeployment

Earlier this month, a couple Iowa blogs were disappointed with Dave Loebsack and his support for the redeploying our troops from Iraq and funding for the war. Popular Progressive and Diary of a Political Madman said that Loebsack's stance on withdrawling troops from Iraq had changed after he was elected. Political Madman wrote...

Loebsack's opinions on the war seem to have taken a pretty drastic shift since he was elected two months and a day ago. To say that's concerning is a massive understatement. If I were a Loebsack voter or donor, I'd be pissed right now.
Loebsack stated before the election that he supported John Murtha's proposal to redeploy troops from Iraq. Chris at Political Forecast wrote...
From Loebsack’s campaign explanation of his position, he said he supports ending the way and Congressman Jack Murtha’s House Joint Resolution 73, calling for practicable redeployment. He never advocated removing the funding for the war, but advocated an end to the disaster through oversight and Congressional action.
Last week, John Murtha reintroduced his resolution in Congress. Keeping with campaign promise, Representitive Loebsack signed on as a co-sponsor to redeploy US forces from Iraq. The joint resolution states...

To redeploy U.S. forces from Iraq.

Whereas Congress and the American people have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to `promote the emergence of a democratic government';

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U.S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;

Whereas more than $471 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 3,026 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;

Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency;

Whereas, according to recent polls, over 91 percent of Sunni Iraqis and 74 percent of Shiite Iraqis want the U.S. forces out of Iraq;

Whereas polls also indicate that 61 percent of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified; and

Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That:
    Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
    Sec. 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.
    Sec. 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

Immigration Summit to be held in Marshalltown

An immigration summit has been scheduled in Marshalltown on February 26. The summitt has been ogranized by the Marshalltown Times-Republican.

The T-R called for the summit in the wake of raids in December by agents with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Those agents detained nearly 100 workers from the Swift & Company plant in Marshalltown. At the same time, raids were taking place at other Swift & Company plants around the nation, leading to the detainment of more than 1,000 workers suspected to be working in the country illegally.

The goal of the summit is to spark a national dialogue on the issue, and give elected officials a chance to understand what the issues are at the grassroots level in order to formulate policy in Washington that better addresses the needs and concerns of the country.
Iowa's congressional delegation and Governor Culver have been invited to the summit. Rep. Latham has been very helpful in organizing the summit.

The Des Moines Register has a story this morning. Ken Larson, the managing editor of the Times-Republican, outlines the goals of the summit...
“We want to do two things — to make sure the higher officials we invite can walk away educated knowing that we’ve been doing immigration raids for how many decades, and the population continues to rise, so (the raids) are not working,” Larson said.

He said the second goal is to get lawmakers to introduce legislation to change immigration laws and bring common sense to the discussion.

“How can we more effectively handle immigration in this country, and how can we do it without damaging a community the way it did,” Larson said.
I won't be able to attend because the summit takes place on a Monday, but will post links and any news I hear about the event.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Alberto Gonzalez Gone Wild

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week. Gonzalez ridiculously attempts to say that habeas corpus is not granted in the Constitution. Republican Senator Arlen Spector responds...

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

Specter: "You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General."

Hillary Is In, but She Won't Win

Saturday morning Hillary took the first step by announcing she has filed the necessary paperwork. Clinton will have an experienced team of advisors and great connections for fundraising. However, she has been in the spotlight for a long time now and the majority of people already have their opinions formed on her. You know what they say about first impressions.

I see her candidacy being similar to Jim Nussle's run for Governor here in Iowa in 2006. Nussle was known around Iowa. In all of the polls leading up to the race, Nussle had trouble getting higher than in the low 40's. Nussle lost the race with 44% of the vote.

In a Washington Post - ABC poll released on Saturday, Hillary leads all Democratic candidates nationwide with 41%. Obama comes in at 17%, Edwards at 11%, Gore at 10%, and Kerry at 8%. Hillary again is in the low 40's. I get the felling that Obama is taking some of Edwards and Gore support and vice versa. My top 3 candidates right now would be Obama, Edwards, and Gore and I know a lot of people who like those 3 better than Hillary. If you add up their totals, you come up with 38%, which is pretty much a tie with Hillary.

In Iowa, Hillary will have a hard time appealing to progressives (which will go towards Edwards and Kucinich and maybe Obama) and will have a hard time out centristing fellow DLC'er Tom Vilsack. She has yet to make a trip to Iowa, so she might not even campaign here. If she does campaign here, I don't see Hillary getting higher than 3rd.

I found a recent poll from Rasmussen that has Hillary and Obama pretty much tied at 22% and 21% respectively among Democrats nationally. Edwards is in 3rd at 15%, followed by Gore at 7%, Kerry at 4%, and Biden at 2%.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What Iowa's Congressman Think (or Doesn't Think) About Escalation

Here is how Iowa's Congressman support Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. From Think Progress...

Boswell, Leonard D House IA-3 Lean Oppose Link
Braley, Bruce D House IA-1 Oppose Link
King, Steve R House IA-5 Support Link
Latham, Tom R House IA-4 Refused to Answer Link
Loebsack, David D House IA-2 Oppose Link

Grassley, Chuck R Senate IA Support Link
Harkin, Tom D Senate IA Oppose Link
It is interesting that Tom Latham is one of 38 of 535 members of Congress that refused to answer. Latham issued this statement...
“‘The situation, as it is, is unacceptable,’ said Latham. ‘We’ve got to find resolution in Iraq … we’ve got to have the Iraqi government actually get control of the country. I am skeptical about what the best course of action is to take, I honestly am.’”
Latham basically is saying that with Democrats winning in the 1st and 2nd districts that his district will be more of a target for Democrats. Latham put his finger to the wind and knows that 70% of Americans oppose Bush's plan of escalation. That or Latham is still waiting for his call from Tom DeLay to tell him how to vote. In the end, Latham will try to play both sides and then will roll over like he always does and vote with Bush.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Loebsack, Braley Promote Fair Trade Policies

David Sirota wrote today about 39 freshman members of the US House speaking out about so-called Free Trade policies, including Iowa's Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, and Phil Hare of the Illinois side of the Quad Cities.

The 39 Congressman sent a letter to Charlie Rangel, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee stating Democrats won the majority because a lot of candidates ran againt Free Trade. The letter says...

“As you may know, in each of our campaigns the issue of trade and the impact of the Administration’s trade policy on working families, the environment, independent farmers and businesses in our districts were critically important. Vital to our electoral successes was our ability to take a vocal stand against the Administration’s misguided trade agenda, and offer our voters real, meaningful alternatives to the job-killing agreements, such as CAFTA, that the majority of our opponents supported.”
Americans are tired of hearing about more and more American jobs being shipped overseas. They are tired of having their calls routed through India when they need help fixing their computer. They are tired of hearing about family members and friends getting laid off. Americans made their voices heard in the November election.

Braley and Loebsack made trade a big part of their campaigns. Braley's campaign site says...
Bruce believes that irresponsible economic policies in Washington have cost our state good-paying jobs. Unfair trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA are hurting our economy. In Congress, Bruce will fight for fair trade laws that are good for American workers.
While Loebsack has this statement on his campaign site...
...it is time for fair trade agreements that help open markets abroad and guarantee labor and environmental protections in other countries. The second district of Iowa has suffered dramatically over the years as a result of Republican policies. We know that globalization has led to companies abandoning many communities in this part of the state. Republicans, including the incumbent, have championed free trade pacts that have only made this problem worse. It is time to take stock of the effects of previous free trade agreements and place a moratorium on more such pacts that do not include the necessary labor and environmental provisions.
It is great to see 2 newly elected Iowans standing up on this important issue. I look forward to hearing more from them on this issue.

Richardson To Enter 2008 Race

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is going to enter the 2008 race for President.

Richardson plans to announce Sunday that he will soon file the papers to create a presidential exploratory committee, several officials with knowledge of his plans said Friday. The governor is scheduled to appear on ABC's "This Week."

His entry would make the Democratic race the most diverse presidential contest in history. Besides Richardson's bid to be the first Hispanic chief executive, Sen. Barack Obama would be the first black president and likely candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the first female president.

Richardson, 59, is a former congressman, U.N. ambassador and Energy Deptartment secretary. He brings a wealth of experience in international affairs that has extended even into his governorship of a small but politically important swing state.

I would put Richardson in the middle of the pack right now. I really hope he campaigns in Iowa because I want to learn more about him. As you can tell, Richardson has a great resume. With his background, he is in a great position to speak thoughtfully on foreign policy, immigration, and renewable energy.

Colbert v. O'Reilly

Stepehen Colbert and Bill O'Reilly squared off yesterday by appearing on each other's shows.

Here are clips...

Round 1 on the O'Reilly Factor....

Round 2 on the Colbert Report...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

DFA Training Coming to Cedar Rapids in March

I just found out there will be a Democracy For America (DFA) training held in Cedar Rapids in March. I attended a DFA training last year in the Quad Cities and I wrote about the event here. At the event I learned a ton from experienced campaign professionals about how campaigns are run, fundraising, communications, voter targeting, online activities, and many other political things. I used a lot of the things I learned helping campaigns in the Democratic Primaries and during the November elections.

Even though, I have already attended the training, I am considering attending again. I highly recommend it to anyone who volunteers or works with campaigns or does online organizing.

Here are the details on the training in Cedar Rapids...

Event: Democracy for America Training
Date: March 24-25 (Saturday and Sunday)
Time: 9:00 - 6:00
Location: Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
$60 for general attendees
$30 for attendees with low income
$30 for students

For more information visit the Democracy of America website.

Bush Forced to Return to Law on Domestic Spying

President Bush has decided to return to the law and not reauthorize the domestic spying program. All domestic spying will now be done with approval from the FISA court. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had this to say...

"Any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," Gonzales said.

Gonzales said a judge on the secret FISA court recently approved a government proposal allowing it to target communications into and out of the United States when probable cause exists that one person is a member of al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization.

Bush knew the program is illegal and knows he will be punished if it continues. A court had already declared the domestic spying program unconstitutional and Feingold had already submitted a censure resolution in the Senate about the program. Bush realized his rubber stamp Republican Congress is gone and that Sen. Russ Feingold, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and others in the Senate were going to be investigating the program.

Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would a Patriot Act, is a constitutional lawyer and blogger. Greenwald has written a lot about the domestic spying program and says...
Having read around the blogosphere and elsewhere, what emerges is that there is no way to discern exactly what this new framework is between the administration and the FISA court because the only evidence describing it is Gonzales' letter, which is quite vague in a number of respects about exactly what has happened.

But ultimately, there are only two options -- (1) the administration is now complying fully and exclusively with FISA when eavesdropping, in which case all of its prior claims that it could not do so and still fight against The Terrorists are false, or (2) the administration has changed its eavesdropping program some, but it is still not fully complying with FISA, in which case nothing of significance has changed (at least on the lawbreaking issues) because the administration is still violating the law.
If Bush has only tweaked the domestic spying program, at least we have strong Congressional watchdogs looking closely at this program.

Sen. Feingold issued this statement regarding the domestic spying program...
For more than five years, the President has conducted an illegal program, including more than a year during which he publicly asserted that this violation of the law was absolutely essential to protecting the public from terrorists. I am pleased that the President has been forced to return to the law and that this program has been terminated. I continue to have many questions about what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has decided and intend to scrutinize carefully how the Court has interpreted the FISA statute. In addition, while I welcome the decision to stop conducting surveillance without judicial approval, the President now needs to respond fully to legitimate congressional questions about the complete history of this now-terminated illegal program.
Sen. Leahy added...

We must engage in all surveillance necessary to prevent acts of terrorism, but we can and should do so in ways that protect the basic rights of all Americans including the right to privacy. The issue has never been whether to monitor suspected terrorists but doing it legally and with proper checks and balances to prevent abuses.

Providing efficient but meaningful court review is a major step toward addressing those concerns.

I continue to urge the President to fully inform Congress and the American people about the contours of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order authorizing this surveillance program, and of the program itself. Only with meaningful oversight can we ensure the balance necessary to achieve security with liberty.

Sirota: The Democrats' Da Vinci Code

Posting will be light today, so I thought I'd post this article by David Sirota called The Democrats' Da Vinci Code. Sirota discusses the raise of economic populism and discusses how it threatens groups like the DLC.

Here is part of the article...

How does an economic populist Democrat keep winning a congressional seat in what is arguably America’s most Republican district? Why do culturally conservative rural Wisconsin voters keep sending a Vietnam-era anti-war Democrat back to Congress? What does a self-described socialist do to win support from conservative working-class voters in northern New England?

The answers to these and other questions are the Democrats’ very own Da Vinci Code — a road map to political divinity. It is the path Karl Rove fears. He knows his GOP is vulnerable to Democrats who finally follow leaders who have translated a populist economic agenda into powerful cultural and values messages. It also threatens groups like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which has pushed the Democratic Party to give up on its working-class roots and embrace big business’ agenda. These New Democrats, backed by huge corporate contributions, say that the party must reduce corporate regulation and embrace a free-trade policy that is wiping out local economies throughout the heartland. They have the nerve to call this agenda “centrist” even though poll after poll shows it is far out of the mainstream. Yet these centrists get slaughtered at the ballot box, and their counterparts — the progressive economic populists — are racking up wins and relegating the DLC argument to the scrap heap.

Sirota wrote the article in 2004 and many of the things he discusses were played out in the 2006 elections.
This is why populism is ultimately the way back for Democrats. Because, as red-region progressives show, having the guts to stand up for middle America — even when it draws the ire of corporate America — is as powerful a statement about morality and authenticity as any of the GOP’s demagoguery on “guns, God, and gays.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Favorite MLK Quote

I should have posted this yesterday, but oh well. Here is my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quote...

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Obama To Announce This Week

From Political Wire...

Word from those who work for Sen. Barack Obama is that he will take the first step toward the U.S. Presidency and file the papers with the Federal Election Commission this week," WMAQ-TV reports.

"The campaign will need offices in the key states of New Hampshire and Iowa -- but it will be headquartered right here in Chicago. Word is that Obama will be on one of those campaign trips in Iowa by the end of the week."

Over the weekend, we reported an announcement could come on the Oprah Winfrey Show on Wednesday.
I read somewhere else that Obama will be in Iowa on Frday. I am lucky enough to only be working a half day on Friday, so I am really hoping that I can attend the event. I will post more information when I get it.

Obama is forming an exploratory committee. Here is a video of Obama discussing this move.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Braley and Loebsack Pick Up Committee Assignments

Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack have recently picked another committee assignment. Loebsack has been named to the House Armed Services Committee, as well as being on the Education and Labor Committee. These two committee seem to match perfectly with the themes Loebsack ran on during his campaign.

Braley is now on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as the Transportation Committee. The Quad City Times today has a story about Braley's new position on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

For Braley, it appears that an area of focus could be the Iraq War.

The Waterloo lawyer is on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is responsible for monitoring war spending.

During the campaign, Braley, a critic of the war, called for more accountability. Now, he may get the chance to exercise it.
Braley's experience as a lawyer will be a great asset to this committee. You can tell from the campaign that Iraq is an important issue to Braley.

I hope Braley looks into the $9 billion of reconstruction money that is unaccounted for in Iraq.

Martin Luther King Day

Here are 2 videos for Martin Luther King Day.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Democrats Work to Cut Interest Rates on Student Loans

The Des Moines Register has a story about Democrats in Congress plan on cutting interest rates on student loans.

Democrats plan to propose legislation this week cutting interest rates in half on subsidized Stafford undergraduate loans, from a fixed rate of 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent by 2011.

The proposal - one of a handful of issues Democrats have vowed to raise in their first 100 hours in session - would affect more than 50,000 Iowa undergraduates who took out subsidized loans in 2004-05 and about 5.5 million students nationwide, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
All three of Iowa's Representives support this legislation. Rep. Boswell and Rep. Braley are co-sponsoring the legislation. It will be interesting to see what Tom Latham does considering Iowa State University is in his district. Rep. Loebsack had this to say...
"It clearly makes college more accessible," said U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon.

Financial barriers will prevent at least 4.4 million high school graduates from attending a four-year public college over the next decade, and prevent another 2 million high school graduates from attending any college at all, Loebsack said, citing the Congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.
State 29 disagrees with this legislation and basically says that if people take out students loans then they are too stupid to realize they need to save for college. State 29 completely ignores the fact that tuition has doubled over the past 5 or 6 years while income for middle class families have been stagnant. These families could have been saving for college, but when tuition increases so fast over such a short period of time, the only thing that can be done is to take out loans. This legislation helps ease the burden of the loans.

This legislation is just a bandaid attempt to solve the issue of student loan debt. The real issue is the dramatic increase in college tuition and decrease in state funding for higher education. This will continue to be a problem until we make the decision that it is important to have affordable college education and invest in our future.

I was lucky to make it through college with very little student loan debt. However, I know a couple people that have said they are basically paying two mortgage payments, one for their home and one for their loans. Consider, how they could be growing the economy with that money if it wasn't going towards student loan debt.

Cedar Rapids Says No to Escalation in Iraq

Here is video from a rally that took place on Thursday, January 11th in Cedar Rapids opposing Bush's attempt to escalate the war in Iraq.

Video of Obama at Rally in Iowa City

Last night, I came across video from Barak Obama's speech at a rally for Dave Loebsack and Chet Culver in Iowa City the weekend before the election. I wish there would have been some shots of the crowd in the video because some reports said 5,000 people attended the event on the Ped Mall. The video isn't the best quality, but you can tell that Obama is a great speaker and has a good message. Thanks to Iowa for Obama for the video.

The speech is in 3 parts...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Edwards to Give Speech Tomorrow

John Edwards will be giving a speech tomorrow at Harlem's Riverside Church to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Edwards' theme will be "silence is betrayal" and will call on members of Congress to block funding for escalating the war in Iraq and will call on citizens to contact their Representives and Senators. Martin Luther King Jr. used the same theme when he announced his opposition to the war in Vietnam from the same pulpit

You can watch the speech on Sunday at 3 central via live webcast.

Here Edwards talks about the upcoming speech.

I Really Want to Like Chris Dodd in 2008

This week Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd announced he was running for President in 2008. I really want to be able to get behind his candidacy, but I am not sure if I can. Let me explain...

When it comes down to issues, Dodd is way better than a lot of the other candidates. Dodd has been a strong progressive voice in the Senate on many issues. Here is a look at some of those (in no particular order)...

  • He is strong on education. Dodd has introduced an legislation to fix NCLB that has been endorsed by the NEA.
  • He has a strong record against free trade. Dodd voted against CAFTA and knows that “the best social program is a good job” and sees that free trade is shipping American jobs overseas.
  • He is outspoken against Iraq. In December, he called for the withdrawl of troops from Iraq. Then this week in the Foreign Relations committee, Dodd had this to say to Sec of State Rice.

    Isn’t it the State Department’s job to engage in this debate and win the world over, or at least try? Instead we’ve had year after year of inaction, bellicose rhetoric, a categorical refusal to ask for help, to work collectively, to engage—and what has it bought us?

    How weakened is our standing in the world and our support from foreign peoples? How many tools have we thrown away? How safe are we now?

    Madam Secretary: We have arrived at a moment of choice. We can choose to continue down the road we are on, one that has produced divided, angry allies and strong, emboldened enemies. Or, we can dramatically alter our journey with the first steps beginning a new direction in our policy in Iraq – robust diplomacy within Iraq and with Iraq’s neighbors to promote dialogue and reconciliation.
    Yes, he did vote for the war, but, unfortanately, it is looking like it there won't be many people running who didn't support the war at the beginning.
  • He introduced legislation to restore Habeus Corpus rights taken away in the Military Commissions Act (also known as the Torture Bill).
  • He voted against Sam Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.
  • He has experience in the Senate. He helped enact the Family and Medical Leave Act, and pushed pay-as-you-go legislation and campaign finance reform.
So what are my reservations about Dodd as a candidate?
  • He has experience in the Senate. He has a lot of votes that can be twisted and turned and used against him. We saw this with John Kerry and it will be used against Dodd too.
  • He is from the Northeast. He will be seen as a Northeast elite by many in the midwest and mountain west, both areas that Democrats need to make gains if they are going win the control of the White House. If Dodd was from Minnesota or New Mexico then I might be more interested in his candidacy.
The negatives that I see in Dodd's campaign could also be said with Joe Biden's campaign. Dodd is way better when it comes to the issues than Joe Biden is. If the candidate's positions were the only thing that mattered then Dodd would be at the top of my list. However, when you look at the other things, I think it is a lot for Dodd to overcome.

With all of that said, I am glad that Chris Dodd is in the race. He will be pushing important progressive issues that might not otherwise be discussed. Democrats made gains in 2006 by pushing many of these issues. If the other candidates ignore them, Dodd could gain traction.

I saw Dodd campaigning for Chet Culver and Dave Loebsack back in September. Check out my report and watch Dodd's announcement video. Then chime in with your thoughts.

Who is to blame for the Republicans Defeat in 2006?

It is pretty clear that Republicans didn't fair well in the November elections here in Iowa. Republicans lost 2 seats in the United States House of Representives, lost the race for an open seat for Governor, lost 6 seats in the Iowa Senate where Democrats now hold a 31-19 advantage, lost control of the Iowa by losing 7 seats with Democrats now holding a 56-43 advantage. Democrats now have more Congressman, hold the Governorship, and hold both the State Senate and the Iowa House.

So who is to blame for the Republicans defeat in Iowa in 2006?

Christopher Rants, leader of the House Republicans? Nope, Rants was re-elected as Minority Leader in the House.

Mary Lundby, leader of the Senate Republicans? Nope, Lundby was re-elected as Minority Leader in the State Senate.

Ray Hoffman, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa? Nope, Hoffman was just re-elected for the same position.

Maybe the Republicans want to blame the voters or do they blame the Democrats? They aren't blaming themselves.

We Went in Recklessly; We Must Move Forward Responsibly

I read a great post at Huffington Post by newly elected Senator Jim Webb of Virginia about Iraq. When Webb, the former Sec. of the Navy under Reagen, speaks on Iraq people should of both parties should listen. Webb has been there and has a son in active duty in Iraq right now.

In the post, Webb summarizes his argument by saying we went to war in Iraq recklessly and we need to must move forward responsibly. Here is part of what he wrote...

We went to war in Iraq recklessly; we must move forward responsibly. The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. These costs encompass what we hold to be most precious--the thousands of American servicemen and women who have been killed or wounded. The costs also extend to the many thousands more Iraqi people killed and wounded as their country slides into the chaos of sectarian violence and civil war. We have incurred extraordinary financial costs--expenses totaling more than $380 billion and now estimated at $8 billion a month.

I recognize that Iraq faces severe and growing economic hardship as the result of its increasing spiral of violence, but I believe that providing an additional $1 billion in U.S. funding for reconstruction projects would only worsen the rampant waste and corruption as a result of the lack of effective oversight and control of similar billions in funding over the past four years. The administration's intention to increase economic aid to Iraq is especially troublesome when we still have victims in critical need of assistance more than a year after Hurricane Katrina's devastation along our Gulf Coast.

The key questions of the moment are how long the United States should be expected to keep our forces in Iraq as its government seeks to assume its own burdens? How and when will we begin to draw down our combat presence and conclude our mission in a way that does not leave even greater chaos behind? What is the administration's strategic vision and, as it relates to our presence in Iraq, its eventual endpoint? This administration has never clearly affirmed that the answers to these questions are not to be found in Iraq alone. Achieving our goals in this war requires a coherent strategy encompassing the entire region. The need for an overarching diplomatic solution is now, more than ever, an imperative if we are to end the war.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Feingold: Use the Power of the Purse

Sen. Russ Feingold had an op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and posted on Daily Kos that suggest that Congress might need to use the power of the purse to not just prevent the escalation of the war in Iraq, but to begin to effectively redeploy our troops out of Iraq. Here is what Feingold wrote...

Use the power of the purse


Keeping our brave troops in Iraq indefinitely is having a devastating impact on our national security and military readiness.

That's why I have consistently advocated that we set a timetable to redeploy our troops from Iraq. But the president refuses to set a timetable, even though the American people soundly rejected his Iraq policy in November. Instead, the president has announced he wants to send approximately 20,000 more troops.

We should be redeploying our troops out of Iraq, not sending in more.

Conditions in Iraq are deteriorating, the strain on our military is increasing and the threats we face to our national security elsewhere in the world continue to grow. We can't afford to wait any longer. Congress must use its main power - the power of the purse - to put an end to our involvement in the war in Iraq.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to take a hard look at just how we should do that in my capacity as a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, both of which will be holding hearings on Iraq.

As the president made clear Wednesday night, he has no intention of redeploying our troops from Iraq. Congress cannot continue to accept this. Congress can, by restricting funding for this misguided war, do what the president refuses to do - redeploy from Iraq to refocus on defeating global terrorist networks.

Some will claim that cutting off funding for the war would endanger our brave troops on the ground. Not true. The safety of our service men and women in Iraq is paramount, and we can and should end funding for the war without putting our troops in further danger.

Congress will continue to give our troops the resources and support they need, but by, for example, specifying a time after which funding for the war would end, it can give the president the time needed to redeploy troops safely from Iraq.

Our troops in Iraq have done their job professionally and heroically. But we cannot continue to send our nation's best into a war that was started - and is still maintained - on false pretenses. An indefinite presence of U.S. military personnel in Iraq will not fix that country's political problems. And sending more troops will not provide the stability that can only come from a political agreement.

Our country needs a new national security strategy that starts with a redeployment from Iraq so we can focus on the global threats to our national security that have only grown while this administration has been bogged down in that country.

We need to finish the job in Afghanistan and address threats to our security in Somalia and other weak or failed states that we have neglected for too long. We should scrap the failed diplomacy the administration has used to offend, push away and ultimately alienate so many of our friends and allies, while we also repair and infuse new capabilities and strength into our armed forces.

Keeping massive numbers of American troops in Iraq indefinitely is not the way to defeat global terrorist networks. We will continue to weaken, not strengthen, our national security by continuing to pour a disproportionate level of our military and intelligence and fiscal resources into Iraq.

In the November elections, the American people made it clear that they want our troops out of Iraq, and it is up to Congress to respond. Our top national security priority must be to defeat the global terrorist networks operating in countries around the world. With Wednesday's announcement that he seeks to escalate the Iraq war, the president made it clear that he will continue to shortchange that global fight and to ignore the will of the American people.

From the beginning, this war has been a mistake, and the policies that have carried it out have been a failure. Congress must not allow the president to continue or escalate a war that has already come at such a terrible cost.

It's time for Congress to use the power of the purse to end this devastating war and finally bring American troops out of Iraq.

Swift and Co. Donate Money to Help Families

I have written a lot about the immigration raids and the responsibility that Swift and Co. had in the situation. Yesterday, I saw this story about Swift and Co. donating $300,000 to the United Way in the six states were the immigration raids took place. $26,000 was donated to the United Way in Marshalltown.

Families separated and left without money after last month’s federal immigration raids are getting help from the meatpacking company where the raids occurred.

Swift & Co. officials said they have contributed $300,000 to United Way agencies in Iowa and five other states where federal agents arrested nearly 1,300 undocumented immigrants Dec. 12.

It is up to United Way to determine the best way to distribute the money, Swift spokesman Sean McHugh said Wednesday.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Grassley Hates Labor and Environmental Standards

I didn't say it, Grassley said it himself. Grassley had this quote in the National Journal on Wednesday...

“I don’t see [fast track authority] being extended without some accommodation for labor and the environment, as much as I hate to see that.” - Sen Charles Grassley (R-IA)
David Sirota wrote this about Grassley's comments...
This is about as honest a statement I’ve seen from someone from the Money Party. Grassley, like other K Street-backed “free” traders in both parties, really do hate the idea of trade deals preventing Corporate America from exploiting cheap labor, terrible environmental conditions and legalized oppression in the developing world in order to outsource American jobs and drive down American wages/benefits.
I guess, at least we know where Grassley stands on the issue. Luckily, Grassily isn't a committee chair anymore and is nearing retirement.

Feingold and Sununu Want to Keep Track of Data Mining

Sen. Russ Feingold and Sen. John Sununu reintroduced a bill yesterday that would require all government agencies to report data minging activities to Congress. The bill would require all government agencies to report to Congress within 180 days and then once a year after. The bill was oringinally introduced last year.

Feingold had this to say about the bill...

This bill is a way for Congress and the public to finally understand what is going on behind the closed doors of the executive branch so that we can start to have a policy discussion about data mining that is long overdue,” Feingold said. “The possibility of unchecked, secret use of data mining technology threatens one of the most important values that we are fighting for in the war against terrorism – freedom.
Sununu added...
Data mining and other technologies can be essential tools in detecting predictive patterns and possible outcomes from anonymous records. However, it is imperative that we understand the impact of such technology on Americans’ personal privacy. In order to do this, Congress must be fully informed of the current data mining technologies, new ones that are being developed, the effectiveness of those technologies, and the privacy protections in place.
It is good to see that Congress is starting to do its job and hold the executive branch accountable once again. The Foreign Relations Committee also began hearings yesterday about Iraq policy and it will be interesting to find out what they uncover.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Escalation of Iraq War is Morally Wrong

President Bush is going to speak tonight about the need for more troops in Iraq. It's not going surprise anyone that I think sending more troops into harms way is a stupid idea.

Republicans like to drape themselves in moral issues. This is a moral issue and sending more troops and escalating the war is morally wrong.

Here is an article that discusses sending more troops to Iraq and asks how many deaths are too many?

Make no mistake. The American public opposes the war for pragmatic reasons. It isn't working. The reasons given for it were false. The promised progress was a lie. No victory is near.

The public doesn't need more understanding of the issue. The public doesn't need to be more patient. The public does need moral clarity that informs their growing opposition to the war.

Surging troop levels violate three of the time-honored rules of a just war. First, a surge does not provide a reasonable hope for success. It only prolongs the failed war. Winning the war is a myth. Second, a surge does not ensure non-combatant civilian immunity from war. It only escalates in a civil war the number of deaths and disfigurements. Third, a surge increases the war's costs which already outweigh the original goals for the war.
Instead of sending 20,000 more troops, we should do what John Edwards has been saying and immediately redeploy 20,000 troops.

Time to Leave No Child Left Behind Behind

Here is a good article that outlines some of the reasons why No Child Left Behind is not working and will never work.

You can have 100 percent proficiency or you can have a meaningful definition of proficient. You cannot have both. Think about it. Whatever variable you choose to measure about us--height, weight, distance between pupils, time needed to run a mile--we vary. Ditto for proficiency, however defined. We usually vary in a regular way, lining up in the oft maligned bell-shaped curve. The shape of the curve isn't important, but the fact that we vary is. We could pass a law saying that all six graders must be X inches tall, but given the large differences among kids, not to mention differences in the onset of adolescent growth spurts, X would have to be a very small number.

The law effectively guarantees that we cannot obtain 100 percent proficiency because it requires that the tests that measure whether or not we are proficient be keyed to "challenging" standards. But challenging standards are those that, by definition, not everyone can meet. If everyone could, they wouldn't be challenging.

There's another problem: By defining achievement in terms of the percent attaining some level labeled "proficient," we're not actually measuring--we're counting. We're just setting up a barrier for people to jump over. We know how many got over it, but we have no idea how high the barrier really is or how high the kids actually jump.

The No Child Left Behind act is up for renewal this year and I think it will hard for it to get passed without at least some changes to the law. The question is if they are going to make changes or just scrap the thing altogether.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Democrats Want Tax Cuts for Middle Class

My post last week saying not extending temporary tax cuts is not increasing taxes caused a little uproar at righty blogs like State 29 and the Cornbeltway Babies. Both were crying about so-called tax increases, while completely ignoring the neeed to invest in our future.

Here is a story that goes into more detail about the Democrats plan when it comes to taxes. It says they plan to decrease taxes on the middle class and consider not extending the tax cuts for the most wealthy.

She (Speaker Pelosi) spoke of pursuing an estimated $300 billion that people owe in back taxes, eliminating deficit spending and reducing wasteful federal spending.

"As we review what we get from ... collecting our taxes and reducing waste, fraud and abuse, investing in education and in initiatives which will bring money into the treasury, it may be that tax cuts for those making over a certain amount of money, $500,000 a year, might be more important to the American people than ignoring the educational and health needs of America's children," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview aired Sunday.

A budget rule, known as the pay-as-you-go rule, that was approved by the Democratic-run House on Friday requires that tax cuts have corresponding cuts in government spending or tax increases elsewhere to pay for them.

"What we're saying is Democrats propose tax cuts for middle-income families. And we want to have 'pay-go,' no new deficit spending. We're not going to start with repealing tax cuts, but they certainly are not off the table for people making over half a million dollars a year," Pelosi said.

All of these should start us on the track of balancing the budget and should help jumpstart the economy. When consumers have more money in their pockets they spend it, which creates jobs.

Lakoff on Framing the Progressive Agenda

Monday, January 08, 2007

Spencer Forms Exploratory Committee for 2nd Run in 4th District

Today, Selden Spencer formed an exploratory committee to look into a possible 2nd run for Congress in the 4th District. Spencer lost to Tom Latham in the 2006 elections 57% to 43%. Spencer entered the race late and battled name recognition and slow fundraising the entire race. As a first time candidate, though, Spencer greatly improved as the campaign went on.

I would be excited to see Dr. Spencer run again in 2008. By looking into a possible run now, Spencer will be able to negate the affects from entering the race late in 2006.

Spencer had this to say about the exploratory committee...

Finally, we are set to announce the exploratory committee and hope they will be able to guide us in the process of making the 4th District a Democratic voice in Washington. Members include John Norris, Sandy Opstvedt, Bob and Debbie Gitchell, and Berkley Bedell.

Nussle to Open Consulting Firm in Cedar Rapids

Many thought that Jim Nussle would be leaving Iowa for good after his defeat in the Governor's last November, but it looks like Nussle is keeping his Iowa ties. Nussle plans to open up a consulting firm in Cedar Rapids. From the Cedar Rapids Gazette...

Former 1st District Rep. Jim Nussle, a Manchester Republican, announced today he is opening a Cedar Rapids-based consulting firm, Navigating Strategies, L.L.C., that will combine his years of experience in the public and private sectors.

Together with long-time associate and former chief of staff, Steve Greiner, originally from Independence, the firm will provide a partnership and expertise in the areas of business, government, politics, communications, and public policy.

Nussle isn't forgetting about DC though...
In addition to headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Navigating Strategies will have an office in the Washington, D.C., area.
With news that Tom Harkin might not be running for Senate in 2008 and Grassley looking at retirement in 2010, Nussle could be eyeing a run for Senate.

Our Illegal Employer Problem

When I was home over break I was listening to Thom Hartmann on the radio. Hartmann was discussing the immigration raids and ways to solve the immigration problem. He had a caller who sold peaches. The caller said that she offered her workers good pay at $10 an hour and food and housing on site to pick peaches and still had a hard time finding workers. Hartmann suggested offering $20 an hour. The woman emphatically said that people still wouldn't pick peaches for $20 an hour or $800 a week. Hartmann disagreed with this and so do I. When the call was over Hartmann started saying that we have an illegal employer problem and not an illegal immigration problem in the country.

Here is an article Hartmann wrote back in July discussing our illegal employer problem...

The fact is that we had an open border with Mexico for several centuries, and "illegal immigration" was never a serious problem. Before Reagan's presidency, an estimated million or so people a year came into the US from Mexico - and the same number, more or less, left the US for Mexico at the end of the agricultural harvest season. Very few stayed, because there weren't jobs for them.

Non-citizens didn't have access to the non-agricultural US job market, in large part because of the power of US labor unions (before Reagan 25% of the workforce was unionized; today the private workforce is about 7% unionized), and because companies were unwilling to risk having non-tax-deductible labor expenses on their books by hiring undocumented workers without valid Social Security numbers.

But Reagan put an end to that. His 1986 amnesty program, combined with his aggressive war on organized labor (begun in 1981), in effect told both employers and non-citizens that there would be few penalties and many rewards to increasing the US labor pool (and thus driving down wages) with undocumented immigrants. A million people a year continued to come across our southern border, but they stopped returning to Latin America every fall because instead of seasonal work they were able to find permanent jobs.

The magnet drawing them? Illegal Employers.

Our illegal employer problem won't be solved unless the companies that hire illegal immigrants face consequences. More than 1,200 illegal immigrants were arrested in the immigration raids that took place in December. The company that employed them was not charged with anything yet.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Biden's Running For President

As if people didn't already know, but Joe Biden announced on Meet the Presss this morning that he is going to run for president. Biden went on to say...

I am running for president,” he told “Meet the Press” anchor Tim Russert. “I’m going to be Joe Biden, and I’m going to be the best Joe Biden I can be.
It seems that Biden campaign strategy is to talk about himself in the third person.

Biden is very knowledgable on foreign policy, but I find it hard to get excited about his candidacy. For some reason, Biden reminds of a used car salesman. I see him on the Sunday talk shows every week and he doesn't sound that bad. Then when his segment is almost over I start to feel that I am going to get ripped off.

What's your feeling of Biden as a candidate?

2,000 Foot Rule Doesn't Work

The Des Moines Register has a story about the 2,000 foot rule for sexual predators. The article gives reasons why the law has failed to work...

One of the biggest reasons many law enforcement and prevention advocates believe Iowa's 2,000-foot rule for sex offenders is misguided is because it does little to stop the most likely perpetrators of abuse.

Research has shown that almost 90 percent of all child sexual abuse is committed by people already known to the child - most often a parent, step-parent or boyfriend - according to Steve Scott of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.
I hope the new Democratic state legislature works on getting rid of the 2,000 foot law and comes up with something that works and is enforceable.