July 29, 2004
Support for the military
The Bush/Cheney campaign website asserts that "[t]he 2004 budget keeps the Department of Defense on track in its plan to eliminate inadequate military housing. 163,000 inadequate housing units will be eliminated by 2007."
Where will 163,000 military families live if we eliminate their houses (no matter how inadequate)? It does not sound like we are going to build 163,000 new houses. With husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers overseas in harm's way, fighting a war, now does not seem like a good time to be eliminating military housing.
Frankly, it is this sort of positive "spin" on what is a negative fact that consistently causes this administration to seem less than forthright.
Reserve troops, that have seen active duty, should have all of the benefits available to the regular military. For instance, reservists are only entitled to military medical or dental care for any injury, illness or disease incurred or aggravated in the line of duty. That includes travel to and from military duties. But they must be tested to ensure the injury, illness or disease happened while they were on active duty. Imagine the nightmare of trying to prove that your loved one's emotional problems were caused by the rigors of war, rather than some sort of pre-duty predisposition.
Out of respect for the sacrifices our servicemen have made to our country, Republican congressmen must not be allowed to cut veterans benefits. Double click here for more info and here. No wonder this administration is losing the support of military veterans. Bush is literally breaking campaign promises that he made to our country's soldiers, young and old. Contrast the Republican's cuts to John Edward's efforts on behalf of Veterans.
A new GI bill should be passed to benefit the soldiers now serving our country in Iraq -- both reserve and regular military. It is what they deserve, and the benefit it will provide us as a nation will be incalcuable.
July 28, 2004
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch
John Dean examines Halliburton's business connections with Iraq while Vice President Dick Cheney was employed by Halliburton in Dean’s book Worse than Watergate.
Cheney was hired by Halliburton for . . . his [contacts] . . . particularly in Arab oil nations, from his tenure as secretary of defense. Cheney’s contacts gave Halliburton “a level of access that [no one] else in the oil sector [could] duplicate,” according to Halliburton’s president, David Lesar. . .
Under Cheney, Halliburton did business with Iraq, Iran, Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan . . . countries notorious for violating human rights. Several of them are avowed enemies of the United States. . . . In late July, the New York Times reported that “Mr. Cheney’s company has already done business in countries still facing American sanctions, including Libya and Iraq, the enemy Mr. Cheney helped vanquish in the gulf war.”
After four years of the Bush administration, it will come as no surprise to learn that Cheney denied these allegations on national TV.
. . . The New York Times stayed on the story and a month later removed all doubt about the untruthfulness of Cheney’s [denial]. The Times, quoting Halliburton’s vice chairman, Donald Vaughn, reported that Halliburton’s subsidiary did, in fact, have “business relations” with Iraq. . . . [A]fter the campaign . . . the Washington Post obtain[ed] records from the United Nations showing that Haliburton’s subsidiaries had sold more than $73 million in oil-production parts and equipment to Iraq. In fact, no one did more oil-related equipment business with Saddam. . . .
“Principal is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn’t do any good if you lose,” Cheney once advised one of his White House associates during a campaign. This appears to be the guiding philosophy of Cheney’s political and business careers.
It seems that everyone, including the Washington Post , the Dallas Morning News, and the New York Times is talking about the keynote address delivered by Barak Obama, at last night’s DNC. You can see the speech for yourself, here. More about Obama can be found here.
On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention.
Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.
But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place; America which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas.
Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton's army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity.
And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.
I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted-or at least, most of the time.
This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations.
And fellow Americans——Democrats, Republicans, Independents——I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.
Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon.
Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems.
But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.
In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. That man is John Kerry. John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and sacrifice, because they've defined his life. From his heroic service in Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.
John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he'll offer them to companies creating jobs here at home. John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.
John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren't held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields. John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us. And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option, but it should never be the first option.
A while back, I met a young man named Shamus at the VFW Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, six-two or six-three, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he'd joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week.
As I listened to him explain why he'd enlisted, his absolute faith in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us? I thought of more than 900 service men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who will not be returning to their hometowns.
I thought of families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one's full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or with nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists. When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.
Now let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure. John Kerry believes in America. And he knows it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.
A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief-I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper-that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America-there's the United States of America.
There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here-the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!
In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!
Tonight, if you feel the same energy I do, the same urgency I do, the same passion I do, the same hopefulness I do-if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president, and John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come. Thank you and God bless you.
July 27, 2004
Things that make you go, hmm.
Perhaps, Ann Coulter’s fascination with “pretty girls” at the DNC explains why the woman can’t get a date. She does not want a man and no self respecting woman would have her.
July 26, 2004
John Dean's book, Worse than Watergate, argues that secrecy is the leading characteristic of George W. Bush's White House. Dean recalls the stock sale that enabled Dubya, in part, to purchase the Texas Rangers. What stands out as notable to this dog is not the fortune that Dubya built on his insider trade, nor the secrecy that surrounds the trade, but rather the cadre of extremely powerful and influential men that clearly watched Dubya's back.
To participate in the Rangers deal, Bush borrowed $500,000 from the United Bank of Midland (Texas), where he had earlier served as director. . . . [H]e collateralized his loan with [212,140] shares of Harken stock, which had about the same value. . . In 1989 and 1990 . . . [Bush] was . . . on the board of directors of Harken, [and was also] on the board’s audit committee. In June 1990, [Bush] sold [the] Harken shares at $4 each in a private transaction for $848,560. Eight days after the sale, Harken reported a $23.2 million loss, and the share price fell to $2.37. Bush used [the proceeds from the sale] to pay off his half-million-dollar loan and pocketed almost $350,000 from the [stock sale] . . .
[W]hen the Securities and Exchange Commission looked at the transaction and Bush’s late filings of his insider trade, they said no enforcement action was called for against him, no did any U.S. attorney convene a grand jury to look at the potential federal offenses. . . .
. . . The SEC chairman [at the time of the investigation into the June 1990 Harken stock sale] had been appointed by Bush’s dad and was also a partner from the law firm of James Baker, Bush senior’s White House chief of staff and later secretary of state. [George W.] Bush’s attorney during the SEC investigation [was] a former partner of the SEC lead investigator. The lead investigator at the SEC . . . . happened to be Bush’s former personal attorney who had helped put together the Texas Rangers deal.
July 22, 2004
Nothing to laugh about
PETA released the results of an undercover investigation into a KFC chicken slaughterhouse in Moorefield, W.Va., where workers were caught on video stomping birds, kicking them, and slamming them against floors and walls. Workers ripped the animals' beaks off, twisted their heads off, spat tobacco into their eyes and mouths, spray-painted their faces, and tied their legs together for "laughs." I think I've lost my appetite.
July 19, 2004
For the last three years Congress as approved but President Bush has withheld funding for the United Nations Population fund. The UNFPA, since 1969, has provided family planning, maternal and child health, and sexually transmitted disease prevention and treatment services to millions of the poorest people around the world. These services are very important because 529,000 women – roughly one woman every minute – dies each year from the consequences of pregnancy-related complications. 99 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Sadly, more money is spent on cosmetic sales in the United States than is needed to provide prenatal and reproductive care for all the world's women.
Bush claims that the organization implicitly supports coercive abortions and sterilizations in China. Like most of Bush’s justifications, this justification is out of sync with the truth. The truth is that Bush’s own fact-finding team, sent to China in 2002, found ‘no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC [People's Republic of China].’ The truth is that the UNFPA program in China was developed with the express purpose of moving China away from coercion and towards the delivery of voluntary services. The truth is UNFPA does not support abortion services or information anywhere, nor does it provide equipment for performing abortions.
Colin Powell, the secretary of state, wrote that the UNFPA “does invaluable work through its programmes in maternal and child health care, voluntary family planning, screening for reproductive-tract cancers, breast-feeding promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention.” According to Thoraya Obaid, the UN agency's executive director, the American contribution could have prevented 2 million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 induced abortions and more than 77,000 deaths.
July 15, 2004
The N double, what?
Since his election, George Bush has refused to speak with members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Bush has held a four year grudge against the NAACP for an ad it sponsored, during the 2000 election year, that portrayed Bush as unsympathetic to the lynching of James Byrd in Tyler, Texas. (As governor of Texas, Bush refused to support hate crime legislation after Byrd's death).
The Washington Post reports that last Thursday, A Bush spokesman blasted the NAACP.
The president “has many friends who belong to the NAACP and respects their proud history of championing civil rights,” White House communications director Dan Bartlett said. “Differences of opinion and opposing views are of course part of the national debate. Yet the current leadership of the NAACP has clearly crossed the line in partisanship and civility, making it impossible to have a constructive dialogue.”The real problem with Bush’s reaction to the NAACP is that it cuts the President of the United States off from real dialogue with the most established and respected voice for black Americans.
It has been argued that since the efforts of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Acts, black Americans have become so much a part of the mainstay of this country that they no longer require a political voice like the NAACP. While this argument is growing more resonant every day, the NAACP still has a role to play in our country’s political process, much in the same wa7 as NOW (National Organization of Women) or any other public action group.
Moreover, King's advancements and the Civil Rights Acts can be directly traced to the NAACP's 100 year efforts. The NAACP political influence is primarily responsible for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968; the August 28, 1963 Civil Rights Rally in which MLK delivered his most famous speech, “I Have A Dream;” and the outcry against apartheid that lead to dramatic changes in South Africa, during the 1980's. Today, the NAACP is working toward equitable changes in education, labor, and the prison system (perhaps the most forgotten of all citizens, either black or white). http://www.naacp.org
Similarly, it cannot be forgotten that the NAACP brought us the great legal mind of Thurgood Marshall, where he was chief legal counsel. Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by JFK in 1961 and then to the Supreme Court by LBJ in 1967. While Marshall is best known for his winning argument in Brown v. The Board of Education (desegregation of public schools), as chief legal counsel for the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall represented and won more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American.
The President of the United States simply cannot ignore this important political organization.
July 03, 2004
This is relevant
This morning, in the May 31, 2004, issue of the New Yorker I read an article about Barack Obama, the Democrat running for the same same Illinois United States senatorial seat that Jack Ryan once sought. Obama is the son of an African statesman, from Kenya, who was in the United States long enough to earn a degree from Harvard, marry Obama's mother, and father a son. Obama was raised by his Kansas corn fed white mother and her parents. (Obama wrote a book about his father, and Obama's own struggle with identity, titled Dreams from My Father.)
Obama earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia Univeristy and then a law degree from Harvard, where he was President of the Harvard Law Review. He currently teaches Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago's law school. Obama, who has gained a voter base that cuts across the corn fields of Southern Illinois to the inner city of Chicago and through the bedroom communities of the Northwest and Northeast suburbs of Chicago, is a rising star in United States politics. You will hear more about this remarkable man in the years to come.
July 02, 2004
The DNC recognizes the power of the female vote
In a website targeting female voters, the Democratic National Committee asserts “This election women will make the difference” and provides specific instances of the Bush Administrations anti-women policies.
Many American Families are Finding It Harder to Get Ahead. Since Bush took office, household income and wages have failed to grow, while poverty and unemployment have expanded. Many families are finding it hard to get ahead or even just get by.
Median Household Income is Down. Census data shows that median household income (the point at the middle of the income scale) fell 3.3 percent since 2000, a loss of $1,439 per household. [www.census.gov]
Middle and Low-Income Wages Declining. In 2003, those at the middle and lower earning levels saw their weekly wages decline, while those in the top 10 percent saw significant gains. [www.epinet.org, 1/28/04]
Poverty Levels Are Up. In 2002, the number of Americans living in poverty increased to 34.6 million; an increase of 3.5 million under Bush -- and the majority are women. [www.census.gov]
Unemployment Up Sharply. Since Bush took office, the number of unemployed has increased by 2.4 million people -- of which 1.1 million are women. [www.bls.gov]
Working For Less; Women's Salaries Still Only 76 Percent Of Those Earned By Men. The Census Bureau reported that in 2001 the median earnings for women were $29,215, compared to $38,275 for men. For minority women, the wage gap is even more pronounced: African-American women earn 69 cents compared with white men and Hispanic women earn only 56 cents. However, the Bush administration eliminated the Equal Pay Matters Initiative, a multi-million dollar project to tackle discrimination and train women for better jobs.[www.census.gov; www.nwlc.org]
Bush and GOP Approaching Record For Longest Period Without a Minimum Wage Increase, The national minimum wage has been flat since 1996 and is rapidly approaching an all-time low in its purchasing power. Nearly 7 million working women would benefit from a minimum wage hike, but Bush has stated his opposition to any minimum wage increase. [www.epinet.org, Associated Press, 8/24/99]
Bush and GOP Refuse to Extend Tax Cuts to 12 Million Children in Low and Middle-Income Families. An estimated 11.9 million children from moderate- and low-income families were excluded from the Bush child tax credits. Since accelerating that tax cut in 2003, Bush and his congressional allies have refused to consider expanding that credit. [New York Times, 5/29/03; www.cbpp.org]
Bush Welfare Reform Will Drop 360,000 Children From Child Care. Congress is currently putting the finishing touches on welfare reauthorization. The bill provides $1 billion for child care over the next five years, far short of the $5.7 billion estimated as necessary to preserve the current levels of service. By 2008, 360,000 fewer children will receive child care assistance under the legislation. [www.clasp.org]
Choice: Roe v. Wade Under Assault
Bush Launches Full Assault on a Woman's Freedom of Choice. In November 2003, Bush signed the first-ever federal ban on an abortion procedure, the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The ban makes no exception for protecting the health of a woman. On his first day in office, Bush re-imposed the global gag rule on reproductive health organizations. Bush is stacking the judiciary with anti-choice judges like Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen and has taken several moves to establish fetal rights in an effort to undermine Roe v. Wade. He also is actively supporting federal legislation that would make it a crime to take a minor across state lines to have an abortion without her parent's consent. [www.crlp.org; www.naral.org; Washington Times, 1/15/04]
Women's Health: Losing Out To Political Interests
One Million Women Lose Health Care Coverage On Bush's Watch. In 2002, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 2.4 million to 43.6 million. Overall, 13.9 percent (20.2 million) of women in America were uninsured in 2002. The number of women without health insurance has increased by 1.2 million under Bush. [www.census.gov]
Millions of Low-Income Seniors Pushed Into Poorer Prescription Drug Coverage Under Bush's Plan. The Bush Medicare reform eliminated Medicaid eligibility for poor seniors, affecting about 6 million people, of which 59 percent are women. In the Medicare system they will face higher drug co-pays and more limited coverage than they would have under Medicaid. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 2.7 million seniors will lose their retiree health coverage, pushing them into the less-generous government plan. [www.kff.org; www.cbpp.org; USA Today, 11/25/03]
Education: Bush Offers Empty Promises
The President Has Repeatedly Broken His Promise to Provide Federal Support for Education. When Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act in January 2002, it committed the federal government to funding levels for the education of low-income students through 2007. None of Bush's three budgets since then have come close to meeting these authorization levels. His 2003 budget was $7.2 billion short, his 2004 budget was $9 billion short and his 2005 budget is more than $9 billion short. [Associated Press, 2/24/03; Office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, 6/9/03; National Education Association, 2/2/04]
States and Local Governments Struggling to Pay for Education. While No Child Left Behind has created new obligations and standards for local schools, the federal government has not provided the money to make these reforms succeed. A November 2003 survey of nearly 2,000 superintendents and principals found that 9 in 10 viewed No Child Left Behind as an unfunded mandate. And over the past three years, education spending in 35 states has not been able to keep pace with increases in inflation and enrollment. [The Wallace Foundation, www.wallacefoundation.org; Education Week, 1/7/04]
While Tuitions for Higher Education Have Been Spiraling, Bush Has Been Cutting Financial Aid. The cost of higher education has increased rapidly under Bush's watch. In 2000-2001, the average total cost of attending a four-year public institution was $8,841 and a four-year private institution cost $23,528. In 2003-2004, the average cost of a four-year public institution was $10,636 (an increase of $1,795) while a private four-year institution cost $26,854 (an increase of $3,326). Yet Bush's 2004 budget left campus-based financial aid programs at $160 million (8.2 percent) below the amount needed to maintain purchasing power. [House Budget Committee Minority Staff, 4/30/03, 2/7/03]