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"Folks tend to forget," he continued, "that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment," but "persecuted minorities" such as Baptists "who didn't want the established churches to impose their views."

From Illinois Senator Barak Obama's speech at the Call to Renewal Conference
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Daily Topics & Commentary:
Wednesday, July 5
Bush Signaling Shift in Stance on Immigration
Wednesday, July 5 (New York Times)On the eve of nationwide hearings that could determine the fate of his immigration bill, President Bush is signaling a new willingness to negotiate with House Republicans in an effort to revise the stalled legislation before Election Day.

Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally.

"He thinks that this notion that you can have triggers is something we should take a close look at, and we are," said Candi Wolff, the White House director of legislative affairs, referring to the idea that guest worker and citizenship programs would be triggered when specific border security goals had been met, a process that could take two years.

The shift is significant because Mr. Bush has repeatedly said he favors legislation like the Senate's immigration bill, which establishes border security, guest worker and citizenship programs all at once. The enforcement-first approach puts Mr. Bush one step closer to the House, where Republicans are demanding an enforcement-only measure.

"The willingness to consider a phased-in situation, that's a pretty big concession from where they were at," said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, whose closeness to Mr. Bush dates to his days as a top Republican National Committee official. "It's a suggestion they are willing to negotiate."

In a sign of that willingness, the White House last week invited a leading conservative proponent of an enforcement-first bill, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, to present his ideas to Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office.

Ms. Wolff said the president found the Pence plan "pretty intriguing."

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Pence said the president used precisely those words in their talk. Mr. Pence said that the meeting was scheduled to last 10 or 20 minutes but went on for 40, and that the president "was quite adamant throughout the meeting to make the point that he hoped I would be encouraged." More

Monday, July 3
12:21 pmWell, this Pretty Much Sums Up the New York Times Flap

Looks like the Wingers are speading some of that anti-abortion ire to journalists.

Friday, June 30
When A Net Neutrality Tie Is A Win
Friday, June 30 (TPM Cafe)The news stories following the Senate Commerce Committee vote on Net Neutrality pictured it as a defeat for the forces of good. Don't believe it. Even though the Net Neutrality amendment failed on a tie vote, we got ourselves into a good position for the rest of the game.

The real bad news is that the giveaway to America's biggest companies continues.

There wasn't a lot to cheer about yesterday when the Senate Commerce Committee approved a new monster of a telecom bill. The draft started out at 159 pages, and after all of the amendments are added up, who knows how much more material the forces for smaller government will have added to it.

This much we do know. As one comes to expect from these things, the big corporations got pretty much what they wanted. The movie companies got the right to set the rules for what consumers can do with over-the-air digital TV signals and the authority for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce Hollywood's business plans. The shorthand for this issue is the "broadcast flag," the name for the bits in the signal that will tell your electronics what your rights are. The bill, if it ever became law, would overturn a case brought by Public Knowledge, (my day-job employer), which beat back the FCC's broadcast-flag rule in court last year.

The record companies got the right to use the FCC to cripple the satellite and terrestrial digital radio businesses by curtailing consumers' ability to store music. It was unfortunate that neither of these items, the broadcast flag or its radio counterpart, was at all controversial when the Committee discussed the bill over the course of three days.

The telephone companies got the right to get into the video business quickly, without a requirement that they actually serve an entire franchising area and without pesky local oversight. The cable companies got the right to get out from pesky local oversight when their current franchises run out. The cellular companies, largely owned by the phone companies, got themselves exempted from state consumer protections. Such a deal for all -- consumers excepted.

Ah, but then we come to Net Neutrality, which sucked the oxygen out of the rest of the debate. For the record, the amendment by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) failed on an 11-to-11 tie. Somehow this was portrayed in many news stories as a defeat for the tech industry. Don't believe it. More

A Governing Philosophy Rebuffed
Ruling Emphasizes Constitutional Boundaries
Friday, June 30 (Washington Post)For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it.

Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.

For many in Washington, the decision echoed not simply as a matter of law but as a rebuke of a governing philosophy of a leader who at repeated turns has operated on the principle that it is better to act than to ask permission. This ethos is why many supporters find Bush an inspiring leader, and why many critics in this country and abroad react so viscerally against him.

At a political level, the decision carries immediate ramifications. It provides fodder to critics who turned Guantanamo Bay into a metaphor for an administration run amok. Now lawmakers may have to figure out how much due process is enough for suspected terrorists, hardly the sort of issue many would be eager to engage in during the months before an election.

That sort of back-and-forth process is just what Bush has usually tried to avoid as he set about to prosecute an unconventional war against an elusive enemy after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He asserted that in this new era, a president's inherent constitutional authority was all that was needed. Lawmakers and judges largely deferred to him, with occasional exceptions, such as the Supreme Court two years ago when it limited the administration's ability to detain suspects indefinitely. More

Obama's Eloquent Faith
Friday, June 30 (Washington Post)Many Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls.

Specifically, they looked at the importance of religious voters to President Bush's majority and decided: We need some of those folks. Off Democrats went to their Bibles, finding every verse they could -- there are many -- describing the imperative to help the poor, battle injustice and set the oppressed free.

Now, human beings often find God in unexpected places, so why shouldn't the exit polls be this era's answer to the burning bush? And a lot of Democrats insist, fairly, that they were people of faith long before the results of 2004 were tabulated.

Yet there is often a terrible awkwardness among Democratic politicians when their talk turns to God, partly because they also know how important secular voters are to their coalition. When it comes to God, it's hard to triangulate.

So, when a religious Democrat speaks seriously about the relationship of faith to politics, the understandable temptation is to see him as counting not his blessings but his votes. Thus did the Associated Press headline its early stories about Barack Obama's speech to religious progressives on Wednesday: "Obama: Democrats Must Court Evangelicals." More
Thursday, June 29
5:18 pmThe Obama Speech

Illinois Senator Barack Obama made a speech at the Call to Renewal Conference, sponsored by Sojourner's. I'm a big fan of Obama and Jim Wallis. Lately, there's been a lib dustup because of his words. I've talked about the need for Dems to realize that there are liberals that go to church, pray, and honor God. They are not closet GOP'ers. People in our party sometimes--often pooh-pooh's them because of that. Not good.

But here's the link to Obama's words, in a podcast. Listen to them, and try not to draw conclusions until you've finished. I understand that smart and outspoken people sometimes start talking about conclusions they THINK are there before they actually listen to what is said. At least my wife tells me that at times. Enjoy.

Unwanted Pregnancies Rise for Poor Women
Rate Drops for Those Well Above Poverty Level, Report Indicates
Thursday, June 29 (Washington Post)Poor women in America are increasingly likely to have unwanted pregnancies, whereas relatively affluent women are succeeding more and more in getting pregnant only when they want to, according to a study analyzing federal statistics.

As a result of the growing disparity, women living in poverty are now almost four times more likely to become pregnant unintentionally than women of greater means, the study found.

Based on nationwide data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and other sources, the researchers found that from 1994 through 2001, the rate of unplanned pregnancies increased by almost 30 percent for women below the federal poverty line -- now defined as $16,000 annually for a family of three. For women in families comfortably above poverty, the rate of unplanned pregnancies fell by 20 percent during the same period.

The abortion rate also rose among poor women while declining among the more affluent.

"Clearly, something is changing, and it doesn't bode well in terms of unplanned pregnancies and abortions for poor women, in particular," said Heather Boonstra, one of the authors of the report.

Asked what was driving the trends, the authors noted that some state and federal reproductive health programs have been cut or made more restrictive in recent years. State and federal programs have increasingly focused on abstinence
rather than contraception, and some analysts have argued that the shift is leading to less use of contraceptives and more unintended pregnancies. More

Ed note:
this is a sad and heartbreaking story. Real people having to live through the the real results of pointless bloviating by the religious right.

Perhaps the only way to truly excise ourselves of this brand of republicanism is to fight where we can, but to just live through it. They'll do damage, yes. But I really think that they are moving themselves to a tipping point much faster than any political movement in the nation's history. They are so thirsty for power, so greedy for money, and so outwardsly willing to twist people's lives in the name of God that the speed in which they move will be their downfall. Today's problems won't end with Bush, as there's no original thinking in the party. Whoever comes after him, if GOP, will be more of the same. Even McCain.

We can and should fight where we could. But we should be ready to ride this one out, as they have the controls. If the ultra-rightist governments of South America fell, so will America's ultra-right. Nobody rules forever.

Thursday, June 29 (Washington Monthly)Here's another take on whether the New York Times damaged national security by exposing the Treasury Department's terror finance tracking program. In The One Percent Doctrine, Ron Suskind spends a lot of time describing the way U.S. intelligence tracked global money flows after 9/11, including accounts of the cooperation they got from Western Union (wire transfers), First Data Corporation (credit card records), and the takeover of a "money store" in Pakistan. He doesn't mention the SWIFT program specifically, but he makes it clear that U.S. teams had their fingers in a lot of financial pies and had a considerable amount of success with it.

But only for a while: More

Freedom's not just another word
George Lakoff, bestselling author of "Don't Think of an Elephant," says that liberals have foolishly allowed conservatives to claim ownership of "freedom" -- even though the progressive version is the one Americans actually believe in.
Thursday, June 29 (Salon.com)A recurring gag on "The Daily Show" involves a series of short clips of appearances by various advocates of the Bush administration on assorted news programs; the joke is that they all use the same buzzwords -- "cut-and-run" is the latest example -- with a robotic uniformity. The laughter this routine gets comes partly from the way it makes the conservatives seem like automatons, and partly from the sheer obviousness of the ploy. What makes them think we're so dumb? George Lakoff, a University of California at Berkeley linguistics professor who has lately taken to advising the left on how to better convey its political message, would probably reply, "What makes you think you're so smart?"

Lakoff's latest book, "Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea," doesn't offer a material advance on his earlier works on political culture, "Moral Politics" (1996) and the how-to manual "Don't Think of an Elephant," which became a bestseller in 2004. "Whose Freedom?" focuses on the one key concept in its title and elaborates on all the ways that progressives can reclaim the idea of freedom from the right and present their political approach as more true to traditional American ideals of liberty. Conservatives, Lakoff argues, have used the media to imprint their version of "freedom" in the public's mind -- literally in the circuits of our brains -- using a canny understanding of how political language shapes political beliefs and the very same numbing repetition that "The Daily Show" mocks.

People on the left tend to regard Lakoff either as a prophet preaching the way out of the wilderness or as a psychobabble-spouting ivory towerist who caters to the self-help mind-set of cloistered liberals instead of advocating roll-up-your-sleeves organizing. The truth is probably in the middle, because Lakoff is right when he observes that American political behavior seldom follows the directives of rational self-interest and that a lot of our thinking transpires unconsciously. The dopey repetition that we chuckle over watching "The Daily Show" uses the same technique employed by the show's advertisers, a litany that sneaks into our heads despite our knowing skepticism. (And what skeptics could be more knowing than Jon Stewart fans?) It works. Otherwise, the corporate advertisers -- no fools -- wouldn't be paying so much for it. More

Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo War Crimes Trials
In 5-3 Decision, Justices Rebuke Bush's Anti-Terror Policy
Thursday, June 29 (Washington Post)The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions are unconstitutional.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized under U.S. law or the Geneva Conventions. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion in the case, called Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recused himself from the case.

The ruling, which overturned a federal appeals court decision in which Roberts had participated, represented a defeat for President Bush, who had ordered military trials for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base. About 450 detainees captured in the war on terrorism are currently held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

The case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 36-year-old Yemeni with links to al-Qaeda, was considered a key test of the judiciary's power during wartime and carried the potential to make a lasting impact on American law. It challenged the very legality of the military commissions established by President Bush to try terrorism suspects.

The case raised core constitutional principles of separation of powers as well as fundamental issues of individual rights. Specifically, the questions concerned: More

Read the opinion here

Wednesday, June 28
1:33 pmSpeaking of the Environment

Something else that kills me about GOP'ers. The environment and the current talk of global warming. Naturally they don't believe in it. But you'd think they'd take stock and see that they didn't think that air pollution, or water pollution was a threat. They didn't think that lead paint was a big enough threat to outlaw. They thought that asbestos was an attempt by trial lawyers to make money off business. They thought that the ozone layer was the film you put on bowls to keep things fresh. Republicans have been on the wrong side of environmental issues more often than not. And, unlike most political issues, it's easy to see, breathe and drink the results of sound environmental policy.

But it fits in with the big thinking in today's GOP. They don't think hard about solving problems with government. They don't even think hard about using the market to solve problems. If they did, I'm sure we'd be a better climate because some GOP thinker came up with a way to make money off fixing the environment. But in today's GOP, it's better to spend time and money thinking of ways to do nothing. Better yet, to do even less.

If only I could get paid to think of these things. I'd be the greatest "conservative" ever!

Here's something I've noticed. When we've been living under adminstrations that tout the the strengths of the free market and how it can "set us free," why are the problems it solves, if any seem not to matter to everyday folk? During the Reagan era, the market was supposed to help clean up the environment. Don't think that happened, as the Clintons came in and left 8 years later with the cleanest air and water in a generation. Bush is in, and immediately sets the stage for a return to smog with the Orwellian Clean Skies Act.

I just don't get them. Doing nothing is not a conservative principle. It's lazy.

Shocking and Discouraging: Bush, Corporate Power and the Environment An Insiders View
Wednesday, June 28 (Multinational Monitor)Eric Schaeffer is the founder and director of the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C. Schaeffer directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Regulatory Enforcement until 2002, when he resigned after publicly expressing his frustration with efforts of the Bush administration to weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act and other laws. The Office of Regulatory Enforcement has primary responsibility for enforcing clean air, clean water and hazardous waste laws.

Multinational Monitor: Why did you leave your job at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?
Eric Schaeffer: I left because the political interference with enforcement that came in with Bush Jr. was, I thought, pretty shocking and discouraging. It got to where I felt like I couldn't really do my job effectively, and I thought for me personally it made more sense to join the loyal opposition and go public with my concerns.

I've got friends who are still at the agency who are fighting the good fight, from the inside, trying to do their jobs. I have a lot of respect for them -- I don't suggest that everybody there should resign. It was a personal choice for me.

MM: Did the interference you feel come on general policy grounds or on specific cases?
Schaeffer: Mostly on general policy grounds.

The most notorious examples come from the Clean Air Act, and from the lawsuits that we had filed against big power companies. We had filed a series of lawsuits against big power companies for violating the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act. That's a law that says you can't modify an old coal-fired power plant or refinery in a way that substantially increases emissions without first getting a permit and putting on pollution controls.

It's a very important law because a lot of power plants and refineries and manufacturers are grandfathered under the Clean Air Act. That means they don't have the emission controls that we've required of new plants for the last 30 years.

These plants are grandfathered until they undergo a physical modification, at which point the law says your grandfathering exemption is up and you have to come in for a permit and upgrade your pollution controls. We saw too many examples of power companies in particular, but also some other industries, ignoring that law and pushing emissions up. So we brought these lawsuits and we started negotiations.

The Cheney task force was established in the spring of 2001, and started with a focus on energy policy, but included a look at the Clean Air Act and sort of a directive to the agency to re-visit the New Source Review, the law that we were trying to enforce. Over the course of the summer, it became pretty clear that they were really going to cut that particular provision -- this was at a time when we had cases in court against power companies for violating the very same laws they were proposing to eliminate. I found that disturbing.

A second example involves the agriculture industry. We had started to issue orders to test their air emissions to the large industrialized farms. We're talking about huge, huge operations, on an industrial scale, where you have a million or more chickens housed in a series of barns or 50,000 to 60,000 hogs raised in one operation. We had started to issue the orders to test their air emissions because we had people living around those sites complaining, and apparently being made sick by the odors and the emissions that you get when you pack so many animals together in a small space.

We thought we were making some headway. We were starting to see a little bit of response in the industry.

But we were ordered to stop doing that in August of 2001. That was pretty discouraging.

MM: Did the pressure you felt come exclusively from the Cheney energy task force? More

Nuke the Messenger
Wednesday, June 28 (Washington Post)In accusing the press -- and specifically, the New York Times -- of putting American lives at risk, President Bush and his allies have escalated their ongoing battle with the media to nuclear proportions.

Here's what Bush had to say yesterday: "We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America."

Here's Vice President Cheney: "The New York Times has now made it more difficult for us to prevent attacks in the future."

Here's press secretary Tony Snow: "The New York Times and other news organizations ought to think long and hard about whether a public's right to know, in some cases, might overwrite somebody's right to live, and whether, in fact, the publications of these could place in jeopardy the safety of fellow Americans."

It's a monstrous charge for the White House to suggest that the press is essentially aiding and abetting the enemy. But where's the evidence?

The White House first began leveling this kind of accusation immediately after a New York Times story revealed a massive, secret domestic spying program conducted without congressional or judicial oversight. See, for instance, Bush's December 17, 2005 radio address , in which he said the disclosure put "our citizens at risk."

But not once has the White House definitively answered this question: How are any of these disclosures actually impairing the pursuit of terrorists?

Terrorists already knew the government was trying to track them down through their finances, their phone calls and their e-mails. Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, for instance, Bush publicly declared open season on terrorist financing.

As far as I can tell, all these disclosures do is alert the American public to the fact that all this stuff is going on without the requisite oversight, checks and balances.

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us. More

House says no to permanent bases in Iraq
Wednesday, June 28 (UPI)The House of Representatives has passed a bill barring the U.S. military from establishing permanent bases in Iraq.

The 2007 Defense Authorization Act, approved by the House Wednesday, includes language sponsored by Democratic war critic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, banning the United States from negotiating for permanent bases with the government of Iraq. Language to that effect was included in both versions of the Senate and House emergency war supplemental but was stripped out during conference earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced an amendment deleting the permanent basing language. It was defeated by a vote of 50-376. More

Wednesday, June 28 (The New Republic)In the long march of the conservative ascendancy, Folk Songs to Bug the Liberals, the 1964 LP by the satirical conservative quartet the Goldwaters, was only a blip. Four Tennessee college students put on "AuH2O" shirts and recorded an album of songs like "Down in Havana," "Barry's Moving In," and "Row Our Own Boat." They dropped out of school to warm up crowds before Goldwater campaign appearances. The record reportedly sold some 200,000 copies. The Goldwaters were never heard from again. I suggest a critical reconsideration. 

Ask a conservative activist to explain what anchors and unites their fractious movement, and he will point to ideas: to weighty tomes by Eric Voegelin, Russell Kirk, Wilhelm Roepke, Edmund Burke; to the development of the philosophy of "fusionism," by which the furrow-browed theorists at National Review cogitated their way past the conflicts between the traditionalist, libertarian, and anti-communist strains of the American right. They will make it sound almost as if the 87 percent of Mississippians who voted for Barry Goldwater did so after a stretch of all-nighters in the library. 

They will not mention an illustration popular among college conservatives in the 1960s: a peace symbol-shaped B-52 bomber with the words drop it on the wings. Nor will they discuss the annual "McCarthy-Evjue" lecture that student conservatives in Wisconsin (among them, present-day right-wing luminaries David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Alfred Regnery, formerly of Regnery Publishing) put on to honor their favorite Wisconsin senator and to mock William Evjue, the editor of the Madison newspaper William F. Buckley labeled "Prairie Pravda." (They advertised the lecture on pink paper.) They will not mention the Southern Californians who flocked to church basements, high school auditoriums, and VFW halls to hear hellfire-and-brimstone lecturers like World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, author of The Socialistic Sixteenth--A National Cancer, or the Reverend Billy James Hargis ("Is the Schoolhouse the Proper Place To Teach Raw Sex?"). More

Monday, June 26
9:22 amTony Snow Says It's Just a Number

At Collective Interest, we say this to commemmorate the falling of the 2500th American soldier in Iraq.

Rape scene in `Rescue Me' troubling
Monday, June 26 (Chicago Tribune)"Rescue Me" has crossed a troubling line.

Sure, Tommy Gavin, the bad-boy firefighter at the heart of the FX drama, has done awful things in the past. But when he raped his estranged wife, Gavin (played by "Rescue Me" co-creator Denis Leary) hit a sickening new low.
On the June 20 episode of "Rescue Me," Gavin had a conversation with his estranged wife about how to split up their possessions. The conversation grew heated, and he became violent with her, shoved her on the couch and forced her to have sex with him.

It apparently wasn't enough that the show depicted Gavin raping a woman, but it had to show that Janet Gavin appeared to enjoy it by the end of the act.
The worst part? Gavin exited the house with a huge smirk on his face.

The smirk seemed to say, "Women love me, no matter what I do to them." After all, Gavin had just gotten a string of phone calls (on "crazy chick call-in day," as he dubbed it) from four of the women in his life, all of whom are needy or shrewish or sexually obsessed with him -- if not all three.

It's one thing to create a show about a troubled alcoholic with rage issues. But it's another thing entirely to make the lead character of the show a scary sociopath who assaults women.
That's disturbing to any viewer, male or female.

But there are signs FX wants to expand its viewer base beyond its largely male demographic; Glenn Close had a terrific run on "The Shield" and both Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei make appearances on "Rescue Me" this season. Still, allowing the lead character on one of the network's flagship shows to be not just a sexist jerk but a rapist as well is not a good way to keep FX's female viewers, let alone attract new ones. More

Ed note: hmmm, do you think Sean Hannity and the rest of the Pharisees at Fox News will denounce something on one of their own channels?

8:56 amThe Problem with Net Neutrality

If you listen to the telecos, there's a problem with the Internetgovernment control of public space. If you listen to common sense, the problem is that the telecos haven't made enough money from it, and now want to break something that's fixed. Collective Interest is now on record with the assertion that there is no problem, and the telecos merely want to squeeze more money out of the Web. But, in the interest of fairness, here's a good point/counterpoint from NPR last week:

First, from the telecos

Next, from those with sense

PostGlobal with David Ignatius and Fareed Zakharia
Monday, June 26 (Washington Post)A former secretary and assistant secretary of defense (William J. Perry and Ashton B. Carter) argued on Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed for a preemptive military strike against North Korea's Taepodong missile if the country persists in its test launch preparations.

Should the U.S. carry out a strike against the North Korean missile? What would be the consequences of such a strike?

We asked Masha Lipman, Mikio Ikuma, Nayan Chanda and the other members of our panel of commentators to answer this question. More

Democrats Cite Report On Troop Cuts in Iraq
Pentagon Plan Like Theirs, Senators Say
Monday, June 26 (Washington Post)Senate Democrats reacted angrily yesterday to a report that the U.S. commander in Iraq had privately presented a plan for significant troop reductions in the same week they came under attack by Republicans for trying to set a timetable for withdrawal.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that the plan attributed to Gen. George W. Casey resembles the thinking of many Democrats who voted for a nonbinding resolution to begin a troop drawdown in December. That resolution was defeated Thursday on a largely party-line vote in the Senate.

"That means the only people who have fought us and fought us against the timetable, the only ones still saying there shouldn't be a timetable really are the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the Congress," Boxer said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Now it turns out we're in sync with General Casey."

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), one of the two sponsors of the nonbinding resolution, which offered no pace or completion date for a withdrawal, said the report is another sign of what he termed one of the "worst-kept secrets in town" -- that the administration intends to pull out troops before the midterm elections in November. More

Tuesday, June 20
Dems Back Phased Withdrawal
Republicans: Stay and Stay, Spend and Spend
Tuesday, June 20 (Informed Comment)Senate Democrats have come up with two resolutions, with most of the coalescing around the vaguer one.

AP describes the more popular resolution:

' The resolution would urge _ but not require _ the administration to begin "a phased redeployment of U.S. forces" in 2006 and, by year's end, give Congress its plan for "continued redeployment" thereafter. Additionally, the resolution calls for American troops, which have been focused on combat operations in Iraq, to more quickly switch to "a limited mission of training and logistic support of Iraqi security forces, protection of U.S. personnel and facilities, and targeting counterterrorism activities." It also maps out steps Senate Democrats say the fledgling Iraqi government must take to lay the foundation for a successful democracy and calls for an international conference to help Iraq overcome problems it faces. '

My hero, Russ Feingold, and other heroes Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, are pushing a more specific withdrawal plan with a July 1, 2007 deadline for withdrawal of most US forces. AP says:

' It would require the administration to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007, leaving in place only U.S. troops essential to training Iraqi security forces, conducting counterterrorism operations and protecting U.S. personnel and facilities. "A deadline gives Iraqis the best chance for stability and self-government, and most importantly, it allows us to begin refocusing on the true threats that face our country," Kerry and Feingold, two Democrats eying potential presidential candidacies in 2008, said in a joint statement. '

The old traitor Karl Rove, who revealed the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to the Iranians (and everyone else), castigated the Democrats' proposals as "cut and run." Rove wants us to go on spending $5 billion a month in Iraq, and to go on losing thousands of maimed young people.

Here are some other examples of cutting and running:
The United States withdrew from the Philippines in 1946.
Britain withdrew from India in 1947.
France withdrew from Morocco and Tunisia in 1956.
France withdrew from Algeria in 1962.

Rove only has two choices. He either has to agree that these withdrawals were a good thing, or he has to blame Britain and France for cutting and running. Does this mean he thinks the US should try to re-colonize the Philippines? Does he want France to take back over Algeria? By the way, neither India nor Algeria was stable when the colonial power withdrew. More

From Underperforming to Overperforming
Tuesday, June 20 (Democracy Corps)"If the Democrats and challengers fail to show voters something more, this disillusionment could show itself in fragmentation to smaller parties and more likely, a stay-at-home protest. The current measures of potential Democratic turnout and enthusiasm are not impressive."

Executive Summary
With nearly two-thirds believing the country is headed in the wrong direction and growing dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Republican Congress, we are on the verge of a change election that can produce major Democratic gains. Indeed, this new national Democracy Corps survey suggests that voters are prepared for an upheaval and change of party control, if the challengers define this election, run as outsiders and show voters where they would take the country. Right now, Democrats are underperforming, but voters are listening and receptive to them, and ready to respond to an effective campaign.

Democracy Corps conducted this special expanded survey as a kind of manual for running the tough campaign that can make the most of the current mood.

As a starting point, challengers must continue to nationalize the elections around Bush and whether to continue Bushs direction. That is where the desire for change is growing the most: the percentage who strongly support going in asignificantly different direction rather than continuing Bushs has risen to 55 percent, the highest level ever in our polling. Clearly, the public is losing confidence in Bush on every indicator with just 38 percent now viewing him favorably on a personal level and only 21 percent strongly approving of his performance in office, both new lows.

Disillusionment with Bush has grown so strong that our tests show that a Democrat who runs against Bush and the Republicans performs better than one who runs only against the Republican incumbent. Negative views of Bush now substantially exceed both those of his party and the Republican Congress. The Democratic overall message against the Republican incumbent does better when addressed to the president first.

Democrats have a strong and consistent lead in both the real Congressional vote and Senate races. In our latest survey, Democrats enjoy an 8-point advantage in the real vote for Congress and have led by an average of 9 points over the past three months. In the race for Senate, the Democrats hold an 11-point edge in the real Senate vote over the past three months and even more impressively, lead by 10 points in races with vulnerable Republican incumbents.

These advantages are impressive, but they are not big enough for Democrats to recapture the House or Senate. The Democrats current advantage in the real vote for Congress is still acouple points short of the swing needed to match 1994 and what the data says is possible for the party to achieve. On virtually every test of message and policy direction in this survey, the Democratic advantage is twice that of the current vote margin. The voters want to give the Democrats a bigger margin than they are currently achieving. If the challenger campaigns are effective, they can catch this wave.

If the Democrats and challengers fail to show voters something more, this disillusionment could show itself in fragmentation to smaller parties and more likely, a stay-at-home protest. The current measures of potential Democratic turnout and enthusiasm are not impressive. And while it is likely that a low turnout election will hurt Republicans more than Democrats, a stay-away protest vote could also cut into the margin Democrats might have achieved.

There has been no improvement in feelings about the Democrats in this change environment; in fact positive views of the party have actually declined over the past few months, with negative assessments slightly higher than positive ones. More

Conservative Revolution At A Tipping Point
Tuesday, June 20 (Greenberger Quinlan Ross)"In fact, three-quarters of registered voters are ready to support bold Progressive policies on trade, education, corporate regulations and repealing tax cuts to invest in America."

Executive Summary
With more than two-thirds of registered voters saying the country is going on the wrong direction and 58 percent disapproving Bushs job performance, voters are ready for a change. During the past five years, Republicans presented the conservative revolution as a solution to Americas ills. But the latest CAF poll1 indicates that Americans are fed up with conservative policies. After hearing signature policies on both sides, voters turn toward Democrats and away from conservatives. In fact, three-quarters of registered voters are ready to support bold Progressive policies on trade, education, corporate regulations and repealing tax cuts to invest in America.
Key Findings:

" Voters want a change. More than two-thirds say the country is going in the wrong direction and 58 percent disapprove of Bushs job performance.

" The conservative revolution is at a tipping point. After hearing specific signature policies from both parties, Democrats increase their edge as the party that voters trust more to offer the best policies for the country from 8 to 12 points.

" Conservatives support falls drastically after presenting voters with their signature policies and their initial 11 point edge drops to just 3 points.

" On the issues, voters are on the Progressive side. Three-quarters of registered voters favor candidates proposing a new trade policy that enforces labor and environmental regulations and provides tax credits for companies that create jobs in the U.S., providing universal preschool and creating college savings accounts, repealing tax cuts so as to invest in America, and requiring that workers have the same benefits as CEOs.

" When posed with the choice between Democratic and Republican values, voters lean toward a Democratic worldview by large margins. On national security voters believe a multilateral approach is more important than military strength, they see regulation of businesses as good for the country, and prefer a community based approach rather than one that focuses on self reliance.

" In the end, registered voters align even closer with Democratic values. About six-in-ten registered voters favor multilateralism and a community based approach after hearing the parties signature policies. More

A Choice in South Dakota
Tuesday, June 20 (The New Yorker)This week in the magazine, Cynthia Gorney writes about South Dakota House Bill 1215, which was signed into law in March. The law, which calls for a ban on abortion, except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, was designed specifically to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that declared that abortion must be legal in every state. Opponents of the law recently mounted a petition drive to place it on the ballot this November; South Dakotans would then vote to either accept or reject the legislation. Here, with Ben Greenman, Gorney discusses her article, the law, and the future of the abortion debate in the United States.

BEN GREENMAN: Many states have a tradition of challenging Roe, either incrementally, by passing laws that limit the availability of legal abortions, or through legal challenges. Why South Dakota?

CYNTHIA GORNEY: I dont have a great answer, but there are a number of factors that occur to me. I have looked at lots of states and their legislation, and I believe that one of the markers for a major right-to-life state is the presence of one or two or three particularly effective legislators or lobbyists pushing the issue. Another factor is a strong Catholic presence, in combination with a strong conservative tradition. And South Dakota is quite homogeneous. The people are either white or Native American, and I was told that there is a strong Catholic tradition among the Lakota Sioux. The combination adds up.

The state has a very small populationseven hundred thousand people, which means that there are fewer eligible voters, and even fewer actual votersto decide this volatile issue.

Yes, its an extremely small sample. Thats part of what makes the situation so interesting. Each side can roll out various kinds of campaigns without spending too much money and figure out whats working and whats not. Obviously, the populace of South Dakota is going to respond in a different way than that of New York or California, but people on both sides of the issue can test arguments.

Theres a differencea potentially crucial onebetween privately held beliefs and convictions that lead to legislation. In your article, you quote some South Dakotans who define themselves as pro-life but are having trouble with this particular law. Does this accord with national polls?

I dont think its possible to answer that question in any broad way. Part of the reason is that every abortion poll since 1973 has been taken in the context of a country where states have been told that they cannot make their own law on abortion. What people are responding tothe pro-life stance that is being articulatedis entirely theoretical. One of the central points I wanted to make in my article is that, for the past thirty-three years, its been very easy for people, if they disapprove of abortion or if they dont like the Supreme Court, to say that they are pro-life. There is nothing pressing them to define what pro-life is. To be fair, thats true on both sides of the issue.

In many ways, in my view, the discussions that are under way in South Dakota are the flip side of the national discussion of what is commonly referred to as partial-birth abortion, which is a knotty problem for self-identified pro-choice voters. What Im writing about in South Dakota is the fundamental logic of the pro-life position. Many pro-life people, when pressed to deconstruct their logic, find that they cant bring themselves to conclude that what grows in a womans uterus is always a child, after all. Similarly, the logical conclusion of the pro-choice opposition is that the decision is always up to the woman. This allows for the procedure that opponents describe as partial-birth abortion, which many people cant fully come to terms with. So, in both instances, circumstances have forced a microscopic examination of the two positions. Most people, as it turns out, are more ambivalent. They fall somewhere on the spectrum. More

Youre stuck until 07 with drug plan
Tuesday, June 20 (Times Leader)Q: I have rheumatoid arthritis and was careful to pick a Medicare drug plan that covered the one expensive medication that I need for this condition. Now I find that I am paying $140 each month for this one drug, which is not much help! I am told that there are other Medicare drug plans that charge a much lower fee for my medication. What can I do?

A: There is little you can do to lower your drug costs before 2007 unless your physician recommends a less expensive drug that would work equally well. Under the Medicare drug benefit, you can not switch plans until the 2007 enrollment period, which runs between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31, 2006. More

Medicare warning: part D is for 'donut hole'
Tuesday, June 20 (Azle News Online)Azle resident Monty Harris has a warning for area senior citizens who might be in the process of deciding on a Medicare Part D prescription insurance plan.
The most recent open enrollment period ended in May, but another one will begin in the fall.
People who become eligible for the program for the next enrollment need to know something, Harris says.

Theres something nobody tells you about, he said. There is a donut hole in the coverage and what no one seems to understand is the cost of your prescriptions varies depending on where you buy them, and the cost affects how soon you reach the donut hole.

Participants in Part D and their advisors are well aware of the donut hole a point, which differs from plan to plan, at which your prescription costs are no longer covered. Its a hole because there is another point after you accumulate additional expense when the coverage will kick back in.

Just visualize the hole in the middle of a hypothetical donut and consider that to be the point where you will pay 100% of your prescription costs if you are a Medicare Part D participant. The delicious, possibly iced cake portion of the donut is the part of your prescription cost that is covered by Part D. Theres coverage on either side, but not in the middle. More

Ed note: actually, news of the hole was there the whole time, pardon the pun. If you were a news junkie, you'd know it. But the Democrats and the media, mostly the Democrats, never made an issue of it.

Hermiston man falls in donut hole
Gap in Medicare coverage takes some by surprise
Thursday, June 20 (East Oragonian) An anguished expression still appears on Brenda Farmers face when she remembers the day her husband, Larry, fell into Medicare Ds dreaded donut hole.
As Brenda paced around her garage, holding a cordless phone to her ear, she talked to the pharmacist at Lakeshore Pharmacy in Portland about drugs Larry needed to start a year-long battery of chemotherapy treatments necessary to battle a severe case of Hepatitis C, a blood-borne illness that attacks the liver.

We have a problem, the pharmacist said. More

How to Exploit the Opening
Tuesday, June 20 (Fareed Zakaria.com)You've read all the cautions. this is not a turning point. Zarqawi's death is not a seismic event. He was not that brilliant or strategic. He will be replaced. Al Qaeda is just one of the many militias running rampant in Iraq. All true. And so, the violence continues. But there are some political signs-no more than glimmers-that make me just a bit hopeful. First, Zarqawi's death might be a sign of the changing attitude of some radical Sunnis.

Zarqawi was likely betrayed by someone close to his organization, perhaps even someone within it. His extreme ideology and actions were turning off Sunnis, even those who had allied with him. His increasing brutalities against Shiite civilians-blowing up mosques-were not popular. In a recent audiotape, he urged the killing of Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who is respected (even if not revered) by many Sunnis. Last week, in Fallujah, the heart of radical Sunni land, Zarqawi's men tried to destroy the tomb of a Sunni saint because, according to Al Qaeda's puritanical interpretation of Islam, such shrines are blasphemous. But Fallujah's Sunnis, even the radical and fundamentalist among them, have long respected such sites. The result was a pitched battle between Al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent groups. The latter won. More

Safavian Guilty of Lying, Obstruction of Justice
Tuesday, June 20 (Washington Post)David H. Safavian, a former Bush administration official with close ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was found guilty today in federal court of four of five felony charges against him in connection with the Abramoff corruption and influence-peddling scandal.

The verdict was announced shortly after the jury of two men and 10 women began their fifth day of deliberations in Washington following the trial of Safavian on charges of making false statements to federal officials and obstruction of justice.

Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison on March 29, after pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that required him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

Safavian, 38, a former chief of staff of the General Services Administration and top federal procurement officer, was accused of lying about a 2002 golfing trip to Scotland with Abramoff and obstructing an investigation by the GSA inspector general and other investigators. He was also charged with concealing his efforts to help Abramoff acquire control of two federally managed properties in the Washington area.

He became the first person to be put on trial in connection with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January to fraud and conspiracy charges. Four other former Abramoff associates also have pleaded guilty so far. As part of their plea deals, they have agreed to cooperate in an investigation of Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and other lawmakers allegedly embroiled in a broad public corruption scandal involving the acceptance of various inducements in return for official acts. Ney denies any wrongdoing.

The jury found Safavian guilty of three counts of making false statements -- to the GSA Office of Inspector General, a GSA ethics official and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee -- and one count of obstructing the GSA inspector general's investigation. He was acquitted of another charge of obstructing an investigation by the Indian Affairs Committee. More
Thursday, June 15
5:15 pmThree Great Articles on the Future of Liberalism

I've never envisioned myself a "mainstream" liberal. You know, one of those liberals you read about in the newspapers. The ones who want to tax, tax, tax. The ones who don't believe that we need a strong national defense. The ones who don't think we ever need to strike our enemies. Who don't believe in a free market. Who think criminals need rehabilitation more than they need jail time.

I read about these liberals in the newspapers. I've met a few, but I've met scores more reasonable liberal people who see the need to balance the markets with the needs of society. Who hate taxes, but understand the need to pay them (but no more than their share). Liberals are everywhere. Even some conservatives are really liberals, but they're hanging with the so-called "cool kids" for awhile.

But I am concerned with our party. Not because of the Kos-ian "left," rather because of ourselves. We have a history of eating our young, beating up on our best and brightest to the point where it's useless to try to inject new ideas into the conversation. Here we have a GOP that has done everything to ruin themselves and the country. But we can't really take advantage of this opportunity because we haven't stopped fighting long enough to decide what we do agree upon and tell that to the American people.

There are democratic ideas out there that could rebound our economy in a responsible way. There are ideas to stabilize Iraq and get us outperhaps not at the exact same time. There are ideas on how to rebuild our national defense in the wake of the damage the Bush/Rumsfeld Pentagon has done to it. We have great ideas on how to create jobs, responsibly deal with abortion, embrace religion while keeping it seperate from government. We liberals have great ideas.

We just need to articulate them. That's one reason why I think we're a much better party when it comes to individual races. But when we get together in a big group, the good ideas kind of get put into the corner. We ignore them and stick to the script of...of...complaining instead of coming up with solutions. Or we trot out universal health care, election reform, and a lot of other good (but tired) ideas that a lot of us have heard before. For the 732nd time.

Well here are a few great articles on the future of liberalism. Here. And here. Here too. Oh...here too.

I'm not going to promote one over the other, as they all have some real red meat. Some ideas you may like, others not. But the underlying theme of all is that we liberals need to change the conversation. The old words are not really keeping up with changing society. And if we do happen to seize Washington in the next few years, it would probably be better to have a set of goals atuned to the problems that we currently face. We wouldn't want to be like the GOP. They ideas they've been pushing for decades got them in power. But we're living through their implementation. It's pretty clear their ideas were old, bad, and not properly suited to the times. Let's not to that to our party.

U.S. 'Stagflation' Worries Mount
Inflation data and a possible Fed rate hike stir fears of prices rising amid a languishing economy.
Thursday, June 15 (LA Times)With inflation heating up amid the prospect of another interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve, some economists said Wednesday they were beginning to worry about a ghost from the past: stagflation.
Their concern over the dreaded affliction of rising prices in a languishing economy last seen in the 1970s follows a second day of bad inflation news.

The consumer price index, the prices consumers pay for goods and services, rose 0.4% in May, in line with expectations, the government reported Wednesday. But core consumer prices, which exclude volatile energy and food costs, increased 0.3%, above the expected 0.2%.

A day earlier, the government reported that producer prices excluding energy and food rose faster than expected last month. More

Thursday, June 15 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.5 percent in May, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.  The May level of 202.5 (1982-84=100) was 4.2 percent higher than in May 2005. More
Thursday, June 15 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)Real average weekly earnings fell by 0.7 percent from April to May after seasonal adjustment, according to preliminary data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.  A 0.3 percent decline in average weekly hours and a 0.5 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) were partially offset by a 0.1 percent rise in average hourly earnings. More

Why Conservatives Can't Govern
Thursday, June 15 (Washington Monthly)Search hard enough and you might find a pundit who believes what George W. Bush believes, which is that history will redeem his administration. But from just about everyone else, on the right as vehemently as on the left, the verdict has been rolling in: This administration, if not the worst in American history, will soon find itself in the final four. Even those who appeal to history's ultimate judgment halfheartedly acknowledge as much. One seeks tomorrow's vindication only in the context of today's dismal performance.

About the only failure more pronounced than the president's has been the graft-filled plunder of GOP lawmakers--at least according to opinion polls, which in May gave the GOP-controlled Congress favorability ratings in the low 20s, about 10 points lower than the president's. This does not necessarily translate into electoral Armageddon; redistricting and other incumbency-protection devices help protect against that. But even if many commentators think that Republicans may retain control over Congress, very few think they should.

Eager to salvage conservatism from the wreckage of conservative rule, right-wing pundits are furiously blaming right-wing politicians for failing to adhere to right-wing convictions. Libertarians such as Bruce Bartlett fret that under Republican control, government has not shrunk, as conservatives prescribe, but has grown. Insiders like Peggy Noonan complain that Republicans have become--well, insiders; they are too focused on retaining power and too disconnected from the base whose anger pushed them into power. Idealistic younger conservatives bewail the care and feeding of the K Street beast. Paleocons Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak blame neocons William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer for the debacle that is Iraq. Through all these laments there pulsates a sense of desperation: A conservative president and an even more conservative Congress must be repudiated to enable genuine conservatism to survive. Sure, the Bush administration has failed, all these voices proclaim. But that is because Bush and his Republican allies in Congress borrowed big government and foreign-policy idealism from the left. The ideas of Woodrow Wilson and John Maynard Keynes, from their point of view, have always been flawed. George W. Bush and Tom DeLay just prove it one more time.

Conservative dissidents seem to have done an admirable job of persuading each other of the truth of their claims. Of course, many of these dissidents extolled the president's conservative leadership when he was riding high in the polls. But the real flaw in their argument is akin to that of Trotskyites who, when confronted with the failures of communism in Cuba, China and the Soviet Union, would claim that real communism had never been tried. If leaders consistently depart in disastrous ways from their underlying political ideology, there comes a point where one has to stop just blaming the leaders and start questioning the ideology.

The collapse of the Bush presidency, in other words, is not just due to Bush's incompetence (although his administration has been incompetent beyond belief). Nor is it a response to the president's principled lack of intellectual curiosity and pitbull refusal to admit mistakes (although those character flaws are certainly real enough). And the orgy of bribery and special-interest dispensation in Congress is not the result of Tom DeLay's ruthlessness, as impressive a bully as he was. This conservative presidency and Congress imploded, not despite their conservatism, but because of it. More

Monday, June 12 (Happy Frikkin' Monday....)
The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)
Monday, June 12 (Talk2Action)Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

The game, slated for release by October 2006 in advance of the Christmas shopping rush, has been previewed at video game exhibitions, and reviewed by major newspapers and magazines. But until now, no fan or critic has pointed out the controversial game's connection to Mr. Warren or his dominionist agenda. More

Monday, June 12 (Bull Moose)The Moose urges the donkey to seize a successful legacy.

The Moose has been struck by how many in the party have either implicitly or explicitly ignored or even rejected the Clinton legacy of the New Democratic Third Way. The Moose distinctly remembers attending countless meetings on the right in 1996 and 1997, where Republicans fretted that Clinton had gotten their number and their ascendancy was being threatened. Clinton had successfully co-opted Republican wedge issues and advanced a political agenda that was at once fiscally responsible and progressive.

Unfortunately, Clinton's impeachment halted the transformation of the Democratic Party. Perhaps that is why the right pursued impeachment so vigorously. The DeLay gang knew a threat when they saw it.

Now, it is fashionable among some precincts on the left to disparage the one legacy that worked for the Democratic Party. They have a bad case of amnesia when it comes to recalling how Clinton offered a successful model for governance - call it Clintonesia.
Fortunately, two pieces have recently been published which seek to refresh the donkey's memory. Peter Beinart writes in the New Republic,

"If Clinton convinced Americans that government action could be moral, he also convinced them that it could be responsible. By reducing the budget deficit, he helped restore the Democratic Party's reputation for economic stewardship, which had been gravely damaged under Carter. And, by using market mechanisms to achieve traditional liberal goals, he found ways to fight poverty in an environment where large new programs were politically impossible."

Indeed, by advancing welfare reform, Clinton legitimized government action. By balancing the budget, Clinton stripped the issue away from the GOP. He essentially co-opted conservatism and thereby was able to advance a progressive agenda.

Al From and Bruce Reed commented in yesterday's Washington Post,

"By any logical standard, Democrats of every stripe ought to be embracing Clintonism and its central tenets -- providing people with more opportunity while demanding more responsibility, and being willing to try new methods to realize progressive ideals... As a political formula, its record is just as impressive. Not only was Bill Clinton the first Democratic president in 60 years to be reelected, but consider this: In the three elections before 1992, Democrats averaged 58 electoral votes. In 1992 and 1996, Clinton averaged 375. He won a dozen red states twice."

Unfortunately, the Deanification and Kossackification of the Democratic Party continue apace. John Murtha (with likely support from Pelosi) seeks to split the party in a divisive race for Majority Leader even before the Democrats are in the majority. The anti-war forces are out to purge the most genuinely Trumanesque Democrat in the United States Senate.

And a gaggle of supposedly centrist Presidential wannabees flocked to Vegas to genuflect before a blogger convention that had as much to do with winning mainstream America as Paris Hilton does with winning the hearts of Focus on the Family. Ironically, the once edgy bloggers have become yet another Democratic interest group - people with screen names - that is pandered to by politicians looking for "buzz" and money.

These bloggers are the cyberspace heirs to the New Politics tradition of the late '60s that put the party in the wilderness for twelve years which was only interrupted by a Carter in '76 (as a result of Watergate). There is the model of Clinton and there are the models of McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. This is a time to choose.

Fortunately, a Clinton chose not to attend the left wing bloggerfest. Good for her. More

DeLay Exits, Stage (Hard) Right
Monday, June 12 (Washington Post)No one who's seen Tom DeLay operate over the years could have expected the Texas Republican to go gently: The Hammer always comes down hard. But DeLay's farewell address on the House floor last week was nonetheless stunning for its sneering, belligerent partisanship.

This was not the case of a politician who happened to hit a jarring note at just the wrong time. DeLay made clear that he wanted to leave the way he behaved throughout his 22 years in Washington -- contemptuous of the opposition and unrepentant about his cutthroat tactics.

"In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the good old days of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy," DeLay said.

"Well, I can't do that," he said, and that statement had the ring of truth, as if his allergy to bipartisanship is an almost physical limitation. In DeLay's world, "It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first principle."

This is a man who -- now that he's had time to take in the monuments -- sees Lincoln's statue and fixates on the one hand clenched in a "perpetual fist."

I hadn't planned to write about DeLay's departure. He's under indictment in Texas and out of power in Washington; it seemed gratuitous to kick the man on his way out. But DeLay's speech cries out for, if nothing else, a review of the ethical and political wreckage left behind. More

9:59 amWhy do They Keep Us From Focusing on What's Really Wrong?

In Illinois, the Movement Conservatives are doing their best to create distractions from Iraq, the economy, Net Neutrality, and whatever the Bushies are screwing up today

Illinois Marriage Protection Referendum
Shall the Illinois General Assembly submit an amendment to Article IX of the Illinois State Constitution to the voters of the State of Illinois at large at the next General Election stating as follows:
"To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, a marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State"

Right off the bat, the amendment makes marriage the only union recognized by the state. It outlaws, legal unionswhich in my opinion is the only solution to this non-problem. Conservatives see red at the words "marriage" and "gay" in the same sentence. Its because they're too busy violating Jesus' sayings about treating others as themselves to see that no matter whether they agree or not, it should be legal for two law-abiding people to affirm their love for each other by making it legal.

The other thing that surprises me about this is the law's brevity. Did anyone research the ramifications of this law, and try to address them through its language? Looks like they didn't. What about it's impact on current legal unions, adoption, wills and estates, etc? Looks like the party of technical competence didn't think something else through.

Thursday, June 8
The Progressive Trinity
Family, Business, and Public Service
Thursday, June 8 (Washington Monthly)It might have been the idea of eating frozen pizza, still frozen, that started me on this train of thought.

That's what my friend Rosemary ate late one night, she said, working harder than she ever had in her life, getting out the vote for Kerry in New Mexico in November 2004. The state went for Bush, by a greater margin than it went for Gore in 2000.

For those of us whose idealism has become attached, perhaps too closely, to the fortunes of the Democratic Party, another even-numbered year brings back an anxious blend of hope, exhortation, and honest despair.

The Republicans our country has elected take full advantage of the winner-take-all potential in American politics. They seem prepared to ignore the narrowness of their victories and interpret a slim majority as a mandate to disregard, when they can, the interests of the 48% who voted against them.

After the election, the Democrats seemed floundering, hapless passengers on a battered ferryboat, slipping and sliding from left to right, tossed by the wake of a Republican oil tanker. Beset by hurricanes, scandals, indictments, and weakened nerves, the Republicans may be in some trouble of their own now too, but neither party seems to have gained its ideological bearings from the travails of the other.

Democrats have gone to linguists like Berkeley professor George Lakoff for advice on framingtelling their story betterhoping for more than spinning. Many doubtless harbor the wish for a swing of the pendulum, for obvious incidents of Republican overreaching, for internal strife between the party's right and center, for fatal mistakes. Another natural disaster or military reversal on Bush's watch might finally expose what Democrats believe to be a series of bad decisions leaving America less, not more, secure. The cadre in exile have set up a myriad of policy groups, as they should, and set down pages and pages of vision and value statements that no sensible person could disagree with and which, therefore, provide no real direction.

What is going on? It all seems so shallow, so partisan. I want to ask: shouldn't we be talking about fundamental principles?

By that I mean a reasoned analysis of how our country works, what's wrong with it, how it can be made better, addressing the individual's relationship to society, who has power, who doesn't and who should, based on some awareness of history and the social and intellectual ground that has been plowed before by Plato and Madison, Locke and Jefferson, John Stuart Mill and Martin Luther King, and so many others.

I mean a guiding philosophical analysis of the most serious kind.

I'll get right to the point. I believe that the purpose of creating structures in society should be to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, as Jeremy Bentham, Mill, and Abraham Lincoln stated it 150 years ago. To which I would add, and someone no doubt has said it better, with dignity for all. Otherwise we could justify torturing POWs for information, killing dissidents and psychotics, even slavery, if the majority would receive a greater benefit.

To achieve the greatest good for the greatest number with dignity for all, humankind has successfully developed, with many hands over many centuries, three types of organized systems: the Family, Business, and Public Service. The third obviously includes governments, but also churches, universities, hospitals, and other institutions chartered not for profit but for some public purpose. Each of the systems has an internal logic that allows for growth, generation of value to society, the ability to surmount crises, and perpetual existence. More

Conflicted Safety Panel Let Vioxx Study Continue
 Thursday, June 8 (NPR)ROBERT SIEGEL, host: In 2004, Merck pulled its painkiller Vioxx from the market. The drug was causing heart problems, strokes and deaths among patients in a large study that was under way at the time. Merck stopped the study early when those results became clear. Thousands of former Vioxx patients and their families are suing the company.

Now, documents obtained by NPR show that five years earlier, in 1999, during another large Vioxx study, patients had similar heart problems. But that study was not stopped.

During those five years, millions of Americans took Vioxx. And a Food and Drug Administration scientist has estimated that some 38,000 people who took the drug died.

NPR's Snigdha Prakash reports on why the earlier study wasn't stopped and the public warned that Vioxx was unsafe.

SNIGDHA PRAKASH, reporter: The decision to stop a large study of a new medicine involves complex scientific and ethical issues.

To find out if Merck responded appropriately to the heart problems it saw back in 1999, NPR consulted with three scientists who are authorities on heart disease and clinical studies. We showed each of them charts and graphs from the large Vioxx study called VIGOR. The charts and graphs showing the study's early results have never been made public before. More

What Ashcroft Was Told
Thursday, June 8 (National Journal)Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft continued to oversee the Valerie Plame-CIA leak probe for more than two months in late 2003 after he learned in extensive briefings that FBI agents suspected White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of trying to mislead the FBI to conceal their roles in the leak, according to government records and interviews. Despite these briefings, which took place between October and December 2003, and despite the fact that senior White House aides might become central to the leak case, Ashcroft did not recuse himself from the matter until December 30, when he allowed the appointment of a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to take over the investigation. More

Iranian President Signals Readiness to Negotiate
Thursday, Jun 8 (Washington Post)Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday signaled Iran's readiness to renew negotiations "to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena."

The statement, while not specifically answering numerous outstanding questions about Iran's position, was the most straightforward indication so far of its willingness to engage six world powers, including Washington, in discussions aimed at backing off from confrontation over its nuclear program.

It followed the Bush administration's announcement last week that it would drop its historic refusal to participate in direct talks with Iran if that country agreed to stop enriching uranium, a process that could ultimately produce fuel for nuclear weapons as well as for nuclear power.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China then followed up by presenting Tehran with a series of "incentives" designed to jump-start the negotiating process.

"On behalf of the Iranian nation, I'm announcing that the Iranian nation will never hold negotiations about its definite rights with anybody," Ahmadinejad said in remarks at Qazvin, where the hard-line conservative traveled on the latest of his campaign-style trips outside of Iran's capital. "But we are for talks about mutual concerns to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena. . . .

"We don't negotiate on the way we should live, on how we should walk and the way we must handle our economy," he said, in remarks quoted by the state broadcasting service. More

Senate Rejects Effort to Cut Estate Tax
Thursday, June 8 (Washington Post)Senators voted Thursday to reject a Republican effort to abolish taxes on inherited estates during an election year with control of Congress at stake.

GOP leaders had pushed senators to permanently eliminate the estate tax, which disappears in 2010 under President Bush's first tax cut, but rears up again a year later.

A 57-41 vote fell three votes short of advancing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the Senate will vote again this year on a tax that opponents call the "death tax."

"Getting rid of the death tax is just too important an issue to give up so easily," he said.

A small group of senators, knowing Republicans lacked the votes to eliminate the tax, had hoped to keep the issue alive with an agreement to remove the tax from smaller estates and lessen the hit on larger ones.

Frist had given the negotiators a lift by agreeing to give such a compromise a vote. That didn't give the tax's strongest critics enough support to maneuver the issue around Democratic opponents, however. More

Insurgent Leader Al-Zarqawi Killed in Iraq
Thursday, June 8 (Washington Post)Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, was killed early Wednesday by an airstrike --north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born high-school dropout whose leadership of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq made him the most wanted man in Iraq, was killed along with several other people near the city of Baqubah, the officials said.
Terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Killed in Iraq
Iraqi and U.S. officials announced June 8 that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda's terror operations in Iraq, was killed by a U.S. airstrike. Zarqawi played a major role in escalating the Iraq insurgency and terror attacks on civilians.

U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house in which Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders. A U.S. military spokesman said coalition forces pinpointed Zarqawi's location after weeks of tracking the movements of his spiritual adviser, Sheik Abdul Rahman, who also was killed in the blast.

Following the attack, coalition forces raided 17 locations in and around Baghdad, seizing a "treasure trove" of information about terror operations in the country, U.S. Army Major Gen. William B. Caldwell IV told reporters at a military briefing here. Some of the raids focused on targets the United States had been using to monitor Zarqawi's location, Caldwell said.

The stated aim of Zarqawi, 39, in addition to ousting foreign forces from Iraq, was to foment bloody sectarian strife between his fellow Sunni Muslims and members of Iraq's Shiite majority, a prospect that has become a grim reality during the past several months.

His killing is the most significant public triumph for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq since the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, although analysts warned that Zarqawi's death may not stem the tide of insurgency and violence any more than Hussein's capture did. Copying Osama bin Laden's leadership strategy, Zarqawi set up numerous semi-autonomous terrorist cells across Iraq, many of which could continue operating after his death. More

Tuesday, June 6
5:54 pmLiberal Story Problem Number 1

I'm reading the debate about Peter Beinart's book, "The Good Fight." My takeaway is that my lefty friends aren't crazy about the idea of liberals and intelligence, security, and general armed conflict existing in the same sentence. So here's my story problem for everyone out there:

At 5:54 pm, Central Time, terrorists based in the United States implode a 300-yard underground section of the Chicago CTA. They do it by blowing up a portion of the tunnel that goes under the Chicago River. Early leads indicate that one of the attackers is worshiped at a local church. It is not clear whether or not it is a mosque or not. Within 20 minutes of that attack, Homeland Security at O'Hare airport arrests 2 men planting explosives-laden backpacks in the baggage claim area. The timers were set to go off within 15 minutes after activation. These men are from Afghanistan, and are linked to the Taliban. One of them had an encrpyted mini flash drive that, after decryption, indicated that there were plans for an attack involving a West Coast seaport. No additional information on the attack could be determined from the drive.

And just tomake it a really great day, satellite intelligence reports unidentified ships tailing 7 oil tankers, one per tanker.

It's 12 hours since the incidents. As a Democrat President, what are your next few moves?

There's no right or wrong answer. I'm more interested in what people believe should be done. In the blogosphere we like to talk about what other people should do. We decry ideas, and generally aren't held to the standard of proposing something to fill the void. Not very often do we really put ourselves in the shoes of those we criticizerightly or wrongly. I'll post whatever you send, unless you specifically ask me not to. Email your offering

Justices to Hear Cases of Race-Conscious School Placements
Tuesday, June 6 (Washington Post)The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will rule on the race-conscious assignment of students to public schools, in a pair of cases that could produce some of the most important decisions on school integration since the busing battles of the 1960s and '70s.

The court agreed to hear arguments in separate lawsuits by white parents in Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky., which encompasses Louisville, who say each public school system unconstitutionally discriminates based on skin color. The jurisdictions' programs differ, but each seeks to maintain racial balance with the help of numerical targets for minority enrollment.

Although the court has addressed race-conscious admissions for diversity in higher education, upholding them on a 5 to 4 vote in 2003, this would be the first time it has addressed the "diversity rationale" as it affects the country's 48 million public elementary and secondary school students. It will also be the first race-related constitutional case for President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The court's decision to take the cases was something of a surprise, since all three federal appeals courts to rule since 2003 sided with the school systems. The court usually intervenes to settle lower-court conflicts. More

Charges Against Canadian Terror Suspects Read
Men Accused of Plot to Storm Parliament and Behead Premier
Tuesday, June 6 (Washington Post)The men arrested in an alleged terrorism plot planned to storm the Canadian Parliament, take politicians hostage, and at least one wanted to behead the prime minister, according to a summary of allegations read into court Tuesday.

The summary from prosecutors, unexpectedly read into the court record in a procedural hearing by defense lawyer Gary Batasar, said the group planned to bomb hydro-electric plants in Ontario and targeted the CBC broadcast building in downtown Toronto.

The group planned to issue demands that Canadian troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan and that all Muslim prisoners held in Afghanistan be released.

The bizarre scenario offered the first details of the plot that police and intelligence agencies said they had disrupted in a series of raids overnight Friday. Twelve men and five teenaged boys were arrested. All are Canadian citizens or long-time residents of Canada.

The statement was put into the court record during a routine procedural hearing to set bond dates in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, as 10 of the 17 arrested appeared in court.

Batasar later told reporters that the prosecutors said his client, Steven Vikash Chand, 25, "personally indicated that he wanted to behead the prime minister of Canada." It was unclear if that was Stephen Harper, who took office in February, or his predecessor, Paul Martin.

Chand complained that prosecutors are "trying to instill fear in the public" through the allegations. More

Ed note: take heed, those that believe that there would be no terror without Bush. Terrorist acts existed before 9/11, and will exist afterwards. The trick is in trying to deal with it more responsibly than George W. Bush and today's GOP. Even if you take away the inflamatory rhetoric, you still have a small group of people determined to set off 3 tons of amonium nitrate. That would definitely leave a mark.

Monday, June 5
Democratic Response to President Bush's Speech on Banning Gay Marriage
Monday, June 5 (Senate Minority Leader's Office)In Nevada today, gas prices are over $3.00 a gallon. Fill-ups at the tank cause emptiness at the bank. This Administration, the most friendly-to-oil Presidency in our history, refuses to buck Big Oil or the auto manufacturers. Our citizens are literally choking on the lack of alternative fuel. Few incentives for energy created by the sun, the wind, or the Earths geothermal reserves has this Administration endorsed.

Raging in Iraq is an intractable war. Our soldiers are fighting valiantly, but we have Abu Ghraib and Hadithawhere 24 or more civilians were allegedly killed by our ownand no policy for winning the peace. However, Secretary Rumsfeld continues in his job with the full backing of the President. Not a reprimand, not a suggestion that his Defense Secretary is at fault.

We have a national debt that President Bush wont acknowledge, but our children, their children, and their childrens children will have to acknowledge the generations of debt created by President Bushs economic policies. Federal red ink as far as one can see. America is becoming continually more dependent on loans from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and England.

Our world is changing as we speak as a result of global warminga condition our President does not acknowledge, let alone attempt to reverse.

Today nearly 46 million Americans have absolutely no health insurance. Millions more of our countrymen have inadequate health insurance. This Administration has come forward with nothing of substance to address this national emergency.

Seniors in Nevada and each of the 50 states are struggling to survive. Some physicians refuse to take Medicare patients. The Presidents Medicare prescription drug plan has been a gift to HMOs, insurance companies, and drug companies and a nightmare for seniors.

Education for many of our graduating high school seniors has become a goal too far. Student loans and Pell grants are not a priority of the Bush Administration. The ability to obtain a college education is becoming more and more based on how much money your parents have instead of how much academic potential our youth have.

Crime remains a national worry, but money from the federal government to our states for crime fighting and crime prevention is being drastically cut. Successful anti-crime programs such as the COPS program are being eliminated by President Bush, much to the consternation of police officers across America.

A trade policy that is continually eroding Americas favorable balance of payments seems to be the watchword of the Bush Administration. This trade policy causes America to be less and less globally competitive.

The scientific community cries for help. They believe dread diseases such as Alzheimers, Lou Gehrigs, Parkinsons, and diabetes could be moderated and prevented, but President Bush emphatically says NO to allowing scientists to study and research the healing powers of stem cells. He refuses to keep hope alive for the suffering people of our great country.

In spite of the many serious problems we have just discussed, what is the United States Senate going to debate this week?

A new energy policy? NO.

Will we debate the raging war in Iraq? NO.

Will we address our staggering national debt? NO.

Will we address the seriousness of global warming NO

Will we address the aging of America? NO.

Will we address Americas education dilemma? NO.

Will we address rising crime statistics? NO.

Will we debate our countys trade imbalance? NO.

Will we debate Stem Cell Research? NO.

But what we will spend most of the week on is a constitutional amendment that will fail by a large margin, a constitutional amendment on Same Sex Marriagean effort that failed to pick up a simple majority, when we recently voted on it. Remember, an Amendment to our Constitution requires 67 votes.

I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I believe in our federal system of government, described to me in college as a central whole divided among self governing parts. Those self governing partsthe 50 stateshave already decided this on their own in state after state. For example, in Nevada the constitution was amended to prevent same sex marriage. Congress and President Clinton passed a law that gave the states the guarantee that their individual laws regarding marriage would be respected. The Defense of Marriage Act creates an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution so that no state can force its laws of marriage on another.

So why are we being directed by the President and this Republican majority to debate an Amendment to the Constitution, a document inspired more than two centuries ago? Why would we be asked to change this American masterpiece?

Will it next be to constitutionally dictate the cause of divorce, or military service, or even what Americas religion must be?

So for me it is clear the reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another. This is another one of the Presidents efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract, and to confuse America. It is this Administrations way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day:

High Gas Prices.

The War in Iraq.

The National Debt.

Health Care.

Senior Citizens.



Trade Policy.

Stem Cell Research.

Each issue begging the Presidents attention, each issue being ignoredvaluable time in the Senate spent on an issue that today is without hope of passing.

These issues are not Democratic issues. These issues are not Republican issues. There must be bipartisan efforts to address Americas ills.

I will vote no on the Motion to Proceed, as it is not a measure meant to bring America together. Rather, it is an effort to cover and conceal the issues necessary to make America more competitive, caring, considerate and stronger.

Together, America Can Do Better.

Friday, June 2
2:54 pmSo, What Should We Teach Our Children?

We laugh and snicker when we hear about parents who teach their children crazy things like women are subservient to men. We watch shows like "Big Love" if only to watch in wonder as to how grown people come up with such wiggy ideas like polygamy. We are a little sad when we read stories about kids like those in Prussian Blue, pre-teen girls who embrace Neo-Nazi ideals like other girls their age embrace teen idols. We say to ourselves, "who raises their kids to believe this stuff?"

Well, in today's NYT, here's a new one. Coming from no one but the President of the United States. I tell you, between this one and Clinton what the hell are parents supposed to do? I'm not naive enough to believe in role models, but is it too much to expect a president to disavow codifying hatred?

Bush Backs Amendment Banning Gay Marriage
President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers.

For the sake of short-term politics, a President of the United States will advocate constitutional discrimination against law abiding citizens. No matther how you feel about gay marriage, what Bush is proposing is legal discrimination. And if this bunch will do it to gays, what will the next bunch do? Those with the values of Bush and Rove will tell you that "it's just politics." Those with values know it's just plain wrong.

If I weren't crying, I'd be laughing.

Jobs Report Signals Cooling Economy
Friday, June 2 (New York Times)The net increase in nonfarm payrolls in May 75,000 is a significant falloff from April, when the Labor Department estimates that 126,000 jobs were added, a figure it revised downward today from the 138,000 it initially reported.

Anything below about 150,000 net new jobs a month is regarded as too slow to keep up with population growth, so in effect, workers are losing ground.

The Labor Department statistics were the latest in a series of recent reports pointing to a slowdown in the expansion of the economy.

The department also reported today that the national unemployment rate edged slightly lower in May to 4.6 percent, from 4.7 percent in April. This measure is regarded by many economists as a much less reliable gauge of job creation trends, because it is based on surveys of 60,000 households, while the payroll figure reflects employment data from hundreds of thousands of workplaces. The rate also excludes workers who have given up seeking jobs. More

Documents show issues with wives, child support
Friday, June 2 (San Diego Union Tribume)Republican Jim Galley, who is running for Congress as a pro-traditional family candidate, was married to two women at the same time, defaulted on his child support payments and has been accused of abuse by one of his ex-wives.

The San Diego Union-Tribune discovered the personal history in making public-records checks on Galley, who is making his fourth run for elective office in four years. These checks are part of the newspaper's election reporting process.

Galley married his second wife, Beth, in 1982 when, unbeknownst to her, he was still married to his first wife, Terry. Beth and Galley divorced in 1990 after she sought a restraining order alleging abuse.

The child support was owed to his first wife.

Galley said the contemporaneous marriages were a mistake because he thought his first divorce had been completed. He said the child support default was only for a few months and that the abuse allegation was made only to get him out of the house. More

At the Corner of Progress and Peril
Friday, June 2 (Washington Post)What does it mean to be a black man? Imagine three African American boys, kindergartners who are largely alike in intelligence, talent and character, whose potential seems limitless. According to a wealth of statistics and academic studies, in just over a decade one of the boys is likely to be locked up or headed to prison. The second boy -- if he hasn't already dropped out -- will seriously weigh leaving high school and be pointed toward an uncertain future. The third boy will be speeding toward success by most measures.

Being a black man in America can mean inhabiting a border area between possibility and peril, to feel connected to, defined by, even responsible for each of those boys -- and for other black men. In dozens of interviews, black men described their shared existence, of sometimes wondering whether their accomplishments will be treated as anomalies, their individuality obscured by the narrow images that linger in the minds of others.

This unique bond, which National Urban League President Marc Morial calls "the kinship of the species," is driving many black men to focus renewed attention on the portrait of achievement and failure that hangs over the next generation. A recent spate of scholarly studies have brought urgency to the introspection, as the studies show the condition of poor, young black men has worsened in the past decade despite the generally strong economic conditions of the 1990s.

Black men now number 18 million, and many are pondering their roles in a country that is undergoing significant social and demographic changes. More