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"In reality, though, conservatism hasn't really changed all that much. The Christian right has certainly infused it with moralism and anti-Darwin mumbo-jumbo, but what's more striking about the GOP over the past 100 years or so is its continuity. The party's main, almost sole, purpose has been to ensure that as much money as possible goes to those who need it least and that as little as possible goes to those who need it most. In a party of moneybags, Theodore Roosevelt was the exception, not the rule. Whether Bush manages to extricate the United States from Iraq or not, his avalanche of tax cuts has already justified the main reason that Republican pooh-bahs selected him to become their candidate for president."
Jacob Heilbrunn, from a review of "The Making of the Conservative Mind", as it appeared in the Washington Monthly
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Daily Topics & Commentary:
Wednesday, May 3
2:10 pmFor Teen Girls, the Best of Times and the Worst of Times

From today's Chicago Sun Times I present the best of teen girls:

Girls rule city schools
Girls are soundly beating boys this year when it comes to winning admission to Chicago's prized college prep high schools. The disparity between accepted girls and boys is so high -- almost 70 percent girls to 30 percent boys at one school -- some say it's time to consider giving boys a break at the city's eight selective-enrollment high schools.

At universities nationwide, where female freshmen have been outnumbering males since 1976, the procedure is called "gender weighting." And now Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan wants to explore it here.

In addition to trying to figure out how to better address the needs of boys, "We are considering whether it makes sense to have gender weighting in the [college prep] admissions process," Duncan told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"I've asked staff to look at both the legal and educational ramifications."

Duncan was reacting to a college prep gender analysis performed by the Chicago Board of Education at the Chicago Sun-Times' request. That analysis follows a new University of Chicago study reflecting a gender gap across the city's high schools in grade point averages, ACT scores and eventual college success.

The college prep analysis, however, indicates the gender gap isn't just surfacing among poor, low-scoring kids, said Michael Gurian, author of the book The Minds of Boys: Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. It's apparently reaching into Chicago's top-echelon eighth-graders -- some of them from private schools -- who apply to one of the largest networks of public high schools for smart kids in the nation.

And now it is with a heavy heart I present the worst:

1/3 of girls having sex get pregnant
In a finding researchers called "alarmingly high," almost a third of all sexually active U.S. teenage girls end up pregnant, according to a new analysis to be released today.

Among teen boys who have had sexual intercourse at least once, about one in eight say they have impregnated someone. The difference may be the result of girls having sex with older partners or the boys being unaware of pregnancies.

The disappointing data, produced by the National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy, comes amid encouraging declines in sexual activity and pregnancy among teens.

Still, "If you're a teenager and you're having sex, your risk of pregnancy is very high," said Bill Albert of the National Campaign, which analyzed 2002 data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life is a wonderful and terrible thing at times.

1:53 pm A Better Way to Look Like You're Doing Something While You're Actually Doing Nothing at All

Well, it's pretty clear the GOP plan to give everyond $100 for a tank or two of gas flopped likeMike Tyson's last comeback. So they're back at it again, this time in a way that makes more sense...politically. Realistically, GOP'ers will use it as a stage to crow about what they'll do if reelected. As we all know, once the election is over this batch of Republicans will do nothing they promise to do outside of cut taxes, raise government spending, and generally screw the country sideways coming and going. Check out this great new idea, "floated" by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (with a little help from Karl Rove):

Mineta Urges House Panel on Fuel Standards
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta asked the House Energy and Commerce Committee today for the authority to revamp the system of fuel economy standards for cars, while Democrats insisted that President Bush could move immediately to require more efficient cars if he wanted.

Mr. Mineta acknowledged that the administration does have the right to "set the stringency of the CAFE standard," using the abbreviation for corporate average fuel economy. But he said the system should be changed more broadly.

"What we need is the statutory ability to reform the structure of the program," he said, to avoid problems with the current system. Those problems, he said, have hurt American automakers and endangered safety by forcing manufacturers to make more small cars.

Mr. Mineta said the system should be revamped to set different fuel standards for different sizes of vehicles.

Democrats said the proposal was meant to give the appearance of action on gas prices without actually changing policy. Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois called it part of President Bush's "public relations campaign to distance the administration from oil and gas companies" at a time of widespread public anger.

Mr. Mineta said that revamping the fuel economy process was "an important step toward reducing American oil demand," but he acknowledged that it was unlikely that new rules could be ready within a year, in time to affect vehicles sold in the fall of 2008.

"Our proposal on CAFE standards is not a short-term response" to high energy costs, he said.

Mineta also went on to say that soon GOP'ers will take the committee on a barnstorming tour to all 50 states. However, if it does materialize it will be interesting to see how much talk is about better fuel economy versus drilling in Alaska.

Tuesday, May 2
National Anthem Sung In Spanish At First Bush Inaugural
Thursday, May 2 (Think Progress)On Friday, President Bush blasted the idea of singing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish. But Bushs highly-scripted 2001 inaugural ceremony actually featured a rendition of the national anthem sung in Spanish by Jon Secada. From Cox News Service, 1/18/01:

"The opening ceremony reflected that sentiment. A racially diverse string of famous and once famous performers entertained Bush, soon-to-be First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who watched on stage from a special viewing area. Pop star Jon Secada sang the national anthem in English and Spanish. "


Republican chairman booed at AJCommittee event
tuesday, May 2 (JTA)The chairman of the Republican Party was booed at an American Jewish Committee event over comments on Iraq.

Ken Mehlman, who is Jewish, said Iraq posed less of a challenge now than under Saddam Hussein.

Mehlman was otherwise politely received when he spoke Tuesday at the AJCommittees 100th anniversary celebrations in Washington, and he got warm applause when he said the Bush administration would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb and always would stand by Israel.

The room burst into applause, however, when AJCommittee board member Edith Everett asked Mehlman to take a message to President Bush to stop linking Israel and Iran.

It does not help Israel and it does not help American Jews to appear to be stimulators of any action against Iran, Everett said.

She added that its easy to understand why Iran is not worried about us because Iraq is consuming so many U.S. resources.

Mehlman replied by acknowledging that Iraq was a challenge, but claimed its less of a challenge than when Saddam Hussein was in power.

The room filled with boos and hisses. Link

Phone-list sellers: We help cops
Tuesday, May 2 (Chicago Sun-Times)Earlier this year, Congress launched an investigation into the sale of cell phone records after the FBI and Chicago Police warned that Web-based firms could sell their officers' calling lists to criminals.

Now some of the companies under investigation for fraud are telling Congress they have provided personal information to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

On Monday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) blasted the FBI after learning that Advance Research Inc. sent Congress a letter saying the firm did work for the bureau. Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sued Advance Research for allegedly using fraud to obtain Illinois consumers' cell phone records.

"Not only do Americans have to worry about whether Big Brother is listening to our calls without a warrant, but they must also be concerned that he is working with con artists to obtain our phone records," Schakowsky said. More

Republicans Drop a Tax Plan After Businesses Protest
Tuesday, May 2 (New York Times)Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said he had decided to jettison the provision, which would have generated billions of dollars by changing the way businesses treat inventories for tax purposes. Instead, he said the Senate Finance Committee would hold hearings on the plan "later this year, so the pluses and minuses of the provision can become well known."

The retreat came after a torrent of objections from business leaders and their advocates, who typically view Republicans in Congress as allies. They said they had been blindsided by the inclusion of the proposal as a central element of the Republican leadership's energy package late last week.

The centerpiece of the leadership proposal, a $100 rebate check to compensate taxpayers for higher gasoline prices, continued to receive a rough reception. Members of the public have telephoned and written to ridicule the idea, and even Republican lawmakers are finding fault. More

Skewering comedy skit angers Bush and aides
Tuesday, May 2 (US News & World Reports)Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner won a rare silent protest from Bush aides and supporters Saturday when several independently left before he finished.

"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow." More

Ed note: see the video of the skit that made this Bush want to blow here

Friday, April 28
The Politics of Definition, Part II
Building Blocks of a Progressive Majority: Weaknesses
Friday, April 28 (The American Prospect)The White Working Class

The key weakness of the progressive coalition can be summarized easily: very weak support among white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four-year college degree). These voters, who are overwhelmingly of moderate to low income and, by definition, of modest credentials, should see their aspirations linked tightly to the political fate of the progressive movement. But they dont.

Data from the last two presidential elections vividly demonstrate this problem and underscore its significance for progressives. In 2000, Al Gore lost white working-class voters by 17 percentage points; in 2004, John Kerry lost them by 23 points, a swing of 6 points against the Democrats. In contrast, Gore lost college-educated whites by 9 points and Kerry lost them by 10 points -- not much change. 1

Therefore, white working-class voters were responsible for almost all of George W. Bushs increased margin among whites as a whole in the 2004 election (which went from 12 to 17 points). And Bushs increased margin among whites was primarily responsible for his re-election.

Almost all of the white working-class movement toward Bush was among women rather than men. Bush won white working-class men by almost identical margins in the two elections (by 29 points in 2000 and by 30 points in 2004). But he substantially widened his margin among white working-class women, going from a 7-point edge in 2000 to an 18-point lead in 2004. That 11-point swing against the Democrats among white working-class women was arguably the most important single fact about the 2004 election.

The basic reasons for this stunningly poor Democratic performance among the white working class can also be easily summarized. Among white working-class voters, 66 percent said they trusted Bush to handle terrorism, compared to just 35 percent who said the same about Kerry. That's very bad, but perhaps not all that surprising. What is more surprising is this: 55 percent of these voters said they trusted Bush to handle the economy, and only 39 percent said the same about Kerry.

It's also interesting to note that there wasn't much of a difference in these sentiments between men and women in the white working class: 55 percent of white working-class women said they trusted Bush to handle the economy and 40 percent said they trusted Kerry, while 56 percent of white working-class men said they trusted Bush on the economy and 37 percent said they trusted Kerry.

That helps explain the big shift among white working-class women described above. Not only were these women alarmed about terrorism -- which pushed them toward the GOP -- but they were also, in contrast to previous elections, no more likely to find the Democratic economic message compelling than their male counterparts. In neither area --the economy or terrorism -- did the Democratic program speak clearly to these voters concerns and earn their trust.

It is also important to stress that Democrats did especially badly among white working-class voters who werent poor, but rather had moderate incomes and some hold on a middle-class lifestyle. Among working class whites with $30,000 to $50,000 in household income, Bush beat Kerry by 24 points (62 percent to 38 percent). And, among working-class whites with $50,000 to $75,000 in household income, Bush beat Kerry by a shocking 41 points (70 percent to 29 percent). Clearly, these voters do not see progressives as representing their aspirations for a prosperous, stable, middle-class life.

Progressives difficulties here are underscored by the large size of this group. According to the 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS) Voter Supplement data, white working-class voters are a larger portion of the electorate than indicated by the exit polls -- 52 percent, rather than 43 percent. Based on educational attainment trends and population trends by race, a reasonable guess is that the size of the white working class in another 10 years, even though it is shrinking, will still be around 46 percent to 47 percent -- a very large group among which to be doing very poorly. 2 In fact, a progressive majority coalition is simply not possible if that poor performance continues, despite the many ways in which demographic change and growth favor progressives, including the increasing proportion of single women within the white working-class population.

But is it really feasible for progressives to significantly improve their performance among white working-class voters? That would appear to depend on the extent to which they can they can clarify their views and principles to these voters and begin earning their trust again. Right now, the Democrats are 23 points down to the Republicans among these voters on knowing what they stand for. 3 Narrowing that gap is key to improving performance among this critical group. More

GOP's vaunted unity becomes House divided
Speaker Hastert labors to pull his majority together as important legislation languishes
Friday, April 28 (Chicago Tribune)He tried to pressure oil company executives into bringing down gas prices, looking them "eyeball to eyeball" as he made his pitch. And he tried to protect the GOP majority from criticism by pushing for strict lobbying and ethics reforms.

But gas prices spiked and Republicans balked, leaving House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) struggling to lead a diverse and increasingly restive majority. On one front after another, the speaker finds himself either flummoxed or at odds with members of his Republican conference.

On Thursday, the House had debated legislation to curb lobbyists and tighten ethics rules for just 25 minutes when Republican leaders yanked the measure from the floor, recessed the chamber and called an emergency meeting of its members behind closed doors. The problem: Not enough votes. More

Prosecutors May Widen Congressional-Bribe Case
Cunningham Is Suspected Of Asking for Prostitutes; Were Others Involved?
Friday, April 28 (WSJ Online)Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement. In an interview, the assistant general manager of the Watergate Hotel confirmed that federal investigators had requested, and been given, records relating to the investigation and rooms in the hotel. But he declined to disclose what the records show. A spokeswoman for Starwood Inc., Westin's parent company, said she wasn't immediately able to get information on whether the Westin Grand had been contacted by investigators.

Mr. Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, was sentenced March 3 to more than eight years in federal prison after he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes. The bribes were taken in exchange for helping executives obtain large contracts with the Defense Department and other federal agencies. Mr. Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in November, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts, one of tax evasion and one of conspiracy.

In documents filed in federal court in San Diego, prosecutors listed four "co-conspirators" in the bribing of Mr. Cunningham. The two who allegedly played the biggest role, listed as co-conspirators No. 1 and No. 2, have been confirmed by Justice Department officials and defense lawyers to be Mr. Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, the founder and former head of MZM Inc., a software and computer-services firm that Mr. Cunningham helped to gain federal contracts.

The charges against Mr. Cunningham had alleged that "Co-conspirator #1" -- Mr. Wilkes -- had given the congressman more than $600,000 in bribes, including paying off a mortgage on Mr. Cunningham's house. More

Co-conspirator's possible links to prostitutes eyed
Friday, April 28 (SignOnSanDiego)Federal prosecutors are reviewing records of two Washington, D.C., hotels where Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes rented suites as part of their investigation into whether prostitutes were involved as he tried to curry favor with lawmakers and CIA officials.

Wilkes, whom federal prosecutors have identified as a co-conspirator in the bribery case of former Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham, rented hospitality suites in the capital on behalf of his flagship company, ADCS Inc.

Advertisement As The San Diego Union-Tribune  reported in December, the suites first at the Watergate Hotel and then at the Westin Grand Hotel had several bedrooms where lawmakers and other guests could relax.

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Cunningham and other legislators brought prostitutes to the hotels or prostitutes were provided for them there, according to a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal  and confirmed by the Union-Tribune.

A source close to the bribery case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, told the Union-Tribune  that Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty in February to bribing Cunningham, told federal prosecutors that he periodically helped arrange for a prostitute for the then-congressman. More

Wednesday, April 26
2:07 pmA Great Presentation on Health Care

Thanks to Kevin Drum, click here

The Great Microsoft Blunder
Internet Explorer is a dead albatross.
Wednesday, April 26 (PC Magazine)I think it can now be safely said, in hindsight, that Microsoft's entry into the browser business and its subsequent linking of the browser into the Windows operating system looks to be the worst decisionand perhaps the biggest, most costly gaffethe company ever made. I call it the Great Microsoft Blunder.

It looks like a whopper that keeps whacking the company. The most recent bash came from the Eolas v. Microsoft patent suit over aspects of the ActiveX usage in Internet Explorer. Microsoft lost and was slapped with a $521 million settlement.

If the problem is not weird legal cases against the company, then it's the incredible losses in productivity at the company from the never-ending battle against spyware, viruses, and other security problems. All the work that has to go into keeping the browser afloat is time that could have been better spent on making Vista work as first advertised.

All of Microsoft's Internet-era public-relations and legal problems (in some way or another) stem from Internet Explorer. If you were to put together a comprehensive profit-and-loss statement for IE, there would be a zero in the profits column and billions in the losses columnbillions. More

Ed note: ah...the opportunity costs of attempted monopoly.

Tuesday, April 25
5:23 pmThe Week for Rep Bobby Rush (D-IL), Member of the House Telecomunnications Committee

Within the past week or so, Bobby Rush, former Black Panther and Tony Robbins success story has:

Been accused of taking $1 million in payback money from the big telecos in exchange for his vote on the Barton/Rush Bill

Been embroiled in the "Net Neutrality" controversy surrounding the bill

Been embroiled in the abandonment of local cable TV channels as a potential result of the bill

Well, I'm sad to say that Dems have got to get rid of Bobby Rush. It's not racial, it's ethical.

Oil: Why Prices Will Fall
Because Iraq has been on the sidelines of the oil world for 20 years. Soon it won't be.
Tuesday, April 25 (Fortune, March 31, 2003)Normally Kuwait's Burgan oilfield isn't much to look at: acres of rust-colored pipe, a few giant fuel tanks, and the occasional natural gas flare burning in the distance. There are no rising and falling oil derricks like the ones you might find in Texas or remember from J.R. Ewing's Dallas. That's because oil doesn't need to be pumped to the surface here. The black gold bubbles up on its own and then flows naturally down to a gathering center by the sea. Just sink a pipe 4,000 feet, and presto!--you have a gusher. Kabeer Burgan, or Great Burgan, as Kuwaitis affectionately call it, produces roughly a million barrels a day. "It is a gift from God," says Khaled Muhammad, an oil company employee, as he surveys the thrumming pipes. "The oil comes up under its own pressure."

But these are definitely not normal times in Kabeer Burgan. Overhead, Sea Stallion Marine Corps helicopters shatter the quiet of the desert, and farther out huge U.S. Army convoys rumble north toward the Iraqi frontier, about an hour's drive away. Those choppers, along with tanks and ground troops, may soon be moving through even more plentiful fields on the other side of the border as they head for Basra and Baghdad. The scene in Burgan is an apt metaphor for how oil and war often mix: If Iraq just exported oranges, after all, nearly 250,000 American troops probably wouldn't be in the region. More

A healthy dose of reality on drug safety
Publicly funded studies must replace industry research if consumers want honesty.
Tuesday, April 25 (LA Times)ONLY 9% OF American adults think the pharmaceutical industry is trustworthy, according to a recent Harris poll. That means that the makers of lifesaving and life-enhancing drugs rank just above tobacco companies in the public's esteem.
How could this happen? Easily. Despite efforts to reform the Food and Drug Administration after its scandalous failures to police drug-safety standards in the cases of Vioxx and other dangerous drugs, the FDA still does not have clear safety policies and can be too slow in responding to danger signals, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO report comes on the heels of other indications that medical knowledge itself is being corrupted by self-interested or faulty research conducted by or for industry. Although the headlines target drug companies, a larger danger is hidden from view: American taxpayers no longer are funding the majority of clinical research. With two-thirds of clinical trials and three-quarters of the papers published in the top medical journals commercially funded, the drug industry has gained unprecedented leverage over what doctors and patients know and don't know about drugs.

The recent case of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics is instructive. These new and expensive drugs, with sales of about $10 billion annually, are used to treat serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Earlier this year, the American Journal of Psychiatry published an analysis of 30 separate trials involving head-to-head comparisons of five drugs. Nine out of 10 times, the drug made by the company that funded the study came out on top. When Eli Lilly, the maker of Zyprexa, funded five studies of its drug, Zyprexa was found superior in all five. But when Janssen, the maker of Risperdal, ran its studies, Risperdal came out ahead. More

Ed note: read the full report here

The NRCC, Bilbray and Busby trade barbs
Tuesday, April 25 (The Hill)The race to succeed Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) degenerated into mudslinging last week as the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and Democratic candidate Francine Busby exchanged charges of aiding and abetting unsavory acts.

On Friday, the NRCC started airing a television spot accusing Busby of praising a Cardiff, Calif., schoolteacher accused of trying to obtain child pornography.

In the ad, the announcer maintains that Busby even praised a teacher reported to have child porn, saying she was always willing to lend a hand. Thats dangerous. Liberal Francine Busby. Poor management. Poor judgment. Dangerous.

The NRCC attributes Busbys praise for the teacher, who was under investigation by the FBI for possessing child porn, to a statement Busby made to The San Diego Union-Tribune on April 29, 2004, while serving on the Cardiff School District board.

He is a teacher who put in a lot of extra time. He was always willing to lend a hand. I was shocked at the investigation, Busby told the paper.

NRCC spokesman Jonathan Collegio says the incident was part of a pattern of Busbys mismanagement of the school district.

The ad shows that Busby was a poor manager and had poor judgment to the point of being dangerous, he said.

In a statement, Busby said she is outraged by the GOP attack.

This is the most outrageous and slanderous attack I could even imagine, she said. I have devoted my entire life to protecting children and fighting for better education, and to claim that I sympathize with child pornographers is the most despicable low anyone could sink to. More
The Left's Big Ideas
Tuesday, April 25 (Washington Post)So Democratic Party leaders met over the weekend in New Orleans, gleefully criticized President Bush's stewardship and issued a "vision" statement that most pundits and reporters saw as less than visionary and not terribly specific.

Perfectly true, which underscores a central fact of American politics: "New ideas," "bold visions," "detailed solutions" and "courageous policies" almost never originate with politicians, especially politicians in the middle of election campaigns. Political consultants, with a few honorable exceptions, don't do "vision" either.

Politicians typically pick up their ideas from intellectual entrepreneurs, professional visionaries and impatient ideologues who wonder why the parties they support seem to stand for little.

Ronald Reagan could not have become, well, Ronald Reagan, if William F. Buckley Jr. and his allies at National Review magazine had not spent years developing modern conservatism's core ideas -- and if neoconservatives such as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz had not tweaked the philosophy in directions that brought in new converts.

What has become clear in recent months is that the impatience on the center-left with the hopeless endeavor of waiting for workaday politicians to come up with ideas -- Godot would deliver faster -- has spilled over the barriers of conventional politics. The brooding, musing and, yes, thinking since President Bush's victory in 2004 is starting to show results. More

The Politics of Definition, Part 1
Tuesday, April 25 (The American Prospect)The thesis of this report is straightforward. Progressives need to fight for what they believe in -- and put the common good at the center of a new progressive vision -- as an essential strategy for political growth and majority building. This is no longer a wishful sentiment by out-of-power activists, but a political and electoral imperative for all concerned progressives.

After three consecutive losses at the presidential and congressional levels, progressives have been consumed with finding the strategies, tactics, messages, policies, media outlets, language and messengers to overcome their problems at the ballot box. Thinkers across the ideological spectrum battle it out over the wisdom of pursuing a hard populist approach versus a renewed focus on national security and cultural deficits with middle class voters. Philanthropists and elites focus their efforts on building new progressive infrastructure; grass-roots activists yearn for new organizational and media tactics and an aggressive public posture; and still others continue to long for the next incarnation of President Bill Clinton.

Unfortunately, while each of these approaches offers important insights, the totality of the advice simply misses the mark and obscures the underlying problem driving progressives on-going woes nationally: a majority of Americans do not believe progressives or Democrats stand for anything. 1 Despite difficult times for the GOP in early 2006, Republicans continue to hold double-digit advantages over Democrats on the key attribute of know what they stand for and fewer than four in 10 voters believe the Democratic Party has a clear set of policies for the country. 2

This trend, one we call the identity gap, has been written about and discussed by others in years past. What is not understood is the extent to which this gap continues to drag down progressives and Democrats and depress their support in myriad ways. No identity translates into no character. No personal integrity. No vision worth fighting for. No domestic agenda. No national-security agenda. No basic understanding of the problems facing everyday citizens. No contrast with the other side. No reason to vote for progressive candidates.

This is not to regurgitate a conservative narrative but to highlight what we believe is the core strategic challenge facing progressives over the next few years. The identity gap -- justifiably or not -- has allowed conservatives over the past few election cycles to capitalize on perceptions of progressives and Democrats as weak and heighten concerns about progressive leadership in the post-9/11 period. More

The Neutrality Non-Debate
Network neutrality regulation is complicated. Potential changes deserve real scrutiny, not a quiet congressional pass on behalf of the telecom industry.
Tuesday, April 25 (The American Prospect)Rumors of the death of bipartisanship have been greatly exaggerated. Supreme Court and Federal Communications Commission rulings issued last fall have exempted broadband Internet service providers from a regulatory principle known as network neutrality that prevents people who own the physical underpinnings of communication systems (basically cable and telephone companies) from discriminating in terms of speed or availability of access to different Web content. Four House Democrats -- Ed Markey, Rich Boucher, Anna Eschoo, and Jay Inslee -- introduced legislative language that would reinstate network neutrality. The provision failed. Not, as is so often the case in the House, on a party-line vote, but with the support of only three other Democrats.

Advocates of the new, non-neutral regime say that strengthening the hands of infrastructure owners will be good for consumers. Right now, maximum connection speeds available to consumers are considerably slower than whats technologically possible. Faster Internet isnt available -- not because it cant be done, but because service providers have decided its not worth spending the money involved in making it happen. Increase the potential for profits, the theory goes, and youll increase the incentives to build better services.

Network-neutrality proponents point out that the current market for broadband services isnt very competitive. About half of all households only have one option. For the other half of households (like mine), the overwhelming trend is toward duopoly -- one phone company and one cable company. Perhaps in a world of robust competition, ending network neutrality would let 1,000 flowers bloom. Consumers who arent interested in a wide-open Web might be able to get super-fast access to a restricted set of Verizon-approved sites at bargain basement prices (with Verizons profits coming from licensing fees paid by companies to join the VerizonWeb) while those inclined to spend more could sign on with a neutral ISP offering connections faster than anything available today, to every site on the Web, for a somewhat higher fee. But thats not the world we have.

Instead, we run the risk that consumers will merely be locked into two unappealing choices. Maybe your cable company will sign a contract with Google, making them the exclusive search engine available to Comcast customers, while your phone company signs a similar contract with Yahoo. People who prefer one engine over the other will still have choice, but the whichever one I want to use option just wont be out there. Worse, the search engines themselves will face no competition. If some clever people devise a new, better search engine -- the next Google, the next whatever -- the risk is that nobody will ever be able to use it. More
Iraqi PM-designate: US Could Start Pullout in 18 Months
Tuesday, April 25 (CNN International)The Shiite Muslim politician tapped as Iraq's prime minister said Monday that he thinks U.S. troops could begin withdrawing in 18 months or less if his country's security forces get up to speed.

In an interview with CNN, Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki also promised to tackle the problem of militias, the armed groups thought to be fueling sectarian violence in the country.

Al-Maliki said the private forces that have held sway on the streets of Iraq must be "disarmed."

The Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance nominated al-Maliki, 55, for the prime minister post last week after the initial nominee, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, stepped aside amid opposition from Sunnis, Kurds and secularists who disliked his performance as transitional prime minister. More

Friday, April 21
Party in Search of a Notion
The opportunity before the Democrats is far bigger than a few House and Senate seats if they can recognize -- and seize -- this unique historical moment.
Friday, April 21 (The American Prospect)The Democrats are feeling upbeat these days, and why not? The Republican president and vice president have lost the countrys confidence. The Republican-controlled Congress is a sump of corruption, sycophancy, and broken principle. Races in the midterm election that Democratic leaders wouldnt have dreamed of a few months ago are in play (the Senate seat in Tennessee!). A recent poll showed Democrats with a gaping 16-point lead over Republicans this fall. Seizing on the issues of corruption and incompetence, the party might even take back the House or the Senate -- or both.

The prevailing conventional wisdom in Washington -- that the Democrats have no idea what they stand for -- has recently been put to the test in persuasive ways. In an important piece in the May issue of The Washington Monthly, Amy Sullivan demonstrates that the Democrats have in fact become a disciplined and effective opposition party. From their Social Security victory to George W. Bushs backing down on his post-Katrina changes to the Davis-Bacon law to the Dubai ports deal, the Democrats have dealt the administration a series of defeats -- each of which took a reflexive media, still accustomed to hitting F9 to spit out the words Democrats in disarray, by complete surprise. More than that, the Democrats do have ideas; its just that no one bothers to cover them.

The party has discipline, a tactical strategy as the opposition, and a more than respectable roster of policy proposals waiting to be considered should Democrats become the majority again. Its quite different from, say, three years ago. But lets not get carried away. There remains a missing ingredient -- the crucial ingredient of politics, the factor that helps unite a party (always a coalition of warring interests), create majorities, and force the sort of paradigm shifts that happened in 1932 and 1980. Its the factor they need to think about if their goal is not merely to win elections but to govern decisively after winning them.

What the Democrats still dont have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it dont even think in philosophical terms and havent for quite some time. Theres a reason for this: Theyve all been trained to believe -- by the media, by their pollsters -- that their philosophy is an electoral loser. Like the dogs in the famous learned helplessness psychological experiments of the 1960s -- the dogs were administered electrical shocks from which they could escape, but from which, after a while, they didnt even try to, instead crouching in the corner in resignation and fear -- the Democrats have given up attempting big ideas. Any effort at doing so, theyre convinced, will result in electrical (and electoral) shock. More

Democrats Struggle to Focus on 2006 Elections
Friday, April 21 (NPR) As Democrats hold a spring meeting in New Orleans, the focus is meant to be on the 2006 mid-term elections. But many delegates want to talk about the 2008 presidential campaign. Representatives of several states are vying to hold presidential nominating primaries earlier in the 2008 election cycle. Listen (To listen, you may need RealPlayer. To download, click here)

Defining the 2006 Election
Friday, April 21 (Greenberg Quinn Rosner/Democracy Corps)Now is the moment for Democrats and progressives to take charge of the 2006 election - by taking the initiative, expanding the electoral battlefield, crystallizing the choice before voters and presenting their agenda. The goal is an upheaval in 2006, now a genuine possibility. The moment is right because Bushs problems are now so clear, deep and long-standing, and because Republicans too are now part of the problem. A large majority of the country is determined to vote against candidates who support Bushs direction for the country. Even now, the Democrats have near landslide leads in the races for the House and Senate, but to consolidate that position and translate it into congressional majorities, Democrats can now take this election to a new stage.

We too are in awe of the depth and scope of the presidents problems. He is at his lowest point yet on the countrys direction, Bush direction, job approval and personal popularity, which has worsened almost inexorably over the last eight months.

" In the race for the House (using actual candidate names), Democrats have an 11-point lead (51 to 40 percent); Republican incumbents are getting only 51 percent of the vote.
" In the race for the Senate, Democrats have a 12-point lead (52 to 40 percent); Republican candidates in competitive Republican-held seats are getting only 40 percent of the vote.

It is tempting for Democrats to watch the Republicans dig the hole deeper, but they should feel confident now, based on months of research, that they can make this a bigger election than any we have experienced in recent memory. More

Thursday, April 20
Thursday, April 20 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.6 percent in March, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.  The March level of 199.8 (1982-84=100) was 3.4 percent higher than in March 2005.

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 0.6 percent in March, prior to seasonal adjustment.  The March level of 195.3 (1982-84=100) was 3.6 percent higher than in March 2005.

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 0.5 percent in March on a not seasonally adjusted basis.  The March level of 116.1 (December 1999=100) was 3.0 percent higher than in March 2005. More

Thursday, April 20 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)Real average weekly earnings fell by 0.3 percent from February to March after seasonal adjustment, according to preliminary data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.  A 0.2 percent increase in average hourly earnings was more than offset by a 0.5 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).  Average weekly hours were unchanged. More

Gearing Up for a May Estate Tax Vote
Thursday, April 20 (OMB Watch)As the May vote in the Senate to repeal the estate tax approaches, nonprofit advocacy groups around the country are stepping up their campaign to save the nation's most progressive tax and a vital source of revenue. OMB Watch urges individuals to email Senators today and let lawmakers know America favors preserving the estate tax and opposes repeal or back-door "reform" that would amount to repeal.

Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) announced his intention to bring estate tax repeal legislation to the floor for a vote in May. While full repeal is favored by a number of conservative Senators, Frist still lacks the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass such a measure. But a proposal being pushed by conservative Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) as a "reform" option could be equally damaging to federal coffers and the charitable sector. The Kyl proposal would raise exemptions from their current level of $2 million ($4 million for a couple) to $8 or $10 million for individuals and double those amounts for couples.

What's worse, Kyl's "reform" would tie the estate tax rate to the current capital gains rate of 15 percent. In the future, should the capital gains rate be reduced down to zero, as conservatives hope will happen, the estate tax would disappear. Even if the rate remained at 15 percent, tying the estate tax to capital gains would cost upwards of 90 percent of full repeal. More

Upbeat on Trade, Hu Offers No New Fixes for Imbalance
Thursday, April 20 (Washington Post)Chinese President Hu Jintao conceded Wednesday that "some problems have occurred" in the business ties between his country and the United States, but offered few, if any, specifics for solving them.

On the second day of his visit to Washington state, Hu was effusive and optimistic about the importance of trade to the future of both countries. At the same time, though, he announced no new proposals for cutting his country's huge trade surplus with the United States, revaluing its currency or limiting China's oil purchases from rogue countries such as Iran.

"The common strategic interests that bind our two countries together have not decreased; they have increased," Hu said in luncheon remarks delivered before his flight to Washington, D.C., where he will meet with President Bush on Thursday. "The various areas for our cooperation have not narrowed; they have widened further." More

Ed note: short version of Hu visit: "We hold your bonds, we finance your debt No terms, you pay!

Wednesday, April 19
12:14 pmRove is Gone? Or is it Time to Get Ready for the Worst Congressional Election in a Generation?

So, Karl resigns from his position as de-facto president on domestic and political matters. He leaves Dick Cheney to serve as de-facto president for international matters. But is he really gone?

I say no. He's still Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief Policy Aide, Senior Advisor, and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He takes a half-step away from the White House, where his involvement in the Valerie Plame affair shouldn't add too many additional layers of tarnish already caked onto the Bush administration. But he steps in as the political thinker behind the GOP's national stratedy for the upcoming congressional elections. Which means that at least 40% of an individual candidate's strategy will be dictated from Washington. On the upside for the GOP, Rove's tactics have been successful in getting the President elected. On the downside, the president was appointed to his first term, and won his second term by a statistical whisker. So Rove can get you into a position to win, but you'll either need the Supreme Court, voter fraud, or luck to get you through.

Rove's messages work well, but are they designed for Democrats that no longer exist? After Swift Boating John Kerry, it will be interesting to see whether assasination based on an opponent's strongest characteristic will work anymore. Will voters believe that every Democrat candidate that served in Iraq is a wishy-washy coward? Aren't voters used to the same tired divide and conquer antics of Karl and the GOP? Will the amalgamation of lies told by the Bushies to get us into war be able to outweigh Rove's favorite tactic of calling Democrats traitors? Hmm, vote for a clear liar or a puported traitor? I'm not sure if Rove'sdated tactics will hold up when spread across hundreds of races, and their implementation forced from central command.

Overall, my take on the strategy is to dissuate independent voters from turning out by making this election so nasty, so vitriolic that it becomes an exercise in turning out your voters.

Also, look for Bush to begin to talk about bringing the troops home. It's a political war. It's beginning was based in political needs, so would it surprise you that it's end won't also rise from political necessity? I know I'm stepping out on a limb, but hey....

Tuesday, April 18
All roads lead to George Ryan
Tuesday, April 18 (Belleville News-Democrat)In November 1999, as the federal driver's licenses-for-bribes probe picked up momentum, Illinois Gov. George Ryan urged on prosecutors.

Ryan was secretary of state when some of his workers swapped commercial driver's licenses for campaign contributions. At least nine people died, including six children in one family, during accidents involving truckers with illegally obtained licenses.

"If there's more corruption out there, I hope that it is found," Ryan said. "I hope they continue to find those people that are crooked."

Well, they did. And on Monday, eight years after the probe began, a jury concluded that Ryan was himself crooked. He was convicted of all 18 counts of corruption against him, including racketeering and fraud. More

Good riddance to man who abused trust
Tuesday, April 18 (Suburban Chicago News)This should be a day of anger in Illinois. Our seemingly avuncular former governor George Ryan has turned out to be a man not of probity but one who surrounded himself with shady characters, who tried to cover up traces of his criminal activities, who turned a blind eye to deceptions committed on his behalf. In other words, he's a crook. A jury found Ryan guilty Monday on 22 counts, including conspiracy and racketeering, after a six-month trial.

The jury agreed with the prosecutors that Ryan lied, shamefully took loans and gifts from his friends in exchange for state business and, most indefensibly, turned a blind eye when his subordinates committed illegal acts. The evidence against Ryan and his co-defendant, businessman Larry Warner, was damning, and despite defense lawyer Dan Webb's masterful defense this is just the way politics operates in Illinois, after all the jury believed Ryan breached the public trust. More

Ryan For Governor From Prison
Tuesday, April 18 (SW News Herald)Former governor of Illinois has been convicted. Its a perfect time for him to start his re-election campaign.

Like all high-profile defendants, Ryans team already includes agents, pollsters and consultants,  so he should take the next step and make his appeal into a proper political campaign.

His legal team could present his re-election platform as part of his criminal appeal. What judge will say no to a man whos promising, if elected and acquitted, to cut the taxes of that judge? Raising contributions on a platform of prison reform would be a no-brainer. If Ryan solicited funds from every indicted or indictable politician just in DC hed have a campaign war chest to rival Rupert Murdock.

I admit however that since he was found guilt of... everything, Ryans chances of success on appeal look as dim as is his record as governor was bright, so it is possible he could be convicted and elected. He could be sworn into office and sentenced on the same day,  by the same judge! I George Ryan, solemnly swear to uphold the constitution of the state of Illinois for the next ten to twenty years. More

This verdict no ordinary act of justice
Tuesday, April 18 (Chicago Tribune)George Ryan finally lost an election, this time by a 12-0 vote, and the jury that cast that vote formally on Monday did something more than convict a former Republican governor on corruption charges.

They redeemed Illinois, however briefly.

The jury might not want to think of it that way, but they did. The jurors redeemed this state by convicting Ryan and his co-defendant Larry "The Bridge to City Hall" Warner on all counts.

Just imagine if Ryan and Warner had walked, or received a wrist slap on a few tax counts. The political thugs in this state would be thumping their chests over drinks and cigars at the Chicago steakhouses, ready to send their mouthpieces out to bleat a victory hymn, to reassure witnesses in future political corruption prosecutions to keep their mouths shut and stay strong.

But the jury got in the way of that.

"Ordinary people like us were able to make a decision," said juror Jill DiMartino of the jury led by forewoman Sonja Chambers.

Ordinary people.

Those are two extremely frightening words. Boss politicians in Illinois pretend to have something in common with ordinary people, but if they did have a connection once, they lost it long ago, with their drivers and their first-class air tickets, and from having their behinds smooched by people who suck up to power. More

Guilty on all charges
Tuesday, April 18 (Chicago Sun Times)George H. Ryan Sr., the 39th governor of Illinois, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the emancipator of Death Row, is now a convicted felon. More

Friday, April 14
Ahmadinejad's Demons
Friday, April 14 (The New Republic)During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.

At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. "In the past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on, "we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."

These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started in order to supplement his beleaguered army.The Basij Mostazafan--or "mobilization of the oppressed"--was essentially a volunteer militia, most of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the thousands, to their own destruction. "The young men cleared the mines with their own bodies," one veteran of the Iran-Iraq War recalled in 2002 to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. "It was sometimes like a race. Even without the commander's orders, everyone wanted to be first."

The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence. They have been deployed, above all, as a vice squad to enforce religious law in Iran, and their elite "special units" have been used as shock troops against anti-government forces. In both 1999 and 2003, for instance, the Basiji were used to suppress student unrest. And, last year, they formed the potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-- a man who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the presidency. More

Democrats: HSD Omits Right-Wing Threats
Democrats: Homeland Security Department Omits Threats From Right-Wing Terror Groups
Friday, April 14 (ABC News)The Homeland Security Department is focusing on possible terror threats from radical environmental and animal rights activists without also examining risks that might be posed by right-wing extremists, House Democrats said Tuesday.

A recent internal Homeland Security document lists the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front with a few Islamic groups that could potentially support al-Qaida as domestic terror threats.

The document does not address threats posed by white supremacists, violent militiamen, anti-abortion bombers and other extremists that Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., called "right-wing hate groups."

ALF and ELF "are the left-leaning groups that they identified," said Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "But they absolutely left out any of the other groups."

"If your responsibility is to protect the homeland from these domestic terrorists, then you have an obligation to identify all of them not just some of them," Thompson said. More

Thursday, April 13
Thursday, April 13 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)Continued economic and employment growth and the drop in the deficit in fiscal year 2005 have led to renewed debate over the nature of the economic recovery. Some proponents of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts have argued that these developments validate their claims about the positive effects of those tax cuts.

Our assessment of a broad range of key economic indicators, however, suggests that this economic recovery is not especially robust. To the contrary, relative to comparable past periods, the current economic recovery has, on balance, been worse than average. The economic performance of the past four years also has been no better than the economic recovery of the early 1990s, which occurred in years following a significant tax increase; in terms of job creation, this recovery has been far worse. In short, the economys overall performance does not make up for the adverse fiscal effects of the recent tax cuts or the unusually uneven distribution of the economic gains from this recovery.[1] More

A National Health Program for the United States: A Physicians' Proposal
Thursday, April 13 (Reprinted from the New England Journal of Medicine 320:102-108 (January 12), 1989)


Our health care system is failing. Tens of millions of people are uninsured, costs are skyrocketing, and the bureaucracy is expanding. Patchwork reforms succeed only in exchanging old problems for new ones. It is time for basic change in American medicine. We propose a national health program that would (1) fully cover everyone under a single, comprehensive public insurance program; (2) pay hospitals and nursing homes a total (global) annual amount to cover all operating expenses; (3) fund capital costs through separate appropriations; (4) pay for physiciansÕ services and ambulatory services in any of three ways: through fee-for-service payments with a simplified fee schedule and mandatory acceptance of the national health program payment as the total payment for a service or procedure (assignment), through global budgets for hospitals and clinics employing salaried physicians, or on a per capital basis (capitation); (5) be funded, at least initially, from the same sources as at present, but with payments disbursed from a single pool; and (6) contain costs through savings on billing and bureaucracy, improved health planning, and the ability of the national health program, as the single payer for services to establish overall spending limits. Through this proposal, we hope to provide a pragmatic framework for public debate of fundamental health-policy reform. (N Engl J Med 1989; 320: 102-8.) More

Ed note: I don't remember if I already posted this, but hey it's worth a second time. It's a starting point.

Denver Public Schools: Resegregation, Latino Style
Thursday, April 13 (Civil Rights Project at Harvard University)


The Denver Public Schools (DPS) provide a unique opportunity to study the dynamics of school segregation within the context of rapid demographic changes and key policy changes. In 1973, Denver became the first northern school district ordered to desegregate by the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers representing a group of Black, Latino and White families filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court charging that schools in the Park Hill neighborhoods were intentionally segregated to keep White students separate from minority students. Although efforts at ending official segregation of Latinos were made at the state and local levels through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Keyes was the first Supreme Court ruling that recognized the rights of Latinos to desegregation. Under Keyes, Denver created a plan that desegregated both Black and Latino students within the city in such a way that it became one of the few large metropolitan areas during the 1970s where both Black and Latino students became much less segregated from Whites.

Since the time of Keyes, one of the most dramatic demographic changes in Denver Public Schools (DPS) has been the surge of Latino enrollment. In 1980, DPS was already majority minority with 41 percent White, 23 percent Black, 32 percent Latino, and 3 percent Asian student enrollment. A little over two decades later, DPS became majority Latino, with White students comprising only one-fifth of the entire student body by 2003. Denver school growth was cut off by a state constitutional amendment that prohibited incorporating surrounding suburban communities into the Denver school district. Approved by voters in 1974, the Poundstone Amendment prohibited annexation except by the consent of the majority of the voters in each county that was giving up the land. Specifically, the legislation stated, except as otherwise provided by statute, no part of the territory of any county shall be stricken off and added to an adjoining county, without first submitting the question to the registered electors of the county from which the territory is proposed to be stricken off; nor unless a majority of all the registered electors of said county voting on the question shall vote therefore.

At the time the amendment was passed, Denver was annexing lands to the south and east following the suburbanization of White families. Once these lands were annexed, the schools became part of Denver Public Schools. While the announced goal of the amendment was to prevent Denvers growth from overwhelming the suburbs, the effect was to limit the reach of the desegregation order into the suburbs. Because Keyes only covered the schools within the 1974 boundaries of Denver and none of the other school districts in the metropolitan area, the Poundstone Amendment effectively sealed off Denver from the surrounding suburbs and severely curtailed its ability to have any lasting and stable desegregation of its public school students. As a result, Denver Public Schools now captures a shrinking share of the total Denver metropolitan student population (from 21% in 1990 to 19% in 2003). More

The Unraveling of No Child Left Behind:
How Negotiated Changes Transform the Law
Thursday, April 13 (Civil Rights Project at Harvard Universtity)Executive Summary

Over the past two years, the U.S. Department of Educations (ED) has made such extensive compromises in implementing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) that the laws legitimacy is in serious question. In response to growing state and local opposition to the law, political and professional criticisms of its requirements, and the increasing number of schools and districts identified for improvement, the administration has allowed a wide variety of changes in state accountability plans. These changes reflect a political strategy by the administration to respond to the growing state opposition to the law by providing relief from some of the laws provisions and reducing, at least temporarily, the number of schools and districts identified for improvement. But they are also a concession by ED officials that NCLB is not working and have created a policy that has no consistent meaning across states.

This report documents the changes states have made to their accountability plans and examines how these policy shifts affect the meaning of accountability and who benefits (and loses) from the changes. We reviewed decision letters sent to all 50 states that outlined the changes approved by ED through December 2005. The intent of this report is to provide policymakers with information they can use to develop a systemic approach to correcting the flaws in NCLB by documenting the requirements that are difficult for states to implement and identifying areas where the law may not be working as intended. The report provides an easy to understand synopsis of the changes allowed by ED and state-by-state summaries of the amendments each state adopted. More

Reframing the Iran Debate
Thursday, April 13 (Huffington Post)So far, the neoconservatives have done a good job of re-running their Iraq playbook and framing discussion on Iran, by laying out these premises:

1. Iran is close to getting nukes.
2. Iran's President is crazy and irrational and committed to wiping Israel off the map. He can't be reasoned with.
3. Bush is trying real super hard to get the UN to do something about it, but if they won't...

If we are to have any hope of preventing a senseless war with Iran, we cannot accept this frame. If all of the above points are reported as fact and accepted by Americans across the ideological spectrum, anti-war arguments will be seen as knee-jerk, immature and reckless, and not get a fair hearing. In turn, Democrats in Congress will get steamrolled again.

How can we reframe the discussion? Our arguments should flow from the following framework:
1. Iran presently has a strong, rational incentive to get nukes. Bush is planting permanent military bases on Iran's doorstep in Iraq, and trying to proliferate nukes to nearby India. Iran's feeling the heat, and desperately wants to pull a North Korea: get a nuke to keep the neocons at bay. More

4:57 pmRumsfeld's Rules of Order

Here they are, in their entirety. Originally written in 1974, and amended in 2001, it's Donald Rumsfeld's rules on serving a President, being Secretary of Defense, and living in the public eye. So tell me, how many of his own rules has he broken?

Wednesday, April 12
12:58 pmIf At First, You Don't Succeed, Lie, Lie Again

The first attempt is backfiring. From today's Washington Post:
Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War
Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary
On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The make-up can be found here:
Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says (Update1)
Iran, which is defying United Nations Security Council demands to cease its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days if it goes ahead with plans to install thousands of centrifuges at its Natanz plant, a U.S. State Department official said.

``Natanz was constructed to house 50,000 centrifuges,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow. ``Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days.''

Here's the kicker. Stephen Rademaker works for Robert Joseph. Joseph was a member of the National Security Council back during the run-up to Iraq. He was a behind the scenes driver of adding the Niger/yellowcake phrasing in Bush's 2003 SOTU address.

Is Iran more dangerous than before? Yes. Do they have the ability to make an atomic weapon? Eventually. Will it take 16 days? Based on the messenger above, not likely? Will the Bushies manage to lie their way into another war? They'll try their hardest.

Monday, April 10
12:58 pm"Of These, the Greatest is Intolerance..."

I'll add that to the list of reasons I'm in trouble when I get to the Pearly Gates. But I just couldn't resist mocking the ideas in the post below on "Christians" and their campaign to legalize intolerance. Are we French? Are we Russian?

But it's been coming, I'm just kind of surprised that people are now coming forward, looking for confirmation that it's OK to hate with the blessing of the law. You can't stop people from hating. It's not worth the trouble, as people who hate that much usually end up shaming themselves back to reality. A good portion of the rest die early, as hate does not lead to living a vital life. But a few live longand make everyone around them miserable.

I've never been ashamed of believing in the Holy Trinity. But I'm as ashamed of my fellow Christians as I am my fellow African-Americans when they get arrested and their pictures splayed all over the TV set.

"Let's see if I can take their logic to a conclusion: "Christians" feel so persecuted that they need laws to allow them to persecute as well. They feel so much hatred that they not only need to hate, but engage in state-sponsored hate?

At what point does this hate, once engrained in society, move to the next level? What "Christian" leader will draw the line between good and bad intolerance? Will this legal intolerance be based on the rights of each state? Will Mississippi's intolerance be allowed to include interrracial relationships? How about interfaith? If, according to them Jews killed Jesus, how soon will it be that it expands to other religions?

In Illinois, there's a very high profile African-American minster thinking hard about running for governor on an independent ticket. He's the newest sign that we are moving forward in America. He hates gays, and check out this from NBC5.com:

Meeks' challenge to white voters could grow into a very big problem for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"Come on with me white churches ... Call me and tell me to run for governor," Meeks said. "White people who believe in Jesus, call me and tell me to run for governor"

Meeks is an Illinois senator in the 15th District. He is counting on an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage platform to appeal to conservative white Christians.

"If I do run and there are two people in the race who both are not standing for morality, if I don't have every white Christian vote in the state of Illinois, I will stand on top of the Sears Tower and call every one of ya'll racist...."

Spiritual extortion from The Reverend James Meeks. African-Americans, we have overcome, and we're movin' on up. We've now got our second nut, after Louis Farrakhan.

So hopefully the days where religion is driving politics are almost over. Because if a little more of "God's Love" is forced down our collective throats, there's going to be hell to pay.

12:51 pmI'm Sure This will Lead to Another Leak Investigation....

Here is a link to a leaked report on the stability of the regions in Iraq. I found it at the Washington Post site, and downloaded it. My fear was that the admistration would pressure the paper to scrub the report, which isn't too out of the ordinary. According to the Bushies, the media doesn't report enough on the good. According to this report, compiled by the military and the State Department, there isn't that much good to talk about. It's not a civil war... really it's not....

Can Bush get much lower?
Monday, April 10 (Talequah (OK) Daily News)As more details are brought to the fore about the seamy underbelly of the Bush administration, the perpetually trusting souls among the American electorate are having trouble keeping those scales firmly in place on their eyes.

The president has sunk so far down in the polls its hard to imagine he could get any lower without being adept at limbo dancing. And its no wonder: Even staunch loyalists are at pains to name one positive thing Bush has accomplished during his five years in office, except perhaps the seating of two new justices (presumed to be conservative by ardent Bush supporters, who could be sorely disappointed if they merely turn out to be fair).

The usual response from Bush fans, when asked such impertinent questions about their fearless leader, is to fire another accusatory salvo at his predecessor, whose peccadilloes are not only irrelevant to the situation at hand, but pale by comparison.

Bushs political missteps, on the other hand, would fill several pages, even with small type. The senior citizens are having trouble with his Medicare program, and his fence-straddling on the immigration issue is ripping his own party apart. The cronies he empowered within FEMA dropped the ball in spectacular fashion when Hurricane Katrina roared through, and the fallout on that fiasco continues. The violence goes on unabated in Iraq, and Afghanistan is lurching toward a theocracy that Western states will ultimately find as unpalatable as Irans government. The national deficit has ballooned to incomprehensible levels, and the wages of the average Joe are stagnant. Philosophically, Americans are polarized, and not only do our fellow countrymen from the opposing party dislike us, but the rest of the world does, too.

And now, Bush himself has been identified as the ultimate source of the information leak that led to publication of supposed pre-war intelligence and the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. With all due respect to Gomer Pyle, and with as much sarcasm as can possibly be mustered: Well, surprise, surprise, surprise! More

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies
Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue.
Monday, April 10 (LA Times)Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.
With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian." More

Friday, April 7
12:07 pm"Right now, our targets are members of Al Queda operating on our shores. Although we wouldn't target innocent people, rest assured that during times of war we would not hesitate to surveil those we determine are enemies of the state."

The entirely made up sentence above sounds like a Bush administration sound byte. But it isn't a reach given the following from today's Washington Post:

Bill Would Allow Warrantless Spying
GOP Plan Would Bring Surveillance Under Review of Congress, FISA Court

The Bush administration could continue its policy of spying on targeted Americans without obtaining warrants, but only if it justifies the action to a small group of lawmakers, under legislation introduced yesterday by key Republican senators.

The four senators hope to settle the debate over National Security Agency eavesdropping on international communications involving Americans when one of the parties is suspected of terrorist ties. President Bush prompted a months-long uproar when he said that constitutional powers absolve him of the need to seek warrants in such cases, even though the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires warrants for domestic wiretaps.

The program, begun in 2001, was first publicized late last year.

The bill would allow the NSA to eavesdrop, without a warrant, for up to 45 days per case, at which point the Justice Department would have three options. It could drop the surveillance, seek a warrant from FISA's court, or convince a handful of House and Senate members that although there is insufficient evidence for a warrant, continued surveillance "is necessary to protect the United States," according to a summary the four sponsors provided yesterday. They are Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine).

Before we allow the GOP to cover up the mess with a bill that sounds reasonable under an extremely limited number of circumstances, let's hold hearings in order to find out just how bad the Bushies have screwed the Bill of Rights. These are people who would spy on the entire nation out of fear of a threat, or just fear.

Warrantless Wiretaps Possible in U.S.
Friday, April 7 (Washington Post)Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales left open the possibility yesterday that President Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the United States -- a move that would dramatically expand the reach of a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

In response to a question from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales suggested that the administration could decide it was legal to listen in on a domestic call without supervision if it were related to al-Qaeda.

"I'm not going to rule it out," Gonzales said. More

Ed note: If there were chatter within the US about an impending attack, I'm sure I'd give the administration a free pass on nabbing the bad guys. But they've gone out of their way to violate my trust. So talk of domestic wiretaps withhout a warrant goes beyond the last bit of nonsense the Bushies came up with.

Saddam's Delusions: The View from the Inside
Friday, April 7 (Foreign Affairs)The fall of Baghdad in April 2003 opened one of the most secretive and brutal governments in history to outside scrutiny. For the first time since the end of World War II, American analysts did not have to guess what had happened on the other side of a conflict but could actually read the defeated enemy's documents and interrogate its leading figures. To make the most of this unique opportunity, the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) commissioned a comprehensive study of the inner workings and behavior of Saddam Hussein's regime based on previously inaccessible primary sources. Drawing on interviews with dozens of captured senior Iraqi military and political leaders and hundreds of thousands of official Iraqi documents (hundreds of them fully translated), this two-year project has changed our understanding of the war from the ground up. The study was partially declassified in late February; its key findings are presented here. More

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation
Friday, April 7 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 211,000 in March, following an increase of 225,000 in February.  During the 12 months ending in March, monthly employment growth averaged 174,000.  Over the month, there were widespread job gains in the service-providing sector.  The unemployment rate was little changed at 4.7 percent.

Employment in professional and business services rose by 52,000 in March.  Several component industries continued to add jobs, including architectural and engineering services, computer systems design, management and consulting services, and services to buildings and dwellings. More

Thursday, April 6
Bush Authorized Leak to Times, Libby Told Grand Jury
Thursday, April 6 (New York Sun)A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded "National Intelligence Estimate" on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.

The court papers from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, do not suggest that Mr. Bush violated any law or rule. However, the new disclosure could be awkward for the president because it places him, for the first time, directly in a chain of events that led to a meeting where prosecutors contend the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was provided to a reporter.

Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry initially focused on the alleged leak, which occurred after a former ambassador who is Ms. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times questioning the accuracy of statements Mr. Bush made about Iraq's nuclear procurement efforts in Africa. More

Wednesday, April 5
A Profile of Frail Older Americans and Their Caregivers
Wednesday, April 5 (Urban Institute)Frail older adults are one of the most vulnerable groups in the nation. Disproportionately female, widowed, and in their 80s and 90s, most older people with disabilities living outside of nursing homes have little education and limited financial resources. Given the scarcity of public financing for home-based care, about three-quarters of frail older people receiving assistance rely exclusively on unpaid caregivers. Yet providing help to these older Americans can be a substantial burden on spouses, children, and friends. As a result, some frail older adults do not receive the help they need. As the population ages, the demands on government and families will only intensify and put more older people at risk.

This report uses data from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to profile older Americans and their caregivers. Focusing on people age 65 and older who are not in nursing homes, the study examines frail older adults and the subgroup with severe disabilities. Those defined as frail have difficulty with at least one personal care activity or other activity related to independent living; the severely disabled are unable to complete three or more personal care activities. Personal care activities include bathing, dressing, and getting in and out of bed. Other activities related to independent living include shopping for groceries and taking medications.

The community-based disabled population is sizeable. In 2002, about 8.7 million people age 65 and older living at home, or 26.5 percent of the population, reported some type of disability that limited their ability to perform basic personal activities or live independently. About 6.1 percent, or 2.0 million people, were severely disabled. By comparison, about 1.4 million older people lived in nursing homes in 2002.

Mental health problems are widespread within the frail older population. About 31 percent of frail older adults and 45 percent of those with severe disabilities suffer from depression. Mental health services for older people with disabilities are scarce.

Many frail older people live alone.
In 2002, 35.0 percent of older adults with severe disabilities and 57.2 percent of unmarried older adults with severe disabilities lived alone. They face special challenges in the receipt of long-term care because caregivers are often not immediately available when emergencies arise.

Most frail older people who do not live in nursing homes have children nearby who could provide assistance. About 9 in 10 older adults with disabilities have surviving adult children. Despite concern about the dispersion of the American family, 62.5 percent of frail older adults have at least one child living within 10 miles.

Most frail older people have only modest financial resources. In 2001, the median income for older people with severe disabilities living at home was only $14,160. Nearly one-quarter had incomes below the federal poverty level. Median household wealth among those with severe disabilities totaled $47,913, nearly three-fourths of which was tied up in their homes. Median financial assets amounted to only $7,908, leaving many severely disabled older people with little liquid wealth for meeting long-term care and other needs. More

To Become an American
Wednesday, April 5 (Fareed Zakaria)Seven years ago, when I was visiting Germany, I met with an official who explained to me that the country had a fool-proof solution to its economic woes. Watching the U.S. economy soar during the '90s, the Germans had decided that they, too, needed to go the high-technology route. But how? In the late '90s, the answer seemed obvious: Indians. After all, Indian entrepreneurs accounted for one of every three Silicon Valley start-ups. So the German government decided that it would lure Indians to Germany just as America does: by offering green cards. Officials created something called the German Green Card and announced that they would issue 20,000 in the first year. Naturally, the Germans expected that tens of thousands more Indians would soon be begging to come, and perhaps the quotas would have to be increased. But the program was a flop. A year later barely half of the 20,000 cards had been issued. After a few extensions, the program was abolished.

I told the German official at the time that I was sure the initiative would fail. It's not that I had any particular expertise in immigration policy, but I understood something about green cards, because I had one (the American version). The German Green Card was misnamed, I argued, because it never, under any circumstances, translated into German citizenship. The U.S. green card, by contrast, is an almost automatic path to becoming American (after five years and a clean record). The official dismissed my objection, saying that there was no way Germany was going to offer these people citizenship. "We need young tech workers," he said. "That's what this program is all about." So Germany was asking bright young professionals to leave their country, culture and families, move thousands of miles away, learn a new language and work in a strange landbut without any prospect of ever being part of their new home. Germany was sending a signal, one that was accurately received in India and other countries, and also by Germany's own immigrant community.

Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration-perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies. More

April is here, time to cut loose of politics
Wednesday, April 5 (Chicago Tribune)Columnists should not write about politics. Take it from me, it's a bad idea. You pick up your bright sword to harass the heathen Republican and your prose style goes limp, your verbs droop, and words such as "comprehensive" and "funding" creep in and you become thin-lipped and hissy, like Miss Whipple in study hall telling the boys in the back of the room to shape up or be sorry. Well, they aren't going to shape up. What will shape them up is the day of reckoning and it's not here yet.

It's spring in Minnesota, the snow is gone except behind the garage, so it's time to turn over a new leaf and let other people rag on the president. He is who he is, and anybody who hasn't formed an opinion of him is not paying attention. I am going to sit and read poetry and wait for the enormous old crab apple tree beside our driveway to bud and then blossom, a mass of brilliant purplish flowers like a Mardi Gras float parked beside the house--you can almost hear the brass band playing "Just a Little While to Stay Here." Or maybe it's a funeral and the purple flowers are from the deceased's old pals who are shuffling along beside the coffin, hankies in hand, on their way to the graveyard and then to O'Gara's for a commemorative bump of whiskey. You can get all this just by looking at a crab apple tree. Visions of the vast grandeur of the sensuous world, intimations of mortality.

What vast grandeur do you find in Washington these days? The Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay saga is the story of weasels. Men wheedling favors and skimming money off the top. Nobody in the Republican majority could be shocked by any of this, so why should you and I?

The people who are getting reamed by this administration are people under 30, and they are, like, OK with that. They walk around with little wires coming out of their ears and 10,000 tunes on their iPods, and if you go, like, global warming, they are, like, whatever. And you go, government deficit, and they are, like, duuuuuuuuuuuude. More

Fossil Fish Sheds Light on Transition
Wednesday, April 5 (Chicago Tribune) Scientists have caught a fossil fish in the act of adapting toward a life on land, a discovery that sheds new light one of the greatest transformations in the history of animals. Scientists have long known that fish evolved into the first creatures on land with four legs and backbones more than 365 million years ago, but they've had precious little fossil evidence to document how it happened.

The new find of several specimens looks more like a land-dweller than the few other fossil fish known from the transitional period, and researchers speculate that it may have taken brief excursions out of the water. "It sort of blurs the distinction between fish and land-living animals," said one of its discoverers, paleontologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago. More

Ed note: it's amazing that someone is reading that article, and then swearing out loud that it's a big hoax from Democrats and Satan. Like the flat earth, the moon landing, floridated water, transfusions, 9/11well, not that one. That's why we need more kids in parochial schools. They'll make sure our kids know more Bible and less science. And math. And art. And social studies. And on and on.

Mexican Standoff
Wednesday, April 5 (The New Republic)It's not hard to imagine what Republican friends are telling President Bush right about now. "Your presidency is hanging by a thread. Democratic voters hate you. Independents aren't far behind. If the conservative base stays home this fall, your presidency is over. They're already ticked off about government spending and the ports deal. And they're at fever pitch over immigration. If you cross them on that, you might as well start planning your impeachment defense." 

It's a plausible argument. Bush's call for a guest-worker program--so illegal immigrants can do the jobs the United States needs but enjoy some legal protections in the process--is exactly what conservatives do not want to hear right now. What they want is a militarized border and a government that forces teachers and nuns to report illegal immigrants rather than educate or feed them. The conservative movement's current position is that, when government intrudes on the free market, it makes things worse. Except in the case of immigration, where the United States has a vast market for low-wage labor, and Mexico has a vast supply--and conservatives think the federal government can keep the two apart, if only it would spend more money. It's amazing how people start believing in government's ameliorative capacity when a problem really bothers them. Perhaps after they rid America of illegal immigration, conservatives will let the federal government rid America of poverty. 

So, politically, Bush's self-interest is clear: dump the guest-worker program, sign the harshest border-security bill he can find, and jump into Rush Limbaugh's adoring arms. There's just one problem: That's not what he believes. More

12:47 pmIllegal Immigration and the Jobs "We" Won't Do

The fundamental problem with that concept is that, while we treat illegal immigration as a crime, it will remain true. But once the threat of deportation is removed, immigrants won't remain happy with doing the jobs "we" won't do.

There's a certain amount of reliablility when it comes to jobs for illegal aliens. You come, you work a backbreaking job that requires some thought on a very good day, get paid and send your money back home. You can't get a better job, because you're an illegal alien. Complain, and lose what you have.

If you're an employer, it's easy as well. Set aside your worst jobs at less than minimum wage, and wait for the new "great unwashed" to fill them. If they get uppity and want more money or benefits, fire them. Have a fight with your wife in the morning, fire an illegal in the afternoon, hire a new one the next morning. It's a great scam for employers, because there is alway someone willing to work for less, someone who can't complain. They know that arrest and detainment is always an "anyomous" phone call away.

Not quite slave labor, but the 21st century equivalent.

Remove the threat AND replace it with the opportunity for citizenship, and employers will have to raise wages and pay benefits. The employer won't be able to hire and fire at a personal whim. Immigrants won't have to take the jobs that "we" won't do, because they'll be free to apply for whatever job they'd like to try. They'd be more willing to work hard and stay out of trobule, as it would be part of the agreement to eventually become citizens.

As the supply of workers willing to accept subhuman wages dries up, wages will creep up. Pretty soon, "we'll" want to do these jobs because the pay will be decent. They won't be the domain of the illegal anymore.

Monday, April 3
1:12 pmThe Post Below: More Wake-up Calls for Democrats

Kevin Phillips' opinion in Sunday's Washington Post is telling, chilling, and has ramifications for the rest of the nation. We have a theocracy in these last, lusty, power-grabbing days of Movement Conservatism. They can't see it, as it would apply a human label to something they think is from God. The media refuses to cover it, out of fear and a few heaping teaspoons of intellectual laziness.

Dems aren't in the greatest position of talking about it. Some of us hate church people, and what we say about them seems petulent. Some of us make fun of them, out of a lack of a sense of history and sheer stupidity. So when we talk about theocracy, it sounds more like Chicken Little or Jay Leno.

Independent Dems are beginning to make inroads. Jim Wallis at Sojourners is the primary example of someone who is right on point in identifying the excesses of today's Republicans and decrying their newly minted theocracy. He's got some things to say about Dems as well, but that's a different post.

So it looks as if the only way we as a nation will learn of the collective deceptions engineered by Republicans over the past few decades is to take the fall with them.

It's a shame our party leaders have self-neutered. There is something to the strategy of letting the GOP show itself as liars and frauds. But never forget that after it all comes apart, there will be two choices: Democrats and Republicans that truly don't believe in Movement Conservatism. They'll be the new Moderate Republican. The distinction between the two and Movement Conservatives will be stark and clearly identifiable. People will be looking for a change. It's not guaranteed that people will gravitate to Democrats, something that seems to be what the party is counting on. Hoping that people gravitate toward us instead of a new Repbulican message is wishful thinking.

How the GOP Became God's Own Party
Monday, April 3 (Washington Post)Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before -- in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.

Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country's domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion's new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.

The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits -- oil and biblical expectations -- require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

The political corollary -- fascinating but appalling -- is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street. More

The ignoble art of pandering
Monday, April 3 (St. Petersburg Times)What are we to make of the strange mating dances going on in presidential politics?

Sen. John McCain, who not so long ago denounced the Rev. Jerry Falwell as an agent of "intolerance," has lately been cozying up to the conservative preacher. The two met recently, and Falwell has suggested that McCain, once lost, may be on the road to redemption. Next month, McCain will deliver the commencement address at Liberty University, which Falwell founded.

McCain is a maverick Republican who has been more popular with Democrats and independents than with GOP conservatives. Will Falwell's flock forgive him for standing with Democrats against President Bush on tax cuts and torture? Or for defending Democrat John Kerry in 2004 against the Swift Boat ads attacking his Vietnam War record?

Miracles happen, I guess.

And what about Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, a Harvard-trained heart surgeon who made a fool of himself last year in the Terri Schiavo circus on Capitol Hill? Now he has broken ranks with the president and his own GOP caucus to become a champion of tough new laws to crack down on illegal immigration.

The behavior of Frist and McCain, rivals for their party's 2008 presidential nomination, is part of a demeaning political spectacle known as courting your party's "base," or core constituencies. It causes presidential wanna-bes to say and do things that, more often than not, diminish their credibility as candidates. The conventional political thinking is that candidates have no choice because the presidential primary process is dominated by activists on the left (Democrats) and the right (Republicans). Maybe so, but does this courting ritual have to be so nauseating? More

Living on society's margin, illegal workers long for a reprieve
Senate bill revives hope of those who fear deportation
Monday, April 3 (Boston Globe)Sarah, a bubbly home nursing aide, came to Boston to visit friends on holiday from Ireland four years ago. She never left. Attracted by the high wages and the big-city lifestyle, she got a job and set up house in Quincy.

Sarah, 26, who asked that her full name not be published, is working here illegally. She can't enroll in school because she is afraid of being exposed by professors. Her heart jumps every time a police officer walks by her. And when her beloved grandfather died a few years ago, she couldn't return to Ireland to attend his funeral.

''I just want to work and give back and be an outstanding citizen," said Sarah, who dreams of going to college and becoming a police officer or an FBI agent.

Like millions of undocumented workers in the United States, Sarah's hopes for staying in the United States center on an immigration reform bill passed last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee that, along with strengthening border security, would put illegal immigrants on track to permanent legal status and allow up to 400,000 foreign workers each year to fill low-skill jobs. A competing House version calls for building a 700-mile wall along the US-Mexico border, criminalizing undocumented immigrants and those who help them, and giving local police the power to enforce immigration laws.

The Senate bill has lifted the spirits of those who feared they would never have a chance to live here legally. Monica Modi Khant, an attorney for the International Institute in Boston, has been fielding calls from people eager to find out anything about it.
''They want to know when they can apply," she said. ''They think it has been passed today."

Under the Senate proposal, undocumented workers already in the United States can apply for a six-year temporary visa, and would eventually be able to apply for a green card provided they pay a $2,000 fine, pass rigorous background and security checks, and show basic comprehension of English and American civics. Opponents say it amounts to an amnesty for millions of people who have broken the law.

US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, whose proposals formed the basis of the Judiciary Committee's bill, has received hundreds of emotional calls from people for and against the proposal, said spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner. More