Monday, March 30, 2009

Free Speech, Privacy And National Security With, Maybe, A Dash Of Cronyism

Have you ever heard of the Department of Homeland Security "all hazards fusion centers" that sprung up during the Bush Administration? We have one in Collin County called "The North Central Texas Fusion System" operated by the Collin County Department of Homeland Security in the county sheriff's office building. The Collin County Observer reports that James Johnson, son of U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson, and James Johnson's wife, Anita Miller, have received at least $1 million in no-bid contracts from Collin County since 2004 to design and run the "The North Central Texas Fusion System." Four other such fusion centers, designed to gather intelligence on Texans and share it with law-enforcement agencies, have been created in Texas since 2002.

The Collin County Observer has been posting about the "all hazards fusion center" in Collin County. A blogger colleague suggested we should post something to highlight this important reporting by our friend Bill Baumbach at the Observer blog.

The Collin County Observer has been reporting that a February 19. 2009 North Central Texas Fusion System "Prevention Awareness" bulletin distributed to law enforcement organizations warned that mainstream Muslim organizations were infiltrating American institutions, with the goal of gaining support for Islamic-based issues:

A bizarre, conspiracy-laden memo sent to almost 3,000 cops, fire marshals and public-health officials in North Texas links mainstream Muslim-rights organizations and anti-war groups to Middle Eastern terrorists, and calls on law enforcement to “report these types of activities.”

The leaked memo, dated Feb. 19 and labeled “For Official Use Only,” is one in a weekly series of “Prevention Awareness Bulletins” put out by the North Central Texas Fusion System, a regional intelligence-gathering center run by the Collin County Department of Homeland Security. Five such fusion centers, designed to consolidate and share intelligence with law-enforcement agencies, have been created in Texas since 9/11.

The bulletin has increased fears among civil libertarians and Metroplex Muslims that the North Central Texas Fusion System has edged into spying.

The author of the weekly Prevention Awareness Bulletin is James Johnson, son of U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson, a Republican who represents Collin County [in the 3rd Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 3rd Congressional District includes the southwestern portion of Collin County and the Northeastern corner of Dallas County.]
So, what is a Department of Homeland Security "all Hazards Fusion Center" and what does it do, you may be asking yourself. The Department of Homeland Security was authorized to fund local Homeland Security operations around the country as a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission Report. This far-reaching, yet little known or scrutinized, 9/11 Commission recommendation on "domestic" intelligence gathering breaks down the walls between local, state, and federal law enforcement and disaster response.

The thinking went that in terms of both prevention and response, effectively fighting terror would require a much higher level of centralized coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency services than had ever been previously contemplated. Though local fusion centers vary from state to state, most contain similar elements, including members of state and local law enforcement, public health, social services, public safety, and public works organizations. Increasingly, federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms are stationing their agents in the local fusion centers too.

(Department of Homeland Security also promotes and funds local "Urban Search and Rescue" (US&R) task forces to provide specialized assistance after disasters to stabilize damaged structures, locate and extricate victims, identify risks of additional collapses, and meet other needs at disaster sites. The US&R task forces are separate from "all hazards fusion centers," but the two efforts are related.)

Fusion centers are low-profile, highly secure sites where federal and state officials with top secret clearance meet in order to collect, analyze, and redistribute information on "all hazards and all threats." The Department of Homeland Security has paid out more than $327 million in funding to local authorities during fiscal years 2004 to 2008 to form 70 centers across the country. The federal government also provides start up personnel and technical support along with the funding.

The list of hazards and threats covered by these centers initially started with terrorism, but soon expanded to include local crime, gangs, "political activists" and weather-related natural disasters. (During the Bush administration Iraq anti-war protesters were identified as "political activists.") Fusion center databases are initialized with a broad spectrum of information, including the location and capabilities of area hospitals, available emergency response resources, and names from federal terrorism and law enforcement watch lists. Local, state and federal representatives now continually update fusion center databases with details of 911 emergency hot-line calls and other information gathered from law enforcement agencies, commercial sources, internet sources, blogs and websites, club and group memberships and, apparently, even religious affiliation.

Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, pressed fusion centers to "fuse" local firefighters with the "intelligence gathering" functions of local Fusion Centers. Chertoff reasoned that because firefighters, as emergency first responders, were in a position to report suspicious observations as they gain entrance to buildings in response to emergency calls.

The 70 local all hazards fusion centers around the U.S., including the one in Collin County, then, generally gather, compile, store, interpret and then distribute to other government agencies huge amounts of information on the "activities" of local citizens.

This data pool is intended to help local, state and federal law enforcement form a clearer picture of threats facing each state. In addition, it helps inform law enforcement investigations, contingency planning, and emergency response. This is what The North Central Texas Fusion System (NCTFS) does - it gathers and interprets information on the "activities" of Collin County residents and sends "reports" to local, state and national law enforcement organizations on what local groups or individual persons might pose a threat.

While Fusion Centers sprang to life and grew to 70 centers under the Bush Administration they seem to have continuing strong support from the Obama administration. "At the Department of Homeland Security, information and intelligence sharing is a top priority and fusion centers play an important role in helping to make that happen... In the world we live in today, it’s critical for federal, state, local and tribal entities to know what the others are doing so each can operate effectively and efficiently," said Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano at the the third annual National Fusion Center Conference in Kansas City on March 11 this year.

"Protecting our country requires a partnership of federal, state and local resources that are fully integrated to not only gather and analyze information, but then to swiftly share that information with appropriate agencies...Fusion centers represent the honing of these protective efforts, while strongly protecting individual rights and civil liberties. They are a vital part of keeping our nation strong, safe and free," Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in remarks at the same conference.

The National Fusion Center Coordination Group (NFCCG), the 2009 National Fusion Center conference organizer, promoted a conference agenda focused on strengthening the integrated national network of state and major urban area fusion centers that share information and intelligence with the federal government and each other. Close to 1,000 state, local, tribal, territorial and federal partners involved in the 70+ fusion centers across the country attended the March 2009 conference.

Some worry that the information gathered by Fusion Centers might be used to violate civil liberties. This seems to be the implication of the February 19, 2009 North Central Texas Fusion System "Prevention Awareness" bulletin warning about the political activities of Americans who attend Mosque rather than Church.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says pooling information on U.S. citizens who aren't suspected of a crime runs afoul of the Federal Privacy Act of 1974. Some states have even applied for exemptions from constraints on the kind of information they can collect, which Rotenberg calls “a purposeful attempt to suspend federal privacy laws.”

In December of 2008, the DHS issued a "Privacy Impact Statement" giving "civil liberties" oversight guidance to fusion center directors and personnel. The DHS Statement called for the establishment of community oversight committees and the prominent public disclosure of privacy policies, information collected and how the information will be used. The North Central Texas Fusion System in Collin County has not subscribed to nor adhered to these DHS "privacy and civil liberties"guidelines.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Science Takes Hits in Texas

After a year of fierce debate about how evolution should be taught (or not taught) in Texas public schools, the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted on and passed a final version of new science education standards that will guide the content of science textbooks and classroom curriculum for the next decade.

Just to review yesterday’s action, a reference to the “weaknesses” of evolution was removed from the education standard during the morning, but in the afternoon creationists on the board passed several other amendments to the standard that again opens the door for Texas teachers to effectively still have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students. The amendment phrases ask teachers to prompt students to “examine all sides of scientific evidence and scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking.”

Today, in its final vote on the new eduction standard the entire standard as written, including those fuzzy and open to interpretation 'examine all sides' amendments, were adopted. Those teachers and school districts who want to criticize evolution and discuss the 'scientific theory of intelligent design' will no doubt interpret the amendment language as their license to do so.

The SBOE's decision has a large impact across the U.S. given Texas' ability, because of its size, to influence what is printed in textbooks. The just adopted standard, with the last minute amendments, allows Don McLeroy, young earth creationist chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, to pressure textbook publishers to write the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution discussion" into textbooks used nationwide.

The Texas Freedom Network has released the following statement on the final adoption of science curriculum standards by the State Board of Education today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 27, 2000

TFN President Kathy Miller: Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

The word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don’t agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy.

What’s truly unfortunate is that we now have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted. Perhaps the Texas legislature can do something to prevent that.

###

The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.
The Texas Freedom Network live-blogged today's meeting and has a good play-by-play of the amendments and maneuverings on their blog. The Texas Observer blog has several posts worth reading and here is The Austin American-Statesman's story link.

Capitol Annex: “Analyze, Evaluate And Critique” Becomes New “Strenghts & Weaknesses” For Science Educators In Texas

Related Posts:
Seven experts briefly describe the essence of science and how it differs from religion.


"Only a Theory" 2:19
Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy Southeastern Louisiana University - "When creationists try to dismiss evolution as 'only a theory,' they are misusing the word theory."

Avoiding the Supernatural 1:41
Nick Matzke, Public Information Project Director National Center for Science Education - "A conservative judge isn't going to just redefine science."

Science and Religion 2:29
Ken Miller, Biologist Brown University - "What science isn't very good at is answering questions [on] the meaning and purpose of things."


On Isaac Newton 1:34


A Solid Theory 1:18
Kevin Padian, Paleontologist UC Berkeley - "I don't know where people get the idea that evolution is a theory in crisis."

Natural Explanations 1:33
Robert T. Pennock, Philosopher and Evolutionary Scientist Michigan State University - "You can't have gaps that you fill in by appeal to miracles."


Science Is Not Dogmatic 2:02

Science Tests Its Claims 1:12
Eugenie Scott, Executive Director National Center for Science Education - "If you teach intelligent design as a science, you are confusing students about the nature of science."

The Power of Science 1:23
Neil Shubin, Paleontologist University of Chicago and the Field Museum - "Not every idea, no matter how beautiful, qualifies as science."

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Young Earth Creationists Win The Day On Questioning Evolution In Texas Classrooms

Pro-evolution advocates felt like they had carried the day Thursday morning when the State Board of Education voted against adding language to the education standard requiring Texas educators to have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students.

However, by the end of board proceedings late Thursday afternoon it was actually young earth creationist Don McLeroy, Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, and the creation social conservative members of the board that won the day on teaching the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" in Texas schools.

The Texas Observer:

McLeroy and the six other social conservatives on the 15-member board mostly got their way this afternoon. They passed a series of minor amendments that, with a slight word change here and there, diluted the state’s science standards and the teaching of evolutionary theory. Critics say these proposals open loopholes in the standards for the teaching of unscientific theories espoused by religious conservatives. (The same approach was tried, quite successfully, at the board’s meeting in January.}

“We’re opening the conversation and broadening it to alternative theories,” said Barbara Cargill, a socially conservative board member from The Woodlands. “We know there are a lot of questions about the fossil record.” [There is NO scientific evidence that is non-supportive of evolution. Evolution is settled science for all but ideologues who oppose it for religious reasons.]

Terri Leo, an ardent social conservative, passed an amendment requiring biology students to “analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding the formation of simple organic molecules.”

Board Chair Don McLeroy passed an amendment that will require science curriculum and textbooks to “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of the cell.”

Cargill snuck through an amendment that struck a reference to the Universe being 14 billion years old. “It clarifies this for our teachers to let students know that there are differing theories for the age of the Universe,” Cargill said, adding that she was simply trying to add a sense of “humility” to the science standards.

Pro-evolution members offered several amendments themselves, many from Lubbock’s Bob Craig, to undo the social conservatives’ victories from January. Nearly all of those amendments failed.

The change in fortunes occurred largely because of Rick Agosto of San Antonio, who voted against the social conservatives in the morning and mostly with them in the afternoon. Agosto is viewed as the key swing vote on the board. He voted against the “strengths and weaknesses” language in January and again this morning, despite fierce lobbying from religious groups in his district.

Agosto wasn’t alone. Several other pro-evolution board members voted with the social conservatives’ this afternoon.

The board will take its final vote on the science standards, which will set content of classes and textbooks for years to come, tomorrow. The board can add in or take out language up until final passage.

So one last fight is likely on Friday.

The purpose of the several amendments, as McLeroy states in the video, is to allow teachers to question the validity of the “two key parts of the great claim of evolution, which is common ancestry by unguided natural processes.”

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Texas School Board Set to Vote on Challenge to Evolution

Updated Thursday March 26 at 1:00PM - Texas State Board of Education votes to not critically challenge evolution in Texas schools and textbooks. See update below.


Young earth creationist Don McLeroy, recently reappointed as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) by Republican Governor Rick Perry, believes the earth is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old and that modern man and dinosaurs walk the earth together. McLeroy, a Bryon dentist who has no background in science or education, is convinced that evolution taught uncritically undermines the tenet of Christianity that people were created in the image of God.

The video explains the young earth creationist "intelligent design" principles that McLeroy is asking teachers to present to students in Texas schools.

McLeroy believes that the science disciplines of physics, geology, biology and the archaeological study of the fossil record, which all provide evidence the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that biological processes first appeared at least 3.9 billion years ago, must be critically argued by Texas teachers and the text books they use as unreliable.

McLeroy is asking teachers to engage Texas students in a "critical discussion" that the archaeological evidence of the fossil record does not support the idea of natural selection as an explanation of how organisms evolved on earth over millions of years. McLeroy wants teachers to lead students to the believe that cells and the DNA code controlling their function is so complex that intelligent design by a creator and not evolution is the only answer that can be accepted.

Update - CapitolAnnex is reporting:
A motion for the SBOE to reinstate language, advocated by McLeroy, into the education standard requiring Texas educators to have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students failed on a 7-7 tied vote of the State Board of Education in Austin on Thursday March 26th.

In spite of the victory, rumors are already running rampant that social conservatives and young-earth creationist groups are looking to challenge the vote. According to a source within the Texas Education Agency, social conservative groups have already raised the idea of challenging today’s vote as violating the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Texas Constitution because Mavis Knight (D-Dallas) cast her vote via teleconference from an Education Service Center in Richardson. Knight is recovering from heart surgery and could not travel to Austin.

While other state agencies and boards–including the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles–conduct their meetings using similar methods, right-wing anti-science advocates are expected to use Knight’s vote as a mechanism to challenge today’s vote.

The vote upholds a tentative vote taken by the board in January to discard the “strengths and weaknesses” language from the education standard. The near-party line vote saw seven ultraconservative Republicans voting for the motion and three more moderate Republicans and four Democrats against.

The SBOE's decision has a large impact across the U.S. given Texas' ability, because of its size, to influence what is printed in textbooks. If the Texas SBOE had voted to require Texas teachers to "critically discuss" evolution, then that “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theory discussion" would have been printed in textbooks used nationwide.

McLeroy's critics, who include many Texas scientists, accuse him of trying to undermine a multitude of scientific evidence that supports evolution and replace it with a discussion of one particular fundamentalist interpretation of religious doctrine in public schools.

The Christian Right has already moved the battle over teaching intelligent design to the floor of the Texas House and Senate with HB 4224. House Bill 4224 would override the SBOE vote just taken by requiring Texas educators to have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students. If passed into law the bill would would allow schools to teach whatever they wish, not just on evolution vs. intelligent design, but on any scientific topic from geology to physics to how diseases are transmitted.

WSJ: Texas School Board Set to Vote on Challenge to Evolution
CNN: Education board leader set to challenge evolution
RawStory: Texas House Bill 2800 would allow creationists to grant Masters of Science degrees

Texas Freedom Network Stand Up For Science Initiative:
  • Send a letter to your State Board of Education member by clicking here.
  • Sign the Stand Up for Science petition here, if you have already signed forward the petition to your friends!
  • Read more about young earth creationists on the SBOE.
  • Read a TFN report on what Texas scientists think about the battle over evolution and creationism.
Related Posts:


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Old Media Giving Way To The New Web Media

Picture from HuffingtonPost

President Brack Obama kicked off a first-of-its-kind Internet era Town Hall at the White House on Thursday, by taking questions posted on WhiteHouse.gov by online readers. In opening remarks to kick off the virtual Town Hall Obama said the precedent-setting online town hall meeting was an "an important step" toward creating a broader avenue for information about his administration.

The AP is reporting on a near avalanche of newspapers that are either closing down their print operations or making severe cuts. Apparently things aren't looking up for old media:
The pall looming over U.S. newspapers grew even darker Monday as Gannett Co. informed most of its employees that they will have to take another week of unpaid leave this spring, while a Michigan daily unveiled plans to close its print edition after 174 years.

And The Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, also ordered pay cuts and 10-day furloughs for nonunion employees Monday to cut costs as advertising revenue drops.
The moves were just the latest sign of the distress afflicting newspapers across the country as they try to cope with a dramatic shift in advertising that is forcing publishers to figure out how to survive with substantially less revenue.
The report is overflowing with newspapers across the country that have been forced to implement more and more drastic cost saving efforts in order to stay afloat. Now, its been clear for quite sometime that the newspaper industry has been hurting but it seems that the situation continues to worsen:
Like most businesses, newspapers have been hard hit by the deepest recession since the early 1980s. But the blow has been especially devastating for newspapers because they were already losing readers and revenue to the Internet, where news can be easily found for free and the advertising rates are substantially lower.

The Internet's allure, coupled with the punishing recession, have caused annual advertising revenue to shrivel by 20 percent to 30 percent at some newspaper publishers since 2006.
Not surprisingly the AP skips over an important factor in these papers' collective downfall. That factor being their obvious and undeniable bias for the conservative message and against the progressive message. While it is certainly true that old media's failure to quickly adapt to a new media world has been one of the main causes of their struggle it is equally true that their bias toward uncritically forwarding the talking points of the far right conservative message machine, which often denigrates any left-of-center message, has left their former readers, who are increasingly turning away from conservative ideology, looking for other information sources. Obama very wisely continues to take advange of that trend.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Touch Screen Voting Systems Used In Collin Co. Flawed

Collin County voters have been voting on Diebold Election Solutions DRE touch screen voting systems, like the machine pictured left, since the March 4, 2004 primary election. (Following a year-long failed attempt to sell its e-voting subsidiary, the parent Diebold company renamed its wholly owned election system subsidiary "Premier Election Solutions" and gave the business unit its own management team and board of directors in August 2007.)

The newer version voting machine pictured right was used for the first time in Collin Co. during early voting for the November 2008 general election. The older version of the same voting machines used in Collin County since 2004, were used on Election Day 2008.

Premier (Diebold) Election Solutions admitted in a California state hearing Tuesday that the audit logs written by its voting system software miss significant events, including the act of someone (election clerks, judges or other) maliciously or accidentally deleting votes on election day.

The company acknowledged that the problem exists with every version of its GEMS tabulation software prior to GEMS v1.18.24 used nationwide. (This then would include the Premier (Diebold) election system used in Collin County, Texas as well as six other Texas counties.)

The revelation confirmed that a problem noted in a report released two weeks ago by the California Secretary of State's office, has widespread implications for election jurisdictions around the country that use any version of the company's Global Election Management System (GEMS) software to tabulate votes.

The GEMS software is used to tabulate votes cast on every Premier/Diebold touch-screen or optical-scan machine, and is used in more than 1,400 election districts in 31 states. Collin County use Premier/Diebold systems exclusively, therefore the GEMS software counts every vote countywide.

The audit log system on Premier Election Solutions' electronic voting systems fail to record the wholesale deletion of ballots, even when ballots are deleted on the same day as an election. That's the statement made by Justin Bales, Premier's Western Region manager, at a State of California public hearing on the possible decertification of Diebold/Premier's system in California.

An election system's audit logs are meant to record all activity during the system's actual counting of ballots, so that later examiners may determine, with certainty, whether any fraudulent or mistaken activity had occurred during the count. Diebold's software fails to do that, as was recently discovered in Humboldt County, CA, and later confirmed by the CA Secretary of State.

When election officials in Humboldt County tested the reported audit failure by intentionally deleting more than two dozen batches of ballots from their system during the November general election, the Premier/Diebold logs did not show that ballots had been deleted. The flaws, built into the system for more than a decade, are in serious violation of federal voting system certification standards.

BradBlog further reports:

In addition, the software was discovered to have a "Clear" button which, when pressed, would actually delete the contents of an audit log without even asking for confirmation from the user. That, despite repeated federal and state testing and certification of the software which failed to notice the egregious programming flaws in violation of federal voting system standards requiring indestructible logs to track all system events.

The flaws should have kept the systems from receiving certification at all.

Premier, formerly Diebold, Election Solutions is headquartered in Allen in Collin County, TX.

Read more at:

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama Enlists OFA In Fight to Pass Budget

President Obama will kick off an all-out grass-roots effort today urging Congress to pass his $3.55 trillion budget, by calling on the Organizing for America (OFA) network of supporters to help "win the debate between those who marched in lockstep with the failed Bush economic policies and now have no new ideas versus the Obama agenda which will help us manage the short term economic crisis and puts us on the path to long term prosperity."

David Plouffe, who was Obama's campaign manager and is now an adviser to OFA, and Mitch Stewart, Director of Organizing for America, sent e-mails to the OFA mailing list over the past several days signaling the ramping up of the campaign for the president's budget.

"In the next few weeks we'll be asking you to do some of the same things we asked of you during the campaign -- talking directly to people in your communities about the President's ideas for long-term prosperity," Plouffe wrote in his email.

An accompanying OFA website page asks the 13-million-strong supporters receiving the emails to either "Call Congress" or "Join a Canvass."

Read more about this story in the Washington Post:

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Voter ID Bill Passes Senate On Party Lines

After a marathon all-night session that lasted more than 24 hours, the Texas Senate, convened as the Committee of the Whole, passed Senate Bill 362 requiring that voters present a photo identification to vote on a party line 19-12 vote on March 11.

While proponents of Texas voter ID legislation argue that it's needed to combat voter fraud, there is no evidence that widespread fraud has occurred at any point since records have been kept.

Voter Fraud is the claim that large groups of people knowingly and willingly give false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly vote illegally or participate in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others.

Any claim that voter fraud is rampant in Texas is false.

Texas voter ID legislation, called SB362, might be better named for its true purpose: The Voter Suppression Act of 2009. As Glen Smith, a fellow blogger, put it so well:

Republicans will force Texas citizens to go through multiple contortions just to exercise their right to vote.

People who may be blocked from voting include:
  • A recently married or divorced woman whose last name or address isn't matched up.
  • A college student whose permanent address is different from voter registration address.
  • A person whose had their identity stolen (and had their social security number frozen).
  • A person whose driver's license has expired and who doesn't have a social security card -- or a birth certificate to get a duplicate.
  • A person whose utility bill isn't in my name.
  • An older person who has stopped driving and allowed their driver's license expire.
The only answer to these bureaucratic snafus is that voluntary election judges will be given the discretion to decide. For the first time since the Voting Rights Act, a local volunteer will be able to deny someone the right to vote based on appearance. For instance, if you've dyed your hair or look a little older than your ID picture.
Any Election Judge could refuse to allow a person to vote, based on the Judge's subjective opinion that the voter doesn't look like their Driver's License picture.

Read More:

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Texas House Bill End Run To Teach Creation In TX Schools

House Bill 4224 filed by State Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) Friday in the Texas House of Representatives attempts to make an end-run around the curriculum setting authority of the state’s elected State Board of Education over how science, including evolution, is taught in Texas public school classrooms.

The battle over the language used to shape curriculum standards with regard to the teaching of scientific principles has been a hot button issue for Christian conservatives, young earth creationists, intelligent design advocates, and Texas Republicans since the 1990s, when the party first engineered its takeover of the State Board of Education.

The evolution vs. creation battle erupted again in full force late last year because of the decennial requirement that the State Board of Education establish new or revised curriculum standards for science. The SBOE took public comment on the controversial “strengths and weaknesses of evolution” language, favored by creationists, for its new curriculum standards from a well-informed public, parents, teachers and clergy. The SBOE takes its final vote on the curriculum standard on March 27, 2009.

Not satisfied that SBOE can fulfill the creationist agenda for Texas schoolrooms and textbooks, the Christian Right now moves the battle over teaching intelligent design to the floor of the Texas House and Senate with HB 4224. If passed into law the bill would would allow schools to teach whatever they wish, not just on evolution vs. intelligent design, but on any scientific topic from geology to physics to how diseases are transmitted.

--- Click here for REST OF STORY at the Capitol Annex!... ---

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'Fiscally Responsible’ Blue Dog Democrats

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was successful in recruiting conservative Democrats to run and win in Republican districts in 2006 and 2008. Now Democratic Congressional leaders in the House and Senate are finding it increasingly difficult to get many of those Blue Dog conservative Democrats to vote for Democratic legislation.

The Blue Dogs are particularly complaining of heartburn over what they consider to be President Obama's "big spending" plans, but most also oppose national health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. These self-proclaimed ‘fiscally responsible’ Blue Dog Democrats are pressuring President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress toward the Conservative Republican position that congress should pull back from economic stimulus spending, cut federal spending and pay down the national debt. The conservative drive to immediately balance the budget as the economy grinds to a halt would likely push America in a deeper cycle of economic crisis.

The Hill reports that up to 60 Blue Dogs [,or what the media calls "moderates,"] are banding together in the House and Roll Call reports that a group of 15-20 “Blue Dog” Senate Democrats — boosted by their success in “paring down the more than $900 billion economic stimulus bill to $787 billion” — plan to “formally align as a loose coalition or working group focused on deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility”:

Led by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), members said early press reports of their meetings were mis-characterized as an opposition group to President Barack Obama’s agenda and budget. But they acknowledge that they are seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill. […]

[Nebraska Sen. Ben] Nelson said the moderate bloc is modeled after the Blue Dogs, but that the realities of the Senate prevent them from being as organized or unified as the House group, which regularly wins concessions from House Democratic leaders.
Bayh issued a press release detailing the group and its 15 inaugural members. The press release explains that the group “will meet every other Tuesday before the Democratic Caucus lunch to discuss legislative strategies and ideas”:
The Moderate Dems are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as deficit containment, health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, energy policy and climate change.
In addition to Bayh, Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) will lead the group. Other members include: Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility are important issues that President Obama himself has said are on his priority list. The problem is that federal discretionary spending rose a whopping 75% under Bush and his Republican controlled congresses, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation. (Discretionary spending fell throughout President Clinton's administration who left office with budget surpluses.)

George Bush and his conservative Republican Congresses added trillions to the national debt by turning Clinton’s last annual $155 billion surplus into the current annual $1.2 trillion deficit. Conservative Republicans in congress and George Bush more than doubled the national debt from $5.73 trillion when he took office to $10.66 trillion at the end of 2008, according to Treasury Department data. During fiscal year 2008 alone, which ended Sept. 30, the national debt increased by more than $1 trillion, breaking the previous single fiscal year record of more than $600 billion.

Even after Democrats gained control of the Senate by a single seat after the 2006 mid-term election, Republicans filibustered every attempt Democrats made to regain some measure of fiscal responsibility, including attempts to let some air out of the already ballooning mortgage bubble. President Obama, who inherited a massive debt and an economy in crisis, is now forced into drastic measures to head off complete economic collapse because for the last eight years conservatives all but ignored deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility.

As the economy grinds to a halt the question is whether our current economic situation is best resolved by government pressing harder on the spending brakes to reduce deficit spending or Obama's Keynesian approach to step on the gas to accelerate stimulative spending. Once the economy regains it footing, deficit reduction should be pursued vigorously.

During the first Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt pushed deficit spending in 1934, '35 and '36 and the economy responded with brisk growth during those years. In 1937 Roosevelt, a fiscal conservative himself, was convinced to end the stimulative deficit spending and focus on deficit reduction through spending cuts. (The FDR Failed Myth)


Those deficit reducing spending cuts in 1937 pushed the economy into recession. When the economy contracted sharply in late 1937 and early 1938, FDR quickly reversed course on his "balanced budget" spending cuts and economic growth rapidly returned.

It took the massive deficit spending of WWII to permanently pull the U.S. economy out of its Great Depression and into an overdrive speed that lasted long after the war ended. In the graph above note the run-up in war debt starting in 1942. WWII deficit spending is equivalent to $10 trillion in today's dollars.

Following the war, the U.S. paid off the national debt for 35 years, while the economy remained generally quite prosperous. It was not until President Reagan took office, starting a 28 year injection of conservative ideology into government fiscal policy, that deficits, as a percent of GDP, began to again increase. President Clinton reversed the deficit growth trend, started by Reagan and continued by G.H.W. Bush, until he left office. Deficit growth returned under President G.W.Bush. (see zfacts National Debt graph above)

When President Obama went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Republicans shortly after his Inauguration, conservative Republicans hit him with a barrage of questions implying that his Economic Recovery and Stimulus plan would add to already out of control deficit government spending [inherited from the Republican congressional and Bush years of fiscal irresponsibility].

According to Republicans in the room, Obama's response hearkens back to the Great Depression as he raised the specter of 1937. 1937 is the year President Franklin Roosevelt succumbed to conservative pressure to cut deficit spending, leading to another cycle of recession.

When Huffington Post asked Democratic congressional members about FDR's 1937 decision to cut spending House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "We're not going to let it happen again. In the middle '30s -- '36, etc. -- they were concerned about what was happening so they tightened their belts in terms of spending," she said, "and that caused a recession within the Depression, instead of keeping the momentum going."

And, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman told the Huffington Post that Democrats will be vigilant about cutting spending too soon. "The Keynesian view of the Depression and the way to deal with it is to make up for the lack of private spending by bringing in public spending. And whenever you try to balance the budget, you withdraw public spending. So there are people that speculated the downturn in 1937" was a result of cutbacks, said Waxman.

Yet, 15-20 “Blue Dog” Senate Democrats focused on "deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility" could "short circuit" President Obama's Keynesian strategy to restart the economy by voting against any further stimulative spending. Just as in 1937, stopping the stimulus too soon now would likely push America in a second wave of economic crisis that could rival the The Great Depression.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gov. Rick Perry Rejects Federal Money To Aid Unemployed Texans

Concerns over Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) intent to not use federal stimulus money to aid the unemployed have been answered.

Gov. Perry announced today he is blocking the state from accepting $550 million in federal stimulus benefits targeted to aid unemployed Texans, even as the Texas jobless rate continues to jump. (see Governor Perry's speech in Houston or the Burnt Orange Report's compendium of reactions to said speech)

Gov. Perry joined fellow conservative Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alaska and Idaho in opposing the extension of unemployment insurance made possible by the federal stimulus grant.

In his February letter to President Barack Obama Gov. Perry accepted all of Texas' $17 billion share of the federal stimulus money, "to promote economic growth and create jobs in a fiscally responsible manner." However, the language Perry used in his letter and in subsequent public statements left open the question of how he will, in fact, use the stimulus dollars in Texas.

Gov. Perry's plan to turn back stimulus money targeted to aid unemployed workers follows a similar announcement by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. ABC News reports that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), who co-authored an editorial criticizing the stimulus plan with Gov. Perry, will send a letter to President Obama in the next few days asking for permission to use approximately $700 million of South Carolina’s stimulus money for purposes other than the purposes specified in the stimulus legislation.

If Pres. Obama rejects Gov. Sanford’s request to use the money according to his conservative agenda, the governor indicated he will reject the $700 million in stimulus funds, which are under his discretion. Texas Gov. Rick Perry may also turn down federal stimulus money on arguments that government intervention to stimulate the economy and help unemployed workers remain in their homes and put food on the table for their children runs contrary to his conservative principles.

U.S. unemployment will approach 10 percent as the country endures its worst recession since World War Two, leaving more than 13 million Americans jobless, according to a Reuters poll of economists. According to the latest foreclosure stats from research firm RealtyTrac, default notices, bank repossessions and other U.S. foreclosure related activities jumped 30% in February from the prior year. That’s more than 290,000 filings nationally and a 6% increase from January.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas’ unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent in January, as the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent. In the Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington area, the January 2009 unemployment rate was 7.1 percent, up 1.2 percent from the 5.9 percent rate in December of 2008 and up 2.5 percent from the January 2008 rate of 4.6 percent, according to a release. Texas’ seasonally-adjusted non-agricultural employment lost 75,800 jobs in January.

From offthekuff.com:

The Texas Workforce Commission announced that the unemployment trust fund is now expected to be almost depleted by October. The commission issues monthly projections and each has been gloomier than the last. By law, the trust fund must stay above $858 million at the beginning of the fiscal year in October. At the current rate, the fund will be $812 million below the floor, commission executive director Larry Temple told the House special stimulus committee yesterday.

And a $812 million deficit means somebody’s gotta pay – and that somebody, according to Temple, will be Texas employers. Temple said the fund can raise money to pay unemployment benefits in three ways: 1) By borrowing from the feds (and paying interest on the loans) 2) By issuing bonds (also involves paying interest) and 3) By raising taxes on employers. He said the commission’s strategy would probably involve a combination of the three.

However, combo or no combo, even if TWC borrows from the feds or floats bonds, the employers will be the ones funding the debt.

Dunnam made this clear when he asked Temple, “Do any of [the scenarios] involve anyone other than employers paying for the deficit?” Temple responded, “No.”

Here’s where the stimulus comes in: Don Baylor, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said if Texas changes its eligibility statute and accepts the stimulus funds, employers will still have to pay an additional $294 million in 2010 to make up for the deficit. But without the federal funds, employers will pay an additional $935 million to make up for the deficit in 2010.

Sure does sound like taking all of the federal stimulus money available for unemployment insurance would be a good deal all around, doesn’t it? It eases the tax burden on businesses, it helps many more people, and by helping more people it has a stimulative effect on the economy. Which was the point, after all. You’d have to be a blinkered partisan zealot not to see the benefits. You know, like Bill Hammond, the president of the Texas Association of Business:
[Hammond] presented a bold proposal to “save” $630 million a year in unemployment benefits payouts, which included measures such as greatly restricting or eliminating benefits for people who receive severance pay. He also said the commission didn’t do enough to ensure people are looking for work while they’re receiving benefits: “The commission is allowing [unemployed] people to sit on their laurels.”
Or we could just eliminate the idea of unemployment insurance altogether. Who cares what happens to these people that get laid off, anyway? They’re just a bunch of lazy bums who want to suck Bill Hammond’s blood. Where’s the compassion for that, I ask you?

Well, I suppose it’s all academic, since Governor Perry has now officially rejected the unemployment insurance funds. Hope all you business owners that will see your taxes go up more than they needed to will appreciate that. Perry made the announcement right here in Houston, which is somewhat ironic.
Houston’s growth advantage over the rest of the nation during the past five years–oil and natural gas–has not only evaporated in the face of a global commodity bust but has turned into a definite liability. The coming year will see significant job losses in Houston, led by the energy sector.
Via Texas Politics. Too bad Governor Perry won’t be joining any of these folks on the unemployment line until at least 2011, by which time one hopes the job market has improved. It’s good to be the king. A statement from Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller in response is beneath the fold. BOR has more, including Kay Bailey Hutchison’s timid response.
Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller today issued this statement in reaction to Gov. Rick Perry’s announcement that he opposes acceptance of $555 million in federal economic stimulus funds for jobless workers in Texas: “Today Gov. Rick Perry said to the workers and employers of Texas: ‘What crisis?’ The governor’s decision to reject $555 million in federal unemployment insurance funds available in the economic stimulus package amounts to a callous statement to tens of thousands of Texans who are losing their livelihoods that Texas does not have their backs.”

“Playing 2010 or 2012 politics when Texans are suffering in 2009 has nothing to do with good public policy. The Texas AFL-CIO has worked with lawmakers who are carefully exploring the ramifications of accepting the UI funds. The stimulus package essentially covers for seven years any cost associated with making UI benefits more accessible to workers who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. If today’s decision stands, employers will start paying an additional $555 million in taxes in January, courtesy of the governor, and Texas workers who desperately need help will be left to fend for themselves.”

“In short-circuiting the legislative process, Gov. Perry is telling employers that it is better to pay $555 million extra to keep the current lousy UI system than to pay an incremental increase seven years from now for a better system.”

"Here’s hoping the Legislature sees this issue differently. This is no time to demonize workers who are victims of the worst economy America has seen since the Great Depression.”

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Last Chance Reminder

On March 12, Planned Parenthood of North Texas will gather volunteers in Austin for a Lobby Day, to ask State Representatives to support "Education Works!" legislation. Volunteer TODAY! No experience is necessary. (More...)

On March 10, the Texas Freedom Network will gather volunteers in Austin for a Lobby Day, to ask State Representatives to support "Sound Science Education" legislation. Volunteer TODAY! No experience is necessary. (More...)

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Frank Schaeffer: GOP Is Anti-American

A former leader of the Christian Right has issued a truly scathing and blistering critique to the Republican Party, calling them "anti-American" and a "fifth column" in the country for their efforts to "sabotage" national economic recovery.

Frank Schaeffer, whose evangelical parents were a driving force behind the formation of the Christian Right movement in the 1970s and 1980s, criticizes the Religious Right, the very movement, that he helped to found, for being anti-American by hoping the country fails "in order to prove they were right about America's 'moral decline,'" in a blog posting on The Huffington Post and in an interview with CNN's D.L. Hughley.

Calling Republicans "arsonists" who are trying to burn down the country, Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back, said conservatives have no right to criticize President Obama for trying to clean up the mess that their party has created.

CNN has the full transcript here.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Texas Jobless Rate Shoots To 6.4% In Jan

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) continues to threaten to reject millions of dollars in federal stimulus money for increased unemployment insurance, Texas lost 75,800 payroll jobs in January, the highest level yet in the current recession, as the dramatic weakening of the global economy slammed Texas.

The jobless rate rose to 6.4 percent from a revised 5.6 percent in December and 4.4 percent in January 2008, the Texas Workforce Commission said Thursday.

Texas employers began cutting jobs in November as the U.S economy’s dive intensified. January was the state’s third consecutive month with job losses. It shed 7,600 jobs in November and 16,200 in December, revised data shows.

Read more in The Dallas Morning News

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One In Five Mortgages Under Water, Plus 697,000 Jobs Lost In February

Reuters - U.S. private sector job losses accelerated in February, according to a report by ADP Employer Services that suggests hefty employment declines are on the way in the government's payrolls report due on Friday. (more...)

Washington Post - One in five U.S. homeowners who have mortgages-- or about 8.3 million people -- owed more on their homes at the end of 2008 than their homes were worth, according to data released today by First American CoreLogic. (more...)

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

People Are Not The Only Ones Who Suffer When The Family Home Is Foreclosed

According to data from Foreclosure Listing Service (FLS) Inc., foreclosure postings filed for auction at North Texas' four primary county courthouses — Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton — reached an all-time high during the first quarter of 2009. (Although the first quarter will technically end on March 31, foreclosure auction filings must be filed at the courthouse the previous month before the auctions take effect.)

FLS statistics show that 13,259 foreclosure auction postings were filed at Dallas-Fort Worth area courthouses by the end of February in advance of the "first quarter 2009 foreclosure auction," a record high according to FLS. And, for the upcoming month of March alone, FLS data shows an additional 4,276 foreclosure postings will likely be filed.

Family pets across the U.S. and North Texas are finding hardship in this economic crunch too. Dog and cat surrenders to municipal pounds, and rescue organizations are on the increase. If you have a little extra space in your heart and your house, please consider adopting one of these economic refugees. Here are just of few of the German Shepherd Dogs turned over to the Good Shepherd Rescue Organization of North Texas.


Charlie
Charlie is a handsome black and tan German Shepherd believed to be about 5 years old. He is another victim of the economic crunch. His family tearfully gave him up as they prepared to move back with family.

Good Shepherd Rescue of North Texas

katerbug@mindspring.com



Cici
CiCi is a victim of the economic times - her family needs to sell their house and relocate and can't take her with them. Cici is another calm, affectionate girl who easily adapts to new situations. So far we know she gets along well with other dogs, rides well in the car, is housebroken and she knows a few commands. She was also a favorite at the vet's!

Good Shepherd Rescue of North Texas

katerbug@mindspring.com



Uno
Uno is another victim of the economic times - her family must sell their house and they can't take her with them. Uno is a 10 month old huge silly pup that needs someone to spend time with him and give him the attention he needs and deserve.

Good Shepherd Rescue of North Texas

katerbug@mindspring.com


Sapphire
Sapphire is a 2-3 year old white German Shepherd female. Her former owner went to jail and Sapphire wound up in the shelter.

We are impressed with Sapphire's gentle nature and good manners. She is a delightful dog. She hopped right up into the car and rode "shotgun" all the way home.

Good Shepherd Rescue of North Texas

katerbug@mindspring.com



Maximus
Poor Max was left at the shelter by his family because they couldn't keep him. He is very depressed due to the sudden loss of his home and family.

Good Shepherd Rescue of North Texas

katerbug@mindspring.com


x

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Who’s the Republican Party’s REAL Leader?



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‘Democrat Party’ Doesn’t Exist.

ThinkProgress.Org

During today’s House Budget Committee hearing, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) repeatedly referenced the “Democrat Party” while questioning Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag. Immediately following Hensarling’s time, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) took him to task for using the purposefully-disparaging moniker, reminding him that no such party exists:
I’d like to begin by saying to my colleague from Texas that there isn’t a single member on this side of the aisle that belongs to the “Democrat Party.” We belong to the Democratic Party. So the party you were referring to doesn’t even exist. And I would just appreciate the courtesy when you’re referring to our party, if you’re referring to the Democratic Party, to refer to it as such.
Watch the video...

Next time and every time you here someone call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party” please take them to task just like Rep. Kaptur!

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Texas Freedom Network Lobby Day

Fast on the heels of their groundbreaking report on the lack of medically accurate sex education in Texas Schools, Texas Freedom Network will be visiting legislators on Lobby Day, March 10, 2009.

TFN will address for key issues to Standing up for Science (participants choose one area to be trained in and lobby on behalf of):

  • Sex education
  • Stem cell research
  • Evolution and science curriculum/structure and power of the State Board of Education
  • Youth advocacy and sex education (a specially designed track for youth advocates or those interested in mobilizing youth on this issue)
A schedule and sign up information is accessible on TFN's website. No experience lobbying is necessary, as they will provide all the training you need to stand up for science in Texas schools.

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Pres. Bush Considered Suspending 1st Amendment Freedom-Of-The-Press Rights

Extraordinary Measures
By Michael Isikoff | Newsweek
Mar 2, 2009

A new memo shows just how far the Bush administration considered going in fighting the war on terror.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department [in a memo co-written by John Yoo, Office of Legal Counsel deputy attorney general] secretly gave the green light for the U.S. military to attack apartment buildings and office complexes inside the United States, deploy high-tech surveillance against U.S. citizens and potentially suspend First Amendment freedom-of-the-press rights. . .

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When What's Good For America Is Bad For The GOP

This posting at AmericaBlog.com is a good companion article for the "Principled" GOP Opposition article posted in this blog yesterday. When a government program that's good for America is bad for the GOP, the GOP will expend every effort to oppose and kill the program.

Bill Kristol’s 1993 Memo Calling For GOP To Block Health Care Reform
By John Aravosis (DC) · 3/02/2009 08:00:00 PM ET · AmericaBlog Link

Greg Sargeant over at The Plum Line has gotten his hands on a memo Bill Kristol wrote to his party in 1993, urging them to oppose Bill Clinton's health care plan because - well - it might work. And then all the newly healthy people might like government and see that it could actually do something good for them. Ben Smith summarizes the long memo:
The memo warns that a successful Clinton plan could badly damage the GOP by improving Americans' relationship with government, and makes the case for total, uncompromising opposition based on what would become the "Harry and Louise" campaign, focused on the damage the changes could do to citizens' relationships with their doctors.
The only way that the plan would improve America's relationship with government would be if it worked. Think about that.

The GOP ultimately opposed major legislation that would have benefited every American because the legislation might have actually worked. You don't just see parallels to today's Republican party, [you see GOP conservatives] doing exactly the same thing [in opposing Obama's programs.]

The GOP is terrified that Obama's agenda, from the stimulus plan to health care reform, might actually work [for the American people.] Then Americans would see that - surprise - government can work for the people. . .
Government programs seen to work for people would render the very "small government" foundation of the conservative movement as quicksand sinking many Republican candidates standing for election.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Al Franken A Step Closer To MN Senator Al Franken

Norm Coleman's lawyers today rested their case in the Minnesota U.S. Senate recount trial between Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Coleman. Franken holds a 225-vote lead certified during the recount, and has gained some votes during the trial that the three-judge panel ruled should be counted.

Franken's attorneys' have been reluctant to speculate on how long they will need to present their case, but it's not expected to be as long as the five-week Coleman case. At a party fundraiser Saturday, Franken said that he expected the trial to last for another two to three weeks.

Franken gave his first national media interview since November to Air America's Mark Green.

Listen to a segment of Franken's Air America interview.

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The "Principled" GOP Opposition To Obama's Efforts To Save The Economy

Cable news pundits and big-name newspaper columnists are pushing a general consensus that Republicans are simply returning to their "core conservative principles" in their near-unanimous opposition to President Barack Obama.

Main stream pundits and columnists accept Republicans' claim that they are motivated by "principled ideological consistency" in opposing Obama’s “big government” solutions to America’s economic troubles, not by a political strategy to derail Obama’s presidency and legislative agenda into failure.

Republicans argue that they have worked hard for 30 years to "free capitalism and individual liberty" by deregulating the financial system, deregulating and dismantling government safety oversight of the nation's food production and distribution system, and cutting taxes for big corporate business and they don't want to see all that hard work undone by President Obama's "big government" programs.

Conservative Republicans claim they are ideologically opposed to Obama's programs because they will "return" America to “big government” socialism eliminated by the Reagan and the reinforcing Gingrich, Delay and Bush conservative government revolutions. In making this claim they seek to ignore that the conservative path to liberate "capitalism and individual liberty" has brought the nation in near economic collapse.

This is what Rush Limbaugh was saying in his CPAC speech as he defended his remarks about wanting Obama to fail. Limbaugh said, "Conservatism is what it is forever ... This notion that I want the president to fail, folks, this shows you a sign of the problem we've got. What is so strange about being honest and saying, I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed?"

Rush Limbaugh is saying the same thing as every other conservative Republican, only with a little less "principled" ideological window dressing. If Obama and Congressional Democrats successfully promote economic recovery by reversing Republican "small government" momentum, it will prove wrong, for a second time in 80 years, the conservative "small government" argument that government can not and must not play any roll to protect the interests of the American people or ensure a honest fair and level playing field for American business and finance. Why would Republicans want that to succeed? It would render the very foundation of the conservative movement as quicksand sinking many Republican candidates standing for election.

Limbaugh is accurately stating the strongly held conservative Republican belief that their definition of "capitalism and individual liberty" would be destroyed if President Obama succeeds in restoring government oversight to the financial and banking system to guard against future home mortgage and other banking system malfeasance, made possible by Republican deregulation and lack of regulatory oversight by the Bush Administration.

That "capitalism and individual liberty would be destroyed" if Obama restores some government oversight to the nation's food production and distribution system to guard against companies knowingly distributing salmonella contaminated food products, such as the Peanut Corporation of America did in distributing its salmonella contaminated peanut butter for years, causing critical illness in thousands and the deaths of hundreds of adults and children.

That "capitalism and individual liberty would be destroyed" if Obama restores some taxes on those earning more than $250,000/yr to begin to pay off the massive debt run up by the combination of fiscally unbalanced Republican tax cuts and irresponsible deficit spending by President Bush and Republican controlled congresses.
In accepting the argument that Republicans are simply returning to conservative principles to oppose President Obama, pundits and columnists benignly accept the underlying GOP message. The message that the GOP, like the U.S. economy, is in crisis not because conservative ideological applied to operational governance leads to massive government failures, rather the GOP and U.S. economy are in crisis because Republicans were not conservative enough in their governance; that "capitalism and individual liberties" were not freed enough because George Bush and his Republican dominated congresses didn't cut taxes enough and didn't deregulate and turn away from regulatory oversight enough.

Pundits and columnists have so far failed to observe that if tax cuts, deregulation and small government are the best stimulus for the economy, as conservatives claim, then the economy should already be racing, given the massive deregulation and trillions of dollars in tax cuts President Bush and Republicans have given the nation over the past eight years. Pundits are not asking conservatives to explain this disconnect. . .

Pundits and columnists, so far, have failed to press conservatives, who continue to advocate deregulation and tax cuts as they oppose Obama's economic agenda, to explain why the economy is in crisis after years of massive Republican deregulation, tax cutting and deficit spending. No, instead, media pundits, like Judy Woodruff, are using anti-Obama Republican "socialist tax and spend" talking points to press Democrats to defend Obama's efforts to save the American economy.

Despite the “conventional wisdom” offer by main stream pundits and columnists that Republicans are "simply" returning to their "core conservative principles," there is a growing sense across the United States that the real reason Republicans are trying to obstruct Obama is not a "principled conservative ideological consistency," but political opportunism; that Republicans want the President to fail so GOP candidates can succeed at the polls in 2010 and 2012.

One of the most telling indications that Republicans are persuading only their base, and main stream pundits and columnists, of their "principled" stand is a recent NYT/CBS News poll asking, “Do you think [Republicans] oppose [Obama's economic recovery plan] mostly because they thought it would be bad for the economy or mostly for political reasons?”

Sixty-three percent of respondents cited “political reasons” and only 29 percent believed the principled conservative stance that Obama's economic recovery plan is “not good for the economy.” This two-to-one margin suggests that the Republicans are suffering from a serious credibility gap. Too bad for America that they are not suffering from a serious credibility gap with Cable news pundits and big-name newspaper columnists, including the Dallas Morning News Newspaper.

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