Tuesday, September 30, 2008
A thought-provoking post from the outstanding blog Nuclear Green http://www.nucleargreen.blogspot.com argues that support for expanded nuclear power is consistent with a liberal outlook.
Is opposition to nuclear power progressive?
by Chales Barton
I cross posted my discussion of Federal subsidies to the nuclear industry on Daily Kos. One of the first responces I received was from "shann" who argued
Facts aside, Nuclear Power generation is not a Progressive cause, it is political poison on this forum. End of story, lets get back to windmills and solar power, they are substantially more popular here.
Note that "shann" tells us that facts do not counts for progressives. What progressive want, shann claims, is windmills and solar power. Progressives, according to shann are identical to Daily Kos readers, who believe such energy forms to be progressive.
There is no substantial case against nuclear power on the political left. The so called liberal or left wing opponents of nuclear power back up their opposition with bumper sticker slogans, misinformation, and out right ignorance.
As a liberal I value truth and reject misinformation and lies. A major purpose of my blogging is to develop fact based and tightly reasoned analyses of issues relating to nuclear power. My review of the charges brought against the use of nuclear reactors has led me to demonstrate that the opposition to nuclear power is largely myth based.
Nuclear opponents charge that nuclear generation of electricity in inherently unsafe. The facts are these, nuclear power in facts represents the safest form of electrical generation. This is true whether safety is measured by the human toll, that is by loss of life and human injury, or by property damage. A new generation of reactors slated to be built during the next decade are far safer than the the currently operating nuclear plants. These reactors rely on the automatic functioning of the laws of nature, rather than the judgement of human operators for safety. Finally Generation IV reactors, currently being researched, represent an even higher level of nuclear safety. The charge that reactors are inherently unsafe is a myth.
Nuclear opponents charge that the problem of nuclear waste cannot be solved. In fact, the same opponents block any attempt to solve the nuclear waste problem. There are several approaches to resolving the issues involved with used reactor fuel. In terms of energy reactor fuel is not spent. Indeed current reactor technology uses less than 1% of energy potential of nuclear fuel. This failure to efficiently use nuclear fuel is the true source of the Nuclear waste problem. Tested technologies exist that will enable a new generation of reactors to extract 100% of the energy from nuclear fuel. These technologies, coupled with efficient recycling of reactor fission products into many existing, industrial, agricultural, medical and sanitary uses, would not only end the problem of nuclear waste, but turn what has previously regarded as "nuclear waste", into a major economic resource.
The energy of so called "spent fuel" can be extracted by processing that fuel in Generation IV reactors. The end of that process would be the production of valuable resources. The progressive attitude thus should be not to reject nuclear power, but to implement it in a form that would produce the maximum social benefit. Thus the Idea that there is any real waste in the nuclear process, and that this waste creates a problem which cannot be solved is thus a myth.
A third myth created by nuclear opponents is that nuclear power is more expensive that renewable sources of energy, and that renewable sources of energy will bring society greater benefits. I have tried to demonstrate this is a myth by identifying the cost of generating facilities, and the relative amount of time they can be expected to produce electricity. From published reports, the cost of new solar electrical generating facilities, are comparable to the cost of nuclear reactors. Further more, the expectation is the cost of both solar and nuclear generating facilities is expected to rise dramatically during the next few years, with the cost of solar facilities rising, if anything, faster than the cost of nuclear. The solar facilities typically produce power 30 to 33% of the time, while nuclear produces power over 90% of the time. Thus a new nuclear plant will produce from three to four and a half times as much electricity during a 24 hour day, as a solar facility for a similar investment.
Windmills currently cost about 1/2 as much per rated unit of output as nuclear plants. However, windmills typically produce between 20% to 40% of their rated output. Thus wind and nuclear facilities that can produce an equivalent amount of electricity over time will carry similar costs. However, windmills requires fossil fuel plant backup, while nuclear plants do not. The fossil fuel backups emit CO2. CO2 emissions can be eliminated by massive energy storage, but any energy storage system would increase the cost of renewables relative to nuclear power. Thus the myth that nuclear is more expensive than renewable energy generating facilities is demonstrably false.
Finally while many of the factors that create cost problems for the renewable energy business are out of its control, significant cost savings would be available to the Civilian nuclear power industry through the adoption of such Generation IV technologies as the Pebble Bed Reactor, and the Liquid Fluiride Thorium Reactor. The LFTR would particularly be able to combine inherent reactor safety, with a high level of fuel efficiency that eliminates the problem of nuclear waste.
A further myth of nuclear opponents is that the civilian nuclear power industry receives heavy government subsidies. In fact it is not as I demonstrated in posts earlier this week. Indeed while the nuclear industry pays 100% of its taxes, the renewable power industry receives massive tax breaks from Federal and state governments.
Nuclear opponents argue incorrectly that we are running out of nuclear fuel. In fact enough nuclear fuel lies in the ground at Lemhi Pass in Idaho, to provide the United States with all of its energy needs for 400 years. A further probable reserve at the same location would provide the country with well over 1000 year more energy. World fuel resources, if well managed, far exceed foreseeable energy uses of nuclear power.
Once the myths of the anti-nuclear movement is exposed, its illiberality is obvious. Far from embracing progress, many anti-nuclear advocates are neo-luddlites. Some actually advocate an abandonment of cities and a return to a pre-industrial way of life. Such an approach is far from being progressive. It is in fact reactionary. Other nuclear critics. while offering less radical schemes still advocate measures that will drastically reduce the energy demands of society. This can be describes as the method of sacrifice, and it does not bring with it the increase in individual and collective human power that progressives seek. Since the end of the middle ages progress in society has been closely linked to an energy based increase in human wealth. That increase has improved the material lot of an increasing number of human beings, and ought to be brought as an opportunity to the all peoples. Benefits have included improvements in the material standards of life, improvements in human health and the human life span, increasing educational levels, increasing human comfort.
The promise of science, envisioned by Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes is increasingly being realized by human society. The single most important key to that promise has been the control of ever more efficient and powerful energy sources by the application of science to energy production. The continued control of such powerful energy sources Nuclear energy offers great power coupled with control is critical to the realization of the goals of progressives.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
A no-nonsense Democratic prosecutor John Morganelli is running for Pennsylvania Attorney General. USA Political Action Committee prescribes Morganelli's record as follows:
"District Attorney John M. Morganelli is a 4 term, elected District Attorney in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. He is known for his 'tough on crime' positions. He has been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration."
"He has appeared on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight", and Fox News Networks "The O'Reilly Factor" and has testified in Washington on the issue of illegal immigration."
Here is Morganelli's crime and security platform for Pennsylvania:
1. Abolish Parole for Violent Felonies
We have seen that incarcerating violent criminals for longer periods of time works. Violent crime in America is down in direct correlation with increasing prison population. Violent offenders who bring physical harm to others should get long, stiff prison sentences their first time around. One miserable failure is our parole system. The facts are that criminals out on parole represent a significant portion of repeat offenders. The time has come for parole to be abolished in Pennsylvania for any person convicted of a violent felony such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping and armed robbery. These people should be given long flat sentences which should be served in their entirety.
2. Protect Pennsylvania From Illegal Criminal Aliens
Today there are approximately 20 milion illegal aliens in the US many of whom are engaging in additional criminal activity aside from their illegal entry into the US. The 2000 census estimated that there are between 100,000-200,000 illegal aliens in Pennsylvania up from about 27,000 in 1992. That number is now even higher. There are presently about 800,000 criminal illegal aliens at large in the US who have been ordered deported. Many have criminal records in their country of origin. Illegal aliens come into contact with law enforcement on a daily basis committing violent crime, like rape and murder, drug crime and crimes such as Identity Theft, Tampering With Records, and Passing False Documents. The FBI and the Director of Homeland Security recently warned that the continued influx of thousands of unidentifiable illegal aliens each year is a national security problem .
The following needs to be done:
* Lobby for passage of the CLEAR ACT by the US Congress which will expressly empower state and local police to arrest and detain illegal aliens soley on their illegal immigration status.
* Seek to enter into Memorandums of Understanding now with the Department of Justice to expressly empower state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania the authority to detain illegal aliens solely on immigration violations.
* Investigate and prosecute under state law employers who repeatedly employ illegal aliens in order to hold them accountable and subject to both criminal and civil sanctions.
* Advocate legislation declaring foreign ID cards used soley by illegal aliens as unacceptable and an unrecognized form of ID.
3. Pass Legislation Creating a Gang Statute that Criminalizes Gang Membership-
ISSUE: Criminal gangs play a large role in the gun violence on our street as they deal drugs, steal cars, commit robberies and use gun violence to engage in their turf wars. Pennsylvania is one of a number of states without a gang statute.
SOLUTION: Pennsylvania needs to be aggressive. We should not pass a law that is weak and ineffective just to say we have one. Pennsylvania law should make it a crime just to be a member of a criminal gang. It must make it clear that gang membership alone will result in stiff jail sentences. This will allow law enforcement to aggressively go after the young thugs who terrorize our communities, and breakup and put out of business a culture of gang worship and membership. We should not wait for the next homicide, robbery or drug deal. It is time to attack the nests of the gangs. With leadership from the attorney general, we can carefully craft a statute that will pass constitutional muster to make gang membership itself illegal. Breaking up criminal street gangs in our cities will strike a major blow to gun violence.
4. Create Gun Trafficking Unit in OAG
This unit would be dedicated to multi-county illegal gun trafficking which would work in conjunction with local police and district attorneys in targeted, high violence areas of Pennsylvania.
5. Implement By Attorney General Regulation Mandatory Reporting of Stolen/Lost Firearms
The attorney general must implement by AG regulation a regulation that requires the reporting of stolen/lost firearms. This would eliminate “cover” for those who illegally sell guns to criminals and then later claim their gun was stolen when it shows up in the commission of a crime.
Writing in Ethics Daily, Robert Parham asks why our nation's religious leaders are silent on the economy. The executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics suggests that greed on Wall Street and elsewhere is a critical moral issue.
What Should Faith Leaders Say and Do about the American Economic Crisis?
by Robert Parham
President Bush told an anxious and angry American public on Wednesday that the nation faced "a serious financial crisis." In a structurally sound speech devoid of poetry and short on hope, Bush said that "these are not normal circumstances," "the market is not functioning properly," "there's been a widespread loss of confidence," "major sectors of America's financial system are at risk of shutting down," "America could slip into a financial panic" and "our economy is facing a moment of great challenge."
Bush played to public fear much as he played to fear leading the nation into the war in Iraq. He wasn't the only one playing that card, however.
The opposition party is doing the same thing, as it did before on our way to war a world away.
The media is hyper-ventilating about a deep recession, a possible depression, a global melt down.
None seem to know what to do, who to blame or how to explain proposed plans.
Given the alarm bell of crisis, one group has been missing from the public square: leaders of faith.
Washington Post journalist David Waters raised this issue a few days ago, "Why aren't the leaders of our major Christians denominations saying anything about the economy?"
He noted: "They've had plenty to say during the past week about other pressing moral issues. Catholic bishops remain focused on abortion. Southern Baptist leaders continue to condemn abortion and defend Sarah Palin, and National Baptist Convention leaders [fretted] about aging congregations and applauded Michelle Obama. Presbyterian leaders expressed concern about gun violence, Assemblies of God about hurricane victims, Lutherans about poverty, United Church of Christ leaders about peace. None of them said anything about Wall Street."
EthicsDaily.com columnist Dwight Moody rightly observed on Thursday: "There is an axis of incompetence that runs from New York to Washington, from Wall Street to the White House. All they know how to manage are elections."
Jim Wallis predictably said: "The behavior of too many on Wall Street is a violation of biblical ethics…It's time for the pulpit to speak—for the religious community to bring the Word of God to bear on the moral issues of the American economy. The Bible speaks of such things from beginning to end, so why not our pastors and preachers?"
Wallis is correct, but his commentary isn't particularly helpful. Criticizing Wall Street's moral failure or lamenting the silence of clergy doesn't really help.
So, what does help? What should faith leaders say and do in a time of economic crisis?
First, when levees break or houses burn down, people want words of hope from the pulpit. They don't want an analysis of why awful things happened. They do want a word of hope that a better day is coming and need a word of realism that you take life one day at a time. Hope and patience are Christian virtues.
Second, those who suffer from economic bad times need concrete help. Too many Americans have "more month than money." Maybe it's time for local churches to have food and clothing drives. Maybe churches need to remember that Joseph filled the warehouse for the lean years.
Third, faith leaders need to critique our culture, addressing both the consumer culture, in which one finds worth expressed in overconsumption, and the commercialism culture, in which one is tempted by powerful forces night-and-day to consume everything.
One countervailing theological theme to the consumer culture is being made in the image of God. We derive our worth from having God's stamp, not wearing the latest fashion, driving an expensive car or living in a house beyond our means. Another is found in the Exodus account of gathering manna, in which the insecure gathered more than they needed and found that the excess bred worms (Ex. 16:17-21). More is not necessarily better.
As we have "mission moments" on Sunday worship in which we share what the congregation is doing in the world, maybe we should have "truth-telling moments" in which we share what the world of commercials is doing to us. Warning about false and misleading advertisements, commercials which are too great a temptation, has the power to counterbalance commercialism.
Fourth, faith leaders need to do sermon series on money. Money has both a light and a dark side, a balanced theme that runs through the biblical witness. The worship of money is idolatry—idolatry leads us astray. The demonization of money is falsehood—falsehood keeps us from truth.
Few better books develop from a biblical perspective the truth about money than Richard Foster's Money, Sex & Power.
Fifth, faith leaders need to disarm the religious myth that wealth is a sign of God's favor. They need to challenge the social myth that those who run corporations know how to run the church and society.
Recent events have shown us that the so-called best and brightest captains of Wall Street are really the most morally devious with no appreciation for the consequences of their actions.
Sixth, faith leaders should call for discernment about a $700 billion bail-out plan. We need no rush to acceptance, no blind dash to the gates of salvation.
Unless we have returned to an Edenic state of moral purity, those who have crafted the plan have filled the plan with their vested interests. Human nature is human nature. Greed is greed. Appearances are almost always deceiving.
We need to be wise as serpents in all matters, as Jesus urged his disciples.
One of the brighter minds in talk radio has a creative suggestion on how to finance the Wall Street bailout. Thom Hartmann http://www.thomhartmann.com proposes a tax on stock transactions. Let the investor class pay for the bailout instead of the average taxpayer. A modest tax on stock trades would also penalize speculation and encourage long-term investment. Another excellent idea unlikely to see the light of day because of the political power of special interests.
How Wall Street Can Bail Itself Out Without Destroying The Dollar
By Thom Hartmann
For Grover “Drown Government In The Bathtub” Norquist, this bailout deal will work out very well. At a proposed cost of $4,780 per taxpayer, it’ll further the David Stockman strategy of so indebting us that the next president won’t have the luxury of even thinking of new social spending (expanding health care, social security, education, infrastructure, etc.); taxes will even have to be raised just to pay for the bailout. It’ll debase our currency, driving up commodity prices and interest rates, which will benefit the Investor Class while further impoverishing the pesky Middle Class, rendering them less prone to protest (because they’re so busy working trying to pay off their debt). It’ll create stagflation for at least the next half decade, which can be blamed on Democrats who currently control Congress and, should Obama be elected, be blamed on him.
But there’s another way: Create an agency to fund the bailout, loan that agency the money from the treasury, and then have that agency tax Wall Street to pay us (the treasury) back.
It’s been done before, and has several benefits.
In the United Kingdom, for example, whenever you buy or sell a share of stock(or a credit swap or a derivative, or any other activity of that sort) you pay a small tax on the transaction. We did the same thing here in the US from 1914 to 1966 (and, before that, we did it to finance the Spanish American War and the Civil War).
For us, this Securities Turnover Excise Tax (STET) was a revenue source. For example, if we were to instate a .25 percent STET (tax) on every stock, swap, derivative, or other trade today, it would produce – in its first year – around $150 billion in revenue. Wall Street would be generating the money to fund its own bailout. (For comparison, as best I can determine, the UK’s STET is .25 percent, and Taiwan just dropped theirs from.60 to .30 percent.)
But there are other benefits.
As John Maynard Keynes pointed out in his seminal economics tome, The General Theory of Employment, Interest,and Money in 1936, such a securities transaction tax would have the effect of “mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise.”
In other words, it would tamp down toxic speculation, while encouraging healthy investment. The reason is pretty straightforward: When there’s no cost to trading, there’s no cost to gambling. The current system is like going to a casino where the house never takes anything; a gambler’s paradise. Without costs to the transaction, people of large means are encourage to speculate – to, for example, buy a million shares of a particular stock over aday or two purely with the goal of driving up the stock’s price (because everybody else sees all the buying activity and thinks they should jump ontothe bandwagon) so three days down the road they can sell all their stock at a profit and get out before it collapses as the result of their sale. (We ironically call the outcome of this “market volatility.”)
Investment, on the other hand, is what happens when people buy stock because they believe the company has an underlying value. They’re expecting the value will increase over time because the company has a good product or service and good management. Investment stabilizes markets, makes stock prices reflect real company values, and helps small investors securely build value over time.
Historically, from the founding of our country until the last century, most people invested rather than speculated. When rules limiting speculation were cut during the first big Republican deregulation binge during the administrations of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover(1921-1933), it created a speculative fever that led directly to the housing bubble of the early 20s (which started in Florida, where property values were going up as much as 70 percent per year, and then spread nationwide, only to burst nationally starting in 1927 as housing values began to collapse), then the falling housing market popped the stock market bubble and produced the great stock market crash of 1929. That speculation aggregated enormous wealth in a very few hands, crashed the housing and stock markets, and produced the Republican Great Depression of 1930-1942.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, as part of the New Deal, put into place a series of rules to discourage speculation and promote investment, including maintaining –and doubling – the Securities Transaction Excise Tax. Other countries followed our lead, and the UK, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Greece,Australia, France, China, Chile, Malaysia, India, Austria, and Belgium have all had or have STETs.
Perhaps the most important benefit of immediately re-instituting a STET in the USA, however, isn’t that it would raise enough money to bail out the banks and billionaires (and after that crisis is covered, could pay for a national healthcare system), or that it would encourage investment and calm down markets.Those are all strong benefits, and absent the current Republican Administration bailout proposal would stand-alone strongly.
But the Republican Bush Administration is currently suggesting that we borrow$700 billion (or more) from China and Saudi Arabia and other countries and investors, add that to our national debt, and repay it with interest (making the actual cost over the next 20 years over $1.4 trillion). This is what Republican Herbert Hoover tried in 1931 when he first created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (later totally reinvented by FDR) to bail out the banks in 1931. Hoover’s RFC bailed out the bankers, paid off huge salaries in the banking and investment world, bought him a few months (maybe that’s the real goal of the Bush/McCain Republicans now – just hold things together until after the elections), but ultimately led to the failure within two years of virtually all the banks in the United States. The bailout failed.
Similarly, in 1998 the Japanese banks were facing a serious crisis of liquidity as the result of a bursting housing bubble in that country. The Japanese government used public funds to re-float a number of large banks that year, andit similarly failed. In one example out of dozens, in 1998 135 billionYen were given from public tax funds to Ashikaga Financial Group, but the company limped along for a few years and in November of 2003 collapsed again,requiring a second infusion of a trillion yen from public coffers. And,as the BBC reported in a 30 November 2003 article (“Japan Bank Bail-Out ‘AOne-Off’”): “But experts warn that Ashikaga could be just the tip of the iceberg.” Professor of Finance at Tokyo University Takehisa Hayashi said,“It will come as no surprise if we see another Ashikaga case in the near future.”And they did.
Japan continues to limp along, as a result of bailing out banks rather than fixing structural problems. (At least the Japanese had enough savings to use their own money, instead of debt, to bail out their banks.)
So bailouts don’t work, and never have. And they also have the side effects of damaging a nation’s credit, sucking up its taxpayers resources, and(when done with debt) weakening its currency.
So let’s go back to what we know works. After Hoover’s 1931 bailout of the banks failed, FDR did a cold reboot of the entire system, putting into place strong rules to prevent speculative abuse. And he doubled the STET tax,both producing revenue that more than funded the Securities and Exchange Commission and further prevented a repeat of the speculative bubble of the 1920s that led directly to the Republican Great Depression.
We’ve done it before. We financed the Spanish American War and partially financed the Civil War, WWI, and WWII with STETs. We stabilized our stock market with a STET from the mid-30s to 1966, and other nations are doing it today. It’s time to do it again, this time using the STET so tax Wall Street can pay for its own bailout.
Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network. His most recent books are "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It and "Cracking The Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Washington, DC- During the final presidential debate of the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan, running against Jimmy Carter, turned to the camera and asked “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The debate took place against a backdrop of spiraling inflation and rising unemployment. A week later, Reagan won the election by one of the largest margins in recent history. Now, with the 2008 presidential election just weeks away and the economy once again in turmoil, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) updates the Reagan question by comparing economic indicators in 2008 and 2000, and finds that most indicators suggest that voters are worse off now than they were eight years ago.
The report, “The Reagan Question: Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Eight Years Ago?,” uses a range of economic indicators to give voters a basis of comparison of their sense economic well-being.
“The data seem to suggest that voters are worse off today than 8 years ago,” said report author John Schmitt. “It is hard to see how voters could answer Reagan’s question any other way.”
The study finds that 23 out of 25 indicators are worse in 2008 than they were in
2000. Some of the indicators examined included the unemployment rate, annual inflation, the “Misery Index” (the sum of the the unemployment rate and the inflation rate), job growth, wage growth, the poverty rate, the number of uninsured, college tuition costs, and gasoline prices. Of these, only inflation-adjusted median family income and productivity growth were higher in 2008 than they were in 2000.
Populist Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur D-OH explains the rule for playing Wall Street bailout. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7K6kvUnyhM#
Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to say no to the bailout.
Please personalize your message
Congress has no right to give the White House and its Secretary of the Treasury the power to transfer the people's money to the richest bankers in the country. Vote No to the Bailout legislation. The Bailout legislation is being rammed through Congress in a matter of days. This is an illegal power grab by the White House and their richest friends on Wall Street. The Legislation allows the Treasury Department to appoint the same bankers who created the crisis to administer and dictate the use of trillions of our tax dollars. It is also one of the biggest transfers of wealth from working families to the ultra-rich in the history of the United States.
Congress should help families stay in their homes. Wealthy executives should be forced to disgorge their obscene profits, fees and bonuses that made them ultra-rich while they ran the economy into the ground.
National Public Radio reports on Alabama's 2nd Congressional District race:
Bobby Bright, mayor of Montgomery, Ala., is a Democrat running for the seat left open by the retirement of Republican Rep. Terry Everett. The district voted 67 percent for President Bush four years ago, but that doesn't bother Bright.
"The Republican Party has done a great job of painting themselves as the only party that will offer a conservative Christian candidate out there," he says. "But, with my candidacy, the Democrats are doing that, and it's a challenge the Republican Party hasn't had in this district in 44-plus years."
Bright calls himself pro-life, pro-gun and pro-military. He says that's what it will take to revive the Democratic Party in the region.
"The national Democratic Party, they realize that if they're going to make any inroads, if they're going to pierce that conservative Republican veil that has control of the deep heart of the South, they're going to have to recruit and support people with my beliefs: Southern Democrats, conservative Democrats," he says.
Bright is also a deacon at Montgomery's First Baptist Church, as is his Republican opponent, Jay Love. In fact, the candidates sound a lot alike: Both have emphasized their support of tax cuts and Christian values.
Mac Gipson is a Republican state representative from Prattville, who says that in Alabama, conservative Democrats and conservative Republicans are not that different.
"We're all cut of the same ilk. George Wallace [was] probably right — not a dime's bit a difference at this level," he says.
Gipson has lived the transformation of Alabama politics, first running for the Legislature as a Democrat because that was the only way to win. He switched parties after the Republican revolution of 1994. Gipson admits the political tide could be turning back.
"2008 is going to be a watershed election in the South," he says. "Democrats have wised up. There's no question about that. They're running better races now than I've seen them run before."
Part of the new strategy is to have the Democratic candidates define themselves in terms Southern conservatives can relate to. Bright, for instance, has been running an ad that focuses on his biography as a young Alabama child with 13 siblings and a father who was a sharecropper.
This is the kind of political narrative that helps Bright in rural parts of the district. Recently, a Mississippi Democrat with a similar personal story and conservative views won a long-held Republican seat — despite his opponent's effort to link him to national Democratic figures, such as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Bright's Republican opponent, Love, is using a similar strategy. His campaign has been running an ad that questions what change will be like. "I'm Jay Love. I'm running for Congress because I want to make sure it's conservative Christian change," his ad says.
Love points out that Bright has received campaign donations from liberal Democrats and says that no matter how Bright fashions himself in Alabama, in Washington, D.C., he'd be on the Democratic team.
"He is trying to run as a conservative," Love says. "I think he will show his true colors once he's elected — or if he's elected to Congress."
But Bright says voters should not count on him to do Speaker Pelosi's bidding, since he calls himself an "ole stubborn Southern boy."
Birmingham attorney Sid MacAnnally, a student of Alabama politics, says this new batch of Democratic congressional candidates in the South is tapping a political nerve. In this, he says, they recall successful Democrats of old.
"We had Southern Democrats who came across as very conservative — never would have been challenged on family issues or traditional issues," MacAnnally says. "And that's the way these new Democratic candidates are aligning themselves."
The challenge for Love is to hold on to the Republican base that Bright is so actively courting.
But not all voters are biting. Brad Linville is a local funeral director and self-proclaimed staunch Republican from the town of Tallahassee. He says he's still undecided.
"As far as Bobby Bright, the man — if anybody can change me, he might do it. I'll be honest with you," Linville says. "I think he's very conservative and [has] all the values that all us Republicans like to hold true to. And that's what turned the South Republican, those values."
Bobby Bright sounds like the kind of populist-socal tradionalist Democrat that we need in Washington. He is strongly endorsed by Democrats for Life. Check out Bright for Congress website at http://www.brightforcongress.com
Mississippi Democratic Senate candidate Ronnie Musgrove spotlights Republican Roger Wicker's support for job-destroying "free trade" deals and opposition to any increase in the minimum wage. Of course, Wicker supported raising his own Congressional pay. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKo69E6Ztf4
Friday, September 26, 2008
Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution www.ajc.com, J. Boyd Page gives ten good reasons to say know just say no to the proposed Wall Street bailout.
Reason No. 1: The $700 billion Wall Street bailout is merely a “drop in the bucket.” It will not correct Wall Street’s problems. The government’s suggestion that a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street and its bad investments will somehow solidify the markets is simply unfounded. The true facts show that there are more than $12 trillion worth of mortgages outstanding in the U.S. alone.
Reason No. 2: The bailout plan smacks of cronyism. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and many of his chief advisors are Wall Street alumni. Paulson’s close relationship with the Wall Street community strongly suggests ulterior motives may impact his recommendations.
Reason No. 3: Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke do not understand the problems confronting the American economy and are not qualified “to be king.” Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, stated: “This administration is asking for a $700 billion blank check to be put in the hands of Henry Paulson, a guy who totally missed this, and has been wrong about almost everything.”
Reason No. 4: The bailout plan proposes to give Paulson unfettered discretion to do as he sees fit with no accountability to anyone and no review of his actions by either courts or administrative agencies. To create a “get out of jail free” card for anyone associated with the proposed bailout offers unlimited possibilities of abuse.
Reason No. 5: The Wall Street bailout plan is a “knee-jerk reaction” and there may well be better alternatives for spending $700 billion of taxpayer money. The $700 billion plan is aimed at a very small segment of American employees — generally the group of people who have earned excessive income over many years and who live in “ivory towers.” Alan Meltzer, a economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan, summarized the situation saying, “This is scare tactics to try to do something that is in the private but not the public interest.”
Reason No. 6: President Bush and Paulson have proposed a bailout plan even though they have no idea of what to do. Prior to committing $700 billion of taxpayer funds, our government should at least have a plan on what is going to be done with the money.
Reason No. 7: The bailout plan will undoubtedly result in a weaker dollar with many adverse consequences for the American economy. David Woo, the Global Head of Foreign Exchange at Barclay’s in London, stated that “the downdraft on the dollar from the hit to the balance sheet of the U.S. government will dwarf the short-term gains from solving the banking crisis.”
Reason No. 8: The bailout plan is unlikely to avoid a recession. Even experts who suggest there are long-term benefits to a bailout plan note that it could take the better part of a decade before beginning to show any impact on the U.S. economy.
Reason No. 9: There is no transparency to the bailout plan. Lack of transparency is one reason our economy is in the position it finds itself today.
Reason No. 10: Under the bailout plan Paulson and Bernanke intend for the U.S. to pay above- market prices for the assets that the country buys. Bernanke is urging that any bailout plan buy illiquid assets at values above those for which they could be sold on the open market. In other words, Bernanke wants the American people to overpay for Wall Street’s illiquid assets.
Sound like a good idea to you? It doesn’t to me.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy does an excellent job of summing- up the proposed Wall Street bailout. As usual, the American middle class is asked to pick up the tab for the big money interests.
The Treasury Department's sweeping bailout effort is feeling like a $700 billion shakedown.
Congressional testimony continued this week, with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging rapid approval for their plan to buy up bad debt from financial firms and restore stability to the market.
Paulson's hurry-up offense isn't playing well with members of Congress, and it isn't faring any better with folks like Ed Schipul, who runs a Web design company in Houston. Schipul, who's raised a family, paid bills on time and made monthly mortgage payments for about 15 years, said he's outraged that his tax dollars will go to bail out the irresponsible lending on Wall Street.
"They're proposing that we pay for someone else's mistake, and at the same time they're not holding those people accountable," he said, reflecting an anger many Americans are feeling toward the bailout.
Fairness, though, was an early victim of this crisis. Taxpayers will get stuck with the bill because the cost of doing nothing outweighs the need for punishment.
"I believe if the credit markets are not functioning, that jobs will be lost, the unemployment rate will rise, more houses will be foreclosed upon, GDP will contract, that the economy will just not be able to recover," Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. "My interest is solely for the strength and recovery of the U.S. economy."
The Beltway Bailout Brigade says we have to move quickly because the markets won't wait. But as I noted on Sunday, several poor policy decisions helped get us into this mess, and before we make any more, we need to take a hard look at what Paulson and his posse are planning.
For starters, the proposal — which runs about 850 words — is short on specifics about what we'll be buying or how much we'll pay. Instead, it gives Paulson unlimited power to decide all that later:
"Decisions by the secretary pursuant to the authority of this act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."
If approved as stated, Paulson would preside over the biggest federal spending binge in history like some financial demigod, unanswerable and unassailable.
All hail King Henry.
"That's absolutely unacceptable," Schipul said. "I didn't elect Henry Paulson."
Changing the rules
Paulson's power grab, already under fire in Congress, probably won't survive. Lawmakers also hope to add some relief for homeowners, such as returning bankruptcy provisions for homeowners that were eliminated in the "reform" bill passed a few years ago at the behest of the credit industry.
But this bailout has to be about more than money, more than just sopping up the swill that is choking the financial sector. It has to be about changing the rules. This crisis grew to such large proportions because of the financial instruments that allowed risk from mortgages and other debt to be borne by one party, while giving the rewards to another.
That undermines the basic risk-reward principle of capitalism. Yet the Paulson Plan does the same thing, shifting the risk to U.S. taxpayers while rewarding the perpetrators on Wall Street.
In other words, we are rushing toward a system in which Wall Street, or what's left of it, has no accountability, where it could foist hundreds of billions of dollars of bad decisions on us, then go merrily on its way.
Need for transparency
For years, we've heard the cry from Paulson and his cronies that regulation kills competition and ultimately growth. Yet the absence of regulation did little more than give Wall Street a long rope with which it now strangles our economy.
No one knows if $700 billion will be enough to restore stability to the markets, but we can't put this crisis behind us until we adopt the checks and balances that allow the market to move forward with confidence.
In exchange for our "investment," as Paulson described it on Capitol Hill, we deserve accountability and transparency. The lack of those two elements were major contributors to the current crisis.
If the big banks want our help, we should demand stricter oversight, particularly of the unregulated derivatives markets. Our cash should come with a bright light. Otherwise, we'll just have more of the same: hundreds of billions of dollars passed in darkness.
That's not a bailout, and it's not an investment. It's a gift.
Monday, September 22, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) urged that any legislation granting the federal government the authority to purchase $700 billion in bad assets include a strengthened regulatory structure to prevent future market instability and a cap on executive compensation in companies being rescued by the American taxpayer.
Webb advocated these two provisions in a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd over the weekend while some members of Congress met on Capitol Hill to assess the financial rescue plan offered by the White House.
“It is inarguable that the regulatory structure now in place has not protected either our financial system or the U.S. taxpayer,” said Webb. “The administration is asking for an unprecedented rescue of the most profitable institutions in America with the taxpayers footing the bill. No bailout should occur without a return to increased regulation.”
Webb also insisted that, if taxpayer money is being used to bail out an American company, the limit on compensation to the company’s executives must be capped at the salary of senior federal government employees.
“We must ensure that executive compensation in those companies being rescued by American taxpayers is reasonable in scope, until this crisis has passed and the American taxpayers have been made whole,” said Webb.
Webb has been warning for several years that the excessive practices on Wall Street were risking the United States’ economic position in the world community and were unfair to the average worker.
“Executive compensation in the United States is outrageously out of proportion with any other period in our history, and with any other major country in the world today. Unless we insist on this basic principle of fairness, we will rightly risk the condemnation of our fellow citizens. Further, as the government purchases securities using this new authorization, it must do so at true market value or less. To do otherwise would subsidize those who precipitated this crisis,” said Webb.
To read the full letter sent by Senator Webb to Chairman Dodd, visit: http://webb.senate.gov/pdf/banksdodd.pdf
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good recently published its own study concerning supporting pregnant women and how those types of programs affect the abortion rate. In their study, CACG found that states with more generous grants for women, infants and children had a 37% lower abortion rate.
The findings support arguments in favor of the Pregnant Women Support Act (introduced by Senator Bob Casey D-PA and Congressman Lincoln Davis D-TN) promoted by Democrats for Life. http://www.democratsforlife.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48
Here is the Executive Summary from the study:
Family, social and economic supports reduce abortions
Recent research finds that the abortion rate among women living below the poverty level is more than four times that of women above 300% of the poverty level. This study of all U.S. states from 1982-2000 finds that social and economic supports such as benefits for pregnant women and mothersand economic assistance to low-income families have contributed significantly to reducing the number of abortions in the United States over the past twenty years.
Elected officials can use socioeconomic public policy to reduce abortions
The findings in this study suggest that elected officials can utilize effective and appropriate socioeconomic public policies to reduce abortions. These include: increasing benefits for pregnant women and mothers with children under five; promoting policies that increase male employment; providing funding for child care for working women; increasing economic assistance to low-income families
and removing the “family cap” on economic assistance. Legislation aimed at these goals can effectively reduce abortion in America.
Socioeconomic factors reduce the abortion rate
Analysis of nationwide data suggests that the economic status of pregnant women factors prominently into their abortion decision. Public policies that provide assistance and support to low-income families are rarely framed as ways to reduce the incidence of abortion. However, the findings from this study suggest that a two standard deviation difference among states in the reported level of economic assistance to low income families is correlated with a 20% lower abortion rate. Across the entire United States, this translates into 200,000 fewer abortions. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 allowed states to impose a cap on the number of children eligible to receive economic assistance in low-income families. Removing this family cap would decrease abortions by about 15% or 150,000 nationwide. The findings also suggest that, in the 1990s, states with more generous grants to women, infants and children under the age of five as provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition
Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program had a 37% lower abortion rate.
Finally, higher male employment in the 1990s was associated with a 29% lower abortion rate.
Economic support for working families and pregnant women does not increase
Our analysis indicates that public policies that increase economic support for families and pregnant women do not increase the fertility rate. This suggests that pro-family policies reduce abortions, but do not increase the pregnancy rate. There is little evidence, therefore, to suggest that these policies provide a reward incentive for additional children. More generous economic benefits that support families, while reducing abortions, have no effect on the fertility rate. However, the family cap on government assistance, which was intended to reduce “welfare dependency,” increases both abortion and fertility rates. Rather than reducing pregnancy rates, the family cap may have had the opposite effect.
For too long, many pro-lifers have backed candidates for public office that end up cutting funds for social service and health care programs serving low income mothers and children. A more consistent and effective pro-life strategy would be to fight for a better social safety net to reduce the demand for abortion.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Zhang Jianhao reports in the Epoch Times http://en.epochtimes.com:
The Chinese authorities have been hurriedly inspecting factories across China since the Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu company, which supplies nearly a fifth of China's market with baby formula, was exposed just over a week ago knowingly selling tainted milk.
Twenty-two more Chinese companies have been discovered with melamine-tainted powdered milk products since the story broke, according to information from the China General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
The contaminated milk has caused the death of three babies, more than 6000 infants have become ill, and more than 150 children have developed serious kidney problems, according to reports from officials.
Many famous domestic powdered and fresh milk producers are among the 23 companies, who were found selling melamine-contaminated products during the recent inspections.
To make matters worse, the Sanlu company had received complaints and concerns about the quality of its powdered milk back in March, but the poisonous milk was not recalled until September 11.
The tainted powdered milk is the latest in a line of contaminated products coming from apparently unethical Chinese producers.
January, 2008, Poisonous Dumplings in Japan
Frozen Chinese dumplings from Tianyang Food Processing Plant poisoned 10 people in Chiba and Hyogo in Japan at the end of January.
Japan’s National Police Agency and China’s Police Department launched investigations in to the poisonings, but both sides denied that the pesticide was mixed into the dumplings in their country. The truth of the incident remains unclear.
February, 2007, Lipsticks Containing Sudan Red
The China General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine found a carcinogenic dye, called Sudan red, in lipstick in February last year.
Sudan red is a yellowish-red colored lysochrome azo dye that can cause contact dermatitis.
Authorities suspect that some of the contaminated lipstick might have been exported to Hong Kong.
March, 2007, Poisonous Animal Food in United States
Up to 85000 cats and dogs in the US died in early 2007 after eating pet food contaminated by melamine.
The US Food and Drug Administration found that the deaths were caused by melamine in gluten products from China.
Chinese merchants had purposely mixed melamine in wheat bran to increase its nitrogen content. Later, melamine was also found in pig, chicken and fish food across the US.
May, 2007, Poisonous Toothpaste and Cough Syrup in Panama
US media widely reported at of end of April last year the deaths of about 365 people died in Panama after after taking cough syrup from China.
The cough syrup contained false glycerin, and in 100 of the cases autopsies revealed the poison as the cause of death.
On May 19, custom officials in Panama spot-checked Excel and Mr Cool toothpaste from China and found 6000 tubes of toothpaste containing poisonous diethylene glycol. A short time later, Australian customs officials and the FDA in the US also found poisonous toothpaste from China.
May, 2007, Poisonous Textiles
In May 2007, the Australia Wool Testing Authority found excessive formaldehyde in textiles from China.
The amount of formaldehyde in the textiles was 10 times the safety standard of most countries, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Actil Commercial, a division of a renowned home product company Sheridan Australia, who imported the tainted products, had to quarantine eight containers of wool blankets that had just come from China.
August, 2007, Poisonous Toys
According to China’s Central News Agency, Fisher-Price, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the famous Mattel Inc was collectively sued by parents for selling Chinese toys contaminated with lead.
Mattel had to recall tens of millions of toys and parents were left wondering how Chinese vendors could commit such a heartless crime.
November, 2006, Poisonous Eggs Containing “Sudan”
The carcinogenic industrial dye, Sudan red, was discovered in salted eggs in Hebei Province in November 2006. Investigations later also found the dye in fresh eggs in Hubei Province.
China’s Southern Metropolis Daily listed other major food-safety scares in November 2006 which included:
“Big-head baby” powered milk was found in 2003 through until April 2004 in Fuyang City in Anhui Province. More than 100 infants were ill with enlarged heads after consuming poor-quality powdered milk. Some infants died.
Guanghai salt fish, a product special to Taishan City, was contaminated with a pesticide called dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, or DDVP in 2004. This pesticide is known for its acute toxicity.
In March 2004, workers and their families at a brickyard in Jiaxing City in Zhejiang Province were poisoned after eating pork marinated in table salt. Many people vomited and fainted after eating the meat. A three-year-old girl died and 57 people were sent to hospital.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Well-respected journalist Ronald Brownstein says the real contrast between the Presidential candidates in 2008 is about shared versus individual risks on matters like health care and retirement.
Writing in his National Journal www.nationaljournal.com column, Ronald Brownstein points out the critical difference in this year's Presidential election. Obama supports policies that will allow middle class-working Americans to pool their resources and spread out risks to provide for health care coverage and a secure retirement. McCain takes a different approach and wants the middle class to assume greater risks regarding health care and retirement benefits.
This week's tumultuous events on Wall Street have immediately commanded center stage in the presidential race. But the debate is being framed too narrowly.
It's understandable that the first reactions from Barack Obama and John McCain centered on whether Washington is effectively regulating the financial markets. That's a natural focus for Obama, who delivered a detailed speech at Cooper Union in March urging a comprehensive modernizing of financial regulation. Coming from McCain, a demand for tougher oversight is more jarring. Although he has occasionally banged heads with individual industries over specific policies, he has generally presented himself as a "small government ... less regulation" conservative.
Yet neither presidential nominee has yet connected the gales on Wall Street to the generation-long changes in the American social contract that have exposed average families much more directly to the effects of such upheavals. Over the past quarter-century, America has engaged in a fundamental transfer of the responsibility for managing everyday financial risk from employers and government to individuals and families. In his 2006 book, University of California (Berkeley) political scientist Jacob Hacker memorably terms this The Great Risk Shift.
Since the 1970s, the share of employers providing defined-benefit pension plans that guarantee workers a set income upon retirement has shriveled. Instead, most workers now rely on defined-contribution plans--primarily 401(k) accounts--in which employers commit only to providing funds that workers can invest, and the amount of money available upon retirement depends entirely on the workers' skill (and luck) in navigating the financial markets. Defined-contribution plans undeniably provide workers with more control over their retirement investments, but they also expose employees to far more risk, as those hoping to retire soon were painfully reminded when their 401(k) plans plummeted this week. A similar transfer of risk is evident in health care, because fewer employers offer insurance to their workers, and even those that do shift more of the cost onto employees.
Although neither McCain nor Obama has framed the situation this way, their reactions to this transfer of risk and responsibility represent a fundamental dividing line between them. Like President Bush, who touted an "ownership society," McCain has welcomed these shifts of responsibility as giving individuals more control over their financial future. On several fronts, McCain in fact wants to accelerate these trends.
Today, most Americans still receive their health insurance through group coverage (either from government or employers) that shares risk and cost between the healthy and the sick. Relatively few obtain insurance in the individual market, which exposes consumers to much wider variations in cost and coverage depending on their health. McCain's proposal would push more people toward the individual market (perhaps 20 million more, according to an independent study released this week) by replacing the tax break that promotes employer-based coverage with an individual tax credit.
Likewise, McCain wants to allow workers to divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts, as Bush unsuccessfully proposed in 2005. Any system of private accounts would require future reductions in guaranteed Social Security benefits (because it would consume payroll taxes that are otherwise used to pay the benefits for retirees) and would make workers even more dependent on financial markets for retirement. "I think your money is probably better invested in America's economy than ... by a federal bureaucrat," McCain said last year. That might not seem so obvious after this week's eruptions.
Obama, by contrast, wants to strengthen the institutions that promote the sharing of risk. His health care plan aims to buttress group-based coverage, either through employers or new government-sponsored purchasing networks. He adamantly opposes private accounts under Social Security and would instead offer tax incentives for workers to invest for retirement in accounts intended to supplement Social Security's guaranteed benefits.
In all these respects, the McCain-Obama contest represents a fork in the road that will likely determine whether the nation continues to shift more financial responsibility to individuals, or seeks opportunities to restore more sharing of risk. This week's chaos on Wall Street, which rattled millions of workers relying on the markets to fund a decent retirement, shows how much average Americans have at stake in that choice. "This is a critical watershed moment," Hacker correctly notes, "because it really captures in sharp relief both the stakes and what the core of this debate is."
David Blankenhorn explains in LA Times www.latimes.com op-ed piece why he, as a progressive Democrat, is also a vocal critic of same sex marriage. Blankenhorn presents a powerful case for preserving the traditional family unit while respecting the dignity of gay and lesbian individuals.
I'm a liberal Democrat. And I do not favor same-sex marriage. Do those positions sound contradictory? To me, they fit together.
Many seem to believe that marriage is simply a private love relationship between two people. They accept this view, in part, because Americans have increasingly emphasized and come to value the intimate, emotional side of marriage, and in part because almost all opinion leaders today, from journalists to judges, strongly embrace this position. That's certainly the idea that underpinned the California Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.
But I spent a year studying the history and anthropology of marriage, and I've come to a different conclusion.
Marriage as a human institution is constantly evolving, and many of its features vary across groups and cultures. But there is one constant. In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood. Among us humans, the scholars report, marriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children.
In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its next generation. Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood -- biological, social and legal -- into one pro-child form: the married couple. Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other.
These days, because of the gay marriage debate, one can be sent to bed without supper for saying such things. But until very recently, almost no one denied this core fact about marriage. Summing up the cross-cultural evidence, the anthropologist Helen Fisher in 1992 put it simply: "People wed primarily to reproduce." The philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of conventional sexual morality, was only repeating the obvious a few decades earlier when he concluded that "it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution."
Marriage is society's most pro-child institution. In 2002 -- just moments before it became highly unfashionable to say so -- a team of researchers from Child Trends, a nonpartisan research center, reported that "family structure clearly matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage."
All our scholarly instruments seem to agree: For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.
For these reasons, children have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world. The foundational human rights document in the world today regarding children, the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically guarantees children this right. The last time I checked, liberals like me were supposed to be in favor of internationally recognized human rights, particularly concerning children, who are typically society's most voiceless and vulnerable group. Or have I now said something I shouldn't?
Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one. Moreover, losing that right will not be a consequence of something that at least most of us view as tragic, such as a marriage that didn't last, or an unexpected pregnancy where the father-to-be has no intention of sticking around. On the contrary, in the case of same-sex marriage and the children of those unions, it will be explained to everyone, including the children, that something wonderful has happened!
For me, what we are encouraged or permitted to say, or not say, to one another about what our society owes its children is crucially important in the debate over initiatives like California's Proposition 8, which would reinstate marriage's customary man-woman form. Do you think that every child deserves his mother and father, with adoption available for those children whose natural parents cannot care for them? Do you suspect that fathers and mothers are different from one another? Do you imagine that biological ties matter to children? How many parents per child is best? Do you think that "two" is a better answer than one, three, four or whatever? If you do, be careful. In making the case for same-sex marriage, more than a few grown-ups will be quite willing to question your integrity and goodwill. Children, of course, are rarely consulted.
The liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously argued that, in many cases, the real conflict we face is not good versus bad but good versus good. Reducing homophobia is good. Protecting the birthright of the child is good. How should we reason together as a society when these two good things conflict?
Here is my reasoning. I reject homophobia and believe in the equal dignity of gay and lesbian love. Because I also believe with all my heart in the right of the child to the mother and father who made her, I believe that we as a society should seek to maintain and to strengthen the only human institution -- marriage -- that is specifically intended to safeguard that right and make it real for our children.
Legalized same-sex marriage almost certainly benefits those same-sex couples who choose to marry, as well as the children being raised in those homes. But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society. That's a change that, in the final analysis, I cannot support.
David Blankenhorn is president of the New York-based Institute for American Values http://www.americanvalues.org/ and the author of "The Future of Marriage."
Writing in the Detroit News, Mark Gaffney points out John McCain's long time advocacy of Social Security privatization. It has been a rough week for those who worship at the altar of free markets. Our Social Security system must be preserved. The irresponsibility of Wall Street shows that American workers require more than their "201K" private retirement plans to have a secure economic future.
What a rollercoaster week it's been. In the span of a couple days, major investment firms and an insurance firm have collapsed or been bailed out. The stock market dropped 500 points in one day -- the most since 9-11. Yet Sen. John McCain and a handful of other conservatives still insist the fundamentals of the economy are strong.
It seems obvious that the fundamentals of the economy aren't strong. Far from it. In fact, what's happening on Wall Street is the result of getting rid of the rules -- built back after the Great Depression -- that kept firewalls between banks, insurance and investment firms.Staunch believers in the free, unfettered market, they resisted any government intervention, and so profits flowed more freely than ever to the wealthiest, while the rest of us were left behind.
Working Americans are left to clean up the mess and to bail out the robber barons who created it.
What's done is done, but let's learn our lesson well and take a careful look at what we can do to help rebuild this economy safely and soundly.
Let's start with retirement, something that is on top of many people's minds as they watch the markets stumble. No group is more vulnerable in the failing economy than our nation's seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes and barely getting by as it is. Social Security is a lifeline for retirees.
Since its inception, Social Security has elevated millions of elderly Americans out of poverty, and provided them with the basic financial guarantees after a lifetime of hard work. Twenty percent of older Americans live solely off their Social Security benefits, and 60 percent of recipients rely on it for more than half of their incomes. It is the cornerstone of this country's social compact.
GOP presidential candidate John McCain advocates privatizing Social Security, which would put stable retirement benefits in the same unstable market that has nosedived. In a world where it's getting harder and harder for most people to make ends meet, and more and more people are living paycheck to paycheck, policies that willfully risk retirement security don't meet the needs of working people.
On the other hand, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama proposes common-sense steps to shore up, not sell out, Social Security. These include increasing the cap on taxable income so that the richest Americans contribute their fair share. Sen. Obama has said he will work to keep Social Security funded and available to all seniors, showing us once again that he respects working people and retirees in a way that John McCain does not.
When Obama was in Detroit over Labor Day, he said, "the idea behind the labor movement is that you don't walk alone. Each of us are vulnerable by our self...when we understand that I am my brothers' keeper, that I am my sister's keeper, when we recognize ourselves in each other...then we understand what motivated people...to join together to form a union."
That same sentiment, that we are our brother's keeper, goes for Social Security, too.
The whole idea is that together we are stronger than alone, and that we can pool our resources and strength for a better future for everyone.
America's economy doesn't have to be risky and tumultuous. We have the ingenuity and the skills to build an economy that works for all -- an economy with good jobs, strong and dependable retirements, and a truly secure Social Security.
Anything less just means that we are destined to revisit this crazy week, all over again, but with even less safeguards than we have now.
Mark Gaffney is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, a federation of Michigan labor groups.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Former Ambassador and Congressman Tony Hall explains why he supports Barack Obama for President in an ad sponsored by the Matthew 25 Network.
Economy in Crisis [www.economyincrisis.org], America' daily economic report, presents a plan to revive America's industrial capacity and restore a widespread prosperity:
• Appoint an economic minister, a major cabinet post, to develop policies that protect our economy from foreign predatory practices. This will create conditions to make manufacturing competitive and profitable through government sponsored research, tax changes and subsidies.
• Create an industrial research and development division similar to government sponsored National Institute of Health (NIH) in medicine or the Manhattan Project in World War II or as they do currently in Japan's Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) to focus on needs and development procedures for new and existing industries.
• Selective use of tariffs to prevent the loss of strategic and endangered industries. Tit-for-tat tariffs should be used against outdated WWII era policies like the VAT tax. As of summer 2008, 149 nations used the tax as a de facto subsidy for their exports entering the U.S., and a tariff against imported American goods.
• Free trade has been a disaster. It must be replaced with intelligent trade that prevents foreign predatory practices and better serves U.S. interests.
• Change the tax structure for select industries that are vital to strategic American interests - steel, etc.
• Amend or get out of the agreement with the WTO. This agreement puts America's domestic trade laws in the hands of a non-transparent, undemocratic organization.
• Control the balance of trade deficit.
• Analyze every international trade deal by considering if it benefits America; currently most deals do not.
• Curtail subsidies foreign owned companies receive from state governments.
• Discourage technology transfer and outsourcing manufacturing that results in the loss of industries.
• Prevent the sale of strategic companies or institutions to foreign ownership.
• Faster depreciation on capital equipment investment - it will lessen the need to outsource manufacturing.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS AND THINGS TO CONSIDER:
• Strive to become competitive, otherwise America must exist on imports with more debt, accompanied with high unemployment.
• American owned companies have lost their edge and, on balance, are not as productive or as protective as many other foreign companies. This must be corrected.
• It must be profitable to manufacture in America otherwise domestic companies will not do it.
• America is losing a major economics war by relinquishing management and control of the economy through effects of our balance of trade deficit, outsourcing, subsidized insourcing and foreign tax benefits.
• Consider the consequences of losing whole industries such as publishing, autos, movies, steel, electronics, clothing and how it impacts national security and living standards.
• Analyze and correct negative effects of WTO rules and decisions regarding their impact on our economy.
•Analyze and correct violations of WTO rules practiced by other countries to our detriment.
•Analyze and correct restrictions imposed by foreign governments on American exporting companies.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger http://www.clarionledger.com reports today that Democratic Congressman Travis Childers is sponsoring a bill to restore gun rights in the District of Columbia.
Ana Radelat of the Clarion-Ledger's Washington Bureau writes:
To the dismay of the Washington, D.C., police chief and others who are trying to limit gun ownership in the nation's capital, Rep. Travis Childers is pressing legislation that would rollback restrictions.
Childers, a Democrat from Prentiss County, won a special election in May to represent the 1st District. He hopes to offer his bill this week as an amendment to a much narrower bill sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
Childers says his legislation is needed to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in June that the city's wide-ranging gun ban violates the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.
While I do not condone Washington, D.C.'s lack of congressional representation, I do support the Supreme Court's ruling," Childers said in a statement. "D.C. city officials have since enacted gun control laws that defy this ruling, and I am committed to making sure that American citizens retain the ability to defend themselves, as it is laid out in the Constitution."
"The debate is about how far Congress should go to require Washington, D.C., to comply with the Supreme Court ruling."
Norton's bill would require the city government to establish ways for its residents to lawfully purchase and carry guns within 180 days of becoming law but would not dictate how to do so.
Childers' bill is much more detailed. It would allow District of Columbia residents to own a wide variety of handguns and rifles - only sawed-off rifles, machine guns and short-barreled rifles would be banned.
It also would remove criminal penalties for anyone owning an unregistered gun.
The following is the next of the Second Amendment Enforced Act (H.R. 6691) introduced by Congressman Childers:
H. R. 6691
To restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 31, 2008
Mr. CHILDERS (for himself, Mr. ALTMIRE, Mr. CAZAYOUX, Mr. DINGELL, Mr. ROSS, Mr. TANNER, Mr. STUPAK, Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN, Mr. ELLSWORTH, Mr. MELANCON, Mr. CHANDLER, Mr. LINCOLN DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. BOYD of Florida, Mr. MATHESON, Mr. CARDOZA, Mr. CARNEY, Mr. KAGEN, Mr. HOLDEN, Mr. SHULER, Mr. LAMPSON, Mr. HILL, Mr. CRAMER, Mr. SPACE, Mr. BARROW, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mr. BISHOP of Georgia, Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas, Mr. GORDON of Tennessee, Mr. PETERSON of Minnesota, Mr. BOREN, Mr. DONNELLY, Mr. WALZ of Minnesota, Mrs. BOYDA of Kansas, Mrs. GILLIBRAND, Mr. SOUDER, Mr. HAYES, Mr. SALI, Mr. WALBERG, Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania, Mr. COOPER, Mr. BOUCHER, Mr. MURTHA, Mr. BOSWELL, Mr. BERRY, Mr. DAVIS of Alabama, Mr. KANJORSKI, Mr. SALAZAR, Mr. MAHONEY of Florida, Mr. MARSHALL, Mr. MCNERNEY, Mr. HODES, Mr. SESSIONS, and Ms. SHEA-PORTER) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Second Amendment Enforcement Act’.
SEC. 2. CONGRESSIONAL FINDINGS.
Congress finds the following:
(1) The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
(2) As the Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States have recognized, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the rights of individuals, including those who are not members of a militia or engaged in military service or training, to keep and bear arms.
(3) The law-abiding citizens of the District of Columbia are deprived by local laws of handguns, rifles, and shotguns that are commonly kept by law-abiding persons throughout the United States for sporting use and for lawful defense of their persons, homes, businesses, and families.
(4) The District of Columbia has the highest per capita murder rate in the Nation, which may be attributed in part to local laws prohibiting possession of firearms by law-abiding persons who would otherwise be able to defend themselves and their loved ones in their own homes and businesses.
(5) The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended by the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, provide comprehensive Federal regulations applicable in the District of Columbia as elsewhere. In addition, existing District of Columbia criminal laws punish possession and illegal use of firearms by violent criminals and felons. Consequently, there is no need for local laws which only affect and disarm law-abiding citizens.
(6) Officials of the District of Columbia have indicated their intention to continue to unduly restrict lawful firearm possession and use by citizens of the District.
(7) Legislation is required to correct the District of Columbia’s law in order to restore the fundamental rights of its citizens under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and thereby enhance public safety.
SEC. 3. REFORM D.C. COUNCIL’S AUTHORITY TO RESTRICT FIREARMS.
Section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to prohibit the killing of wild birds and wild animals in the District of Columbia’, approved June 30, 1906 (34 Stat. 809; sec. 1-303.43, D.C. Official Code) is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘Nothing in this section or any other provision of law shall authorize, or shall be construed to permit, the Council, the Mayor, or any governmental or regulatory authority of the District of Columbia to prohibit, constructively prohibit, or unduly burden the ability of persons not prohibited from possessing firearms under Federal law from acquiring, possessing in their homes or businesses, or using for sporting, self-protection or other lawful purposes, any firearm neither prohibited by Federal law nor subject to the National Firearms Act. The District of Columbia shall not have authority to enact laws or regulations that discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms.’.
SEC. 4. REPEAL D.C. SEMIAUTOMATIC BAN.
(a) In General- Section 101(10) of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 (sec. 7-2501.01(10), D.C. Official Code) is amended to read as follows:
‘(10) ‘Machine gun’ means any firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or readily restored to shoot automatically, more than 1 shot without manual reloading by a single function of the trigger, and includes the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun, and any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.’.
(b) Conforming Amendment to Provisions Setting Forth Criminal Penalties- Section 1(c) of the Act of July 8, 1932 (47 Stat. 651; sec. 22-4501(c), D.C. Official Code) is amended to read as follows:
‘(c) ‘Machine gun’, as used in this Act, has the meaning given such term in section 101(10) of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975.’.
SEC. 5. REPEAL REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT.
(a) Repeal of Requirement-
(1) IN GENERAL- Section 201(a) of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 (sec. 7-2502.01(a), D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking ‘any firearm, unless’ and all that follows through paragraph (3) and inserting the following: ‘any firearm described in subsection (c).’.
(2) DESCRIPTION OF FIREARMS REMAINING ILLEGAL- Section 201 of such Act (sec. 7-2502.01, D.C. Official Code) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
‘(c) A firearm described in this subsection is any of the following:
‘(1) A sawed-off shotgun.
‘(2) A machine gun.
‘(3) A short-barreled rifle.’.
(3) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- The heading of section 201 of such Act (sec. 7-2502.01, D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking ‘Registration requirements’ and inserting ‘Firearm Possession’.
(b) Conforming Amendments to Firearms Control Regulations Act- The Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 is amended as follows:
(1) Sections 202 through 211 (secs. 7-2502.02 through 7-2502.11, D.C. Official Code) are repealed.
(2) Section 101 (sec. 7-2501.01, D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking paragraph (13).
(3) Section 401 (sec. 7-2504.01, D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(A) in subsection (a), by striking ‘the District;’ and all that follows and inserting the following: ‘the District, except that a person may engage in hand loading, reloading, or custom loading of ammunition for firearms lawfully possessed under this Act.’; and
(B) in subsection (b), by striking ‘which are unregisterable under section 202’ and inserting ‘which are prohibited under section 201’.
(4) Section 402 (sec. 7-2504.02, D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(A) in subsection (a), by striking ‘Any person eligible to register a firearm’ and all that follows through ‘such business,’ and inserting the following: ‘Any person not otherwise prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm under Federal or District law, or from being licensed under section 923 of title 18, United States Code,’; and
(B) in subsection (b), by amending paragraph (1) to read as follows:
‘(1) The applicant’s name;’.
(5) Section 403(b) (sec. 7-2504.03(b), D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking ‘registration certificate’ and inserting ‘dealer’s license’.
(6) Section 404(a)(3) (sec. 7-2504.04(a)(3)), D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(A) in subparagraph (B)(i), by striking ‘registration certificate number (if any) of the firearm,’;
(B) in subparagraph (B)(iv), by striking ‘holding the registration certificate’ and inserting ‘from whom it was received for repair’;
(C) in subparagraph (C)(i), by striking ‘and registration certificate number (if any) of the firearm’;
(D) in subparagraph (C)(ii), by striking ‘registration certificate number or’; and
(E) by striking subparagraphs (D) and (E).
(7) Section 406(c) (sec. 7-2504.06(c), D.C. Official Code) is amended to read as follows:
‘(c) Within 45 days of a decision becoming effective which is unfavorable to a licensee or to an applicant for a dealer’s license, the licensee or application shall--
‘(1) lawfully remove from the District all destructive devices in his inventory, or peaceably surrender to the Chief all destructive devices in his inventory in the manner provided in section 705; and
‘(2) lawfully dispose, to himself or to another, any firearms and ammunition in his inventory.’.
(8) Section 407(b) (sec. 7-2504.07(b), D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking ‘would not be eligible’ and all that follows and inserting ‘is prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm under Federal or District law.’.
(9) Section 502 (sec. 7-2505.02, D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(A) by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
‘(a) Any person or organization not prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm under Federal or District law may sell or otherwise transfer ammunition or any firearm, except those which are prohibited under section 201, to a licensed dealer.’;
(B) by amending subsection (c) to read as follows
‘(c) Any licensed dealer may sell or otherwise transfer a firearm to any person or organization not otherwise prohibited from possessing or receiving such firearm under Federal or District law.’;
(C) in subsection (d), by striking paragraphs (2) and (3); and
(D) by striking subsection (e).
(10) Section 704 (sec. 7-2507.04, D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(A) in subsection (a), by striking ‘any registration certificate or’ and inserting ‘a’; and
(B) in subsection (b), by striking ‘registration certificate,’.
(c) Other Conforming Amendments- Section 2(4) of the Illegal Firearm Sale and Distribution Strict Liability Act of 1992 (sec. 7-2531.01(2)(4), D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(1) in subparagraph (A), by striking ‘or ignoring proof of the purchaser’s residence in the District of Columbia’; and
(2) in subparagraph (B), by striking ‘registration and’.
SEC. 6. REPEAL HANDGUN AMMUNITION BAN.
Section 601(3) of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 (sec. 7-2506.01(3), D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking ‘is the holder of the valid registration certificate for’ and inserting ‘owns’.
SEC. 7. RESTORE RIGHT OF SELF DEFENSE IN THE HOME.
Section 702 of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 (sec. 7-2507.02, D.C. Official Code) is repealed.
SEC. 8. REMOVE CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR POSSESSION OF UNREGISTERED FIREARMS.
(a) In General- Section 706 of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 (sec. 7-2507.06, D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(1) by striking ‘that:’ and all that follows through ‘(1) A’ and inserting ‘that a’; and
(2) by striking paragraph (2).
(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to violations occurring after the 60-day period which begins on the date of the enactment of this Act.
SEC. 9. REMOVE CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR CARRYING A FIREARM IN ONE’S DWELLING OR OTHER PREMISES.
Section 4(a) of the Act of July 8, 1932 (47 Stat. 651; sec. 22-4504(a), D.C. Official Code) is amended--
(1) in the matter before paragraph (1), by striking ‘a pistol,’ and inserting the following: ‘except in his dwelling house or place of business or on other land possessed by that person, whether loaded or unloaded, a pistol,’; and
(2) by striking ‘except that:’ and all that follows through ‘(2) If the violation’ and inserting ‘except that if the violation’.
SEC. 10. AUTHORIZING PURCHASES OF FIREARMS BY DISTRICT RESIDENTS.
Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended in paragraph (b)(3) by inserting after ‘other than a State in which the licensee’s place of business is located’ the following: ‘, or to the sale or delivery of a handgun to a resident of the District of Columbia by a licensee whose place of business is located in Maryland or Virginia,’.
Writing in the Time/CNN blog Swampland, Joe Klein points out that John McCain wants to tax our health insurance benefits while opposing any increase in taxes on oil companies. Is any additional proof needed that the McCain-Palin ticket is no friend of working families ?
John McCain wants to tax your employer-provided health care benefits. He wants to replace those benefits with an insufficient tax credit--$2500 for individuals and $5000 for families (the average cost per family for health insurance is $12000).
There is a positive, progressive tax aspect to this: wealthier people should have to pay for health insurance themselves, without tax breaks from the federal government.
But make no mistake: this plan will do little or nothing for those who do not have insurance now--unless they are young and healthy--and it may well hurt a fair number of workers, especially unionized workers, who get gold-plated benefits from their employers.
It will certainly do nothing for families with members who have pre-existing conditions or children with special needs--because it makes no provision to regulate the insurers, forcing them to cover all comers at "community" rates that don't discriminate against the people who need health insurance most.
It is amazing to me that the Obama campaign has let things go this far without pointing out that McCain--who opposes the energy bill because it would increase taxes on oil companies--is actually proposing a tax increase on health care benefits for American workers. But that is precisely what the Senator from Arizona is doing.