Your Daily Dose Of Reality...Starts Now! Voice Of The Majority is a Progressive-Leftist blog covering National and Austin Texas/Travis County politics. WE MUST WORK TOGETHER AND TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK! This Blog Is Protected By The First Amendment........Well, at least for now it is.

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    Location: Austin, Texas, United States

    Joshua Angell, also known as Josh Angell (born June 3, 1979), is an outspoken Liberal activist who has run a news blog since 2004, entitled "Voice Of The Majority" Angell, a frequent caller to radio shows such as Lynn Samuels, is often outspoken on what he calls "the lies of the Bush Crime Family". Known locally in Austin, Texas to appear at rallies and anti-war demonstrations, Angell is self described as "The most famous gay activist in Austin that everybody knows OF but nobody KNOWS".

    Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    6 Reasons Why November 2 Wasn't a Total Gay Political Nightmare
    by Christopher Lisotta, Los Angeles Weekly,
    With 11 state marriage amendments passing overwhelmingly, the election of anti-gay crusaders like Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint to the U.S. Senate, and a clear win for a presidential administration that loves to talk about a Federal Marriage Amendment, things might look politically bleak for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. But even in the most monstrous, fag-hating clouds are fabulous silver linings. Here are six good things that -happened for the GLBT community on Election Day:1. Pro-marriage candidates won. Gay-marriage opponents in Massachusetts made it clear after last year’s legislative votes that anyone who voted against setting in motion a ban on same-sex unions would be committing political suicide. Turns out they were wrong. An overwhelming number of pro-gay legislators in the Bay State did just fine November 2, while candidates who made marriage their primary issue found themselves making concession speeches. The same was true even in Michigan, where voters, despite approving a marriage ban, elected 24 of the 28 state candidates endorsed by gay advocacy group Michigan Equality — which translated into a net pickup of two GLBT-supportive legislators in the Michigan House. Every little bit helps.2. Texas justice. In Dallas County, Lupe Valdez, an openly lesbian Democrat, beat her Republican opponent to become the county’s first female sheriff and the first Democrat to hold the job in nearly three decades. With an endorsement from the Dallas Morning News, Valdez, who campaigned as a reform-minded anti-corruption alternative to the powers that be, won accolades for her experience in the Federal Prison System and U.S. Customs Service. Valdez showed that qualified queer candidates can do just fine, even in Bush Country.3. Cincinnati fights discrimination. Ohio’s Hamilton County went Bush and voted for the state amendment that banned gay marriages, but thanks to plenty of hard work and coalition building (including ties with churches), Cincinnati activists turned back the city’s infamous Article 12. Added to the city charter in 1993, Article 12 banned the City Council from passing any laws that gave "minority or protected status" to gays and lesbians, making it open season in terms of housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The group Citizens To Restore Fairness spent two years gathering 3,000 volunteers, who campaigned door to door to educate voters. On November 2 the hard work paid off — despite being outspent by three to one on the airwaves just weeks before the election, Cincinnati repealed Article 12 by a 10,000-vote margin.4. House of Reps. It was a perfect 10 for the openly gay members of the U.S. House — Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Massachusetts’ Barney Frank and Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe coasted to easy re-election victories. All three serve in districts far from the Castro and Chelsea, proving that having the hots for someone of your own sex doesn’t impact your ability to bring home the bacon for the straight locals. Together the trio have 48 years’ experience serving in the House, and have tackled issues like border safety and prescription drugs for seniors. Note to queer political hopefuls: Baldwin, Frank and Kolbe get their jobs done without making sexuality an issue.5. Slowly but surely. Neither North Carolina nor Idaho come to mind when you think of civil rights breakthroughs, but both red states elected their first openly gay state legislators. In Oregon (which also passed a gay-marriage ban), Rives Kistler was elected to the Supreme Court, the only openly gay person in the country to be elected statewide — ever. Out state legislators won re-election in Missouri, North Carolina and Utah — yes, Utah. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a queer take on the candidate incubator Emily’s List, the number of openly gay elected pols has quadrupled in the past decade from less than 50 to almost 300. Not a huge number in a country with half a million politicians, but it’s still a start.6. Not going anywhere. Black Tuesday was also a wake-up call. Just days after the election, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held a conference in St. Louis for hundreds of activists that turned into a huge "get over it"-fest, goading people to organize at the grassroots level and keep up the fight. And the queer kids are as angry as ever. Meagan Moering, a Montana student, said it best in a post-election interview with The Advocate: "Being an out lesbian in the Northwest is difficult enough as is; having these laws against us makes it even more discouraging." But Moering isn’t backing down anytime soon. "Regardless of any president or amendment," she said, "the GLBT community is not going away, and I’m sure not going to let this scare me back into the closet."

    Subject: Austin March Photos
    On a Sunday in early December, about 300 people of diverse ages and backgrounds met at the Austin State capital to protest fraud in Ohio by marching down Congress Avenue. This small band, and others around the country tried, despite the conspicuous absence of their progressive political organizations, to save honest voting in America.

    Subject: Just a little funny . . .

    Due to the popularity of the Survivor shows, Texas is planning to do one also entitled, "Survivor-Texas Style." The contestants will all start in Dallas, then
    drive to Waco, Austin, San Antonio, over to Houston and down to Brownsville.
    They will then proceed up to Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Odessa, Lubbock and
    Amarillo. From there they will go on to Abilene, Fort Worth and finally
    back to Dallas.

    Each will be driving a pink Volvo with bumper stickers that read:
    I'm gay,
    I love the Dixie Chicks,
    Boycott Beef,
    I voted for Al Gore,
    George Strait Sucks,
    Kerry in '04,
    Hillary in 2008,
    and I'm here to confiscate your guns."
    The first one who makes it back to Dallas alive, wins.

    Thursday, December 23, 2004

    Medical Marijuana User Fights for License

    U.S. National - AP
    By BRIAN MELLEY, Associated Press Writer
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Officials Tuesday abruptly postponed a driver's license test for a medical marijuana user with a case before the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) after her lawyer claimed she was being unfairly targeted for review.
    AP Photo

    Diane Monson, 47, who uses marijuana to relieve back pain, was notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles earlier this month that she needed to appear at a re-examination hearing Thursday — or lose her license.
    Such hearings are held routinely for drivers involved in serious crashes or who have been cited for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at least three times over three years.
    Monson said with the exception of a speeding ticket 15 years ago, she had a spotless record. The DMV notice did not say why she was selected for re-examination.
    "I still very strongly that I've done nothing whatsoever to warrant this investigation," Monson said after being notified the hearing was scrapped.
    Even a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer seemed puzzled a DMV hearing was required in Monson's case.
    "Quite frankly, I find it strange," spokesman Nathan Barankin said.
    DMV brass put the hearing on hold and launched a "top to bottom" internal review after Monson and her lawyer delivered a cease-and-desist notice to agency headquarters, said spokesman Bill Branch.
    "So far as top-level DMV officials can recall, we are not aware of any other cases involving medicinal marijuana," Branch said.
    Monson had just passed an eye exam to renew her license when she was notified of the hearing; it arrived shortly after her medical marijuana case was heard by the nation's high court.
    Monson is a plaintiff in a case that will determine whether federal law enforcement agents can seize pot grown by users in states where it can be legally prescribed as medicine.
    California law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation. Other states with such laws are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

    Monday, December 20, 2004

    The media said youth turnout was down... they were SO wrong. Check out this CNN exit poll* 4.6 Million More Young People Cast Votes Than in 2000* Youth Turnout Up by 9.3 Points NationallyDownload the CIRCLE election release (1 MB, Word format)

    Friday, December 17, 2004

    From The Mailbox:
    Belton Annexations
    To all those concerned,
    My name is Rene' Darden, I live On 10th ave. in Belton. We've lived in this
    location since 1998. Waco road runs beside my house. We have a very bad
    problem with drainage in our area. When it rains hard a small river runs through
    our yard. Two year's ago a lady drove under the over pass and had to abandon
    her car due to the amount of standing water trapped there. Her car was TOTALLY couldn't see it at all. So, the problem is drastic. The road is
    maintained by the state...however, it is in the city limits, nothing has been done.
    In my yard we had to have a speed-bump added to our driveway, and we
    dug two trenches, one in front one in back. We also have to dig out the rocks
    and dirt that build up and slow water flow to the drainage ditch after EACH
    hard rain we get. It's getting old fast!
    The lady who lives across the street from me has lived on 10th ave. since
    she was born...she is now in her 60's and says there has never been any
    attempt to fix the roadway since in was first put in. We did have the asphalt
    company out here dumping rocks and tar out...but the road itself needs repaired,
    not covered up! Also, the water runs down the ditch area behind her house,
    all the way up to her back porch, making it impossible to go out that door.
    She has pleaded her case on several occasions. The city says it's the
    railroads problem and the railroad says its a city problem again nothing has
    been done in over 50 years. The water that goes under her house flows
    across the street, meeting up with what's comming down the street, and
    floods into my yard, FRONT and BACK.
    I'm sure there are many problems like this one. I know there are several
    sidewalks in need of replacement or removal. Not to mention the endless
    number of street repair projects that need to be addressed.
    Ore of the attraction's to this town is its SMALLTOWN SPIRIT. Why
    are we going to keep adding more "TOWN area" when we cannot repair
    what we have? What is our town going to be like 10 years down the road?
    Will we have to install metal detectors in our schools and search the students
    : upon entry? That's not what I want For-my kids...I want the schools to stay
    on the smaller side as well as my community. I'd like to see there be
    more things to do as a family in our area...but I prefer to keep the town itself
    as small as possible.
    Rene' Darden

    Where's The Family In These Values? by Dan Sturgis
    November 2nd was a devastating day. As a union member for over 18 years, I worked for six months pounding the Michigan pavement, encouraging union members like me to vote for John Kerry. I talked to union members all across the state, encouraging them to vote for a candidate who would help keep jobs in America and stifle the astronomical rising costs of healthcare for working folks. In the end, John Kerry won Michigan by 3 points. Union households overwhelming voted for John Kerry. Even though John Kerry lost the race for the White House, my friends think I should be heartened that in Michigan, I helped John Kerry take the state. I am not. I'm worried about what happens on December 17th. This Friday, Michigan's anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment goes into effect across the state. In addition to being a proud union member, I am also a gay man, in a relationship of over 20 years. On November 2nd, a vast majority of my neighbors, no doubt many of them union members, voted in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and any "similar union for any purpose." They said they were voting for, "family values." Well let me tell you about the values this amendment will foster. On December 17th, people supposedly promoting family values will fundamentally challenge the livelihood of my family. I keep wondering, where is the family, in the values of this amendment? What kind of values removes my ability to provide health care coverage for my family? What kind of values strip away my right to take family and medical leave to take care of my family? What kind of values strip away my ability to share my personal benefits, pension and otherwise, to my family? Sure does not sound like family values to me. My union has fought long and hard to make sure that all of its employees receive an equitable benefits package. In 2000, my employer, General Motors made domestic partnership benefits available to its employees. Now, nearly five years later, I am scared that the benefits I rely on for my mere survival might be under government-sanctioned scrutiny and attack. The attack has already started. Governor Granholm's decision to back away from domestic partner benefits negotiated by unions for state employees sends a troubling message to all employers in Michigan. I imagine its only a matter of time before private employers in Michigan begin to strip domestic partner benefits from their benefits packages. I know some people do not like the way my family looks- and they do not think it should exist. But it does exist. It has existed for twenty years, and with or without this amendment my family will continue to exist, growing stronger every year. But I must say to my union brothers and sisters who voted for this amendment, be careful what you wish for. My family is under attack. The benefits that I rely on are under attack. There is no reason to believe that your benefits will not be the next under the gun. Employers these days are looking for any reason to eliminate benefits as they try to compete with cheaper labor overseas. While workers in public institutions are the most likely to feel the full effect of this amendment immediately, employees in the private sector could easily see their benefits shrink as well. I am afraid Michigan residents may have given employers one more weapon in their arsenal to further reduce the costs of business. We have this old motto in the labor movement; an injury to one is an injury to all. After what has happened in Michigan, the motto deserves some reflection. Us working people, gay and straight, must stick together if we hope to survive these dark economic times. Unfortunately, I believe that it won't be long before all of Michigan begins to feel the repercussions of the traumatic injury they have just perpetuated on their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. Dan Sturgis is a member of the United Auto Workers and a Co-Chair of the Pride At Work Michigan Chapter, an organization representing LGBT workers in Michigan. To learn more about the chapter, please contact Dan at .

    Words From DNC Director Of GLBT Outreach:
    Dear Friends:
    While this election was tough for all Democrats, it was especially disappointing for those of us in the GLBT community. But I wanted to express my enormous gratitude for all the work you did during the course of this campaign.
    I have never had the privilege and honor of working with so many dedicated and talented grassroots activists. You put your heart and soul into this campaign, and for that I am eternally grateful.
    Thanks to your ideas, input, and dedication, we were able to take our grassroots programs to the next level. You are responsible for that success, and you should be very proud of the contributions you made to this election.
    Click here to take a look at the Pride at the Polls photo gallery.
    The passage of 11 state anti-gay marriage amendments in this election was a huge setback for GLBT and allied activists. However, there were positive results in this election that provide our community with hope for the future.
    Six out of ten voters -- 60 percent of the electorate -- believe that legal recognition, rights, and benefits should be afforded to same-sex families.
    Despite a threatened backlash, none of the Massachusetts legislators who supported equal treatment for same-sex couples was voted out of office.
    In Cincinnati, Ohio, voters repealed by an eight point margin anti-gay portions of the city's charter.
    In Idaho and North Carolina, voters elected their first openly gay legislators, and an openly gay Hispanic woman was elected county sheriff in Dallas.
    The Democratic National Committee's commitment to the inclusion of GLBT families in the party netted 400,000 more GLBT votes for Kerry than Gore got in 2000. According to exit polling, more than 4.6 million self-identified GLBT voters cast ballots in the presidential race. Exit polling showed that 77 to 80 percent of GLBT voters cast a ballot for the Kerry-Edwards ticket, delivering more than 3.5 million votes for the Democrats.
    Click here for an extensive review of exit polling data.
    We have made so much progress together and it is critical, now more than ever, that we all continue to be involved.
    Get involved with your local Democratic Party. To find your local party, click here.
    Join or form a Stonewall Democrats chapter in your community. For more information, click here.
    I would also love to hear from all of you about your experiences in the field so that we can learn from this election cycle. What worked? What didn't work? What should we do differently next time? Send me an e-mail at I would love to hear from you.
    Thank you for all your hard work.
    Take good care, Eric J. Stern DNC Director of GLBT Outreach

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004



    Dear Friends,
    It is no surprise
    that the Republicans are sore winners. They have spent the better part of the past month beating their chests, threatening to send to Siberia any Republican who doesn’t toe the line (poor Arlen Specter), and promising everything short of martial law if the Democrats don’t do what they are told.
    What’s worse is to watch the pathetic sight of the DLC (the conservative, pro-corporate group of Democrats) apologizing for being Democrats and promising to “purge” the party of the likes of, well, all of US! Their comments are so hilarious and really not even worth recognizing but the media is paying so much attention to them, I thought it might be worth doing a little reality check.
    The most people the DLC is able to get out to an event of theirs is about 200 at their annual dinner (where you have to pay thousands of dollars to get in).
    Contrast this with the following:
    * Total Members of Move On: More than 2,000,000* Total Attendance at Vote for Change Concerts: An estimated 280,000* Total Union Members in U.S.: Around 16,000,000* Total Number of People Who Have Seen “Fahrenheit 9/11”: Over 50 million* Total Number of You Reading This: Perhaps 10 million or more
    The days of trying to move the Democratic Party to the right are over. We lost a very close election (a one-state difference) by running the #1 liberal in the Senate. Not bad. The country is shifting in our direction, not to the right. But the country was attacked and people were scared. They were manipulated with fear. And America has never thrown a sitting president out during wartime. That’s the facts. Oh, and our candidate could have run a better campaign (but we’ll have that discussion another day).
    In the meantime, while we reflect on what went wrong, I would like to pass on to you an essay that a friend who works with abuse victims sent to me. It was written by a woman who has spent years working as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and she sees many parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to last month’s election. Her name is Mel Giles and here is what she had to say…
    Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the ‘new’ language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"
    And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
    They will tell you: Every single day.
    The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.
    As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
    Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).
    And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.
    How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.
    First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.
    Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it's better than the abuse.
    We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.
    Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser.
    Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, "loose,” irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
    Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education.
    And they don't even know they are being hit.
    How true. And that is our challenge over the next couple of years; to hold out our hand to those being hit the hardest and help them leave behind a party that only seeks to keep beating them, their children, and the kid next door who’s on his way to Iraq.

    Ballots Wrongly Denied in Wash. Gov. Race
    SEATTLE - The election director in Seattle's King County said Monday that hundreds of absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected in the heavily Democratic stronghold - enough to swing the close governor's race to Democrat Christine Gregoire. A statewide hand recount is under way across Washington state after Republican Dino Rossi came out ahead of Gregoire by just 42 votes out of 2.9 million cast. King County Elections Director Dean Logan said he will ask the county Canvass Board on Wednesday to amend the results of the Nov. 2 election in his county. Agreement is likely; Logan has a seat on the three-person board, and one of the other members is a Democrat. Logan said election workers mistakenly rejected 561 absentee ballots because they thought signatures on the ballots did not match original voter registration records. However, he said that the signatures simply were not on file in the county's computerized voter registration system and that original registration records should have been checked. "We need to correct the error and count those votes," Logan said in a statement. One of the rejected ballots belonged to King County Council Chairman Larry Phillips, The Seattle Times reported. "I was under the absolute impression not only I voted, but followed the instructions correctly," Phillips said. "If it can happen to the King County Council chairman, it can happen to anyone else."

    The penchant for meddling in other people's business arrived on these shores with the calvinist Pilgrims, who came to America after having failed to overthrow not one but two governments and establish a theocracy in their own image in England and Holland.Despite the assertions of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we are probably as far away from realizing those ideals in some ways as we were while the ink was drying on the signatures, thanks to the puritan mindset which has infected our country since its founding.The mentality that drives the right wing is FAR from silly. It is DANGEROUS and DESTRUCTIVE of our individual rights and freedoms. And people who espouse the view that they have both the RIGHT and the DUTY to tell the rest of us what to do are on the march.They will, if unchecked, dictate whom we may marry, whom we may love, whether or not we may have children, whether or not a woman has control of her own body, what we may read, what we may view on TV and at the movies, and, ultimately, what God we may worship, never mind the midnight knock on the door. That's already here. Just ask the scores of innocent Arab-Americans who were illegally detained after 9/11..Far-fetched? Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have declared publicly that most main-stream churches (including the Anglican) are not "Christian." And Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell sit on the right hand of Bush, in ignominy everlasting. The Texas Unitarians have already lost their state tax-exempt status because they aren't, quote, "a Christian church."The present fundamentalist-Roman Catholic-Mormon coalition will fly apart the MINUTE the fundamentalists believe they can do without the RCs and the Mormons. Likewise, the "Judeo" in "Judeo-Christian" will evaporate the MINUTE they feel they have the power. Remember the Southern Baptists' "The Year of the Jew?"Make no mistake about it ... the present regime is hell-bent on putting the Dominionist agenda into practice in the United States of America. Google "Dominionism" if you want to have REAL nightmares. Dominionism's agenda is virtually identical to the Texas State Republican Party platform, large chunks of which were lifted in toto and written into the National Republican Party platform.For the first time since Vietnam, there was a report on the national news last night about people seeking to emigrate to Canada because of the outcome of the US elections ... not just GLBT people ... ALL kinds of people. When interviewed, they unanimously asserted that the freedoms that American has always (ostensibly) stood for are under attack, and that they would feel SAFER in Canada.I hope the appalling significance of that isn't lost on people, but it probably will be.I would suggest that everyone scrape together the money for at least a basic ACLU membership. If you can give more, do so. It appears that they are the only thing that stands between us and a right-wing neo-fascist Dominionist dictatorship.

    DATE: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2004 - 8:00 AM
    Insiders Shift To Finger-Pointing In Wake Of Kerik Nomination Flap. White House officials and outside advisers are engaged in a furious round of finger-pointing that's rare in the buttoned-up Bush Administration. The controversy stems from the botched nomination of Bernard Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security. Among those getting a share of the blame: White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who seems to be taking the hardest hits. One prominent Republican who is close to the White House told US News Bulletin, "Of all the advisers, Giuliani knew Kerik the best and the President trusted his judgment. All this reveals a flaw in the administration's personnel system." Both Democrats and Republicans predicted Giuliani "would take the greatest political heat," the Los Angeles Times reports this morning, but at the White House, officials said the "failed nomination would not affect Bush's relationship with Giuliani." CBS Evening News said "some Republicans say it's a serious misstep for a man who may run for president in 2008." In addition, some White House reporters are seething at how the Kerik withdrawal was handled -- in an e-mail sent to reporters at about 10 p.m.. on Friday, without warning or advance notice. Most correspondents, not having been alerted to the potential news, had closed their stories for the day and gone home. Their complaints, expressed to US News Bulletin, are part of a larger series of problems that the press corps sees in the Bush White House: A zealous desire to keep secrets and make it as difficult as possible to get information about the administration and its decisions, a goal of burying bad news as much as possible, and an insistent refusal to admit mistakes. The President "has not settled on a new choice for Homeland Security," and there are "a number of questions how the White House could have nominated Kerik with all his baggage in the first place," ABC World News Tonight reported. CBS Evening News added that the episode "raises questions, not only about Kerik's background, but the government background check, before he was nominated." The vetting process, headed by Gonzalez, "is supposed to include detailed questionnaires and an interview with the potential nominee," NBC Nightly News noted. But the White House said its check into Kerik's past "had actually been more extensive than officials had indicated earlier," the New York Times reports, with Press Secretary Scott McClellan saying the review "had gone on for weeks" before Bush picked Kerik. But the New York Times also reports that "there was no indication that the White House was aware" that the New York City Department of Investigation looked into Kerik's "social relationship with the owner of a New Jersey construction company suspected of having business ties to organized crime figures" four years ago. Bush To Push Hard For Social Security Overhaul At Summit. President Bush has decided to make a big pitch for Social Security overhaul at the economic "summit" with business leaders later this week in Washington. White House officials tell US News Bulletin that Bush wants to focus on the "economic challenges we face" in the future, and will call for an end to "lawsuit abuse" -- the newest White House vocabulary for tort reform -- urge passage of tax reform, and advocate the need for "budgetary discipline" in Washington. But Bush is most eager to make a pitch for partial privatization of Social Security. Administration insiders tell US News Bulletin that Bush has concluded that he can persuade the Republican-controlled Congress to pass his plan in 2006. It would allow workers to invest part of their Social Security funds in the private sector. A senior Bush adviser tells US News Bulletin, "The President wants to make the case personally, both to business leaders and to the country at large." Paid PR Effort To Reform Social Security Could Top $40 Million. White House and Republican National Committee officials are being advised to spend $40 million or more on TV ads to promote President Bush's plan to reform Social Security. A Republican media strategist tells US News Bulletin, "It's going to take at least that much if they want to succeed." The White House appears to agree that an expensive TV ad and radio campaign is needed to generate public support to influence Congress over the policy. Insiders tell US News Bulletin that the Administration hopes to get support groups and the RNC to spend $30 million or more to help the President's program.. Under one Administration scenario, the Social Security effort will go first or second in the second term plans that also includes tax and tort reform. Unclear is whether the Administration will try to push one, two or all three through Congress at the same time. Several strategists are calling on the Administration to focus instead on one initiative at a time. Bush Nominates Leavitt For HHS. President Bush yesterday nominated Environmental Protection Administrator Michael Leavitt to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Wall Street Journal reports if confirmed, Leavitt "would face a tight budget and pressure to rein in government spending on health care." The Washington Times reports Leavitt "is viewed favorably among the rank and file at HHS, especially because of his track record on family issues." Knight Ridder describes Leavitt as "a former Utah governor and Bush loyalist who specialized in defusing contentious debates at the EPA." The Washington Post reports that "even before the nomination, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) had threatened to block Senate confirmation of the new HHS secretary out of growing frustration with White House opposition to legalizing importation of prescription drugs." Current Medicare chief Mark McClellan had been expected to be Bush's pick to head HHS. However, the New York Times reports, "Administration officials said" McClellan "was considered indispensable in his current position, where he is managing efforts to carry out a complex new law that offers prescription drug benefits to 41 million elderly and disabled people on Medicare." Potential Leavitt Successors At EPA Mentioned. The AP reports, "Potential successors to Leavitt at EPA include" Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Douglas H. Benevento, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; David Struhs, head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and Barry McBee, former chairman of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. Pentagon Wants Additional $80 Billion For Iraq, Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal reports Pentagon officials have begun preparing spending requests for a supplemental appropriations bill. The Defense officials "said they will ask the Bush administration for an additional $80 billion in emergency funding to help pay costs of the military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, slightly higher than the $70 billion to $75 billion many on Capitol Hill had expected." A Defense official said "the final White House request, which will be submitted to Congress early next year, would probably come in between $75 billion and $80 billion, pushing the total military costs, since the Iraq war began, to well over $230 billion." McCain Has "No Confidence" In Rumsfeld For Handling Of Iraq War. Sen. John McCain upped the ante in his criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday. CBS Evening News reported McCain "said flat out, he has 'no confidence' in Rumsfeld." In an interview with the AP, McCain "said his comments weren't a call for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, explaining that President Bush 'can have the team that he wants around him.'" Meanwhile, on MSNBC's Hardball, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said Defense Department civilians were responsible for the US strategy in Iraq, adding, "I think that you have to put the blame there to begin with, and they, you know, obviously they were driving the train as far as intelligence apparatus and the information we were getting and that sort of thing." Citing Family Needs, O'Keefe Submits Resignation To Bush. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe yesterday announced his resignation to President Bush in a letter, citing the need "to pursue better economic opportunity for his family," according to the New York Times . O'Keefe, who is a candidate for the position of chancellor at Louisiana State University, said "that the first of his three children would begin college next fall and that 'I owe them the same opportunity my parents provided for me to pursue higher education without the crushing burden of debt thereafter.'" The Los Angeles Times reports the "position at the Baton Rouge campus would pay $500,000 a year, compared with the $158,000 he receives at NASA." ONDCP Director Walters Plans To Stay In His Post. In a story about President Bush's announcement of his choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the AP reports that "John Walters, the national drug policy director, plans to stay in his post, White House officials said." Majoras Sworn In As FTC Chair. USA Today reports Deborah Platt Majoras, "recently confirmed by the Senate as Federal Trade Commission chairman, knows consumer protection and competition," and "she may also have one of the finest wardrobes to hit a federal agency in years. Attorney General John Ashcroft even noted her 'impeccable taste in footwear' when he sang her praises at her swearing in." Freddie Mac Selects New Top Lobbyist. Roll Call reports Freddie Mac "has offered its top lobbying job to former White House aide Tim McBride, a move that could draw to a close a nine-month search for a successor to the ousted Mitch Delk, according to several sources close to the matter." Groups Seek To Make Gonzalez Hearings Referendum On Detainee Abuse. The Washington Times reports a "host of liberal groups" are trying to turn the confirmation hearings for Attorney General-designate Alberto Gonzalez "into a referendum on suspected abuses of US military detainees." More than "two dozen civil rights and human rights groups have raised what they call 'serious concerns' and are challenging the Senate Judiciary Committee to scrutinize Mr. Gonzales' 'record, his positions and his future plans for the Justice Department.'" White House To Push "Clear Skies" Proposal In 2005. The Washington Post reports the White House "plans to push Congress to retool the nation's air quality laws early next year, according to administration and industry officials." But the move "has alarmed environmentalists, who fear that President Bush's 'Clear Skies' proposal -- which has not moved in Congress since he unveiled it in 2002 -- would undercut existing federal standards more than the administration's pending plan to revise pollution controls through regulation." Senate Democrats To Hold Unofficial Oversight Hearings. Frustrated at their lack of official power in the Senate to demand information from the Bush Administration and executive branch, UPI reports Senate Democrats "signaled they would continue to try and unofficially oversee the Bush administration." Sen. Byron L. Dorgan and Minority Leader Harry Reid "announced several oversight hearings on a range of subjects next hear. The minority party in Congress argued the Republican leadership has skirted its responsibility for administration oversight as defined in the Constitution." The hearings "have had little impact beyond political show because they are highly partisan affairs with no subpoena power." Survey Finds 24% Of Employers Plan First Quarter Hiring Boost. The Wall Street Journal reports, "About 24% of U.S. employers expect to increase hiring during the first quarter of next year, according to a closely followed survey by temporary-staffing agency Manpower Inc., suggesting that employers remain optimistic about business prospects." Several CBS Employees Face Dismissal Over Fake Document Flap. The Washington Post reports in its "Inside the Beltway" column that a "CBS News insider" said "'four or five' of the network's employees face dismissal as CBS prepares to release a 'critical' internal investigative report on the use of fake documents in a pre-election story challenging President Bush's Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air National Guard." Despite Illness, Rehnquist Has No Plans To Retire. The Wall Street Journal reports Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer, has "indicated he has no immediate plans to leave the Supreme Court." Rehnquist "decided to not vote in cases argued during the court's November session, after his late-October hospitalization for the disease, unless he is needed to break a tie." But a court spokeswoman said Rehnquist "will participate in cases next month, which will have been argued in the court's December session, 'regardless of the vote.'" USA Today reports the moves "renewed questions about whether Rehnquist's battle with thyroid cancer is limiting his ability to lead the nation's highest court." Abramoff, Scanlon Seen As Proof Washington Has Co-Opted GOP Revolution. The Weekly Standard reports in its cover story this week on the rise of Republican "Beltway bandits" Jack Abramoff and public affairs specialist Michael Scanlon. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee found that Abramoff and Scanlon, who have ties to Republican leaders such as Rep. Tom DeLay, "split as much as $82 million in fees from six tribes over three years." While Democratic lobbyists "have fattened off Washington for years," Abramoff was "merely the first Republican to discover that pretending to advance the interests of conservative small-government could, for a lobbyist, be as insanely lucrative as pretending to advance the interests of liberal big-government." Political News Ohio Electors Cast Votes For Bush Despite Dissenters' Challenge. The AP reports the 20 Ohio GOP electors cast their votes "for President Bush on Monday, hours after dissident groups asked the state Supreme Court to review the outcome of the state's presidential race." The "challengers who went to Ohio's Supreme Court question whether Mr. Bush won the key swing state by 119,000 votes." Minnesota Elector Votes For Edwards, Apparently By Mistake. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports John Kerry "likely is going to get one less electoral vote nationally than he should have -- 251 instead of 252 -- because of an apparent mistake Monday by one of Minnesota's 10 DFL electors." One of "the 10 handwritten ballots cast for president carried the name of vice presidential candidate John Edwards (actually spelled 'Ewards' on the ballot) rather than Kerry." King County To Count 561 Initially Rejected Absentee Ballots In Washington Governor's Race. The Seattle Times reports King County election officials "said today they will count 561 votes that were rejected in the governor's race." The ballots were "thrown out because the county voters' signatures didn't appear among the records in a computer database. Election workers erroneously threw out those votes before using voter-registration cards to verify signatures on absentee-ballot envelopes." The AP reports King County Elections Director Dean Logan said "hundreds of absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected in the heavily Democratic stronghold -- enough to swing the close governor's race to Democrat Christine Gregoire." The Seattle Times reports that GOP state chair Chris Vance said yesterday that Republicans are now "absolutely convinced that King County is trying to steal this election" and added, "I guess we should just keep expecting King County to find votes until they find enough." Not including the 561 ballots in King County, Rossi has a net gain of 46 votes so far during the hand-recount, bringing his lead to 88, according to the Washington Secretary of State . "Rove Envy" Seen As Hopeful Sign For Democrats. In his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne says, "Democrats have come down with a serious case of Rove Envy. It is a form of jealousy that could have some useful consequences." The "longing is for the strategic clarity and organizational acumen that Karl Rove, President Bush's political top gun, brought to the 2004 campaign." What "really irks Democrats is that they did a lot of things right this year and were still out-hustled by the GOP. Figuring out why is -- and should be -- a Democratic obsession." Howard Dean and outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe "don't agree on much. But they do agree on Rove Envy and the need for new approaches." Rendell Forms Panels To Look At Earlier Pennsylvania Presidential Primary. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this morning that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) yesterday said he would like to move the state's presidential primary from May to late January or early February to give the state a greater say in the presidential primary process, and announced the creation of a task force to examine the issue. Former Bush Campaign Official Pleads Not Guilty To Phone Jamming Plot. The AP reports James Tobin, the "former New England chairman of President Bush's reelection campaign, pleaded innocent in federal court yesterday to charges he helped jam Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002." Tobin "faces two criminal counts each of conspiring to make harassing telephone calls and aiding and abetting telephone harassment." Snowe To Run For Reelection. The AP reports this morning that Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced she was running for reelection yesterday, saying, "It's sort of early to announce all that, but people have asked me so I obviously want to make sure that people know that I do intend to run for re-election." Political Humor Jay Leno: "Bernard Kerik, has withdrawn his name. He said it's because of nanny problems. The New York Daily News says, 'No, no.' They say Kerik cheated on his wife, and he also cheated on his mistress with another woman. So now Bush thinks secretly he may be a Democrat." Jay Leno: "One political expert...says that the White House nomination of Bernard Kerik as Homeland Security chief, they said it was rushed, not fully thought out, and they didn't have a backup plan if things go wrong. That doesn't sound like the White House I know." David Letterman: "You're here on a special night. The entire balcony in the Ed Sullivan Theatre is filled with skeletons from Bernard Kerik's closet." David Letterman: "President Bush has announced that our new Energy Secretary will be Sam Bodman. Yeah. Gee, I hope he can fill the charisma void left by Spencer Abraham."

    Sunday, December 12, 2004

    Developer Richard Huffman Banks On The Backs Of The Working Poor
    Heritage Village- Austin Texas (Want to See Heritage Village?-East-Austin, at 183 and MLK first left on Regency, then right on Parliament.)
    I am one pissed-off homeowner. I live in Heritage Village, (east Austin), a new community of homeowners that have been taken advantage of!I have "anonymously" circulated the follwing letter to all of the homeowner's in the Heritage Village HOA. I will also be mailing copies to the Austin City Council, the HOA President, KVUE News, and Austin Area Radio Stations, not to mention The Austin American- Statesman.DON"T GET SCAMMED BY THE FAST TALKING REPUBLICAN HOA PRESIDENT!Were You told when you bought your home here in Heritage Village that section 8 housing would be your neighbor?Overwhelmingly, the answer is no.We were taken advantage of as new home buyers with middle class incomes.We were offered incentives to own our homes in East Austin. We were promised a "Hyde Park style community"- WE DID NOT GET THIS!Do you wonder why homes are not selling as fast as when you bought your house?If you have lived here any length of time, you have seen a nice little community turn into an East Austin nice-looking slum.Who is to blame for this?Have you had to call the police lately? Most of us have. Some of the Government Subsidized Rentals here have been causing violence, noise disturbance, harassment, car break- ins, and drug activity.Have you complained to our President Richard Huffman?Has anything really been done?Where has your $$$$$ gone that you have paid to the Home Owners Association?Are the roads kept clean? Or are there non- running automobiles sitting in front of homes and in yards?Has anybody knocked on your door lately begging for money or alchohol?Have you complained and it still happens?Can you honestly say you are PROUD to live in Heritage Village?Is it everything you were promised?Would have bought here if you knew there were going to be Section 8 Rentals?We were promised a community that would be professionally managed.Are you getting your money’s worth?Call Richard Huffman today and DEMAND he turn over his Presidency of the Home Owner’s Association to a PROFESSIONAL firm. Call the REALTOR that sold you the home and DEMAND their backing!After all, if they clean up the problems in this new community, they will be able to sell their homes and we will have decent neighbors. Our property will go up in value in the community is well- maintained. We will be able to walk our streets and in our yards without the fear of gang and drug activity.Don’t think there is any gang or drug activity going on here? Knock door to door and ask your neighbor what they have seen!Let’s work together to make this neighborhood the safe neighborhood in East Austin.Section 8 Tax Credits are a program of the Internal Revenue Service, where landlords obtain tax benefits for renting to low income households.If you are aware of fraud, waste, and abuse in SECTION 8 HUD programs and operations, report it to HUD's Inspector General Hotline!(Don’t know what what homes are Section 8 in Heritage Village?- Call Heritage Village HOA President Richard Huffmann.)What kinds of things should you report? Mismanagement or violations of law, rules, or regulations by HUD employees or program participants.Your complaint will be kept confidential if it is received on the phone, through the mail, or in person. We cannot guarantee confidentiality if you send your complaint by e-mail.Laws protect you from reprisals (any action taken against you because you filed this complaint).You can submit your complaint one of 4 ways:Online, through e-mail. Remember: if you submit your complaint online (through e-mail), it is possible - though unlikely - that others could read it since the internet is not secure.By Phone:Call toll free: 1-800-347-3735TDD: 202- 708-2451By Fax: 202- 708-4829By Mail:Department of Housing & Urban DevelopmentOffice of Inspector General HotlineAssistant Inspector General for Investigations451 7th Street, S.W., Room 8270,Washington, DC 20410

    Austin Activist Asked To Back Down
    By now, my loyal followers know that I don't stand by and let the rich, money grubbing, lying Republican business owner's in Austin take advantage of my working class ass and people all over Austin just like me.I recently ran a map and pictures of Heritage Village on the website. I also ran word for word a flyer that was circulated in this east Austin community- and I ran the truth- in my own words in a column bashing developers of the community, the Section 8 Program- and realtors that may have told homebuyers here what they believed to be true at the time, or, possibly enhanced their words a bit to help make a sale.Today, phone calls were put out by realtors and builders and it is rumored that even the developers made calls to home owners here denying the words that were stuck to doors on a flyer- and posted here on my website. They have asked that the activity of Free Speech not be committed here- after all, before we got vocal; not everyone knew what was going on here.And what is going on here will continue to be posted here on this website- just as any other situation of this matter would be posted here.The flyer that was circulated demanded that the developer, Richard Huffman release his duties as Heritage Village's HOA president and turn them over to a professional group.However, today we were told this probably can't be done on the 12$ a month each home owner here pays to be part of a Home Owner Association.Heritage Village is a development of 56 homes in east Austin.This means that at 12$ a home, multiplied by 56, that Richard Huffman acting as HOA is in charge of $8,064.00 a year to oversee this neighborhood.All we want to know, is where is this moneyt being spent, if it is being spent at all- and why are we getting the run- around when we report problems that are going to make this neighborhood a problem neighborhood?Voice of The Austin Majority started as my little blog- Anti- Bush and Anti- Republican, but has grown to a group of Austin area activists that share posts and use this very valuable form of media.The reason I started this blog was to stop the religious right and their agenda.Now, the rich Republicans that I am working to stop have hit my community and I will not stand for them taking advantage of my hard working middle class community.So the fight has only just begun...And no, mouths will not be shut.In fact, as an activist- my mouth just got bigger and my agenda even stronger.The struggle to make Heritage Village a beautiful and problem free neighborhood will be won.A construction worker told me that one of the builder's here has possible plans to run politically for office in Austin.I say, I don't yet know what you will be running for-but you can be sure I will sign up as the proud DEMOCRAT running against you!Sincerely and in solidarity-Joshua P. Angell

    Doctors say Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin, suspect foul play

    Top Stories - AFP
    VIENNA (AFP) - Ukrainian opposition leader and presidential hopeful Viktor Yushchenko was the victim of dioxin poisoning, his doctor in Vienna has disclosed, adding that he suspected foul play.
    AFP/File Photo

    "There is no doubt about the fact that the disease has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin," said Dr Michael Zimpfer, the medical chief of Vienna's Rudolfinerhaus clinic on Saturday.
    "We have found levels of dioxin in the body caused by oral ingestion," he told a news conference at the private clinic. "We suspect a cause triggered by a third party."
    The findings follow three months of speculation about an ailment that struck Yushchenko on September 6, leaving him in pain and barely recognisable with a severely disfigured face as he tries to win the Ukraine's bitterly-contested presidency.
    Zimpfer said tests on blood and tissue samples had revealed amounts of dioxin in Yushchenko's body that were "a thousand times above the normal levels you would find in blood and tissues."
    Dioxin is the name of a group of closely related toxins that can cause cancer and death, and was used in the defoliant Agent Orange. It is known to cause a severe skin disease called chloracne and damage to the liver and nervous systems.
    The 50-year-old Yushchenko was known for his good looks, but since he fell ill his face has been partially paralysed and pock-marked, and doctors have reported severe liver problems.
    The pro-Western politician has repeatedly claimed that he was poisoned by political rivals, on Friday telling reporters: "The aim was to kill me."
    Zimpfer however pointed out that it was up to the courts to decide whether he had been the victim of a murder plot, telling journalists: "Our diagnosis says poisoning. It is up to the legal authorities to decide whether it was deliberate."
    The release of the medical findings comes two weeks before Yushchenko will again face Viktor Yanukovich, who has taken a leave of absence as prime minister, in a re-run of Ukraine's November 21 presidential elections.
    The vote sparked the biggest crisis in the country's 13 years of independence before the supreme court invalidated the results, which handed victory to the pro-Russian Yanukovich, on the grounds of fraud.
    Yushchenko is seen as the likely winner of the re-run set for December 26, and had been comfortably leading Yanukovich in the polls in September when he fell ill.
    His political opponents dismissed his health crisis as a bad case of food poisoning, while Ukrainian public prosecutors said on October 22 that an investigation had found he was suffering from a fever caused by a virus that affected his liver.

    $2 Million for a Presidential Yacht?
    By Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.This is one in a series of weekly syndicated columns written by Governor Howard Dean.
    Immediately after Election Day, President Bush promised that he would use his political capital to bring unity back to America. Less than a month later, he is about to sign a spending bill which voids all those nice words and promises. It is not what the President says that matters, it is what he does that counts.
    These are a few things which the spending bill contains:
    Pell grants will become unavailable for 85,000 students that were receiving them and another 1.2 million students will have their Pell Grant funding decreased. On the other hand, the bill appropriates $2 million to buy a presidential yacht.
    Farmers lose over $400 million of soil conservation money. On the other hand, the bill funds the American Cotton Museum in Texas.
    The President's commitment to education remains under funded by roughly $400 million from what the President promised in order to support local schools under "No Child Left Behind." On the other hand, the president has agreed to sign over $1 million for seafood marketing efforts in Alaska—home of Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens.
    Even worse, the money for this bill does not exist. Every penny of these appropriations adds to the deficit. Why? Because two weeks ago, the Republicans passed and the President signed a bill authorizing nearly an additional $2 trillion dollars of borrowing, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay back—with interest. Two weeks before that, the President signed a bill giving $139 billion to big corporations like oil and tobacco companies and even Chinese manufacturers of ceiling fans.
    One of the most spectacular parts of this week's bill, added in by Rep. Ernest Istook (R—Okla.), allows the staff members of congressmen and senators to rummage through any American's tax returns. Fortunately, Senator Kent Conrad (D—N.D.) of North Dakota noticed this while it was being rushed through Congress to get to the President's desk. As of this writing, this provision has not been taken out of the bill—so nosey congressmen, senators and their staffs will be able to pry through your tax returns.
    Americans deserve a better government than this. I very much hope that Democrats will provide at least a strong opposition force to this kind of spending and to these kinds of gross invasions of personal privacy, which the President's party apparently thinks are justified.
    I hope the Democrats and moderate Republicans in Congress will stand up for better priorities than this administration has, no matter how nice the President's words. Nice words will not save our farmers, our environment and our schools. Nice words will not protect the privacy of our tax records. Leaders who understand the value of a dollar will protect us and our children, and leaders who respect Americans as individuals will give America back the kind of country we deserve.
    I do not believe it is our job to support a philosophy, which can be summed up as "Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend". Loyal and patriotic Americans have an obligation to their country to stand up for fiscal policies which make America stronger, not weaker.

    Governor Dean's GWU Speech Transcript
    Remarks made by Governor Howard Dean on the Future of the Democratic Party. Given at The George Washington University on December 8, 2004.
    Thank you for that introduction. It's a pleasure to be here.
    Let me tell you what my plan for this Party is:
    We're going to win in Mississippi...and Alabama...and Idaho...and South Carolina.
    Four years ago, the President won 49 percent of the vote. The Republican Party treated it like it was a mandate, and we let them get away with it.
    Fifty one percent is not a mandate either. And this time we're not going to let them get away with it.
    Our challenge today is not to re-hash what has happened, but to look forward, to make the Democratic Party a 50-state party again, and, most importantly, to win.To win the White House and a majority in Congress, yes. But also to do the real work that will make these victories possible -- to put Democratic ideas and Democratic candidates in every office -- whether it be Secretary of State, supervisor of elections, county commissioner or school board member.
    Continue reading >

    Conservative equals selfish.---

    Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.--- Joseph Stalin

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do itfrom religious conviction. --- Blaise Pascal

    (Louisville, Kentucky) Louisville city council has rejected a campaign that vilified gays and passed a civil rights ordinance that includes a ban on discrimination based on gender identity and sexualorientation.Following an often heated two-hour debate Metro Council voted 19-6 topass the measure.The ordinance mirrors the old Jefferson County civil-rights ordinance,which has been in place since 1999. Under the city-county merger, alllaws carried forward from Jefferson County and the old city ofLouisville must be re-enacted by the end of 2007 or will be strickenfrom the books.Opening up the ordinance for reconsideration gave conservative lobbygroups, who failed in a bid five years ago to kill the law when it wasoriginally brought up, a new opportunity to defeat the measure.Four proposed amendments were defeated, including one that would'vesent the proposed ordinance to the voters.The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion,national origin, family status, age, disability, sex, gender identityor sexual orientation in hiring, housing and accommodations.In the days leading up to Thursday night's vote conservative groupsmounted an aggressive campaign labeling the ordinance "unchristian".(story)
    Mailboxes throughout the city were filled with flyers and leaflets telling people to pressure
    their council members to vote against themeasure.The majority of the material was sent by
    the Evangel World PrayerCenter that claimed teachers would be forced to give classes in gay sex.The mailings claim that the proposal also would require employers to"hire someone just because of their sexual behavior.""My eyes have been opened that bigotry, discrimination, anger andhatred run rampant in this city," said Metro Council member MadonnaFlood. "It should not be tolerated by any of us."Mayor Jerry Abramson said he will sign the ordinance.© 2004

    Debate on Secret Program Bursts Into Open
    By DOUGLAS JEHL - An intense secret debate about a previouslyunknown, enormously expensive technical intelligence program has burstinto light in the form of scathing criticism from members of theSenate Intelligence Committee.For two years, the senators have disclosed, Republicans and Democratson the panel have voted to block the secret program, which is believedto be a system of new spy satellites. But it continues to be financedat a cost that former Congressional officials put at hundreds ofmillions of dollars a year with support from the House, the Bushadministration and Congressional appropriations committees.Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democraton the panel, denounced the program on Wednesday on the Senate flooras "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful."Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, later called it "unnecessary,ineffective, over budget and too expensive."Neither senator would say much more about what he was referring to.Even in private on Thursday, most Congressional and intelligenceofficials who were asked refused to comment about the name, purpose orcost of the program. But former Congressional and intelligenceofficials who oppose it said it would duplicate capabilities inexistence or in development, as part of the country's vast network ofsatellites, aircraft and drones designed for eavesdropping andreconnaissance.Among the possibilities suggested by private experts, including JohnPike of, a research organization in Alexandria,Va., were that the system might be a controversial unproven program tolaunch a reconnaissance satellite that adversaries could not detect.Former Congressional officials said they would discount speculationthat the debate had to do with any antisatellite space warfare capability.A number of satellite programs in development, including a FutureImaging Architecture system that Boeing is developing, have been thesubject of considerable public controversy, because of technicalproblems and cost overruns. But current and former governmentofficials said they did not believe that the Boeing program was thesubject of the new dispute.In addition to Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Wyden, two other Democraticsenators made their opposition public on Wednesday, saying the moneydedicated to the acquisition program could better be transferred toother intelligence gathering as part of what is widely understood tobe the $40 billion intelligence budget.The program being disputed by the senators is to be financed thisyear, but current and former government officials said Republicans aswell as Democrats intended to redouble their efforts to block it.The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency did not respond toa request for comment about the dispute. The Republican chairman ofthe House military appropriations subcommittee, whose support for theprogram has been instrumental in keeping it alive, also did notrespond to a request for comment.The most specific public hints on the program were by Mr. Wyden, whosaid on the Senate floor, "This issue must be highlighted, because itis not going away.""Numerous independent reviews," he said, "have concluded that theprogram does not fulfill a major intelligence gap or shortfall, andthe original justification for developing this technology has erodedin importance due to the changed practices and capabilities of ouradversaries. There are a number of other programs in existence and indevelopment whose capabilities can match those envisioned for thisprogram at far less cost and technological risk."The Senate Intelligence Committee first expressed concern about theprogram three years ago, and it has voted to block it for the last twoyears, Congressional officials said. A former Defense Departmentofficial said of the program: "This is something that does not passmuster and is indicative of the inability of intelligence agencies toprioritize or make decisions. There are billions of dollars of wastein the intelligence budget."A former Congressional official said that "hard decisions should havebeen made to make choices" when Congress first authorized andappropriated the money several years ago."Instead," the former official said, "the decision was made to just goahead with go with everything."Even the $40 billion figure attached to the current intelligencebudget remains no more than an estimate, because spending figuresremain classified by law. But much of the budget is widely understoodto be devoted to the design, construction and operation of satellitesand other platforms used to collect images, signals and other forms oftechnical intelligence.Many critics have long complained that human intelligence programsremain underfinanced, at least in relative terms. In a directive lastmonth, President Bush asked the C.I.A. to spell out a plan and atimetable to increase its clandestine service by 50 percent.A compromise negotiated between the House and Senate this weekprovides authorization for continued financing for the disputedprogram. It was approved by 13 of the 17 senators on the IntelligenceCommittee and all of their House counterparts.Because the financing had been approved in a military appropriationsbill, Congressional officials said, the authorizing committees did nothave the power to transfer the money to other intelligence programs.But an unclassified version of the conference report released onWednesday reported that Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Richard J.Durbin of Illinois, both Democrats, along with Mr. Rockefeller and Mr.Wyden, had refused to sign the compromise.The report said the senators believed that the money dedicated forwhat was described only as "a major acquisition program" ought to be"expended on other intelligence programs that will make a surer andgreater contribution to national security."

    By Dan Eggen
    The Washington Post December 2004
    Intelligence bill includes disputed anti-terror moves.
    The intelligence package that Congress approved this week includesa series of little-noticed measures that would broaden thegovernment's power to conduct terrorism investigations, includingprovisions to loosen standards for FBI surveillance warrants and allowthe Justice Department to more easily detain suspects without bail. Other law-enforcement-related measures in the bill - expected tobe signed by President Bush next week - include an expansion of thecriteria that constitute "material support" to terrorist groups andthe ability to share U.S. grand jury information with foreigngovernments in urgent terrorism cases. These and other changes designed to strengthen federalcounterterrorism programs have long been sought by the Bushadministration and the Justice Department but have languished inCongress, in part because of opposition from civil liberties advocates. Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo characterized themeasures as "common-sense reforms aimed at preventing terrorist attacks." "We are very pleased that the Congress agreed with us that despitehaving passed the Patriot Act right after 9/11, we still had work todo," Corallo said, referring to the anti-terrorism legislationapproved in October 2001. "We have to constantly look at the laws andlook at our vulnerabilities and make sure we are doing everything wecan within the law to protect the American people." But civil liberties advocates and some Democrats said the measureswould do little to protect the public while further erodingconstitutional protections for innocent people caught up ininvestigations. Critics also say the proposed changes were overshadowed by thedebate over other aspects of the bill, which puts in place manyintelligence agency reforms proposed by the independent commissionthat investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some Democrats say theyreluctantly approved the package because they favored the broaderintelligence changes. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said that while he voted for thebill because of its intelligence reforms, he opposed much of theexpansion of law enforcement power. Most of it was not part of theSept. 11 panel's recommendations. "I am troubled by some provisions that were added in conferencethat have nothing to do with reforming our intelligence network,"Feingold said. He later added: "This Justice Department has a recordof abusing its detention powers post-9/11 and of making terrorismallegations that turn out to have no merit." Charlie Mitchell, legislative counsel for the American CivilLiberties Union, said the law enforcement measures are "most troublingin terms of the trend they represent." He added: "They keep pushingand pushing without any attempt to review what they've done." Congressional aides said most of the law enforcement measures wereincluded as part of the original House proposal for intelligencereform, which also called for wide-ranging changes in border andimmigration policies. Although some of the most controversialprovisions were removed in House-Senate negotiations, several remainedin the bill. Some of the changes were originally part of a legislative draftdrawn up by Justice prosecutors in 2002 as a proposed expansion of theUSA Patriot Act, administration and congressional officials said. Thedraft, leaked to the media and dubbed "Patriot II" by critics, wasnever introduced as a bill in its entirety. But portions wereintroduced as stand-alone legislation. As with parts of the original Patriot Act, some of the new powerswould expire at the end of 2005 or 2006 unless Congress renewed them. One key change is a provision in the new intelligence package thattargets "lone wolf" terrorists not linked with established terroristgroups such as al Qaeda. In language similar to earlier Senatelegislation, the bill would allow the FBI to obtain secretsurveillance and search warrants of individuals without having to showa connection between the target of the warrant and a foreigngovernment or terrorist group. The provision is aimed squarely at avoiding the quandary FBIinvestigators faced in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, whengovernment lawyers haggled over whether they could link ZacariasMoussaoui to a terrorist group and legally search his belongings.Moussaoui has since been charged in connection with the attacks. Officials said other parts of the bill are direct responses tosetbacks in the courts, where prosecutors have lost cases because ofdisputes over previous legislative language. For example, thelegislation tightens the definitions of material support to terroristsin response to California federal court rulings that found the statuteunderlying such cases to be unconstitutionally vague. Other provisions in the bill include: * Suspects in major terrorism crimes automatically would be deniedbail unless they show they are not a danger or a flight risk.Advocates say the provision is modeled on similar rules for certaindrug crimes, but Mitchell said it would increase the possibility ofindefinite detention in alleged terrorism cases. * Penalties would be increased for such crimes as harboringillegal immigrants, perpetrating a terrorist hoax, and possessingsmallpox, anti-aircraft missile systems and radiological "dirty"bombs. The measure also is more explicit than current statutes inmaking it illegal to attend military-style training camps run byterrorist groups. * Federal prosecutors would be allowed to share secret informationobtained by grand juries with states or foreign governments to protectagainst terrorist attacks. German authorities, among others, havecomplained about difficulties obtaining information from the FBI andother U.S. agencies about foreign terrorist suspects.

    Searching for a moral mandate in Prop 2
    By Peter LukeLong-term gay partners of state employees will not receive health benefits under revised labor contracts up for Michigan Civil Service Commission approval this week. Such benefits, common at Michigan's universities and private corporations, would extend health and life insurance to the same-sex domestic partners of state employees. But voter approval in November of Proposal 2, the gay marriage ban, puts the legality of those benefits in doubt. So the contract provisions have been suspended by the Granholm administration and state unions until the courts decide if they are legal. Also moot for now is a resolution in the Michigan House that condemns the provisions' potential, undetermined financial cost as a "great burden on the citizens of Michigan." The resolution was sponsored by two-dozen House Republicans who have, or presumably will, serve six years. Like all lawmakers, once they turn 55 and are out of office, they'll be eligible for lifetime health insurance courtesy of those same taxpaying citizens of Michigan. Those citizens would have to work decades for the same employer to earn a comparable benefit. But the Legislature evidently believes it is no burden for taxpayers to fund the medical care of former three-term politicians and their spouses. No doubt some of those lawmakers consider state-funded lifetime prescription drug coverage just compensation for defending the moral values of Michigan. Since every election provides the template for the next one, expect a lot of talk about morality in the next two years given that the Nov. 2 election apparently was all about moral values. It must have been or else Michigan voters wouldn't have approved Proposal 2. And since they did, opponents of domestic partner benefits who supported Proposal 2 now say voters were targeting those benefits when they voted "yes." "In addition to its questionable constitutionality, extending same-sex benefits to state employees is clearly contrary to the will of the people of the state as recently expressed at the polls," says the House resolution. As will Proposal 2's authors when they get to court. Funny, when opponents of Proposal 2 sought to include the amendment's potential impact on those benefits in the ballot language, Proposal 2 supporters objected. That issue was for judges to decide, not voters. And so the courts will decide what is meant by Michigan's new constitutional language, which says "the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose." Opponents of same-sex marriage will apparently now argue that Proposal 2 really was a lot broader in its legal scope than the simplistic explanation provided to voters at the polls. Benefits long provided by Michigan's public universities will likely also be targeted. College officials who declined to campaign against Proposal 2 really do reside in ivory towers if they believe they won't face a tough legal fight on this. It's a fight they may well lose. If domestic partner benefits are ultimately determined to be illegal in Michigan, then so too will the concept of civil unions that provide the legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Civil unions are supported by the public, according to the polls. Still, Proposal 2 was simply one decision made by voters that doesn't preclude them from deciding something else down the road. In fact, the measure didn't even enact a ban on same-sex marriage. The Legislature did that in 1996. Michigan courts could decide that enacting civil unions, given Proposal 2, will require voter-approved constitutional change. Any future move in the Legislature to enact civil unions, however, likely would prompt opponents to seek a public vote anyway. Gay-rights proponents could ask voters to decide. They just have to collect the signatures to put it on the ballot. As for domestic partner benefits, state and union officials estimate that potential beneficiaries number in the dozens. There are about 57,000 state employees. Passage of Proposal 2 did do one thing: Politicians now have a mantle on which to display their moral superiority. So be it. . Contact Peter Luke at (517) 487-8888 or e-mail him

    Jay Writes:
    Hello, Everyone!I went to the Re-Defeat Bush Rally today in front of the White House on Lafayette Park!David Lytel, founder of the Committee to Redefeat the President; Bill Moss, Columbus School Board Member and lead plaintiff in the lawsuits against George Walker Bush and J. Kenneth Blackwell; and countless others spoke. Mr. Lytel, well aware this will be an up-hill battle to get people on our side who don't really want to hear such, requested that everyone use the following list to blast mails to their respective contact lists.Can you use the talking points on this "Talk Back FAQ" to notify everyone you know about alleged election 2004 fraud?Best regards,J.Electoral Coup 2004 Talk Back F.A.Q.What evidence do you have of a conspiracy to steal the presidential election?We believe that the deliberate misadministration of the election by Republican state officials in Ohio and Florida, and possibly other states as well, has been used to secure Kerry's concession and the planned reinauguration of George W. Bush, who once again received less support from the American people than his opponent. We believe that the recounts to be conducted at the instigation of the Green and Libertarian Parties and the Nader campaign in OH, FL, NH, NM and NV will confirm what statistical analysis done by numerous objective analysts has already pointed out -- that the voting machinery sold to election administrators by Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and other companies gave Bush a 5 to 15% bonus beyond the number of votes he received from actual voters. Voting machines were distributed by Republican election officials to gain partisan advantage -- deliberately holding back voting machines from heavily Democratic areas in both FL and OH. According to a reputable analysis of the impact of just this one vote suppression technique in Ohio, it cost John Kerry approximately 50,000 votes or close to half of Bush's margin of victory. There are also highly dubious results in a number of counties in both states that suggest improper counting of the votes after the polls had closed. If these irregularities and the patterns among them can be brought to light it will show that Bush received fewer popular votes and fewer electoral votes than Kerry and that Kerry, not Bush, was elected president on November 2, 2004.But the difference in the popular vote between Bush and Kerry is an insurmountable 3M votes. Even if there was some shenanigans how can winning a narrow victory for Kerry in Ohio or Florida possibly be a democratically justified outcome if more Americans wanted Bush to be their president?Just because the margin of victory secured by Bush is in millions rather than the thousands does not mean his margin was lawfully secured. We believe that a nationwide investigation would find significant vote suppression activities and vote count irregularities in IN, NC and other states as well and that these are the basis of the margin of victory Bush is credited with having received in the popular vote.You only get a few hundred people at your demonstrations. If you were really right about this, wouldn't there be tens of thousands protesting, like in Ukraine?The international arms of the Democratic and Republican parties spent over $40M mobilizing citizens in Ukraine to oppose the results of the presidential election there, so while it may appear spontaneous, the opposition forces have been organizing this outpouring of anguish for many weeks beforehand in anticipation of such an outcome. They now have the attention of the world, including for the first time equal standing and recognition in the Ukrainian media. In the U.S., there are no large organizations spending significant sums mobilizing people and the allegations of vote suppression and vote count manipulation have either been ignored or ridiculed by the commercial news media. As the truth comes out, more people will join our protests.Both Democrats and Republicans work to maximize their vote and minimize the votes received by their opponents all the time. Aren't you just sore losers who can't accept the outcome?There was not in 2004, nor to our knowledge has there ever been, a concerted effort by the Democratic Party or its elected officials to inhibit voting by Republicans. The Republicans, on the other hand, have expanded their efforts to distribute false information to voters on the time, place and manner of voting in order to sew confusion and chaos. This goes beyond the boundaries of what is permissable in a democracy and must be severely sanctioned. We believe that the exit polls at 8:00 eastern time on election night that showed Kerry winning a popular vote victory of 3% were more correct than the results recorded on the voting machines and announced as official results, so yes, we do not accept the legitimacy of the official outcome.You are never going to be satisfied that it was a fair election unless your candidate wins, what could be more anti-democratic than that?We are prepared to accept a Bush victory if that is truly what the American people turned out on November 2nd to indicate. However, until and unless there is an open and transparent voting process managed by impartial observers that can be monitored and verified by an independent news media we do not believe the election of George W. Bush to be legitimate.But even the leaders of your own party have accepted a Kerry defeat. Why can't you get over it already?The Democratic celebrities on television and the Democratic National Committee are willing to accept a far higher level of fraud than we are, and with all due respect to Senator Kerry, securing a fair election is a matter that involves all Americans. His decision to end his quest for the presidency stems from his acceptance of a set of facts that have been mistated by the commercial news media, and in particular by the commercially-sponsored right wing partisan advocates they employ and whose careers they promote. Senator Kerry can not accept a fraudulent election on behalf of the people who voted for him any more than the manager of a bank can announce that he accepts the theft of millions of dollars and does not wish to pursue the burglars. This matter is now one for law enforcement, not politicians.So what do you want to happen if it is found that people did manipulate vote counting and engage in widespread vote suppression activities?We have until January 6th to sort this out since that is the date that Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes and recognize the winner. We want at least one Democratic Senator to stand with the members of the Congressional Black Caucus to challenge the award of Florida and Ohio's electoral votes to Bush, and for the Democratic Members of the House Judiciary Committee to be prepared to state their case for all to hear. We want criminal prosecutions of the treasonous conspirators involved, ranging from Republican operatives on the precinct level to Republican state office holders to the president himself and his closest political advisors. The leaders of a conspiracy to commit crimes of this magnitude should be charged with treason against the United States. And we want the affidavits of citizens whose ability to vote was, to use the phrase in the Constitution, "in any way impaired," must be collected, tabulated and published. In states in which there were 550,000 or more attempts to prevent people from voting or count their votes honestly, those states should lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is the penalty for fraudulent elections specified in the Constitution. This penalty should be invoked at each election in which massive fraud occurs, so that the Congressional delegations of those states shrink if the state is habitually incapable of administering fair elections.Copyright © ReDefeat Bush. All Rights Reserved.

    As the Democratic Party goes through its quadrennial self-flagellation process, the same tired old consultants and insiders are once again complaining that Democratic elected officials have no national agenda and no message.Yet encrypted within the 2004 election map is a clear national economic platform to build a lasting majority. You don't need Fibonacci's sequence, a decoder ring, or 3-D glasses to see it. You just need to start asking the right questions.Where, for instance, does a Democrat get off using a progressive message to become governor of Montana? How does an economic populist Democrat keep winning a congressional seat in what is arguably America's most Republican district? Why do culturally conservative rural Wisconsin voters keep sending a Vietnam-era anti-war Democrat back to Congress? What does a self-described socialist do to win support from conservative working-class voters in northern New England?The answers to these and other questions are the Democrats' very own Da Vinci Code - a road map to political divinity. It is the path Karl Rove fears. He knows his GOP is vulnerable to Democrats who finally follow leaders who have translated a populist economic agenda into powerful cultural and values messages. It also threatens groups like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which has pushed the Democratic Party to give up on its working-class roots and embrace big business' agenda. These New Democrats, backed by huge corporate contributions, say that the party must reduce corporate regulation and embrace a free-trade policy that is wiping out local economies throughout the heartland. They have the nerve to call this agenda "centrist" even though poll after poll shows it is far out of the mainstream. Yet these centrists get slaughtered at the ballot box, and their counterparts - the progressive economic populists - are racking up wins and relegating the DLC argument to the scrap heap.The code's seven lessons are clear, and have been for some time. The question is, will party insiders see the obvious and finally follow their real leaders? Or will they continue mimicking Republican corporatism, thereby hastening their own demise?*Fight the Class War*If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, crying "class warfare" is the last refuge of wealthy elitists. Yet, inexplicably, this red herring emasculates Democrats in Washington. Every time pro-middle-class legislation is offered, Republicans berate it as class warfare. Worse, they get help from corporate factions within the Democratic Party itself.But as countless examples show, progressives are making inroads into culturally conservative areas by talking about economic class. This is not the traditional (and often condescending) Democratic pandering about the need for a nanny government to provide for the masses. It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans.In Vermont, Rep. Bernie Sanders, the House's only independent and a self-described socialist, racks up big wins in the "Northeast Kingdom," the rock-ribbed Republican region along the New Hampshire border. Far from the Birkenstock-wearing, liberal caricature of Vermont, the Kingdom is one of the most culturally conservative hotbeds in New England, the place that helped fuel the "Take Back Vermont" movement against gay civil unions.Yet the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Sanders' economic stances help him bridge the cultural divide. In the 1990s, he was one of the most energetic opponents of the trade deals with China and Mexico that destroyed the local economy. In the Bush era, he highlighted the inequity of the White House's soak-the-rich tax-cut plan by proposing to instead provide $300 tax-rebate checks to every man, woman, and child regardless of income (a version of Sanders' rebate eventually became law). For his efforts, Sanders has been rewarded in GOP strongholds like Newport Town. While voters there backed George W. Bush and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2004, they also gave Sanders 68 percent of the vote.Sanders' strength among rural conservatives is not just a cult of personality; it is economic populism's broader triumph over divisive social issues. In culturally conservative Derby, for instance, a first-time third-party candidate used a populist message to defeat a longtime Republican state representative who had become an icon of Vermont's anti-gay movement.The same message is working in conservative swaths of Oregon, where Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio keeps getting re-elected in a Bush district. For DeFazio, the focus is unfair trade deals and taxpayer giveaways to the wealthy. When Republicans promote plans to "save" Social Security, DeFazio counters not by agreeing with privatization but with his plan to force the wealthy to start paying more into the system.The message is also used by Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor, who represents a district that gave 65 percent of its vote to Bush in 2000 and was previously represented in the House by Trent Lott. Taylor bucks his district's GOP tilt by mixing opposition to free trade with what the Almanac of American Politics calls "peppery populism" and a demeanor that is "feisty to the point of being belligerent." "Unlike the policy hawks who never leave Washington ... I know the owners of factories, the foreman, and the workers, and they'll all tell you it's because of NAFTA that their factories closed," Taylor told newspapers in late 2003, criticizing the trade deal signed by President Bill Clinton.This message contrasts with that of the DLC centrists, who promote, for instance, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's free-trade, Republican-lite positions as a model for winning in red states. What they don't say is that Bayh comes from one of Indiana's most beloved political families and wins largely by virtue of his last name, not his ideology. Where a corporate message like Bayh's has been put to a real challenge, it has been a disaster. In Louisiana, for instance, the state's tradition of electing Democratic populists like Huey and Russell Long gave way to centrist politicians like Sen. John Breaux, a man best known in Washington for throwing Mardi Gras parties with business lobbyists. When a Breaux clone ran to replace the retiring senator, he was crushed by a moral crusading Republican.In North Carolina, instead of following John Edwards' class-based formula, Democrats anointed investment banker Erskine Bowles as the nominee to replace Edwards in 2004. At the time, party insiders brushed off concerns that, as a Clinton White House chief of staff, Bowles was an architect of the free-trade policy that helped eliminate North Carolina's manufacturing jobs. But Bowles' opponent, Rep. Richard Burr, made the Democrat pay for his free-trade sellout. "You negotiated the China trade agreement for President Clinton, which is the largest exporter of jobs not just in North Carolina but in this country," Burr said at one debate, robbing Bowles of an economic issue that might have offset North Carolinians' inherent cultural suspicions of a Democrat. On election night, Bowles went down in flames.*Champion Small Business Over Big Business*The small-business lobby in Washington is a de facto wing of the Republican Party. But Democrats are finding that, at the grass-roots level, small-business people are far less uniformly conservative, especially as the GOP increasingly helps huge corporations eat up local economies. While entrepreneurs don't like high taxes and regulations, they also don't like government encouraging multinationals to monopolize the market and destroy Main Street.As a small-business man himself, Montana's 2004 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Brian Schweitzer, figured out how to use these frustrations in one of America's reddest states. He lamented how out-of-state corporations were using loopholes to avoid paying taxes, thus driving up the tax burden on small in-state companies. He discussed taxing big-box companies like Wal-Mart that have undercut local business. In the process, he became the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years.In the Midwest and New England, progressives are focused on small manufacturers. These traditional GOP constituencies, which sell components to large multinationals, have been decimated by a trade policy that encourages their customers to head overseas in search of repressive, anti-union regimes that drive down labor costs. "When the economy turned soft [in 2001], we anticipated the business would come back," one owner of a factory-machine business told BusinessWeek. "But it didn't. We saw our customer base either close, or migrate to China."Free-trade critics like Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud, Ted Strickland and Tim Holden, who perpetually win Republican-leaning districts, are rewarded for their stands with support from these kinds of businesspeople, who had previously been part of the GOP's base. The U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents America's domestic family-owned manufacturers, now lists these and other progressives at the top of its congressional scorecard.Unfortunately, these kinds of trailblazers are not yet being rewarded by their own party in Washington. According to reports, the House Democratic leadership is considering promoting some of the most ardent free traders to the Ways and Means Committee, the panel that oversees trade policy. Apparently Democrats have not yet lost enough seats in the heartland to honestly address their Achilles heels.*Protect Tom Joad*Northern Wisconsin and the plains of North Dakota are not naturally friendly territories for progressives. Both areas are culturally conservative, yet their voters keep sending progressive Democrats like Rep. David Obey and Sen. Byron Dorgan, respectively, back to Congress.No issue is closer to these two leaders' hearts - or more important to their electoral prospects - than the family farm. In Wisconsin, corporate dairy processors have tried to depress prices for farmers' dairy products. In North Dakota, agribusiness has squeezed the average farmer with lower prices for commodities. But unlike other lawmakers who simply pocket agribusiness cash and look the other way, Obey and Dorgan have been voices of dissent. They have pushed legislation to freeze agribusiness mergers, a proposal originally developed by populist Sen.Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. As Dorgan once wrote, "When Cargill, the nation's number one grain exporter, can buy the grain operations of Continental, which is number two, the cops aren't exactly walking tall on the antitrust beat."Dorgan and Obey also opposed the Republican-backed "Freedom to Farm Act," which President Clinton signed into law. Instead of pretending the subsidies in the bill were good for the little guy, Obey told the truth and called it the "freedom-to-lose-your-shirt" bill. He noted that the new subsidies would primarily go to large corporations, encourage overproduction that depresses prices, and reward big farms over small ones.Other Democrats are catching on. In South Dakota, Rep. Stephanie Herseth used her family-farm roots to woo Republican voters. As most of Herseth's House Democratic colleagues buckled to corporate pressure and helped pass a free-trade deal with Australia in 2004, the first-term congresswoman attacked her GOP opponent for supporting the pact, arguing that its provisions would undercut American ranchers. She won re-election in the same state where Republicans defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.Similarly, in conservative western Colorado, John Salazar won a House seat by touting his agricultural background. His campaign slogan was "Send a Farmer to Congress," and voters obliged.And the opportunities for progressives are growing. Instead of neutralizing Democrats' advances on agricultural issues, the GOP is digging in, already planning to repeal country-of-origin labeling laws that help small farms differentiate their products from larger corporate producers. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, who has pocketed more than $360,000 from agribusiness, wants to kill the measure, claiming, "I can't find any real opposition to doing exactly what we want to do here." Clearly the GOP hasn't talked to any family farmers lately.*Turn the Hunters and the Exurbs Green*For years, conventional wisdom has said that culturally conservative hunters and exurbanites will always vote Republican. But the GOP's willingness to side with private landowners and developers is now putting the party at odds with these constituencies. And that could create a whole new class of Democratic-voting conservationists.In Montana, Schweitzer criticized his opponents for trying to restrict the state's Stream Access Law, which protects anglers' rights to fish waterways that cross through private land. He also promised to prevent the state from selling off public land. It was one of the ways he outperformed previous Democrats in rural areas and won his race.In Colorado, when the Bush administration tried to allow development in wildlife areas, John Salazar pounced. He noted that many of the Bush administration's plans went "against what nearly every local elected official on both sides of the aisle has asked for." Salazar's opponent, who was a former lobbyist and industry-friendly state environmental official, was unable to effectively respond.Meanwhile, successful Colorado Senate candidate Ken Salazar trumpeted his record of creating land-conservation programs, and his surrogates communicated that message to the state's culturally conservative hunters. "Ken's background in resolving water, access and big game habitat, and natural resources issues best qualifies him to be Colorado's next senator," wrote the group Sportsmen for Salazar in an open letter to outdoorsmen. The Democrat had transformed his environmental advocacy from a potential "liberal" albatross into an asset in conservative areas.*Become a Teddy Roosevelt Clone*"Tough on crime" has always been a reliable Republican mantra. Now, though, progressives are claiming that law-and-order mantle for themselves. Led by state attorneys general, Democrats are realizing the political benefits of fighting white-collar crime, big-business rip-offs, and corporate misbehavior.In Republican Arizona, former Attorney General Janet Napolitano became known as a tough prosecutor of corporate crime. She charged Qwest with fraud and negotiated a $217 million settlement with scandal-plagued accounting firm Arthur Andersen on behalf of investors. The record helped her become the state's first Democratic governor in more than a decade.In New York, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, who had never held elective office, eked out a victory against a Republican incumbent in 1998 to become the state's Attorney General. He then did something that seemed like political suicide: He took on Wall Street. Specifically, Spitzer used state law to charge investment firms with bilking stockholders. Though opponents labeled him anti-business, he countered that he was pro-business because he was protecting the integrity of the market. Four years later, he won re-election in a landslide, improving his performance in many parts of the conservative upstate.On Capitol Hill, some senior Democrats have been slower to take up this fight. For instance, as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 2002, centrist leader Joe Lieberman refused to seriously investigate the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals. Not surprisingly, both companies had been bathing Lieberman and his New Democrats in cash for years. The Connecticut senator's refusal to aggressively investigate the matter became an embarrassing public admission that he and his kind had been castrated by their corporate financiers. So rank-and-file lawmakers are filling the void. North Dakota's Dorgan, for instance, brushed past Lieberman by leading high-profile hearings on Enron's misbehavior. As TV cameras rolled, Dorgan dressed down executives who had deceived shareholders.Sanders, meanwhile, won the hearts of Vermont's Republican-leaning IBM employees by fighting to prevent the company from illegally reducing their pensions. And Mississippi's Taylor continues stumping about corporate traitors. He pushed legislation to prevent taxpayer subsidies from going to companies that ship jobs overseas.This Teddy Roosevelt-inspired posture is potent for two reasons. First, the GOP's reliance on corporate money means it cannot muddle the issues by pretending to meet progressives halfway. Second, the GOP is increasingly using corporate lobbyists and executives as its candidates for public office. Last year alone, Republicans ran corporate lobbyists and executives for top offices in Indiana, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, and Florida. These kinds of candidates will never be able to fight off progressive opponents who make corporate crime and excess a major campaign issue.*Clean Up Government*In the early 1990s, Newt Gingrich attacked Democrats as corrupt, wasteful, and incompetent, eventually leading the Republicans to reclaim Congress. Now, though, progressives are using the tactic for themselves.In Montana, voters grew tired of state policy being manipulated by corporate lobbyists while the economy was sputtering. In Gingrichian fashion, Schweitzer criticized his GOP opponent for becoming a corporate lobbyist after a stint in the Legislature. He also asked why his opponent had spent $40,000 of taxpayer money to redecorate the secretary of state's office during a state budget crisis.Schweitzer was following Arizona's Napolitano, who was making headlines by cutting out almost $1 billion of government waste at a time the state budget was in the red. Her crusade was reminiscent of how deficits have been used by South Carolina Rep. John Spratt to symbolize government mismanagement and win his Republican-leaning district. It also echoed Colorado Democrats, who used deficits to win the state Legislature for the first time in 40 years. "The Republicans' obsession with narrow cultural issues while the state's looming fiscal crisis was ignored drove a deep wedge between fiscally conservative live-and-let-live Republicans and the neo-conservative extremists with an agenda," wrote one Denver Post columnist.In the conservative suburbs of Chicago, Gingrich's corruption theme arose as Republican Rep. Phil Crane took fire for accepting junkets from companies that do business with Congress. Democrat Melissa Bean, a first-time candidate, used the issue to defeat him. The same thing happened in conservative New Hampshire, where Democratic businessman John Lynch hammered Republican Gov. Craig Benson over cronyism allegations. Lynch painted Benson as "a governor with ethical problems overseeing an administration wrought with scandal," according to The (Manchester) Union Leader. Lynch won the race, making Benson the first New Hampshire governor in almost eight decades to be kicked out of office after just two years.*Use the Values Prism*In 2004, pundits seem to agree that the national election was decided by "moral values." And though many believe the term is a euphemism for religious, anti-abortion, and anti-gay sentiments, it is likely a more general phrase describing whether a candidate is perceived to be "one of us."It is this sense of cultural solidarity that often trumps other issues. For example, many battleground-state voters may have agreed with John Kerry's economic policies. But the caricature of Kerry as a multimillionaire playboy windsurfing on Nantucket Sound was a more visceral image of elitism. By contrast, successful red-region progressives are using economic populism to define their cultural solidarity with voters. True, many of these Democrats are pro-gun, and some are anti-abortion. But to credit their success exclusively to social conservatism is to ignore how populism culturally connects these leaders to their constituents.In Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, Sanders' free-trade criticism not only speaks to conservatives' pocketbook concerns but also to a deeper admiration of a congressman willing to take stands corporate politicians refuse to take.In Montana, Schweitzer's plans to protect hunting access not only attract votes from outdoorsmen but also project a broader willingness to fight for Joe Six-Pack and the state's way of life. As focus groups showed, this stance garnered strong support from Montana's women, who saw it as a values issue.Wisconsin's Obey may be a high-ranking national Democrat, but he keeps winning his GOP-leaning district by translating legislative fights into values language at home. Debates over Title I funding, for instance, become a venue for Obey to question whether America should provide huge tax cuts to the wealthy while its schools decay. Battles about whether to change antitrust rules become an Obey rant about out-of-state media conglomerates pumping obscene radio shows into his culturally conservative market.In North Dakota, Enron may have had almost no direct effect on locals. But Dorgan made the company's antics a values commentary on the problem of unethical corporations. "This is disgusting to me," he said to the cameras during an Enron hearing. "[This is] corporate behavior without a moral base."Mississippi's Taylor flamboyantly challenges free-trade supporters to visit his district to see the effects of their positions. "Some of [those who voted for free trade] knew better, and those are the ones I'm really mad at," he said. "[They] looked out for the big multinational corporations at the expense of average Mississippians and average citizens, even from their own states."*****In these seven ways, successful red-region Democrats have tacked back to a class-based populism that puts them firmly on the side of the little guy. And because voters implicitly know that big guys with lots of cash dominate the political system, that populism projects a deeper sense of values and a McCain-like authenticity.In the aftermath of the recent election, the stale cadre of campaign consultants who helped run the party into the ground now say the solution is for Democrats to simply invoke God more often and radically change their positions on social issues. But the point is not to impulsively lunge rightward in some cheap, unprincipled gesture to red America that would reek of political strategizing.The point is to follow red-region Democrats who have diminished the electoral impact of traditional social issues by redefining the values debate on economic and class terms. Granted, the progressive populists profiled above do not uniformly hew to the standard liberal line on social issues: some are pro-life, some pro-choice; some pro-gun ownership, some pro-gun control; some pro-gay marriage, some anti-gay marriage; some vociferous about religion, some subdued. But they have shown that there is another path that moves past wedge issues if the party is willing to fundamentally challenge the excesses of corporate America and big money.Critics may say populism will not appeal to middle-class voters because that portion of the electorate is economically comfortable. But polls show that outsourcing, skyrocketing health costs, and other alarming indicators mean that even those who are getting by do not feel financially stable or secure.Historical revisionists will claim that the centrist Clinton's ascension in the 1990s directly refutes the electoral potency of class-based populism. But Clinton's 1992 campaign was not the free-trade, Republican-lite corporate shilling that many propose as a Democratic panacea. It was, by contrast, populist on all fronts. "I expect the jetsetters and featherbedders of corporate America to know that if you sell your companies and your workers and your country down the river, you'll be called on the carpet," candidate Clinton promised in 1991. On trade, it was the same. "I wouldn't have done what [George Bush Senior] did and give all those trade preferences to China ... ," he said. "I'd be for [NAFTA] but only - only - if [Mexico] lifted their wage rates and their labor standards and they cleaned up their environment so we could both go up together instead of being dragged down."Clinton, of course, proceeded to break these pledges, reducing corporate regulation, coddling big business, and leading the fight for NAFTA and free trade with China. Worse, well after these policies were wreaking havoc on working-class America, high-profile Democrats kept pretending nothing was wrong. "[Congress'] NAFTA vote had about a two-week half-life," said Clinton's chief trade negotiator, Mickey Kantor, years after NAFTA was sucking U.S. jobs south of the border. "Even today trade has very little political impact in the country."Populist red-region Democrats might beg to differ with Kantor, who is now a high-priced corporate lawyer. They know firsthand that the embrace of a big-business agenda arguably did as much long-term damage to the Democratic Party's moral platform as any of Clinton's sex scandals or the battles over social issues. Because, really, how moral is the "party of the working class" when the president it still worships led the fight for trade agreements that hurt that same working class? Where are the principles of a party that has high-profile leaders so tied to big business that they are unwilling to seriously investigate white-collar criminals? And what are the core values of a party that keeps venerating its corporate apologists while marginalizing its voices of reform?This is why populism is ultimately the way back for Democrats. Because, as red-region progressives show, having the guts to stand up for middle America - even when it draws the ire of corporate America - is as powerful a statement about morality and authenticity as any of the GOP's demagoguery on "guns, God, and gays."All the Democratic Party has to do is look at the election map: The proof is right there in red and blue.
    By:/David Sirota; is a fellow at the American Progress Action Fund, a progressive advocacy organization in Washington, D.C./Submitted by:R.L. KerrAbilene

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