Saturday, February 22, 2003

Campaign 2004 round up

The Democratic presidential primaries in 2004 are already heating up with a whole slew of candidates sticking their fingers into the wind to see if they can win the top prize. Here are just some of the things that happened last week.

Broder: Iraq stance dogs Gephardt
David Broder wrote a pretty good piece Thursday – both syndicated and in The Washington Post – about how hammered Rep. Richard Gephardt is getting in Iowa for backing Bush on the Iraqi war resolution:
It did not take long for Rep. Richard A. Gephardt to grasp that Iraq will pose a big challenge to his hopes of making the Iowa caucuses the launching pad in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. At Gephardt's first news conference as a declared candidate, held at a college here Wednesday evening, seven of the 12 questions centered on the former House minority leader's decision last autumn to help President Bush win congressional approval of a resolution authorizing force to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The others dealt with campaign strategy and prospects.
Gephardt, of course, defended his stance, but it is not playing in Des Moines as numerous Democratic activists – many long-time peace activists – questioned Gephardt on his vote. Iowa Federation of Labor President Mark Smith was quoted in the article asking, "What's the hurry to go to war?"
Good question. But what people do not realize is that this whole "back the president on Iraq" policy was cooked up by DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton in an effort to win the House for Gephardt last year. They believed that by eliminating the war issue, the Democrats could then capitalize on the failures of the Bush administration [Enron, collapsing economy, etc.] and spend millions in negative ads to influence voters into supporting them. Aaaaant! Wrong answer. The strategy did not work and instead of standing up for their values and losing, Democrats like Gephardt sold out and lost. Pathetic.

Kucinich shines on 'Crossfire'
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was on CNN’s "Crossfire" Friday night and he was dazzling. Not only did he hold his own against the blustery Robert Novak, but Clinton bootlicker Paul Begala seemed impressed with Kucinich.

Kucinich also defended his pro-life abortion position. Here is the exchange from CNN’s Web site transcript:

NOVAK: Congressman Kucinich, there's one thing I used to admire you for. You are a pro-life liberal. You had a perfect, 100 percent anti-abortion voting record, and last year you completely switched. You didn't vote for a ban of partial birth abortion and other proposals you voted against. What -- were you -- do you think to get in the Democratic Party now you have to be pro-abortion?

KUCINICH: Not at all. I think that one who leads and who intends to lead from an even higher office has to show a capacity for growth. And as you pointed out, I was...

NOVAK: You changed. You did a switch-over.

KUCINICH: No, I expanded my view, Bob. Because what I believe is this -- this is a very divisive debate, and I think that it's important to simultaneously affirm that a woman has a right to choose under the constitution, and at the same time work, as I have my whole life, to see that abortions are not necessary by having sex education and birth control and then prenatal care, postnatal care and childcare.

NOVAK: But you voted for every single anti-abortion proposal in the Ohio legislature.

KUCINICH: My voting record is clear, and you're right about that, but I will tell you this, there is a move on in the Congress today to try to criminalize abortion, to repeat Roe v. Wade. I've never been for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe v. Wade. I think that we need to have someone who can take a unifying position, who said that we'll do everything we can to make abortions less necessary and at the same time to protect a woman's right to choose, which is constitutionally protected. So I think that it's possible to take that kind of acrimonious debate and try to heal this nation so that we're not divided and that we can accomplish two things, and that is, protecting life within the constitution and making sure that a woman's right to choose is also protected.

But it was only after tangling with Vito Fossella, R-NY, about the impending war with Iraq did Kucinich get fired up, again, from the CNN transcript:

KUCINICH: OK. There's a lot of buzz words here, and in the whole campaign to go after Iraq is just made-up of buzz words. It's not made of any facts. They cannot prove that Iraq had anything to do with 9-11 yet. The day after those planes hit the World Trade Center, according to Bob Woodward in a book, "Bush at War," page 49, Donald Rumsfeld was already talking about attacking Iraq. They're just trying to create a pretext to go after Iraq for any reason whatsoever. They haven't made their case, and yet they're going to cost, you know -- invasion or bombing, invasion, occupation, it's going to cost this economy $1 trillion. We don't have that money. We have money to blow up bridges over the Tigress and Euphrates and we don't have money to build bridges in our major cities. We have money to destroy the health of the Iraqi people and we don't have enough money to repair the health of our own people in this country. There is something fundamentally wrong with the direction this administration is taking its foreign policy, and I intend to change that if I am elected president of the United States.
This is the type of stuff we need to hear from the Democrats.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

"Blanketing blizzard brightens the mood"
Right about now, everyone in Massachusetts is probably sick of the snow. With the record-breaking deluge Mother Nature dumped on our heads Monday and Tuesday, it is no surprise. Unlike others, I had a fun time on Tuesday morning romping around in knee-high piles of snow, attempting to unbury my car. And let's face it, there is nothing we can do about the weather. We live in New England - not Arizona - deal with it already.

But at the same time, the "Blizzard of 2003" has been a nice distraction for an otherwise dismal couple of weeks, marred by marches to war, ignored requests for peace, some hilarious and frightening media happenings, and bumbling Democrats trying to figure out how to uncrown "King George" W.

Last week was a pretty depressing week. The constant marching towards war with Iraq is getting just a bit scary especially when the Pentagon starts contemplating "limited tactical nuclear war" against Saddam Hussein. Now don't get me wrong, I know Hussein is a bad guy. But he hasn't threatened the United States and there is no direct link to his involvement with the tragic attacks of Sept. 11. In fact, if you look at Osama bin Laden's own words, you will see that Hussein is not an ally. That is, if you can find his words.

Interestingly, the mainstream press censored some recent comments bin Laden made attacking Hussein as a "socialist," and calling on Iraqis to rise up against him.

Huh? You didn't see that either? Yeah, I was too busy watching all war, all the time over at FoxNews and missed MSNBC - that bastion of media liberalism owned by Microsoft and General Electric - publishing bin Laden's comments on their Web site.

But according to author Williams Rivers Pitt [], 20 minutes after posting the information to their site, the sentence about bin Laden calling on Iraqis to overthrow Hussein was deleted by the network. A bit odd, wouldn't you say? Must have been too much truth for the Total Information Awareness officials.

Of course, "Saturday Night Live" didn't miss it. They ran a whole skit with Jimmy Fallon acting as bin Laden and Horatio Sanz hilariously portraying Hussein asking bin Laden to lay off. I was LMAO, as they say on the Web.

Changing the subject slightly, did anyone check out the war rallies over the weekend? Millions here, hundreds of thousands over there. Gee, I didn't know there were so many "pinko commies" in Berlin, London, Madrid, Rome, New York City, or San Francisco, for that matter. All those socialists in the United States and somehow we can't get health care for the poor covered. It all makes you wonder. Especially when that nutty dictator from North Korea has been threatening Los Angeles with nuclear annihilation for weeks and our president is obsessed with Hussein? Hey, Kim Jong Il, be thankful your country doesn't have any oil. We would be planning to spend hundreds of billions blowing you to smithereens, too.

Sadly, C-Span, in a strange act of self-censorship, refused to cover any of the events in New York. Luckily, cable access was broadcasting "Democracy Now!" live so I caught some of the speeches. And then the conservative commentators came out with the usual nonsense. One, Fred Barnes, a former aide to Vice President Dan Quayle and a writer for The Weekly Standard, even compared the demonstrators to the America First movement of the early 1930s. This is a ridiculous contrast which has no historical merit. But FoxNews allows clowns like Barnes on television - without correction or balance - because of his gleeful embrace of future militarism gone amok.

Then, there are the Democrats, all jockeying for pole position so that when King George W. stumbles over a flat-lined economy and the gut wrenching flow of body bags from the Middle East, they will be able to capitalize on the misery.

Unfortunately, most of the announced Democrats for 2004 will have a hard time distinguishing themselves from Bush on issues like the war, free trade, corporate welfare, tax cuts for the lower classes, consumer rights, etc., leaving the Rev. Al Sharpton as the only announced candidate addressing the issues of ignored masses. No wonder the Democrats are scared.

So, enjoy the snow. Get out there a run around a bit with the kids. Take some solace in the fact that we are lucky to be alive and well in New England. Because soon it will be spring and all our white stuff will melt - and the flooding will begin.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Kucinich candidacy extremely intriguing

Apparently, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is seriously considering a run for president ["Kucinich says he wants to be president"] .
The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the progressive will announce Monday that he is forming an exploratory committee to seek the Democratic nomination.
While everyone at the newspaper is writing off Kucinich’s chances, there has been a lot of chatter about his candidacy. – the place I found this link – has been of cheerleader of Kucinich’s for years. Other progressives have also been touting his potential candidacy. The Nation published a major anti-war piece last week by the possible candidate. Even Ralph Nader might support him and everyone knows the lack of a Nader candidacy will definitely help the Democrats in 2004.
Nevertheless, the Kucinich candidacy does pose a fascinating dilemma.
The adamantly pro-peace and pro-worker candidate is also pro-life – a distinct no-no for most democratic presidential candidates over the past 20 years. Kucinich has said that although he is pro-life, it is a personal issue and not about ending abortion access for women although his voting record says otherwise.
The abortion issue is probably one of the last litmus tests left in the Democratic Party, with many religious leaders ignoring their spiritual values to politically survive. Except here in Massachusetts of course, where pro-life Democrats basically control the state legislature although most do not move beyond the local level.
However nationally, the abortion rights lobby controls the party – not unlike the pro-life lobby controlling the Republican Party. But unlike the Republicans – who allow pro-choice representatives of their party to address their conventions and have prominence – Democrats have shunned pro-lifers. In 1992, democrats refused to allow the late Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey to address the convention for fear that he might lecture them about abortion. This was a change from the days when both political positions were accepted by the rank and file.
Katha Pollitt is one progressive who has already come out against Kucinich, likening him to Republican Rep. Henry Hyde!
Personally, I would prefer to see other progressive-populist Democrats like Ohio Rep., Marcy Kaptur or even Jim Hightower run for president. Conservative populists and Reagan Democrats have a soft spot for Kaptur after her relentless pursuit of fair trade and these voters need to be drawn back into the party fold. Hightower is hilarious on the stump and how better to beat a Texan than with a Texan?
But the Kucinich candidacy makes things a little more interesting in this early presidential campaign and it might be time for the Democrats to consider forcing the abortion issue to take a backseat to other issues. For far too long, the abortion rights groups have dictated what kind of candidate the Democrats put forth much to the detriment of many other interest groups like labor, consumers, and peace activists. These groups have seen their interests ignored – even destroyed – just to preserve abortion.
Look no further than the Clinton administration which decimated unions, workers, and families because of his free/slave trade policies. Sure, women preserved their right to have an abortion by voting for Clinton/Gore. But what about the people who chose to bring their kids into the world but could not feed them because most workers are working harder and longer for less while expenses like housing and health care skyrocket? And what about the welfare moms who chose not to abort their fetuses but were basically punished for this by Clinton and Republicans because they couldn’t afford their choice? The $51 billion Mexican peso bailout in 1994 sure would have helped to stabilize some of these families if it was spent domestically.
Ideally, progressives will say, the perfect candidate would be both pro-choice and an economic populist. But tell that to a whole slew of candidates, Democrat or otherwise, who fit the bill but had their heads handed to them by the voters: Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Jerry Brown, Larry Agran, Tom Harkin, Fritz Hollings, Bruce Babbitt, Ted Kennedy, Fred Harris, etc. – the list is a very long one.
The economic rightward turn of the Democratic Party has brought it where it is today – light Republicans who are now losers. Maybe it is time to bring the party back to where it used to be. Kucinich might be that candidate to accomplish this.

Kucinich candidacy extremely intriguing

A quick "thank you" to Jeff Korbelik from the Lincoln Journal Star for including me in his article about talk radio ["CAN WE TALK?: Conservatives strike right chord"].
The Nebraska reporter called me a few weeks ago after reading my column on talk radio posted in The Winchester Star and included some of my comments about how difficult it is for "liberals" – [ I prefer progressive/ populists] – to get access to the airwaves. Jeff said he saw my article on the Internet while researching issues around talk radio. The article was also mentioned on Boston Phoenix writer Dan Kennedy’s media log as well as the 'Alas, a blog' site.
Isn’t the Web wonderful?

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The problem with pre-emptive strikes ...

If anyone needed any more proof that pre-emptive strikes are not the answer and President Bush's policy is insane, he need look no further than this BBC article ["Japan threatens force against N Korea"]. So Israel can attack anyone it wants. Now, Japan will attack North Korea. How about everyone attack everyone else, and we can just turn the planet into an ash tray. What ever happened to diplomacy? Oh yeah, Henry Kissinger screwed that up too.

Dems worried about Sharpton

Great piece this morning by conservative commentator Robert Novak about the fear of the black man running for president as a Democrat ["Sharpton's plan: Divide and conquer"].
Now, you know that Novak is just sitting there giggling with the thought of Sharpton ranting and raving from the stage of the Fleece Center next August. But people forget: This isn't just about black voters. A lot of liberal voters who supported Jesse Jackson in 1988 and Jerry Brown in 1992 will be flocking to Sharpton next year. Right now, Sharpton is the only Democrat candidate saying all the right things.

CLT and the Voluntary Tax Check-off

This week, I wrote an editorial promoting the Voluntary Tax Check-off on Mass. state tax returns in The Winchester Star [full text below] and Citizen for Limited Taxation sent it out to their list:
Anthony Schinella, a subscriber to this list, wrote the Winchester Star editorial highlighting our voluntary tax check-off. We thank Tony for getting out the word to those who insisted they "didn't need or want" a tax cut. He has provided a constructive community service. Now those who lost the Question 4 battle can also be winners -- by paying 5.85 percent -- along with those of us who'll pay 5.3 percent!
My pleasure, CLT. Those people who want to pay more taxes should be able to, and you have provided them an outlet to do so. Me? I want to pay 5 percent and no more. Let them run the state with what they have.

Sunday, February 9, 2003

More debunking of the liberal media

Eric Alterman has a pretty good and thorough piece in The Nation about the "liberal media" ["What Liberal Media?"].
He makes a compelling case that the media is, in fact, pretty balanced with a slight conservative slant.

Saturday, February 8, 2003

Vote fraud, conspiracies, and real solutions to the elections problem

It has taken a long time but it looks like political progressives have finally started grasping the issue of vote fraud and the rigging of American elections. But like many other issues in the political spectrum, both political parties can be faulted for vote fraud and deserve blame for the problem. And unfortunately, these progressive accusers are making wild claims devoid of any real evidence and are weaving conspiracy theories that only Republicans are engaging in the process of stealing elections to gain political power.

Anti-Lieberman site surfaces

State Rep. Pat Jehlen, D-Somerville, has forwarded a pretty hilarious anti-Joe Lieberman presidential campaign site in her monthly email newsletter [].The site has a slew of funny links promoting the owner’s view that Lieberman is basically a Republican ["A new kind of Democrat. The Republican kind."]
"I never imagined that, one day, I would have the opportunity to run for President of the United States and defend the privileges of the rich and powerful," Lieberman hysterically writes in the mock intro.
One link has directions on how to fold a dollar bill into a GOP origami elephant while another jokes that Lieberman can’t talk about why he supports a potential war with Iraq because he deems his views as "classified." Still another link criticizes Lieberman for taking on media violence while promoting real death and violence with higher military budgets and war, while explaining his defense of the insidious missile defense system.
A search on the Network Solutions Web site DOES NOT reveal the owner or creator of the site, which is interesting since almost every other owner can be found via such a search.

Friday, February 7, 2003

Finally, someone at the Boston Globe gets it

For years and years, some of us out here in the real world have been complaining about the corporate welfare giveaways in our state while the media has all but ignored our complaints. That is, until today. Finally, someone at The Boston Globe – specifically columnist Steve Bailey – has written about the loopholes and suggested it is time to get rid of them ["Time to cut loopholes''].
Billions and billions in tax revenue have been lost. But hey, it was all in the name of good business as well as taking care of the lobbyists and campaign contributors at the expense of the rest of us.

Romney's state aid cuts target poor, Democratic strongholds

Here is an analysis of the cuts levied by Gov. Mitt Romney that appeared in this week's issue of The Winchester Star:

An analysis of the state aid cuts done by The Winchester Star reveals that cuts made by Gov. Mitt Romney last week targeted at towns Romney lost in the 2002 election.

In addition, a state think tank reports that the bulk of the cuts fell on towns whose median household income is below the state average.

Of the $114 million in lottery and additional assistance cuts, 60 percent or over $68 million, were made against towns in which Romney lost to Democratic candidate Shannon O'Brien. Many of those same towns saw multi-million dollar budget cuts with large cities like Boston, Fall River, Somerville, and Worcester, being hit the hardest.

State Sen. Charlie Shannon, D-Winchester, an open supporter of O'Brien during the election, said he was not surprised that Romney would target Democratic strongholds.

"It's politics at its worse," he said, "Rather than politics for the best. I had that feeling myself. The proof is in the pudding. You have to take the time to give them enough rope - and they will hang themselves. [Democrats] told [the voters] this was the way it was going to be."

Shannon said Romney promised not to cut core services but has - noting that the school breakfast program and grants are badly needed by towns already strapped for cash.

"The kids don't need to eat in school," Shannon mocked. "Yeah, right. Children who don't have a decent meal before school can [develop] learning problems. These are core services. This [budget] is wrong."

In their study, the Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center [MBPC], a Boston think tank funded by the Ford Foundation and some labor unions, revealed that 74 percent of the cuts are lodged against cities and towns where residents earn less than the median state income of $54,077, based on the 2000 Census.

Sarah Nolan, a policy analyst with MBPC, said she wasn't surprised by the data.

"It kind of goes hand in hand since [Romney] did well in the suburbs," she said. "The case is that the cities are poorer and obviously have less property wealth and tend to have less of an ability to absorb these cuts."

Nolan said she was interested in the rankings and the statewide averages of cuts when formulating her data. She then analyzed Census data to come up with the average household income. But Nolan readily admitted that there were some problems with the data since lottery aid had been skewed and most of the funding formulas were over two decades old.

"To understand this, you have to understand how local aid works," which isn't easy since "the formulas were made up a long time ago and do not take into account income but property wealth," she said. "In a lot of cases, [additional assistance] gets used for education. [The cuts force] these towns to come up with the funds."

Rep. Paul Casey, D-Winchester, said he didn't think Romney targeted Democratic or poor towns but instead, cut from towns that receive more aid than others.

"Those communities that depend on additional assistance tend to be older, Democratic communities that supported Shannon [O'Brien]," he said.

Casey, who represents both Winchester and Stoneham, said he has been criticized because Stoneham regularly receives more money than Winchester. But this time around, Stoneham received the higher cuts.

"Stoneham lost $430,000," he said. "[But] they have more assistance. When Stoneham gets more [funds], I get accused by Winchester of favoritism. Now, it is quite the reverse. Short of an immediate tax hike, there isn't any more revenue. I think [new] taxes are off the table. People seem to want some type of belt-tightening."

Belt-tightening is exactly what is on the mind of Romney, according to press secretary Shawn Feddeman.

Feddeman did not want to comment on either MBPC study or allegations that Romney targeted Democratic strongholds because she hadn't looked at the data. But she did say that no city or town received a reduction of more than 1.8 percent of their budgets and called the $114 million local aid cuts "2.5 cents of every dollar sent to cities and towns."

"The big picture is that the governor has asked every town to tightened their belts," she said. "[However], the most vulnerable citizens were not hurt under the proposal."

When asked why the bulk of the cuts were passed on to towns with residents who earned less than the median income, Feddeman said, "The legislature didn't grant the governor authority to play with the distribution formula, only a proportionate cut. So, he didn't have a ton of flexibility."