Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Monday, October 31, 2005

Judge Alito Nomination

Alito insisted that the private possession of machine guns was not an economic activity, and there was no empirical evidence that private gun possession increased violent crime in a way that substantially affected commerce--therefore, Congress has no right to regulate it.

Will he be consistent in his views? Substitute the following:
  1. Medical marijuana - marijuana?
  2. Method to die (right to die) - suicide method?
  3. Morning after pill - pill?
  4. RU 486 - medicine?

Is this what the Right wants?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

My Letter to CBS News on Ben Stein's Commentary

CBS Sunday Morning has been one of my favorite-never-miss programs for decades but this Sunday (October 30th) Ben Stein commented on the Delphi bankruptcy and concluded that workers need to be responsible for their own retirement. He also made a comment something like the working class are something lower than the middle class.

Is commentary is elitist and outrageous. He blames the victims instead and lets the greedy companies off the hook. Good working class people did take on the responsibility for their own retirement. In the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, during contentious union contract negotiations, to the outrage of many union members, union leadership agreed to forego raises for the rank and file so the union member could afford to set something for their own retirement. Instead the unions took the companies at their word and promise to provide deferred compensation after the member retired. This was what helped build the working class into the middle class in the country. Since World War II the working class and middle class have been the one and the same.

Now these companies want to go back on their promises, break their word and the contracts and commentators like Ben Stein appear to think that’s fine.

I wonder how Mr. Stein would feel if his stock broker and bank said “Oh, I know we promised you to hold your money and return it to you later, but we’ve spent it. Sorry you don’t have any savings to live off of during your retirement”? I bet he would insist that they live up to their fiduciary responsibilities and would not blame himself. I also bet he would look to the Government guarantees available to customers of banks and stock brokers to protect him from their defalcations.

These employing companies like Delphi were given and willingly accepted the fiduciary responsibility to provide for the deferred compensation for their employees. Just because China or Mexico workers have a lower wage today doesn’t erase that fiduciary responsibility. Instead of high dividends and high CEO salaries, management should have been putting aside sufficient funds to meet these obligations and the stock holders and past and present management who benefited from this fraud should be held responsible.

I believe, unfortunately, that the management and stockholders will get off free and clear and the burden will fall on the taxpayer to cover these frauds. Hopefully Mr. Stein is in a tax bracket that has benefit from the tax cuts so he will be insulated from this expense and won’t be inconvenienced. Let the working class eat cake! Right?

Jane Johnson
Olympia, WA

What a jerk!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Harriet Miers

She withdrew and everyone is trying to figure out the REAL reason she withdrew. But something is suspicious about this whole thing. She obviously is smart enough to know she wasn't qualified. I suspect her nomination was a sham. She didn't dress the part. Where was her Fred Thompson? She's supposedly proud of her attention to detail but her questionnaire was an embarrassment. I don't think she was really a nominee.

Now, why would they try to distract us with a sham nominee? Maybe to pave the way for a Jones nominee -- "she's more qualified than Miers" -- ???

I'm nervous.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Seen in ABC's The Note this morning . . .

"The President's supporters have launched a "not-so-subtle campaign" against Patrick Fitzgerald, with one White House ally telling the paper the special prosecutor is 'a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things.' "

Who is he talking about? Fitzgerald or Bush? I consider it a perfect description of Bush.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Harriet Miers & Griswald

Sen. Arlen Specter said that during his conversation with Harriet Miers, she told him that she believed that the Constitution does grant us a right to privacy. Also, she said she supports the Griswold v. CT decision, which was based on this right to privacy and which paved the way for the Roe v Wade decision.

The next day Miers denied saying that.

A lot of pundants are commenting on how Spector got confused but I have another theory: She didn't know that Griswold v. CT was based on the right to privacy and paved the way for the Roe v Wade decision when she spoke to Spector. When Spector made those statements to the press, her Dobson-like friends probably blanched in horror and quickly informed her of her faux pas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm Doing FINE!!

Harriet Miers disclosed assets of $395k AT MOST on her Supreme Court Disclosure Financial Form. I used the maximum value for each investment based on the range ($1,000 or less; $1,001 to $2,500; $2,501 to $5,000; $5,001 to $15,000; etc.)

60 years old and she's only put away $395k??!! I wonder what she thought of Bush's social security privatization scheme.

Makes my piddly home equity and 457 account look GREAT in comparison and she's got 5 years on me!!


Friday, October 14, 2005

The Most Cognizant Reason Against Miers

This is from a junior at Notre Dame. WOW! We better watch this kid!

The most damning quote of all came this week, however, when Bush said to
reporters: "People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. . . .[one
of the reasons is that] part of Harriet Miers' life is her

Irrespective of the fact that this is a mind-numbingly stupid
reason for nominating someone to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the fact that
the President made this comment as an appeal to his conservative base places the
Senate in the position of having to reject her nomination or risk the setting of
a grossly unconstitutional precedent.

Article VI of the Constitution states
that “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office
or public Trust under the United States.” As the New York Sun pointed out
recently, it is the single most absolutist and emphatic sentence in the entire
Constitution. For those who would say that just because President Bush
considered Miers’ religion in nominating her, that doesn’t necessarily mean he
was imposing any kind of “religious test,” I would implore you to think of it
this way: if part of the reason the President nominated Miers was her religion,
then that necessitates the fact that part of the reason other prospects were not
nominated was because they did not have the same “quality” of religion that
Harriet Miers did. Thus, they were subjected to a religious test by the
President in considering them for an appointment to the Supreme Court. This is
grossly unconstitutional, and if it is allowed to stand, it will be a tacit
admission that the “Religious Test” clause has become outdated and inoperable,
and we will be one major step closer to theocracy.

He has an excellent point and I'm going to make sure both my Senators know this!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bush's Dangerous Plan to Handle the Flu

Bush is planning to handle the flu based on a model which was (or wasn't, depending on sources) successful on American Samoa -- a country about the size of Washington DC with limited, controllable access. He's NUTS!

Here's a good article that provides some common sense arguments:

Bush's risky flu pandemic plan
By George J. Annas October 8, 2005
WHENEVER THE world is not to his liking, President Bush has a tendency to turn to the military to make it better. The most prominent example is the country's response to 9/11, complete with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. After Hurricane Katrina, Bush belatedly called on the military to assist in securing New Orleans, and has since suggested that Congress should consider empowering the military to be the ''first responders" in any national disaster.
On Tuesday, the president suggested that the United States should confront the risk of a bird flu pandemic by giving him the power to use the US military to quarantine ''part[s] of the country" experiencing an ''outbreak." So we have moved quickly in the past month, at least metaphorically, from the global war on terror to a proposed war on hurricanes, to a proposed war on the bird flu.
Of all these proposals, the use of the military to attempt to contain a flu pandemic on US soil is the most dangerous. Bush says he got the idea by reading John Barry's excellent account of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, ''The Great Influenza." Although quarantine was used successfully in that pandemic, on the island of American Samoa, Barry in his afterword suggests (sensibly) that we need a national plan to deal with a future influenza pandemic. He said last week that his other suggestions were the only ones he hoped public health officials and ethicists would consider, but they read like policy recommendations to me and apparently the president. Barry writes, for example, ''if there is any chance to limit the geographical spread of the disease, officials must have in place the legal power to take extreme quarantine measures." This recommendation comes shortly after his praise for countries that ''moved rapidly and ruthlessly to quarantine and isolate anyone with or exposed to" SARS.
Planning makes sense. But planning for ''brutal" or ''extreme" quarantine of large numbers or areas of the United States would create many more problems than it could solve.
First, historically mass quarantines of healthy people who may have been exposed to a pathogen have never worked to control a pandemic, and have almost always done more harm than good because they usually involve vicious discrimination against classes of people (like immigrants or Asians) who are seen as ''diseased" and dangerous.
Second, the notion that ruthless quarantine was responsible for preventing a SARS pandemic is a public health myth. SARS appeared in more than 30 countries; they all reacted differently (some used forced quarantine successfully, others voluntary quarantine, and others no quarantine at all), and all ''succeeded." Quarantine is no magic bullet.
Third, quarantine and isolation are often falsely equated, but the former involves people who are well, the latter people who are sick. Sick people should be treated, but we don't need the military to force treatment. Even in extremes like the anthrax attacks, people seek out and demand treatment. Sending soldiers to quarantine large numbers of people will most likely create panic, and cause people to flee (and spread disease), as it did in China where a rumor during the SARS epidemic that Beijing would be quarantined led to 250,000 people fleeing the city that night.
Not only can't we evacuate Houston, we cannot realistically quarantine its citizens. The real public health challenge will be shortages of health care personnel, hospital beds, and medicine. Plans to militarize quarantine miss the point in a pandemic. The enemy is not sick or exposed Americans -- it is the virus itself. And effective action against any flu virus demands its early identification, and the quick development, manufacture, and distribution of a vaccine and treatment modalities.
In 1918 the Spanish flu was spread around the US primarily by soldiers, and it seems to have incubated primarily on military bases. It is a misreading of history that a lesson from 1918 is to militarize mass quarantine to contain the flu. And neither medicine nor public health are what they were in 1918; having public health rely on mass quarantine today is like having our military rely on trench warfare in Iraq.
What has not changed in the past century, however, is the fact that national flu policy will be determined by national politics. In World War I, as Barry recounts, this policy demanded that there be no public criticism of the federal government.
That policy was a disaster, and did prevent many potentially effective public health actions. Today's presidential substitution of a military quarantine solution for credible public health planning will also be counterproductive and ineffective in the event of a real pandemic. It would leave US citizens sick with the flu to wonder -- like the citizens of New Orleans told to go to the Convention Center and the Superdome for help -- why the federal government had abandoned them.
Public health in the 21st century should be federally directed, but effective public health policy must be based on trust, not fear of the public.
George J. Annas is chairman of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights at Boston University School of Public Health and author of ''American Bioethics."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My Experiences at the Peace Rally

Several people have asked me to write an article about what I did at the march against the war in DC a couple weeks ago. I’ve been reluctant, not because I hate writing, but because I’m a little bit embarrassed. So here’s my confession. But a little about my history:

In 1968 I was in Chicago for the anti-war demonstration during the Democratic National Convention. I was way in the back, probably 2 blocks away from Cow Palace. But for some unknown reason the crowd kept surging back on us. We were close to a cyclone fence and didn’t want to get squeezed against it so we walked a couple blocks over, got a pizza, and went to my cousin’s apartment. We turned on the TV and ‘OH MY GOSH’ THAT”S why they were surging back!! I quickly call my Mom and let her know I was OK, munching on pizza.

I spent a weekend in the ‘80’s holding a long banner asking for passage of the ERA in front of Reagan’s White House. But then some friends from Boston came by and sightseeing with them sounded like fun so I left. An hour later the women I left holding the banner were arrested for trespassing.

In 1992 I went back to DC for the March for Women’s Lives and my friends and I listened to the speeches for awhile and then got into the march. But it was so crowded and uncomfortable that we pealed off the crowd, stopped in a bar, supposedly waiting for the march to thin out, and ended up drinking toasts to the marchers for hours, ‘We’re wisth you, sisthersh!’

Do you see a pattern? This time several friends from around the Country all emailed me and said let’s do the march! The husband of one friend in Arlington refurbished limos and he said he’d drive us to the march. Yes, it’s true. I went to the march in a limo. But that’s not even the most embarrassing part. The crowd was great. Lots of young people were there but old familiar speakers like Jesse Jackson. We listened to some of the speeches, started marching, and like ferrets attracted to shiny objects we noticed that the National Book Fair was going on right next to the demonstration! Yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I went shopping during an important demonstration!! Bad, bad, me! (I got a tote bag and several great books.) We started feeling a little guilty and went over to the Washington Monument and looked at the displays. There were hundreds of white crosses and empty Army boots lined up that really moved me. We couldn’t get near ‘Camp Casey’ but saw hundreds of signs, displays, and a cord with hundreds of signs stringed on it with the names of the fallen. My friend’s husband picked us up just as the concert was starting (in the limo, of course) and we drove to Rehoboth (Delaware) to another friend’s cottage where we feasted on crab and caught up on each other’s lives and talked Progressive politics for 2 days.

So that’s the truth. I’ve had many folks tell me that they might have gone to the march if they’d known they could do it in a limo. But no one admits that they would have stopped demonstrating to eat pizza, sightsee, get drunk, or go shopping. Oh, well . . . I’m just a bad radical, I guess.