Monday, January 31, 2005

Iraq Votes - Thoughts & Perspective

By Jim Witkins

By most accounts it seems the Iraqi vote went about as well as it could. To be sure this is a baby step on a long road to creating a legitimate government, so while I wish the Iraqi people continued progress, I hope President Bush tempers his rhetoric about his success or he could walk into another "Mission Accomplished" moment.

Watching the mostly positive TV coverage I was happy for the Iraqi people and relieved the US troops had done such a great job, while avoiding any heavy attacks, however in the back of my mind I couldn't forget the nagging thought that my US government used trumped up evidence about WMD's to rush us into a war of choice, and now they had done a sleight of hand trick to make everyone think we were fighting for Iraqi freedom all along out of the goodness of our heart.

Every American, Democrat or Republican, wants freedom to reign, but not at the expense of truth. If the Bush administration can't level with the American people, it really loses all credibility and integrity. Their words about freedom and sacrifice, no matter how dramatic, ring hollow. Why weren't we fighting for freedom in Rwanda and Liberia, or now in the Congo, Sudan, North Korea, and the list goes on.

Most Americans are realists and they're not stupid. They know that America went to war for its own self interests. They rationalize that in the end more good will come out of this than bad. While that remains to be seen, what is certain is that most Americans are more leery than ever of our role in the world as Super-cop. They demand international cooperation on security issues and global problems.

While Fox News and others trumpet the greatness of President Bush's bold experiment, I submit that more than anything it has proven that there are definite limits to our military capability, and we should be wary of its use for preemptive invasions.

Moving forward we need Democrats to hold Bush accountable in Iraq by speeding up the Iraqi troop training, starting to develop a long term exit strategy, and perhaps a bigger goal, questioning the wisdom of Bush's national security strategy of preemption. Yes Iraq took its first step toward some form of new government, but it may take several more years of American lives and taxpayer money on the line before Iraq can govern itself. Without an exit plan in place how do you measure success or failure?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Blogging Community Opposes Gonzalez

The editors of IFK would like to add their support to the efforts of the Daily Kos Editorial board and hundreds of bloggers through out the blogosphere who oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. (See full list opposing Gonzalez)

A statement by the American Humanist Association summed it up nicely.

The key to halting his confirmation is to insist that Gonzales' nomination not be voted on by the Senate but returned to committee until crucial documents are supplied to the Senate. The documents detail how Gonzales decided to recommend to the president that he has the authority to abandon the rule of law, annul the Geneva Conventions, shield lawbreakers from prosecution, and authorize the use of torture by US forces and, even worse, the "rendition" of U.S. prisoners to other countries known to use the most brutal conceivable forms of torture.

It goes on to say:

The Bush Administration has successfully blocked the release of an array of documents related to policy changes that paved the way for the horrors of Abu Ghraib and other American-operated detention facilities. The Senate and the American public must demand that the government come clean on the actions of high-level officials, and that all civilians who engaged in misconduct be held responsible.

Call or write your Senator to urge him or her to oppose confirming Gonzales and insist that this crucial information be made available to the Senate. You can call 202-224-3121 and ask for your own Senator. The Senate website also lists the direct office lines and e-mail addresses for every Senator. It is important that Humanist voices be heard!

So far over 450 weblogs have signed on to the petition to oppose Gonzales.

IFK views are solely those of its editors.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

John Kerry Introduces Kids Come First Health Care Act

In a letter to supporters, John Kerry vowed to keep his campaign promise to fight for health care for all children. So far over 300,000 supporters have signed on to the petition with the goal "to top 500,000 before President Bush makes his State of the Union Address on February 2nd."

Text of email: This is personal. As I traveled across the country last year, I learned a lot about the dreams, hopes, fears and frustrations of the American people. Nothing touched me more than the parents I met who feared that illness would strike a child who is uninsured.

A sick child is always a worry. A sick child that you can't get help for is a parent's worst nightmare. Helping the 11 million children who have no health coverage isn't even on the radar screen of the Bush administration and the Republican leaders in Congress. But, we're going to put it there.

It is totally unacceptable that, in the greatest country in the world, millions of children are not getting the health care they need. That's why this week I introduced the Kids Come First Act. Help me push through the Republicans' political roadblocks and take care of the 11 million children without health insurance.

The Republican leadership will try to prevent this essential legislation from ever seeing the light of day. Help me gather one million co-signers for the Kids Come First Act, and we'll force them to act or to admit that they just don't care enough to act. Here's why it's so important to do something now:

- 1/4 of children are not fully up to date on their basic immunizations.
- 1/3 with chronic asthma do not get a prescription for medications they need.
- 1/2 of uninsured children have not had a well child visit in the past year.
- 1 in 6 has delayed or unmet medical needs.
- 1 in 5 has trouble accessing health care.
- 1 in 4 does not see a dentist annually.
- 1 in 3 had no health insurance during 2002 and 2003.

Read More: View summary of the Kids Come First Act

Stand with John Kerry. Sign the Kids Come First Act Petition.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Kerry Blogger Promotes Social Security Reform in BusinessWeek Magazine

Not that I want to toot my own horn so to speak, but I was pleased to get a letter to the editor related to Social Security reform published in the Jan 24, 2005 edition of BusinessWeek Magazine.

I'm against the President's risky and costly privatization plan for Social Security, however I believe the program does need long term adjustments at some point. In my letter, as I've stated on the IFK site frequently, I advocate for gradual increases in the taxable payroll amount mixed with an increase in the retirement age to be phased in over time. These tweaks, to make SS remain solvent for future generations, could be accompanied with more incentives to encourage individual investment in 401(k)s and IRA's to offset any possible reduction in future benefits.

On the other hand the President's current SS privatization plan of choice does little to actually offset his proposed cuts in benefits (indexing payment to inflation rather than wage increases), while creates a windfall for the investment and financial community. In essence his plan would cut benefits drastically for today's younger workers like myself, while gutting the "Security" aspect of Social Security Insurance, relying on the market to overcome large benefit reductions.

I hope the Dems are listening and ready to fight a Republican Party hell bent on dismantling one of the best run and most beloved government programs of all time.

IFK Editor

READ: Revamp Social Security? Just Tweak 401(k)s And IRAs

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Kerry Votes No on Rice Confirmation

During Rice's confirmation hearing Mr. Kerry told Ms. Rice, "you are going to be confirmed, and everybody knows that," but he said his own vote was not assured.

"I have reservations, and they are not personal in any way whatsoever," he told her, early in the hearing, adding that he was especially disturbed by Ms. Rice's assertion that she would not have changed the number of troops in the region.

Later in the day Kerry was 1 of only 2 Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote NO, on the grounds that Rice showed little evidence of real policy change planned for Iraq under her diplomatic leadership.

Kerry asks for supporters to sign Rumsfeld recall petition

Kerry, who recently returned from a Middle East trip that included a visit to Iraq, wrote in the letter to supporters "please join me in my call for President Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld."

"He's the man responsible for the well-being of our troops. He's neglected his duty. He's made excuses. It's time for him to go," Kerry wrote.

Read the full letter

Monday, January 17, 2005

Kerry Discusses Voting Reform on Martin Luther King Day

By AP (Link)

BOSTON - Sen. John Kerry, in some of his most pointed public comments yet about the presidential election, invoked Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy on Monday as he criticized President Bush and decried reports of voter disenfranchisement.

The Massachusetts Democrat, Bush's challenger in November, spoke at Boston's annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. He reiterated that he decided not to challenge the election results, but "thousands of people were suppressed in the effort to vote."

"Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, eleven hours to vote, while Republicans (went) through in 10 minutes — same voting machines, same process, our America," he said.

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the U.S., saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots.

"In a nation which is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy, we cannot tolerate that too many people here in America were denied that democracy," Kerry said.

Voting irregularities in Ohio drove primarily Democratic challenges to the Nov. 2 election, but Congress eventually affirmed President Bush the winner by a slim electoral vote count of 286-251 — plus a single vote cast by a Minnesota elector for Kerry's running mate, former Sen. John Edwards.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Kerry urges repairing US-Europe ties

Kerry is wrapping up his 2 week trip in the Middle East and Europe, where he's met with many foreign leaders to encourage better cooperation on Iraq, Middle East peace and the war on terror. His message was well received, but most Europeans are still skeptical with Bush at the wheel. (Can you blame them, with so much Bush damage to recover from, in the same week the CIA admits there are no WMD's.)

Here's an overview of what Kerry said:

When asked why he had come to Europe, Kerry, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, replied: "I'm not claiming any mantle, just doing what I've done for 20 years as a senator. I want to fight for the things I talked about in the election. The issues haven't gone away."

"I think it's very important for a host of issues to have a much better relationship" between Europe and the United States, Kerry said outside London's 10 Downing St., the prime minister's residence, after meeting with Blair. "Clearly, that's something I fought for in the campaign and something I believe in, and I think it's imperative for the resolution of these difficult global issues."

Regarding Iraq, Kerry said: "The key is not so much the elections, but what happens immediately after the elections. And the steps that are taken by the United States, by Great Britain, and others to broaden the coalition that has evolved, and to greatly accelerate the security, and to reduce the sense of American presence. All three of those have to happen simultaneously."

Full Story

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Reframaing the Social Security Debate

Here we go again. The Dems are being forced to respond to the GOP framing of yet another issue (see story below). Give them credit at least for responding quickly, but they need to get out in front of the social security debate now. Democrats should take back the FDR image with another TV ad using the same image, only theirs promotes democratic values and trust on Social Security from 70 years of safe guidance. You could end by mentioning the GOP's plans to privatize it showing ENRON and Ken Lay being lead off in handcuffs. Where's the security in that?

Full Story: FDR's Grandson Protests Soc. Security Ad
The grandson of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Thursday protested use of FDR's image in a television ad touting President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security.

"My grandfather would surely oppose the ideas now being promoted by this administration and your organization," James Roosevelt Jr., wrote in a letter to Progress for America, a private group that supports conservative issues.

The ad, running on Fox News and CNN through January 19, shows FDR signing the legislation creating the Social Security system and refers to the courage needed both to create the system and to protect it.

To compare the courage needed to create Social Security "to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable," Roosevelt, 70, wrote.

Bush wants to remake Social Security by letting workers divert some of their payroll taxes from the retirement system into personal investment accounts. Critics argue that such a move is too risky and would undermine the system's financial solvency.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bush's Iraq Strategy Proving Kerry Right

Thomas Oliphant from the Boston Globe asks the question how long will it take Bush to finally implement the ideas Kerry and his advisors were advocating for Iraq before the 2004 Presidential election. Clearly Bush's own solutions were bankrupt from the start and going nowhere fast with more nations leaving the coalition and violence spiraling out of control. How many U.S. troops must be lost while the Bush administration incompetently dawdles and ignores reality.

Read: Kerryism's comeback on Iraq

ONE OF the major questions President Bush is facing about Iraq is how long he wants to take to get cracking on John Kerry's ideas for dealing with the mess Bush made.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Social Security is Safe with Democrats

Repeat after me: Social security is safe with Democrats. Democrats created it. It's the most popular, and arguably best run government program of all time. You can thank the democrats for that. Did I mention that DEMOCRATS created and safeguarded social security for almost 70 years now. President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935.

I'm belaboring the point to make a point: Social Security is the proud legacy of democratic values and ideals. It's the best example of effective government caring for its disabled and elderly population. Yes the system needs to be fine tuned to match today's longer living population, but the system as a whole works. Those who claim otherwise don't trust you enough to give you the real facts as projected by the Congressional Budget Office. They have their own hidden agenda - to dismantle a highly successful program created by democrats while rewarding their political allies (financial & banking firms) with trillions of dollars of your money which they will collect in fees and maintenance charges, if privatization becomes law.

In 2005 you have a choice. Stand with Democrats to save Social Security or tear apart America's finest example of real compassionate conservatism for your neighbors.

IFK will be closely following the upcoming debate throughout 2005 and urges people to write their congressional representatives to support the democratic safeguarding of Social Security.

Find and contact your Senators and Representatives.

For Additional Reading:
Social Security Crisis? What Crisis?
Modest benefit cuts and revenue increases would solve the shortfall

Social Security: Crisis? What crisis?
Not only is Social Security not in crisis, it is as financially sound as ever, according to the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, run by Mark Weisbrot and Dean Baker, coauthors of "Social Security: The Phony Crisis."

Here's their argument:

Social Security can pay full benefits as promised until 2042 according to this year's Social Security trustees report (or 2052 if you use projections from the Congressional Budget Office). Thereafter it will be able to pay about 75 percent to 80 percent of promised benefits. Read more


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Kerry's January Agenda

Not one to sit around and stew about the past, Kerry is off and running in 2005. Currently on a two week fact finding mission in the Middle East, Kerry plans to thank soldiers in Iraq for their commitment and sacrifice. He also intends to listen to their stories and learn firsthand the facts on the ground and in the region.

Upon return to Washington Kerry has announced to supporters his intentions to introduce new legislature in congress. His first priorities will be fighting for children's health care, a bill to increase Americas troop strength by 40,000 troops, and legislature for federal voting standards.

Additionally, Kerry seems determined to play a role in rebuilding his party's grassroots:

From Newsweek: Kerry has become deeply fascinated by the task of rebuilding the Democratic Party from the grass roots up, say his advisers. He has hired a street wise political organizer from Boston named John Giesser, the deputy to 2004 grass-roots organizer Michael Whouley, to run his political action committee.

Whether Kerry can pull off his ambitious agenda and be the Democratic leader of opposition to the Bush administration remains to be seen, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Kerry Pushes for Federal Election Standards

In a letter to supporters dated Jan 5, 2005 Kerry explains that after extensive research in Ohio his team of lawyers have not turned up enough evidence to overturn the 2004 election results, however there are troubling reports of excessively long lines, inadequate numbers of voting machines in certain neighborhoods, and other voting irregularities.

To this end Kerry vows to introduce legislation to create a federal standard for Presidential elections. For his full statement read below.


Dear -,

No American citizen should wake up the morning after the election and worry their vote wasn't counted. No citizen should be denied at the polls if they are eligible to vote. And, as the greatest, wealthiest nation on earth, our citizens should never be forced to vote on old, unaccountable and non transparent voting machines from companies controlled by partisan activists.

Tomorrow, members of Congress will meet to certify the results of the 2004 presidential election. I will not be taking part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors.

Despite widespread reports of irregularities, questionable practices by some election officials and instances of lawful voters being denied the right to vote, our legal teams on the ground have found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

But, that does not mean we should abandon our commitment to addressing those problems that happened in Ohio. We must act today to make sure they never happen again.

I urge you to join me in using this occasion to highlight our demand that Congress commit itself this year to reforming the electoral system. A Presidential election is a national federal election but we have different standards in different states for casting and counting votes. We need a national federal standard to solve the problems that occurred in the 2004 election. I will propose legislation to help achieve this.

Florida 2000 was a wake up call. But the Republicans who control Congress ignored it. Will they now ignore what happened in 2004?

There are nearly 3,000,000 of you receiving this email. We accomplished so much together during the campaign. Now let's use our power to make sure that at least one good thing comes from the voting rights problems of the 2004 election. If we want to force real action on election reform, we've got to demand that congressional leaders hold full hearings. Make sure they hear from you and help hold them accountable.

Speaker Dennis Hastert: 1-202-225-0600
Leader Bill Frist: 1-202-224-3135

And please report that you've made your call right here:

I want every vote counted because Americans have to know that the votes they stood in line for, fought for, and strived so hard to cast in an election, are counted. We must make sure there are no questions or doubts in future elections. It's critical to our democracy that we investigate and act to prevent voting irregularities and voter intimidation across the country. We can't stand still as Congressional leaders seek to sweep well-founded voter concerns under the rug.

Please join with me in calling Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist and telling them that you want action on election reform now.

A recent report from Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) reveals very troubling questions that have not yet been answered by Ohio election officials. I commend the Democratic National Committee for its announcement this week that the DNC will be investing resources and reaching out to non-partisan academics in a long term study of Ohio voting irregularities. I am only sorry that we haven't seen the same from Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell and GOP officials.

Congress must play a positive, proactive role on this issue. That's why I will soon introduce legislation to reform our election system, ensuring transparency and accountability in our voting system and that all Americans have an opportunity to vote and have their vote counted.

Please remember to let us know that you made your call when you're done. We're hoping to ensure House and Senate leaders' offices hear our demand for action on election reform in meaningful way. Please take a moment to let us know you have made your call here:

Thank you,

John Kerry

P.S. Thanks to all those who participated in our USO "phone home" campaign last week. The totals are coming in from the USO, and they are thrilled with your generosity and support for our brave men and women in uniform. We will send you totals as we get them.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Global Warming Number One Science Story of the Year

Discover magazine ranks Global warming the top science story out of 100 in 2004. The evidence of human alteration to the climate is no longer disputable. Notable magazines like National Geographic and Business Week also devoted cover stories to it, while Hollywood gave us its own pseudo science version in the "The Day After Tomorrow". Even the Pentagon has named Global Warming a dangerous threat with major consequences to US economic interests around the world.

Perhaps now, as world governments race to react to the deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean, it would be a good time for governments to take stock in their preparedness to manage and, where possible, avert future natural disasters.

Science and technology are leading the way with innovative construction techniques, alternate energy sources, and advanced warning systems, however it also takes political leadership to recognize long term threats along with government regulation and funding to enforce preventative measures.

It will also take global citizens who are informed on the latest scientific evidence and who demand accountability from their leaders. Unfortunately under the Bush administration science has repeatedly taken a back seat to ideology, and much of the US population is still skeptical about the reality of global warming or any impact on their lives.

If we have to live with a President who wants to bury his head in the sand on the issue, in 2005 lets continue to educate our population on the consequences we face, while we press congress and state governments to act.

California has passed a strict measure to reduce automobile CO2 emissions, which are a leading greenhouse gas. Other states may follow, although our nation's auto makers are likely to try to fight it.

We must continue to push business technology innovation alongside government incentives. Our leaders must also face the world, who will ratify the Kyote treaty on climate change without our involvement.

Instead of being a leader on the issue the US is sadly playing the obstructionist. We must change that.

IFK Editor