Benny's World

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What Liberties Do Bloggers Have?

This morning I was cruising the OAC blog on the latest thread and noticed that someone had posted a synopsis of the David Brooks piece from the NYT. A few minutes later, someone posted the op-ed piece in its entirety. Some appreciated the FT; my response was inquiring as to where that came from and after an exchange of posts, finally the answer arrived. The link was posted at another site that OAC has blogrolled.

The responder thought I was picking on her personally. I realize my mistake was responding directly to her post instead of starting a separate topic to keep it more neutral as I certainly didn't mean to make it personal. Unfortunately, she took it that way. I have no control over her responses. So be it.

Now, I've skipped some details in the above paragraphs, but the bottom line is that I looked at the "free link" at the blogrolled site and noticed it was to a commercial vendor which distributes NYT content...even same day articles. I was baffled to say the least because it just didn't seem in that blogger's nature to post that link.

Later, I returned to the OAC blog to read at the previous thread and that's when I discovered the free link was provided in a diary at Kos. Then I was horrified. That's when I realized that so many people didn't know that the guy at the DK may have violated an agreement with Newsbank, the vendor that distributes the NYT's digital works. I decided to post a comment on his thread. here's what I wrote:

Topic: Newsbank Links

Most of the time I enjoy your diaries. But the links bothered me, and now people are jumping for joy because they didn't want to pay for the op-eds of the NYT.

I didn't see an attribution saying those links to the full text were granted with the permission of Newsbank.

Unless Kos or you are paying for the viewing rights via Newsbank, you're leading folks to thinking that information is free via a commercial database. It ain't, and no one should believe they can work around the NYT's policies and get it for free.

That's like a teenager whose parents told her/him s/he'd have to pay for her his own treats but instead paying for them, s/he steals them from the store. If they want it for free, wait a couple of days and look in the newspaper.

I like this site a lot. Please don't get Kos in trouble for these possible illegal links, or for that matter, jeopardizing your own or your organization's account with Newsbank. Kos gets enough warranted but also unwarranted attention. Let's not have the latter.

Respectfully, Benny

The OAC blogger's comment made me think a little more about the liberties we take on the blogs. Certainly, I have taken liberties here and on my blog especially because I don't make my livelihood here and JREG doesn't solicit any funding what so ever. I don't summarize the articles as much because I'm a bit lazy and sometimes I just want to get the link to the information with a couple of paragraphs of information. When it comes to posting full text of John Kerry or JRE's stuff, I have every reason to believe they are providing their opinions for free to put on blogs and hope the media will notice them.

But to me, it is grossly misleading to believe that "for fee" content should be free can be provided for free via a link to a commercial database. For example, Consumer Reports doesn't provide specific ratings for free; you have to buy the print copy or pay for it online. The same is true now for the NYT op-eds.

The Times Select's online contract is pretty plain: you cannot post the full text of their paid content unless you get permission first from the NYT. You may post some snippets, as one guy did on Kos, to prove your points, and as long as you make appropriate attribution. My gut reaction is that the unhappy OAC blogger probably didn't take the time to read the agreement carefully, but who knows. I just know from dealing with students and faculty all of the time on these issues, that unless it is their agreement for a mortgage or possibly a car loan, no one bothers to read these agreements because they want to do what is expedient without considering the consequences.

I have reason to believe that latter happened to the Kos diarist and others who may have posted that link. But what they don't understand is that even if you have a subscription to the Times Select, you are paying for the right to read it yourself, not for others to read it digitally, at your convenience. If I post a search results link to a database I have access to via work, I am violating an agreement my workplace has made; I am inadvertently (or advertently, take your pick) doing economic harm to the vendor that provides the content because it is is a conflict of interest. The vendor does have a right to make a profit from businesses or other individuals for that digital content, and it is not fair use, according to the Digital Copyright Millenium Act.

I wish the digital world were simpler; it's not. It's way deep muddy. I hassle with online vendors all of the time over these issues.

The Internet was never intended to be free, just as public libraries in reality can't be free either. Unlike a public library, no one owns the Net, but vendors are now putting the toll booths out because access is ubiquious. My concern about the FT of the Brooks piece is that the blogger violated her contract with the Times Select, and the other bloggers may be doing the same thing in other places. OAC and Kos could be liable because of ignorance or otherwise. NYT has deep pockets for lawsuits; Kos and OAC do not--and both solicit money. I told Chris they need guidelines, just as we do here.

I hope I've not offended anyone by this post, but as a librarian, I have a need to educate people about the uses of information gotten from the Net. I may have not been a blogger for long, but I know where one can take liberties and when one crosses that fine line that can cause some serious bites for blogs. The blogs are the only chance we have to keep our democracy going. Let's keep them out of trouble.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

JRE, Kerry Oppose Roberts to be Confirmed

From JRE (of course, he goes first!)

Dear Benny,

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the most important judge on the most important court in our country, responsible for protecting and upholding the rights and freedoms outlined in our Constitution. I have carefully reviewed Judge John Roberts' testimony and listened to him give unsubstantial, boilerplate answers and avoid answering even the most basic questions about his own views today.

Based on everything I have seen and read from Judge Roberts' work in the Reagan Administration, his past opinions, and his most recent testimony, I wanted you to be the first to know that I must oppose his nomination to be our country's Chief Justice.

I do so because we do know the views and positions he took prior to the recent hearings. Judge Roberts opposed efforts to remedy discrimination on the basis of sex and race. He opposed measures to protect voting rights. He denigrated the right to privacy and a woman's right to choose. He wanted to allow Congress to strip away courts' jurisdiction over controversial subjects.

Although he has presented himself as a supporter of judicial restraint, I do not see enough evidence that Judge Roberts would show restraint when his own political commitments are at stake. In light of his past positions, I believe he had an affirmative obligation to make the case to those who might confirm him that he repudiates the positions that he had previously advocated in his professional career. He made a choice and refused to meet that obligation. I cannot support someone who I am not convinced will preserve the liberties and freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution and our laws.

Please join me in fighting for the principles and values that each of us cherish. Contact your Senators and tell them to vote no on Judge Roberts' nomination.


From John Kerry:

Dear Benny,

Monday, I shared with you my Brown University speech setting out what needs to be said and done at this critical moment for our country. Today, in that same spirit of clarity and conviction, I want to tell you how I will vote on the nomination of John Roberts to serve as Chief Justice of the United States.

I will vote against this vitally important nomination.

Win or lose on this vote, it is essential that we act on our deepest convictions. And I refuse to vote for a Supreme Court nominee who came before the Senate intent on demonstrating his ability to deftly deflect legitimate questions about his views, opinions and philosophy.

John Roberts owed the American people far more than that.

If he is confirmed - and he may well be - the Roberts Court will shape the course of constitutional law for decades to come. It will decide dozens of cases that will define the depth and breadth of freedom in America - our commitment to civil rights, our dedication to civil liberties, our devotion to privacy and a woman's right to choose.

With that much at stake, Judge Roberts needed to show us where his heart is.

Instead he recited case law and said little about what he really thought. He needed to engage the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people in a genuine conversation. He failed that test. And, while I recognize that other members of the Senate will legitimately make a different choice, I will vote "NO" on the Roberts nomination.

Click here to read excerpts [provided below] from the statement announcing my position on the Roberts nomination. I urge you to read them - and, whatever the outcome of the Roberts vote, I encourage you to join me in insisting on a far more complete and extensive process on the critical nomination President Bush must now make to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Please contact your Senators now. Tell them where you stand on the Roberts nomination and tell them that you insist on full, fair, and forthcoming hearings on the person George W. Bush puts forward for the pivotal seat now occupied by Justice O'Connor.


John Kerry

Judge Roberts' judiciary committee hearings continue an increasingly sterile confirmation process. No genuine legal engagement between the questioners and the questioned. No real exchange of information and no substantive discussion. The confirmation exercise has become little more than an empty shell.

“The Administration's steadfast refusal to disclose documents Judge Roberts worked on while serving as a Deputy Solicitor General in the first Bush Administration has only compounded the problem. They claim that disclosure of the documents will violate attorney-client privilege. This argument is absurd. What client are they trying to protect? The Solicitor General is charged with arguing cases on behalf of all Americans. We were Judge Roberts' client when he worked in the Solicitor General's office. We have a right to know what he thought about the arguments he made on behalf of the American people.

"When John Roberts served as a Deputy Solicitor General under Ken Starr, he was intimately involved in critical decisions that office made, like whether to intervene in pending cases; what legal arguments to advance in support of their position; whether to push the Supreme Court to review a particular case. These decisions helped shape how federal law was applied and how our Constitution was interpreted. Yet, we--the Senators who are constitutionally obligated to give consent to this nominee--do not know the positions that Roberts took or the arguments that he made.

“For example, the Solicitor General's office decided to intervene in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic. The case had been brought against abortion clinic protestors during the height of clinic violence and bombings. The plaintiffs argued that the protesters were violating a federal anti-discrimination law by blocking access to clinics and inciting violence. The Government intervened and argued that the federal anti-discrimination law did not apply and therefore could not be used to stop the protesters. Judge Roberts briefed and argued the case for the Government. I believe that the arguments advanced by the Government--and the consequences of those arguments--are troubling. But, what we do not know is even more important: what role did Judge Roberts have in making them? Did he consider the consequences? Did he argue for a more narrow or more broad interpretation of the law?

“At the same time, the Solicitor General's office intervened in a district court case in Wichita, Kansas which raised the same issues that the Supreme Court in Bray was facing. The government tried to get the district court to lift an injunction put in place to protect the safety of the clinic workers and patients. They argued that the plaintiffs could not win and therefore the injunction was improper. The district court denied the Government's request and chastised it for unnecessarily endangering people's lives. The question is what role did Judge Roberts have in making that decision? What was the legal reasoning that prompted it? Did he consider the real life dangers that would result from his legal argument?

"The Administration's refusal to disclose these documents created a serious roadblock in the Senate's ability to evaluate Judge Roberts. But Judge Roberts' refusal to genuinely engage in the confirmation hearings created an even bigger one.

"This is not the first time that Supreme Court nominees have refused to engage in a meaningful discourse during judiciary committee hearings. Justice Souter refused to answer fundamental questions about his judicial philosophy. For that reason, I voted against him, and I am happy to say that I have been pleasantly surprised that my concerns regarding his views on civil rights and privacy did not come to pass. Justice Thomas also refused to answer fundamental questions about judicial philosophy. As I said at the time, Justice Thomas "found a lot of ways to say 'I do not know' or 'I disagree' or 'I cannot agree' or 'I can't say whether I agree.’" I voted against Justice Thomas because I did not know what kind of Justice he would be. And, I believe I was correct in making that decision.

“At the end of the day, I find myself much in the same position that I was with Justices Souter and Thomas. Notwithstanding his impressive legal resume, I cannot say with confidence that I know who Judge Roberts really is or what kind of Chief Justice he will be. In what direction will he take the Supreme Court? Will he protect the civil rights and liberties that we have fought so long and hard for? Will he support Congress' power to enact critical environmental legislation? Will he be an effective check on executive branch actions? Before I vote for a Chief Justice--particularly one who may lead the Court for potentially 30 years or more, I need to know the answers to these fundamental questions. Unfortunately, in the case of Judge Roberts, I do not.

"Another area of great concern to me is the area of privacy--an area where Judge Roberts skillfully answered a lot of questions without giving a hint as to his own legal positions. For example, while Roberts admitted that the Court has recognized that privacy is protected under the Constitution as part of the liberty in the Due Process Clause, he refused to give any indication of what he thought about the Court's most recent privacy-related decisions.

“The furthest he went was to say he had no quarrel with the decisions in Griswold and Eisenstadt, yet this kind of endorsement is hardly reassuring. In his confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas agreed that the Court had found a Constitutional right to privacy. Like Judge Roberts, he also stated that he had no quarrel with the Court's holding in Eisenstadt. Yet when he got to the Supreme Court, Judge Thomas disavowed the very rights he had said the Constitution protected. In fact, more recently, in Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Thomas stated that he could not "find [neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of the Constitution a] general right of privacy." The bottom line is that I simply do not know how Judge Roberts will approach questions implicating our fundamental right to privacy.

"In addition to what I do not know, what I do know about Judge Roberts is very troubling. I know that in the early 80's while he worked in the Department of Justice and White House Counsel's Office, Judge Roberts took an active role in advocating on behalf of Administration policies that would have greatly undermined our civil rights and civil liberties.

“For example, Judge Roberts argued against using the "effects test" to determine whether section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was violated. Instead, he believed an "intent" test--requiring proof of a discriminatory motive--should be required, regardless of the fact that many victims of discrimination would be unable to prove a real discriminatory intent and therefore unable to enjoy the protections afforded by the Act. In some cases, the effect of Judge Robert's intent test meant that disenfranchised individuals had to prove the motive of long dead officials who crafted the election rules. That is a foolish standard when it comes between citizens and their constitutionally protected right to fair representation in our democracy.

"Mr. President, I realize that Judge Roberts took the positions I just described some time ago. And, I know he told the judiciary committee that he was simply advocating the views of the Administration at the time. Yet, I find it hard to believe that a staffer at Justice or in the White House Counsel's office never wrote a memo that represented his views rather than the Administration's positions. Particularly when the theme of those memos is consistent across the board: strict adherence to narrow principles of law despite their real world impact.

"Judge Roberts' more recent positions trouble me as well, particularly his decision to join Judge Randolph's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the military tribunals case. That opinion gave the President unfettered and un-reviewable authority to place captured individuals outside the protections of the Geneva Convention. Six retired senior military officials with extensive experience in legal policy, the laws of war, and armed conflict have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court arguing that Hamdan must be overturned immediately because it directly endangers American soldiers.

“I understand that Judge Roberts felt he could not discuss the case while it was pending before the Supreme Court, but, even when asked about his views of the scope of executive power unrelated to the Hamdan case, Judge Roberts was evasive. He did little more than describe the Court's current framework for analyzing assertions of executive power. As a result, I do not know whether he believes that the state of war is a blank check for the President or whether he will closely scrutinize the legality of Executive Branch actions at all times. Given the fact that his Hamdan decision placed our troops at risk, I am forced to conclude that Judge Roberts' future decisions may further threaten the security of our troops abroad and our citizens at home.

"Now, some may argue that Democrats should vote for Judge Roberts because he is the best nominee we could expect from the Administration. I cannot vote to confirm the next Chief Justice of the United States simply because the next nominee to the Court may be even less protective of our fundamental rights and liberties or less dangerous to our national security.

"The questions I have raised, the absence of critical documents, and the lack of clarity surrounding fundamental issues like how he would interpret the Constitution require me to fulfill my Constitutional duties by opposing his nomination to be the next Chief Justice."

Kerry's reasons are pretty convincing in many respects. He's still a superb Senator and debater...


I am also thinking we have gotten too much into the politics and paid little to judicial experience. I would argue simply that Roberts isn't enough a distinguished jurist to be confirmed--and I felt that way about Clarence Thomas too.

However, if Roberts is considered the faciliator of the court, he would do fine in that role. Changes in organizational structure of the court would have be examined, proposed, go through upteen committees, then laws or amendments for a vote might surface as a result.

Perhaps it is a good time to examine whether the current structure is relevant for now and future generations.

I get tired of seeing the court packed--period. It makes the judicial system less independent.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

JRE: We Must Build a Working Society

JRE Speech from the Center for American Progress, Sept 19, 2005:

We have all seen the images from the wreckage of Katrina - people packed into the Superdome and convention center with only the clothes on their backs. And we've all asked what brought them there. Many things did, but one of them was poverty.

Widespread poverty existed before Katrina and it will persist after the Gulf region is rebuilt, if we let the images that we have watched on the news fade from our memories as they fade from our television screens.

But today we have a historic opportunity. We do not have to live in an America that accepts poverty as a fact of life or chooses to ignore it. The day after Katrina hit, new government statistics showed that 37 million Americans live in poverty, up for the fourth year in a row.

The Superdome made those people impossible to ignore, but we could look down the streets of every city in America and see enough poor and forgotten families to fill all the football stadiums in America. Those families in the Superdome were abandoned, but in a less striking way, that's how millions of struggling Americans feel every day


They know there are jobs somewhere, but not jobs they can get to, not jobs they're trained for. They know some children go to good schools, but the schools for their children have overcrowded classrooms and overwhelmed teachers. They know some people live in safe neighborhoods, but they walk their kids past gang members every day.

That sense of isolation exists in our inner cities and in our small towns. While it touches African-Americans and Latinos most, it also touches every community. Talk to families across America who are sorting their bills into "pay now" and "pay later" piles, knowing that a sick child or a pink slip will send them over the edge. They feel like they're alone.

There is a powerful hunger for community in our country today. People understand they have to work hard and take responsibility for themselves. But they also know there's more to America than that.

This Administration may think every American is an island. But Americans know that Katrina's victims shouldn't have been out there on their own, and that no American should be out there on their own. That's why even when our government failed to respond to Katrina, American citizens stepped up in an extraordinary way. We know that it matters how we as a nation meet our responsibilities. It defines us as a nation.

Throughout our history, people around the world have been drawn to America for what we stand for: that we are all created equal, and that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The government's response to Katrina undermined those ideals. One foreign magazine called it "The Shaming of America." It has been our shame.

I want the world to see a different America - an America that is working every day to live up to what was written - I want them to see the one America that we all believe in.

And that means that while we must first address the urgent tragedy of poverty in the Gulf states, we must also address the tragedy of poverty across the fifty states.

A week ago, I went to some shelters in Baton Rouge where people from New Orleans have been living. One man told me "I've worked hard all my life - it's what I know.

"And the people here tell me that if I wait outside the shelter at 5 am every morning, sometimes, maybe, someone will come by in a pickup looking for workers. So since the day I got here, for a week and a half, I've been out there every morning at 5 am - just on that chance, because I just want a chance to work."

This man had lost everything he had - and all he was asking for was the chance to work. He still believed that in America if you did your part and were willing to work hard, you were going to be okay. And he spoke for most Americans of every race and class.

The trouble is that for too many Americans - not just in the Gulf but everywhere - the American Dream has become too distant. You can see it in the numbers: millions of parents work full-time but still live in poverty. The typical white family has about $80,000 in assets; the typical Hispanic family, about $8,000; the typical African-American family, about $6,000.

"Income is what you use to get by, but assets are what you use to get ahead." This huge asset gap is one reason so many families are barely getting by. And again, it's not just the poor: middle-class incomes are stagnant, and more people file for bankruptcy than graduate from college each year.

Since January, I've traveled the country and talked to Americans living on the edge. Their grit and determination is extraordinary. But so are their struggles.

Just one story: I met a woman in Kansas City with two kids who had a job that pays $9.50 an hour. And she told me about the winters where, "the choice was between lights and gas." She chose the lights. And she said to me, "When my kids go to bed, I tell them to wear as many clothes as they can. And when they go to school, I tell them, Don't tell anyone you don't have gas because somebody might come and take you away.'" She said that in America, "Nobody who works hard should live like that."

She is absolutely right. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." What that woman endures is evil. As a nation, we cannot do nothing.

In the 1960s we fought a war on poverty. Our intentions were good, but sometimes we expected government to do things that only individuals and communities can achieve. Sometimes we gave too much money to bureaucracies, not people. Yet those efforts still helped cut the poverty rate by 43 percent from 1963 to 1973.

Again, in the 1990s, the Earned Income Tax Credit and welfare reform helped lift 7 million more people out of poverty. If we are going to fight poverty, we have to commit ourselves once more, more deeply than ever before.

But while America does more, people will have to do more too. This is something I've come to understand much better as I've spent more time with poor teen moms who didn't graduate high school and aren't married. These are good and decent Americans just looking for happiness, but too often they think the way to find it is to have a child.

And while they struggle, many young dads don't stick around. Someone who spends his life working with young men said to me that what he hears is, "I'm going to end up in prison or in jail, so I have to leave a seed here." And he also told me how that choice has consequences.

I visited a wonderful program in Chicago called Bethel New Life and saw a t-shirt a child had written about his father. It said, "you won't be there. Should have, could have, would have." And the t-shirt had a hole in the shape of a heart. In families with teen parents who didn't graduate high school and aren't married, children are nine times more likely to be poor.

Down in New Orleans, hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes and untold numbers lost their lives because the levees we built were too weak and too low. We knew better, but we didn't act because we didn't want to look. That's how it is with the moral foundations of our society.

All over this country, too many children are growing up in harm's way -- and too many lives are being washed away -- because the levees we've built are too weak and too low.

When a 13-year-old girl thinks there's nothing wrong with having a baby that will drive them both toward lives of poverty, we haven't built the levees high enough. When 15-year-old boys become fathers, then walk away, get shot, or go to jail, we haven't built the levees high enough. When young people spend more time going to meth labs than chemistry labs, we haven't built the levees high enough.

We know better, but we don't act because we don't want to look. If we believe in community, we must find the courage to do what communities do: Together, we must stand side by side and man the levees.

All of us - parents, clergy, teachers, public officials - we need to say some simple truths: it is wrong when boys and young men father children but don't care for them. It is wrong when girls and young women bear children they aren't ready to care for. And - and - it is wrong when all Americans see this happening and do nothing to stop it.

Because this is also about America's responsibility to create new opportunities for young people. I met a woman from a New Britain teen pregnancy program called Pathways/Senderos. She told me how she tries to give kids with struggling parents the love, the discipline, and the chance to succeed that you would want for your own children. Instead of having kids, many of these teenagers are getting diplomas. And here in Washington, a baseball coach and teacher named Luis Cardona told me how he's helped boys in gangs get jobs and become mentors to keep other kids out of gangs.

So many young people are struggling against the odds to do right, and they need America's support. Words are not enough. That's why it is time for a new social compact. When President Bush talks about an "ownership society," he means the more you own, the more you get. For most Americans, his approach is the more you work, the more you pay and the less you make.

Where I come from, what matters the most isn't how much you have, it's how much you give. Work gives pride, dignity, and hope to our lives and our communities. And so the President is wrong: America is not, and never wished to be, a Wealth Society.

To be true to our values, our country must build a Working Society - an America where everyone who works hard finally has the rewards to show for it. In the Working Society, nobody who works full-time should have to raise children in poverty, or in fear that one health emergency or pink slip will drive them over the cliff.

In the Working Society, everyone who works full-time will at last have something to show for it - a home of their own, an account where their savings and paycheck can grow.

In the Working Society, everyone willing to work will have the chance to get ahead. Anyone who wants to go to college and work will be able to go the first year for free.

In the Working Society, people who work have the right to live in communities where the streets are safe, the schools are good, and jobs can be reached.

In the Working Society, everyone will also be asked to hold up their end of the bargain - to work, to hold off having kids until they're ready, and to do their part for their kids when the time comes.

The first test of the working society will be in the Gulf. And the central principle of our effort should be the one I just outlined: We can only renew the Gulf if we renew the lives of the Gulf's people by encouraging and honoring work.

The President doesn't get that. At a time when a million people have been displaced, many already poor before the storm; when the only shot many people have is a good job rebuilding New Orleans, the President intervened to suspend prevailing wage laws so his contractor friends can cut wages for a hard day's work.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the President never suggested cutting million-dollar salaries for the heads of Halliburton or the other companies profiting from these contracts. A President who never met an earmark he wouldn't approve or a millionaire tax cut he wouldn't promote decided to slash wages for the least of us.

Seventy-five years ago, our government was led by a President who actually succeeded in navigating America through a disaster. Faced with the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt saw that relief requires more than food and shelter; it requires the dignity that comes from a job at a decent wage. And he saw something else: as Allida Black put it at a forum here last week, we have to "build to last."

Many of our children still go to schools that the WPA constructed; many of our homes are lighted because of dams that the PWA built; many of our families still hike on trails that his CCC blazed. That's why trailer parks are not the answer.

In fact, if we know anything from a half century of urban development, it is that concentrating poor people close to each other and away from jobs is a lousy idea. If the Great Depression brought forth Hoovervilles, these trailer towns may someday be known as Bushvilles.

We can do better. I've proposed a New America Initiative based on the principles that FDR and the WPA taught us.

First, we need to make not just construction but job creation a top priority. As we do, we need to make sure victims get the wages, skills and benefits they need to rebuild their lives. Good wages are part of our relief effort. And so is building skills: Tax breaks for businesses alone will never attract high-wage, high-skill jobs. We need a new approach that unites businesses, community colleges, nonprofits, and unions in new cooperation.

Second, folks need a chance to save for the future. The CCC sent money home to families. FEMA actually had a good idea with these debit cards. But now they're doing direct deposits in bank accounts. The problem is, many people displaced by the storm lived in neighborhoods without banks.

A worker making $12,000 a year could spend $500 just cashing checks and buying money orders to pay the bills. David Shipler begins his book about poverty by saying "it's expensive to be poor," and he's right. So as we offer relief, we should help people open bank accounts so they can escape the check-cashers and save. So they can get ahead - not just get by.

Finally, we need to build a Gulf Coast that is "built to last," with the infrastructure to compete. That's not trails these days, it's modern mass transit. It's not dams, it's energy-efficient businesses and homes. Urban homesteading is a start, but let's bring together the great private engines of development, challenge them to build integrated communities, and leverage federal dollars to do it.

We'll beat poverty in the 21st century by building a Gulf for the 21st century. While we fight poverty in the Gulf, we also have to fight poverty across America. We should begin by returning to a promise once kept and now broken: If you work full-time, you shouldn't have to raise your children in poverty.

Today, a single mom with two kids who works full-time for the minimum wage is about $2000 below the poverty line. The erosion of the minimum wage is a disgrace; we need to raise it to at least $7.50 an hour. Unionized workers make 30% more, so we need to give them back a real right to organize. And we need make sure that people can enter the workforce and change jobs without losing their health insurance.

It's not enough to say that people who work full-time shouldn't live in poverty.

We need to help every American develop the assets they need to get ahead - to send their kids to college, buy a home, or just have the piece of mind that there's a little breathing room should catastrophe -- in the form of a hurricane or lost health insurance - -comes into their lives.

First, let's help folks buy a home they can actually keep. Today, the rich get subsidies while the poor get ravaged by predatory lenders. We should do something different: crack down on those lenders and offer a new deal to poor families just going into the workforce: for the first five years you are working, we will set aside up to $1,000 in an account to help you make home payments. After five years, you'll have up to $5,000 for down payments.

Next, I'd help families save. We should offer low-income Americans "work bonds" - an extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps families save for the future. Low-income working families would receive an extra credit of up to $500 per year that would be directly deposited into a new account held by a bank or a safe stock fund with low fees.

If families put away more, the amount in the account would grow, and it would be available not just for retirement, but also for a small business or a personal emergency. It'd be there for a rainy day and a better future.

Third, work should give you a good education. I could give a whole speech about education alone, because we will never end poverty unless we improve our schools. But here's just one idea that would help with both education and housing.

This President likes to talk a lot about school vouchers; I'd like a major effort to give working parents who are poor housing vouchers so they have a chance to move into neighborhoods with better schools. That will not only expand opportunity; it will build healthier communities through "cultural integration," as David Brooks called it.

Poor people don't need new bureaucracies; they need access to the same banks and jobs and markets that most Americans take for granted. The chance to go to college meant everything in my life, and young people need to know that if they work hard they'll be able to afford it.

For years now, I've talked about an idea I call College for Everyone: if you stay out of trouble in high school and agree to work your first year in college, you ought to get your first year of tuition at a public university or community college free. In a couple weeks, I'll be announcing a new pilot project in North Carolina to test out that idea in an entire county.

And we also need policies that help strengthen families. Though the 2001 tax bill eliminated the marriage penalty for the middle-class, poor families can still get hit with a $3,000 marriage penalty. That makes no sense. We need to finish the job of welfare reform. It caused millions of mothers to go out and get jobs, but it left poor young men right where they were.

In communities where 40 percent of young men are unemployed, we can get more poor men into the workforce by connecting them with more jobs and supporting their wages, the way the EITC already does for families.

And we should make sure young fathers get the same deal as young mothers: you have to take work and take responsibility for your children. In return, we'll help you find a job.

How will we pay for it all at a time of record deficits? We will pay for it if we decide it matters.

Just in the next 5 years, George Bush has found the money to pay for over $336 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. He has found the money to deliver subsidies for every kind of corporate interest. Now he says he wants to cut waste, but he won't touch two more tax cuts for millionaires that haven't even taken effect yet.

To do this right, we will need to cut the wasteful spending - the breaks for oil companies, for a highway to nowhere, even for ceiling fan exporters. But that won't be enough. We will also need to repeal the tax cuts given to the most fortunate among us. And even that won't be enough.

For a long time, I've talked about how this President's tax policy rewards wealth, not work. Today a stockbroker sitting by the pool watching the stock market pays a lower tax rate than the secretary who types the letters.

So we need tax reform. I've already talked about how to reward work better by expanding the EITC. But we should also stop favoring the wealth of the wealthiest.

An easy way to do that is to restore the Alternative Minimum Tax to its original purpose, shielding the middle class but ensuring that the very richest pay at least the same 28% rate on their stocks that they already pay on their work under the AMT. That will mean that the secretary and shop clerk living off their work don't pay a higher tax rate than millionaires living off their wealth.

When I first started talking about poverty in the 2004 campaign, political types said it was futile. They said nobody cares about poverty except for poor people. They were wrong.

Through their overwhelming generosity since Katrina, Americans have shown that we all care about poverty. We care about our national community. We know that no one succeeds on their own. We know that when one person is down it drags all of us down. This is not something we do for them. This is something we do for us - for all of us. It makes us stronger, it makes us better. We just want to fight poverty in a way that reflects our values.

As I watched the horrific images of human suffering caused by Katrina, like many of you, I was heart broken. Unfortunately, those images are not the picture of one city, but of our America today. It does not have to be that way. This is a historic moment when the country is ready to act.

But will this attention to poverty be sustained or transient? That depends on our leaders - whether we step up and sustain our moral commitment as the country's conscience would naturally want us to do. I hope we all do.

So, today, I implore all Americans - don't turn off the television and put the disturbing images out of your mind. Don't let yourself think that because the levees in New Orleans are being repaired, we have built all of America's levees high enough.

Rather, stand with me today and pledge to work for an America that doesn't ignore those in need and lifts up those who wish to succeed. Pledge to hold your government accountable for ignoring the suffering of so many for far too long. And pledge to do your part to build the America that we have dreamed of - where the bright light of opportunity shines on every person - an America where the family you are born into, or the color of your skin, will never control your destiny.

Thank you.

Working Society
and New America Initiative

To be continued...there are some pragmatic issues to consider with some of the ideas...but overall, he has articulated some plans, which most Dems seem to avoid doing these days.

Update: this speech is making a great splash in the media as it caught PBS political commentator Tom Oliphant's attention, albeit Kerry got more of the spotlight with his speech at Brown yesterday. The RNC actually issued a response to Kerry's speech.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Edwards calls for national discussion on the poor

By CHARLOTTE EBY, Globe Des Moines Bureau

INDIANOLA -- The country should open up a national discussion on helping the poor after Hurricane Katrina brought the “face of poverty” onto America’s television screens, former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards told an Iowa crowd Sunday.

Edwards criticized President Bush’s plans to rebuild New Orleans, saying he has “a complete lack of understanding” of how the poorest victims of the hurricane lived their lives.

Edwards proposed recreating a program like the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, that put unemployed Americans back to work during the Great Depression.

“We ought to bring these folks that have been displaced back into New Orleans to rebuild their own city – give them a decent wage, decent benefits,” Edwards said. “I think that’s the way to help rebuild New Orleans the way it should be rebuilt. Not just rebuild the city, but rebuild people’s lives.”

Edwards criticized Bush for suspending a federal law that would require government contractors to pay workers the local prevailing wage for rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.


Harkin said it best:

"“That hurricane didn’t just rip the roofs off of houses, it ripped the mask off of George Bush’s America,” Harkin said.

I started another discussion last night with my siblings on the subject of poverty, as I tried to explain that poverty is in our backyard. We have a mother who lives in poverty as she only gets $9050 in SS from the government, and my father left her nothing many years ago when he died.

Because the topic involves money, I feel as though I fight with my siblings all of the time to contribute more to help my mom. They are well to do in many instances, but when it comes to my mom, they have difficulty understanding her financial problems and with parting with their money. They keep thinking I should bear most of the burden since I don't have children, but I don't think that's right.

Shameful. My sister and her husband don't want to help my mother willingly. They obviously live in the other America and don't see the pragmatism in giving back to someone who gave them a life and helped nurture their kids for 20 years.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Charlie Brown: Don't You Know Lucy Got the Football Again

Good Grief
byline Bob Hebert
September 19, 2005

The president is Lucy, and he's holding a football. We're Charlie Brown.

In an eerily lit, nationally televised appearance outside the historic St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, President Bush promised the world to the Gulf Coast residents whose lives were upended by Hurricane Katrina.

He seemed to be saying that no effort, no amount of money, would be spared. Two hundred billion dollars? No problem. This will be bigger than the Marshall Plan. The end of the rainbow is here.

"Throughout the area hit by the hurricane," said Mr. Bush, "we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

The country has put its faith in Mr. Bush many times before, and come up empty. It may be cynical, but my guess is that if we believe him again this time, we're going to end up on our collective keisters, just like Charlie Brown, who could never stop himself from kicking mightily at empty space, which was all that was left each time Lucy snatched the ball away.

snip to end

Charlie Brown's sister, Sally, once asked how often someone could be fooled with the same trick. She answered her own question: "Pretty often, huh?"

LINK (Times Select subscription req'd $)

Another Anniversary with Elmo

As you can see, Elmo is one of my cats. My first spouse and I were adopted by this skiddish, but beautiful tuxedo cat. We didn't know he was a she, but it was worth taking this kitty from the wild side as she was a stray. Very hungry, shy, but she brought imagination into the house and our lives. She used to stay up late with my spouse when times were tough for him in being unemployed. They ended reading lots and one of the tomes was Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

On Sunday mornings, the tv was on with the talking head shows, and for some reason she always paid attention to Bob Dole. I always thought I should have put her on Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks. Elmo was mistaken for the First Cat, Socks. It used to put her off because she thought she should have been First Cat and would never have been regulated to the basement of the White House by a dog.

In the 12 years Elmo and I have been together, I have had a divorce, moved 6 times, and I remarried. She actually travels well. Elmo has adapted in all of her situations, despite having to live with 2 dogs (who are good to their owners but have tried to kill her) and to adjust to her step brother Benny. Benny keeps Elmo in shape as he chases her around the house. She weighs only 9 lbs, a good weight for a cat approaching the age of 14. Elmo is very intelligent, but at times she feels she is a panther stuck in a domesticated cat's body.

Tonight, we celebrate Elmo's anniversary with playing her favorite songs:

"Stray Cat Strut" by the Stray Cats
"Memory" sung by Barbra Steisand
"Cat Scratch Fever" by Ted Neugent
and her favorite, "Year of the Cat" by Al Stewart

She thinks every year is "year of the cat".

She also gets a little Fancy Feast.

Happy Anniversary, Elmora Edwina Conrad! But just so you know, I still call it her birthday.