Benny's World

Saturday, October 13, 2007

John Edwards: Television Yappers are Nonsense

I just got through watching C-SPAN's Road to the White House 2008 Event in which John Edwards was doing an outdoor town hall in Keene, NH.

Most of the questions were the same questions about getting out of Iraq (40-50K troop withdrawl now, and no more combat missions), education (college for everyone, pre-kindergarten, NCLB is a mess as kids don't learn completely from testing all of the time, teachers should have more say), global warming (he's against building new nuclear power plants). I'm familiar with many of his policies. But what got my attention was a woman who wanted to know the reality of cable news and national news reports that the primary election as well as the general election had been decided.

It was very telling as the voter was getting at the problems with the media and other big money behind it, which was the theme of Edwards' One Democracy initiative today. Edwards asked the crowd: is the election decided here in NH already? NO, the crowd yelled. Then Edwards said he knew the voters had not made up their minds in NH, and the same in Iowa, and that "television yappers are nonsense". Let's look at Edwards' One Democracy ideas.

Edwards’ three-legged chair approach calls for strengthening the voice of ordinary citizens through election reform, reforming campaign finance to strengthen small donors, and ending the unique power of lobbyists.

“The American people are sick and tired of business as usual,” said Edwards. “Lobbyists and the special interests they represent are pouring millions of dollars into the system, corrupting our democracy and stopping the change we need dead in its tracks. With all the money flooding into politics, you’d think that instead of holding elections we were auctioning our leaders off to the highest bidders. Our founding fathers intended our government to do the will of the people, but regular people can’t afford a voice in today’s pay-to-play Washington.

“It’s time to put an end to the special deals enjoyed by lobbyists and insiders at the expense of the regular Americans. We must strengthen voting and campaign finance laws and curb the influence of campaign contributions from special interests, so that everyone has a voice in the political process and the people decide who leads this nation.”

That's the official part, but in his speech in Keene, he spoke of the time when Teddy Roosevelt took on the corporations with anti-trust measures, when railroad, oil, and steel magnates tried to monolopize prices. Edwards used a similar parallel in which he had done the same thing by fighting against corporations as a lawyer for people in their hardest times. Then he revealed what he witnessed while in Congress, John Boehner handing out checks on the floor to influence votes, and when Nick Smith was handed $200K to change a vote related to health care. I remember that vote, I thought to myself. It was when they voted for the bad prescription bill that created donut holes for the middle class--and Edwards voted against it.) That game needs to end.

Ending the Unique Power of Lobbyists: Edwards will prohibit all candidates and federal office holders from accepting contributions from lobbyists and will prohibit federal lobbyists from acting as bundlers for federal candidates. He will limit the ability of lobbyists to secure lucrative earmarks by enacting a Constitutional version of the line-item veto, where the president can require an up or down vote on special-interest spending.

Moreover, Edwards said close the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street by reinstating the five-year ban on lobbying by former top government officials and by banning former lobbyists from taking executive branch positions related to their former clients. Bill Clinton enacted this during his term, but rescinded it during the last days of his term. He would sign a statue where this could not be reversed.

In terms of public financing, Edwards had a very good proposal for when he is president.

Few Americans can afford to make $4,600 contributions to gain access to presidential candidates, and the integrity of our campaign financing system depends upon smaller donors continuing to play an important role in the political process. Edwards’ campaign is built upon the support of small donors – in fact, 93 percent of the campaign’s donations come from donors contributing less than $100. As president, Edwards will create a new Grassroots Presidential Financing System to match small donations under $100 by eight to one, making two $100 donations as valuable to a campaign as a single $1,000 donation. He will also reduce the maximum contribution from $2,300 to $1,000 per person, to better reflect the incomes of most Americans. Edwards will create a system of full public financing for Congressional candidates and require corporations to disclose their political activity and spending.

That drew applause too.

The third leg was about strengthening our voices (since he knew what it was like in the last election in the problems with Diebold) and creating citizen congresses. To ensure everyone’s vote is counted, Edwards' administration will
require that all voting machines, including electronic ones, use paper ballots that can be verified by voters, allow Election Day Registration in federal elections, fight voter suppression and intimidation and end the disenfranchisement of former prisoners who have served their time.

That was new to me and the citizens clapped for that too.

In order to increase citizen engagement, Edwards will ask one million citizens to participate in biennial Citizen Congresses – national town hall meetings where regular Americans tackle national issues together, without the filters of interest groups and the media. Similar projects have given citizens a voice in community solutions across the country, including in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in terms of elections, school redistricting etc.

This concept was re-interated this afternoon in a diary at the Daily Kos about the Study Circles Resource Center.

It was very clear that Edwards made points that in order to change the status quo, we have to make bold changes, and he is willing to do it. And we need someone who can carry other Democrats in Red States as much as blue and purple ones to bring about an aggressive progressive agenda. (hint: Edwards leads in most head to head matches, and by better margins)

As one guy said to Edwards on his way out, we need someone to fight for families in Washington. I think Edwards' One Democracy initiative is a big step in the right direction. We cannot trade corporate Republicans for Corporate Democrats.

To read more about Edwards' One Democracy initiative, go here.

I agree with Edwards when he says "Elections Should Not be Auctions." The Keene NH crowd concurred.

Also cross-posted at MyDD

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Good Day for Our Planet

As about half of the United States and Europe know by now, Al Gore and an UN agency, ICCP, are being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year, for their work on raising awareness about global warming. VP Gore has done much in bringing more research to this cause, as it is a serious problem. How it connects to peace is that he brought people together via a movie, appearances at various places, and a global concert back in July. He did so with his own passion and ability to do it with mainly private monies. This is true citizen activism at its best.

John Edwards was the first political candidate to send his congratulations publicly about the award:

Congratulations to Al Gore. The Nobel Peace Prize rewards three decades of Vice President Gore’s prescient and compelling – and often lonely – advocacy for the future of the Earth. His leadership stands in stunning contrast to the failure of the current administration to pursue policies that would reduce the harm of global warming.

“The Nobel Committee's recognition of Vice President Gore shines a bright light on the most inconvenient truth of all – the selection of George Bush as president has endangered the peace and prosperity of the entire planet.

“Two terms later, Americans are ready for bold change, ready to be patriotic about something other than war and ready to take action to stop global warming before it's too late. The stakes are sky-high – as Al Gore predicted, our Earth is in the balance.

Happy Friday, Al. I don't envy all of the bloggers, artists, politicians, and reporters who are clamoring to speak to you on your special day. And to Senator Jim Inhofe, even you cannot deny that Al Gore is on to something.

Update: Here's a class act, Nobel Recipient, Al Gore:

Nutkuses (a term my spouse uses):

Republican Shill, Cheri Jacobus
Republican Presidential Candidate, John McCain

And the most classy of all of the Republican Party, its leader, GWB, who won't even call Gore to congratulate him, as an American statesman/citizen, personally.
At the White House, Mr Bush’s spokesman insisted, possibly through gritted teeth, that the President shared Mr Gore’s joy — but had no plans to speak to him. “

Enjoy Al Gore's fellow Oscar winner Melissa Etheridge from Live Earth:

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Prayers for Tim Emerson and Michelle Obama

I was visiting Oliver Willis' site and saw that there was a serious accident in Iowa today involving Tim Emerson and Michelle Obama's van.

Obama's not my candidate, but anyone would be shaken from that experience. The story will be more clear in the days to come, but truly, I pray for all in that accident. Senator Obama must feel fortunate that his wife is OK and is with their babies. I feel badly for the motorcyclist, and wished he had not been in such a hurry without a helmet either.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Is the Boss Channeling John Edwards?

Last night, I saw a terrific interview of Bruce Springsteen on 60 Minutes. Scott Pelley, who happens to be from my hometown of Lubbock, TX, asked Springsteen about his "anti-war" CD and about his musical evolution. His responses remind me of what I've been hearing from JRE for the last 2 years. The Showbiz blog from CBS aptly entitled the interview: Silence is Unpatriotic.

From the transcript:

"You know, I think this record is going to be seen as anti-war. And you know there are people watching this interview who are going to say to themselves, 'Bruce Springsteen is no patriot,'" Pelley remarks.

"Well, that's just the language of the day, you know? The modus operandi for anybody who doesn't like somebody, you know, criticizing where we've been or where we're goin'," Springsteen says. "It's unpatriotic at any given moment to sit back and let things pass that are damaging to some place that you love so dearly. And that has given me so much. And that I believe in, I still feel and see us as a beacon of hope and possibility."

Parallel that to JRE's speech back in January, who spoke up against the surge initially, as there will be never a military solution to the war.

That is why I have spoken out against the McCain Doctrine of escalation. That's why Congress must step up and stop the president from putting more troops in harm's way.

If you're in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war

- use it.


Silence is betrayal. Speak out. Tell your elected leaders to block this misguided plan that is destined to cost more lives and further damage America's ability to lead. And tell them also, that the reward of courage... is trust.

Look what happened when Congress didn't listen to JRE or many of us to stop the surge. Many more have died. The Boss's new song "Last to Die" brings this point home very forcefully.

What a video and terrific lyrics--here is the last stanza followed by the refrain:

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The last to die for a mistake

Darlin' will tyrants and kings

fall to the same fate

Strung Up at your city gates

Who will be the last to die for a mistake

Who will be the last to die for a mistake

The last to die for a mistake

Whose blood will spill

Whose heart will break

Who'll be the last to die..

Wow, powerful stuff.

At the Yearly Kos, Chris Dodd admitted the vote was a bad idea and Bush went too far in not doing every thing he could to investigate the problem and engage the other countries that going to war was the best for our national security interests. JRE said he was wrong for his mistake; at many venues, he urged a change of course that we all voted for in November 2006.

Congress is still twisting in the wind.

Later, Pelley asked Springsteen about his roots. Springsteen recalls his past:

"It was a tough, struggling household. People struggled emotionally. People struggled financially to get through the day," Springsteen remembers. "Small town. Small town world which I continue to return to. It's like when I went to write, though, I put my father's clothes on. You know the immersement in that world through my parents and my own experience as a child and the need to tell a story that maybe was partially his. Or maybe a lot his. I just felt drawn to do it."

Pelley seemed amazed that Springsteen felt he had a lot more to write and say and asked this in the interview about the content of Magic:
"Some of the pieces in the new record are gonna be considered controversial. Give me a sense of what you think has to be said. Why are you still writing?" Pelley asks,

"It's how I find out who you are, and who I am, and then who we are. I'm interested in that. I'm interested in what it means to be an American," Springsteen says. "I'm interested in what it means to live in America. I'm interested in the kind of country that we live in and leave our kids. I'm interested in trying to define what that country is. I got the chutzpa or whatever you want to say to believe that if I write a really good about it, it's going to make a difference. It's going to matter to somebody."

And why is Edwards running for President? This is what he said on MTP (via YT clip) yesterday:

That is why I have supported John Edwards since 2004. His thinking has evolved in order to meet the bigger changes of the world and what could they present to our country.

Springsteen hasn't changed either as he has everything he wants, yet he is willing to speak out through song. I listened to his CD, Magic, and I must say it reminds me of a 21st version of Born in the USA, which was a powerful CD and when Springsteen started speaking out politically.

Where Edwards differs from his favorite artist is that he will be more than driver of the conversation: he is for bold change and we need 21st century leadership. He's the candidate to do it.

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Who Should Progressives Trust?

Yesterday, I posted about a heated exchange that took place between Madame Clinton and Mr. Randall Rolph in Iowa over the weekend. Apparently, this story is gaining attention as even Dan Baltz at WaPO is reporting on it.

Blogger Wade Norris picked up the WaPO story and created a diary at the Daily Kos about it. It's still on the recommended list. Norris was accused of channeling Drudge, supplying misinformation.

Hillary Murdoch posts the same WaPO story at Taylor Marsh. Taylor, in her analysis, uses the "sexism" angle, even though conceding that Andrew Sullivan might have a point about Clinton's arrogance in this instance. Since arrogance from Clinton is interpreted as "she's very working hard", Marsh contends that if a male candidate had reacted to the attendee as Clinton did, the media would see it as a sign of strength instead.

Did Taylor overlook that the first link to the exchange was reported by a woman? Does that mean the woman journalist is also sexist? I found two women who first reported on this heated dialog yesterday. I think they were just doing their job.

But look at the next commentary that Taylor probably has not seen yet.

Kos, whom you all know has infuriated me about calling Edwards weak for accepting public funds for the primaries, took a different approach and quoted from the Union-Leader (NH) a retired woman general who about who supported Clinton for this reason:

A retired U.S. Army general visiting [New Hampshire] to campaign for Hillary Clinton said yesterday she does not oppose the Iraq war -- and she said she's never heard Clinton oppose it, either [...]

Kennedy said, "I don't oppose the war. I think it's being very badly led by the civilian leadership." And, [Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy] added, "I have not ever heard (Clinton) say, 'I oppose the war.' I've heard her say that we need to begin withdrawal under a plan led by the military and defense secretary. I've heard her say we need to create a regional stabilizing group by allies, by leaders in the world and by all of the states that are bordering Iraq. That is a very important idea and the point of that group is to create incentive and assurances that will keep the neighboring countries from becoming involved and entering Iraq. That's a much more sophisticated thing than saying, 'I oppose the war.'"

Yes, I am supplying a link to Kos because he gets the hat-tip for finding the information and pointing out that Clinton is not anti-war, and validates what Norris was reporting. Then there's another glaring problem Clinton will be dealing with: having Sandy Berger as an advisor. Great, a guy who stole classified documents from the National Archives a few years ago, and got caught.

What everyone is missing, except Pioneer and Montana Maven who posted here yesterday, is something Mark Schmitt penned at TAPPED back in mid-February about Clinton's view of executive power.

However, we have just gone through a period of the most staggering expansion of executive power in history, and I suspect that we don’t know the half of it. The setup that was the Iraq resolution, the manipulation of the executive branch itself in order to deceive Congress was one example of it. The next president will have to comb through a mass of undisclosed executive orders, secret legal opinions, bizarre theories, manipulative structures, embedded political appointees, excessive classification, and let some daylight back in. The last thing we need at this moment is yet another president who "believes in executive authority and Congressional deference." We need a president who respects separation of powers and democracy. After all, the next president will not be our last.

At the Yearly Kos, Jeffrey Feldman fielded a question to John Edwards about the unitary executive, an issue that loomed large in the pool of questions he and others collected from bloggers:

"The current administration has done so much to consolidate power to the Executive branch at the expense of the other two and in violation of the Constitution. As President, what will you do to restore balance amongst all three branches of government?"

Edwards response is better to be watched and heard rather than retyping the script:

I don't see that Clinton is going to be much different from Bush. And no matter what anyone says, her arrogant attitude with Mr. Rolph, a former Deaniac, is going to get noticed, and it should, if you are a progressive. And I trust John Edwards to do as he says he will, which is restoring the trust of Presidency as our founding fathers (and their wives who supported them) intended.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Clinton Gets Testy with Iowan in Defending Her Vote about Iran

As all of the blogs, MTP, and the AP reported today, the Des Moines Register reported Mrs. Clinton to be leading in their most recent poll. Rather than being able to enjoy a lead, instead Clinton, in a moment of being questioned intensely, falsely accuses an Iowan of being a plant "that someone put him up to asking the question. "

This is what Athena Jones reported over at MSNBC's blog:

At a campaign stop here, Hillary Clinton sparred verbally for several minutes with a man who pressed her on her recent vote to call Iran's army a terrorist organization.

Randall Rolph, from nearby Nashua, asked why he should support Clinton's candidacy when she did not appear to have learned any lessons from having voted to authorize force in Iraq.

Clinton accused the man of being a plant who had been sent to ask the question, to which he took exception, saying the question was a result of his own research.

"I apologize," Clinton said, explaining that she had been asked the very same question in three other places.

Then Amy Lorentzen of the AP, who witnessed the same exchange, contributed to Norma Pickler's report that the dialog became more heated:

Their exchanged grew heated as he insisted the bill would authorize combat. Clinton snapped back, her voice rising, "I'm sorry, sir, it does not."

Well, let's hear it for Madame Clinton. She finally apologizes for something, mainly for her own paranoia, but of course, she still thinks she's right.

Clinton lost his vote, and no telling how many others that he will caucus with on January 5th. As the Roundtable on MTP said today, the polls are misleading because it's still early, and the folks, particularly in Iowa will continue to ask Clinton questions of substance and she will have to answer them.

That exchange is something she is unaccustomed of--clearly. And Iowans do study their candidates' views, usually beginning in October. Impressions time is over, and Clinton better do her homework about Iowans and their expectations via retail politics. Her spouse did not compete there in 1992, so this is a different ballgame. Iowans are tougher about asking questions than the traditional media such as Fox News is, and they expect honest answers.

I know John Edwards would never lose his patience with an Iowan.

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