Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama Plans To Reintroduce Family Planning Funding

Think Progress
Earlier this week, under pressure from conservatives, President Obama agreed to remove a provision expanding access to comprehensive family planning services for low-income women from the economic recovery package. But TPMDC reports that at yesterday’s Lilly Ledbetter Act signing ceremony, Obama assured attendees “that the family planning aid would be done soon — perhaps as soon as next week, when the House is set to take up a spending bill that would keep the government funded until October.” As ThinkProgress reported earlier, the CBO estimates that this provision would save the government around $700 million over 10 years.

Biggest Drop In GDP In 27 Years

If tax cuts are the most stimulative approach to rebooting the economy, as Republicans claim in rejecting Obama's spending approach stimulus plan, then the economy should already be racing, given the trillions of dollars in tax cuts President Bush and Republicans already gave the nation over the past eight years. Right? Wrong!
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported this morning that in the fourth quarter of 2008 the economy shrank at its fastest pace in nearly 27 years, sinking deeper into recession as consumers and business cut spending.

The government report shows a broad-based contraction across nearly every business sector with the gross domestic product, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, in a near free fall 3.8 percent annual rate of contraction in the fourth quarter. That is the biggest drop since the first quarter of 1982, when output contracted 6.4 percent.

The Commerce Department report said that consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, fell 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter, after declining 3.8 percent in the third quarter, and Q4 spending on durable goods, like cars and furniture, plunged 22.4 percent, the steepest decline since Q4 of 1987. Investment by business also sharply declined at 19.1 percent, for the sharpest pull-back since the first quarter of 1975, and residential investment plummeted 23.6 percent too. Exports of goods and services plunged as well at a the rate of 19.7 percent, the biggest drop since the third quarter of 1974.

Added to the 0.5 percent contraction in GDP in the third quarter of 2008, the fourth quarter contraction rate of 3.8 percent yields the first consecutive quarterly declines in GDP since the fourth quarter of 1990 and the first three months of 1991.

Across all four quarters of 2008, GDP rose 1.3 percent, the slowest pace of growth since 2001, when the economy expanded 0.8 percent.
As Center for American Progress Senior Fellows Christian Weller and John Halpin noted in 2006, the outcome of the 2001 tax cuts was "the weakest employment growth in decades." The 2003 tax cuts didn't fare much better, resulting in job creation that was "well below historical averages."

When Bush's White House proposed the 2003 cuts, they promised that it would add 5.5 million new jobs between June 2003 and the end of 2004. But "by the end of 2004, there were only 2.6 million more jobs than in June 2003."

As Paul Krugman has pointed out, the belief that Bush's tax cuts successfully stimulated the economy is a form of mythology. CAP's Michael Ettlinger and John Irons wrote in September, "Economic growth as measured by real U.S. gross domestic product was stronger following the tax increases of 1993 than in the two supply-side eras" that followed Reagan's 1981 tax cuts and Bush's 2001 tax cuts.

Indeed, employment growth was much stronger post-1993 than post-2001. The average annual employment growth was 2.5 percent after 1993 and just 0.6 percent after 2001.

And, remember President Bush's $168 billion tax cut/rebate economic stimulus plan the United States Congress approved in February of 2008, to help stave off economic recession. That does not seem to have worked either. Martin Feldstein wrote in the Wall Street Journal that of course the tax cut stimulus didn't work:

Here are the facts. Tax rebates of $78 billion arrived in the second quarter of the year. The government's recent GDP figures show that the level of consumer outlays only rose by an extra $12 billion, or 15% of the lost revenue. The rest went into savings, including the pay down of debt. . .

. . .Although press stories emphasizing that the rebates induced additional consumer spending were technically correct, they missed the important point that the spending rise was very small in comparison to the size of the tax rebates. . .

The small rise in spending in response to these tax rebates is similar to what previous studies of one-time tax cuts found. It also corresponds to what both basic economic theory and common experience imply. Although someone who receives a permanent annual salary increase of $1,000 typically would increase his annual spending by an almost equally large amount, a $1,000 rise in wealth caused by a share price increase or a tax rebate would raise spending only gradually over a number of years.

The facts show that increased infrastructure spending appears to be a particularly efficacious
way to stimulate the economy as compared to tax cuts TPM:
Mark Zandi, a Republican economist who advised John McCain's presidential campaign, has been stressing this point for months. Zandi's research showed a corporate tax cut delivering $0.30 in real GDP growth for every $1 invested, and a regular tax rebate delivering anywhere from $1.02 to $1.28 for every $1.

Compare that to aid to state governments, which Republicans have roundly criticized: $1.36 for every $1 invested. Infrastructure spending delivers a whopping $1.59 in GDP for every $1.

The Congressional Budget Office also maintains that corporate tax cuts are 'not a particularly cost-effective method of stimulating business spending.
Unfortunately, Reagan's "supply-side" mythology that "tax cut stimulus works best" is alive and well and still promoted by conservatives today. Despite the economic facts, conservatives like Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) continue to demand corporate tax cuts over infrastructure spending as the solution. Both Texas’ senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) have voiced their staunch opposition to Obama's $819 billion stimulus plan because it does not exclusively use tax cuts. “I read the bill in vain for any real stimulus in the economy,” Cornyn told the Dallas Morning News.

At a luncheon meeting of the Plano Chamber of Commerce on Friday Jan. 23 Senator Hutchison said that she could not support President Barack Obama's proposed $825 billion stimulus package because it wouldn't provide an instant jolt to the economy.

Hutchison said the bill, among other things, would lift the earned income tax credit for low-income workers and allocate billions of dollars to help pay for college, build roads and other structures and invest in alternative fuels and other projects that would not stimulate the economy. Hutchison further said the effect of the sweeping spending plan would be to drive up the federal deficit. "What we're looking for is a jump-start," Hutchison said, "This is not going to be a jump-start."

According to the Dallas Morning News, both Texas senators predicted a lopsided vote in the Senate similar to the House vote where every Republican voted against Obama's plan.

Senate Republicans Are Gearing Up To Filibuster The Recovery Package Despite Promises To The Contrary On Friday night on NPR’s All Things Considered, host Robert Siegel asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) about the prospects of a Republican filibuster of the Senate’s version of the economic recovery package. Grassley responded that Republicans would indeed filibuster the package, requiring the bill to garner a 60-vote majority for passage, despite the fact that the Senate version of the recovery package is already loaded up with a significant number of provisions sought by conservative Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly said that Republicans “would not filibuster against the stimulus package.” He remarked earlier this month, “I don’t think this measure’s going to have any problem getting over 60 votes.”

On the other hand - Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama's economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care. The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, scheduled meetings in Washington this weekend with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other senators to press for her state's share of the package. Tx Gov. Rick Perry's Transportation Department is lobbying to maximize its haul of federal money from an $819 billion stimulus bill too.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Talking Points Memo - President Barack Obama signed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law Thursday before labor and women leaders, who fought hard for it's passage, and the woman whose history-making lawsuit gave impetus to the cause.

Obama, choosing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as the first bill to sign as president, declared that ending pay disparities between men and woman is an issue not just for women, but for all workers.

With Ledbetter standing by his side, Obama said, "she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits losses that she still feels today." He then signed the measure that effectively nullifies a 2007 Supreme Court decision and makes it easier for workers to sue for discrimination by allowing them more time to do so.

"Making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone," Obama said. "That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal — but bad for business — to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability." Read more.
  • Read Obama's Remarks - TPM

  • A much broader bill addressing pay discrimination seems to be stalled in the Senate - TPM

    Conservatives: No Second New Deal

    Updated January 29, 2008 at 7:18 AM
    After taking out family planning money and ditching bankruptcy reform, plus including significant tax cuts to assuage Republican objections, not a single Republican voted for the economic recovery plan that passed in the House on Jan. 28. Nobody expected overwhelming GOP support, but after the 2008 election, that's just stunning. (11 blue dog Democrats voted Nay.)
    This type of partisan obstruction by Republicans is just another example of why Americans overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party on issues like the economy. "There will be people in districts all over the country that will wonder why, when there's a good bill to get the economy moving again, why we still seem to be playing political gotcha," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs in an interview.

    Rank-and-file Congressional Democrats had been willing to give Republicans the business tax cuts and other provisions they wanted in the stimulus in the spirit of bipartisan good faith. That is, up until every single one voted against the bill on the House floor Wednesday. Now, in both the House and the Senate, angry Democratic members are lobbying Democratic leaders to yank back those tax breaks and other concessions made to Republicans. Sen. John Kerry says Democrats should ignore Republicans’ demands about the stimulus plan if they’re going to vote against it anyway.

    Several days before taking office, President Obama spent an evening in George Will’s home to dine with a handful of right-wing conservative media elites in an act of bipartisan good faith. Less than week after Obama took the oath of office, Will’s right-wing dinner guests have already shown the futility of engaging in a good-faith bipartisanship. While President Obama advances his approach to promote economic recovery, Will's dinner attendees are on a no-holds-barred offensive of misinformation against Obama's approach.
    Published: January 25, 2009

    As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s [conservative Republican] opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending. Some of these arguments are obvious [false and misleading] cheap shots.

    snip - Any time you hear someone reciting one of these arguments, write him or her off as a dishonest flack.

    snip - [But the obvious cheap shot arguments and assertions] that are fraudulent can seem superficially plausible to those who don’t know their way around economic concepts and numbers. So as a public service, let me try to debunk some of the major anti-stimulus arguments that have already surfaced [from conservatives]

    snip - But here’s the thing: Most Americans aren’t listening. The most encouraging thing I’ve heard lately is Mr. Obama’s reported response to Republican objections to a spending-oriented economic plan: “I won.” Indeed he did — and he should disregard the huffing and puffing of those who [not only] lost, [but whose conservative governance ideology created the economic crisis in the first place.]

    Read the full article at
    Many are promoting false and misleading cheap shots against Obama's recovery plan:
    Media Matters
    snip - David Brooks, Larry Kudlow, Brit Hume, [George Will, Carly Fiorina and George Stephanopoulos, among many others,] have asserted that the proposed fiscal stimulus package supported by President Barack Obama would amount to spending at least $223,000 for every job created, echoing a January 15 false and misleading "Stimulus Quick Facts," issued by the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee... read the full article.
    Caving to right-wing conservatives’ anti-abortion campaign of misinformation, President Obama reportedly pressured House Democrats to strip family planning funding from its economic recovery proposal — even though it would potentially save $700 million over 10 years. MSNBC’s David Shuster pressed Hutchison (R-TX) about the provision, pointing out that it would help relieve states of health care costs. Unable to respond, Hutchinson launched a reflexive conservative attack on any plan that is not all tax cuts.
    Among those repeating the false and misleading "Stimulus Quick Facts" is Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. At a luncheon meeting of the Plano Chamber of Commerce on Friday Jan. 23 Senator Hutchison said that she could not support President Barack Obama's proposed $825 billion stimulus package because it wouldn't provide an instant jolt to the economy.

    Hutchison said the bill, among other things, would lift the earned income tax credit for low-income workers and allocate billions of dollars to help pay for college, build roads and other structures and invest in alternative fuels and other projects that would not stimulate the economy. Hutchison further said the effect of the sweeping spending plan would be to drive up the federal deficit. "What we're looking for is a jump-start," Hutchison said, "This is not going to be a jump-start."

    Even though Obama has met with Republican media pundits and congressional leaders several times to assuage their concerns and added bipartisan compromise tax cuts to his stimulus package package -
    House Republican Leader John A. Boehner and his No. 2, Whip Eric Cantor, told their rank-and-file members Tuesday morning [Jan, 27] during a closed-door meeting to oppose the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday, according to an aide familiar with the discussion. Boehner told members that he's voting against the stimulus, and Cantor told the assembled Republicans that there wasn't any reason for them to support the measure, according to another person in the room. Cantor and his whip team are going to urge GOP members to oppose it. [Politico]
    Both Texas’ senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) have voiced their staunch opposition to the $819 billion plan. “I read the bill in vain for any real stimulus in the economy,” Cornyn told the Dallas Morning News. Not one House Republican supported the Obama-backed stimulus package and Texas’ senators predicted a similarly lopsided result in the Senate, according to the Dallas Morning News.

    Bob Herbert says in his NYTimes column,
    "What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?

    Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, [Bush's] big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles. When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen."
    As Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, corporate media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.” Now that Republicans are not in power the media continues to allow conservatives to monopolize corporate news channels.

    In an analysis, ThinkProgress found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — hosted Republican lawmakers over Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio.

    Related Postings:
    Related Links:

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    TDWCC 2009 Slate Of Officers

    Mary Hooks
    - Patricia Spence
    - Prissy Wisnewski
    Vice President
    - Barbara Walters
    The Texas Democratic Women of Collin County, a chapter of the statewide Texas Democratic Women (TDW) and National Federation of Democratic Women, elected their 2009 slate of officers on Monday January 26, 2009. Picture left are 2009 officers Mary Hooks, Patricia Spence, Prissy Wisnewski, and Barbara Walters.

    Walters, reelected Monday as President of the group, and several others reestablished the organization in 2006 following a trip to Crawford. Walters and several others had traveled to President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford to voice their disapproval at the policies of President Bush. As they returned from Crawford they discussed the idea of reforming the Texas Democratic Women of Collin County (TDWCC) group, which had become inactive in the preceding years. The women felt spurred to action by the distortion of Democratic values on the public stage and the disturbing failures of the Bush Administration and Republican control congress.

    By late 2008 the organization reported 150 members who worked hard to get Democrats in Collin County out to vote in the 2008 November election. Through the groups efforts several hundred women worked doggedly in phone banking operations, registration drives and neighborhood block walks to contact and motivate voters. Collin County Democrats posted their strongest voter turn out in recent history thanks in part to the efforts of the TDWCC, who closely cooperated with the Democratic Party of Collin County, the Obama Collin County (OCC) campaign group and every other Democratic Candidate whose name appeared on Collin County ballots.

    On January 20th the Democratic women's group hosted what the Dallas Morning News called the largest Obama Inaugural Gala in North Texas with 475 proud Democrats in attendance. During the group's first 2009 meeting on January 26th, Walters said that a significant number of additional people called after the RSVP reservation deadline, a few days before inauguration day, and had to be turned away. The black-tie optional event at the Plano Center featured live music, dancing, a silent auction, and a buffet dinner. After the March 2008 primary county convention, attended by over 4,000 Democrats, the Gala was one of the most significant gatherings of Democrats in the county in many years. (Inaugural Gala Pictures Here and Here)

    The rapidly rising profile of the TDWCC is particularly note worthy in Collin County, which for decades has been a near exclusive base of power the GOP in Texas. The Dallas Morning News notes that the group's rise, "is the latest signal that Dallas' affluent and politically important northern suburbs are becoming more competitive." The TDWCC saw it's membership jump in the days following the combined Inaugural Gala, fundraiser and membership drive event.

    The TDWCC meets regularly on the fourth Monday of every month. All are welcome and encouraged to attend the monthly meetings - even men.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Obama Attorney General Holder A Threat To Carl Rove?

    Updated January 28 at 10:58 AM CST

    A day after Obama's inauguration Republicans forced at least a one week delay to the scheduled confirmation vote for Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general. Republican opposition towards the nomination of Eric Holder as Attorney General is being driven, it seems, by Karl Rove himself. [HuffPo14 Dec] In December Karl Rove appeared on the Today Show and signaled that Republicans ought to go after Mr. Holder. [Leahy Statement 12 Dec] U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said in December that he intended to slow the confirmation of Eric Holder for attorney general. [UPI 10 Dec]

    Why? Because Karl Rove is under threat of prosecution for allegedly manipulating the Justice Department for political reasons.
    On Jan. 28 the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended President Obama’s attorney general nominee Eric Holder to the full Senate for consideration by 17-2 vote. Six Republicans approved Holder, with Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Cornyn (R-TX) as the only “nay” votes.

    Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said he would support Holder’s nomination, even though he had expressed reservations about the pick and forced Judiciary Committee to delay the vote by one week.
    The Senate Judiciary Committee’s report on the U.S. Attorneys scandal identified Karl Rove's involvement in firings of eight U.S. Attorneys because they allegedly would not bring false charges of voter and election fraud against prominent Democrats. The Justice Department’s Inspector General draws the same conclusion, but notes that it was thwarted from completing its investigation by the refusal of Karl Rove and those who worked for him to cooperate with the probe.

    When the House Judiciary Committee of the 110th congress subpoenaed Rove to testify on the U.S. Attorney firings, and his role in the political prosecution of Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman, Rove ignored multiple subpoenas and he did not testify. Political appointees in President Bush's Justice Department undermined those Congressional subpoenas and fought their enforcement through Bush's exertions of "executive privilege."

    Bush's "executive privilege" assertion that anyone who'd ever worked for him was immune from answering questions from Congress, ever, was unprecedented and not supported by any existing case law. In August, the court agreed and ordered that Rove and others indeed must comply with congressional subpoenas. The order was stayed on appeal, but the DC Circuit Court of Appeals never took up the appeal, presumably because the subpoenas at the heart of the case were due to expire on January 3 with the end of the 110th congress.

    House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) had said that he had every intention of reissuing the subpoenas in the new Congress, and this time, President Bush will not be in office to reinforce and back up his claims of executive privilege through his DOJ's lawyers. This is why Republicans (seemingly at Rove's urging) stalled Holder's confirmation on Jan 21st.
    On Jan. 26 House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) did indeed reissue the subpoenas former Bush Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove about his alleged involved in the political prosecution of an Alabama governor and the firings of nine US Attorneys. The subpoena, approved by an earlier vote of the House, was issued pursuant to "authority granted in H.R. 5 (111th Congress), and calls for Mr. Rove to appear at deposition on Monday, February 2, 2009."

    Specifically, it enjoins Rove "to testify regarding his role in the Bush Administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice, including the US Attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman."

    Rove's Washington, D.C. lawyer, Robert Luskin, issued a statement published early morning Jan. 27 saying, "It's generally agreed that former presidents retain executive privilege as to matters occurring during their term. We'll solicit the views of the new White House counsel and, if there is a disagreement, assume that the matter will be resolved among the courts, the president and the former president."
    While "the privilege belongs to the president who asserts it," President Obama and Attorney General Holder will have to decide whether or not to enforce President Bush's claim of executive privilege should Rove again refuse to testify. The Obama administration could take the side of Bush and Rove to defend the concept of executive privilege, however, it seems unlikely that the Obama Justice Department would take that position.

    Rove and former president Bush could still fight new congressional subpoenas in the courts on their own, but what has Rove and Republicans worried is whether or not Holder will direct DOJ attorneys to argue against the "privilege" that Bush invoked to keep Rove out of the witness chair. They have good reason to worry; President Obama signed an Executive Order on Presidential Records at 1:22 pm EST on Wednesday concerning "who gets to assert executive privilege." On signing Obama stated,
    "I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.

    Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."
    The Executive Order on Presidential Records says that former presidents can claim privilege, but they have no automatic ability to prevent the release of their records if the current administration deems it to be in the national interest. Plus, President Barack Obama is already staffing his Justice Department with some of Bush's fiercest critics, among them lawyers who were fired by President Bush or who felt ethically compelled to quit his administration. “They have alarmingly narrow views of executive power,” said a former Bush aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. [Politico]

    Clearly, Obama's Freedom of Information and Presidential Records Executive Orders and his initial DOJ staffing with Bush critics worries Rove and Republicans in general. The Senate’s Judiciary Committee was schedule to vote on Eric Holder’s nomination at 2:30 EST of the same day Obama signed the Presidential Records order. Within a half hour of Obama’s executive order, the Republicans, led by Texas Senator John Cornyn and Senator Spector, announced they would block Holder’s confirmation for at least a week and possibly longer.
    Rove also could now face additional subpoenas and legal exposure on a number of other incidents—ranging from a Texas money laundering scandal to the Abramoff case. [Paul Alexander 26 Nov]

    Cornyn himself may be concerned about here-to-fore "privileged" emails related to the Abramoff Scandal. Some speculate that these emails may mention not only Rove's name, but also Cornyn's name. Before Cornyn became a US Senator, he was a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas. In that role some allege that Cornyn may have had some involvement in Abramoff's scams on Native American Tribes in Texas. [OpEdNews]

    Plus, Tom DeLay, Don Young, Karl Rove, Roy Blunt, John Ascroft, Dana Rorhabacher, Jerry Lewis and the countless other Republicans, who have been implicated in the Abramoff Scandal, are still awaiting action from the DOJ. Cornyn may also be worried that Holder will move the Abramoff prosecutions onto the front burner, which, if he was at all involve in the Native American scam, increases the possibility that his involvement would be made public. [dailykos]
    Bush's executive privilege claim has blocked Congress and good-government groups seeking to get access to key Bush White House documents that might shed light on a range of subjects, from the level of White House involvement in the US Attorney firings, to the Valerie Plame leak probe, to the decision to invade Iraq to the Abramoff scams.

    President Obama's new presidential records executive order combined with his memorandum reviving the Freedom of Information Act will likely make all of Bush's White House documents much more accessible, particularly when requested under subpoenas supported by Obama's Attorney General Holder.

    By extension, Obama's executive order and memorandum likely signals that Rove, and others like Miers and Bolten, will no longer be personally shielded by a DOJ fighting to protect executive privilege either. Obama's DOJ, under Attorney General Holder, will likely argue just the opposite - that they are not protected by executive privilege.

    This would quickly leave Rove, and others like Miers and Bolten, who ignored subpoenas from the 110th congress with the unpleasant option to appear under subpoena before the 111th congress to claim a fifth amendment right to not testify against themselves on every question asked or sit in jail on a contempt of congress charge. Memos, emails and all other documents authored by Bush Administration officials will likely be readily available upon request for congressional review.

    Since the U.S. attorneys were fired allegedly because they would not bring false charges of voter and election fraud against prominent Democrats, Rove could be asked to back up his many claims of rampant voter and election fraud by Democrats, should he appear before congress. This might prove inconvenient timing for Republicans pushing to fight rampant voter fraud with restrictive voter photo id laws in states, like Texas, where they still control the legislature. Inconvenient because every investigation of this issue has found that voter fraud is virtually nonexistent; Rove has no facts to cite to support his claims.

    Therefore, the more Rove and his followers can impugn the credibility of Holder and characterize him as a political flunky, the more "political" validity Rove and Republicans in general might find in claiming that attempts to hold him accountable constitutes little more than a witch hunt.

    • Executive order on Presidential Records grants broader public access to the records of previous presidential administrations, reversing restrictions implemented by former President George W. Bush.
    • Memorandum [PDF] calling for new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] agency guidelines and a presumption of transparency.

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Organizing for America In Collin County

    On January 15th Barack Obama announced the formation of a new group known as Organizing for America as the "Obama 2.0" legacy successor to Obama's campaign organization.

    While running to become the President of the United States, Barack Obama's campaign recruited millions of campaign supporters and contributors through online social networks. Over two million joined, a website fusing social networking with volunteer political organizing, while more than 5 million supported Obama's profile across other social websites like MySpace and Facebook. More than a million people asked for campaign text messages on their cell phones and yet more kept up with campaign information on Twitter. Most importantly, over 13 million voters signed up for regular e-mail fundraising pitches and other communications.

    On election day, a staggering 25 percent of Obama voters were already directly linked to him--and one another--through these several socio-political network websites. Campaigns largely dissolve after elections, but Obama's campaign infrastructure, so far, remains largely intact and very active.

    A spirited post-election debate broke out among top Obama campaign organizers over how to leverage the e-mail address book of 13 million entries and the national networks of motivated volunteers. If you think this sounds familiar, you're probably right; This was the same question faced by Howard Dean's "Blogosphere" of volunteers in the aftermath of his 2004 defeat. Dean's campaign operation ultimately became Democracy for America organization.

    By the weekend of December 6th and 7th, hundreds of field staffers and some key volunteers had decided to get together in a closed-door summit at a Chicago hotel to exchange ideas face-to-face on how to evolve the Obama campaign structure into a post-election political force. In an effort to open the process campaign manager David Plouffe's also sent out an email in mid-December asking volunteers to host and attend house parties to discuss ideas on how to best leverage the Obama network in the months and years ahead.

    Many Obama supporters across Collin County and in 2,000 cities around the U.S. attended local house parties to share organizing ideas and identify key issues they wished to support. Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman, said the campaign had received about 500,000 responses to e-mail surveys and the house parties. On Dec 30, 2008 the Pew Internet & American Life Project released results of a post-election voter engagement survey that showed 62% of Obama voters overall expected to lobby others to support Obama administration policies over the next year. Almost half (46%) expected ongoing communication from Obama, whether via email, text message, or social networking sites.

    According to a email sent to supporters by Plouffe to report the results of the mid-December house party meetings:
    • People are excited to volunteer their active support of Obama's legislative agenda, particularly on key interest issues of education, the environment, health care, poverty, and the economy.
    • 86 percent of respondents feel it's important to help Barack's administration pass legislation through grassroots support.
    • 68 percent feel it's important to help elect state and local candidates who share the same vision for our country.
    • And a staggering 10 percent of respondents indicated that they would be interested in running for elected office.
    The most popular goal identified by the half a million Obama activist responses was to help the Obama administration pass legislation. If Obama’s initiatives stall in Congress, these activists will presumably back him by lobbying their elected representatives in the Senate and House. Combining the White House bully pulpit with constituent lobbying across the U.S. could have a dramatic effect on Obama’s presidency. Previous presidents have gone over the heads of Congress by appealing to the public, of course, but never with a parallel whip operation targeting Senators and Congressional District Representatives in their backyards.

    On January 15th Barack Obama announced the formation of a new group known as "Organizing for America" that aims to continue the grassroots advocacy that supported his run for the presidency. "As President, I will need the help of all Americans to meet the challenges that lie ahead," Obama said in a video message, "That's why I'm asking people like you who fought for change during the campaign to continue fighting for change in your communities."
    The key idea behind "Organizing for America" — is that the 20th century model of communicating with and motivating supporters has given way to a 21st century Internet media model of communication channels built around YouTube, Social Networking, Twittering, etc. — as was evident during his campaign and as is already evident in the White House’s media strategy. (see White House YouTube video channel bar in the right sidebar of this blog)

    The new group will work within the Democratic National Committee, led by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, to advance the Obama agenda. "President-elect Obama has laid the foundation to meet the great challenges facing our nation, but we can succeed only if we build grassroots support for the administration's agenda," said Kaine in a DNC release announcing the formation of Organizing for America.

    Obama's networks of thousands of trained field organizers and tens of thousands of neighborhood coordinators can also provide valuable grassroots support for every Democratic Party candidate committed to, or thinking about, running for office in the 2010 mid-term and 2012 election cycles. And not just national and and state office candidates, but also local county and city office candidates - even in Republican strongholds like Collin County.

    As in many counties around Texas and the U.S., Obama's network of trained field organizers and neighborhood coordinators in Collin County are already moving on to form a local "Organizing for America" coordinated campaign organization to field and/or support Democratic Candidates across Collin County in the 2010 mid-term and 2012 election cycles. The Collin County Coordinated Campaign organization will likely be modeled somewhat after the highly successful "Coordinated Campaign '08" group of Harris County Texas who closely cooperated with the Harris County Democratic Party.

    The Texas Progressive Alliance selected the Harris County Democratic Coordinated Campaign as its “Texan of the Year” for 2008:

    The Harris County Democratic Coordinated Campaign faced a daunting task in 2008: Take Texas' largest county, which hadn't elected a Democrat to any county wide office in over a decade and which went for George Bush by ten points in 2004, and turn it blue. And they had to do it amid the high expectations that followed Dallas' fabled blue sweep in 2006, with the Harris County GOP knowing they were being targeted. And they had to start from scratch, since there hadn't been any kind of effort like it in anyone's memory. Oh, and in the middle of it all they had to abandon their headquarters and move to a new location thanks to the damage that Hurricane Ike wrought [and creation of a Coordinated Campaign'08 website].

    The key was strong leadership, starting with the vision of people like Party Chairman Gerry Birnberg and Dave Mathieeson, the operational know-how of Executive Director Jamaal Smith and Bill Kelly, and the coordination and hard work of many, many people. They developed a plan, matched it with a budget and coordinated with all the candidates. They opened branch offices all around the county and drew on the energy of Democrats new and old. They knocked on doors, made calls, sent mail, and spread the message of Democratic change everywhere.

    And in the end, they succeeded, with Democrats winning 27 of 34 county wide races. They boosted turnout in the traditional Democratic areas, and improved performance all across the county. They relentlessly pushed an early-vote message, which translated into leads of 50,000 votes or more for most candidates going into Election Day. They stressed the importance of voting Democratic all the way down the ballot, which minimized under voting in the lower-profile races. They brought in new voters and brought back those who had given up hope, and got them all on the same page.

    Add it all up, and the new year will bring new Democratic judges, a new Sheriff, a new County Attorney, a new District Clerk, and two new County Department of Education trustees. For that, and for the promise that 2010 will bring even more success and help pave the way towards turning all of Texas blue, the Texas Progressive Alliance is proud to name the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign its Texan of the Year for 2008.
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    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    America's Dismal Health Care System

    A January 19 episode of BBC One's Panorama, the world's longest running television documentary show, tackles the dismal state of health care in the United States, the estimated 45 million uninsured citizens, the pharmaceutical industry's rigged pricing against the American patient, and the insurance industry's efforts to deny care whenever possible.

    Due to licensing restrictions, the episode, "What Now, Mr. President?," is only officially available to view online from connections within the United Kingdom. However, it has also been uploaded to YouTube, where it appears in three parts at left.

    The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita.

    Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 47 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

    This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar.

    Our health care system has come to the point where none of the many incremental reforms will work. The business model of insurance has failed, and we need to rebuild the system on a social insurance model.
    • Premiums alone for private health insurance have grown by more than 100 percent since 2000, and are projected to consume all of average household income by 2025, clearly an impossibility way before then.
    • According to the Milliman Medical Index, the typical American family of four spent $15,600 on total health care costs in 2008, fully one-quarter of the typical combined family income of $60,000; most consider 10 percent of family income to be the threshold of underinsurance.
    • The administrative overhead of private insurers is five to nine times higher than not-for-profit Medicare (average for commercial carriers 19.9 percent, investor-owned Blues 26.5 percent, Medicare 3 percent).
    • The inefficiency and bureaucracy of our 1,300 private insurers are not sustainable (e.g., according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, there are 17,000 different hea1th plans in Chicago).
    • Private insurers offer much less choice than traditional Medicare; there are near-monopolies in 95 percent of HMO/PPO metropolitan markets, enough to trigger anti-trust concerns by the United States Department of Justice.
    • Because of costs, about 75 million Americans are either uninsured of underinsured, with large segments of the population forgoing necessary care and having worse health care outcomes; the United States now ranks nineteenth among nineteen industrialized countries in reducing preventable deaths from amenable causes.
    • Wall Street is already questioning the future prospects of the private insurance industry; as of November 18, 2008, the average share prices of the top five private insurers were down by between 60 percent and 77 percent, compared to the Standard and Poor’s 42 percent.

    Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. The Physicians' Proposal endorses a fundamental change in America's health care - the creation of a comprehensive National Health Insurance (NHI) Program. Such a program - which in essence would be an expanded and improved version of Medicare - would cover every American for all necessary medical care.
    Americans should not have to turn 65 years old or become disabled to have access to a public health care program that controls overhead costs, provides broad, affordable access to care and protects patients against big bills. By almost every measure, Medicare is cheaper and more effective than private plans, according to government and academic research. Medicare spends 2% on overhead; private insurers typically spend 25% to 27% for overhead and profit.

    A recent Congressional Budget Office report comparing health care reform options found that allowing Americans to buy into Medicare before turning 65 would lead to more people with coverage at lower costs. A UC Berkeley study last month found that a public option like Medicare could result in $1 trillion in national savings over 10 years by driving down costs, improving efficiencies and fostering innovation. [LATimes]

    Big health insurance corporations and too many Democratic lawmakers do not agree; Democratic House Whip: "health care is off the table for 2009" - Posted: 01/25/09 04:05 PM
    A prominent House Democrat said he doesn't expect a comprehensive health care reform bill to pass Congress in 2009, saying an incremental approach to covering the uninsured would be better "than to go out and just bite something you can't chew."

    House Majority Whip James Clyburn's (D-S.C.) time line on tackling health care is at odds with the timetable proposed by Senate Democrats [and President Obama] and could represent a major shift in the House Democrats' strategy of dealing with the uninsured.

    During an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that aired on Sunday, Clyburn said he doesn't anticipate that comprehensive health care legislation will be approved in 2009.
    No one should be very surprised at congressional foot dragging on this issue; 533 members of Congress, out of 535, have received campaign contributions from within the health sector and lobbyists are putting their money to work to prevent reforms from taking place.
    "We plan on mounting a national campaign," warned health insurance industry lobbyist Angela Hunter, "and what we hope to do is to, number one, get some articles in the newspaper explaining what the problems are that we see with the plan. Two: Educate lawmakers, people who are members of our organizations, their clients--to go and lobby members of Congress--call them on the phone, visit them in their offices, and to just do everything that we can possibly do to preserve the freedom of choice for individuals in health care in America."
    Write, call or email both U.S. Senate and U.S. House leadership and tell them to pass a single payer national health insurance program this year.

    You can find the contact information for the U.S. House and Senate at the following links:
    U.S. Senate U.S. House
    Note: U.S. Senators for Texas, John Cornyn (R) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) as well as Collin County's Texas 3rd district Republican Congressman, Sam Johnson, and 4rd district Republican Congressman, Ralph Hall, are on record as being adamantly opposed to any national health care program. (3rd and 4th districts: Map)
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    Democrats Better for the Economy Than GOP

    The Washington Post reports that Bush presided over the worst eight-year economic performance in the modern American presidency, while the New York Times reports his historic failures in GDP growth, job stagnation and stock market performance. As it turns out, Bush is just the latest Republican to confirm the maxim that the economy overall performs better under the Democratic Party. The New York Times also reported in October that governance under the Democratic Party has more successfully promoted American capitalism as a whole. The last eight years shows as myth that Republican Conservative governance yields superior stewardship over the American economy. Now, in 2009, in the aftermath of eight years of Republican Conservative governance, investors gear up for a deluge of weak earnings and the biggest plunge in GDP in 26 years.

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    Saturday, January 24, 2009

    Bush Midnight Regulation To Restrict Family Planning Choice

    Almost immediately after Obama took the oath of office on January 20, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel sent a memorandum to all government agencies and departments, directing them to freeze all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the new administration. During his first week office, President Obama also signed his own Executive Orders to reverse a number of President Bush's Executive Orders, including the so-called "Mexico City policy" or global gag rule.
    President Barack Obama on Friday quietly ended the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that provide information on the use of birth control contraception products and methods. Democrats welcomed the decision, while abortion rights foes criticized the president.

    Known as the "Mexico City policy," the ban has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

    Obama's statement explaining his decision to lift Mexico City gag rule.
    But a memo from Rahm Emanuel to government agencies and Obama's signature on new executive orders can not reverse Bush's many controversial midnight regulations already finalized before Jan. 20. Among the most onerous of the many midnight regulations implemented across every government agency is the new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ‘Conscientious Objection Regulation’

    In December, the HHS formally adopted a conscientious objection 'regulation’ permitting federally funded health care providers to decline to participate in services, such as filling prescriptions for birth control pills, to which they object. The new regulation fails to provide a clear definition of what pharmaceuticals or health care procedures are covered by the new HHS conscientious objection regulation so anyone can object to anything.

    In reality the new regulation permits practitioners to deny medical access to almost any pharmaceutical or procedure ranging from commonly used methods of birth control to using a mechanical resuscitator or feeding tube to sustain life. The regulation allows individual health care providers and pharmacists to deny patients vital health care information and services based on their own personal biases, without the patient even knowing. Everyone's ability to manage their own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology.

    From the time the draft regulation was leaked last summer through the official open comment review period, medical professionals rejected the new rule and expressed concern about its consequences. “Implementation of this regulation would effectively allow health care providers’ personal beliefs to override patients’ right to full disclosure of accurate information and available health care resources,” six medical associations warned in a joint statement. In a separate letter to the HHS, 13 state attorneys generals argued that “the rule was too vague about what health care procedures may be withheld.”

    The new regulation has been widely denounced by members of Congress, President Obama, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and particularly by women’s health groups.

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America has joined with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, asking the court to invalidate the administrative regulation finalized in December by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    • Learn more about Planned Parenthood’s opposition to the rule.
    • Read Planned Parenthood’s press release on the lawsuit.
    • Read a copy of the Planned Parenthood lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
    • Sign the Planned Parenthood petition
    Through the Congressional Review Act of 1996 the new 111th Congress has a period of time to review and "disprove" Bush Administration midnight regulations. Any regulation change made less than 60 legislative days before Congress adjourns for the year, which in this case means any regulation change the Bush Administration made after mid-May 2008, would be subject to the Congressional Review Act. Unfortunately, the the 111th Congress has only a short period of time to disprove Bush's midnight regulations and the clock is ticking.

    If a motion to disprove is passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President, the rule cannot be enforced or defended in court. A motion to disprove has to see an up-or-down vote; it can't be attached to appropriations bills or other must-pass legislation and it cannot be filibustered. If this avenue fails, Congress could refuse to appropriate funds for implementation of the rule, or Congress could pass the legislation introduced by Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray that would prohibit HHS from enforcing the new regulation. Finally, the new administration could begin a new round of rule-making, perhaps the most time-consuming option.

    Congressional Democrats have publicly discussed the option of bundling all of Bush's midnight regulations into a single "disapproval resolution" so that they could be overturned en masse. That would be a fitting end to Bush's midnight regulatory spree, which includes a pretty distressing list of rule changes.

    If you have never called or written your representatives in the U.S. House and Senate, now is the time to start. Write, call or email both U.S. Senators for Texas, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and your Representative in U.S. House and tell them to pass a motion to disapprove President Bush's HHS midnight ‘conscientious objection regulation.’

    You can find the contact information for your representatives in the U.S. House and Senate at the following links:
    U.S. Senate U.S. House
    There are two congressional districts in Collin County: Map

    The Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will hold their first meeting of 2009 on Mon. Jan. 26 at 6:45 pm at the Collin County Community College Preston Ridge Frisco campus - Founders Hall, Rm F148. (9700 Wade Blvd, Frisco, TX - map) This meeting will host a program by Planned Parenthood. Everyone is welcome to attend.

    President Obama Weekly Address - 23Jan08

    In his first weekly address since being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama discussed how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will jump-start the economy.

    Lawsuit Could Kill The Blogosphere

    This lawsuit would change the blogosphere as we know it. It kill most of the aggregator, opinion, and commentary sites like the ones shown in the left sidebar of this blog, as well as this blog itself:
    A copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit filed last month against The New York Times Co., owner of The Boston Globe and its website, is being watched closely by news organizations, Internet researchers, independent bloggers, and companies that aggregate news online by linking to a variety of news sites.

    At the heart of the complaint, lodged by GateHouse Media Inc., which publishes 125 community newspapers in Massachusetts, is the question of whether Internet news providers will be able to continue the practice of posting headlines and lead sentences from stories they link to on other sites.The case has been scheduled for trial in US District Court in Boston as early as Monday.

    "This is the first case where these intellectual property issues have come to a head," said David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society in Cambridge. "If the judge was to rule for GateHouse on every point, it would have far-reaching implications for the news and information ecosystem that underlies the Web as we know it." The case could result in new guidelines for how much, if any, content from one website can be used by another. "This is standard procedure across the Internet now," she said. "Newsrooms adopted the procedure from other practitioners."

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Texas Sen. Cornyn Blocks Clinton's State Confirmation

    The confirmation of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state will be held up for at least a day due to the objection of a single senator. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he wants "a full and open debate" about possible conflicts of interest from Bill Clinton's charitable foundation's acceptance of donations from foreign countries and companies.

    If Cornyn blocks a unanimous consent floor voice vote, there will be a roll call vote Wednesday or Thursday which will give several Republican Senators an opportunity to go on record with a "ney" vote. Some Republicans likely see a "ney" vote on Clinton's confirmation as an "accomplishment" that they can tout to their base during the next election cycle.

    Cornyn has also joined with other Senate Republicans to hold for one week the confirmation vote on Attorney General designate Eric Holder. Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are seeking more information on whether Holder would pursue criminal prosecutions of "intelligence personnel" involved in interrogations after he said last week that water boarding is torture.

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    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Collin County Inaugural Gala

    The Dallas Morning News:
    Democratic women's big gala in Collin County symbolic of suburban gains
    11:11 PM CST on Sunday, January 18, 2009
    The Dallas Morning News / By THEODORE KIM

    A fledgling Democratic women's group in [Collin] county is hosting what is believed to be the largest Obama inauguration gala in North Texas.

    The $15,000 event, to be held at the Plano Centre, is black-tie optional. It will feature live music, a silent auction, a buffet and even a life-size cardboard cutout of Obama. About 400 people are expected.
    "Women always get things done," said Barb Walters, president of the Texas Democratic Women of Collin County. The group is hosting the event with the local Obama campaign. "We want this to be a beginning, not an ending."

    . . .The event is the latest signal that Dallas' affluent and politically important northern suburbs are becoming more competitive.

    . . .Democrats, of course, still have their work cut out for them in Collin County, which for decades now has served as a base of power and resources for the GOP.
    Republicans often mislabel the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party to convey their disdainful disrespect for those affiliated with the Democratic Party.

    Note the difference in the DMN online headline, "Democratic women's big gala in Collin County symbolic of suburban gains" originally posted at 11:11 PM CST on Sunday, January 18, 2009 verses the headline "Democrat women's big gala in Collin County has symbolic significance" as updated at 12:00 AM CST on Monday, January 19, 2009.

    The DMN does not want to be left open to a charge of "liberal media bias."

    Voter ID Legislation To Pass Texas Senate In 2009

    Updated January 19, 2009 11:00 AM
    Republican Joe Straus, who is taking over the Texas House Speaker's Chair from hard right-winger Tom Craddick for the 2009 legislative session with the support of of every Democrat in the Texas House, commented to reporters on Friday, 16 January 2009, that he favors Voter Photo Identification
    The Texas Senate on Wednesday, 14 January 2009, voted 18-13, along party lines, to exempt voter identification legislation from the longstanding “Two-Thirds” Rule. This rule requires that 21 senators must support a measure before it can be brought to the floor. Only one Republican, State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), broke ranks to join 12 Democrats in the near party-line vote to oppose the change to the two-thirds rule. The other 18 Republicans voted to exempt any bill brought forward in the Texas Senate that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote.

    Republican members of the Senate voted to exempt voter photo ID legislation from the two-thirds rule, similar to the way Congressional Redistricting was exempted by Republicans in 2003, over strong opposition from Democrats. Under the change, voter ID legislation can be brought up for a vote on the Senate floor with the approval of only 16 senators, not the 21 required under the customary two-thirds rule. Democrats could block votes under the usual two-thirds rule — and did so on the voter ID bill two years ago. Debate over voter photo ID in 2007 paralyzed the State Senate for weeks before the bill was rejected.

    Wednesday's change to Texas Senate two-thirds rule will only apply to the voter ID bill; redistricting was dropped from the two-thirds exemption resolution before the final vote. Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to amend the voter ID two-thirds rule exemption resolution to also include exemptions on legislation for fully funding child health insurance, improved benefits for veterans, restoring funds to unemployment compensation, insurance rate regulation, foreclosure protection, tuition re-regulation and public education priority — to get the same majority-vote treatment as on voter ID. Republicans, as a block, voted against each program - a fact that that will surely be an issue that Democratic candidates can use against their Republican opponents during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

    With the Texas House made up of 74 Democrats and 76 Republicans, after the 2008 election, the Voter ID bill will face a tougher fight in the Texas House. Republican Joe Straus, who is taking over the Speaker's Chair from hard right-winger Tom Craddick for the 2009 legislative session with the support of of every Democrat in the Texas House, commented to reporters on Friday, 16 January 2009, that he favors Voter Photo Identification:
    Straus, who voted for the Voter ID bill in 2007, stated he thinks another examination of whether photo IDs are needed to combat voter fraud is appropriate. He said he does not yet know whether there are sufficient votes in the House to pass a bill.

    The Voter ID bill, introduced in the House during the 2007 legislative session, (HB 218) passed by a vote of 76 to 69 when the House was made up of 69 Democrats and 81 Republicans. Two Republicans voted against HR 218. The voter ID bill introduced in the Senate during the 2007 legislative session was successfully blocked from advancing to the floor for a vote by Senate Democrats.
    Read on: No Evidence Of Voter Fraud

    No Evidence Of Voter Fraud

    In Indiana and six other states, unless you have a valid government-issued photo ID, of the type that Texas Republicans seek to make mandatory for would be Texas voters, you can not vote for anything. That’s a lesson a group of Indiana nuns learned in 2008 when they tried to vote in Indiana’s presidential primary.

    Ten sisters, all in their 80s and 90s, from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in South Bend were turned away from their polling place by a fellow sister because they presented outdated passports or had no photo ID at all. A rule requiring a photo ID to vote in Indiana became official following an April 28, 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court deeming it constitutional.

    While Texas proponents of voter ID legislation argue that it's needed to combat voter fraud, there is no evidence that the type of fraud that these requirements address has occurred at any point since records have been kept.

    Voter Fraud is the claim that large groups of people knowingly and willingly give false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly vote illegally or participate in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others.

    Twenty-five states require identification at the polls for all voters and seven states - Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana and Michigan now require or can request a government-issued photo ID. In Arizona voters may present two non-photo documents such as a bank statement and a utility bill in lieu of a photo ID. Arizona's list of alternative IDs is similar to the list of IDs that Texas voters may present in lieu of a voter registration certificate.

    Even as additional states seek to pass more restrictive voter ID legislation, mounting evidence suggests that stricter voter ID laws actually do very little to ensure polling-place integrity.

    The Politics of Voter Fraud Study by Lorraine Minnite PDF
    According to Barnard College Professor Loraine Minnite, the available state-level evidence of fraudulent voting, culled from interviews, reviews of newspaper coverage and court proceedings, shows that only 32 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting in the U.S. between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.

    While there is no actual evidence of voter fraud, many studies, such as conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, find that U.S. citizens of Latino, Asian American and African American heritage are less likely to vote as a result of increasingly restrictive voter ID requirements.

    The Eagleton study examined the 2004 election and concluded that in states requiring voters to present an ID at the polls, 2.7 percent fewer citizens were likely to vote than in states where voters were merely required to register so that their name and address appears in the voting precinct poll book on election day.

    According to the Eagleton study Latinos are 10 percent less likely to vote, Asian-Americans are 8.5 percent less likely to vote and African Americans are 5.7 percent less likely to vote.

    Each of the groups listed in the Eagleton study tend to vote for Democratic candidates and are a growing percentage of Texas voters. The success of Democratic voter registration drives among these Texas groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from the Republicans. As the tide of Democratic voters continues to grow across Texas, voter ID legislation would be an effective way for Republicans to hold back the tide.

    Consequently, the use of baseless "voter fraud" allegations to promote voter ID legislation has become such an urgent priority for Republicans in the 2009 legislative session that Republicans in the Texas Senate felt compelled to change long standing Senate rules to advance the legislation.

    The Eagleton Institute research is supported by findings from a November 2006 poll conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

    The Brennan Center poll found that as many as 11 percent of American citizens, more than 21 million individuals, do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. Elderly, poor and minority Americans are more likely to lack government-issued ID.

    Voting rights advocates say that requiring photo identification threatens to disenfranchise many older Americans, a voting bloc with traditionally strong turnout. Senior citizens are less likely to have driver’s licenses or birth certificates, which are often needed to obtain a government ID.

    Brennan Center research suggest six million elderly Americans do not possess a government-issued photo ID. Additionally, 15 percent of voting-age citizens earning under $35,000 a year do not possess such ID and fully 25 percent of voting-age African Americans do not possess this ID.

    Further, according to the Brennan Center, as many as 13 million U.S. citizens, or seven percent, do not have ready access to citizenship documents of the type required by most state voter id legislation. This makes the requirement to obtain a government-issued photo ID in order to vote an unduly onerous equivalent of a "Jim Crow" poll tax.

    Texans already must request and be granted a voter registration card from their county Election Registrar's office thirty days in advance of an election. New registration applicants must provide their current address and Driver's License number or their Social Security Number on the voter registration application.

    The applicant's county Election Registrar along with the Texas Secretary of State are required to authenticate citizenship and all other information given on the voter registration application against Texas motor vehicle records or the U.S. Social Security Administration before approving the application and granting "active" voter registration status.

    Further, county Election Registrars and the Texas Secretary of State actively track registered voter change of address and death notices and other official record updates to automatically suspend a voter's registration on any change of status.

    There is no evidence of voter fraud in the Lone Star State.
    . . .Steve Raborn, elections administrator for Tarrant County, said a two-year investigation by his office of questionable voter registrations in 2004 and 2005 found only three noncitizens on the county voter rolls, and they were later removed.

    . . .
    The county officials said voter fraud was difficult to carry out in Texas because each applicant must submit a driver's license number or Social Security number, which is entered into a statewide electronic database and checked by the secretary of state's office. Applicants are sent a voting card and officially added to the rolls only if there are no discrepancies and the secretary of state's office approves the application.
    There is a long history in America of certain groups using allegations of voter fraud to restrict and shape the electorate.

    In the late nineteenth century, when newly freed black Americans were swept into electoral politics to become a voting majority, white Southern Democrats threatened by the loss of power justified the so called "Jim Crow" voting laws by alleging "voter fraud" by black voters.

    Many 20th Century "Jim Crow" Southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party after President Franklin Roosevelt, President John Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson championed voters' rights and the elimination of "Jim Crow" type laws.

    Cross Posted at DMN Trail Blazers Blog

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