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January 24, 2006


Kety Esquivel is the Communications Director of Latinos for America.

When one thinks of the words progressive, Hispanic, grassroots and movement, one's mind goes back to the '60s and '70s to the United Farm Workers movement, the Chicano movement, to "Brown Power". In the years since then, there has not been a larger progressive Hispanic movement in this nation. We at Latinos for America are committed to changing this.

Earlier this month, we, like many other grassroots organizations around the nation, held our annual January call, what I affectionately call the annual New Year's resolution call—the call where we come together collectively to discuss what we hope to accomplish in 2006 & beyond.

For Latinos for America, this call meant taking stock of our accomplishments in 2005 and announcing the formation of a Political Action Committee to help us meet our goals in 2006.

Why the shift?

Because after taking stock of our accomplishments in '04 and '05—and those of our peers—we realized that there is a critical political niche that, much to our surprise and dismay, has not yet been filled. This niche is that of a grassroots organization that is unabashedly political, Hispanic and Progressive. We view this as a critical strategic gap in the Democratic Party's electoral infrastructure, and also as a de facto disenfranchisement of a significant Hispanic constituency. We are stepping up to take
responsibility for filling it within 2006.

As a 501c4 in 2004 and 2005, we focused all of our energy on training and non-partisan media and outreach. We accomplished a great deal on a modest budget, but we were not able to be directly involved in the promotion of Progressive candidates or partisan issues. As we surveyed of the political landscape coming into 2006, we found that while there are many Hispanic groups doing wonderful work in non-partisan organizing and voter registration, and while several organization run Progressive Spanish-language media campaigns, there is no national organization in which Progressive Hispanics are executing focused partisan outreach work in Hispanic communities.

In fact, years after if became conventional wisdom that the Hispanic vote is critical to the future of the Democratic Party, there is still no Hispanic organization set up as the type of partisan PAC. As a PAC in 2006 and beyond, Latinos for America and its nework of local affiliates will be liberated to engage deeply with candidate and issue campaigns nationwide.

When Latinos for America launched in 2004, it was born from the ashes of the Dean for President campaign. A group of Hispanic Dean supporters decided to continue their work in progressive politics in the Latino community through LFA. I was inspired to join the Board of Latinos for America in 2004, after the Wesley Clark for President campaign, because I believed that it was possible for a grassroots Hispanic organization to mobilize the progressive Hispanic community, and that this community, if targeted and organized, could be a large, powerful, and growing political force for progressive values, issues and candidates.

We have travelled this path over the course of the last two years, and have built capability and credibility in our organization and our community. We are convinced that the decision to form a PAC in 2006 will be a watershed event that enables us to the full potential that drove us to carry on after the end of our respective campaigns in 2004. Our charge is now to bring our message and our plan to the Hispanic community, and invite Progressive Latinos to step up and join a movement. We ask for your help and
support in meeting this goal.


Categories: Blogs

January 23, 2006


Since President Bush has brought up the subject again, Ezra Klien lets us all in on how "awesome" it would be to have a Health Savings Account. Feeling feverish? Let the market decide whether you head for the doctor:

Conservatives believe Americans have too much health insurance, that they spend heedlessly and wastefully on care, procedures, and medications they would simply forego if insurance plans didn't pick up the tab. Ergo, HSA's, which end risk pooling, forcing care to come directly from pockets. Newly responsible for their medical bills, consumers will be spurred by the Magic of the Market to make smarter decisions, show more prudence, lead healthier lifestyles, smile more often, and smell springtime fresh. It's gonna be awesome.

Ezra's right. I was on my way to the local ER for some recreational x-rays this weekend, followed by an amputation "just for the heck of it," when I suddenly realized how much this would cost my insurance company. "Egads!" I thought to myself. "If only I had a Health Savings Account, I wouldn't be scheduling all of these extra medical procedures." Ezra goes on:

At least if you're healthy. Because what HSA's really do is separate the young from the old, the well from the sick. Currently, insurance operates off of the concept of risk pooling. Since health costs tend to be unpredictable and illness isn't thought a moral failing, we all pay a bit more than we expect to use in order to subsidize those who end up needing much more than they ever thought possible. The well subsidize the sick, the young subsidize the old, and we all accept the arrangement because one day we will be old, and one day we will be sick, and no one wants to shoulder that alone.

But HSA's slice right through this intergenerational, redistributionist arrangement: they're a great deal for young, healthy folks because they don't force subsidization. Just don't get sick. And if you're already sick, don't think you can hide by remaining in traditional insurance plans: when the healthy rush towards HSA's, older plans will hold only the ill, and insurance companies will send premiums skyrocketing to recoup the difference.

Thankfully, when you're old, sick, poor, and bitter, schadenfreude will keep you warm. Eventually all those young bucks who left you for their HSA's will get sick, and when they do, it's all coming out of their pocket. And if, like most Americans, they're not terribly good savers and their HSA only has a couple thousand (or hundred) in it, it's all coming out of their bank accounts. Currently, more than half of all bankruptcies are due to medical costs. Post-HSA's, expect that number to rocket upwards. Lucky thing, then, that the financial industry, along with a compliant Congress, just made it harder and costlier to declare bankruptcy.

No wonder President Bush has supported prayer in schools—with health plans like this, we're all going to need to pray for our health every chance we get.

Categories: Blogs

Bush Defends Domestic Surveillance

In Kansas today, President Bush rejected his critics' position that he broke the law by authorizing domestic eavesdropping without a warrant. Bush argued that Congress authorized him to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. Bush said, "If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?" The White House did inform congressional leadership about the program, but did not inform all members of the intelligence committees. Air Force General Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief, also came to the program's defense today. Hayden said that any intercepts of conversations unrelated to the NSA's mission "would be destroyed and not reported."

Ford to Make Major Cuts in Next 6 Years

The Ford Motor Company said today that it would cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs and close up to 14 manufacturing plants within the next six years. The plan is to make the company's North American division profitable by 2008, executives said. The restructuring plan has been dubbed by the company as a "Way Forward" and "Ford Fights Back." The cutbacks would represent 20 to 25% of Ford's 122,000 person work force. William Clay Ford, Jr., the company's chairman and chief executive, said, "We will be making painful sacrifices to protect Ford's heritage and secure our future,"

W. Va. Senate Passes New Mine Safety Rules

The West Virginia Senate unanimously passed legislation today that would require mines to use electronic devices to track trapped miners and stockpile oxygen to keep miners alive while waiting for help. The legislation was sparked by the deaths of 14 coal miners over the past three weeks. Governor Joe Manchin pressed lawmakers to pass the legislation by the end of the day. "We cannot afford to wait any longer," Manchin said after two miners were found dead over the weekend.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Liz Herbert is the Editorial Director of the Rapid Response Network. The Rapid Response Network offers guest commentary at Democracy for America every Monday.

Yesterday, the Washington Post's ombudsman Deborah Howell responded to the onslaught of mail following her inaccurate assertion last week that Jack Abramoff "...had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties..."

Leaving for a moment the content of this disagreement, I'd argue it constructive to examine the process, as "firestorm" seems an apt description when you're called "a piece of flotsam," a "right-wing whore" and a "Republican shill with salt for brains." And it sounds like there was worse. Seeing as I do much of the frustration on the left as well as many of the letters we write, I feel compelled to write a letter of my own... or two.

Dear Ms. Howell,

Progressive Americans have grown impatient with the media. Too often, in the pages of publications we have in the past admired, we see critical facts missing or unrecognizably twisted. Too often we feel that either no one is speaking for us or that when someone does, he or she is subjected to such uncharacteristic scrutiny and distorted re-telling of their words that sometimes we want to scream.

Our frustration grows from our fundamental belief in the importance of your work, of a free press as a critical check on power. Our voice is heard through your voice. In the past number of years, journalists have not been performing this job up to past standards. If we seem intemperate, it is because we sense important things about ourselves slipping away and we do not believe we can let that happen.

. . . and my second letter. . .

Dear progressive community,

Over the past 5 years, I've changed everything about my life because of my frustration with words I've heard on TV, words I've read in the newspaper. But as angry as I've been, I hold fast to the belief that most journalists are people of principle, and that they—mere mortals—will never understand if we shout and call names. As our community grows and we talk increasingly among ourselves, we risk becoming entrenched in our own perspective. If we are unable to talk to others without yelling, we lose touch with the values we so want to take root from our political philosophy. We must love our country enough to want it to be one whole rather than two angry halves.

So keep writing your letters, write lots of them. But please remember who you are and what values you hold dear with every word you write.

This week Ms. Howell, even as she took care to defend our right to insult her, wrote "[t]his unbounded, unreasoning rage is not going to help this newspaper, this country or democracy."

". . . unbounded, unreasoning rage". . . sound like how we've ever described the political right? Please take pause, as—this time—she's talking about us.

Liz Herbert (FL)
Speak up. Join Rapid Response.

Categories: Blogs

January 22, 2006


Democracy for America features highlights from DFA-Link groups around the country each week. Dave Reiter is a member of DFA Miami-Dade. You can see more local DFA actions going on at

Election Reform Action: Asheville, NC DFA will be urging members of the Board of Elections to scrap their plans for touch screen voting machines. Many DFAers showed up at the Buncombe County Courthouse yesterday to demand a verifiable paper trail that would only result from the use of optical-scan machines.

While DFA Miami's efforts in the Florida State Capitol to require a paper trail for the entire state came up empty, they were able to claim a huge success. The group wrote their own bill to mandate that an unbiased voter information guide and a sample ballot be produced and disseminated to every Florida voter. Currently, there is no reliable, state provided information about Constitutional Amendments or candidates provided to Floridians until election day. Last week, representatives from the group went to Tallahassee to find a sponsor for their bill... and found one! Democratic House Representative Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall agreed to sponsor the bill in the House, and many Republicans are signing on as co-sponsors for the bi-partisan initiative. Next stop... the Senate!

Forums: Many things happen in the south as everyone is gearing up for the 2006 elections. You know its candidate forum season, when DFA members begin endorsing their favorite candidates for all offices. From Riverside's support of a local city council race to Miami's gubernatorial debate, it is high time to elect progressive candidates this year. DFLA and DFA Pasadena are working together to decide which Assembly candidates they will jointly support to garner broad membership support. Tampa DFA is hosting a forum for 14 different candidates for US Congress, State Representatives, County Commissioners, and a Mayor that promises to be action packed!

Strong Speakers: While many DFAers are focusing on which candidates to support, some ex-candidates are waking people up with some shocking realities. Al Gore spoke in Fairfax DFA's neighborhood on Monday to re-alert us to the Constitutional crisis at hand. He urged all Americans to take any and all necessary actions to ensure the bipartisan pendulum keeps swinging. He reminded us of the eerie reality on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of why it is illegal to wiretap citizens; he cited the example of the FBI wiretapping, disruption, and infiltration of MLK's peaceful movement right up until his assassination. These facts and many other disturbing revelations can be found in Senate Report 94-755 from the 94th Congress On Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans.

Howard Dean is coming to town! On Tuesday, Dean was in Greater Kansas City for Democracy's area for a Democracy Bond Holders Meeting. Democracy Bonds are for building the grass roots from the bottom up, so there is permanent representation of activists in non-election years as well as during campaigns. To sustain the democratic organizers throughout the country, we must buy these bonds so that we are funding the Democratic Party interests rather than the corporate interests that have overcome the GOP.

This weekend, Jim Dean will be in the Washington, DC area attending fundraisers, house parties, and the 3rd Annual Organizing Summit. Activists from all over are invited to take part in activities that are fun, educational, and exciting... just remember to bring a few bucks for the kitty. :)

—Dave Reiter

Categories: Blogs

This Week (ABC) - Senator (and former Democratic presidential candidate) John Kerry (D-MA) joins the program to discuss the threatening Osama bin Laden tape released this week, as well as the war in Iraq and this administration's justification for domestic spying.

Face the Nation (CBS) - CBS Evening News Anchor Bob Schieffer will be tackling the new Osama Bin Laden audio tape—his first public communication since 2004. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS, Senate Intelligence Committee) and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT, Committee for Homeland Security) will be talking about the implications of the message to America.

Meet the Press (NBC) - This week on "Meet the Press," Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) offers an exclusive interview about his recent fact-finding mission in Iraq and the Middle East. He will also be announcing Democrats' new lobbying reform plans. "Republican strategist Mary Matalin will take on two veterans of Bill Clinton's campaign team—James Carville and Paula Begala—who have just written a new blueprint for the Democratic Party: 'Take it Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future.'"

Chris Matthews Show (NBC) - Chris will be discussing Hillary Clinton's plans for 2008, as well as the future of the Republican Party in the post-Bush era with guests Kathleen Parker (Tribune Newspapers), Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune), Andrea Mitchell (NBC News), and David Brooks (New York Times; The Newshour).

Fox News Sunday (Fox News) Senate Judiciary Committee members Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) will be discussing what effect this past week of hearings and questioning had on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. Reps. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Boehner, R-Ohio, and John Shadegg, R-Ariz. will be on the program to handicap the race to replace Rep. Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader.

Late Edition (CNN) will be talking about Osama bin Laden's warning of new attacks, and the possible hiding places for this al Qaeda leader with Shaukat Aziz (Pakistani Prime Minister), Richard Holbrooke (Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations), Lawrence Eagleburger (Former Secretary of State), Sen. George Allen (R-VA, Foreign Relations Committee member), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, Judiciary Committee) and Ban Ki Moon (South Korean Foreign Minister).

60 Minutes (CBS) This week will feature the oil boom in Alberta, Canada, a look at Kinky Friedman's run for governor of Texas and a profile of pro video game player, “Fatal1ty” Wendel.

Categories: Blogs

January 21, 2006


Too many people in Vermont are cold and hungry this winter. It is time to do something about it. Democracy for America is excited to be partnering with Vermont State Senator Matt Dunne, and the City of Burlington in initiating dialogue between anti-poverty groups and citizens in Vermont.

We are also pleased to announce that former Senator John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, will be joining the conference and delivering the keynote address. Please come for this all-day conference, Wednesday, February 8th, featuring leaders in Vermont's fight to eradicate poverty. Join us for a complimentary lunch or just for Sen. Edwards' keynote address. We're working together to share best practices, set benchmarks and make common sense solutions to improve the lives of Vermonters.

Poverty Conference

This is an important opportunity to meet other DFA members from across the state and new allies in the struggle to combat poverty. The preliminary schedule is below. We will send out more information after the schedule is finalized. Please RSVP today at:

Poverty Conference


Tom Hughes
Executive Director
Democracy for America

PS: Don't forget that Vermont is kicking off the DFA Training season in Montpelier this Jan. 28th and 29th. This is a political skills training unavailable anywhere else. Learn more and sign up at:

TENTATIVE Schedule for February 8th

9:30am-9:45am Welcome and Introduction by Mayor Peter Clavelle

9:45am-10:30am State of State; speakers include: Con Hogan; Jane
Knitzer, Director of the Center for Children in Poverty;
David Murphey, Senior Policy Analyst for VT Agency of
Human Services

10:30am-10:45am Break

10:45am-12:00pm State of Innovation, presented by various organizations

12:15pm-1:15pm Keynote address by Sen. John Edwards

1:30pm-2:15pm Collaboration brainstorm

2:15pm-3:00pm Identification of priority and strategic investments

3:00pm-3:15pm Break

3:15pm-3:45pm Metrics for success by Chuck Lief, Chair of the Board of the
Social Enterprise Alliance

3:45pm-4:15pm Commitment for next steps

4:15pm-4:30pm Closing remarks by Sen. Matt Dunne

Categories: Blogs

January 20, 2006


Shiites Fall Short of Majority

The first official results from Iraq's landmark December elections showed that Shiite and Kurdish coalitions dominated the voting, but failed to come up with the two thirds majority needed to form a government of their own. The coalition of Shiite parties took 128 of 275, while the Kurdish parties took 53 seats, combined they missed a majority by seats. Sunni Arab parties, led by religious leaders who advocated resistance to the American military presence, won 58 seats.

Iraqi Politician Calls for Release of Reporter

Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the General Conference of the Iraqi People, called for the release of American journalist Jill Carroll today. Carroll reportedly planned to interview al-Dulaimi the morning she was kidnapped. In a statement appearing on The Christian Monitor's website, al-Dulaimi said, "I promise you again, I'll do my best to release this journalist. Kidnapping her is an act against the Iraqi people. Nobody accepts this at all."

Former Pentagon Analyst Sentenced to 12 Years

Ex-Pentagon analyst Lawrence A. Franklin, who gave classified information to an Israeli diplomat and two members of a pro-Israel lobby group, was sentenced today to more than 12 years in prison. Franklin worked with top Pentagon officials and has expertise on Iraq and Iran. In October, Franklin pleaded guilty to three felony counts in exchange for three others being dropped. The sentence was on the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines, because the Judge felt he did it in a desire to help the United States, no to hurt it.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Teri Mills is a longtime Democracy For America community member. Her guest column on health care appears on Blog for America on Fridays and she blogs at

The New York Times ran a four part series last week on Type 2 diabetes that apparently caught the attention of a good many readers. By the time this column is published it may be on its way to the archives, but you can catch some quotes at and here are a few more that should raise your own red or blue flag. Even discovery of a gene won't immediately help the 40 percent of the population who are found to have a predisposition for developing the disease.

"An estimated 800,000 adult New Yorkers—more than one in every eight—now have diabetes, and city health officials describe the problem as a bona fide epidemic.

"The percentage of persons with diabetes New York City is nearly a third higher than in the nation. New cases have been cropping up close to twice as fast as cases nationally. And of adults believed to have the illness, health officials estimate, nearly one-third do not know it."

One in three children born in the United States five years ago are expected to have diabetes in their lifetimes, according to a projection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The forecast is even bleaker for Latinos: one in every two."

The Times articles point out the high cost of treating Type 2 diabetes, a disease that is preventable and can be postponed. These included the expense and hardship of caring for family members, higher taxes, increased public spending to divert the disease, but add on to that time lost from work, and higher insurance premiums and you can see how this condition will affect all of our pocketbooks.

A Times reporter went on to say, "Health economists suggest that if these preventive measures were practiced on a wide scale, complications from diabetes would be largely eliminated and the American medical system, and by extension taxpayers, could save as much as $30 billion over 10 years. The experts disagree on what such an effort would cost. (How much nutrition counseling does it take to wean the average person from French fries?) Nonetheless, many of them believe the cost would be largely offset by the savings."

Rapid Response, Howard Dean, and Jim Dean have taught us never to be silent, so here is one letter that was submitted but not published:

N.R. Kleinfield quotes the commissioner of the NY City Department of Health: "Getting millions of people to change their behaviors (to prevent Type 2 diabetes) will require some kind of national crusade." Nurses around the country could not agree more and are prepared to help lead the fight. As the most trusted of health professionals, nurses could be part of the solution of reducing health care costs and keeping families healthy. Providing preventive health care information to every American could be done through the proposed Office of the National Nurse. The National Nurse would address the nation on specific ways to prevent diabetes, followed by nationwide health education days led by volunteer nurses that the public would be encouraged to attend. The United States has a long-standing history of finding solutions to our problems. The National Nurse should be one of them.

—Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP
Democracy for Oregon

Categories: Blogs

January 19, 2006


Osama bin Laden Reappears

An audiotape from Osama bin Laden was released today by Al Jazeera. In the tape bin Laden warned of future terror attacks, but also offered a "long-term truce." White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the tape suggested bin Laden was "under pressure." He also dismissed the idea of a truce, saying, "We must confront threats before it is too late . . . before the attacks reach our shore."

Palestinian Suicide Bomber Wounds 30 in Tel Aviv

A Palestinian suicide bomber wounded 30 people in Tel Aviv today, just six days before a Palestinian election and in the wake of Israel's loss of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The bombing is the first since Sharon suffered a massive stroke on January 4 and could put pressure on his replacement Ehud Olmert. An official in the Prime Minister's office said, "The Tel Aviv terror attack is a direct consequence of the Palestinian Authority's total refusal to take any steps to prevent terror against Israelis."

Leahy and Salazar to Oppose Alito

Two Democratic Senators who supported John Roberts nomination said today that they would oppose the nomination of Samuel Alito in next week's Senate vote. Both Senators questioned whether Alito would be independent of the executive branch. Leahy said, "At a time when the President is seizing unprecedented power, the Supreme Court needs to act as a check and to provide balance." Salazar added that, "Judge Alito would place too much power in the hands of the President of the United States." Democrat Max Baucus of Montana announced his opposition to Alito yesterday.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Cheshire, Massachusetts is getting a new electronic voting machine much to the chagrin of local leaders. Last week, the Selectmen said that they would not buy a machine, which the state has mandated through the federal Help American Vote Act (HAVA).

The state has decided that it will provide the new machine, and the town will have to use it. The machine will come with programming for state and federal elections, but not local elections. Programming for local elections will cost the town $1,000 each election.

The town has not hesitated in expressing its anger over the action of the state. Selectman Paul F. Astorino said, "We don't want it!"

The action is part of Secretary of State William F. Galvin's plan to have the state comply with HAVA. This new machine, and others like it arriving in surrounding small towns, will replace paper ballots and provide better voting access to the handicap.

Selectwoman Carol A. Francesconi said, "I understand their philosophy on this, but they should have polled the communities before they put any plans in place."

Judith L. St. Croix, the president of the Massachusetts Town Clerk Associations, said that towns have no choice but to comply with the state and use the new machines.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Blog for America features highlights from DFA-Link groups around the country each week. Jeff Gardner from NJ for Democracy writes about the Northern half of the U.S. on Thursdays. You can see more local DFA actions going on at

DFA's power has always come from the bottom up—the grassroots that built our organization. Taking a look at the last week of DFA actions, nothing has changed. Whether coming up with their own ideas, or putting their own twist on national initiatives, local DFA groups are still leading the way:

Civil Rights: Taking an active role in fighting for fairness, New Jersey for Democracy and the Ocean County DFA group have been standing up against the Ocean County freeholder board which has been denying the dying Police Lt. Laurel Hester's wish to secure pension benefits for her partner—a story gaining national news attention, and which, in a terrific twist of justice, has prompted other counties in New Jersey to extend those very same benefits to its county employees' domestic partners. Meanwhile, the movement to vote out the sitting freeholders is already afoot.

Candidate Forums: Indeed, Local DFA groups have taken the candidate forum initiative and run with it, but each with their own spin. A popular rallying cry is to take back the House in 2006, which must be done one seat at a time, whether in races like Washington's 8th District or Illinois's 6th District.

Looking to set the tone for the future in state politics, the local DFA group is taking an interest in the race for Washington's State Party Chair. And, of course, where it all begins—the local races—groups are eyeing and readying the fight in places like the Ocean County, NJ Freeholders race and the Manchester, NH's executive council race.

Whether at the National, State or Local level—DFA is ahead of the curve identifying, testing, meeting and supporting great candidates at every level of government. It's time to make a difference.

Until next week, keep fighting for better tomorrows!


Categories: Blogs

January 18, 2006


Supreme Court Avoids Abortion Ruling

Supreme Court Justices ruled unanimously today that the lower courts were wrong in declaring a New Hampshire abortion law entirely unconstitutional. The Justices said that the courts should look for a less drastic way to fix the law's problems. Retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote what could be her last opinion. O'Connor prefaced the opinion by writing that, "We do not revisit our abortion precedents today, but rather address the question of remedy."

Attacks Kill Dozens in Iraq

Nearly 50 Iraqis were killed today in several attacks around the country. Gunmen ambushed a heavily defended telecommunications convoy in the morning, killing 10 guards and kidnapping two African engineers. Other attacks throughout the country included attacks from gunmen and roadside bombings. On top of all the violence, Iraq is investigating the death of a 15 year old girl who suffered from symptoms similar to those of bird flu.

Democrats Reveal Their Own Rules on Lobbying

Congressional Democrats today proposed a lobbying overhaul they said far exceeds its Republican counterpart. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "Today we as Democrats are declaring our commitment to change – change to a government as good and as honest as the people that we serve." House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said that the Democratic plan is superior to the "vague and insufficient set of so-called reforms" proposed by Republicans.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

DFA members and other anti-war activists are keeping up the fight in Morris County New Jersey:

Danielle Austen, Daily Record

Denville resident Joe Farmarco, a member of Morris Democrats For America (DFA) and Morris County Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) acted as both panelist and master of ceremonies.

He said the forum was part of a broader national effort, and was one of 180 similar forums held Saturday across the nation. The national campaign was organized by the coalition, an alliance of over 100 grassroots organizations.

Panelist Tom Wyka of Parsippany, also a member of Morris DFA and PDA, stressed the importance of accountability in the Bush administration's role in the war.

"Accountability is important in this country. We believe in it," Wyka said.

He fears our "national credibility is at stake"because after going to war over an alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction, none were found.

"Who's going to listen to the country that cried wolf when we need them again?"Wyka asked.

He said he was "furious"after learning about the so-called Downing Street Memo. In the memo, according to news reports, the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and warned that in Washington intelligence was "being fixed around the policy."

Like many of us, the group has been writing letters to state legislators—including governor-elect Jon Corzine—to encourage them to make the link between the current financial distress in our states and the war in Iraq. "Avery Hart of Kinnelon said the war is a 'war of aggression, built on lies.'"

Categories: Blogs

January 17, 2006


A letter to the editor from DFA member Rebecca DiLiddo published in the Bennington Banner newspaper (Vermont).

Republicans across the land are trying very hard to turn a Republican scandal and its associated possible criminal activities into a bipartisan outrage. Readers need to make sure that they know the facts. Federal Election Commission records of Jack Abramoff's as a registered D.C. lobbyist show all the donations given either by Abramoff himself or one of his PACs. The list includes hundreds of recipients.

Every one is a Republican. There is not one Democrat. No Democrats took money from Abramoff. Although a few Democrats accepted donations from Indian tribes that were also clients of Jack Abramoff they did so independently and not through Abramoff acting as an agent.

Let's not lose sight of the facts here. Abramoff was a Republican working to raise money to support Republican candidates and buy Republican lawmakers. He is directly linked to charities and other agencies established for the sole purpose of laundering money to be funneled to Republican candidates and lawmakers.

This is a Republican scandal, but it is going to take bipartisan cooperation to craft effective campaign finance reform that finally puts U.S. citizens back in control of elections and the elected.

Rebecca DiLiddo

Categories: Blogs

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law

Justices voted 6-3 to uphold Oregon's unique physician-assisted-suicide law. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, wrote that the federal law bars doctors from using prescriptions to engage in illicit drug dealings, but it "manifests no intent to regulate the practice of medicine generally. The ruling marks the first time Chief Justice John Roberts has dissented, siding with Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Iran Offers to Resume Talks, but Is Denied

In an effort to win international support and avoid action by the United Nations Security Council, Iran today proposed a return to nuclear talks with Europeans. In a letter to the foreign ministries of Britain, France, and Germany, Iran made it clear that while it was willing to resume talks, it would not resume the freeze on its nuclear program. A German official called the proposal "unacceptable." A British official echoed that sentiment saying that "the Iranians have created the conditions to make it impossible to talk."

Groups Sue to Stop Domestic Spying

Federal lawsuits were filed today against President Bush's domestic eavesdropping programs call it an "illegal and unconstitutional program." The lawsuits were filed in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights and in Detroit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The New York lawsuit said that President Bush, "unilaterally and secretly authorized electronic surveillance without judicial approval or congressional authorization.

—Chris Broadfoot

Categories: Blogs

Rich Kolker has been a software geek, journalist, broadcaster, convention organizer, political party chair, campaign volunteer, airman, and still has a long way to go to catch up with Ben Franklin. (He's also been known to Chair the Loudoun County (VA) Democratic Committee, as well as the 10th CD (VA) for Dean for America.)

Today marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin—born in Boston, resident of Philadelphia, representative to London and Paris, citizen of the World, the first American. To quote his "Google" citation, Franklin was "printer, journalist, publisher, author, philanthropist, abolitionist, [and] public servant." He proposed the first plan of Union for the American Colonies in 1754 and was instrumental in and signed all of the founding documents of the United States, serving most famously on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Franklin was the classic "self made man." Apprenticed to his brother in a print shop in Boston, he ran away to Philadephia, eventually founding his own printing business there. He published a newspaper and most famously, his "Poor Richard's Almanack," adding writing to his growing resume. Printing, particularly the Almanack, proved so lucrative that by 1748 he was able to "retire" and concentrate on his other interests.

Not that he had been idle before then. He was a founder of the first volunteer fire company in America and the first public lending library. He helped found the Academy and College of Philadelphia, now part of the University of Pennsyvania and the American Philsophical Society, for discussions about and the promotion of science.

After "retirement", Franklin concentrated considerable time and effort on scientific pursuits, particularly in electricity and meteorology. Never one to waste time, even on his voyages to and from Europe on diplomatic missions he used a thermometer to map the Gulf Stream. He also found himself getting more and more involved in the politics of the time. As one of Pennsylvalia's leading citizens, he was elected to the Assembly and led the delegation to the Albany Congress of the colonies in 1754 to discuss relations with the Indians and defense against the French. It ended up going further, proposing a plan of union for the colonies based in part on the Iroquois Confederation.

Franklin spent much of the time leading up to the American Revolution in London, as the representative of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other colonies in England. Much of that time he was a strong supporter of the continued connection of England and her colonies, looking for ways to bring together the two sides to their common benefit. He would never succeed. The differences between England and the colonies had grown too great, and Franklin returned to America, just in time for the Second COntenental Congress, the one which declared America's

By the end of 1776, Franklin was headed oversas again, this time to France as the Commissioner, later Ambassador, of the new United States of America. His job was to garner France's support, both military but mostly financial, for the Revolution. Well known and respected by the French for his scientific studies, Franklin was a superstar in French society and successful in keeping money flowing, although sometimes fitfully, from France to America. He was one of the primary writers of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolution in 1783. Franklin returned home for the final time in 1785, but he wasn't done with public life.

Franklin took up the cause of slavery, serving as President of the The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first American abolition organization. His last public writings, shortly before his death in 1790, were on the topic of abolishing slavery.

But before then, there was one more thing to do. In 1787 representatives met once again in Philadelphia to discuss amending the Articles of Confederation that formed the government of the united States. Franklin, then over 80 in an era where it was unusual to live past 50, was again chosen a delegate. Yet another fouding document would show his influence, and his signature.

When I was growing up, Ben Franklin was on the 50 cent piece, something I saw more often than the $100 bill he adorns today. It was also more appropriate, because Ben Franklin, capable and comfortable in English and French high society, was nevertheless always the man who grew up on the streets of Boston and Philadelphia, perhaps our most "middle class" founding father. Even in science, he put his research to practical uses (the lightning rod and stove, for example) and put the designs of those inventions in the public domain for the common good. He enjoyed life, learning, good company (particularly of women) and good conversation (from people of any gender).

Celebrate his 300th birthday today, Franklin would have.

—Rich Kolker

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Matthew Alvarez McMillan is the former finance director and a supporter of Latinos for America. Democracy for America welcomes LFA columnists on Tuesdays.

Latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in America. We are a faithful people who believe in hard work, determination and the common good. We want to live the American Dream. And, we deserve representation.

Progressives know that there's strength in diversity. Yet, progressive Latinos make up less than 5% of the U.S. House and just 2% of the U.S. Senate. We can do better.

From the U.S. Senate to the State House, from the town council to the Governor's mansion, all across America, progressive Latinos are standing up and speaking out for our values and they deserve our support.

Below are just a few rising Latino stars running in close races in 2006.

NJ-Sen.: Robert Menendez

Recently appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine to fill out his term, Sen. Bob Menendez faces a tough 2006 campaign. His Republican opponent, the son of a popular Governor, has a name that's worth its weight in New Jersey political gold. To further complicate matters, Menendez took a battering in the media during the tough behind-the-scenes political fight that preceded Corzine's appointment. While Menendez seems to have consolidated support amongst Democrats, an early poll shows Menendez trailing his Republican rival. We can't afford to lose one of just two progressive Latino Senators.

NM-01: Patricia Madrid

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid is exactly the kind of strong progressive leader we need to replace a Bush rubber stamp, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson. Twice elected in statewide contests, she's the first and only Latina in the nation to be elected Attorney General. As Attorney General, she stood up for the progressive cause, battling electricity deregulation, standing up for the environment and exposing corporate corruption. As a candidate for Congress, she's called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, health care for all, and reforming Congress. She's also engaged in one of the most competitive U.S. House races in the nation.

FL-State Rep: Laura Leyva

Running in an open seat in a swing district, Laura Leyva is hoping to become the second Latina in the Florida State House. She's a health care expert who is proposing common sense solutions to get care to the people who need it. A community activist, she will fight for the community she knows and cares about in Tallahassee. Laura Leyva is exactly the kind of next generation leader that we need to begin to cultivate now.

Progressives are strong because African-Americans and Latinos join with those of European ancestry to speak out for peace, justice and equality. Progressives are trusted because men stand with women and straight people stand with gay people in favor of civil rights. And, progressives are respected because Christians, Jews, Muslims and the non-religious put aside our differences to fight for the common good.

If we hope to push the progressive vision into reality, we need every member of the rainbow coalition to stand up and speak out for people. We progressive Latinos are here and our voice will be heard. We're asking for your support.

—Matthew Alvarez

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January 16, 2006


Today we celebrate a great hero and patriot of our country and our democracy, the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Real patriots are those who stand up and fight for the real values of our country—tolerance, respect, and the integrity of our democracy. A real patriot fights against tyranny and bigotry both inside and outside of our government institutions. A real patriot stands up for our Constitution and its Bill of Rights when our leaders will not.

By these measures and many more, Dr. King was a true patriot—one who gave his life to our country and the cause of our democracy. His legacy remains an inspiration to all of us to fight for what the Unites States can and must be—a country of tolerance, respect, and a country whose citizenry dictates government action and not the other way around.

Dr. King's sacrifice for civil rights and justice was a sacrifice he made for every American. The battles that he fought are out battles. It was Dr. King who reminded America that we are in this together and that we must be responsible and accountable to each other.

In this era of "greed is good" and "I got mine" leadership, today is a breath of fresh air.

Our thanks to a man whose shoes we may never fill, but we'll never stop trying.

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Remarks by Al Gore on January 16, 2006.

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens—Democrats and Republicans alike—to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped—one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

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