Pages

Click here to find out what the President's proposal would mean for you.

The President's health reform proposal builds upon existing legislation and includes provisions to cut waste, fraud, and abuse while making health care more affordable and available.

The proposal would set up a Health Insurance Rate Authority to regulate unreasonable rate hikes -- like the ones we just saw in California and Maine. It would amount to the biggest middle class tax cut for health care in our nation's history.

And it would help extend coverage to more than 31 million more Americans who are without health insurance today. We are closer than ever to reforming our broken health care system, and the President's proposal yesterday is the next big step to arriving at that goal.

Click here to find out what the President's proposal would mean for you.

Every day without reform is another day millions of Americans go without much-needed coverage or fear losing their coverage at the worst moment.

It's another day employers face skyrocketing costs and another day that some insurance companies will engage in unfair practices and unreasonable rate hikes. When a major health insurer notified California residents of premium increases of nearly forty percent this month, it showed again how urgently we need reform.

My hope is that Republicans will now set aside obstruction and partisan games and make a genuine effort to help pass meaningful reform on behalf of the American people -- starting with this Thursday's bipartisan health reform summit.

The President is continuing a proud legacy of pragmatic Democratic governance. He's listening to every idea put forward -- and we hope the final bill will include the best from both parties.

This proposal achieves the President's long-stated goals: Security for the insured, coverage for the uninsured and cost control for families and businesses. See how you would benefit from the President's plan:

http://my.democrats.org/PresidentsProposal

Good News For Democrats


President Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll released yesterday was 53%. Congress can soon pass a jobs bill, and health care reform can finally get done soon after. In the coming months, the national employment picture is expected to get stronger.

A proposal to reform Wall Street is both popular and feasible, and can be passed this Spring. An energy bill can come to the floor before the summer.

These are the kind of steps that will inspire confidence, motivate the base, and demonstrate the majority’s ability to govern. A “comeback” narrative can kick in, just as voters begin to evaluate candidates for the midterm elections.

And what of Republican obstructionism and the Senate’s inability to hold up-or-down votes? Health care can and should be completed through reconciliation, so the GOP’s intransigence is irrelevant. Indeed, reconciliation has to be considered as much as humanly possible.

In other instances, the GOP may be reluctant to block votes on a jobs bill and Wall Street reform. If they do, the Democratic leadership may need to consider declaring this a “crisis” situation, and characterizing Republican efforts as a slow-motion government shutdown. All alternatives — including the “nuclear option” — will have to be on the table, and can be easily justified. In a crisis situation, a responsible governing party simply cannot allow a crazed minority to shut down the levers of government.

2010 can, in other words, be a strong year. It just might take a little audacity.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

10 Promises That Obama KEPT

10 Promises That Obama KEPT
(but you may have forgotten about...)


By:Jarrett Terrill


Jarrett's Profile

10. Created and trained a "Young Artist Corps" to work in low-income schools to give more students access to the arts AND made it easier for foreign artists to showcase their work in the USA.

9. Nullified Bush attempts to make the timely release of Presidential Records more difficult.

8. Passed the Mathew Shepard Act AND Appointed the first ever Transgender Administration Official.

7. Increased troops in Afghanistan AND taught the military to speak foreign languages.

6. Increased Funding For National Parks & Forests AND Appointed an American Indian Policy Adviser (Kimberly Teehee) to the White House AND opened up new places for hunting and fishing.

5. Reviewed Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

4. Laid the Groundwork for an International Space Station.

3. Rebuilt schools AND community-based crime fighting programs in post-Katrina New Orleans.

2. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act AND Appointed the first-ever Advisor to the White House (Lynn Rosenthal) on Violence Against Women.

1. Banned Lobbyists from giving "gifts" to Federal Executive Employees.






Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

America's Real Tea Party


Most Americans don’t know it but Thomas Jefferson, along with James Madison worked assiduously to have an 11th Amendment included into our nation’s original Bill of Rights. This proposed Amendment would have prohibited “monopolies in commerce.” The amendment would have made it illegal for corporations to own other corporations, or to give money to politicians, or to otherwise try to influence elections. Corporations would be chartered by the states for the primary purpose of “serving the public good.” Corporations would possess the legal status not of natural persons but rather of “artificial persons.” This means that they would have only those legal attributes which the state saw fit to grant to them. They would NOT; and indeed could NOT possess the same bundle of rights which actual flesh and blood persons enjoy. Under this proposed amendment neither the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, nor any provision of that document would protect the artificial entities known of as corporations.

Jefferson and Madison were so insistent upon this amendment because the American Revolution was in substantial degree a revolt against the domination of colonial economic and political life by the greatest multinational corporation of its age: the British East India Company. After all who do you think owned the tea which Sam Adams and friends dumped overboard in Boston Harbor? Who was responsible for the taxes on commodities and restrictions on trade by the American colonists? It was the British East India Company, of course. In the end the amendment was not adopted because a majority in the first Congress believed that already existing state laws governing corporations were adequate for constraining corporate power. Jefferson worried about the growing influence of corporate power until his dying day in 1826. Even the more conservative founder John Adams came to harbor deep misgivings about unchecked corporate power.

A few years after Jefferson’s unsuccessful attempt to incorporate this amendment into the Bill of Rights, the fourth Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Marshall, unilaterally asserted the Court’s right to judicial review in the seminal case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803. In practice this meant that the Supreme Court would have sole and unchecked power to determine what the Constitution meant. Jefferson was aghast. His fear lay in the knowledge that an unelected branch of government, one which is not subject to the will of the citizens, and is effectively immune from check by the two elected branches of government (Only one Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached—none have ever been convicted and removed) was now solely responsible for determining the meaning of the Constitution. The meaning of the Constitution, and hence the very nature of our political system, was now in the hands of an un-elected and effectively uncontrollable body. “The Constitution has become a thing of wax to be molded as the Court sees fit” Jefferson lamented.

In 1886 Jefferson’s twin Constitutional nightmares collided in a train wreck which has effectively derailed true democracy in this nation and indeed across the globe as other nations have either copied our unfortunate example, or have fallen under the dominion of our multinational corporations—or both.. The precipitating event was the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This case is cited to the present day as having conferred the status of “natural” as opposed to “artificial” personhood upon American corporations. In fact the Supreme Court declined to rule on the issue. J.C. Bancroft Davis, the Clerk of the Court, an attorney, who curiously was also a former railroad company PRESIDENT, used his position to simply write this conclusion into the head notes which summarized the case. Ever since this fateful event; this sleight-of-hand rewriting of the Constitution, corporations have had the status of “actual” persons whose rights are fully protected by the Constitution. It was a coup against democracy which succeeded because there were no real external checks and balances on the Court, and because the Court itself chose not to act to repudiate Davis’ rewriting of the Constitution. The thing stood. Precedent was established. Jefferson’s “thing of wax” nightmare had come to pass.

Consider the implications: Actual flesh and blood persons are indeed all roughly equal in overall attributes. But a corporation can possess MILLIONS of times greater resources than does any “natural” person, or even a group of such persons. Neither labor unions, nor any other category of “special interest” group possesses this attribute of personhood and so they too are fundamentally and intrinsically unable to compete against corporate “persons.”

To make a long and sad story short: The concentrated power of corporate persons has overwhelmed our democratic system. The unsound decisions of our unchecked and unbalanced Supreme Court have handed the “keys to the Kingdom” over to our corporate overlords. An analogy with an AIDS infection is instructive: After 1886, our democratic “immune system” resisted Davis’ corporate personhood infection of our national body politic by deploying the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Progressive Movement, the Labor Movement, and the New Deal. All of these bought time. But now, in the era of global mega-corporations, after a long struggle, our “democratic immune system” is finally being overwhelmed. Democracy, rule of, by, and for the people, is dying in America.

Contemporary America is a nation almost wholly under the dominion of plutocratically wealthy, corporate quarterly-profit ├╝ber alles overlords. A seamless web of corporate power connects our multinational corporations with our mass media—now almost wholly owned by a handful of mega-corporations. This military-industrial-media complex largely determines which politicians will and will not get elected. Thus they control the government. They control access to money as well as determine how a candidate will be presented to the viewers. The very policies that our “elected” officials are “allowed” to espouse are rigorously circumscribed: Remember Clinton’s national healthcare proposals? Our media will never tell us that every other developed nation on Earth has universal health care for their citizens. Arguably, our corporate media has seen to it that the average American is as brainwashed as is say, the average citizen of North Korea. Our primary role in this atrocious system is simply to consume. We are consumers, corporate subjects, not citizens. Under this materialistic system our lives are devoid of deep meaning as we are conditioned to work ever harder and go ever deeper in debt to accumulate ever more useless junk as though if we just piled up enough of this crap we would somehow, magically, become happy.

What is to be done? Let’s open our eyes and admit that the emperor has no clothes. Let’s admit that our democratic, constitutional, system was derailed more than a century ago. Until we return power to the hands of flesh and blood citizens EXCLUSIVELY, until corporations are summarily striped of “personhood”, until this legal obscenity is abolished, we can have no real freedom, democracy cannot flourish. Furthermore, to ensure that the will of the people is respected and reigns supreme, all members of our federal judiciary must face periodic reelection by the citizens—just as is the case for our judiciary here in California. Until and unless these things come to pass we cannot be a free people. Because we are fundamentally NOT a free people, because our ability to act and to build freely upon our inspirations is constrained by corporate forces beyond our present control, we cannot live up to our full potentials as human beings. Once these goals are accomplished there shall be such an explosion of innovation in economic and political and scientific entrepreneurship as to make Periclean Athens seem timid. It’s up to each of us to act NOW. Freedom itself hangs in the balance.

Dr. Mike Byron, a contributing writer for Liberal Slant, teaches Political Science at CSU San Marcos, as well as at Palomar, Mira Costa, and Mesa Colleges. He was the Democratic Party’s write-in candidate for the 49th Congressional District last year.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Texas Education Board Is Trying to Infuse Schoolbooks with Ultraconservative Ideology




Don McLeroy is a balding, paunchy man with a thick broom-handle mustache who lives in a rambling two-story brick home in a suburb near Bryan, Texas. When he greeted me at the door
one evening last October, he was clutching a thin paperback with the skeleton of a seahorse on its cover, a primer on natural selection penned by famed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr. We sat down at his dining table, which was piled high with three-ring binders, and his wife, Nancy,
brought us ice water in cut-crystal glasses with matching coasters. Then McLeroy cracked the book open. The margins were littered with stars, exclamation points, and hundreds of yellow Post-its that were brimming with notes scrawled in a microscopic hand. With childlike glee, McLeroy flipped through the pages and explained what he saw as the gaping holes in Darwin's theory. "I don't care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say," he declared at one point. "Evolution is hooey." This bled into a rant about American history. "The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation," McLeroy said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis. "But
we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan -- he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes."

Views like these are relatively common in East Texas, a region that prides itself on being the buckle of the Bible Belt. But McLeroy is no ordinary citizen. The jovial creationist sits on the Texas State Board of Education, where he is one of the leaders of an activist bloc that holds enormous sway
over the body's decisions. As the state goes through the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting the standards for its textbooks, the faction is using its clout to infuse them with ultraconservative ideals.

Among other things, they aim to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy, bring global-warming denial into science class, and downplay the contributions of the civil rights movement.
Battles over textbooks are nothing new, especially in Texas, where bitter skirmishes regularly erupt over everything from sex education to phonics and new math. But never before has the board's right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the state's standards. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide,
since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one
senior industry executive told me, "Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list."
Until recently, Texas's influence was balanced to some degree by the more-liberal pull of California, the nation's largest textbook market. But its economy is in such shambles that California has put off buying new books until at least 2014. This means that McLeroy and his ultraconservative crew have unparalleled power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.
Up until the 1950s, textbooks painted American history as a steady string of triumphs, but the upheavals of the 1960s shook up old hierarchies, and beginning in the latter part of the decade, textbook publishers scrambled to rewrite their books to make more space for women and minorities.
They also began delving more deeply into thorny issues, like slavery and American interventionism. As they did, a new image of America began to take shape that was not only more varied, but also
far gloomier than the old one. Author Frances FitzGerald has called this chain of events "the most dramatic rewriting of history ever to take place."
This shift spurred a fierce backlash from social conservatives, and some began hunting for ways to fight back. In the 1960s, Norma and Mel Gabler, a homemaker and an oil-company clerk, discovered that Texas had a little-known citizen-review process that allowed the public to weigh in on textbook content. From their kitchen table in the tiny town of Hawkins, the couple launched a crusade to
purge textbooks of what they saw as a liberal, secular, pro-evolution bias. When textbook adoptions rolled around, the Gablers would descend on school board meetings with long lists of proposed changes -- at one point their aggregate "scroll of shame" was fifty-four feet long. They also began stirring up other social conservatives, and eventually came to wield breathtaking influence. By the 1980s, the board was demanding that publishers make hundreds of the Gablers' changes each cycle. These ranged from rewriting entire passages to simple fixes, such as pulling the New Deal from a timeline of significant historical events (the Gablers thought it smacked of socialism) and describing the Reagan administration's 1983 military intervention in Grenada as a "rescue" rather than an "invasion."
To avoid tangling with the Gablers and other citizen activists, many publishers started self-censoring or allowing the couple to weigh in on textbooks in advance. In 1984, the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way analyzed new biology textbooks presented for adoption in Texas and found that, even before the school board weighed in, three made no mention of evolution. At least two of them were later adopted in other states. This was not unusual: while publishers occasionally produced Texas editions, in most cases changes made to accommodate the state appeared in textbooks around the country -- a fact that remains true to this day.

The Texas legislature finally intervened in 1995, after a particularly heated skirmish over health textbooks -- among other things, the board demanded that publishers pull illustrations of techniques for breast self-examination and swap a photo of a briefcase-toting woman for one of a mother baking a cake. The adoption process was overhauled so that instead of being able to rewrite books willy-nilly, the school board worked with the Texas Education Agency, the state's department of education, to develop a set of standards. Any book that conformed and got the facts right had to be accepted, which diluted the influence of citizen activists.

Around this time, social conservatives decided to target seats on the school board itself. In 1994 the Texas Republican Party, which had just been taken over by the religious right, enlisted Robert
Offutt, a conservative board member who was instrumental in overhauling the health textbooks, to recruit like-minded candidates to run against the board's moderate incumbents. At the same time, conservative donors began pouring tens of thousands of dollars into local school board races. Among them were Wal-Mart heir John Walton and James Leininger, a hospital-bed tycoon whose largess
has been instrumental in allowing religious conservatives to take charge of the machinery of Texas politics. Conservative groups, like the Christian Coalition and the Eagle Forum, also jumped into
the fray and began mobilizing voters.
Part of the newcomers' strategy was bringing bare-knuckle politics into what had been low-key
local races. In the run-up to the 1994 election, Leininger's political action committee, Texans for Governmental Integrity, sent out glossy flyers suggesting that one Democratic incumbent -- a retired Methodist schoolteacher and grandmother of five -- was a pawn of the "radical homosexual lobby" who wanted to push steroids and alcohol on children and advocated in-class demonstrations on
"how to masturbate and how to get an abortion!" The histrionics worked, and the group quickly picked off a handful of Democrats. The emboldened bloc then set its sights on Republicans who refused to vote in lockstep. "Either you'd hippity-hop, or they would throw whatever they could at you," says Cynthia A. Thornton, a conservative Republican and former board member, who refers
to the bloc as "the radicals."
It took more than a decade of fits and starts, but the strategy eventually paid off. After the 2006 election, Republicans claimed ten of fifteen board seats. Seven were held by the ultra-conservatives, and one by a close ally, giving them an effective majority. Among the new cadre were some fiery ideologues; in her self-published book, Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond rails against public education, which she dubs "tyrannical" and a "tool of perversion," and says sending kids to public school is
like "throwing them into the enemy's flames." (More recently, she has accused Barack Obama of being a terrorist sympathizer and suggested he wants America to be attacked so he can declare
martial law.) Then in 2007 Governor Rick Perry appointed Don McLeroy, a suburban dentist and longstanding bloc member, as board chairman. This passing of the gavel gave the faction unprecedented power just as the board was gearing up for the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting standards for every subject.
 
McLeroy has flexed his muscle particularly brazenly in the struggle over social studies standards. When the process began last January, the Texas Education Agency assembled a team to tackle each grade. In the case of eleventh-grade U.S. history, the group was made up of classroom teachers and history professors -- that is, until McLeroy added a man named Bill Ames. Ames -- a volunteer with the ultra- conservative Eagle Forum and Minuteman militia member who occasionally publishes angry screeds accusing "illegal immigrant aliens" of infesting America with diseases or blasting the "environmentalist agenda to destroy America" -- pushed to infuse the standards with his right-wing views and even managed to add a line requiring books to give space to conservative icons, "such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority," without any liberal counterweight. But for the most part, the teachers on the team refused to go along. So Ames put in a call to McLeroy, who demanded to see draft standards for every grade and then handed them over to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank founded by his benefactor, James Leininger. The group combed through the papers and compiled a list of seemingly damning omissions. Among other things, its analysts claimed that the writing teams had stripped out key historical figures like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Pat Hardy, a Republican board member who has sat in on some of the writing-team meetings, insists this isn't true. "No one was trying to remove George Washington!" she says. "That group took very preliminary, unfinished documents and drew all kinds of wrongheaded conclusions."

Nevertheless, the allegations drummed up public outrage, and in April the board voted to stop the writing teams' work and bring in a panel of experts to guide the process going forward -- "expert,"
in this case, meaning any person on whom two board members could agree. In keeping with the makeup of the board, three of the six people appointed were right-wing ideologues, among them Peter Marshall, a Massachusetts-based preacher who has argued that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were God's punishment for tolerating gays, and David Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party. Both men are self-styled historians with no relevant academic training -- Barton's only credential is a bachelor's degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University -- who argue that the wall of separation between church and state is a myth.
When the duo testified before the board in September, Barton, a lanky man with a silver pompadour, brought along several glass display cases stuffed with rare documents that illustrate America's Christian heritage, among them a battered leather Bible that was printed by the Congress of the Confederation in 1782, a scrap of yellowing paper with a biblical poem scrawled by John Quincy Adams, and a stack of rusty printing plates for McGuffey Readers, popular late-1800s school books with a strong Christian bent. When he took to the podium that afternoon, Barton flashed a PowerPoint slide showing thick metal chains. "I really like the analogy of a chain -- that we have all these chains that run through American history," he explained in his rapid-fire twang. But, he added, in the draft social studies standards, the governmental history chain was riddled with gaps. "We don't mention 1638, the first written constitution in America the predecessor to the U.S. Constitution," he noted as a hot pink "1638" popped up on the screen. By this he meant the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which called for a government based on the "Rule of the Word of God." Barton proceeded to rattle off roughly a dozen other documents that pointed up the theocratic leaning of early American society, as the years appeared in orange or pink along the length of the chain.

Barton's goal is to pack textbooks with early American documents that blend government and religion, and paint them as building blocks of our Constitution. In so doing, he aims to blur the fact that the Constitution itself cements a wall of separation between church and state. But his agenda does not stop there. He and the other conservative experts also want to scrub U.S. history of its inconvenient blemishes -- if they get their way, textbooks will paint slavery as a relic of British colonialism that America struggled to cast off from day one and refer to our economic system as "ethical capitalism." They also aim to redeem Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy, a project McLeroy endorses. As he put it in a memo to one of the writing teams, "Read the latest on McCarthy -- He was basically vindicated."
On the global front, Barton and company want textbooks to play up clashes with Islamic cultures, particularly where Muslims were the aggressors, and to paint them as part of an ongoing battle between the West and Muslim extremists. Barton argues, for instance, that the Barbary wars, a string of skirmishes over piracy that pitted America against Ottoman vassal states in the 1800s, were
the "original war against Islamic Terrorism." What's more, the group aims to give history a pro-Republican slant -- the most obvious example being their push to swap the term "democratic"
for "republican" when describing our system of government. Barton, who was hired by the GOP
to do outreach to black churches in the run-up to the 2004 election, has argued elsewhere that
African Americans owe their civil rights almost entirely to Republicans and that, given the "atrocious" treatment blacks have gotten at the hands of Democrats, "it might be much more appropriate that demands for reparations were made to the Democrat Party rather than to the
federal government." He is trying to shoehorn this view into textbooks, partly by shifting the
focus of black history away from the civil rights era to the post-Reconstruction period, when
blacks were friendlier with Republicans.
Barton and Peter Marshall initially tried to purge the standards of key figures of the civil rights era, such as Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall, though they were forced to back down amid a deafening public uproar. They have since resorted to a more subtle tack; while they concede that people like Martin Luther King Jr. deserve a place in history, they argue that they shouldn't be
given credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, "Only majorities can expand political rights in America's constitutional society." Ergo, any rights people of color have were handed to them by whites -- in his view, mostly white Republican men.
While the writing teams have so far made only modest concessions to the ideologue experts, the board has final say over the documents' contents, and the ultraconservative bloc has made it clear
that it wants its experts' views to get prominent play -- a situation the real experts find deeply unsettling. While in Texas, I paid a visit to James Kracht, a soft-spoken professor with a halo of
fine white hair, who is a dean at Texas A&M University's school of education. Kracht oversaw the writing of Texas's social studies standards in the 1990s and is among the experts tapped by the board's moderates this time around. I asked him how he thought the process was going. "I have to
be careful what I say," he replied, looking vaguely sheepish. "But when the door is closed and
I'm by myself, I yell and scream and pound on the wall."
 
There has already been plenty of screaming and wall pounding in the battles over standards for
other subjects. In late 2007, the English language arts writing teams, made up mostly of teachers
and curriculum planners, turned in the drafts they had been laboring over for more than two years. The ultraconservatives argued that they were too light on basics like grammar and too heavy on reading comprehension and critical thinking. "This critical-thinking stuff is gobbledygook," grumbled David Bradley, an insurance salesman with no college degree, who often acts as the faction's enforcer. At the bloc's urging, the board threw out the teams' work and hired an outside consultant
to craft new standards from scratch, but the faction still wasn't satisfied; when the new drafts came
in, one adherent dismissed them as "unreadable" and "mangled." In the end, they took matters into their own hands. The night before the final vote in May 2008, two members of the bloc, Gail Lowe and Barbara Cargill, met secretly and cobbled together yet another version. The documents were
then slipped under their allies' hotel-room doors, and the bloc forced through a vote the following morning before the other board members even had a chance to read them. Bradley argued that the whole ordeal was necessary because the writing teams had clung to their own ideas rather than deferring to the board. "I don't think this will happen again, because they got spanked," he added.
A similar scenario played out during the battle over science standards, which reached a crescendo
in early 2009. Despite the overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change exists, the group rammed through a last-minute amendment requiring students to "analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming." This, in essence, mandates the teaching of climate-change denial. What's more, they scrubbed the standards of any reference to the fact that the universe is roughly fourteen billion years old, because this timeline conflicts with biblical accounts of creation.
McLeroy and company had also hoped to require science textbooks to address the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, including evolution. Scientists see the phrase, which was first slipped into Texas curriculum standards in the 1980s, as a back door for bringing creationism into science class. But as soon as news broke that the board was considering reviving it, letters began pouring in from scientists around the country, and science professors began turning out en masse to school board hearings. During public testimony, one biologist arrived at the podium in a Victorian-
era gown, complete with a flouncy pink bustle, to remind her audience that in the 1800s religious fundamentalists rejected the germ theory of disease; it has since gained near-universal acceptance.
All this fuss made the bloc's allies skittish, and when the matter finally went to the floor last March,
it failed by a single vote.
But the struggle did not end there. McLeroy piped up and chided his fellow board members, saying, "Somebody's gotta stand up to [these] experts!" He and his allies then turned around and put forward a string of amendments that had much the same effect as the "strengths and weaknesses" language.

Among other things, they require students to evaluate various explanations for gaps in the fossil record and weigh whether natural selection alone can account for the complexity of cells. This mirrors the core arguments of the intelligent design movement: that life is too complex to be the
result of unguided evolution, and that the fossil evidence for evolution between species is flimsy.
The amendments passed by a wide margin, something McLeroy counts as a coup. "Whoo-eey!"
he told me. "We won the Grand Slam, and the Super Bowl, and the World Cup! Our science standards are light years ahead of any other state when it comes to challenging evolution!" Scientists are not so enthusiastic. My last night in Texas, I met David Hillis, a MacArthur Award-winning evolutionary biologist who advised the board on the science standards, at a soul-food restaurant in Austin.

"Clearly, some board members just wanted something they could point to so they could reject science books that don't give a nod to creationism," he said, stabbing his okra with a fork. "If they are able to use those standards to reject science textbooks, they have won and science has lost."
Even in deeply conservative Texas, the bloc's breathtaking hubris -- coupled with allegations of vote swapping (see "Money and Power on the Texas State Board of Education") -- have spurred a backlash. In May, the Texas state legislature refused to confirm McLeroy as board chair (Governor Perry replaced him with another bloc member), and, for the first time since he took office in 1998, he is facing a primary fight. His challenger, Thomas Ratliff, a lobbyist and legislative consultant whose father was the state's lieutenant governor, argues that under McLeroy's leadership the board has become a "liability" to the Republican Party. Two other members of the ultraconservative bloc are also mired in heated primary battles.

But to date few bloc members have been ousted in primaries, and even if moderates manage to peel off a few seats, by that time it will probably be too late. In mid-January, the board will meet to hammer out the last details of the standards for social studies, the only remaining subject, and the final vote will be held in March, around the same time the first primary ballots are counted. This means that no matter what happens at the ballot box, the next generation of textbooks will likely bear the fingerprints of the board's ultraconservatives -- which is just fine with McLeroy. "Remember Superman?" he asked me, as we sat sipping ice water in his dining room. "The never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way? Well, that fight is still going on. There are people out there who want to replace truth with political correctness. Instead of the American way they want multiculturalism. We plan to fight back -- and, when it comes to textbooks, we have the power to do it. Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have."

Mariah Blake is an editor of the Washington Monthly.
© 2010 Washington Monthly All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/145658/

Obama Meets the Press, First Question to FNC's Major Garrett


fncobama_2-9.jpg

Pres. Obama made a rare appearance at the daily press briefing today taking questions from the assembled White House Press Corps, with the first question going to Fox News correspondent Major Garrett. The second went to ABC's Jake Tapper.

The last press time Pres. Obama had a full scale news conference was in July. Just yesterday, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz spoke with members of the press corps who were not happy with the lack of access to Obama. "It's a source of great frustration here," said CBS's Chip Reid.

ObamaMSNBC_2.9.jpgObamaCNN_2.9.jpg

Developing...

> 1:48pm: After the third question, Obama says he'll take two more questions... "I just want to be sure I'm getting a balance here," says the president who then calls on NBC's Chuck Todd. Todd's colleagues groan. "He's too good, his questions are going to be too precise," says a colleague.

> 1:53pm: ABC News Radio's Ann Compton got the last question. "Thank you for doing this, it's been a while," says Compton.

> 1:59pm: Obama takes one more question related to jobs.

> More: The briefing became a Twitterpalooza. As NBC's Savannah Guthrie snapped a Twitpic of Garrett asking his question, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton tries to keep the press corps to focused.

> More, more: No Helen Thomas in the front row. "I guess she's snowed in," speculates an insider.

The view from Savannah's seat, after the jump...

continued...

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Gov. Charlie Christ (R)- FL Supports Don't Ask Don't Tell

Crist opposes changing 'don't ask, don't tell'

Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, does not support abolishing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy affecting gays and lesbians in the military. The 1993 policy was intended to be a political compromise that let gay men and women serve so long as they stayed silent about their sexuality. But President Obama and military brass say it is time to end the discrimination all together.

Crist disagrees. "We are a nation at war. The governor believes the current policy has worked, and there is no need to make changes," campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Republicans Attack Military Leadership to Defend Ban On Gays

{crossposted from the VoteVets blog, VetsVoice}

John Kerry

John Kerry


"Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates are both political appointees. They're going to be biased. They're going to say what the administration wants them to say." -- U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr.

Stunning. That was my reaction when I listened to a freshman Republican Congressman rebut the principled position of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, that the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" needed to end and that gay members of the Armed Services should be able to serve their country without fear that just being who they are would end their service.

It was especially alarming to hear the judgment of Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates dismissed so easily as 'biased.'

Anyone who knows Admiral Mullen or Bob Gates knows damn well that neither of them say what any Administration just wants them to say.

This is, after all, Secretary Bob Gates - a lifelong Republican who was appointed to positions of high trust and leadership by President Ronald Reagan, President George Herbert Walker Bush, and President George W Bush. This is a Defense Secretary who planned to leave government and had to be talked into continuing to serve in a Democratic Administration. He is doing his duty today out of patriotism, not political ambition or partisanship.

And this is, after all, the same Admiral Mullen who was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President George W Bush. A four star Admiral who has spent 42 years wearing the uniform of his country. He's tough. He's independent. He speaks his mind, and he speaks the truth. Indeed, at Tuesday's hearing, when Republicans members of the Senate Armed Services Committee accused him of "undue command influence" and of obeying "directives" from President Obama, Admiral Mullen responded in just the way you would expect a man of his caliber. "This is not about command influence," he said. "This is about leadership, and I take that very seriously."

But let's test what Congressman Hunter said. Does the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs just automatically sing from the same playbook as the Administration? Ironically, the last time a Democratic President tried to lift the ban on gays on the military, the Chairman of the JCS, who happened to be a Republican appointed by his Republican predecessor, broke with the President and opposed gays serving openly. His name was General Colin Powell. The Republicans back then didn't think to question the impartiality of that political appointee.

Of course, today, General Powell has changed his position - read the story here -
and he stands with Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates .

This is not 1993. We have come a long way as a country, and we have come a long way as a military to arrive at this moment when I believe our men and women in uniform agree with the Commander in Chief and with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military is, as Admiral Mullen put it, "the right thing to do."

This has been a rocky journey. In 1993, I testified in front of Senator Strom Thurmond's Armed Services Committee in favor of lifting the ban. I said then and I believe even more fervently now that, "when it comes to defending our country, we cannot afford to waste the bravery and service of a single American. This is a time to find public servants, not public scapegoats."

And it hasn't always been Democrats making the case.

Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a conservative Republican icon, once argued: "You don't have to be straight in the military, you just have to be able to shoot straight." Not long after he retired from the Senate in 1987, he tried to warn his fellow Republicans that "eventually the ban will be lifted" and the sooner the better. Rep. Duncan Hunter may claim that he never served with anyone in the military who was openly gay, but he'd do well to read what Senator Goldwater once rightly observed, "Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar. They'll still be serving long after we're all dead and buried. That should not surprise anyone."

Anyone who believes otherwise should again study Admiral Mullen's testimony about a policy which "forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend this country."

Senator John McCain, who replaced Barry Goldwater in the Senate, certainly understood the opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In 2006, as he was preparing for his successful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, McCain told an audience at Iowa State University that "the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to."

Today, not just John McCain, but everyone in positions of public responsibility should understand that the moment is now - the leadership of our military are joining the Commander in Chief in saying, the time for change has come.

President Obama, in his State of the Union address last week, argued that repealing the ban on gays in the military reaffirms the American ideals of equality, unity and diversity, the very source of our strength at home and abroad, the very values Americans in uniform defend around the globe.

And this change is overdue. This policy has costs beyond the immorality of the ban. More than 13,500 people have been forced to leave the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And according to a Government Accountability Office report, the cost of recruiting and training their replacements had cost taxpayers $190.5 million through 2003. We have no estimates on how much more it has cost us in the six years since.

But the most eloquent and most convincing testimony against the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" comes, as such testimony usually does, from those who have paid the highest price for the policy's failings. And the most compelling I have ever read is on a tombstone in Congressional Cemetery, not far from the Capitol. It says, "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one".

It doesn't have to be this way any longer. No more grave markers need to be etched with such painful words. Remember now the words of President Truman when - in the face of enormous outcry and opposition - he desegregated the military: ""there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin." Let's complete President Truman's mission, and wipe away the last stain of legal discrimination in the Armed Services of our nation.

Follow John Kerry on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JohnKerry
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is the GOP base losing touch with reality?

On its face, this poll suggests that a significant plurality of the GOP base are psychotic:

“Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?” Yes 42%, No 36%, Not Sure 22%.

“Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?” Yes 24%, No 43%, Not Sure 33%.

“Do you believe ACORN stole the 2008 election?” Yes 21%, No 24%, Not Sure 55%.

“Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people?” Yes 31%, No 36%, Not Sure 33%.

“Do you believe your state should secede from the United States?” The answer here is Yes 23%, No 58%, Not Sure 19%. On this basis, Kos declares: “42 percent of Republicans aren’t really patriotic.” Among Republicans in the South, secessionism is stronger at Yes 33%, No 52% Not Sure 15%.

But only on its face. They’re not actually psychotic, because the reality they hold was carefully crafted for them not only by extremists on the wingnut blogs, but by the mainstream leaders of their party and by Fox News, a major cable outlet.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH)-Lies, Lies More Lies

CLAIM: Boehner on Meet the Press: “We’ve offered better solutions all year long on all these major policies.”


Reality on GOP Budget Alternative: NBC, 3/26/09. "Yesterday, House Republicans made a pretty big deal about unveiling their budget alternative. In fact, we received this email from a House GOP spokeswoman, "Given the President’s comments [Tuesday] night that, 'we haven’t seen a budget out of [Republicans],' we wanted to make sure to make you all aware that we are introducing our Republican Budget Alternative tomorrow." And then what happens today? House Republicans release a 19-page document that contains no hard spending numbers or deficit projections." http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/03/26/1867398.aspx


Reality on GOP Health Care Alternative: CBO, 11/4/09. "By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people without health insurance would be reduced by about 3 million relative to current law, leaving about 52 million nonelderly residents uninsured. The share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage in 2019 would be about 83 percent, roughly in line with the current share."
[Congressional Budget Office]


CLAIM: Minority Leader John Boehner on Meet the Press: "We have our share of differences within our party. But I don’t see any big fractures that are out there"

Politico, Jan 29, 2010: "Bloody, expensive GOP primaries developing"
http://www.politico.com/blogs/scorecard/0110/Bloody_expensive_GOP_primaries_developing.html?showall

Houston Chronicle , Jan 30, 2010: "Challenger labels Texas GOP incumbent a 'Socialist' for bailout votes"
http://blogs.chron.com/txpotomac/2010/01/gop_lawmaker_faces_challenge_o.html

CQ, 11/5/09: "Texas Rep. Sessions Draws Primary Challenger"
http://blogs.cqpolitics.com/eyeon2010/2009/11/texas-rep-sessions-draws-prima.html

Wall Street Journal, 11/16/09: "Tea-Party Activists Complicate Republican Comeback Strategy"
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125564976279388879.html

Time, 10/30/09: "A GOP Civil War in Upstate New York"
http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1933355,00.html

ThinkProgress, Jan 11, 2010: "At Least 16 Tea Party Activists Step Up To Challenge Top Republican Incumbents And Recruits"
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/11/steele-tea-challenge/



Reblog this post [with Zemanta]