NDN needs your help to update our agenda. Last week we began the important process of updating the NDN Agenda for Hope and Progress, the document that defines our governing philosophy and is at the center of all our advocacy work. This week we are asking for your feedback on the first section of the NDN agenda "Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century Economy." After you read the section below, sign-up for an NDN Blog account, if you haven't already, and share your ideas with us in the comments section.
From NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress...
Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century Global Economy: Enact a 21st century economic strategy that will help all Americans succeed in the global economy and create broad-based prosperity and opportunity; restore fiscal responsibility and genuine progressivity in the tax code; champion free and fair trade; ensure the integrity and vitality of America's capital markets and the U.S. dollar; promote entrepreneurship, innovation and broad access to capital; update national telecommunications policy to foster universal broadband; enact a new national energy strategy; raise the minimum wage; prepare for the retirement of the baby boom; and protect and promote the retirement security of all Americans.
New Mexico Governor, statesman and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson reported significant progress at the end of his four day trip to North Korea. From the BBC:
[Richardson] was leading a delegation to retrieve the bodies of US soldiers killed during the Korean War.
He said officials in Pyongyang had assured him that once the funds were made accessible, the North would act swiftly to enact its pledge to shut down Yongbyon.
"The North Korean government told us that with that issue resolved, [it] would move promptly, within a day after receiving the funds," he said.
"And therefore, within that day, [it would] invite the [UN nuclear inspectors] to Pyongyang to draft the terms for shutting down the Yongbyon reactor," he added.
Mr Richardson said he was "optimistic" about the North's willingness to shut the reactor, which was part of a deal agreed in February.
Under that landmark agreement, North Korea said it would "shut down and seal" Yongbyon in return for energy aid and other incentives from its dialogue partners - the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.
But the deal has been delayed because of the financial dispute involving $25m (£12.7m) of North Korean funds, which was frozen in Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA).
The deadlock looked to have been resolved on Tuesday when the US Treasury Department said the Macau authorities would lift the freeze, allowing North Korea to obtain the money.
Senator McCain just gave a major speech on Iraq at the Virginia Military Institute. He bashed Democrats and praised the stay the course route. Is he going to be the Mondale of the Republican primary season? Read more here.
The WAPO coverage of President Bush's immigration speech was pretty fair. It gave him credit for pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, while emphasizing his frustrating reluctance to move past soundbites "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande" and focus on specifics. Read NDN's response to the President's speech here.
President Bush outlined the latest version of his plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws Monday, renewing his support for a guest-worker program for those with low skills and issuing a vague call for a resolution of the legal status of the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the country.
Speaking at the dedication of a state-of-the-art Border Patrol station here, a few miles from the U.S.-Mexican border, Bush called on Congress to pass the type of comprehensive immigration legislation that he has been pushing with little success since his earliest days as president. Bush said the overhaul should combine increased border security and added pressure on employers who hire illegal immigrants with a legal avenue for large numbers of guest workers to come into the country, while resolving the status of undocumented workers already here.
"Congress can pass a comprehensive bill, and I can sign it into law this year," Bush said, without offering a detailed proposal.
Since becoming president, Bush has viewed immigration as an issue on which he could make his mark as a "compassionate conservative" while extending the reach of the Republican Party to the fast-growing ranks of Latino voters, who tend to lean Democratic. But the swirling politics surrounding the emotional issue have left Bush groping for a viable path toward a solution, even as his political capital continues to be drained by the war in Iraq.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announce that they are going to investigate two high-profile events in recent US military history. Those two events: the friendly-fire death of US Army Ranger and former NFL star Cpl. Pat Tillman and the rescue of Pvt. Jennifer Lynch. In Tillman's case, there are clear signs of a serious cover-up over the circumstances of his death, and Lynch's story which was spread far and wide appears to be one part fairy tale, one part exploitative propaganda. It'll be the committees job to investigate misbehavior and see how high up in the chain of command, military and civilian, it went. We'll be following this story closely at NDNblog, as we continue to look at the failures of the period of conservative ascendency.
Very interesting article in the NYT today, looking at a recent report from the Election Assistance Commission, a federal panel empowered to research elections. Apparently there was some serious scrubbing of their look at voter fraud, moving the findings from the consensus view, to a position more in-line with conservative Republican views.
A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.
Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.
The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.
Democrats say the threat is overstated and have opposed voter identification laws, which they say disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats.
Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,” the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”
The topic of voter fraud, usually defined as people misrepresenting themselves at the polls or improperly attempting to register voters, remains a lively division between the two parties. It has played a significant role in the current Congressional investigation into the Bush administration’s firing of eight United State attorneys, several of whom, documents now indicate, were dismissed for being insufficiently aggressive in pursuing voter fraud cases.
The report also addressed intimidation, which Democrats see as a more pervasive problem.
And two weeks ago, the panel faced criticism for refusing to release another report it commissioned concerning voter identification laws. That report, which was released after intense pressure from Congress, found that voter identification laws designed to fight fraud can reduce turnout, particularly among members of minorities. In releasing that report, which was conducted by a different set of scholars, the commission declined to endorse its findings, citing methodological concerns.
A number of election law experts, based on their own research, have concluded that the accusations regarding widespread fraud are unjustified.
Buried in the middle of the artically is Karl Rove's use of Latin American stereotypes to justify disenfranchising voters. Real classy, Karl:
The Republican Party’s interest in rooting out voter fraud has been encouraged by the White House. In a speech last April, Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s senior political adviser, told a group of Republican lawyers that election integrity issues were an “enormous and growing” problem.
“We’re, in some parts of the country, I’m afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses,” Mr. Rove said. “I mean, it’s a real problem.”
According to the WAPO, the Bush Administration has approached at least three retired four-star generals to ask them if they would accept a War Czar position giving them strategic oversight over the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of them have said no." Marine General (Ret.) John J. "Jack" Sheehan put it best:
The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.
And Gen. Sheehan works for Bechtel right now on "developing oil projects in the Middle East." When the was profiteers want out, maybe it's time to take a second look...
The new Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is having similar problems:
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has been unable to find a deputy acceptable to the White House during his first six weeks in office.
Several candidates approached by McConnell either turned down the job or were rejected by the White House, according to current and former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to discuss the matter.
The position of deputy director of national intelligence has been vacant since May, when Gen. Michael V. Hayden left to become the director of the CIA. Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., who was appointed to replace Hayden, had to vacate the post in January because regulations limit how long a person can hold the position without Senate confirmation.
While the matter lingers on, McConnell said this week, he has been working 18-hour days "at least six days a week" to handle the crush of work.
The general unwillingness on the part of qualified people to join the Bush Administration is threatening the operations of our government, particularly in areas critical to national security. The end of the Bush years can't come quick enough.
Yesterday, in the first of a series of Virtual Town Halls, MoveOn.org members had a chance to ask questions of sevent leading Democratic candidates for the Presidency - Republicans were invited too, but none elected to participate. This Virtual Town Hall series is another example of the success progressives are having in using new tools to break down traditional barriers and allow for more and better communication between candidates and voters. You can watch all the video here, and below is one clip that illustriates both the quality of the questions submitted by members and the candor candidates are capable of in this environment.
"When economic policies are built on the four pillars of prosperity, economic growth, upward mobility and more efficient government are the result ... Fiscally conservative leadership will help restore the confidence of our shareholders: the American people."
For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.
The NYTimes offers a smart look at the immigration debate today with an editorial, Bush On the Border:
President Bush went to the Mexico border in Arizona on Monday and showed once again that immigration is an issue he understands. He said America suffers from a system that exploits people who come to do jobs that citizens won’t do. He said the country needed “a practical answer” that promotes an orderly flow of legal immigrants, eases pressure at the border and opens a path to citizenship for the hidden 12 million who keep our economy humming. And he urged Congress to find that answer through a “serious, civil and conclusive debate.”
It was good that Mr. Bush made these points, as he periodically does. But there was a dissonance in his speech, because it came only two weeks after he and a group of Senate Republicans circulated a list of “first principles” about immigration that amounted to a huge step backward for efforts to fix a broken system in a reasonable, humane way.
It proposed new conditions on immigrant labor so punitive and extreme that they amounted to a radical rethinking of immigration — not as an expression of the nation’s ideals and an integral source of its vitality and character, but as a strictly contractual phenomenon designed to extract cheap labor from an unwelcome underclass.
New immigrant workers and those already here would all be treated as itinerant laborers. They could renew their visas, but only by paying extortionate fees and fines. There would be a path to legal status, but one so costly and long that it is essentially a mirage: by some estimates, a family of five could pay more than $64,000 and wait up to 25 years before any member could even apply for a green card. Other families would be torn apart; new workers and those who legalize themselves would have no right to sponsor relatives to join them.
In a country that views immigrants as its lifeblood and cherishes the unity of families, the Republican talking points were remarkable for their chill of nativism and exploitation. They were also unrealistic. The hurdles would create huge impediments to hiring and keeping a stable work force, while pushing the illegal economy deeper underground.
The thrust of Mr. Bush’s speech leaves little room for a vision as crabbed and inhumane as the one he and his party have circulated. It’s hard to tell whether his plainspoken eloquence in Yuma was meant to distance himself from those earlier and benighted talking points, or whether he has simply been talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Mr. Bush should clear up the confusion. He should reaffirm the importance of family-based immigration and of an achievable path to citizenship for those willing, as he put it, “to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.”
Clarity and forcefulness from Mr. Bush are important because the prospects for a good immigration bill this year are so uncertain. The Senate plans to take up the issue next month, but there is no bill yet, and the talking-points memo shows the debate drifting to the hard right. Edward Kennedy, the Senate’s most stalwart advocate of comprehensive reform, has been left in the lurch as the Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Sam Brownback have run away from sensible positions to court hard-line voters. A decent bipartisan House bill, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, may not get the hearing it deserves.
Mr. Bush made a strong case for comprehensive reform on Monday. He should keep it up — publicly and forthrightly, as he did this week, and forget about backroom negotiations that produce harsh political manifestoes to appease hard-liners.