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Fire up the DVR/TiVo: 20/20 on the DC Madam

We love being able to record live television here at NDN and tonight's ABC News 20/20 report on the DC MadamGrover Norquist will be watching.  Will you?

10 AARP Eligible White Men on a Stage

That's right, the first GOP Presidential debate was held last night and in comparison to the Democrats' event last week, their views felt pretty outside the mainstream.  The NYT has more.  Maybe the most news-worthy moment was Mayor Giuliani's thoughts on choice: 

Mr. Giuliani, who has said he supports abortion rights, gave conflicting signals on the issue. He joined the other nine in saying he would not be upset if the Supreme Court voted to overturn the decision that legalized abortion. But later he endorsed a woman’s right to make a decision on whether to have an abortion.

“It would be O.K. to repeal,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Or it would be O.K. also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as a precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision.”

Similarly, he said that, while he supported public financing of abortion for poor women in New York, in other states, “people can come to a different decision.”

 

Hate Crime Legislation Passes the House

From the NYT:

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend hate-crime protection to people who are victimized because of their sexuality. But the most immediate effect may be to set up another veto showdown between Democrats and President Bush.

By 237 to 180, the House voted to cover crimes spurred by a victim’s “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” or disability under the hate-crime designation, which currently applies to people who are attacked because of their race, religion, color or national origin.

“The bill is passed,” Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is gay, announced to applause, most of it from Democrats.

Companion legislation is moving through the Senate. But even assuming that a bill emerges from the full Congress, it will face a veto by President Bush on the grounds that it is “unnecessary and constitutionally questionable,” the White House said. The vote to approve the bill did not come close to the two-thirds needed to override a veto.

Has McCain weakened his position on immigration?

Last night during the Republican presidential debate, Senator John McCain drew a clear distinction between his views on immigration and those of Rep. Tom Tancredo. From the debate:

REP. TANCREDO: Well, of course, if I thought there should be another one, I wouldn’t be here. I think that I serve the purpose. I think that we -- good men all here, don’t get me wrong. But I am telling you this; that there are issues that I believe have not been addressed tonight, not in full, and I believe that they do separate us, and I certainly believe the issue of immigration and immigration reform and what’s going to happen to this country unless we deal with this forthrightly.

No more platitudes. No more obfuscating with using words like, "Well, I am not for amnesty but I’m for letting them stay." That kind of stuff has got to be taken away from the political debate, as far as I’m concerned, so people can understand exactly who is where on this incredibly important issue.

And when they see that, I think, frankly, I’m --

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, time.

Anyone have a follow-up with that? Anyone with disagree with the strong anti-illegal immigration position? Take a strong view? Senator McCain.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I’m happy to say that we’ve been working very hard for a couple of months with Democrats and Republicans, led by the president and his Cabinet, to come up with a comprehensive solution and resolution of this terrible problem.

One thing we would all agree on: the status quo is not acceptable. We have to secure our borders, but we also need a temporary worker program, and we have to dispose of the issue of 12 million people who are in this country illegally.

This issue is a(n) important and compelling one, and it begins with national security. But we also need to address it comprehensively, and I’m proud to work with the president of the United States on this issue.

Yet, as Senator Chris Dodd pointed out yesterday in this AP article, McCain seems to have allowed his presidential aspirations to water down his once fierce support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform:

"[Senator McCain] and Senator Kennedy were working on a comprehensive package ... and he's no longer, I gather, a co-sponsor of that," Dodd said. "It had some bipartisan momentum, and now, if you asked me who's on the other side today I couldn't name anybody at this point. Maybe there is someone, but not of the stature McCain brought to the debate."

Dodd said McCain's defection on the issue was critical because Congress needed to act now or risk years of inaction on the issue.

"The later you wait the harder it gets." Dodd said. "You've got a window here ... and the fear is if you wait much longer, then it won't happen before 2008 and with a new administration it probably wouldn't be one of the first items you bring up."

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Major Development in USAT Scandal

The internal investigations unit of the Justice Department has admitted the obvious - under Bush, Rove and Gonzlaez, the DOJ was rapidly being turned into a subsidiary of the Republican Party.  From the NYT:

The Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into whether a former senior adviser to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales improperly tried to fill vacancies for career prosecutors at the agency with Republicans loyal to the Bush administration, department officials said Wednesday.

And Karl Rove is under increasing pressure to share what he knows with Congress:

The Senate committee issued a subpoena to Mr. Gonzales for all Justice Department e-mail about the dismissals involving Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.

And more details are coming out about the coverup that followed the politically motivated firings of the 8 US Attorneys:

Three of the dismissed prosecutors provided, for the first time, accounts of telephone calls they said they received earlier this year from Michael Elston, the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, as Mr. Elston squeezed them to remain silent about the circumstances of their ousters, in an effort to tamp down public scrutiny.

The calls came within weeks after each of them had been dismissed, but before department officials, including Mr. Gonzales, had begun in testimony to cite performance failings as the rationale for their removal.

Paul K. Charlton, the former Arizona prosecutor, said he was left with the impression that Mr. Elston “was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.”

John McKay, the former United States attorney from Seattle, said he was disturbed by the entire exchange.

“I greatly resented what I felt Mr. Elston was trying to do: buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony,” Mr. McKay told the investigators in his statement. “I believe that Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.”

H. E. Cummins, the former prosecutor in Arkansas, had raised a similar accusation in February in an e-mail message he wrote to other prosecutors who had been dismissed.

Obama to Dean: make video of debates available to public for free

Senator Barack Obama sent the following letter to DNC Chairman Howard Dean to encourage the DNC to make video from Democratic debates open to the public for free. Sort of off topic, but I wonder whether inciting citizen political participation was a good idea given the Obama campaign's recent MySpace incident.

Dear Chairman Dean:

     I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

     As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.

     The letter does not propose some radical change in copyright law, or an unjustified expansion in "fair use." Instead, it simply asks that any purported copyright owner of video from the debates waive that copyright.

     I am a strong believer in the importance of copyright, especially in a digital age. But there is no reason that this particular class of content needs the protection. We have incentive enough to debate. The networks have incentive enough to broadcast those debates. Rather than restricting the product of those debates, we should instead make sure that our democracy and citizens have the chance to benefit from them in all the ways that technology makes possible.

     Your presidential campaign used the Internet to break new ground in citizen political participation. I would urge you to take the lead again by continuing to support this important medium of political speech. And I offer whatever help I can to secure the support of others as well.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

White House goes after one of its own

Iraq Special Investigator Stuart W. Bowen Jr. may have once been a loyal Bushie - he was Bush's counsel when he was Governor of Texas and served in the same role for the Bush-Cheney transition team after the 2000 election.  But now he seems to have invoked the wrath of the White House.  From the WAPO:

The inspector general who uncovered cases of waste, fraud and abuse in the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is under investigation by a presidential panel, according to the White House.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is under investigation after complaints were made by former employees about his work habits and work he required employees to perform. The investigation is headed by the integrity committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which is made up of inspectors general appointed by the president...

In his latest report, released Monday, Bowen credited his office with having conducted 307 investigations. He also said that Iraq was still plagued by power failures, inadequate oil production, shortages of clean water and health-care problems. In the most recent quarter, his inspectors reviewed eight projects and found that seven of them were not well maintained and may not function as well or as long as planned.

Free Judith Miller?

There's a new bill in the House, The Free Flow of Information Act, that would create a federal shield law, allowing reporters to maintian the secrecy of their sources, unless ordered otherwise by a judge.

New Ideas in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Earlier this week, NDN's Globalization Initiative released a major new paper entitled A Laptop in Every Backpack.  Part of our Series of Modest Proposals to Build 21st Century Skills, the paper argures that:

Achieving the American Dream in this century increasingly requires fluency in the ways of this network and its tools – how to acquire information and do research, how to construct reports and present ideas using these new tools, how to type and even edit video.  We believe we need a profound and urgent national commitment to give this powerful new 21st knowledge, essential for success in this century, to all American school children. 

We believe that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child.  We need to commit to a date and grade certain: we suggest 2010 for every sixth grader.   These laptops need to be wirelessly connected to the Internet, and children need to be able to take them home.  Local school districts should choose how best to do this, but there needs to be federal funding and simple, federal standards.  Funds and strategies for how training our teachers to lead this transformation need to be part this commitment. 

And in 10 states, educators are dealing with another challenge, childhood obesity, in an innovative way that takes advantage of emerging technology:

Children don’t often yell in excitement when they are let into class, but as the doors opened to the upper level of the gym at South Middle School here one recent Monday, the assembled students let out a chorus of shrieks.

In they rushed, past the Ping-Pong table, past the balance beams and the wrestling mats stacked unused. They sprinted past the ghosts of Gym Class Past toward two TV sets looming over square plastic mats on the floor. In less than a minute a dozen seventh graders were dancing in furiously kinetic union to the thumps of a techno song called “Speed Over Beethoven.”

Bill Hines, a physical education teacher at the school for 27 years, shook his head a little, smiled and said, “I’ll tell you one thing: they don’t run in here like that for basketball.”

It is a scene being repeated across the country as schools deploy the blood-pumping video game Dance Dance Revolution as the latest weapon in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of childhood obesity. While traditional video games are often criticized for contributing to the expanding waistlines of the nation’s children, at least several hundred schools in at least 10 states are now using Dance Dance Revolution, or D.D.R., as a regular part of their physical education curriculum.

Based on current plans, more than 1,500 schools are expected to be using the game by the end of the decade. Born nine years ago in the arcades of Japan, D.D.R. has become a small craze among a generation of young Americans who appear less enamored of traditional team sports than their parents were and more amenable to the personal pursuits enabled by modern technology.

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