Monday, July 16, 2007

Progressive Update--07/16/2007

The Delaware legislature is out of session until January, so my attention is returning to national matters, after a few Delaware rants …

Stem Cell Research—Senate Bill 5 is designed to define how stem cell research can be done ethically in Delaware. It passed the state Senate, but Representative Deborah Hudson, one of the sponsors, goes Mr. Hyde on us, and adds House Amendment 1 to it, making it a felony to use stem cells for research purposes. In this manner, at 10pm on the last day of the six month session, Hudson eviscerated her own bill. Crazy, incompetent, or merely a liar—I truly don’t know.

Then again, in January 2006 Hudson did the exact same bait and switch, adding an amendment to Senate Bill 80 (the similar bill introduced in the prior General Assembly), and the amendment removed all references to embryonic stem cells (which was the only purpose to SB 80 in the first place). Hudson appears to be a spineless fair-weather friend to the stem cell movement, one who simply can not be counted on to stand up when faced with any objections. She is not someone I’d want on my team. She is 0 for 2—toxic for any stem cell legislation. And they called John Kerry a flip-flopper!

Before January, let your state senator and representative know that you support legislation that makes it legal to work to develop cures using stem cells. The federal Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 passed Congress (with YEA votes from all three DE legislators), but was vetoed by W last month. Welcome to W’s Dark Ages.

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation—I joined an overflowing conference room of concerned citizens in Dover last month to testify before a Senate Committee to discuss Senate Bill 141 which would ban this discrimination. Like cockroaches who can’t stand the light of day, the three Senators who oppose this bill, Nancy Cook, Charles Copeland, and John Still, refused to stand up and explain why they support this discrimination. Nancy Cook refused to even attend, and Copeland was there for only a portion. The heartfelt testimony by so many individuals who have been directly hurt by this discrimination made clear that there is a great need for this legislation. I am ashamed of those three state Senators who refuse to grant their fellow state Senators the opportunity to vote on whether this bill should be made law. Whether Cook, Copeland, and Still support the passage of this bill, they should certainly agree that there is merit for the bill to be heard by the full Senate. I am astounded that Copeland, who has considered running for state governor, was too gutless to explain at the public committee hearing why he not only opposes the bill, but also opposes letting his Senate colleagues vote on the bill.

Carney versus Markell—I like both Lt. Governor John Carney and state Treasurer Jack Markell very, very much. I like them so much that I refuse to donate a single dollar to either of them during the primary. If the Republicans put up a challenging candidate to run against the winner of the Democratic primary (whether Carney or Markell), I will be amongst the first to contribute and help at that time. Money donated now will be spent by one wonderful Democrat against another great Democrat, and I consider this a tragic waste of precious resources. In my heart, I would have liked Jack to run against Mike Castle for US Representative. I would have liked to financially support both John and Jack, but to campaign against a Republican, not each other. This primary promises a loss to a wonderful Delaware Democrat, and the spending of a lot of Democratic money without weakening the Republican Party. Talk about fiscal irresponsibility!

Economic Development—State Representative John Kowalko wrote the attached letter to the editor to discuss legislation to establish the Delaware Interstate Job Cooperative Task Force, to help with interstate job creation, which is necessary given the Avon plant and Chrysler plan closings, and to take advantage of the opportunities that come with the Aberdeen Proving Ground expansion in Harford County, Maryland.

Common Cause—I would like to share my hope that this group, whose members have worked so hard to bring good government to Delaware can regain its form. We clearly need good government watchdogs in our state, with our atrocious exemptions from FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, and with our desk-drawer veto power given to committee chairs in the General Assembly.

Volunteering--Go to for information on volunteer opportunities in Delaware.

National Issues—I’ll share my two cents in three areas—the presidential primaries, the Occupation of Iraq, and the rest.

Presidential Primaries—To those of us who are fairly interested in national politics, this is a very exciting time. Candidates are very accessible, and it is not difficult to play a significant role in the local efforts of your favored candidate. To those who are only slightly interested in national politics, it is still an exciting time, for the country is sick and tired of crony capitalism, and the Republican enabling of W. As such, next fall’s presidential election appears to be the Democrats to lose—it would take a Herculean effort for a Republican to win the White House.

What is your responsibility at this point? To learn more about the candidates, so that 1) you can identify which candidate you wish to support with time, talent, and/or contributions, and 2) when you friends ask you about one candidate or another, you can share the reasons why you like the one you support and also the positive points of the candidate that your friend asked about. Thus even if you support Obama, if your friend asks about Hillary, share positive points about both, for if you speak highly of Obama and criticize Hillary, you may end up hurting our ability to put a Democrat in the White House next year. The Republicans call this the 11th Commandment—thou shalt say nothing negative about a fellow Republican. You should not hesitate to share the strong positives of your favored Democratic presidential candidate, but also share something positive about the others. United we stand …

What are the candidates’ responsibilities at this point? Again, I feel that all Democrats should follow this 11th Commandment (applied to fellow Democrats). Pointing out differences is fine, note where you have a more concrete health care plan, or your plan to end the Occupation has a shorter timetable, different benchmarks, etc. You can do this without giving ammunition to the neocon bloggers and talking heads on Fox. Remember that the candidate that you may like to shoot down could be your running mate in twelve months.

Iraq—I hate to say it, but our country deserves another 18 months in Iraq. It elected W in 2004, and with only 1/3 of the Senate being elected every two years, we can not override a veto of the president that the country selected until we kick the Republican Party out of the White House and kick even more Republicans out of the Senate next November. The continued military and civilian deaths in Iraq are the consequences of the votes that our country’s citizens cast in November 2004. This is a priceless lesson in civics, and clearly one that this country desperately required. It tears me apart, however I am hopeful that Americans will think twice (or at least once) before voting again for a draft-dodging, silver spoon fed, fear-mongering moron with a well-funded, mud-slinging spin machine.

There is a good debate over whether we could exit Iraq sooner if we work on a bi-partisan compromise. My view is that this is rubbish. We should have a weekly vote in the Senate to set a twelve month timetable to withdraw ALL combat troops, with zero funding for troops that W leaves in Iraq that violates this timetable. Voting against such a timetable is a vote against our soldiers and their families. There is no downside for W to keep our soldiers in harm’s way and veto a bill—W won’t lose any future election. Congress however is not a lame duck; Congress represents the will of the people, and the people spoke loud and clear in November last year. We don’t want some watered down bipartisan ‘suggestion to the President’ with no teeth, no specifics, no repercussions. But there is downside for Republicans who continue to enable W. Don’t open the door for Democrats to be Swift Boated next year, by having them vote with Republicans on a watered down ‘please W, consider slowly bringing our soldiers home’. Make the lines clear—you are either for or against ending the Occupation. Stand up to W, show some backbone, or pack your bags. If Republicans are willing to stand up to end the Occupation, then that’s great, and I’ll call that bi-partisan. But if a Republican is not willing to set a hard timetable, and cut off funds for this President’s lie-based Occupation, then get those Republicans out of the room (John McCain first)—they bring nothing positive to the table.

The Rest—There are so many issues to raise, about which to share outrage: the Supreme Court overturning its own precedents, the Libby sentence commutation, the continued state of Guantanamo, Bush’s assault on healthcare, anything involving Alberto Gonzalez, the politicization of the US Surgeon General’s office, … There is, however, hope. The polls show that the country is finally waking up to the lies issued daily by the White House. Fewer Republicans (congressmen and citizens) are willing to keep drinking W’s Koolaid. Despite some prominent defections over important items like the failure of The Surge, the Republican Party has a critical problem that they can not fix by next November—the history and the platform of the Republican Party. The Party accepted and yet abdicated one-third of the responsibility of the US government since 2000—they rubber-stamped an imperialist, constitution-breaking Executive branch for six years.

Their platform is mired in an Ozzie and Harriet regressive time-warp. Their record on civil rights, labor rights, anti-discrimination is abysmal. Their economic policies are archaic (trickle down economics has no basis in the open, global environment that they promote), and even conservatives look back favorably on the fiscal responsibility of the Clinton years. Association with W has been described as radioactive—I am expecting the same to be said for association with the Republican party by next November, AND FOR VERY GOOD REASON.

In the meantime, until next November, the Democratic Party needs to focus on the big issues, ending the Occupation of Iraq, restoring checks and balance to the three branches of the federal government, and re-opening government. The Party should lead in the area of good government. This means that they should lead on ethics, on identifying earmarks, and they should lead on putting the country before their own individual well-being. This means that even Senators from New York (serving Manhattan) should be amongst the first to stand up and say that enough is enough, and that hedge fund managers should pay ordinary income taxes on their income. The regressive changes to the tax code under W are criminal (especially when they prevent us from providing healthcare to our children, and when they force us to underfund education and infrastructure (does anyone remember New Orleans), and all Democrats must stand united on this issue, even those in districts with zillionaires. Democrats want to hold their heads high, and to do that we need to stand uniformly for higher ethics than Republicans (OK, so that bar isn’t very high).

Paul S Baumbach