Friday, December 24, 2004

Sharing the Holiday Spirit

During the course of your holiday festivities please pause for a moment and remember the many men and women in the armed forces that can't be home for the holidays.

And if your heart leads please considering supporting the United Service Organizations' (USO) "Operation Phone Home". A program to provide phone cards to every soldier who wants one in time for the holidays. With just a few days left, the USO is still trying to hit its goal, and you can make the difference. To send a phone card, just go to:

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Cutbacks College Support


America's Future
America's Future |


Tell Education Secretary-Elect Margaret Spellings not to cut college support for 1 million students!
Tell Education Secretary-Elect Margaret Spellings not to cut college support for 1 million students!

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Right Wing majority that controls Congress threatened the college dreams of more than 1 million American students.

They authorized cuts to the leading federal college grant program (Pell Grants) that children of working families rely on to afford college. Those cuts would endanger the college education primarily of students whose families earn less than $40,000 a year, and who are already scrimping to put their sons and daughters through school. [1]

After all of the conservatives talk about "family values," you'd never expect them to pull the rug out from under the feet of America's neediest students, but that's exactly what they did. They gave the Bush Administration's incoming Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings, authority to cut tuition aid to more than 1 million students from working and middle class families. [2]

But Secretary Spellings need not make these cuts. Please write her today to tell her not to slash Pell grants. No American child should be priced out of a college education if they have the grades and desire to pursue one.

The right-wing majority in Congress preach about "morals," but what morals do they practice. Their latest outrage authorizes cuts in tuition aid to qualified students who lack the means to afford college. At the same time, this same conservative majority is hell-bent on extending tax breaks which -- in 2004 alone -- will put more than $30 billion into the pockets of America's wealthiest multimillionaires. [3]

Where is the morality in that?

If Secretary-elect Spellings exercises her new authority to cut this program, 90,000 of America's neediest students would completely lose the Pell Grants they rely on to afford college, and more than a million others would have their grants cut. [4]

Fortunately, this travesty can be stopped because Spellings needs to hear from you along with thousands of other outraged students, parents and concerned citizens. Please write to her now, and ask that she pledge not to endanger the education of over 1 million students.

Anyone who shuts the doors to college on the children of working American families shuts the door on America's future. Let's make certain that Spellings, the administration she serves and the Congressional majority who pushed this change into law know that we will hold them accountable for what they do.

Thank you.


Robert L. Borosage, Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future
Robert L. Borosage, Co-Director
Campaign for America's Future

[1] "US aid for college students slashed: Change in rules to affect almost 1.3m", Boston Globe, 11/23/04

[2] "ED to Revise State Tax Tables Used to Calculate Pell Grants and Other Aid Program Awards", American Council on Education, 11/23/04

[3] Isaac Shapiro and Joel Friedman, "TAX RETURNS: A Comprehensive Assessment of the Bush Administration's Record on Cutting Taxes", Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/23/04

[4] "ED to Revise State Tax Tables Used to Calculate Pell Grants and Other Aid Program Awards", American Council on Education, 11/23/04


Sunday, November 7, 2004

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Election 2004 in Pictures

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words,  these illustrations of the Election Day 2004 results (courtesy of BOP News)shout volumes about the state of America.   plk


These graphic representations of the election's outcome are thought provoking and even humorous.



The Kids Are Alright
How the Youth of America voted . . .

The Kids Are Alright
by Barry Ritholtz

"Despite long lines and registration snafus, voters under age 30 clocked the highest turnout percentage since 1972. The good news is that America's young people are more engaged in politics than at any time in two generations. Aging cynics have been quick to blame the kids for a host of political lapses, but the cynics have it wrong." -Music for America.


via Music for America


by Barry Ritholtz
So much for self-reliance
The TaxProf Blog points us to a report from the Tax Foundation.

This fascinating study shows exactly which states benefit from federal tax and spending policies, and which states foot the bill.


Surprisingly, the "value conscious" Red States -- you know, the folks preaching independence and self reliance -- are the biggest hogs at the federal trough.

Sayeth the TaxProf:

"The report shows that of the 32 states (and the District of Columbia) that are "winners" -- receiving more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 76% are Red States that voted for George Bush in 2000. Indeed, 17 of the 20 (85%) states receiving the most federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Red States. Here are the Top 10 states that feed at the federal trough (with Red States highlighted in bold):

States Receiving Most in Federal Spending Per Dollar of Federal Taxes Paid:
1. D.C. ($6.17)
2. North Dakota ($2.03)
3. New Mexico ($1.89) (flipped Red in 2004)
4. Mississippi ($1.84)
5. Alaska ($1.82)
6. West Virginia ($1.74)
7. Montana ($1.64)
8. Alabama ($1.61)
9. South Dakota ($1.59)
10. Arkansas ($1.53)

In contrast, of the 16 states that are "losers" -- receiving less in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 69% are Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000. Indeed, 11 of the 14 (79%) of the states receiving the least federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Blue States. Here are the Top 10 states that supply feed for the federal trough (with Blue States highlighted in bold):

States Receiving Least in Federal Spending Per Dollar of Federal Taxes Paid:
1. New Jersey ($0.62)
2. Connecticut ($0.64)
3. New Hampshire ($0.68) (flipped Blue in 2004)
4. Nevada ($0.73)
5. Illinois ($0.77)
6. Minnesota ($0.77)
7. Colorado ($0.79)
8. Massachusetts ($0.79)
9. California ($0.81)
10. New York ($0.81)

Note that Florida, which had previously received exactly $1.00 in federal spending for each $1.00 in federal taxes paid, has since seen a windfall; Federal largesse was dramatically boosted in the post-Hurricaine, pre-election."


Demographics versus Geography
by Barry Ritholtz

Here's a demographic map of how the data breaks down into categories:


Its a different way to look at the election: demographics instead of geography.

via the Votemaster




Voting: Free versus Slave States
Look how far weĆ¢€™ve come as a country

by Barry Ritholtz

Sensory Overload contributes what is probably the most disturbing map pair of the entire series: How did the Free States vote, and how did the Slave States cast their ballots?



Oh, how far we've come...

via Sensory Overload


... other charts that you might find interesting. 

Proportional Electoral Map
this one is my favorite -- because land doesn't vote, people do

Popular Vote, Population Density
similar idea

Purple America
a sentimental favorite

2000 vs 2004 County by County Election Results

Where did their votes come from?
an interesting 3D comparison

Electoral College Over Represents Rural Areas
no kidding?

New America redistricted
DeLay loves redistricting, so . . .

Cartographic political analytics -- fun for the whole family!

Want to share your comments visit:


Saturday, November 6, 2004

Public Agenda Alert - Bush Sets Agenda for Second Term

Public Agenda Alert -- Nov. 4, 2004
* Bush Sets Agenda for Second Term
* Bush Sets Agenda for Second Term
With his election victory behind him, President Bush
announced his priorities for his second term this
week. The list includes continuing his policies on
Iraq, tax cuts and education, while also pushing
for a simplified tax code and allowing younger people
to invest their Social Security funds in the stock
Attitudes on all these issues are covered in Public
Agenda's issue guides and First Choice guides:
Visit our Issue Guides:
In particular, retirement savings and investing are
covered in our issue guide on Social Security. There
are a number of areas where public opinion on reforming
Social Security is unsettled or open to misinterpretation.
- Red Flags on Social Security:
Public support for investing some Social Security funds
in stocks wavers when questions are rephrased. This is
usually a signal that people either do not understand
a proposal or have not thought carefully about its implications.
In fact, very few Americans say they have heard a lot
about these proposals. Substantial numbers of Americans
say they find news coverage on Social Security confusing.
Read the full Red Flags article:
Visit our issue guide on Social Security:

Friday, November 5, 2004



Campaign 2004 -- The Great Marketing Campaign


In the aftermath of the election, every political pundit has their opinion on what the Republicans did right and the Democrats did wrong.  Now that I’ve wiped away my tears and can see the keyboard, I’ll add my 2 cents to the discussion.   


First, for the record I am in the following demographic group:


  • African-American
  • Female
  • 40 something
  • Single with no children
  • College Educated
  • Middle Class
  • Born-Again Evangelical Christian
  • Pro-Life (but not in favor of over-turning Roe v. Wade)
  • Heterosexual but respect the rights of those choosing to live a different sexual lifestyle
  • Not in favor of “gay marriage” but in favor of civil unions which afford committed couples legal protections.
  • Supported the war in Afghanistan
  • Had reservations about going to war in Iraq (and based on the lack of WMD would have opposed it.)
  • And voted for John Kerry for US President



With that in mind here is my take of the election results.  


Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church in Columbus Ohio has a favorite saying that goes “the Devil has been telling his lies very well and the Church has been telling the truth very poorly.”   Well my twist on that statement is that in Campaign 2004 the Republican political machine told their fiction exceptionally well and the Democrats told the truth very, very poorly” .


Republicans have mastered the art of communicating their message.   William Jefferson Clinton understands the art of communicating. So does Barak Obama.  But apparently the rest of the Democratic Party missed that class.  Political campaigning 101: It doesn’t matter how artfully and eruditely you make your point or even if you’re right. If the audience doesn’t get it you’re just taking to the wall.  And 51% of the voting public just didn’t get John Kerry’s message.  


When it was all said and done it didn’t matter that:


  • we never found WMDs;
  • Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose;
  • the year 2000 budget surplus is now the greatest budget deficient in history;
  • this executive administration is the first to lose jobs in over 70 years;
  • more is spent on homeland security in Wyoming than in New York state;
  • John Kerry’s 1971 testimony to Senate relayed the actual statements of a small group of veterans he met a few months earlier at a meeting in Detroit
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger used the phrase “economic girlie man” and stated at the Republican National Convention that watching Richard Nixon inspired him to go into politics.
  • The Democratic candidate clearly presented his case better in all three presidential debates. 



On Election Day, a majority of voters from the Midwest and South bought the Republican product. 


In the end, the Heartland of America embraced George W. Bush as one of their own - who walks like them, talks like them and believes what they believe.   To them he’s a modern day John Wayne (kicking butt and ready to take on all bad guys with the bible in one hand and gun in the other). 


While on the other hand, in their eyes John Kerry is a Yankee Liberal (a “girlie man” that would let the town be pillaged and let good Christian women be attacked by those terrorists).  In their eyes Kerry advocates abortion, gays and stem cell research.  And Democrats in general are unprincipled, amoral Hollywood types living hell-bound lifestyles.   This campaign was more about Image than Issues.


For anyone to say that Election 2004 was about issues is like saying that the Miss America pageant is based on intellect. Most people, even in the Midwest and South agreed that John Kerry won all 3 debates.  However, that didn't matter on Election Day


And the notion that Southerners and Midwesterners are more concerned with morals and values than those in Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Great Lakes region is another Republican fiction.   (Remember the Salem Witch Trials.)  


The majorities of African Americans in the Northern urban centers have family roots in the South and regularly attend evangelical Christian churches.  And when he comes to the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage fall in line with the reset of conservative America.  Latinos in the “blue states” are just as Catholic and Pentecostal as those in the rest of the nation.  Orthodox Jews and Muslims may not recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ but the Talmud and Koran are by no means espousing moral free for alls.   Yet somehow those in the “Blue States” are characterized as less concerned with moral issues. 


You see, while the Democratic party was busy arguing the logic of the issues the Republican party and their advocates were convincing their base that every woman in New York was living the life portrayed in “Sex in the City”, getting abortions at a whim.  Vice President Cheney was telling audiences that if Kerry was elected terrorists (like wolves in the forest) were going to attack Idaho while Kerry would be appeasing the UN.


While Bush (John Wayne) was seen with American’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Kerry was seen with Ben Affleck (one half of the now defunct Benifer).   In the end logic went out the window and the image of wolves running in forests injected itself in the dreams of Middle America.  (Forget that the worst act of terrorism in the Midwest was by Timothy McVeigh.)


But don’t blame this on the Kerry campaign strategists.  For the Republicans, Campaign 2004 did not just begin two years ago.  It actually began Election night 1992 when William Jefferson Clinton won the Presidency of the United States.   From that moment the Republicans were determined to use every means necessary to regain the Presidency.  From the Clinton policy on gays in the military to the impeachment hearings, the Republicans have been building their arsenal.  And every Clinton moral misstep gave bible-belt preachers material for Sunday’s sermon.  Evangelical ministers across the nation preached the wages of sin using Bill Clinton instead of Adam or David as their example.  Pastor John Hagee in San Antonio, TX preached a series on “Witchcraft in the Church” and Hillary Clinton’s name came up every week.  (I know I watched until I couldn’t take it any more)


Democratic intellectuals scoffed at these messages and those outside of evangelical circles were oblivious but seeds were being sown.  The message was Democrats are wicked.  From Gary Hart to Bill Clinton to Jim McGreevy, Democratic leadership gave the Republican fuel to fire up the religious right.   After all, there’s no sin like good old sexual sin to get the attention of the congregation.   For the past twelve plus years the Republicans have reinforced the message

Democrat = Liberal = Non-Religious = Amoral.     Therefore Democrat = Amoral.  Who wants to identify with a party like that? 


The Republicans won because they know their constituency inside and out and they remembered how to reach them.   Their message of patriotism, fear and hell fire brought their base to the polls.

Even the post campaign spin make this election sound as bad as Reagan’s landslide defeat over Michael Dukakis.  President Bush is stating that he earned political capital in this campaign and he intends to spend it.  


But Democrats and Political Progressives don’t be discouraged just remember:


  • The reality is that John Kerry did get over 54 million votes against an incumbent war-time President
  • The Wall Street Journal points out that Bush's victory was "the narrowest win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916."
  • The Democrats picked up two Governorships
  • It was Northern voices that won the Civil War and brought an end to slavery.
  • It was Northern Democrats that fought until it saw the end of Jim Crow laws and brought civil rights to the segregated South.
  • It was the voice of youth and political liberals that opposed the Vietnam War and protested until the government brought an end to that insanity. In fact, in 1972, Richard Nixon (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role model)   ran against George McGovern, a progressive with a message about stopping the Vietnam War. McGovern lost in a landslide, winning literally only one state even though the Watergate scandal was swirling around Nixon. But a year and a half later, Nixon resigned; two years later, reformist Democrats won back control of both legislative chambers.
  • And lastly, four years from now the Republicans will have no one else to blame for their actions. 


I’m still proud to be a Democrat and believe that the majority of registered democrats are ideologically more like me than the caricature that the Republicans have sold to Middle America.  I believe in the vision of a Great America that embraces all her people and I will not surrender that vision to the Republican fiction publishing house.  The Democratic Party has four years to find its voice, reclaim its identity, package its message, energize its base and reach out to Middle America.  Until then we can watch, work and pray.   Yes, Democrats do pray! 


I go on record now – Edwards Richardson in 2008. 


Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Murdoch Exploits 9/11 for Kerry Smear

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism
Murdoch Exploits 9/11 for Kerry Smear
November 1, 2004
In a naked attempt to exploit the September 11 attacks for partisan
political gain, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post ran a deceptive front-page
headline on its October 30 edition that declared that Al Qaeda chief Osama
bin Laden "Urges Bush Defeat."
Of course, the taped message from bin Laden played on Al-Jazeera
(10/29/04) did not call for George W. Bush's defeat. Indeed, toward the
end of the message, bin Laden declares, "Your security is not in the hands
of Kerry or Bush."
Still, Murdoch's media empire seems dedicated to convincing voters that
Kerry is the candidate of Al Qaeda. On Fox News Channel (10/29/04), when
one guest objected to another's characterization of bin Laden's statement
as "an endorsement" of Kerry, saying, "I don't think he's going to have a
Kerry-Edwards sticker in the cave," host Neil Cavuto retorted: "He's all
but doing that. I thought I saw a button."
The same night, Fox's Bill O'Reilly referenced a new anti-Bush video from
rapper Eminem: "And Eminem joins Osama and comes out against Bush as
ACTION: Please contact the New York Post and Fox News Channel and let them
know what you think about making inaccurate and inflammatory claims just
days before an election.
Col Allan, New York Post
Phone: 212-930-8000
Fox News Channel
Phone: 212-556-2500
--Neil Cavuto
--Bill O'Reilly
As always, please remember that your comments have more impact if you
maintain a polite tone. Please send a copy of your correspondence to

Monday, November 1, 2004

3 Governors Challenge Bush on Clean Energy

----- Original Message -----
From: "Apollo Alliance"
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 3:24 PM
Subject: Join 3 Governors to Challenge Bush on Clean Energy
Dear Friend,
Last week three of the nation's most powerful Governors (Governors Granholm, Richardson, and Rendell) challenged the Bush administration's failed leadership on energy. In a letter to the President, they called for an "unprecedented national mission to achieve energy independence within the decade by boldly investing in efficiency, new technology, and alternative energy".
Check out the Governor's letter endorsing the Apollo vision, and take action to build on the growing momentum for good jobs and energy independence:
As our country faces unprecedented challenges to our economy, our security, and the health of our environment -- as our communities continue to hemorrhage high quality jobs, and families face rising prices for gas and home heating oil -- we need a better vision, and real leadership in a new direction.
It's time for more political leaders to step up and seize the historic opportunity to make clean energy the backbone of America's economic and security future. We are pleased to have the three Governors join the growing corps of leaders dedicated to making the Apollo vision a reality. Please take a moment to see what they had to say, and take action to continue building on their historic leadership:
Thanks for your support,
Bracken Hendricks, Executive Director
Apollo Alliance

Sunday, October 31, 2004

NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry

----- Original Message -----
From: ""
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 5:48 AM
Subject: NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry
NRA Ad Falsely Accuses Kerry
It says he's sponsoring a proposal to ban "every pump shotgun" and voted "to ban deer-hunting ammunition." Don't believe either claim.
The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund began airing a TV ad Oct. 26 falsely accusing Kerry of voting to ban deer-hunting ammunition. In fact, what Kerry voted for was a proposal to outlaw rifle ammunition "designed or marketed as having armor piercing capability."
The NRA ad also claims Kerry is co-sponsoring a bill to "that would ban every semiautomatic shotgun and every pump shotgun." That's false. Kerry co-sponsored extension of the now-expired assault-weapon ban, a measure that would have expanded the ban to cover military-style shotguns but specifically exempts pump-action shotguns.
Click the link below for the full article:
If the link does not work, copy and paste this link into your browser and hit "ENTER":

Saturday, October 30, 2004

If Some Have It Their Way ... No More Section 8

Summary Report
Just one of the many issues that no one seems to be discussing.  Not surprising that this was not mentioned during the debates.  plk
EDITORIAL DESK | October 16, 2004, Saturday
The War on Affordable Housing  

Ideologues in the Bush administration would like to dismantle Section 8, the most successful public-and-private housing partnership in the history of the United States.

That's the only way to explain the destructive policies emanating from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which has been hammering at Section 8 all year.

The conflicting signals and general aura of hostility have convinced housing authorities around the country that they need to defend themselves by avoiding new commitments and cutting back on their old ones.

Even worse, the developers who have counted on Section 8 money to build affordable housing for the poor, the elderly and the disabled now think that they can no longer trust this program.

Republican lawmakers whose districts are being hurt have kept quiet in the name of party solidarity.

But this posture of loyal complicity will be difficult to maintain as the housing crisis deepens, which it surely will if HUD continues along its current course.

A landmark program, Section 8 has produced affordable housing for needy Americans since the Nixon years.

It works this way: instead of doing the construction itself, the government guarantees subsidies for rents in the private market.

Families, most of them at or below the poverty level, pay 30 percent of their incomes toward rent, and Section 8 vouchers pay the rest.

At the moment, the program covers about two million people, a majority of them elderly or in families with children.

Unable to dismember the Section 8 program directly, HUD has chosen to destabilize it with a series of rule changes and budget maneuvers that are being felt from coast to coast.

After an outcry from Congress, he retreats to lesser cuts that leave the program diminished, housing authorities confused and the general public mistakenly believing that the status quo has been regained.

The latest incident, laid out by The Times's David Chen, came after HUD released a vaguely worded and irrational proposal that involved reducing the value of housing vouchers for poor residents in some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

The proposed change was widely thought to have been rescinded after housing advocates and lawmakers raised a fuss.

Faced with the prospect of Section 8 vouchers that pay less than fair-market rents, they have made it clear that they will simply refuse to deal with the program, especially in tight markets where they can pick and choose tenants.

The insanity of this ideologically driven attack on Section 8 is underscored in a bipartisan book -- written by two Republicans and two Democrats -- just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. The authors include two former housing secretaries: Jack Kemp, a Republican, and Henry Cisneros, a Democrat. The book argues convincingly that the country is sacrificing both families and neighborhoods by hacking away at the most successful housing program in history.

The book, ''Opportunity and Progress,'' calls for restoring the sane bipartisan effort that produced the federal housing program in the first place. Most significantly, the authors urge Congress to insulate the housing program from partisan sniping by creating a national trust fund. Modeled on similar programs that work well at state and local levels, that national fund would be used to build, rehabilitate and preserve 1.5 million affordable apartments.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Friday, October 29, 2004

You Might Be Able to Fight City Hall but Can You Fight the Pharmaceutical Companies?

Summary Report
"Drug makers like Pfizer say they would reduce their shipments of drugs to distributors in Canada and other countries that re-export to the United States. ''We are not going to supply drugs to diverters, in Canada or elsewhere,'' said Hank McKinnell, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer. "

Importing Less Expensive Drugs Not Seen as Cure for U.S. Woes

A customer at the Concourse Drugs pharmacy in the Bronx will pay about $118 for a month's supply of 20-milligram Lipitor.

At, a Canadian online outlet, the same quantity of the drug, Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering medication, costs $79.

The difference has become a tempting political target.

Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, has made a campaign pledge to help cut Americans' prescription drug costs by allowing them to import drugs from Canada.

President Bush has conceded that the idea is worth a try ''if there's a safe way to do it.'' Bipartisan legislation in Congress would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and other industrialized countries.

It may make political sense to point to Canada as a solution to high prescription drug prices in the United States.

But many economists and health care experts say that importing drugs from countries that control their prices would do little to solve the problem of expensive drugs in the United States, where companies are free to set their own prices.

Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that allowing Canadian drug imports would have a ''negligible'' impact on drug spending.

To begin with, there are not enough Canadians, or drugs in Canada, to make much of a dent in the United States.

There are 16 million American patients on Lipitor, for instance -- more than half the entire Canadian population.

Drug makers like Pfizer say they would reduce their shipments of drugs to distributors in Canada and other countries that re-export to the United States.

''We are not going to supply drugs to diverters, in Canada or elsewhere,'' said Hank McKinnell, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer.

And Canadian health officials, fearing shortages and higher prices of their own, would probably clamp down on their own pharmacists and distributors to keep their drugs from leaking into the United States.

Canadian patient-advocacy groups have already complained about shortages from the exports to the United States that already occur, even though they violate American law.

Even the most vehement advocates of forcing big drug makers to lower prices in this country say that imports are a rather clumsy tool.

''It's a pretty crazy solution to a fairly simple problem,'' said James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a group advocating a lowering of drug costs.

''Reimportation is not the first thing that would come to my mind.''

But what comes to mind for people like Mr. Love is a political nonstarter: imposing Canadian-style price controls.

No Democrat or Republican will be likely to dare to propose such a thing during an election year, or perhaps anytime soon, having seen the political debacle of the Clinton administration's effort to devise a national health care system -- and knowing that the pharmaceutical industry is one of Washington's most powerful lobbying forces.

Price controls ''wouldn't have a ghost of a chance to pass in the Congress,'' said Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota who is the sponsor of the main drug reimportation bill in the Senate.

Because free-market pricing of drugs and other health care still seems to be so politically sacrosanct, the policy proposals tend to tinker around the margins.

''Is it sensible for the United States to have price controls?'' asked Jean O. Lanjouw, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But we don't discuss the real questions.''

For all the shortcomings, the Kerry campaign argues that drug imports should be given a chance.

''If the impact is so negligible, why are the drug companies fighting it so much?'' said Sarah Bianchi, Senator Kerry's policy director.

Even if the overall bulk of imports were not that large, she added, ''they would apply some pressure on the drug industry and make them revisit their pricing policies.''

And some of the drug companies' defensive tactics could be barred by law.

The Senate legislation, for example, would bar pharmaceutical companies from denying supplies to distributors and pharmacies that export to the United States.

But the measures proposed so far would do little to change the fundamental economics of the drug industry as it exists today.

Prescription drugs cost a lot to invent, but once invented cost little to manufacture.

When Pfizer sells drugs in the United States it sets the price at a level intended to sell the most pills at the highest price the market will bear.

Now that it is the nation's best-selling drug, the price is 36 percent higher than it was in 1997 -- helping Lipitor achieve nearly $10 billion in sales last year.

Whatever one thinks of the pricing disparity, efforts to force down American prices to Canadian or European levels could radically change the economics of the pharmaceutical industry -- which effectively depends on United States profits for all of its activities, including a substantial portion of its spending on research and development.

They argue that drug companies are spending large sums in marketing to convince patients to demand expensive new medications even when older, cheaper drugs have the same effect.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Monday, October 25, 2004

Los Angeles Times: Recasting Wilderness as Open for Business

Summary Report
Isn't it ironic.  It we maintain the status quo the hunting, fishing, card-carrying NRA members won't have a place to hunt and fish.  plk
Los Angeles Times: Recasting Wilderness as Open for Business,1,3791084.story?coll=la-home-headlines

A Bush administration policy reversal ends decades of shielding the nation's untamed areas.

PRICE, Utah --- The sculpted buttes of Wild Horse Mesa, the vast escarpment of the Book Cliffs and the soaring ramparts of Upper Desolation Canyon near here have become a prime battleground in the Bush administration's campaign to curb wilderness protection throughout the country.

In 1999, the federal government acknowledged the unique character of the area, where 150 million years of the earth's geologic history unfolds and the forces of nature continue to shape the rugged landscape.

The Bureau of Land Management put more than 440,000 acres off-limits to industrial development.

Under the Bush administration, 2.6 million acres of Utah land that had been shielded from development were suddenly open for business.

Not only does the new policy cancel protection of the Utah land, it withholds the interim safeguards traditionally applied to areas with wilderness potential until Congress decides whether to make them part of the national wilderness system.

But what most distinguishes the administration's position is its claim that under applicable law the Interior Department is barred --- forever --- from identifying and protecting wild land the way it has for nearly 30 years.

Adding to it often has been a struggle.

But if the Bush argument prevails, say conservationists and many Democratic members of Congress, much of America's unprotected wild heritage would be lost to development.

Norton said the changes were necessary to restore balance to the way federal lands would be managed by ensuring that wilderness would not take primacy over other important uses such as energy development.

The Bush policy was set forth in the April 2003 settlement of a lawsuit brought by Utah against the Clinton administration.

Utah had lost that case in federal appeals court in 1998 but was allowed to file an amended complaint five years later.

That agenda was spelled out by the state's lead lawyer in a memo shortly before the settlement with the Bush administration.

The memo was obtained recently by environmental lawyers Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice and Leslie Jones of the Wilderness Society through Freedom of Information Act litigation.

The environmentalists, who were kept out of the settlement talks, say the state got what it wanted, and so did wilderness protection opponents everywhere.

The outcome, which could affect the course of wilderness policy for years to come, may hinge on an interpretation of the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The court in 1998 ruled that the "plain language" of the act required the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to continually review land under its control to see if it merited wilderness protection.

In the meantime, Norton is moving ahead with new plans for proposed wilderness areas, including 43,600 acres in western Colorado that she has opened to oil and gas leasing.

Scarlett said in an interview that the BLM, as part of its land-use planning responsibilities, could still look for areas with wilderness character.

The Clinton administration inflamed the antiwilderness sentiment in 1996 by protecting 1.7 million acres as part of a new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The same year, Bruce Babbitt, Interior secretary under Clinton, renewed surveys of Utah lands with wilderness potential after numerous complaints that earlier surveys were faulty.

Five years later, with the Bush administration in office, state officials revived their case in an amended complaint in Judge Benson's court in Salt Lake City.

Settlement papers were filed late Friday, April 11, at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

The judge approved the settlement the following Monday afternoon without a hearing.

Lawyers for the Bush administration acknowledge they are taking a position diametrically opposite from the one advanced by the Clinton administration when the case first came before the 10th Circuit Court in 1998.

"The settlement is not invalid merely because it represents a change from BLM's prior interpretations," Justice Department attorneys Thomas L. Sansonetti and Todd S. Aagard said in a brief.

"Agencies have the inherent authority to change their position to conform to applicable law."

The government lawyers also said that "by resolving a long-standing and contentious dispute with Utah, the settlement promoted a more cooperative relationship with the state, an outcome with considerable value to the BLM."

Former Clinton administration officials contend that the policy changes reflect more than a difference of opinion over land-management law.

"This settlement reeks of hostility to wilderness, to the whole idea of taking any steps to protect wild land in its natural condition," said John Leshy, the chief lawyer for the Interior Department under Clinton.

Martha Marks, president of REPAmerica, a Republican environmental organization, has also spoken out against the administration's wilderness policies, including the Utah settlement.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Environment Worsened Under Bush in Many Key Areas, Data Show

Summary Report
Published on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 by Knight-Ridder
Environment Worsened Under Bush in Many Key Areas, Data Show
by Seth Borenstein

WASHINGTON - In the second presidential debate, President Bush said: "I'm a good steward of the land.
The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer water complaints since I've been the president."

Sen. John Kerry responded this way: "The president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. We're going backwards." He vows to reverse many of Bush's policies.

How has America's environment fared under Bush?

Over the past 30 years, the nation's air and water have become dramatically cleaner, but the steady improvement has stalled or gone into reverse in several areas since Bush took office, according to government statistics.

On Bush's watch, America's environment deteriorated in many critical areas - including the quality of air in cities and the quality of water that people drink - and gained in very few.

Knight Ridder compiled 14 pollution-oriented indicators from government and university statistics.

Nine of the 14 indicators showed a worsening trend, two showed improvements and three others zigzagged.

Statistics that have worsened:

  • Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent.
  • Fish-consumption warnings for rivers doubled.
  • Fish-consumption advisories for lakes increased 39 percent.
  • The number of beach closings rose 26 percent.
  • Civil citations issued to polluters fell 57 percent.
  • Criminal pollution prosecutions dropped 17 percent.
  • Asthma attacks increased by 6 percent.
  • There were small increases in global temperatures and unhealthy air days.

There were signs of pollution improvement, though. Major air-emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes dropped 9 percent, and greenhouse-gas emissions were reduced by 0.5 percent.

Statistics that have fluctuated are the number of people living in smoggy cities; the number of people drinking from tainted water supplies; and overall toxic pollution releases by industry.

In land-use policy under Bush, another 12 indicators reveal record-low additions to national parks, wilderness, wildlife refuges and the endangered species list.

The Bush administration also approved 74 percent more permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands in its first three years than were granted in the previous three years.

Bush also has ordered dozens of sweeping changes to existing environmental policies, usually to benefit business interests.

He reversed the government's course on global warming, power plant emissions, roadless areas of national forests, environmental law enforcement and agricultural run-off.

Two major Bush administration proposals still languish in Congress.

One would change the way air pollution from power plants is regulated, with gradually shrinking limits on emissions and the first-ever limits for mercury pollution.

Critics say Bush's approach would require fewer pollution reductions than current law.

The other pending Bush proposal is his energy bill, which calls for more drilling on public lands, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - which Kerry has been a leader in opposing.

Kerry vows to reverse Bush's efforts to make it easier for older power plants to expand without additional pollution controls.

He promises to "plug loopholes" in industrial air-pollution regulations, limit suburban sprawl and mount a new program to protect America's waterways.

Over nearly two decades in the Senate, Kerry has gotten extremely high marks from environmental groups, including from the League of Conservation Voters.

Henry Lee, Harvard University's environment and natural resources program director, said Kerry didn't initiate any environmental legislation that became landmark law, but he often was "out in front on the issue."

If Kerry is friendly with environmental activists, "the Bush administration is sympathetic to the concerns of business," said Eban Goodstein, the chairman of the environmental-studies program at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.

"They're bringing in people that are really hostile to the current regulatory framework."

The Bush environmental team says it concentrates more on results than regulations and that, even if enforcement numbers are down, the country is cleaner based on what comes out of industrial smokestacks and sewers.

The Bush administration also took steps to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines and slightly increased auto-mileage standards.

Last month, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Leavitt touted as "a national success story" statistics showing that major air emissions dropped 9 percent nationwide over the first three years of the Bush administration.

But at the same time, the number of times that air in U.S. cities was declared unhealthy increased from 1,535 in 2000 to 1,656 in 2001 and 2,035 in 2002.

And the EPA's inspector general issued a report last month saying that national air-emission reductions don't accurately reflect the stagnating pollution levels in metropolitan areas.

The answers are yes, insists James Connaughton, the director of Bush's Council on Environmental Quality.

"This administration is duplicitous," said Carol Browner, who ran the EPA under President Clinton and now advises Kerry.

He withdrew the United States from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from most industrial countries, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy.

But Bush is spending record amounts of money on global-warming research.

As for the decrease in Superfund cleanups, Connaughton blames that on the remaining sites, saying they're tougher to clean.

Read the complete story at:


Kerry's Tax Ad: Literally Accurate, But Misleading

From: ""

Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 2:32 PM
Subject: Kerry's Tax Ad: Literally Accurate, But Misleading

His ad says "the middle class is paying a bigger share of America's tax burden." True. But it's a smaller burden all around. And the richest still pay the most.


A Kerry ad that claims to tell "the truth on taxes" falls short of doing so. It says that "after nearly four years under George Bush, the middle class is paying a bigger share of American's tax burden and the wealthiest are paying less."

That's true as far as it goes. However, the total federal tax burden on all income groups has been reduced, just more for some than for others. It's true that the top 20% of income earners now pay a smaller share of the reduced tax burden, but so do the bottom 40% of earners.

Those in the middle 20% now pay an average of 14.5% of their income for all federal taxes, a reduction 1.9 percentage points as a result of the Bush cuts. That middle group pays 10.5% of the reduced overall federal tax burden. That share has gone up as the Kerry ad says -- by 2/10ths of one percentage point.

Click the link below for the full article:

If the link does not work, copy and paste the link into your browser and hit "RETURN":







Saturday, October 23, 2004

Senate OKs $137 Billion in Corporate, Special Interest Tax Breaks

Summary Report
... your tax dollars at work.  And no I am not making this up.  plk
Senate OKs $137 Billion in Corporate, Special Interest Tax Breaks

tax breaks, bill, Sens, beneficiaries, provision, industry, tobacco, sponsors, support, subsidies.

WASHINGTON - The Senate on Monday approved $137 billion in tax breaks for corporations and special interests over 10 years, including a $10 billion buyout for tobacco farmers.

The giveaways were needed to win votes for otherwise unpopular legislation intended primarily to end a trade fight over illegal U.S. subsidies to export industries.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Oct. 7 by 280-141.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill before Election Day.

Supporters hailed its passage as critical to creating jobs while opponents called the measure a massive corporate giveaway.

It includes tax breaks for Alaskan whalers, natural gas companies, the timber industry, Hollywood filmmakers and cruise-ship companies.

To win support from tobacco-state lawmakers, tax writers included a $10 billion industry-financed buyout for tobacco farmers.

That provision drew heated bipartisan criticism from Sens.

Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who'd sought to make the buyout contingent upon Federal Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products.

"This bill allows big tobacco companies to market cigarettes to your children," Kennedy said.

The legislation's basic purpose is to end increasingly high tariffs imposed on 1,600 American products.

The European Union had complained that certain export subsidies constituted unfair trade practices.

The World Trade Organization agreed and imposed tariffs, which started at 5 percent and are now up to 12 percent.

In response, the bill would repeal $49.2 billion in export subsidies, a move unpopular with the subsidies' beneficiaries.

To build support for the bill, its sponsors lowered the tax rate for domestic manufacturers from 35 percent to 32 percent, at a cost to the Treasury of $76.5 billion over 10 years.

To spread the benefits more widely, tax writers expanded the definition of manufacturing to include construction companies, engineering and architectural firms, film and music companies, and the oil and gas industry.

NASCAR track owners won a break worth $101 million for grandstand expenses.

George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the bill would help his constituents, who've been hit hard by the manufacturing slump.

"This bill goes a long way to helping us," he said.

The tax breaks drew criticism from fiscal conservatives.

John McCain, R-Ariz., called the measure the "worst example of the influence of the special interests I have ever seen."

Despite the $137 billion in tax breaks, the bill officially won't add to the record federal deficit.

It includes various revenue-raising provisions such as customs fee extensions and closes alleged tax "loopholes" worth $81.7 billion over 10 years that together will pay for the bill, making it "revenue neutral."

"We're closing loopholes on tax scams to shelter (multinational companies') money offshore," said Sen.

To encourage Hollywood moguls to make fewer films in inexpensive foreign locales, lawmakers included a $336 million tax break over five years to allow studios to expense up to $15 million in the first year of production of small and independent films made in the United States.

Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Bob Graham, D-Fla., the measure would give cruise-ship companies a $28 million tax break by allowing them to delay filing certain expenses.

Murkowski, who's in a tight race to return to the Senate, also won a provision to permit the deduction of charitable contributions that support native Alaskan whaling.

Archery-gear makers, fishing tackle-box makers and foreign gamblers all would benefit, too.

The cost to taxpayers is $11 million, according to the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer