Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzo OUT!


Alberto Gonzales has finally done something for the American people, he resigned! A few short months after the Carleton Democrats petitioned our Senators and Congressman to pressure Alberto Gonzales from office, he has packed his bags and turned in a letter of resignation.

Gonzales is expected to have a press conference at 10:30 eastern time while Bush will speak at 11:50 am.

And yet, Bush will not let the American People celebrate yet. The White House has announced that Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff (Mr. Gut Check himself). He would be replaced by Bush's former chief of staff and appointment's secretary.

George Bush does not understand that the American people do not trust him, and maybe more to the point do not trust his cronies! We can only hope that the Senate will stand tall and demand proper candidates for these positions, candidates who will work for the Justice and Safety of the American people. We do not need candidates who will just follow from the Gonzo playbook.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A slip of the tongue

Karl Rove recently told Rush Limbaugh's radio audience that critics of President Bush are "elite, effete snobs".

So, dear readers, is the erstwhile savior of conservatism paying the anti-Bush cohort a compliment? Are we the cream of the effete snob crop? Or are we just elite, in addition to being effete snobs?

Rove and many Republicans seem to have the impression--or are trying to make the impression salient--that the only opposition to the President's agenda comes from the nation's Ivory Towers and the pretentious braggarts those bastions of liberal elitism produce, and that that opposition is somehow rooted in the inability of the President to properly pronounce "nuclear".

That might make sense if the President's latest approval rating were, say, not 33%, as reported in a FOX/Opinion Dynamics poll. I'll grant Rove that there are probably a reasonable share of elitist academics in the 56% who disapprove. But I'm pretty sure that some of that 56% are
people who have lost loved ones in Iraq, laid-off workers, Pell Grant recipients, people of faith, average Joe Americans. Heck, last Saturday, my 88-year-old grandma, who spends most of her time making hotdishes for events at her church, told me she was sickened by the President.

So, am I being elitist by noting that Karl Rove probably meant "elitist"? Maybe. (Yes.) And I will admit that I'm not above a good The-President-Is-An-Airhead joke. But to suggest that the only criticism I have of the President is that he's not smart enough is utterly ludicrous. I go to an elite (!) liberal arts college; I know that smart people can be wrong.

I also know that you don't need to be an expert on the political history of Iraq to see that the war is going badly. You don't need a Ph.D. in Economics to see that the economy's in rough shape. People in America live these failures.

Apparently, by Rove's criteria, pointing that out makes me a snob. An elite one. It's not hard to be good when the work's so easy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Two Meetings Announced: Elections!

Excited for the fall start? The Carleton Democrats are!

The first meeting of the year, which many of you have already been notified about on facebook will be a social meeting in which we will socialize, enjoy some tasty desserts, and watch the Daily Show/Colbert Report from 10 pm to 11 pm on Wednesday, September 12.

The second meeting will be a business meeting in which new officers will be nominated and programs for the term will be discussed.

The positions that will be elected will be: Secretary/Historian, Group Liason and Public Relations Officer.

The Secretary/Historian will be charged with taking notes at meetings and recording (via photographs and video) the events of the club.

The Group Liason will be charged with reaching out to other campus groups and fostering relations between the Carleton Democrats and the other groups.

The Public Relations Officer will be charged with advertisement, press relations, the website and blog. Graphic art skills are suggested.

Lastly, Congratulations to Evan Rowe ('09) who has been appointed the fundraising director of the Carleton Democrats.

Mines, Unions, and Safety

For the past 15 days we have been hearing about the mining tragedy in Huntington, Utah. This mining tragedy has highlighted several issues, and has caused much discussion however what has not been emphasized (and ought to be) is the link with Unions, workplace safety and the Bush administration.

First, the Crandall Canyon Mine is a non-union mine. In fact, 2 of the 9 unions in central Utah are non-unionized. Apart from employer intimidation, economic problems in the mining industry, and legal obstacles that the United Mine Workers face; Utah is also one of 22 free-rider states (so called right to work) in which Unions are not allowed to ask that everyone who receives the benefits the Unions provides (safety, wages etc.) pay a due to the Union so that it can continue to fight for the workers. In the words of miner Wally Francin, Crandall Canyon mine co-owner Robert Murray doesn't like Unions because, "Union People tend to make him follow the rules and do things right."

Murray has tried to deflect blame from himself by blaming an earthquake for the collapse of the mine. However nearly everyone, from miners to seismologists agree that any seismological activity was caused by the mine caving in not by any natural earth movement. As the Daily Utah Chronicle reports,
While owners of the Crandall Canyon mine say an earthquake is responsible for the mine's initial collapse and subsequent seismic "bumps" that caused Thursday's cave-in, scientists disagree.

Kris Pankow, assistant director of the U's Seismograph Stations, said what was mistaken for a 3.9-magnitude quake appears to have been the mine caving in on itself -- not a natural shift in the earth.

"What probably happened is that you had coal pillars collapse," Pankow said. "The data is not consistent with an earthquake."
Why is Robert Murray so intent on deflecting blame from his company and himself by claiming this was an act of God? Probably because he knows that he could have saved all 9 lives that have been lost if he had invested a little more in safety. As this post lays out, Robert Murray ought to have been well aware of the dangers at Crandall Canyon. Murray was solely concerned about the bottom-line about making a profit and without a union to keep him in check he was able to push his workers around and forced them to sacrifice their safety for his his wallet. As CNN reports:

In recent weeks, the floors in that part of the mine had been "heaving," or buckling up, from intense pressure, said the source, who has intimate knowledge of the conditions in the mine.

Supervisors at the mine knew of the problem, he said.

Several miners -- reportedly including Manuel Sanchez, who is among the trapped men -- were becoming apprehensive, the source said.

"I've never heard that," Bob Murray, president and CEO of Murray Energy, told CNN's Ted Rowlands when asked why someone would have been worried about that section of the mine. "I have no idea. It's probably a rumor, and I'm not going to respond to rumors."

Asked why they did not complain about their safety concerns, several miners said complaining means the loss of a job.

Murray denied that. "If you're getting that from the community, then those miners must work for another mining company. I don't operate that way," he said.

Not so, said Paul Riddle, who used to work in one of Murray's mines. "Always profits before safety, that's my opinion, my feeling, my experience," he said.

Miners who work for Murray are sometimes forced to push the envelope when it comes to safety, he said, and are afraid to speak up for fear of being fired.

"I'm not the only one," he said. "There are many, many people that feel this way and are afraid to speak up."


Not only was the mine structure itself unsafe, but the mine was also engaged in a practice known as retreat mining, or "greeding" in which the support columns are removed in order to get more coal. As John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO points out:

Safety concerns about the Crandall Canyon mine surfaced months ago, and safety experts warned of particular dangers in the "retreat mining" technique used there after it was approved by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. In retreat mining, coalminers essentially pull out roof-supporting pillars of coal as they work their way out of the mine. The retreat mining plan at Crandall Canyon, says United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts, "appears to have been flawed, to say the least. In our opinion, that plan should never have been approved."

No one should be surprised it was approved, though. The Bush administration has been systematically dismantling and cutting funding for workplace safety rules and oversight since it came into office.

Every day in 2005 (the most recent data available), 16 workers died on the job and 12,000 were made sick--and that doesn't include the occupational diseases that kill 50,000 to 60,000 more workers each year. In many if not most of these cases, one of two things occurred: An employer disregarded the law, or the law wasn't strong enough to protect workers.

So much for workplace safety. The Bush administration has shown that it has little regard for the worker when workplace safety interferes with profit. Just take a look at Mine Safety Czar Richard Stickler, Stickler is the man who was in charge of approving the mine safety plan that so clearly failed in Utah. Stickler was twice rejected for his job by a Senate concerned about his own safety record and President Bush insisted on appointing him by using a recess appointment (much like he did for John Bolton). As Max Follmer wrote for the Huffington Post:

In addition to concerns about the safety record at his mines, Stickler also faced opposition from senators, union leaders and relatives of those killed in mine accidents who felt an industry insider should not oversee safety inspectors.

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said that miners "could not tolerate" another industry executive overseeing their health and safety.

"Too often these mining executives place priority on productivity, but fail to focus on miners' health and safety," Roberts told Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO's blog in June 2006.

The wife and daughter of a miner killed at Sago wrote a letter to lawmakers that same month urging them to reject Stickler's nomination.


Like most of the problems that have faced the United States in the past 6 years, this too leads back to problems in the White House.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Norm tied to Bush



Ever since Norm Coleman noticed that Minnesotans do not support President Bush (Fall '06) he has slowly been pushing away from his old friend and his crazy policies in Iraq. Except that apparently Norm is more than happy to accept the money that Bush can bring in for him.

According to the Star-Tribune:

President Bush will take a day away from his Texas ranch next week to attend a big-money fundraiser for Sen. Norm Coleman in Eden Prairie.

The Aug. 21 fundraiser, at the home of Twin Cities philanthropists Bill and Tani Austin, will cost at least $1,000 to attend. For $10,000 in combined contributions to Coleman and the Republican Party, a couple will be listed as a co-host. For $14,600, they can be a host.
Coleman believes that by having this fund raiser in August of 2007 he can pull a quick one on Minnesotans, he can embrace Bush in the privacy of the Austin home while publicly eschewing him in front of Minnesotan voters. Coleman, the man who claimed that he was a "99 percent improvement" over the late Senator Paul Wellstone is showing that he is 100 percent opposite of Senator Wellstone. Where Senator Wellstone was honest and consistent, Coleman is proving to be hypocritical and slimy.

In the words of Al Franken's communication director Andy Barr:
"I think it's a perfect illustration of what we've been talking about all along," Barr said. "Norm Coleman isn't standing with working families. He's standing with Bush, and now he's hanging out with Bush."
And
Ciresi spokeswoman Leslie Sandberg said the candidate would "like to see Norm next to George Bush every single day."

Hastert Press Lots of B.S.



For the past day, I have been reading about the end of "The Hastert Era" in the words of the Politico and about the significance of that "era."

The only reason that Hastert has any significance is that he served as Thomas Dale (at right) lieutenant during nearly his entire record breaking tenure as Speaker of the House.

As the Politico article does point out:
DeLay, who is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over his ties to imprisoned former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, helped propel Hastert to the speaker’s chair in 1998 when Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) stepped down. At the time, Hastert was DeLay’s lieutenant, leading Democrats and Capitol Hill watchers to question Hastert’s independence.
Hastert went from being DeLay's second in command to being one of the least known Speakers of the House in the history of the House of Representatives. DeLay would probably have become Speaker of the House except that all he really cared about was building up his lobbying project and using divisive indimidating tactics to ram friendly legislation through the House. Dennis Hastert was the friend in whom DeLay could depend to run the House in a manner appealing to him. Hastert blindly followed DeLay into a land of corruption and bad governance. He was at the helm during every corruption investigation currently being conducted and was even a part of the leadership that ignored the warnings coming from Mark Foley's office.

The only significance in Hastert stepping down (as Nick explained earlier today) is that his is yet another seat Democrats could pick up. Dennis Hastert does not deserve any of the attention that he is being afforded today, he will rightfully be a blip in the history books and the collective memory of Americans.

This was cross-posted from http://poli-think.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gonzales given power to circumvent justice

The Los Angeles Times reports that:
The Justice Department is putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.
In case you missed the point, Alberto Gonzales will be given the ability to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.

How is this happening? Apparently, this is yet another "side-effect" of the reauthorization of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (aka USA PATRIOT Act) which was passed in 2001 and reauthorized in 2005. Apparently one of the provisions in that law:
gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.
The Justice Department is somehow using this provision to craft a rule that would allow Gonzales (after a state requests it) to fast-track the cases of people on death row. The defendant's time period to file an appeal would be cut from a year to six months.

I am against this rule on principle. With something as capricious and uncertain as the death penalty we should not cut down on opportunities to reverse the errors of the legal system. Yet, even if you believe that we ought to have capitol punishment and speed up the process, you cannot possibly believe that Alberto Gonzales should be given this power.

This is the same Alberto Gonzales who had a 25% approval rate in April, the same Alberto Gonzales whose friends refer to him as incompetent. This is the man who Republican Senator Arlen Specter called, "misleading" and who the Senate wants bring perjury charges against.

This is also a man who wrote clemency memos for then Governor Bush which had "a clear prosecutorial bias" according to Alan Berlow of the Atlantic Monthly. Berlow continues to say:
A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.
This is a man with a poor understanding of the problems with the legal system and a view of the death penalty as panacea for crime.

The Washington Post reports:
Paul K. Charlton, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, told members of Congress yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been overzealous in ordering federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty, including in an Arizona murder case in which no body had been recovered.Charlton said that in prior cases, Ashcroft's aides had given him the chance to discuss his recommendations against the death penalty, but that Gonzales's staff did not offer that opportunity. He instead received a letter, dated May 31, 2006, from Gonzales, simply directing him to seek the death penalty.

Gonzales is clearly trigger happy and not a balanced advocate of Justice. This rule would be another blow to Justice that will hurt this country.

If you feel so inclined you can contact the Department of Justice with the following information:

E-mails to the Department of Justice, including the Attorney General, may be sent to AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.

Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000


Correspondence to the Department, including the Attorney General, may be sent to:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001


This blog is cross-posted from http://poli-think.blogspot.com

Friday, August 10, 2007

Carls Active in Progressive Causes

As we near mid-august, it is time that we thank those who have put in time this summer to work for important people and causes.

To begin with, Evan Rowe ('09) has worked for freshman congressman Keith Ellison (MN 5).

Also in D.C., Claire Vinocur ('08) worked for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Additionally, Ben Barclay ('09) put in time working for non-partisan Young Voter Strategies/Rock The Vote.

Leah Greenberg ('08) worked for progressive think-tank Center for American Progress.

Carls have also worked for a couple presidential candidates.

Jacob Raim ('08) worked for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and said that "it was a great experience."

Barack Obama has a significantly greater number of Carls in his employ.

To begin with, Obama has alumnus Paul Tewes ('93) as the state director of his Iowa Campaign.

Further, former Carleton Democrats president John Aho ('07) is serving as a field organizer in Jasper County, Iowa.

Another former CarlDems President, James Hannaway ('09), is serving as Obama's youngest staffer at the Chicago Headquarters, specifically as a Youth Vote Coordinator, directly under the Youth Vote Director. You can contact him at jamesh@studentsforbarackobama.com

He will continue to work in that office throughout fall term. There will be different Obama contacts on campus this fall. The Carleton Students for Obama coordinator is Erika Pearson ('09) who you can contact at, pearsone@carleton.edu. Also on campus is Caitlin Fleming ('09), the Minnesota Students of Obama South Region Director who could be contacted at flemingc@carleton.edu.

This is not a complete list of those who deserve to be thanked but simply a list of those that I am aware of. If you or anyone you know should be mentioned please send me their information and what they did.

There will be many more posts discussing politics and CarlDems events.