Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Winner: ThinkProgress.org

The new site has launched!

ThinkProgress.org

Check it out.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Closing Argument

Why I’m shutting down this blog:

I am in the process of developing a new blog for the Center for American Progress and have a responsibility to devote my full efforts to that project. I plan to apply some of the concepts I’ve developed here to the CAP blog. My sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment on this blog.

I’ll post the URL to the new blog in this space early next year. In the meantime, check out The Progress Report.

You can contact me at juddleg@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Bush Administration’s restrictive student visa policy is misguided.

Why you're right:

1. Since 9/11, foreign student visas to the United States are at record lows. 2003-2004 international student enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities fell for the first time in more than three decades, driven by increasingly intrusive and cumbersome application procedures. Graduate applications from China dropped 45% and from India, 28%. As of 2003, applicants must now pay $100 for the U.S. government to track them through the Student Exchange Visitor Information System. This system tracks immigration violations, addresses, identities, and even the grades of the students. A timeline of a year or more is not unusual to obtain a visa. (North Jersey Herald News, India Tribune, World Peace Herald)

2. The United States is the ultimate loser with fewer foreign students. Foreign students bring in to the higher education industry $13 billion a year. They tend to major in the sciences, which American students are doing less frequently. The National Science Board last year found that 38% of the doctorate holders in America’s science and engineering workforce are foreign born. The United States now ranks 17th among developed nations in proportion of college students majoring in science and engineering. In 1975, the United States ranked 3rd. Fewer foreign students may take away America’s edge in scientific innovation. (World Peace Herald, Washington Post)

3. The Bush Administration is once again focusing on the short term and ignoring the long-term implications. While tracking foreign students and making regulations stricter may seem to be in the name of “security” right now, it is turning a future generation of leaders against an unwelcome United States. The United States cannot hope to spread its ideas of democracy and justness without contact with students. Fareed Zakaria, in the Washington Post, points out that, “The hegemony of ideas is often a greater and more lasting source of power than brute force. When historians write about our times, they will certainly note that America dominated the international agenda for decades through this distinctive form of power.” (India Tribune, Washington Post)

Why they’re wrong:

Most foreign students acknowledge that some security measures are necessary, but they do not want to be treated like criminals. The Department of Homeland Security claims that tighter application procedures are necessary to prevent terrorists from abusing the visa for entry into the United States, but only one of the 9/11 hijackers had entered the United States through a student visa. The administration has put an unjust burden on the rest of the foreign student population, by focusing the bulk of its attention on this type of visa. (Illinois State Journal-Register)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

House Republicans are taking partisanship to absurd new lows.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert wouldn't allow a vote on an intelligence reform bill he (and President Bush) supported, even though it would have easily passed. Hastert simply couldn't stomach the idea of Democrats and Republicans collaborating to pass a bill. From today's Washington Post:

"In a Capitol basement room, Hastert tried in vain to find enough votes to pass the bill without relying mainly on Democrats, a scenario too embarrassing for Republicans to endure...Former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean (R), chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, said he was 'obviously disappointed' that the House was not given a chance to vote. 'There's no question it would have passed easily,' he said, because most Democrats and a good number of Republicans would have supported it." (Washington Post)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

In his second term, Bush does not plan on tolerating dissent.

Why you're right:

1. Dissenting views will not be heard now that Colin Powell is gone. Talk about Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State has not been about her diplomatic abilities, but about her closeness to the President. His policies are her policies, and her appointment confirms that President Bush is intent on stifling dissent (even when the dissent turns out to be correct). Rice and Bush are so close that she at one time mistakenly referred to him as her “husband.” (Washington Post, BBC, Guardian)

2. Bush wants dissenters rooted out of the CIA. Porter Goss, Bush’s recent appointee to head of the CIA, sent out an e-mail to CIA employees telling them that their job is to “support the administration and its policies in our work.” This e-mail followed an order by the White House for Goss to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.” Employees at the Penton are amused and cheering the shake-up at the CIA, since they were also annoyed by the dissents from CIA operatives. (Washington Post, Newsday, Washington Times)

3. Bush expects Europe, not the United States, to cooperate more. The world now must clean up the mess in Iraq that the Bush Administration started. NATO Chief Japp de Hoop Scheffer recognizes that the world “cannot see Iraq go up in flames” and believes that Europe must catch up with the United States in recognizing the danger of terrorism. But, perhaps they should not exactly take the course of the Bush Administration, who “found” weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq, where none existed. (Agence France-Presse)

Why they’re wrong:

Since Bush’s election to a second term, he hasn’t given any indication that he’s willing to compromise to create a consensus or recognize the half of the country who voted against him. The nominations of Rice, Hadley, and Gonzalez solidify his “I’m right” approach, ensuring that his second term will be more of the same, splitting the country even more.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Porter Goss is making a bad situation worse at the CIA.

Why you're right:

1. Goss is dividing, not uniting, the CIA staff. Bush has continually promised to unite the nation, but his August appointment of Goss to the top spot at the CIA has divided the CIA. Goss put three of his Republican staffers to top CIA positions. These men are viewed as inexperienced and contemptuous of the career employees in the CIA, causing intra-agency turmoil and disagreement at a time when cooperation is needed for reform. (Knight-Ridder)

2. Goss is driving away experienced CIA members. Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin recently sent in his long-expected resignation, but warned Goss about alienating members of the agency. Stephen R. Kappes, chief of the clandestine service and behind the negotiations with Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi to give up weapons of mass destruction, is considering submitting his resignation after the latest in a series of clashes with Goss, saying he would rather resign than fire his deputy, Michael Sulick. Kappes was ordered to fire Sulick for challenging Pat Murray’s, Goss’s chief of staff and a former Hill staffer, authority. (Washington Post)

3. Goss is rejecting the advice of CIA leadership. Four former deputies of operations, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, requested a meeting with Goss because they "wanted to save him from going through" what two other directors, Stansfield Turner and John M. Deutch, had experienced when they tried to make personnel changes quickly. Goss has refused to meet with them. (Washington Post)

Why they’re wrong:

The intelligence community needs reform, but more than just personnel shake-up. Goss’s attempts at a quick fix are alienating members of the agency who are essential to moving forward. The agency needs to learn from its past mistakes, as the 9/11 commission pointed out, and rejecting advice from bipartisan veterans won’t help.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Alberto Gonzales is a horrendous choice for Attorney General.

Why you're right:

1. Gonzales believes the President can ignore laws prohibiting torture. Gonzales approved a memo, delivered to President Bush in August 2002, which concluded laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants." Further, the memo said that an interrogation tactic only constituted torture if it resulted in injury "such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions." (August 2002 Memo, Newsweek)

2. Gonzales has a cavalier attitude about the death penalty. As counsel to Gov. George W. Bush Gonzales was responsible for writing memos to Bush outlining the fact of each death penalty case. Bush would use the memos to decide whether a defendant should live or die. An analysis of these memos by the Atlantic Monthly found "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." (Atlantic Monthly)

3. Gonzales would have a conflict-of-interest in major Justice Department activities. As White House counsel, Gonzales advised the President and others how to stay out of trouble after the illegal outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by a senior administration official. As Attorney General, Gonzales would oversee the investigation. For 10 years Gonzales was counsel to Enron as a lawyer at Vincent & Elkins. As Attorney General, he would oversee the prosecution of Enron executives. (Knight Ridder, Newsweek)

Why they're wrong:

Bush says Gonzales is a good choice for Attorney General because he has "come to know the character of this man." That is not good enough. The American people deserve to know what Alberto Gonzales believes and what he stands for. Only a handful of the memos Gonzales wrote to President Bush regarding the treatment of detainees have been disclosed. The Senate cannot responsibly take a vote on his nomination until all the memos are made public. (LA Times)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Elections are not the final step in democracy.

Why you're right:

1. Post-election Afghanistan still has a long way to go. Bush declared, "Freedom is beautiful" regarding the elections in Afghanistan, before even waiting to see whether or not the transition of power would be peaceful. While the Administration sees the elections as an end in themselves, Afghanistan still has many other obstacles to overcome in order to be a full democracy. Social and political life was repressed after the United States toppled the Taliban. The opium trade reached its highest levels ever this year, and is expected to grow in the near future. (Washington Post, USA Today)

2. Iraq reconstruction is lagging. While elections are planned to take place in January, the country will likely be still lacking in resources from reconstruction at that time. 14 countries and international organizations gave almost $1 billion to meet emergency needs in Iraq, but only 5% of that money has been disbursed on 2 projects. (Los Angeles Times)

3. Iraq’s direction after elections is uncertain. The United States must be prepared for Iraqis to choose a leader not to the liking of the U.S. 40% of Iraqis say they would be inclined to back a candidate with ties to a cleric or religious organization. Al-Sadr still has slightly greater name recognition than Prime Minister Allawi. Whether Iraq will turn toward a more stabile democracy or become more extreme is yet to be determined. (USA Today)

Why they’re wrong:

While the Bush administration and officials in Iraq have declared that elections will definitely happen on time, there are no guarantees. The security situation is not getting any better, with some of the most deadly attacks happening in the past couple weeks. Without proper security, elections will not happen. The administration cannot treat the elections as the ultimate goal, but must look at them as step in the process of democracy in Iraq.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Most Americans support rights for gay couples.

Why you're right:

1. 60 percent of Americans support either civil unions or legal marriage for gay couples. 35 percent support civil unions and 25 percent support legal marriage. (Human Rights Campaign)

2. A clear majority of Americans oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. 58 percent of Americans believe it is an issue left up to the states. (ABC News)

Why they're wrong:

The gay marriage initiatives on the ballot in several states clearly motivate a core group of social conservatives. This clearly worked in Bush's favor. But it is wrong to conflate that with a general societal trend opposing rights for gay couples. The reality is more Americans than every support legal rights for gay couples.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bush still does not have a broad mandate for change.

Why you're right:

1. 51% of the vote is not a broad mandate. While the margin of “victory” was greater in this election than in 2000, 51% is still not a large majority of the country and was the narrowest win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The states Bush captured in this election were really not very different from what he captured in 2000, showing that he has not captured the “broad nationwide victory” that Vice President Cheney has claimed. Bush’s support still represents a certain section of the population and excludes many urban areas, minorities, and women. (CNN, Wall Street Journal, Asia Times, ABC)

2. A vote for Bush was not one for change. The Bush team associated stability, continuity, and the expected with George W. Bush. Never mind that Bush’s first term provided anything but stability, launching the United States into a war in Iraq with no end in sight. (Cincinnati Post, MSNBC)

3. Republicans recognize Bush’s limited victory. Senator Arlen Specter, now the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned President Bush against putting forth judicial nominees who are overly conservative and may overturn Roe v. Wade. Lacking the support of almost half the nation, Bush will have to moderate his conservative agenda. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Why they’re wrong:

Bush would have claimed a mandate for change no matter what his margin of victory was. His speech in 2000 sounded very much like his speech yesterday, pledging to serve and unite the nation, not one specific party. But, he took his 2000 minority popular vote as a clear mandate for change and invaded Iraq, attempted to ban same-sex marriage, and passed tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, without any thought of the majority who did not elect him. With a slightly higher percentage of votes this time around, but still not a broad coalition, there is little expectation that he will act any more moderately. (CNN)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Remember 1964.

In 1964, the Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater by 23 points. Goldwater managed to carry just 6 states and Johnson won the electoral college 486-52. But the conservatives didn't give up. They didn't spend a lot of time wringing their hands. They regrouped and fought back. By 1968, Nixon crushed Humphrey in the electoral college 301-191 and won the popular vote by a million votes. If you oppose Bush, now isn't the time to feel sorry for yourself. Now is the time to get to work. (1964, 1968)

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Bush Administration is endangering, not supporting, our troops.

Why you're right:

1. The Bush Administration sent our troops into battle without the proper protection. The Pentagon and the administration did not anticipate a long war in Iraq, therefore they did not properly equip the soldiers. Today, only one-fifth of the Humvees in Iraq have adequate armor protection and the military is facing a shortage of 1.5 billion rounds of small-caliber bullets. Families have had to buy walkie-talkies, night vision goggles, body armor, GPS gear, etc. for their sons and daughters fighting in Iraq because the administration will not provide them. (Boston Globe, Washington Post, CBS)

2. The Bush Administration refuses to provide adequate health care to the National Guard. The Bush Administration opposed a plan to give the National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon health care plan. The plan would have given $1.2 million Guard and Reserve members access to the plan, even when they are not serving active duty. 20% of National guardsmen lack health insurance and the Guard and Reserve now make up 40% of the troops in Iraq. (The Olympian)

3. Tax cuts are more important than funding the troops. The Bush Administration has carried out the first wartime tax cuts in history. Taxes are often raised during wartime to ensure enough funding to protect the troops. But, Republicans and this administration clearly aren’t thinking of the troops first: "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes” (Tom Delay). (CBS, Congressional Record)

Why they're wrong:

Bush’s refusal to acknowledge the realities on the ground is reckless endangerment of our troops. By not planning for the possibility of a long war, Bush put soldiers in harm’s way without enough protection. To support our troops, Bush needs to do more than just praise their efforts; he must make sure they and their families are cared for.