Dodd Wins Points, But Will It Help?

It’s been a good couple of weeks for Chris Dodd, at least in the blogosphere, but it remains to be seen if this will translate into meaningful support in Iowa and New Hampshire. The National Journal has moved Dodd up to fourth place behind Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, admitting that this is not justified by any of the polls. Bob Geiger has outlined some of the arguments for Dodd at Huffington Post including his leadership in opposing domestic surveillance and defending Constitutional liberties. Dodd received similar praise from Glenn Greenwald last week.

Dodd made a point during last night’s debate, which he previously stated in response to a question from Bill Maher, which so far is getting little mention in the post-debate media coverage. Dodd supported decriminalizing marijuana:

We’re locking up too many people in our system here today. We’ve got mandatory minimum sentences, they are filling our jails with people that don’t belong there. My idea is to decriminalize this, reduce that problem here. We’ve gone from 800,000 to 2 million people in our penal institutions in this country. We’ve got to get a lot smarter about this issue than we are. And as president, I’d try and achieve that.

It was fitting that the opposite view was presented by John Edwards. Edwards once again showed his disdain for freedom along with the vacuousness of his thought. In a remark reminiscent of his opposition to same sex marriage because it conflicted with his religious upbringing, Edwards chose to continue the failed drug war because to do otherwise would send the wrong message. Perhaps some day he will realize that he is as wrong on the drug war as he originally was on Iraq and apologize again.

Otherwise the highlight of the debate was showing that Hillary Clinton is vulnerable on issues ranging from Iran to illegal immigration to her personal integrity. Kucinich made two controversial comments, with his UFO sighting receiving more coverage than his call for the impeachment of George Bush. Richardson clarified during the post-debate interviews that his recent comments on Roswell were purely for the benefit of New Mexico tourism.

George Orwell U

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports on a disturbing program of political indoctrination at the University of Delaware. To highlight a few parts of their report:

The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.

“The University of Delaware’s residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students’ private beliefs,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

Later in the report:

According to the program’s materials, the goal of the residence life education program is for students in the university’s residence halls to achieve certain “competencies” that the university has decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of “citizenship.” These competencies include: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.”At various points in the program, students are also pressured or even required to take actions that outwardly indicate their agreement with the university’s ideology, regardless of their personal beliefs. Such actions include displaying specific door decorations, committing to reduce their ecological footprint by at least 20%, taking action by advocating for an “oppressed” social group, and taking action by advocating for a “sustainable world.”

In the Office of Residence Life’s internal materials, these programs are described using the harrowing language of ideological reeducation. In documents relating to the assessment of student learning, for example, the residence hall lesson plans are referred to as “treatments.”

I’ve often seen conservative organizations twist facts to promote their false meme that liberals oppose free speech and initially wondered if this was yet another example. From what I’ve been able to find out about this group, it does appear legitimate. For example, Wikipedia reports that the organization’s president is a liberal, that some of the conservatives involved have a solid record on civil liberties issues, and that they have defended students and professors with left wing views. While the organization does appear to have conservative ties, I have posted on cases in the past where some principled conservatives have defended civil liberties, including criticism of the abuses under the Bush administration.

Some of the conservative blogs, such as Sister Toldjah and Right Voices, are using this as an example to further their claims of liberals opposing free speech, even though this example was condemned by an organization with a liberal president. In reality, the current left/right spectrum is highly flawed. There are those of us who concentrate on civil liberties on both the left and right, and there are those who are on the wrong side of civil liberties issues on both sides of the spectrum.

The real test of conviction on civil liberties issues is to defend the principle regardless of the views involved. It is one thing for conservative blogs to protest such a program when it involves what they would perceive as liberal views on racism. I wonder if there would be the same reaction if instead there were mandatory programs on the danger of “Islamofascism” or on religious values. Analogous situations of indoctrination which many conservatives support in the public schools include school-sponsored prayer and teaching creationism as science. Going beyond the schools, many conservatives support requirements for women to watch films prior to having an abortion intended to dissuade women from having the procedure.

More Hypocrisy from John Edwards on Fund Raising

After eight years of George Bush, I sure hope we don’t have to put up with his doppleganger from the left. There’s enough of a credibility gap from government without having to put up with more of how John Edwards stretches the truth.

This presidential campaign is a perfect example of how our politics is awash with money. I have raised more money up to this point than any Democratic candidate raised last time in the presidential campaign — $30 million. And, I did it without taking a dime from any Washington lobbyist or any special interest PAC.

What Edwards leaves out is that over half his money is from a single source–trial lawyers. A candidate who receives such a large percentage of his contributions from a single source is in no position to take such a high moral ground. Edwards also didn’t come out too well when The Washington Post looked at how pure the candidates were on campaign finance issues. Edwards was the most secretive with regards to revealing the identities of his big fund raisers:

Edwards is no less tainted by the trial-lawyer money he scoops up by the bucketful than he would be by lobbyist contributions…

Indeed, who takes money from lobbyists is the wrong question about an essential subject. Instead, voters who care — and I think voters should care — ought to ask: What is the candidate’s history on campaign finance reform, lobbying and ethics rules, and open government generally? How transparent is the candidate about campaign and personal finances? What steps will he or she take to limit the influence of money during the current campaign?

On these, there are revealing differences among the Democratic front-runners.

Edwards was part of the legislative team working to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, but lobbying and campaign reform were nowhere near the top of his agenda in the Senate.

During the 2004 campaign, Edwards gave a useful speech outlining his plan to limit lobbyists’ influence. But, unlike the other Democratic candidates, he refused requests to reveal the identities of his big fundraisers. This time around, after considerable prodding, Edwards agreed to release the names of fundraisers — all his fundraisers, with no specifics about how much they had collected. His campaign argues vehemently that it should be praised for this avalanche of information, not faulted. But the candidate knows who has reeled in $1,000 and who raised $100,000. Why shouldn’t voters?

Hillary Clinton also responded to these attacks from Edwards regarding taking money from lobbyists:

If Mr. Edwards is so concerned about the influence of special interests, he should give back the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s taken from health care, securities, and insurance companies.

Obama Controversy Bigger In Netroots Than in Real World

Those who read the blogs the last few days as opposed to the mainstream media would have a totally different view of the Obama campaign. Not only has Obama been the subject of numerous attacks for having McClurkin at his campaign’s gospel concert, but some are even writing off the campaign as dead. I’ve written in the past of the tendency of some bloggers to greatly exaggerate the importance of the netroots, and this is about as good an example as I’ve ever seen.

I disagree with Obama’s decision to invite McClurkin, as well as oppose the mixing of religion in politics. If we had a perfect candidate (who responded to questions of religion in a political campaign in this manner) this might be enough to take Obama out of consideration. Unfortunately none of the candidates are so great as to allow me to discount one based upon who they have at a concert.

Often overlooked in all the controversy is the actual positions of the candidates, as well as Obama’s statements of disagreement with McClurkin. If we are limited to the three candidates which the media has declared are the ones with a chance, Obama is preferable to Clinton and Edwards issues related to separation of church and state and on gay issues. While I would prefer he hadn’t done so, having McClurkin at a concert was far less objectionable than Bill Clinton’s advice to John Kerry (which I suspect his wife went along with) to endorse the anti-gay marriage amendments where they were on the ballot in order to pick up more votes. If we are going to look at who a candidate associates with, Mother Jones says of Hillary:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. “A lot of evangelicals would see that as just cynical exploitation,” says the Reverend Rob Schenck, a former leader of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who now ministers to decision makers in Washington. “I don’t….there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk, and open Bibles, and prayer.”

The effects of this mistake on Obama’s campaign have been greatly exaggerated, largely as few outside of the liberal blogosphere are even aware of this. The Democratic Strategist writes:

To read many progressive bloggers, Obama’s decision to involve McClurkin (introduced to him, reportedly, by Oprah Winfrey) was a cataclysmic mistake. So says Kos, who called it the lowpoint of the “worst [week] I have seen from any candidate in this presidential cycle.” So says Atrios, who described Obama’s explanation of his decision as “incredibly insulting” to, well, just about everybody. So says Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, who dismisses arguments that Obama just screwed up, and accuses him of “dog-whistle outreach” to gay-bashers.

So how did the brouhaha play down in South Cackalacki itself? Well, the Columbia State, which features massive political coverage every day, didn’t bother to cover Obama’s Columbia event. It did publish an AP story with the title: “McClurkin Wins Cheers At Obama Event Despite Gay Protests,” which gives you an idea how seriously the writer took the cataclysmic-disaster interpretation of Obama’s gospel tour.

These different optics reflect the very different issues Obama’s campaign was dealing with in putting on this kind of event. On the one hand, it deeply offended not only gays and lesbians, but many progressive activists who want to support Obama as an alternative to Clinton, but suspect his commitment to the kind of ideological rigor and partisan zeal they consider essential in a nominee. On the other hand, it might have done him some good in SC, where his candidacy may ultimately rise or fall based on his ability to wrest a sizable majority of African-American votes away from HRC.

I realize I am analyzing this episode from a purely political, not moral, point of view. But so, too, are many of those who are blasting Obama nonstop today. Nobody really believes that Barack Obama is homophobic, and nobody (at least on the Left side of the political spectrum) really doubts the sincerity of his religious faith. There’s no contradiction there, since Obama belongs to a faith community, the United Church of Christ, that proudly ordains gay and lesbian clergy.

I suspect that much of the attack against Obama was motivated largely by support for other candidates. Some bloggers also have taken offense that Obama is not running what they consider a progressive campaign representing the predominant views of the netroots on all issues. The fact that he is not running a campaign of this nature is what makes him appealing to many others.

Giuliani Found Distorting Truth on Abortion and Health Care

Rudy Giuliani has a hard time sticking to the truth. I’ve had posts fact-checking Giuliani many times before, and there are two new  reports this week showing how Giuliani has twisted the truth on health care and abortion.
The Los Angeles Times reports on Giuliani’s twisting of the facts on abortion and adoptions:

Striving to find the “middle ground” on abortion — that is, coming up with ways acceptable to pro-choice and pro-life Americans alike to reduce the number of abortions in the United States — is a worthwhile undertaking. But it also has given rise to some fairly resilient myths about the best way to achieve this goal.

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani prominently featured one such myth in his speech Oct. 20 to a group of social conservatives. The former New York City mayor stated that “we increased adoption by 133% over the eight years before I came into office. And we found that abortions went down by 18% during that period of time. I believe we can do that in the United States.”

But Giuliani’s implied causality between these two statistics is unsupportable for this simple reason: The increases he cites were in the rate of adoptions of children out of New York City’s foster care system, not in the rate at which women were continuing unwanted pregnancies and placing their infants for adoption rather than having abortions. Nothing in the data he cites indicates that there was any significant increase in the city’s newborn relinquishment rate while he was mayor.

Political Radar reports on an incorrect claim from Giuliani in comparing the American system to the British system.

To hear Rudy Giuliani describe it in his new radio ad, the British medical system is a scary place.

“My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States: 82 percent,” Giuliani says in a new radio spot airing in New Hampshire. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England: Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.”

But the data Giuliani cites comes from a single study published eight years ago by a not-for-profit group, and is contradicted by official data from the British government.

According to the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics, for men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1999 and 2003, the “five-year survival rate” — a common measurement in cancer statistics — was 74.4 percent.

The statistics show that the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer victims in the UK has been steadily rising to approach the survival rate Giuliani cited for the United States.

The 74.4 percent survival rate “was 3.6 percentage points higher than the rate of 70.8 per cent for men diagnosed during 1998-2001,” according to a British government report published in August…

Don McCanne, a senior health policy fellow at Physicians for a National Health Program, conceded that the five-year survival rate for cancer diagnoses is higher in the United States than in many countries that have single-payer systems, though the disparity is not as great as Giuliani claims in his ad.

But he said that any such comparison is flawed, since it fails to take into account the additional investment in cancer education and screening in the United States. Much of the gap would be closed if other countries invested similar sums in catching cancer early.

If all Americans had access to preventive care, screenings, and treatment — through a single-payer system or another universal healthcare plan — the five-year survival rate would almost certainly be increased, since cancers would be caught sooner.

“It’s not a result of the healthcare-financing issue. That’s not what this is about at all,” McCanne said. “Under a universal system, we would increase access to preventive screening.

It should also be kept in mind that most advocates of changes in the health care system in this country are not advocating plans similar to the British system.

Richardson Picks Up Endorsement of Portsmouth Mayor

While the campaign for the Democratic nomination increasingly looks like a two person contest, other candidates are still seeking support and the possibility of a dark horse upset victory cannot be excluded. Bill Richardson continues to show signs of life in the early states. His campaign has announced a New Hampshire endorsement which might be of some benefit in the primary:

The Richardson for President campaign today announced a crucial endorsement from Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, one of New Hampshire’s brightest and most talented young leaders.

Steve Marchand, 33, was elected mayor of Portsmouth in 2005 with over 67 percent of the vote. He has been praised for his successful stewardship of green energy initiatives as well as his fiscal leadership in introducing transparency and accountability to the city budget. The Portsmouth Herald wrote of Marchand, “the guy has guts, energy and ambition.” He previously was named New Hampshire’s political “Rising Star” of the year by the website

Mayor Marchand will join the Richardson for President campaign as a Senior Advisor. He also will maintain a robust surrogate speaking schedule, traveling the Granite State and stumping on Governor Richardson’s behalf.

“Bill Richardson is the most experienced candidate in the race, the most determined to end the war in Iraq, and the most capable of bringing about the real change that America needs,” Marchand said.

Richardson had previously received the endorsements of former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair George Bruno Manchester former Manchester Mayor Bob Baines.

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Association for Science Education on Intelligent Design

The Association for Science Education which has issued a statement (PDF) on science education, intelligent design, and creationism. (Hat tip to Panda’s Thumb.)  One section discusses whether intelligent design should be taught as part of science education:

The rationale for science education involves the stimulation and motivation of young people towards appreciating and understanding some of the key ideas in science. It aims to engage them in exploring first hand the processes of science through experimentation, investigation, argument, and modelling thereby teaching them how science works in both an historical context and within the social community which is science. In doing so, science education explores the relationships between evidence and theory whilst appreciating the provisional nature of scientific ‘knowledge’. Such an education should prepare learners to be confident in engaging with scientific issues and be able to take a critical approach when evaluating claims which are ‘scientific’, thereby making an assessment of what might be seen as ‘good science’ and ‘poor science’.

When set against this rationale it is clear to us that Intelligent Design has no grounds for sharing a platform as a scientific ‘theory’. It has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations to support it. Furthermore it is not accepted as a competing scientific theory by the international science community nor is it part of the science curriculum. It is not science at all. Intelligent Design belongs to a different domain and should not be presented to learners as a competing or alternative scientific idea. As such, Intelligent Design has no place in the science education of young people in school.

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One Question About Paul Answered But Many Ties to Conspiracy Theories Remain

Recently I reported on both a contribution from 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to Ron Paul and a payment from the Paul campaign to Jones. This raised questions as to why the Paul campaign would be paying money to Jones. The Corner reports that the $1300 payment was a partial refund of Jones’s $2,300 contribution to the Paul campaign. There is no indication as to why this partial refund was paid. This does satisfy resolve the question as to why there would be a payment to Jones, but the questions regarding the connections between Jones and Paul persist. The Corner also reports:

I fear that Paul isn’t about to denounce Jones, and it’s a shame. When Paul made his most recent appearance on Jones’s radio show, I asked the candidate’s spokesman why he continues to associate with Jones. I detected some quiet frustration in his answer that Paul had promised the interview and that he keeps his word in such matters. Considering that Jones’s entire operation exploits gullible people willing to believe anything about 9/11, he might want to consider making fewer such promises in the future.

I don’t find the contribution from Jones to be as bad as the contribution from white supremacist Stormfront founder Don Black, but the number of ties between Paul’s supporters and conspiracy theorists remains a concern and ultimately discredits Paul. While Paul has at times denied personal belief in the 9/11 conspiracy theories, his repeated appearances on Jones’ radio show, along with the contribution, makes his comments sound less than sincere.

The ties between Paul supporters and 9/11 conspiracy theories are not the only conspiracy theories being promoted. Comments to previous posts here showed the belief by Paul supporters in conspiracies involving the Council on Foreign Relations and the United Nations, with some believing that the UN is conspiring to both create world government and take away Americans’ guns. Paul’s apparent belief in such conspiracy theories is also seen in the letter sent to contributors:

I don’t need to tell you that our American way of life is under attack. We see it all around us — every day — and it is up to us to save it.

The world’s elites are busy forming a North American Union. If they are successful, as they were in forming the European Union, the good ‘ol USA will only be a memory. We can’t let that happen.

The UN also wants to confiscate our firearms and impose a global tax. The UN elites want to control the world’s oceans with the Law of the Sea Treaty. And they want to use our military to police the world.

Jason Steck has written about yet another conspiracy from the “Ron Paul web site, which tacitly encourages conspiracy mongering.”

Today, we face a new threat of widespread eminent domain actions as a result of powerful interests who want to build a NAFTA superhighway through the United States from Mexico to Canada

As I’ve suggested many times before, those who want to have libertarian ideas taken seriously need to distance themselves from Paul and his nuttier supporters.

Anti-Spam Researchers Find Paul Supporters Violating Spam Law

Spam from supporters of Ron Paul has become an annoyance in the blogosphere to the point where his supporters might be alienating more people than they are attracting. The problem includes spam email as well as spamming blogs with comments. Anti-spam researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) now report possible violations of laws intended to reduce the problem of spam.

Anti-spam researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) noted a new trend following Sunday’s Republican Candidates Presidential debate. Supporters of Ron Paul launched a spam campaign dedicated to proclaiming him victorious in the debate and extolling his virtues as the future president.

According to the CAN-SPAM Act, the primary law under which unwanted email can be prosecuted in the US, one of the factors that makes a message spam is deceptive sending practices. In the messages reviewed at UAB, emails were received from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Nigeria already this morning. In each case it was clear that the computer sending the message did not belong to the person who was listed in the “From” address. Such as a Houston resident, whose email was sent from a computer in Italy, or a Silicon Valley computer worker, whose email was sent from Korea.

Gary Warner, UAB Director of Research in Computer Forensics, says “We’ve seen many previous emails reported as spam from other campaigns or parties, but when we’ve investigated them, they all were sent from the legitimate parties.” The important distinction between the new emails and previous emails, Warner says, is the fraudulent nature of the message. Legitimate messages tell who they are from, and provide a means of “unsubscribing” from future messages from the same source. The spam has not been tied directly to Paul’s campaign.

The spam email included titles such as:

The messages have headlines such as:
Ron Paul Wins GOP Debate!
Ron Paul Eliminates the IRS!
Ron Paul Stops Iraq War!
Vote Ron Paul 2008!
Iraq Scam Exposed, Ron Paul
Government Wasteful Spending Eliminated By Ron Paul

Update: True to form, the Paul cultists flock in to either deny what has been documented or claim it is a conspiracy against them. The Paul cultists sure love their conspiracy theories.

Update II: The responses from Paul supporters highlighs the absurdity of the Paul supporters as well as the campaign. It is well known that some Paul supporters are using abusive techniques on the internet, including sending put spam.

The reaction of some Paul supporters is to deny everything and attack those who report anything which might be negative about Paul. In this case it isn’t even a criticism of Paul himself as this is assumed to be the work of Paul supporters as opposed to the campaign itself. It would be far smarter to admit that some Paul supporters are abusive. Of course the problem here is that many Paul supporters who post on blogs do not even understand that their activities are abusive and reflect badly on the campaign.

It would be smarter for the Paul supporters to attempt to police their own and for the Paul campaign to attempt to get his supporters to cease abusive activity. In 2003 we had similar problems from some of the Dean supporters. While the more responsible supporters and the campaign cannot put an end to all such activity, they can make an effort. When Joe Trippi and the more responsible Dean supporters made an effort to reduce abusive on line activities from their supporters it did reduce the problem.

If Paul supporters are going to resort to denials they should at least be smart enough to get their stories straight. So far here, and on some pro-Paul blogs, there have been a wide variety of denials, some of which are mutually exclusive. Denials include:

This never occurred
This occurred but there was nothing wrong with it
It occurred but was done by opponents of Paul to discredit him.

Are Conservatives Really This Confused About Health Care Plans?

The Daily Mail has an article on problems in the British health care system–a system I’ve also been critical of. It came as no surprise to review the conservative blogs and see them attempt to use this as evidence against Democratic health care plans. Some call this evidence against a single payer plan, but a single payer plan and a government run plan are two separate things. A government run plan is one form of a single payer plan, but is quite different from the plans advocated by most proponents of single payer plans in this country who advocate plans such as extending Medicare where health care is still provided by private doctors and hospitals.

Of the Democratic candidates running this year, only Dennis Kucinich has been pushing a single payer plan, and this plan is nothing like the British government-run plan. Assuming Kucinich has no chance at winning, a single payer plan isn’t even on the table. Right Wing News tries to confuse the British system with Hillary Clinton’s plans. While I’ve had disagreements with Clinton over health care, her plan is neither government-run or even a single payer plan.

While comparison of the British plan to the plans advocated by Democratic candidates is erroneous, it is valid to use this as arguments against the views of Michael Moore. I previously noted that a failing of Sicko was that, while it was of value in demonstrating health care problems in this country, it white washed the problems in other countries. It is worth noting that Moore, who advocate a government run plan, has opposed the plans of all the Democratic candidates, believing that Kucinich comes the closest but does not go far enough.

Conservatives regularly try to scare people from considering any reforms to the health care system by screaming “socialized medicine.” When they draw false comparisons between the British system and the plans advocated by Democratic candidates, I wonder if they are knowingly resorting to scare tactics or if they really have this little understanding of different forms of health care delivery. Either way, the views of those who regularly confuse these systems are hardly worth considering.