Friday, July 28, 2006

Jana Jones-The Right Choice For Idaho

There is one candidate running for office this year that has my full support and dedication and that person is Dr. Jana Jones.

I hear it happens every now and then…you fall in love with a candidate running and this person restores the faith and trust you should have in your elected officials. This faith and trust has been all but destroyed the last several years, for me, and many others.

Now this post isn’t meant to disparage any other Democrat, or Republican, running for office. There are many wonderful candidates running for office. Some of my other favorites include Jackie Groves Twilegar who is running for State Controller in Idaho, Jim Hansen who is running for Congress in Idaho, and Allen Anderson who is running in District 29 (here in Bannock County). These four candidates represent the best of the best that Idaho Democrats have to offer. I am honored and privileged to call myself a Democrat because of these four people.

I wasn’t always a Jana Jones supporter. I live in Bannock County which Bert Marley represented in the Idaho Senate for several years. Bert Marley and Jana Jones ran a tough primary against each other and upon hearing of Jana Jones’ intention to run, I, mostly because of where I lived, chose to support Bert Marley. I made a rookie mistake, a mistake I hope never to repeat. Never start supporting a candidate until you know about the person they are running against! I don’t personally know Bert Marley too well. I have attended functions that he has attended and I have met him a few times. He is well-respected by both Republicans and Democrats. But after meeting Jana Jones for the first time, and after seeing her at many other events, I was impressed by her graciousness, the way she paid special attention to each person she met, I was just impressed by who she was as a person. Now many will say she was simply playing the candidate. No, this is just who Jana Jones is as a person, end of story.

This is a woman all women should model themselves after. Educated, knowledgeable, kind, full of integrity, always taking the high road, and possessing a level of concern about Idaho schools, teachers and students that cannot be exceeded. This is a woman who has spent her entire career bettering education.

I support Jana Jones for Superintendent not just because of who she is as a person, but because of what she will offer to Idaho both professionally and personally. Jana knows the position of Superintendent inside and out, Jana knows Idaho schools and programs inside and out. This is a sampling of what Jana will bring to this position;

-Bachelor and Master degrees from Utah State University in Special Education.
-Education Doctorate degree from Idaho State University in Educational Leadership.

-Certified educator in Idaho:
Generalist (Education Handicapped) K-12
Early Childhood Special Education
Supervisor/Coordinator of Special Education
Director of Special Education

-Currently the Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction with the State Department of Education.

-Worked as the Deputy Superintendent, Bureau Chief of Special Education, and Regional Special Education Consultant for the Department.

-Worked as the administrator for Early Childhood programs in the Governor’s Office for Children for Governor Cecil Andrus.

-Worked as a planner for the Infant Toddler Program in Region VII.

-Owned, operated and taught kindergarten at Progressive Day School in Idaho Falls.

-Taught special education in Idaho Falls School District #91.

-Served on several councils, including the Governor’s InfantToddler Interagency Coordinating Council, Developmental Disabilities Council, Idaho Council on Children’s Mental Health, Early Childhood Professional Development Consortium, CCSSO Special Education Task Force.

-Member of Idaho Association of School Administrators, Council for Exceptional Children, Deputy Leadership Commission.

It is my personal opinion that no other candidate, in the history of this position, has been more prepared and more ready to take on this monumental responsibility. She will take it on and she will succeed and we will all benefit. If you still aren’t convinced, visit her website for more information and send Jana an email with any questions.

Vote for Jana Jones on November 7th. Vote for education.

Shame on Otter for missing crucial vote

This is yesterday's editorial from the Idaho Statesman, Idaho's largest newspaper.
Idaho Statesman Editorial – 07-27-06

Our View: Shame on Otter for missing crucial vote

Is C.L. "Butch" Otter running for governor, or running from controversy?

The 1st District congressman was a no-show Monday on the most important Idaho public lands vote to hit the House floor in his six years on Capitol Hill. He missed the vote on 2nd District colleague Mike Simpson's bill to protect 312,000 acres of wilderness in Central Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds mountains — which passed, no thanks to Otter.

Two days later, Otter finally took a stand, but only after the Statesman asked. He said he would have opposed Idaho's first wilderness bill in 26 years — but refused to say why.

For a guy who markets himself, rather successfully, as a plain-talking, straight-shooting cowboy congressman, that's weak. Voters deserve some clear like-'em-or-not-answers from the Republican nominee for governor.

Instead, voters will have to settle for a saga of logistics — and a cryptic statement — from Mark Warbis, Otter's spokesman. First, the logistics.

Otter spends most weekends in Idaho and flies back Monday mornings. His itinerary usually puts him back in Washington, D.C., by 4:30 p.m., and allows him to get to the Capitol in time for any recorded votes, which aren't scheduled before 6 p.m.

The Boulder-White Clouds bill — while a milestone for Idaho, and vitally important to communities such as Stanley, Challis and Ketchum — didn't merit a recorded vote. Some lawmakers criticized the bill, but no one demanded a recorded vote, somewhat to Otter's surprise. So on Monday afternoon, the bill passed on a voice vote, while Otter was on a plane.

Otter could have tried harder to be there. He'd booked his Monday flight about a week ago, before Simpson's bill was on the agenda, Warbis said. While Simpson's bill moved quickly — House leadership suspended its normal rules to pass the bill and move it to the Senate — leadership put out word Friday that Simpson's bill was on Monday's agenda. Changing flight plans to vote on an important Idaho issue was hardly out of the question.

So anyway, how would Otter have voted? "I don't know if I have heard a definitive answer on that," Warbis said Wednesday morning.

Five hours later, Warbis issued a less-than-definitive statement from his boss. "Had we followed the normal process with a recorded vote, I would have opposed the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill," Otter said. "While I admire and respect Congressman Simpson's effort, and it generally reflects great progress over previous wilderness legislation, there are elements of the compromise to which I cannot agree."

Which elements? New wilderness, off-limits to off-roaders, nearly half the size of Ada County? A motorized vehicle trail between the Boulders and the White Clouds? Federal lands that Custer County and Stanley can sell to bolster a slender tax base?

Otter won't say. His chief of staff, Jeff Malmen, listed several of Otter's general concerns last week, including release language for lands that aren't included as wilderness, water rights, and the fate of traditional uses in the area.

On Wednesday, Warbis said Otter has discussed his concerns with Simpson and Sen. Larry Craig, but doesn't want to get into a public debate about a bill that remains a work in progress. But because this is a work in progress, it's precisely the time for an open, public discussion.

Among many tasks, the governor sits on the state Land Board. Otter's Boulder-White Clouds position is an important harbinger of the approach he would take to public lands issues.

Otter is on the wrong side of a solid bill that protects wilderness, helps local governments meet the demands that follow wilderness use and balances competing interests in the Sawtooth Mountains. It's bad enough he didn't fit this vote into his schedule. But his evasive non-answer — to all Idahoans — is offensive.

This week, the man who could be Idaho's next governor has been a no-show, no-tell congressman.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Let the people decide

The following is an op-ed written by Jerry Brady
During these days of Governor Risch’s fast-paced and temporary leadership, I’ve been thinking of the words of Winston Churchill who said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Listening seems to be a lost art in politics. In a world of red and blue, of Democrats and Republicans, partisanship has thwarted true dialogue about the common good. Talking with and listening to one another has been replaced by televised shouting matches.

As governor for a short time, Risch has made some bold moves. Some have been smart, but many have been hasty and misguided. In the upcoming special session he has called, Governor Risch has his heart set on shifting taxes onto those who can least afford to pay them.
No one doubts the seriousness of the property tax problem we face. However, his plan has not benefited from truly listening to many people, or at least to many people outside the Boise political establishment.

Risch’s tax shift would raise the sales tax by 20 percent, thereby pinching the average homeowner with each trip to the grocery store. Conveniently, second home owners, special-interest businesses, and corporations pay comparatively little in sales tax and will enjoy a tax reduction of $156 million. Risch would rather raise our sales tax than tell special interests they can’t have a tax cut, too.

Some legislators have a different idea. This alternative plan would target homeowners for the tax cut. They would use $l04 million of the state’s $200 million surplus to replace the homeowner’s share of school support without increasing the sales tax. This supports schools but also gives relief to those who need it most: homeowners.

Every year more of the property tax burden falls on homeowners. Why is that happening? Home values are based on market value, which have been going through the roof. Other classes of property are not based on market value and are relatively stable or declining.

This isn’t the only example of a lack of listening by our temporary governor. Governor Risch failed to listen when appointing candidates to the Fish and Game Commission. Sportsmen groups, that have long asked to be included in the nomination process, were ignored even though they pay nearly all of the Fish and Game budget.

As governor, I will listen. I’ve been doing that for the last 16 months and have learned a lot. I am currently traveling to all 44 Idaho counties in 44 days. I’m listening to the people of Idaho and learning what they want from their leadership.

These decisions are too important—and a hasty solution too potentially damaging—to leave to an interim governor. Risch’s plan is not without merit, but it seems obvious he had his mind made up some time ago. He should encourage debate on the two plans. We should let the people decide which plan they prefer. Both options should be put before the people on the ballot this November.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The art of doing jumping jacks on thin ice.

Last August I suddenly fell ill, and within hours I had to be taken to the emergency room where pneumonia was diagnosed. I was given a prescription for both antibiotics and an extremely heavy pain killer. I quickly discovered that the pain killer made me sicker then what I actually was before; previously I only had a pain in my side, the drug gave me nausea, fever and several other problems I won’t mention. I immediately stopped taking it, and I quickly recovered. I will never, ever, take that medication again.

I learned that day that not everything the doctor tells you is beneficial. While the antibiotics did wonders, the pain medicine was awful. It’s not their fault, they did the best they could with the excellent training that the American health system gives. I still trust doctors, but I now feel more confident to speak up when I question their treatment, or to terminate it when I find it doing more harm then good.

Unfortunately, one Virginia family no longer has that option. Story Here

You can read the story for yourself, but here are the highlights. A 16 year old in Virginia is undergoing cancer treatment. His parents and himself were not satisfied with the results of the treatment he had received for a year, so they collectively decided to seek alternative treatments in Mexico. A court ruled that the parents were negligent of their child’s health, and ordered him to report for mandatory treatment at a designated hospital, while awarding partial custody of him to the county.

Words can hardly express my anger at this, but I will try.

While I feel that the choice to go to Mexico for herbal treatment to be a poor judgment, I feel it was their right to do so. Parents have a legal, moral, and spiritual duty to protect their children to the best of their knowledge and ability. Further, an individual has a right to decide what goes on with their body (I’m not meaning this as a right to choose abortion). If they weighed it out, and they all felt that it was the best option available to them, what right does a judge have to say otherwise? They are not denying him treatment against his will, nor are they ignoring the problem, they are seeking the best solution they know how.

Further, if they are legally required to seek state approved methods of treatment, are they no longer able to choose what hospital they wish to be at? Further, who is financially responsible? It is a private hospital, so are they required to pay for service that they do not want, at a private business that they did not choose? If the county now holds partial custody, does the state pay for it (if that were the case, this could easily be interpreted as a loop hole for unlegislated socialized children’s medicine)?

Would the state then have the right to seize a child if it disapproves of the doctor the parents are using? Does it have the right to seize a child if the parents want to use organic baby food that isn’t enriched with extra vitamins that a panel of doctors and social workers feel all babies should have extra of? What if the doctors prescribed treatment that went against the parent’s ethical (but not necessarily religious) views? What if the doctors are wrong? If he dies as a result of state ordered medical treatment, who is responsible?

I hope that the judge took these concerns into account (by which I mean the principles behind the examples), but I wonder if he realizes the dangerous precedent he has set. He may have saved the kids life, he may have killed him, time will only tell. But parents (and potential parents) everywhere should take note of this. One day their choices may be questioned, their rights as parents suspended, and their child potentially endangered. For one family in Virginia, that day is now. We must ask oursleves, how far should the government be allowed to determine proper parenting? How little is too little, how much too much?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thousands flee as Iraq violence deepens

I agree with President Bush when he said that hindsight is not wisdom.

I pose three questions:

When considering our influence in Iraq and that region of the world, has our involvement produced more good than bad?

Regardless of the previous question, and keeping in mind the recent developments in Lebanon, what will be our outcome in Iraq?

What should we be doing that we're not doing in Iraq, or are we doing everything we can, or should be have not gone into Iraq?

Read this story:

Dems taking page from GOP manual

Following my comments is an editorial from The Coeur d'Alene Press.

What bothers me about the Republican plan is that it's not tax relief for the average homeowner, it's a tax shift. The plan mostly benefits large businesses who don't have the financial burden that regular "Joes" up in Coeur d'Alene do.

Right now, property tax in Idaho pays for education. Under the Republican tax plan, property taxes would get cut, but then be shifted over to sales tax. This would take money away from education AND raise the sales tax burden on Idahoans.

Under the Democratic tax plan, Idaho homeowners (not special interest and vacation homeowners) would desperately receive property tax relief. Then, under Proposition 1, there would be a 1 percent sales tax increase, the revenue from which would go strictly to education funding.

Idahoans and Idaho businesses have some of the lowest tax burden in the U.S. This is great. However, educational funding in Idaho is so low that industry experts are saying it keeps many high-tech and agricultural tech firms away.

One front-page photo showed two politicians sitting at a table outdoors, calmly discussing their party’s proposal for property tax relief. Like a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, that plan seems refreshing, without the bitter aftertaste of raising one tax to ease another.

The photo directly beneath it relayed a far less tranquil image: a resident, arm raised and mouth open wide, shouting at organizers of a taxpayer rally. His party’s plan is riding a rough sea of clashing ideas and ideals, including a sales-tax hike to offset rising property taxes. It is a tall glass of lemonade without any sugar, and the photos don’t go with the parties you’d normally suspect.

It is the state Democrats, not the fiscally proud Republicans, who have tendered what appears to be the more palatable of two property-tax proposals. It is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have embraced the concept of higher taxes as a greater good.

Both parties aim to reduce property taxes by an estimated 20-percent for Idaho homeowners. Democrats would use just over half the state’s $200 million surplus to pay for public school’s maintenance and operations – one of the biggest slices of homeowners’ property tax pie – and continue to pay for it in the future through the state’s ongoing growth.

A key part of the Democrats plan is this: If your property qualifies for the homeowner’s exemption, you get the property tax relief. Out-of-state property owners or those with additional homes would not receive the tax relief. In other words, those who need the relief most would get it, without the burden of additional sales tax.

Republicans, meantime, are moving toward a special session of the Legislature that likely will include a 1-percent sales tax hike to provide roughly 20 percent property tax relief for Idaho homeowners. This is the same, overwhelming majority party that is looking for a special session because it was unable to adopt a meaningful property-tax plan in regular legislative session.

Adoption of the Democrats’ plan wouldn’t necessarily mean the state’s sales tax will remain at 5-precent. With broad support from that party, educators have placed Proposition 1 on the November ballot, seeking a 1-cent sales tax increase to support schools. That makes the Democrats’ property-tax proposal even more politically expedient; perhaps they can provide property-tax relief where it’s needed, yet still get a sales-tax increase approved and generate $200 million in additional schools revenue each year.

With a special session likely on or around August 25, we urge participants to throw partisanship out the window for the benefit of all taxpayers. The best property-tax relief plan should find favor no matter which party has more fingerprints on it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

President Bush's first time?

For the first time, President Bush used a veto to put down a stem cell research bill.

In a recent Gallup poll, 61 percent a respondents said that embryonic research was morally acceptable.

The same poll also showed that 43 percent of respondents believe that abortion is morally unacceptable.

The vote in the Senate was 63-37 in favor of the bill. The House passed the bill 238-194.

What's interesting, is that I personally called the offices of the five Mormons who sit in the Senate and 4 out of those 5 senators voted in favor of federally financing stem cell research. I'm also in the middle of calling the offices of mormon congressman and so far 4 of the seven that I've called voted in favor of the bill.

Here are two links on the recent developments.


Also, from the LDS website:

"The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not taken a position regarding the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes. The absence of a position should not be interpreted as support for or opposition to any other statement made by Church members, whether they are for or against embryonic stem cell research."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Choosing between wallets and kids

The column below was written by a guest writer named John Kotek. Kotek is the former deputy manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho Operations Office.

Kotek's article is timely in many areas. One, a diversified high tech industry has stayed away from Idaho because of our poor educational results in the areas of math and science.

Next to that, Idaho ranks very low in terms of quality education.

Now, the question is: What should Idaho do about an estimated $200 million dollar surplus. Do we take some of that and invest it in our future? Or do we give it back to the hardworking people of Idaho? This article address the issue well.
Choosing between wallets and kids
by John Kotek

Few states have taxes as low as Idaho. Few spend as little money on education. Idaho’s $200 million surplus presents an opportunity to upgrade public schools, writes John Kotek.

Encouraging reports out of Boise show the state of Idaho is in great financial shape, running an estimated $200 million budget surplus. The governor knows what he wants to do with the extra money and has called for property tax relief paid for using both the surplus and an increase in the sales tax. But is this really the best way to invest Idaho’s surplus?

A few months ago, I wrote a column applauding the State Board of Education for trying to improve Idaho’s math and science education. I cited extensively from the report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” by the National Academy of Sciences. The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at “vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education.”

Recommendations from the report could easily be implemented using part of Idaho’s surplus. For example, to address a chronic shortfall in qualified math and science teachers, the academy proposes establishing four-year teacher scholarships. An Idaho-based program could require a five-year commitment to teaching in Idaho schools after graduation, and could include an extra incentive for teachers willing to serve in rural school districts.

The academy points to statewide specialty high schools as a way to “foster leaders in science, technology and mathematics.” Battelle — the lead contractor for Idaho National Laboratory — is already working with Ohio State University to launch a math- and science-focused high school in Ohio. Wouldn’t now be a great time for the state to approach Battelle about co-funding one or more similar high schools? And given that high-tech jobs are Idaho’s No. 1 source of income — contributing more to Idaho’s economy than agriculture, mining and timber combined — there should be other employers around the state willing to chip in.

I know some of us would like to see the entire surplus returned to the taxpayers. But remember, Idaho already has one of the lowest tax burdens in the U.S. — we were ranked 42nd in overall tax burden by the Tax Foundation. We also spend less on our students than almost any other state — Idaho ranks 47th in spending per pupil. In this low-tax, low-spending environment, our legislators and state officials amassed a $200 million surplus. As a result of their success, we’re presented with a dream scenario — we can invest in our future while still keeping our overall tax burden low.

Although we all like the sound of property tax relief, shifting the burden of school funding from the property tax to the (increased) sales tax doesn’t do anything to improve the quality of Idaho’s schools. In this time of flush state budgets, we should consider investing at least part of Idaho’s surplus in our children and in our future.

Kotek is the former deputy manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho Operations Office. You can write to him at 1025 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, Suite 530 East, Washington, DC 20007.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Brady calls out Risch

The following is a press release from Brady for Idaho Governor. I think that this release is impressive for the following reasons:

1. It shows that Jerry Brady can look beyond partisanship and see the real issues.
2. Jerry isn't overwhelmed with whether someone is Republican or Democrat, he wants someone who is qualified.
3. Jerry is a sportsman. He cares about hunting rights, and he wants the hunters of Idaho to be recognized.

Boise—Jerry Brady, Democratic candidate for Governor, directed a statement today at Governor Jim Risch, addressing the process Risch has used for recent Idaho Fish and Game Commission appointees.

On Monday, Risch appointed Democrat Robert C. Barowsky, former Payette County Sheriff, to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Southwest Region and on July 7, he appointed Republican Randall Budge of Pocatello as the Commissioner for the Southeast Region.

Barowsky’s nomination raised concerns among many who noted his limited qualifications. When questioned by the press on Monday, Barowsky admitted to not holding a hunting or fishing license and that he has not held any wildlife licenses since 1990. According to Wild Idaho News, Barowsky does not regularly attend Fish and Game meetings and is not up to speed on the issues.

Governor Jim Risch told the press that Barowsky “was the absolute best candidate.”
Brady does not agree. “Robert Barowsky’s career in Idaho law enforcement is impressive and admirable but does not qualify him to represent the hunting and fishing community,” Brady said. “If Mr. Barowsky had been appointed Drug Czar, that would have been fine, but now he’s in the wrong job, and he was chosen by the wrong process. This is not what’s best for our wildlife,” he said.

The issue for Brady is not a partisan one but is an issue of open process.

“It doesn’t matter to me if the appointee is a Democrat or a Republican,” Brady said. “What’s wrong here is that the sportsmen and women in Idaho have no voice.”

Brady has said that, if elected Governor, he will appoint Fish and Game Commissioners based not on politics, but on candidates endorsed by regional nominating committees composed of sportsmen and women.

“The Governor ought to be consulting with the people who buy the permits and licenses and the people who pay the fees to hunt and fish,” Brady said. “This is taxation without representation.”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Thank You Elder Oaks

I am a new contributor to this wonderful blog. While I am not a current member of the BYU-Idaho Democrats, I am a recent alumnus of BYU-Idaho and Ricks College. I was a Republican for all but one semester at Ricks/BYU-Idaho. It was one class and one professor that converted me to the other side. For this one class and professor, I am eternally in debt. There are few things for which I am more grateful. Thank you.

There is a quote from Elder Oaks which holds a special place in my heart:

“Those who govern their thoughts and actions solely by the principles of liberalism or conservatism or intellectualism cannot be expected to agree with all of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As for me, I find some wisdom in liberalism, some wisdom in conservatism, and much truth in intellectualism—but I find no salvation in any of them.”

This is one thing that always tells me there is wisdom in politics that seeks moderation. And as liberal as I am, that is something incredibly hard for me to admit.

Yes, there are issues which demand a strong stance, a stance in which you cannot meet in the middle. However, there is a need for balanced politics for many issues.

There are few things I enjoy doing more than helping Democrats get elected, especially in Idaho. Idaho is currently dominated by the Republican Party. My disdain for this very thing is not only rooted in my own political ideology, but it is rooted in a fear I have of a party, any party, dominating any politics, whether at a local, state, or national level. Do I want a Democratic majority in Idaho and in the United States? Yes, of course. But this majority must be met with strong Republicans. And, I find a significant difference between a majority and domination.

The reason I want strong Republicans in this country and even in Idaho is for one big reason. As a liberal, it is profoundly important that I constantly re-evaluate where I stand on issues. For over 20 years, I was a Republican and I believe I stood on the wrong side of issues for far too long. I never want to be found on the wrong side again. This isn’t just a want, it is an obsession. Therefore, it is imperative that I spend a lot of time reading up on issues. What are the pros and cons of Affirmative Action, minimum wage, war, “equal rights,” unions, welfare, etc...?

As important as reading is, there is a need for discourse. Democrats need Republicans to keep them balanced. This balance can only be attained through a healthy discourse. Not only do we need Republicans to keep us balanced, we need them to remind us why we are Democrats! Anytime I get frustrated with the Democratic Party, it only takes a few minutes of reading to remind me of why I am a Democrat. I am a Democrat and I am a liberal because I am Mormon, not despite the fact that I am Mormon.

Lastly, Elder Oaks’ quote, the most profoundly moving part, states, “…but I find no salvation in any of them.” As much as I love politics, and if you know me, you know how much I love it, this quote gives me some perspective. When this world has come and gone, when we find ourselves in the after-life, our political affiliations won’t be this divisive cancer that distances us from each other, it won’t even matter. In the end, politics won’t save us, Jesus will save us. It is okay to work in politics, to enjoy it, and to spend time studying it, but never forget that there is one thing that towers above it all, our Lord and Savior.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jerry Brady Introduces Marriage Protection Plan

Today, Jerry Brady announced his plan to encourage and strengthen traditional marriage in Idaho.

To read the entire story visit this link. This story was also covered by many other news outlets in Idaho including
The Post Register and Local Channel 3 News.

Brady’s Marriage Protection Plan will utilize funds from President Bush’s faith-based initiatives for families and marriages.

“Faith-based initiatives provide great potential to strengthen our families,” Brady said, adding that he believes that voluntary marriage education workshops could eliminate thousands of divorces in Idaho within the next ten years," said Brady.

I've had the chance to see Jerry and his wife, Ricki, together on a few occasions. It's really encouraging to see that the two of them still have that special spark that they probably began their marriage with.

Although it wasn't always easy, Jerry did say that his marriage, like many others, took a lot of work.

Jerry's plan would empower faith-based groups and other qualified institutions to teach the skills needed to have a successful marriage. After that -- it's up to the newlywed couples to work together to forge a lasting union.

Anyhow, read the article yourself. I think that it really shows that Jerry is in touch with what is truly important in life.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another secret US intelligence program?

The following is a story found on the Christian Science Monitor.
Another secret US intelligence program?
House Intelligence Committee only briefed after whistleblower alerts chairman.
By Tom Regan |

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said the White House briefed his committee on another "significant" intelligence program only after it was brought to his attention by a government whistleblower.

The New York Times reports that Rep. Peter Hoekstra, (R) of Michigan then pressed President Bush to tell him about the program.

"We can't be briefed on every little thing that they are doing," Mr. Hoekstra said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." "But in this case, there was at least one major – what I consider significant – activity that we had not been briefed on that we have now been briefed on. And I want to set the standard there, that it is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing."

The White House declined to comment on the issue Sunday but said last week that it would continue to work closely with Mr. Hoekstra and the intelligence committees.

The briefing came after Mr. Hoekstra wrote a "strongly worded letter" to President Bush about not being briefed on the program. Hoekstra would not comment on the nature of the program, or whether it involved domestic or international surveillance.
Although he has been a critic of whistleblowers in the past, and has even called for tougher legislation when whistleblowers give classified information to the media, he said "This is actually a case where the whistle-blower process was working appropriately." The Washington Post reports that while Hoekstra appeared to be "mollified" by the briefing he received, he said the government is still falling short of its legal obligations "to brief key congressional members on significant intelligence operations."

Steven Spruiell reports in National Review's MediaBlog that the whistleblower who may have tipped off Hoekstra was Russell Tice, the ex-NSA employee who also says he was a source for The New York Times story earlier this year about domestic eavesdropping by the NSA. Mr. Tice said in May he planned to tell congressional staffers about undisclosed illegal programs being run at the NSA during the time when Gen. Michael Hayden (now the head of the CIA) was in charge.

Congress Daily reported on May 12, according to Mr. Spruiell, that the programs "involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on US citizens." It was a few days later that Hoekstra sent his letter to President Bush.

Conservative blogger Tom Maguire, in his blog JustOneMinute, says there was a fairly significant passage in Hoekstra's letter that largely ignored by the media – that the chairman believes that there is a "a strong and well-positioned group within the Agency intentionally undermined the administration and its policies." Hoekstra's letter indicates that he is concerned about the appointment of Steve Kappes as deputy director of the CIA, as Hoekstra says Mr. Kappes may have been a part of this group. He cites the enthusiastic response of Democrats to Kappes' return as further proof of this suspicion.

In a recent column, however, columnist Paul Krugman of The New York Times wrote that he believes that "the Bush administration and the movement it leads have been engaged in an authoritarian project, an effort to remove all the checks and balances that have heretofore constrained the executive branch." And Mr. Krugman wrote those who disagree with the government's use of secret intelligence programs are often portrayed as "traitors" by supporters of the administration for voicing dissent or exposing possibly illegal programs. But he said it doesn't have to be this way.

For I think that most Americans still believe in the principle that the president isn't a king, that he isn't entitled to operate without checks and balances. And President Bush is especially unworthy of our trust, because on every front – from his refusal to protect chemical plants to his officials' exposure of Valerie Plame, from his toleration of war profiteering to his decision to place the CIA in the hands of an incompetent crony – he has consistently played politics with national security.

Finally, in another issue involving a controversial administration program, Newsweek reports that the White House was strongly advised by State Department laywers in January 2002 that not giving Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners even the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions was inviting an "enormous backlash" from both foreign allies and US courts.

"Even those terrorists captured in Afghanistan ... are entitled to the fundamental humane treatment standards of ... the Geneva Conventions," William Howard Taft IV, the State Department legal counselor ... wrote in a Jan. 23, 2002, memo obtained by Newsweek. In particular, Taft argued, the United States has always followed one provision of the Geneva Conventions – known as Common Article 3 – which "provides the minimal standards" of treatment that even "terrorists captured in Afghanistan" deserve.

Now that the Supreme Court has in effect backed the position of the State department lawyers in its recent Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld ruling, it could also call into question the legality of other administration programs, including the NSA's domestic surveillance program, the creation of secret prisons in other countries, and perhaps other programs such as the one mentioned above.

Newsweek reports that the administration is split into two camps over how to deal with the setback dealt by the court's decision. One group, headed by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice "want to use the decision as the basis for a wide-ranging 'fix' that would accept a role for Congress and the courts on detainee issues." The other group, headed by hardliners such as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, "want to nullify the court ruling by rewriting portions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and granting the president the powers the court rejected."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

"Do me proud son."

I found myself in a bank today (something that I feel that I do much too infrequently), and they happened to be showing CNN on their televisions. While I waited I watched part of an interview with the Iraqi Prime Minister. As many of us know, there have been recent allegations and charges of a rape and the subsequent massacre of an Iraqi family by U.S. soldiers. The Prime Minister was discussing how American troops in Iraq cannot be charged with a crime by the Iraqi government, any charges must be brought forward by the United States. He spoke against this immunity, and how he felt the soldiers should stand trial there.

I don’t mean to debate the issue of the immunity (I am personally in favor of keeping it), that isn’t the point that I found interesting.

What I found great about this interview, is the spirit that it brings. Here was an elected official of Iraq, speaking out for change. While some may call them (those that agree with him) ungrateful for what we have brought to their country, what he was doing is what we brought to their country. We brought free speech and democratic process.

The actions of the prime minister show that the new Iraq government isn’t going to be a simple American puppet. They aren’t going to be a “Vichy” government. Even though his desire will likely not be fulfilled (for better or for worse), it is a spark of national spirit and independence, that shows a willingness to speak out about national interests. At some point the Iraqi leadership needs to become leaders, and the fact that they are willing to speak up about something that they feel needs to be changed is a great first step.

While there is certainly much ground to be won and many obstacles to overcome, I find the future promising. The old phrase comes to my mind, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend tot eh death your right to say it.” I may not agree with what he said, but I am grateful that he has a chance to say it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Newsworthy: A Definition?

Recently, the Bush Administration has been attacking The New York Times for a story revealing a method of tracking terrorists involving the monitoring of American bank transactions. For more about this, visit the following link.

I bring up the subject, not as a criticism of the Bush administration, but to discuss the role of media in America.

Let me preface with this thought: the war on terror is a new kind of war. While elements of it can be seen in past conflicts, protecting America from a seemingly invisible enemy is untrodden terroritory. While I am no proponent of President Bush, I do sympathize with the difficulty of governing a post 9/11 America.

However, I am surprised at the reaction and attitude many have about media news outlets. While the treatment of this new type of war is new territory for government, it is the people's right to know what government is doing. The press help to do this.

In a sentence, I'm surprised that many accuse media of being "liberal" while heralding Fox News as being "fair and balanced."

While The Progressive is an extremely left-wing machine, there is an article there that helps to articulate a portion of my point: that media helps us to keep government in check.

There has been more coverage about whether The New York Times was wrong to print the story than there has been about the process of making the decision. Why is this? Because a story of the process is not "newsworthy".

Few readers know what "newsworthy" means, and unfortunately, many more think they know what "newsworthy" is. For a brief definitions visit this link.

I am proud American media is professional enough to apply the same standards they use for government on themselves.

While it is certainly true that not all media are professional, it is completely wrong to accuse all media of being liberal. In fact, I think it's wrong to even say that media is mostly liberal. If media uses the definition for newsworthy that I listed above, than media cannot be liberal or conservative.

The reporting of NSA wiretapping was accused of being liberally biased. The reporting of the NSA phone database was accused of being liberally biased. Now, the reporting of the government monitoring bank transfers is being called by some, liberal undermining.

This is not a discussion on whether the recent controversial report by the NYT was good or not. It is the defense of an institution that helps us watch government. While there certainly needs to be a balance, if I had the ugly choice of a press that was censored by government or a free press, I would choose the latter.