Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where Was John Edwards?

During Hillary's health care fight, Edwards wasn’t even a regular voter

CHAPEL HILL - There she goes again. Elizabeth Edwards continued her long running series of attacks on Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) this week. In a Sept. 25 interview with the New York Daily News, she accused the Democratic presidential front-runner of not having fought hard enough for universal health care.

"It failed when the Clinton administration pulled this, when they said, 'We're not going to use any more political capital on this, on the fight for universal health care.'," Edwards told the Daily News. "And that's an important part that Sen. Clinton leaves out."

She also blamed the Clintons for putting NAFTA first. "They lost the fight in 1993, pulled it out because they wanted to use their political capital to get NAFTA passed as opposed to universal health care in '94."

Elizabeth left out any mention of her husband John's long history of support for NAFTA. In February, 2004, as he sought an endorsement from the New York Times in the runup to New York's presidential primary, he explained his position on free trade to the paper's editorial board. ''I think NAFTA is important - it is an important part of our global economy, an important part of our trade relations."

This latest criticism from Elizabeth follows others in which she claimed her husband John would be a better advocate on women's issues than Hillary Clinton, and that Clinton's recently released health care plan is a copy of the one John put forward six months ago.

It's ironic, though, that the Edwardses are so attuned to the Clintons' domestic political battles of the early 90's. Before he decided to run for office himself, John Edwards failed to vote in many key federal elections during this time period.

According to records from his former voting precinct in Raleigh, North Carolina, he didn't vote in N.C.'s historic 1990 mid-term elections. That contest pitted ultra conservative, incumbent U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the nemesis of liberals everywhere, against challenger Harvey Gantt, the progressive first black mayor of Charlotte.

He also sat out the 1992 presidential race that brought a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, back to the White House after twelve long years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

And Edwards missed the 1994 general election. Republicans seized control of Congress that fall in part by running against any changes to the health care system, defeating numerous Democrats in swing districts around the country.

One of the Democrats who narrowly lost his seat was Rep. David Price, the Duke political science professor who represented Edwards in North Carolina's 4th congressional district. He fell to former Raleigh police chief Fred Heineman by a razor thin margin of 1215 votes. Price won his job back two years later, and has remained in office to this day.

When Edwards' missed votes were brought up by reporters during his 1998 U.S. Senate campaign, he explained he was busy building his law career in those years. "I was intensely focused on helping the people I was responsible for in my law practice," Edwards said at the time. "That was what I was spending my time on - that and my family."

Even if John wasn't voting while Bill and Hillary Clinton were battling the vast right wing conspiracy, and taking on the insurance and drug companies that helped bury her health care reforms, he and Elizabeth may have been taking notes. A lesson the Edwards camp has learned well from both Clintons' careers in politics is how a spouse can be a useful attack dog against political opponents.

In 1982, Bill Clinton was trying to regain the Arkansas Governor's mansion from Frank White, the Republican who had beaten him two years earlier. Hillary doggedly criticized White, showing up at his campaign events and savaging his policy positions from the audience. She was brutally effective. White found it hard to fight back, for fear of how voters would perceive political attacks on a wife and mother. When he lost the rematch, Frank White blamed Hillary.

Today, it's Elizabeth who's the hatchet woman, and her target is Hillary Clinton. In order for John to move out of third place in the polls and fundraising numbers, he's got to catch up to her somehow.

Not to mention convincing Democrats to abandon Barack Obama, who has thwarted Edwards' hopes of running as the main alternative to Clinton. Unfortunately, tearing down your rivals doesn't always sit well with primary voters.

You'd think John and Elizabeth would realize this, even though John was elected to public office only once and served merely a single term in the U.S. Senate. But the Edwardses' stalled quest for the White House can't be explained solely by their lack of campaign experience. Or that they haven't been in the game as long as a pair of political survivors like the Clintons.

Sometimes voters care more about where candidates have been than the names they've called each other lately.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Embarq Shows Corporate Greed By Cutting Off Retirees' Healthcare

The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), 9/21/07

Your Posts - Forum Excerpts

Stretching their right to free speech

On U.S. 1 right between Youngsville and Wake Forest there is the Embarq phone headquarters, previously Sprint.

I was quite shocked when driving toward this building to see about 20 cars and pickup trucks parked on the shoulder of the road in front of the business. Not only that, but I could see lawn chairs and people feverishly waving signs in a vertical motion.

Not only that, but there was one daring person that would actually hold her sign, which was on what appeared to be a broomstick, out into the traffic and then quickly whip it back right before a tractor-trailer or a car would barrel down upon her.

I'm all for people exercising their right to free speech, but they could at least do it in a responsible manner.

The speed limit on this stretch of U.S. 1 is 55. ... People were slamming on their brakes trying to at least read one sign to see what was going on.

The truck in front of me put on his brakes. I was busy trying to read a sign and didn't notice him slamming on his brakes to read a sign. I slammed on my brakes which caused the car behind me to get very close to me and so on and so on.

I could only read one sign and not all of it. It said: Just say no to Embarq. The o in the word no had a big red slash through it, reminiscent of Nancy Reagan's Just say no to drugs campaign.

The rest of the drive to Super Target I kept thinking, why? Why should I say no to Embarq? We use Embarq and are able to put two phone services on one bill and can have high speed internet for $24.95 until the year 2525. What is wrong with Embarq?

I'm sure I could go online and do a search to figure out what was going on, but to stress my displeasure with their dangerous tactics I will not.

There is a parking lot across from Embarq; it would have been just as effective a place to express their disdain for the phone company, but no. I wonder how they would have felt if they did cause an accident.

-- Michelle Bowers, Youngsville


Freedom of expression on the road: a rebuttal

Retirees previously employed by Embarq, formerly Sprint, have recently been picketing the company's offices in several states, including North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

The reason? They learned the company is going back on the promise it made to these former employees and cutting off their company-paid health insurance on Jan. 1.

"It's a crying shame," said Glenn Ward, at a picket line outside Embarq offices in Bristol, Tenn., on Aug. 30. "You think you have health insurance and then you don't." Ward spends $3,000 a month buying prescription drugs for his wife's Parkinson's disease.

From the Aug. 31 Bristol Herald Courier:

"Embarq announced July 26 the company would stop providing health insurance to its Medicare-eligible retirees and their dependents. Embarq spokesman Tom Matthews defended the action by saying it would save the company $30 million a year starting in 2008 and would remove $300 million in long-term liability from its balance sheet."

Never mind what employees were promised when they went to work for this company.

Forget what guarantees from Embarq the former employees based their long-term financial plans on.

Enjoy your high speed internet for $24.95 until the year 2525, because it's being made possible by betraying the trust of good folks who worked many years for Embarq by heartlessly cutting off their health care.

Sorry you were bothered by senior citizens waving signs by the side of the highway to alert the public to this outrage, but is it any wonder they're a little upset?

-- Erik Ose, Chapel Hill

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Shilling of Sept. 11

The Carrboro Citizen, Carrboro NC, 9-13-07


CHAPEL HILL - With every year that passes, September 11, 2001 recedes further into history. But this year marks the fifth anniversary of another dark time for our country. The first time we memorialized the victims of 9/11, our (fraudulently) elected leaders were hard at work exploiting this national tragedy by conning us into an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq.

The day after the first 9/11 anniversary, on September 12, 2002, George W. Bush addressed the United Nations and served up one fiction after another about why Iraq, not al Qaeda, was America's most important enemy. "al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq," said Bush. He assured the world that Iraq has "failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons," and "retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon."

Also on September 11, 2002, citizens in communities across the nation, including Chapel Hill, were speaking out against the rush to war. Sensible voices cautioned not to let the urge to avenge 9/11 blind us to the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

We were warned that an unprovoked war would enrich defense contractors like Halliburton, could help multinational oil companies get their hooks into the world's second largest proven oil reserves, and might boost Bush's re-election chances in 2004. But it wouldn't help America in the long run.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration's crusade to take the country into war in Iraq was on a fast track. Secretary of State Colin Powell would go on TV a few days later, September 15, to help make Bush's case against Iraq.

Appearing on NBC's Meet The Press, he asserted that "Iraq does present a danger," referred to Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction activities," and said the threat the U.S. faced was that Saddam Hussein would continue "enhancing his ability to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction."

The 2002 mid-term congressional campaigns were heating up, and the timing of Bush's push to war was seen by many observers as an especially transparent attempt to boost support for Republican candidates. In Georgia, Democratic U.S. Senator and triple amputee Vietnam war hero Max Cleland would be defeated for re-election that fall by a Republican campaign that questioned his national security record, including ads featuring pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

Five years later, the war drags on with no end in sight. We've seen more than 3,700 U.S. soldiers needlessly killed and nearly 28,000 wounded, according to the Pentagon's official figures. America has poured almost half a trillion dollars down the drain, only to end up less safe today than we were before the war started.

North Carolina's communities have borne their share of Iraq's casualties. Last Thursday, Chapel Hill native Army sergeant Lee C. Wilson became the latest N.C. servicemember to die in Iraq, killed when a bomb exploded near his vehicle during combat in Mosul. The 30 year-old had enlisted in 2001, was on a mind-boggling fourth deployment, and due to return home in December. When contacted by reporters, his father said, "We always talked about what we were going to do when he got out. He didn't want to be there."

Bush has destroyed Iraq while supposedly trying to liberate it, and thrown the Middle East into turmoil in the process. The bungled U.S. occupation has turned out to be the greatest recruiting tool al Qaeda could have hoped for. Iraq has become a shooting gallery where a new generation of terrorists are honing their skills using our troops as sitting duck targets.

And the Sept. 11 mastermind, Osama Bin Laden? Last week he released another propaganda video, implicitly taunting the United States for having failed to capture him, referring to events so recent it erased any doubt he was still alive.

Another 9/11 anniversary wouldn't be complete without another well-timed push to rally the nation around the flag in support of the Iraq fiasco. This time, it's Gen. David Petraeus who's shilling for Bush, having delivered his Sept. 10 report to Congress on how this year's "surge" in troops is coming along.

Despite his history of exaggerating progress in Iraq, most notably in a Washington Post op-ed published six weeks before the 2004 elections, Petraeus is Bush's last hope as a salesman for staying the course. There's nobody else left in his administration with any credibility. Meanwhile, more and more nervous Republicans are peeling away over Iraq, realizing voters are fed up with the war and want the troops to come home.

Unless the Republican Party wants to suffer more congressional losses in '08, and probably elect a Democratic President, it's far past time for Bush to declare victory in Iraq and leave. There's always a chance this message has finally gotten through Bush's thick skull, and true, he has been recently hinting at troop reductions. Yet considering his stated desire to hand Iraq over to his successor, any cutbacks in U.S. forces are likely to turn out to be a shell game, taking troop numbers down only to pre-surge levels.

As long as he's in the White House, the Decider will determine whether and how fast we extricate ourselves from Iraq. Forget about what the citizens want, forget about what military officials more candid than Petraeus advise, and forget about what's in the best interest of the United States. Bush will continue playing with our soldiers' lives until his term runs out. But he's wrong to think one more Sept. 11 snow job will salvage his tattered political legacy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sept. 11, 2002 Remembered: Only Bush Wanted War in Iraq

Thanks to Kelly, Barbara, and Ernest for their help making this community memorial happen.

The above photo gallery was shot on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC on September 11, 2002, as a memorial for the first anniversary of 9/11, and protest against George W. Bush's unconscionable use of Sept. 11 to gin up support for an unprovoked war in Iraq.

In light of what Bush, Cheney & Co. have done in their memory by dragging America into the Iraq War's nightmare, the victims of 9/11 must be turning in their graves.

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