Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

The Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy is working to improve our corner of eastern West Virginia, our state and our nation.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Mark your calendars

Here's a list of upcoming events for your calendars:

April 25, 7 p.m. - Berkeley County Democratic Association meets at the Martinsburg Library. Special guest State Sen. John Unger.

April 28, 7 p.m. - Berkeley County Democratic Women’s Club meets at the old Planning Commission building.

May 1, 2-4 p.m. - Berkeley County Democratic Women’s Club sponsors a fashion show at the Quality Inn. Tickets are $5.00.

May 8, 7 p.m. - Amnesty International Upper Potomac Chapter holds a letter writing meeting at Four Seasons Books, 116 W. German Street, in Shepherdstown. Write letters to protest human rights violations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere and the need to reform US policy to prevent deportation of people to countries where they may face torture.

Democrats fighting back for workers and veterans

while Republicans like Shelley Moore Capito, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist put the Republican Party ahead of national interests, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats are pushing ahead with the people's business. From Senator Reid's office:
As a matter of comity, the Minority in the Senate traditionally defers to the Majority in the setting of the agenda. If Bill Frist pulls the nuclear trigger, Democrats will show deference no longer.
Invoking a little-known Senate procedure called Rule XIV, last week Democrats put nine bills on the Senate calendar that seek to help America fulfill its promise.

If Republican's break the rules Democrats will use the rule to bring to the Senate floor an agenda that meets the needs of average Americans, such as lowering gas prices, reducing the cost of health care and helping veterans.

"Across the country, people are worried about things that matter to their families - the health of their loved ones, their child's performance in schools, and those sky high gas prices," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. "But what is the number one priority for Senate Republicans? Doing away with the last check on one-party rule in Washington to allow President Bush, Senator Frist and Tom Delay to stack the courts with radical judges. If Republicans proceed to pull the trigger on the nuclear option, Democrats will respond by employing existing Senate rules to push forward our agenda for America."

Democrats have introduced bills that address America's real challenges. (Details attached)

1. Women's Health Care (S. 844). "The Prevention First Act of 2005" will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing funding for family planning and ending health insurance discrimination against women.

2. Veterans' Benefits (S. 845). "The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005" will assist disabled veterans who, under current law, must choose to either receive their retirement pay or disability compensation.

3. Fiscal Responsibility (S. 851). Democrats will move to restore fiscal discipline to government spending and extend the pay-as-you-go requirement.

4. Relief at the Pump (S. 847). Democrats plan to halt the diversion of oil from the markets to the strategic petroleum reserve. By releasing oil from the reserve through a swap program, the plan will bring down prices at the pump.

5. Education (S. 848). Democrats have a bill that will: strengthen head start and child care programs, improve elementary and secondary education, provide a roadmap for first generation and low-income college students, provide college tuition relief for students and their families, address the need for math, science and special education teachers, and make college affordable for all students.

6. Jobs (S. 846). Democrats will work in support of
legislation that guarantees overtime pay for workers and sets a fair minimum wage.

7. Energy Markets (S. 870). Democrats work to prevent Enron-style market manipulation of electricity.

8. Corporate Taxation (S. 872). Democrats make sure companies pay their fair share of taxes to the U.S. government instead of keeping profits overseas.

9. Standing with our troops (S. 11). Democrats believe that putting America's security first means standing up for our troops and their families

"Abusing power is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do. We need to address real priorities instead -- fight for relief at the gas pump, stronger schools and lower health care costs for America's families," said Senator Reid.

Armando at DailyKos just reported that in a conference call with bloggers (that's one way to get around the right-wing corporate media), Reid said:

They’re great with names… On Social Security, they’ve been trying to call private accounts “personal accounts.” They can talk about the constitutional option all they want. It’s privatization, and it’s the nuclear option. They created those terms, and they’re going to wear them around their necks from now till Doomsday.

As Armando points out:
Apparently, there are a core of sane Republican Senators who realize the irreparable damage that would be caused by Frist's going "nuclear." These Republicans Senators appear to be Sens. McCain of Arizona, Chafee of RI, Snowe of Maine, Hagel of Nebraska, Collins of Maine, Sununu of New Hampshire, Smith of Oregon, Graham of South Carolina, Lugar of Indiana, Specter of Pennsylvania, Warner of Virginia.

As Democrats (or most of us anyway), there can be no doubt that we disagree much more than we agree with the above listed Republican Senators. But it would be wrong of us not to acknowledge and applaud the integrity, love of country and political courage these Senators are exhibiting in this situation. The political pressure they are facing must be enormous.

As Senator Reid noted, President Bush is not gracious in defeat. For example, while it is clear that the country has completely rejected the President's plan to dismantle Social Security, Bush simply cannot accept this. Similarly with the fiasco that is the Bolton nomination, Bush has demonstrated almost irrational stubbornness. Now Cheney, which means Bush, has come out publicly in favor of Frist's "nuclear option." Even more pressure on these Republican Senators.

A couple of other points: The Democratic Senators are unanimous in opposition to Frist's "nuclear option." That includes Senator Biden, Senator Nelson, Senator Salazar, Senator Pryor and Senator Lieberman. All Democrats stand with with Reid in opposition to Frist's "nuclear option."

All Americans, Democrats and Republicans, should stand with Reid in opposition to the extreme radicalism of Bush, Frist, DeLay and Capito.

Here's another example of how the Bush administration is sticking it to ordinary Americans. From the Associated Press:
As taxpayers recover from finishing their annual filing chores, a presidential commission studying the tax laws has reached the conclusion that there are too many deductions and credits.

To help taxpayers deal with college costs there are two different kinds of tax credits, a deduction for student loan interest and tax-advantaged savings plans. Urban and rural tax zones encourage investment and job creation. Dozens of other tax benefits help families raise children and save for retirement, encourage adoption, nudge drivers toward hybrid cars and push businesses to invest in new equipment.

``We have lost sight of the fact that the fundamental purpose of our tax system is to raise revenues to fund government,'' according to President Bush's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.

The White House budget office ranks the cost of a deduction for businesses that provide health insurance to employees as the top tax break, worth $126 billion next year. Also high on the list are the popular mortgage interest deduction, a capital gains break for home sales, a deduction for charitable contributions and the child tax credit.

Look for the Republicans to begin to use this commission report to eliminate tax deductions that help us to pay for their tax cuts and loopholes for the corporations and wealthiest 1 percent of Americans who make over $1 million a year. I know I don't fall into that category benefitting from this administration's policies.

Frist and GOP just plain lying

The Republicans are backing away from the "nuclear option" of changing the Senate rules because they discovered the American people did not like it. So what are they doing now? They're trying to say the Democrats threatened the nuclear option and coined the phrase. Fortunately, they can't hide from their own words even if they are lying to the media. As atrios pointed out from this exchange on November 14, 2004, between Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and a Fox News correspondent:

CHRIS WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one of them, because some Republicans are talking about what they call the nuclear option, and that would be a ruling that the filibuster of executive nominees is unconstitutional, which would require not 60 or 67 votes but only a simple majority of 51.

SEN. BILL FRIST: Yes. That's right.

WALLACE: Are you prepared to do that?

FRIST: Oh, it's clearly one of the options. I've always said it's one of the options. What it basically -- it's called the nuclear option. It's really a constitutional option. And what that means is that the Constitution says you, as a Senate, give advice and consent, and that is a majority vote. And then you vote on that, and that takes 50 votes to pass.

Now compare that to what he said yesterday:

Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the “nuclear option.”

The Republicans coined the term "nuclear option" to threaten 200 years of Senate tradition and procedure in order to ram through the handful of judicial nominees that were already voted down once.

As someone pointed out, it should be called the "Republicans-are-cry-babies option" since 95 percent of Bush's nominees were approved. They lie about the filibuster and how they blocked Clinton's nominees. They lie about the phrase "nuclear option." Will the public wake up to the constant lying by the Republicans?

People keep finding more examples of the nuclear option being a Republican term and strategy despite their effort to now claim it was the Democrats:
From the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi, 5/23/03:

"I'm for the nuclear option, absolutely," (Republican Senator Trent) Lott has said. "The filibuster of federal district and circuit judges cannot stand. ... It's bad for the institution. It's wrong. It's not supportable under the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I'm perfectly prepared to blow the place up. No problem."

What Lott and Frist leave out of course is they filibustered Clinton's judicial nominees. Do you know how you can tell when Frist, Lott, DeLay and Bush are lying? Their lips move.

The Oblivious Right

That's the headline of Paul Krugman's column. But many of the public remain oblivious to how the Bush administration and the unethical extreme right like Tom DeLay and Shelley Moore Capito mislead them to make them vote against their own interests.

Since November's election, the victors have managed to be on the wrong side of public opinion on one issue after another: the economy, Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay. By large margins, Americans say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Mr. Bush is the least popular second-term president on record.

What's going on? Actually, it's quite simple: Mr. Bush and his party talk only to their base - corporate interests and the religious right - and are oblivious to everyone else's concerns.

The administration's upbeat view of the economy is a case in point. Corporate interests are doing very well. As a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, over the last three years profits grew at an annual rate of 14.5 percent after inflation, the fastest growth since World War II.

The story is very different for the great majority of Americans, who live off their wages, not dividends or capital gains, and aren't doing well at all. Over the past three years, wage and salary income grew less than in any other postwar recovery - less than a tenth as fast as profits. But wage-earning Americans aren't part of the base.
The same obliviousness explains Mr. Bush's decision to make Social Security privatization his main policy priority. He doesn't talk to anyone outside the base, so he didn't realize what he was getting into.

In retrospect, it was a terrible political blunder: the privatization campaign has quickly degenerated from juggernaut to joke. According to CBS, only 25 percent of the public have confidence in Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about Social Security; 70 percent are "uneasy."

The point is that people sense, correctly, that Mr. Bush doesn't understand their concerns. He was sold on privatization by people who have made their careers in the self-referential, corporate-sponsored world of conservative think tanks. And he himself has no personal experience with the risks that working families face. He's probably never imagined what it would be like to be destitute in his old age, with no guaranteed income.

Links to the progressive side

I added a few additional links under the blogs. Please check them out for their informative posts and sometimes just plain snarky goodness.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Should Senator Byrd run?

Freep this poll (scroll down).

For those of you new to this, Freep is slang for go pile on votes on an online poll. Poll freeping is named after the originators at Free Republic, an extremist right-wing web site that hates America's freedoms.

Joe Manchin cutting the budget

Let's see, the West Virginia governor, the senate and the house are all controlled by Democrats. They cut the budget to save taxpayers money and to show fiscal responsbility. Which is the party of fiscal conservatism and financial responsibility? The Democrats. The White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate are all controlled by Republicans and we have skyrocketing record deficits. The Charleston Gazette has the details on the budget trimming:
Gov. Joe Manchin erased more than $8.3 million worth of pet-project earmarks Friday before approving a $3.19 billion general revenue budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Too bad the fiscal mess created by the Republicans in Washington and the poor handling of the economy by the Bush White House has created the necessity for such belt tightening. But at least the Democrats know how to act responsibly instead of spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Photos from Young Democrats meeting in Shepherdstown

Senator Byrd's arrival

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Lynn, Nick Casey and West Virginia Young Democrat Sara

Thanks to imageshack for hosting the photos.

Sonny Wells with ladies from Berkeley and Jefferson counties

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Shelley Moore Capito: a DeLay Republican

DeLay and corrupt Beltway politics go hand in hand with Shelley Moore Capito. Sadly for West Virginia, she's tied more closely to him than she is to serving her constituents. From Drema Dems:

The Ethics Committee that Has No Ethics: After gutting the ethics rules to protect their abuses of power, House Republicans have refused to reform the ethics committee. Will the ethically challenged Republican leadership agree to the most basic, fair ground rules before calling a meeting? When will the Republicans stop protecting Tom DeLay? And our own Shelly Moore Capito is all but aiding and abetting while remaining still mute on Social Security despite overwhelming public opinion against privatization.

Both Democrats and Republicans are speaking out about the lack of a credible Ethics Committee process. Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO.) and Rep. Alan B. Mollohan [D-WV] wrote in the Washington Post: "There should be no misunderstanding of what is at stake here... all members will need to decide whether they wish to continue to have a credible, effective ethics process."

For more examples of the Republican legacy of deception, divisiveness and debt go to

Monday, April 18, 2005

GOP Goes Byrd Hunting

From the war in Iraq to the current "nuclear option" that would bar Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has championed the interests of the West Virginians and all Americans by insisting on integrity in the political process, and truth and trasnparency from those in power.

Not surprisingly, he has been a big thorn in the flank of the Bush White House and republican-controlled House and Senate. Now, they are after him, hurling unrelenting, daily attacks (see Charleston Gazette story at

You can help counter this onslought by writing letters to the editor in support of Byrd and all that he's done for his state and for the nation. Links to local press can be found in the right margin of this page.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Byrd Slams Bush Energy Policy

At at time when rural West Virginians are disproportionately bearing the brunt of soaring gas prices, President Bush is promoting a "do-nothing policy" to address this crisis, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) said in an April 11 speech on the Senate floor.

With his trademark eloquence and concern for the impact of governmental policies on average working West Virginians, Byrd said the Republican energy bill "has proven to be another in a long line of efforts to codify backroom bargaining and underwrite the Administration's corporate contributors."

Consumers take the hit
The Bush energy plan offers diminished investment in conservation and alternative fuel sources, and would have a "negligible impact on increasing production, reducing consumption, lowering imports, or affecting energy prices," Byrd said.

Low-income West Virginians are being hit the hardest by gas prices, as they usually have to travel the farthest to work because of the need for affordable housing, they have less access to mass transportation, and they drive older, less fuel efficient vehicles," Byrd said. "Whatever tax breaks workers in West Virginia received from the Bush Administration are being drained away at the gas pump in one way or another."

Special interests take the win
Byrd put responsibility for the ongoing crisis squarely on the shoulders of a president and administration indifferent to the needs of working West Virginians, and in league with oil giants. Bush's energy plan "has been drafted by special interests, ironed out behind closed doors," he said. Proponents have "chosen to exploit the misery created by the gasoline crisis to renew their push for this partisan energy bill crafted by the energy conglomerates," Byrd said.

Meaningful relief
Byrd called for greater investment in initiatives to reduce dependence on foreign oil, including:
--Suspension of oil deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until market conditions improve;
--$15.5 billion in tax incentives over 10 years for investment in advanced energy technologies, alternative fuel sources, and next-generation vehicles;
--Investigations into why West Virginias are being gouged on gas prices at a time when oil companies enjoy record profits.

Read the entire speech at: Go to April 11, 2005.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Capito trails Byrd in '06 in Republican poll

DailyKos diary on the front page covers the details:
Roll Call (as reported back by this blog) has printed a Republican poll taken on the party's hypothetical candidate, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. The popular Republican congresswoman trailed Byrd by ten points.

Byrd 52
Moore Capito 42

Howard Dean begins the rebuilding

You've probably seen this by now, but just in case:

From Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean

Every four years, a few months before the presidential election, the Democratic Party puts staff and resources on the ground in a few battleground states ... and then they're gone. After November the whole operation disappears.
Then, four years later, we do the same thing all over again. That hasn't worked. And I ran for chairman on a promise to do it another way.
So a few days ago I met with the state party chairs, and we made a decision together. For the first time ever we're going to build for the future by putting staff and resources on the ground early -- starting in 2005, not 2008. The first four states: North Dakota, Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia.
How soon the next 46 states get moving depends on you -- can you make a contribution now?

What do you think?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Medicaid cuts hurt more than just the poor

This is going to hurt:

West Virginians with private health insurance could see their premiums jump an additional 10 percent next year because of proposed Medicaid cuts, according to an analysis by Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Another DeLay Republican

You just can't trust Republicans:

For the past 10 years, state Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, has wrongly reported the mileage from her home to the State Capitol, allowing her to avoid paying federal taxes on more than $99,000 in reimbursed expenses when she attends legislative meetings in Charleston.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Growth vs. Sprawl in the Panhandle

An article appeared in the Washington Post on Monday, April 2 about grassroots efforts in Scrabble, West Virginia to limit and shape development in the area.

New Approach to Managing Growth

By Elizabeth Williamson

Last summer, when his cousin's farm went up for sale, Jim Staley walked down Scrabble Road and told his neighbors what they already knew: Because the farm was only an hour-and-a-half drive from Washington, any buyer would likely want to plant houses, a lot of them, on the land.

To view the entire article, go to

The residents of Scrabble got together and bid on the property, which they nearly were able to acquire:

The goal wasn't to keep the farm, but to build housing that protected the area's environmental assets and respected Scrabble's antebellum history.

This effort fell short because of lack of funds, and it looks like the farm will be developed. But the article raises a number of issues relevant to the Grassroots group. First, the issue of sprawl vs. smart growth is going to be a key one- it already is, really. Second, the article demonstrates the importance and power of grassroots activism in the area. As an adviser to the Scrabble group noted, "This area is at the cusp of a very critical time, and there's incredible talent here."

That pretty much says it all.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Hotel Rwanda screening and discussion in Shepherdstown

Plus Post-Film Panel & Discussion
Monday April 18 7 PMFree
Storer Ballroom in College Center
N. King St.
Shepherd University

Panelists: Dr. Helen Bond, who conducted human rights education
research in Africa and serves on Amnesty International's Human Rights
Education Committee and Trish Katyoka, J.D. Amnesty International
Director of Africa Advocacy

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Senator Byrd speaks the truth on CNN

Great diary on DailyKos worth reading:

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you this, there are Democrats on the more moderate end who say that the vocal, the most vocal elements of the party are the liberal groups like MoveOn, and they say it's not good for the party. Is that something you're concerned with?
BYRD: You know, I pay no attention to the talk about labels. What I'm concerned about is the liberties of the people of this country. The liberty to speak out, to say what they think, and not be intimidated. That's one thing that's happening in this political atmosphere these days.
And I have to say there's too much of the effort to intimidate. There's an effort to intimidate those who speak out, who are critical of the administration, who are critical of the president.
They try to intimidate, intimidate the media. That's a good one. They've got you intimidated.
Intimidate senators who have the backbone to stand up for the rights of the people they represent, they try to intimidate. They try to -- now they're trying to intimidate the courts. Back off.
WOODRUFF: Well, I certainly don't believe they have me intimidated or my news organization intimidated.
BYRD: I don't think so. But look back at debate on the war.
Where was it? The Senate was mute. The media didn't ask questions, and the people didn't ask questions. We were mute.
People were intimidated. That's the effort now, is to intimidate anybody who has this common sense, and the courage and a strong feeling of what's right and what's wrong, trying to intimidate them. They're trying to do that to me.

Effort to lower prescription drug prices hits a snag

What is Joe Manchin doing? The House version sounds like something he should be backing.
Senators took the House’s “hammer” out of legislation to give the state’s new pharmaceutical advocate power to negotiate prescription drug price discounts with drug manufacturers (HB2852).

Senate Health and Human Resources Committee members Wednesday removed House provisions that would have set the deeply discounted Federal Supply Schedule as the benchmark for state price negotiations.

It would have required drug companies to seek waivers to justify prices above the FSS for drugs sold to state-managed health-care plans. Companies could use any grounds — except costs for advertising and direct marketing — to make their cases.

In a packed committee room Wednesday — including many drug company representatives wearing “Keep West Virginia Open For Business — No Price Controls” buttons — the Senate panel put the bill back to the original form introduced by Gov. Joe Manchin.

The governor’s bill is much more vague about using the FSS as a beginning point for negotiations, and does not have a waiver provision that could be invoked if drug companies refuse to negotiate in good faith.

Afterward, a visibly agitated House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, said the Senate changes mean the bill “at minimum” is headed for a House-Senate conference committee to try to come up with a compromise before the session ends at midnight Saturday.

“I don’t want to draw a line in the sand here,” Kiss said. “The process worked last year. It can work this year.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Blogging tips

Hi. Welcome to the Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy blog. Many of you are probably new to blogging.

Anyone may post comments on the main entry. Just click on the comments under each article and post, either anonymously or with your log in.

Those on the team may also post entries on the main page. Click on the blogger icon in the left hand corner. Click on new entry. Make up a title for your entry and then type in the main entry box. There should be two tabs on the right, compose and edit HTML.

You should probably just use the compose tab at first. It has a tool bar with font, font size, b (for bold), i for (italic), T for text color (please don't go crazy with it), a chain symbol, to put in a hyper link. The next one you'll use a lot is the "double quote" mark. This will put words you quote from other sources

offset like this

Just highlight what you want to bold or hyperlink and then click on the appropriate tool.

On the right is another button called Preview. Preview is your friend. See how it looks. Then hide preview and click on Publish Post.

Have fun.

Good news for women

This is from my DREMA email:
Prescription Drug Fairness Legislation Nears Passage

The most meaningful piece of legislation for women this year was unanimously passed out of the WV Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Wednesday without amendments or additional committee reference. It will be on first reading by the full Senate Thursday. The bill extends insurance coverage for contraception.

The West Virginia House of Delegates has already approved the measure which was thoughtfully crafted with bipartisan support of both House and Senate members and a coalition of pro-choice organizations, members of West Virginians for Life, representatives of the insurance industry, and representatives of religious employers.

The DREMA Dems compliment everyone who worked on this bill. Providing this health care coverage is a great gift to all women in West Virginia and we thank everyone involved for their compassion. We hope for unanimous approval by the full WV Senate.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Poor Shelley

Bush's scheduled appearance in Parkersburg today to hawk Social Security privatization puts Shelley Moore Capito in an, er, awkward spot, as she weighs the interests of her actual constitutents against her allegience to whatever President Bush wants. (See Charleston Daily Mail link below).
West Virginia is an aging state and she'll have to ignore the concerns of seniors, not to mention the oppostion of AARP and labor groups to promote privatization.
Luckily for Capito, she's meeting today with WV doctors in DC on the malpractice insurance crisis, and so avoids the obligatory photo op standing shoulder to shoulder with the president on this issue.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Byrd was right

Editorial in today's Charleston Gazette gets it exactly right:

Before Washington plunged into the Iraq war, West Virginia’s Sen. Robert C. Byrd warned repeatedly that the White House had presented no clear evidence that the little country had any weapons of mass destruction — supposedly the reason for the invasion. But most of Congress ignored Byrd and approved the needless war.

Subsequent events have shown that Byrd was right all along — and this fact was underscored last week when a commission appointed by President Bush himself released a 618-page report that minced few words.

“On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the U.S. government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities.... And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over,” the report said.

The commission told the president: “The daily intelligence briefings given to you before the Iraq war were flawed.”

In other words, Byrd was correct, right from the start. He was correct in March 2003 when he asked:

“What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomacy when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?”

And Byrd was right when he warned: “I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of a strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.”

America should have paid closer attention to questions Byrd began asking in the fall of 2002. They still cry out for answers today.

Senator Byrd is too classy to scream from the roof of the Capitol building, "I told you so." But a lot of West Virginians should remember Byrd was correct and remember he tried to save thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars of our treasury and our priceless reputation by warning against the Iraq invasion.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Panels to decide on cuts to programs

From the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

In Washington, D.C., this week, about 50 people will meet to decide how deeply to cut programs that provide at least a half million West Virginians with nutrition, health care and other basic needs.

Their decisions could touch the lives of almost a third of the state’s population.
Depending on what they do, West Virginia stands to lose as much as $250 million over the next five years for programs such as food stamps, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and foster care and adoption, according to a budget analysis released by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

No member of West Virginia’s congressional delegation is on the House and Senate budget committees, so they won’t be at those meetings.

After the meetings, about 2,500 of the state’s wealthiest people stand to receive a federal tax break of about $70,000 next year. Working people in the lowest tax brackets may get a break of about $100, but they could also lose Earned Income Tax Credits and food stamps.

The budget committees are meeting to reconcile areas of disagreement in the budget resolutions the House and Senate passed two weeks ago. All of West Virginia’s delegations voted no on those resolutions, except for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who voted yes.

The conferees will try to set a ceiling on the dollars the federal government can spend next year in each funding category. If they butt heads, it could take months.

In most areas, they don’t have much to reconcile. Following President Bush’s lead, the House and Senate cut similar large amounts from money for tax cuts and a wide swath of state programs, including funding for police and firefighters, water and sewer projects, education programs and homeland security.

All those cuts could cost West Virginia a major chunk of its budget: between $600 million and $1 billion by 2010.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Berkeley County Democratic Association

The members elected new officers for the Berkeley County Democratic Association at tonight's meeting.

New officers are: Stan Berman, president; Ryan Frankenberry, vice president; Bill Yearout, treasurer; Judy Malone, secretary.

Congratulations to the new officers.

Bush to pitch his Social Security scam in WV

From the DREMA Dem Coalition in Charleston:

Next Tuesday President Bush will pitch Parkersburg at the Bureau of Public Debt (what irony) on changing Social Security. So far Americans aren't buying the plan and most think he's "DEAD WRONG" – twice in one week.The time for the pitch has not been announced yet, but West Virginians are already lining up to arm the President with a reality check...

Republican organizations now are trying to paint Democrats as being mute on the subject of Social Security, claiming they've got no alternative plan. Perhaps Democrats are mute because they are waiting for the leader of the free world to knock it off already, get back to Washington and help fix the real crisis's facing the nation.

For starters the President could solve the Medicaid and Medicare crisis his budget just created. After that most of us would be grateful if he'd just fix the deficits, and lower the cost of health care, insurance and gasoline without punishing the public for run away prices over which we have no control. And then if he really wanted to please the public, he could figure out a plan that would get America working again in good paying jobs with guaranteed benefits and protected pension and retirement plans.

As an issue, Social Security is a great intellectual arm-chair exercise but it certainly doesn't rank in the top ten of things Americans want fixed first.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Saving Social Security from piratization

Public Forum on Social Security at Shepherd University - Frank Creative Arts Center.
April 17, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Allen Smith, economist and co-author of "The Looting of Social Security. Topic: "The Road from 1983 'Fix' to Current Problems. Cindy Hounsell, executive director of the Women's Insitute for a Secure Retirement. Topic: "How Social Security Reform will Affect Women & Families."
April 18, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Allen Smith. Topic: Making Social Security Whole Again." Jim Roosevelt, former associate commissioner of retirement policy for the Social Security Administration. Topic: "The Vision of FDR."

Delegates work on compromise on insurance bill

From the Charleston Gazette:

Leadership of the House of Delegates and the insurance industry held talks Thursday in an attempt to reach a compromise on legislation that would ban third-party bad-faith lawsuits against the industry.

Proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, the legislation (SB418) easily passed the state Senate last week by a 26-7 vote. House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, says the Senate bill will not pass the House.

“There’s not the votes to pass the governor’s bill in its same form,” he said Thursday morning.

The Senate version bans the lawsuits, which allow people to sue insurance companies they believe have tried to avoid paying them a fair settlement. Insurance firms and some business interests have been asking the Legislature to ban the suits for years.
“I respect the speaker and I have all the faith and confidence in him,” Manchin said of the talks.

The governor has said insurance companies have promised to lower automobile insurance by at least $50 million if the legislation passes. The firms have not made public the amount they would rebate to customers, however.

But the governor also believes insurance companies have been allowed to “gouge” state residents with high rates. All five surrounding states have lower rates and Manchin hopes banning the suits will lower West Virginia’s.

“My main concern is I want to put $50 million in the people’s pockets,” the governor said.

A compromise may be in the works that would allow the insurance commissioner to decide whether the insurance companies are dealing in bad faith. That would allow lawsuits to proceed. Hopefully the compromise version is approved because it is better than this legislation.