Saturday, December 30, 2006

Getting Al Gore to Run for President

For those of us who are hoping that Al Gore will run for president, something really good happened last month. We can now give to his campaign even though it doesn't yet exist. From ActBlue's statement:

Beginning today, supporters of prospective Democratic presidential candidates can go to to give and raise money for presidential draft funds to encourage their desired candidates to run. The funds are the first of their kind to allow supporters to raise money for a prospective presidential campaign before the would-be candidate has formally thrown a hat in the ring.

On Wednesday, ActBlue, a political committee that sent over $16 million to Democratic candidates in 2005-06, continued its record of innovation in political fundraising by launching "draft funds" for prospective presidential candidates including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Howard Dean. The launch follows on the heels of the Federal Election Commission's decision last Thursday permitting fundraising for prospective candidates.

Money collected in the draft funds will be held until the prospective candidate forms a presidential campaign committee, at which point the funds will be transferred to the campaign. Should the candidate not enter the race by the time of the Democratic National Convention, funds will be sent to the DNC. ActBlue staffers indicated that they would honor all "serious requests" to set up draft funds for prospective candidates.

I had heard this was pending, but apparently it's been "live" for a month. I only learned about from following a link from a post on Eschaton. My guess is there are others who didn't realize this is now active who are anxious to take advantage of the opportunity to get Gore to run.

It is extrememly easy to set up a page on ActBlue, which I have done and added it to my blogroll on this page. I would recommend it as a great tool for reaching out to your circle of friends and family, particularly those who favor Gore but aren't part of the netroots.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Animal Cloning to be Normalized, if FDA has Its Way

From the New York Times:

After years of delay, the Food and Drug Administration tentatively concluded yesterday that milk and meat from some cloned farm animals are safe to eat. That finding could make the United States the first country to allow products from cloned livestock to be sold in grocery stores.

Here's the FDA's draft study's executive summary.

How do you conclude that human consumption is safe if you've only had a few years to make this determination? Why all the rush? It sounds a lot like what happened with how genetically modified foods were approved for human consumption: The everyday consumer becomes the guinea pig and the proof whether it's safe or not depends on how the general population fares over the long term. Here's the FDA's concluding statement on consuming cloned food from the last page of the draft study's executive summary:

Food Consumption Risks: Edible products from normal, healthy clones or their progeny do not appear to pose increased food consumption risks relative to comparable products from conventional animals. Confidence in this conclusion is relatively high due to empirical evidence from bovine clones, and the consistency of empirical observations among the other species. Progeny of clones are likely to be as safe to eat as their non-clone counterparts based on underlying biological assumptions, evidence from model systems, and limited, but consistent empirical observations in the species evaluated. Additional data on the health status of progeny, and composition of milk and meat from clones and their progeny would serve to further increase the confidence in these conclusions.

Did you notice that there's nothing in there about seeing how people fare when eating these foods? They say cloned food compared to noncloned food is likely as safe[...]based on biological assumptions, modelling, and limited empirical observations in the species evaluated. They're in too much of a hurry apparently to see what the affects might be in humans to consuming this stuff, and can't be bothered to do comprehensive observations of the cloned species.

In other words, to find out if consuming cloned food (and genetically mutated food too) is safe, the FDA essentially says, "The early indication is yes, but let's have people consume it so we can find out for sure". The FDA bet the nation's health they were right on GM food, and now they're going to bet it again on cloning. The only reason to hurry is to help business interests. But why does the biotech industry get so much pull with the FDA? The last time I checked, the FDA's Mission Statement didn't have "protecting the health of bioindustry profits" as a competing goal to "protecting the safety of the food supply".

Cloning will accelerate genetic engineering in food animals dramatically.. The two will go hand in hand (bioengineers create a "supercow" and then replicate her a zillion times over), so if you're OK with cloning, then you need to be comfortable with genetically modified food as well.

Consumers will have to pay a premium for non-cloned food products once cloned food comes on the market.. You'd think that the relative unpopularity of cloned food would require farmers and markets to sell it at a discount to uncloned food to get it purchased, and that the price of 'normal' meat and dairy would stay around the same price. However, if the FDA has it's way, it will allow cloned food to be mixed in with uncloned food without being labeled, so it will have the benefit of becoming 'normal' and fetch a price no different from uncloned food. That is, until food sellers start identifying their uncloned products as such and charging a premium for them. Consumers get shafted no matter what they buy.

To comment on the wisdom of the FDA's draft decision, you have until April 2 to do so. This should get you to the place where you can comment online.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Will the Real Jane Harman Please Stand Up

I'm getting whiplash here. First, this morning I see the Huffington Post piece that Jane Harman posted yesterday in which she seemed pretty clear headed about the need to disengage from the occupation of Iraq:

Ike [Skelton] is right. The White House's Iraq strategy has failed, our brave military is stretched to the breaking point, and neither Congress nor the American people will support for much longer throwing good money after bad or sending good people after good people into a hopeless war zone.

Rather than talk about additional troops, it's time to begin redeploying troops out of Iraq immediately and engaging other governments and allies in crafting a diplomatic and political solution to the nightmare. That this administration could still think an escalated military option is a credible path to stability and democracy in Iraq is alarming, and indicative of how far removed from reality this president and his inner circle are.

But then this afternoon, I came across a news item reporting on Harman joining McCain, Lieberman, and other war hawks, to dine with Bush earlier this month, presumably to talk about the war.

Their wings clipped by the Iraq Study Group's report, the hawks who met with Bush included his pal Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Conn.), California Rep. Jane Harman, who lost her job as top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a 2008 presidential hopeful who wants to send more troops to Iraq.

The sources for the meeting leave it pretty unclear exactly what they were discussing -- were they there to commiserate with Bush, or talk sense to him? But when you look at the attendees -- Lieberman and McCain -- who are advocating escalation of the occupation, you can be pretty sure the the discussion was not about the kind of disengagement that Rep. Harman pushes in her Huffington Post piece . So on the one hand, she's saying the right things, but she's acting like she's the same old facilitator for Bush that we've come to know and loathe.

Talk about sending mixed signals!

Jane Harman's CNN Interview On Cuba Visit

Text from CNN interview that's dated 12/18/06. This was provided via email by Harman field staffer today:



PHILLIPS: Well Congresswoman Harman is back in Washington now. She joins us with more on her trip. Congresswoman, we saw a little bit of you there in Morgan Neill's piece. And I'm just curious. You said that you were told that Fidel Castro was going to be back in the game, that he's fine. But I guess a lot of critics here in the United States want to say, did you call their bluff? Did you say, well, why can't we meet with him? Why can't we talk to him? Why can't we have this conversation with him?

HARMAN: Well, it was obvious that we couldn't meet with him. We were disappointed that we were not able to meet with Raul Castro either. What we assume is they're not ready to roll out the next generation of leadership because their story is -- and they're sticking to it -- that Fidel is coming back.

I'm not a medical doctor and I'm not a psychic. Seems to me, however, the pictures and the absence of Castro in any meaningful way demonstrates that he's probably not coming back, and we should assume, as I said in that clip you just showed, that the transition has begun.

PHILLIPS: So why make the trip if you can't meet with the two main players, Fidel Castro -- well, is he a main player or not is still up in the air -- but his brother, Raul?

HARMAN: Well, we made the trip for several reasons. First of all, we weren't told we would meet with Raul Castro, but we were not confident we would not. Apparently the way this always works is at the last minute, the meetings come off. And the delegation had a lot of members on it who have met regularly with Fidel Castro on visits. This was my first visit. So I didn't have that experience.

But the other reason to come is because it is time to change our Cuba policy. The United States should change our Cuba policy. Most of us who were on that delegation have voted for years to change our policy. It's an an anachronism. It was developed during the Cold War. Maybe we had reason to fear Cuba when it was a Soviet satellite. But now 11 million people 90 miles off the Florida coast are surely not going to threaten a nation of 300 million people. We have 1.4 million Cubans living in America. And but for some very active folks in Florida, I think the majority of the Congress -- of the country wants to change our policy.

PHILLIPS: Now, State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack said that your trip would have no effect on U.S. policy toward Cuba.

HARMAN: Well, it seems to be having no effect on President Bush's policy toward Cuba. We did meet with the Cuban intersection in Cuba, and they support the policy.

But our delegation was the largest since before the Castro revolution, the largest since 1959. Ten of us, four Republicans and six Democrats. And we, on a bipartisan basis, in Congress, are going to work to change the policy. So new laws could be passed. PHILLIPS: Do you really think that can happen, though, especially dealing with human rights and economic freedom when the Castros are still running that country?

HARMAN: Well, there are legitimate issues with that government. I'm not supporting the government. But what I'm saying is that U.S. policy that embargoes Cuba, that keeps Cubans from reuniting with their families, that prevents remittances, those are small paychecks to be sent back to Cuba, it doesn't make any sense anymore.

We don't have a huge threat just 90 miles off the Florida border. And by moving on some of these issues, even if it's not a full-scale embracing of that country, we do something that is more rational. Let's understand that we have normal relationships with many countries in the world who have terrible governments.

We have a normal relationship with Vietnam, which has a communist government. We have a normal relationship with many countries in the Middle East and south Asia, which have governments that are pretty tough to digest. And why do we do this? We do this because it's in our national security interest. I would say it's in our national security interest to have Cuba as a good neighbor.

PHILLIPS: I've got to ask you real quickly, it's a totally different subject, if you don't mind, I'm curious to know how your relationship with Nancy Pelosi is going, and are you disappointed that you were passed over to chair the house permanent select committee on intelligence?

HARMAN: Sure, I'm disappointed, but I'm moved on, and I support the Democratic leadership and the Democratic majority of which I'm a part. I'm going to continue to focus on security issues. You can see that I just went to Cuba, and I have some very good committee spots in the Congress and I'm very excited about January 4th when the Democrats take over.

PHILLIPS: All right. One more follow-up. That was a kind answer. Jeff Stein with "Congressional Quarterly," you'll remember, made a number of calls to leaders on the Hill. He called Congressman Silvestre Reyes, who is now the chair of that intelligence committee.

You may remember the article, I'm not sure, but Jeff Stein discovered that he didn't even know if al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite, nor did he know Hezbollah's makeup. It astounded a lot of people. It definitely shocked us. Jeff Stein came on and talked about this. Does that concern you that the man heading up this intelligence committee can't answer those questions about national security?

HARMAN: Well, it concerns me that the intelligence committees in Congress have not played the role they should have in the last six years, doing real oversight over the administration's policies. Silvestre Reyes is my friend. He served on the committee for six years. He has my strong support and I will do whatever I can to help him be a successful chairman of the committee.

PHILLIPS: Congresswoman Jane Harman, thanks for your time.

HARMAN: Thank you