COLUMN 101, JANUARY 1, 2004
(Copyright 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)

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Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2003 21:28:00 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Molly Ivins Picks Her Candidate

Molly Ivins Picks Her Candidate

Molly Ivins: Picking a winner  

By MOLLY IVINS, Creators Syndicate
December 4, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas -- No one has been waiting with bated breath for me to make up my mind about the Democratic presidential candidates, but I have, and you might be interested in how I got there. I'm for Howard Dean---because he's going to win.

It is the bounden duty of bleeding-heart liberals like myself to make our political choices based on purity of heart, nobility of character, depth of compassion, sterling integrity and generosity of spirit. The concept of actually winning a political race does not, traditionally, influence the bleeding heart liberal one iota---certainly not in the primaries.

Over the years, I have proudly voted for a list of losers only a lily-pure liberal could love. I am rather surprised not to find myself in the camp of the Noble Dennis Kucinich this year. (And believe me, there are supporters of the Noble Dennis who are plenty upset about it, too.) In fact, I initially passed on Dean precisely because he looked like one of my usual losers---2 percent in the polls and the full weight of Vermont behind him ... wow, my kind of guy.

Having concluded that this was the year to Be Sensible, look for a winner, find a moderate, and all that good stuff the expert political players do, I carefully studied the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom---the avatar of all political knowledge, the Washington, D.C., press corps---said John Kerry was the man. So despite his resemblance to the finer products of the taxidermist's art, I sat around waiting for him to show signs of life. And waited.

Next, I consulted my buddies in the union movement, and they said Dick Gephardt was the man. I always like a labor liberal, and Gephardt's eyebrows have improved. I was hopeful for while, but concluded, as many do, that while Gephardt is Perfectly Good as a Democratic candidate, he ain't settin' the world on fire. Doesn't seem like a good year for a regular politician on account of we ain't lookin' at regular politics. These Republicans do not have a different strategy---they are playing a different game. They don't want to govern, they want to rule.

Next, my lawyer friends recommended John Edwards, and even though my first impression was, "Too pretty, too light," I liked him better as time went on. Good strong populist streak to him, some good economic ideas, goes right after Bush on the economy. But conventional wisdom decided he is too young and untried.

Then along came Gen. Wesley Clark, and lots of people were excited. But I never have thought anyone should start in politics at the top. All those rich guys who run for office want to start at governor or senator, instead of running for the school board. Arnold Schwarzenegger aside, it's really not as easy as it looks.

Meanwhile, there's old Dean, causin' excitement. I went up to Vermont and talked to a bunch of liberals there. They all said Howard Dean is no liberal. Funny, that's what Howard Dean says, too. And indeed, he isn't, but in politics, everything's relative. The conventional wisdom first dismissed Howard Dean (the man has never been to a Washington dinner party!), then condescended to him, then graciously offered him instruction on how he should be running his campaign ---which seemed to be going along quite well without their input.

I talked to some big money guys who assured me Dean Can't Win. But of course I'm noticing this interesting thing: Dean has so much money he actually turned down public campaign financing (since I'm a card-carrying liberal, I was naturally deeply unhappy over this. But since Dean's money comes from Real People instead of corporate special interests, I'm not that unhappy.) Let me second the notion that this year, the Internet is to politics what television was in the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race.

For a while, I fretted over Dean being angry, or at least appealing to the political anger that is normally manipulated by right-wing radio jocks. Anger makes liberals uncomfortable: We prefer peace, reason and gentle persuasion. Beloveds, it is way past time for us to get mad---social, economic and political justice are being perverted by the Bush administration.  

Dean gives a hell of a speech---even if you're Republican, you should go and hear him just for the experience. But I fretted about Dean on TV---TV is so important. How could anyone poker up on Margaret Carlson of PBS, not one of the world's toughest interviewers? But then I saw Dean laugh his way through a Chris Matthews interview (which he should have done with Tim Russert, who was hell-bent on gotcha questions), and I know the guy can take care of himself. So he fights back if you get in his face---that's not all bad.

I know, he's even less of a liberal than Bill Clinton was, but I don't think Dean is a moderate centrist. I think he's a fighting centrist. And folks, I think we have got ourselves a winner here.  ##

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Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 23:15:31 -0500
Subject: Two Horrible Bills!

Wow! Two horrible bills at the same time!

by Molly Ivins; November 28, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas -- Wow! Not one, but two huge, horrible, last-minute life-changing bills, and the second is even worse than the first! Record-shattering bad legislation immediately eclipsed by record-shattering bad legislation. These Republicans have talent:

It is not easy to do this much damage to people's lives with a straight face and that unctuous air of piety.

I like the timing, too---slipped that Medicare deform bill through just in time for the drug companies, the insurance companies and the HMOs to give loud hosannas around their Thanksgiving tables. Let us hear their hymns of praise, paeans, benedictions and blessings upon the Republican Party rise from their groaning and appreciative boards forever, amen.

Oh, and as for you senior citizens who believed that amusing little claim that you would all benefit from this bill---suckers! According to Public Citizen, pharmaceutical companies have given $44 million since 1999---78 percent to Republicans, 22 percent to Democrats---and spent millions more hiring an army of lobbyists that physically outnumbers the 535 members of Congress. The Health Reform Program of Boston University estimates that of the bill's $400 billion price tag, $139 billion will go to increase drug-company profits over eight years, a 38 percent increase in what is already the world's most profitable industry.

But forget about the Medicare bill---it won't take effect until 2006 anyway, so you won't even notice what it does 'til then. Regard the even more amazing energy bill. In case you haven't been keeping up (and you do have to race to keep up), there is a gasoline additive called MTBE that has polluted groundwater across the country. So naturally, the Republicans have put in a provision that would limit the liability of the manufacturers of MTBE---that means you can't sue them for ruining the water---and the bill would give the companies up to $2 billion in federal aid. Congratulations! That means you, the users of MTBE-polluted water across the nation, will get to pay for cleaning it up.

This is an amazing energy bill because it does not: A) reduce our dependence on foreign oil, B) provide significant new energy sources, C) create many jobs, D) improve the grid system so we won't have more blackouts, E) promote energy efficiency or conservation or F) do anything about global warming.

BUT, it will cost at least $20 billion in subsides to fossil fuel companies. Those poor li'l oil, gas, coal and nuclear companies like Exxon/Mobil and General Electric need our help---this is compassionate conservatism.

We would, of course, tell you who wrote this abomination, except Dick Cheney, who headed the task force, doesn't think any of us should know where this law came from, and the Republicans who have been working on it in secret for months met in secret. Democrats were not even admitted to the committee meetings.

The environmental groups are still going through it, finding new horrors hidden away. Greenwire reports, "Section 349 would remove the discretion of the Interior Department to deny applications to drill amid onshore and offshore lands---upon receiving an application to drill in a leased area, the department would have 10 days to determine whether additional information is required to grant a permit. Once the information is provided, the department must approve the application regardless of whether drilling would damage the environment."

I like that. Suppose the additional information required shows the company to be a notorious polluter, responsible for numerous previous spills and even blowouts. Nothing to be done.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that the bill rolls back environmental protections to boost oil and gas drilling on American's last remaining wild lands and open spaces. It also means eliminating consumer protections and subsidizing construction of new nuclear plants most Americans don't want, and it means exempting polluters from laws that ensure clear water and healthy air. A provision seriously weakening the Clean Air Act was inserted at the last minute behind closed doors.

And the sin of omission once again outweighs all the sins of commission, even in this stupefyingly bad bill. Our economy wastes more energy than any other country, perhaps as much as half of our total energy. This bill does nothing to encourage energy efficiency or fuel economy standards. The simplest, cheapest thing we can do about energy is save it---but of course if we conserve energy and make our cars more efficient, that means lower profits for oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.

No wonder the energy companies have given over $71 million in contributions to politicians, over 80 percent to Republicans, since 1999. They're getting a $20 billion return on that little investment just in direct subsidies, and there is much more in the bill in indirect subsidies. Folks, it is time to get serious about fixing this system.  ##

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