Sunday, April 27, 2008

Opinion: Should the U.S. Government subsidize what farmers grow even when food prices are at record levels? Is this special interest too powerful?

Negotiations On Farm Bill Add Billions For Nutrition

By Dan MorganSpecial to The Washington Post Saturday, April 26, 2008; Page A03

House and Senate negotiators reached tentative agreement yesterday on a new $290 billion, multiyear farm bill that would add about $10.4 billion for nutrition programs while continuing to channel billions of dollars to farmers, even if prices stay at current record levels.

Key details remain to be worked out, but lawmakers said a final deal could come next week on the bill. The government would spend $10 billion more than allocated by congressional budget committees last year. The Bush administration had proposed an increase of about $5.5 billion.

The current farm bill expired last October but has been extended a number of times.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the agreement would include a new permanent program that guarantees aid to farmers and ranchers suffering weather-related losses, a priority of senators from Western states hit by drought.

Included in the bill is $405 million to be spent over 10 years on the cleanup of farm-related pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The program, sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) would help reduce the runoff of nutrients and other pollutants from farms.

The bill would reduce the tax credit for ethanol made from corn to 45 cents per gallon from 51, but the tax credit would be extended through 2010.

Rising food costs gave a strong impetus to stepped-up funding for programs such as food stamps that help poor and near-poor families. Farm bill versions passed by the House and Senate last year proposed modest increases in food stamp benefits and eased standards of eligibility for the program.

Last week, Senate negotiators (CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS) offered a $9.5 billion increase over 10 years. Yesterday, they upped that offer by $800 million to $900 million, sources indicated.

The bill also includes a provision that would require the labeling of imported meat and vegetables for the first time, a response to rising concerns about food safety.

Morgan is a contract writer for The Washington Post and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy institution.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Analysis: Is this the opening that Sen. Clinton has needed?

MISHAWAKA, Ind. - A political tempest over Barack Obama's comments about bitter voters in small towns has given rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a new opening to court working class Democrats 10 days before Pennsylvanians hold a primary that she must win to keep her presidential campaign alive.

Obama tried to quell the furor Saturday, explaining his remarks while also conceding he had chosen his words poorly.

"If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that," Obama said in an interview with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal.

But the Clinton campaign fueled the controversy in every place and every way it could, hoping charges that Obama is elitist and arrogant will resonate with the swing voters the candidates are vying for not only in Pennsylvania, but in upcoming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina as well.

Political insiders differed on whether Obama's comments, which came to light Friday, would become a full-blown political disaster that could prompt party leaders to try to steer the nomination to Clinton even though Obama has more pledged delegates. Clinton supporters were eagerly hoping so.

They handed out "I'm not bitter" stickers in North Carolina, and held a conference call of Pennsylvania mayors to denounce the Illinois senator. In Indiana, Clinton did the work herself, telling plant workers in Indianapolis that Obama's comments were "elitist and out of touch."

At issue are comments he made privately at a fundraiser in San Francisco last Sunday. He was trying to explain his troubles winning over some working-class voters, saying they have become frustrated with economic conditions:

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

The comments, posted Friday on The Huffington Post Web site, set off a blast of criticism from Clinton, Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain and other GOP officials, and drew attention to a potential Obama weakness — the image some have that the Harvard-trained lawyer is arrogant and aloof.

His campaign scrambled to defuse possible damage.

There has been a small "political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois, who are bitter," Obama said Saturday morning at a town hall-style meeting at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. "They are angry. They feel like they have been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through.

"So I said, well you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country."
After acknowledging his previous remarks in California could have been better phrased, he added:

"The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to."

Clinton attacked Obama's remarks much more harshly Saturday than she had the night before, calling them "demeaning." Her aides feel Obama has given them a big opening, pulling the spotlight away from troublesome stories such as former President Clinton's recent revisiting of his wife's misstatements about an airport landing in Bosnia 10 years ago.

Obama is trying to focus attention narrowly on his remarks, arguing there's no question that some working-class families are anxious and bitter. The Clinton campaign is parsing every word, focusing on what Obama said about religion, guns, immigration and trade.

Clinton hit all those themes in lengthy comments to manufacturing workers in Indianapolis.
"The people of faith I know don't 'cling' to religion because they're bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich," she said.

"I also disagree with Senator Obama's assertion that people in this country 'cling to guns' and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration," Clinton added.

"People don't need a president who looks down on them," she said. "They need a president who stands up for them."

McCain's campaign piled on Obama, releasing a statement that also accused him of elitism.

One of Clinton's staunchest supporters, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., acknowledged there was some truth in Obama's remarks. But he said Republicans would use them against him anyway.

At a campaign rally in Wilson, N.C., former state Democratic Party chairman and current Clinton adviser Tom Hendrickson said rural voters don't need "liberal elites" telling them what to believe.

Bill Clinton was the featured speaker of the rally but avoided commenting on Obama's remarks. When asked about it afterward, he said simply, "I agree with what Hillary said."
Jim Kuhnhenn reported from Muncie, Ind. Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Wilson, N.C., contributed to this report.

COMPASSION FORUM (CNN) 7:00 our time Sunday. Clinton, Obama, McCain (invited). The presidential candidate forum on faith, values and current issues at Messiah College.

(Study and review a little bit more tonight)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Opinion: Forty years after his death, how is Dr. King still impacting our lives today? He was so in tune with reality. What would he say today?

He was tired, sick and running a fever. He wasn't planning to go, but his advisors asked him to go anyway. This is part of the short remarks he agreed to give after Ralph Abernathy agreed to give the speech. That speech turned into a great introduction of Dr. King. Abernathy is the person who "cathces" King after the speech.