My Body, My Business

There is a lot of talk going on in political debate about contraception and  a woman and her partner’s control over reproductive planning. The responsibility and the power comes from the woman’s decision. Why? Because it is the woman that carries the baby.  The woman that goes through the birthing process. The woman which, in a high percentage of situations, is the primary care giver and therefore is the one who makes the most change to her life in order to care for her children, especially during their first five years of life. The first five years are vital developmentally.

I don’t think this debate is about religious freedom. I think the church leaders would like to think so. But if it were about religion we would have policy to eradicate poverty which is mentioned in the Bible 2,000 times. So it’s not about religion. What it is about is the high cost of insurance for women of childbearing age to which I say “Too damn bad.” I say that because the same group of folks who bash “socialist” health care want to leave women hanging by not assisting with her health care needs. Companies which basically own people. They tell them when to wake up, when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the bathroom, when to take a vacation. So they own them. Even slave owners of the past realized that they have to provide slaves with basic health care. Didn’t these folks get the memo?  With all the money dolled out on studies for employee retention and satisfaction and none of those brainiacs can figure out that people need to have their family needs met to be productive employees? The company should get its consulting money back and apply it to the needs of its employees. And why wouldn’t they want their female employees on birth control? If they are on birth control, they are at work. The whole thing is ridiculous!

Freedom, something so essential to the core of being American. The choices about who I have sex with, when I have sex, what style of sex I choose to have, and when I choose to have a pregnancy result from that sex having is MY business. I shouldn’t have to call up my elected official and ask permission. That is the essence of personal freedom. Now keeping in mind I am talking about sex with two consenting adults. Other than that, it is up to the adults what they do with their bodies. The political right wants to run archaic bills through state houses and Congress without political consequences.  To that I say, “Too damn bad.” They need to be penalized politically for taking our country backwards. That strategy (if that’s what they are calling it) is not going to win the GOP the Independent vote in November.  Independents, like reasonable Republicans and Democrats, are watching the actions not the crazy propaganda coming out of the GOP talking-heads’ mouths. The Republicans could easily lay off the social issues and focus on the economy. Pull together some jobs. Do THEIR jobs for goodness sake. The longer they entertain this penchant for the bad old days is as long as they will be locked out of public office come November.

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ALEC Friend or Foe to American democracy?

Across America, states are experiencing drastic budget reductions.  The need to decrease payroll costs limits the number of staff members available to assist lawmakers with the diverse complexity involved in the enormous task of writing state legislation.  Legislatures mitigate this circumstance by soliciting outside resources for research support. Various interest groups grew from this specialized need for information gathering, they became expert sources pertaining to the needs identified about a particular issue or industry. Typically, these organizations are non-profits and claim nonpartisanship to appeal to the greatest amount of donors and clients.  Groups who remain nonpartisan preserve its reputation as credible information source without a pre-determined political agenda. Even so, the nature of an individual interest group’s work is such that it may show a certain political slant that endears them to certain lawmakers. Naturally, a lawmaker chooses to align with groups representing his or her political ideology. The function of an interest organization is to supply background information about their topic, possibly by attending meetings, and providing talking points that a legislator can utilize to speak to the press if needed.  The support of credible interest groups bolsters support from the public for the legislation, when the system works as intended it allows the system of democracy to run efficiently.

It is customary for interest groups to send their own press releases out to media outlets in support of the lawmaker and the bill they are working on together.  When the public sees the same information, coming from multiple sources it lends further validation of that point of view.  There are two ways to go about this process. One is a fact-based release, it provides an opportunity to learn about an issue and it’s solution.  The other is to release selective fact telling to the media; it calls the integrity of the information, and those who released it into question. This misleads and confuses citizens because the information is coming from multiple “expert” sources. This technique builds a storyline into the public consciousness with the use of propaganda and tampers with democracy. Whichever technique is used the reward is the same. It is the opportunity to have hands-on time with the bill in order to construct a “model” bill.  A model bill is a perfect bill from the interest group’s point of view.  Yet, if legislators are manipulating the information and interest groups act as an assist to pass what would otherwise be an unpopular bill, this too is tampering with the democratic process.

With the knowledge that state legislators are understaffed and looking to interact with industry experts, it is not difficult to see how state legislators would be enticed by the opportunity to meet with several high-power industry representatives who specialize in the issues of the day.  Influential State level Representatives and Senators gain access to a one-stop-shop meeting with experts about the types of legislation that could create jobs and improve their state’s economy. Hence, when a group like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) offers likeminded lawmakers a family getaway to a glamorous location like Scottsdale, Arizona to discuss legislative ideas, it is no wonder that they are eager to join in.  Conservative Republicans find ALEC appealing because they see ALEC’s product as tailor-made for their political interests.

The mission statement from the organization’s website alec.org, states that ALEC is “A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.” ALEC files with the IRS as a 501 (c) 3 charity, a status called into question recently that may cause the organization to undergo severe penalties if misuse of this tax status is determined.  Both the tax status and mission statement omits the corporate side of the organization. It says nothing to imply corporate members spend up to $230,000 per year on membership fees and for the opportunity to sit on a task force with influential state lawmakers. During these meetings, corporate representatives collaborate by providing the elected taskforce officials, boilerplate bills written by lawyers hired by the corporation or lobbying group. (Newmyer) There are no citizens nor citizens groups from the effected states represented on these taskforces. Therefore, there is no process to get feedback from those affected by the law. That is not democracy.  During the following legislative session ALEC members introduce over 1,000, “model bills” nationally, and about 17% of the time, these bills pass. Corporate members view this percentage to be an impressive return on investment. Historically, discreet about their activities, the actions of ALEC members to stifle opposition challenges to ALEC sponsored bills is difficult to hide entirely.  The fact that this happens frequently is a detriment to the democratic process when limited, if any opposition is entertained to point out potential weakness in the bill’s language. This is particularly troublesome when such actions have unintended negative consequences on the communities they effect.  ALEC has a process to track the bills and check on its process. The organization leverages influence by implementing labeling process sending updates to members about what the organization deems “good bills” or “problematic bills.” This can result in legislative members, which are simultaneously ALEC members, taking action favorable to ALEC’s point of view.  In 2010, there were 2,000 state lawmakers nationally that were simultaneously active ALEC members.  (McIntire)

The American Legislative Exchange Council came under intense public scrutiny recently. Predominantly with its relationship to the “Stand Your Ground,” law.  This is a law created mainly by the National Rifle Association during an ALEC convention. ALEC legislative members including those from the state of Florida, and twenty other states adopted the bill into law. The subsequent result of this law was the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. An overzealous Neighborhood Watch participant, George Zimmerman, chose to pursue Martin. A struggle ensued at which time Zimmerman pulled a gun and fatally shot Martin in the chest. The case is currently at the pre-trial stage, yet there is a strong chance that Zimmerman will experience limited consequences for his actions because of the “Stand Your Ground” Law, which allows the use of lethal force on another individual, deemed self-defense if he feels there is a threat to his life—even if it is an unsubstantiated threat. (Krugman)  The ambiguity of this controversial law brought heated attention to ALEC and inspired campaigns to place pressure on ALEC’s corporate members to quit. It calls into question the manner in which laws such as these get do pass recommendation, with little or no debate by opposition. Perhaps if they had focused attention to correct that, which made the “Stand Your Ground,” Law such a poorly written piece of legislation. It would prevent this type of tragedy.

Furthermore, this is not the first time ALEC was associated with a hotly contested or controversial law. Closer to my home, Arizona’s SB1070 was created at an ALEC convention in cooperation with a private prison lobby.  (Sullivan) This bill was then shepherded through the Arizona Legislature by Russell K. Pearce.

Legislators are starting to feel the consequential sting associated with pursuing ALEC goals without the support of the people they represent. In the case of Russell Pearce, he later faced and lost a recall election due in large part because of his involvement with the SB1070 bill. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin finds himself facing recall, after he pushed through a Koch Industries bill obtained at an ALEC convention to dismantle collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin state employees. The negative impact of these bills act as a catalyst for such groups as ALEC Exposed, ALEC Watch and a project for Common Cause, a watchdog group whose mission it is to hold those in power accountable for their actions. Many of these groups have created campaigns to place pressure on ALEC participants. According to an article by New York Times writer Mike McIntire, Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist, Kraft Foods, Intuit, and Coca-Cola have recently left ALEC and there are more to follow, because of the backlash resulting from the negative attention brought on by this bill.

ALEC is a vessel for a process, though the actions of this group raise concern, the process the group represents is alarming. It casts a shadow of doubt on the democratic process of the United States. For when an exclusive group of individuals holds a large percentage of the country’s wealth and resources in addition to having such personal access to lawmakers the spirit of democracy suffers.  It is virtually impossible for middle-class voters to have an equal voice when speaking with their legislator experiencing these political conditions.  This ALEC point of view from Arizona lawmakers became apparent while attending a function for neighborhood leaders at the state capitol.  That day, several Russell Pearce constituents shared stories about the inattention paid and utter lack of respect to the voices of constituents with an opposing point of view. Pearce was not alone in the practice of shutting opposition out of the process of governance. Later, when SB1070 pummeled  its way through the legislative process it seemed no matter how many letters written, phone calls made, petitions signed or people protesting at the capitol, the legislators simply were not listening. Then when ALEC came to Scottsdale, Arizona in November of last year and Arizona citizens went to find out who was ALEC, this group writing laws for the state. The protestors were promptly pepper-sprayed and arrested for their trouble. (Cronkitenews)  If the legislators were crafting legislation at these conventions open meeting laws ought to apply.

Although non-profit organizations supply vital information to understaffed lawmakers are a benefit to American democracy, this no longer is the case when the organization involved represents specific interests with an agenda whose actions serve only a privileged few, instead of the greater good of America. The laws put in place concerning lobbying came to be because of the biting sting of the last Great Depression, created by robber barons and war profiteers. The laws serve a purpose of consumer protection in America. Laws meant to avoid corrupting the government and allowing full discussion pertaining to the laws of the land, which mean to show some common measure of equality for every American that wishes to be a productive member of American society. This promise, given by the founding fathers is threatened and monarchy like privilege becomes the order of the day when the middle-class families of America no longer have an equal voice with those who already control so much of American life.   It is because neighborhood representation is not at the table to discuss the issues that place ALEC’s work in question regarding democracy in America. This missing piece leads many to believe that it is not a positive force.

In conclusion, it is common for state level legislators to solicit outside help when construction legislative language for a bill. To this end, non-profit groups that specialize in information gathering for a particular expertise to assist in various ways play a role in responsible bill writing. The services these groups provide are a benefit to American democracy because they assist lawmakers in having the best information possible in order to make the best choices possible to write law.  Yet, ALEC crosses the line into pure illegal lobbying, by giving special interest members more legislative authority than the legislators have. (McIntire) While tracking the bills for the purpose of harassing lawmakers if they do not do what the non-profit advises and when that non-profit shuts residents that the law affects out of the process of governance it can hardly be looked upon with favor.  Thus, ALEC or any group that employs its process is not a benefit to democracy. We must ensure policies are in place to counter the loopholes that allow ALEC to exist. It is only then that governance for the people by the people can exist once more in America.

 

 

Works Cited

ALEC. American Legislative Exchange Council, 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Bravender, Robin. “ALEC Support Wanes: Kraft Abandons Conservative Group.” Politico.com. 5 April 2012. Web. 25 April 2012

Clinton, Bill. Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.

Cronkitenews. “Police pepper-spray Occupy Phoenix protestors at conservative gathering.” YouTube. YouTube. 2 December 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.

Frank, Ellen. The Raw Deal: How Myths and Misinformation About the Deficit, Inflation, and Wealth Impoverish America. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004. Print.

Hartman, Thom. Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights. United States: Rodale, 2002. Print.

Krugman, Paul. “Lobbyists, Guns, and Money.” New York Times. New York Times, 25 March 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

McIntire, Mike. Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist.  New York Times. New York Times. 21 April 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Newmyer, Tory. “The Big Political Player You’ve Never Heard Of.” Fortune Editors. Fortune. 10 January 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.

Nichols, John. “ALEC Exposed.” The Nation. The Nation. 12 July 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.

Nicknicemadison. “Mark Pocan – Explains how ALEC is working to eliminate public education (AB110)” YouTube. YouTube, 13 March 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Sourcewatch.  The Center for Media and Democracy, 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Sullivan, Laura. “How Corporate Interests Got SB1070 Passed.” Laura Sullivan Show. Public Radio. NPR  9 November 2010. Web. 25 April 2012.

State of the Union Bingo Card 2012

Play along with the State of the Union Bingo Card

Why hacking should be protected under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution

Over the past five years the term hacktivist has become prevalent. A hacktivist is a person, usually a member of a group, that hacks a mainframe or generally causes cyber chaos for various companies or government institutions in order to make a point. It is effective. Bank of America has been hacked by groups before, and a well as a rather well-known private security firm was hacked by Anonymous. These are some of the latest examples but there are many worthy notations of this type of hackivism. Consider it a type of cyber militia. The right to bare arms and the right to be able to protect ones self and community by hacking entities that would do harm.

“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens.” — The Federalist, No. 29

– Alexander Hamilton

So where the point gets sticky is about determining the harm and proving a threat. When dealing with guns, it gets a bit simplistic because the situation is purely physical. People facing each other with weapons makes it easy to see the threat. One could reasonably argue that with a cyber attack it is not a threat to life, but to livelihood, therefore being somewhat less justified to go to the extreme of hacking. However, in today’s multinational conglomerate world, is there another way to hold tyrannical leadership accountable? Is it not a threat if a person dies from a bullet wound or from starving to death is the result not the same?  What if they died because they didn’t have the access to acquire expensive medical treatment, or if they killed themselves because of lack of hope that they will ever be able to escape surmounting debt because of circumstances out of their control? Is it not the same in the end? And what more effective way to protect oneself than to be a hackivist?

For me, it’s too late, I know nothing about hacking. I don’t have that kind of mind. I think this point is important to make.  I appreciate those who do. In a world where tyranny can be so well protected and insulated by law enforcement and government allies, it is nice to know there is a secret society much like the stories of the Knights of the Round Table that have the ability to reach out and touch the untouchables. I believe this was the intent of the Second Amendment, to offer citizens effective recourse in the face of tyranny.  The way a properly equipped musket would be the tool of protection when our nation was born,  a properly equipped laptop is now. The saying goes that an armed society is a polite society. I don’t know about all that, but there is something to be said for the respect that comes with a certain level of concern held by those in positions of power.  That the consent of the governed becomes more real when the governed is on a somewhat even playing field to those that may be tempted to indulge their tyrannical tendencies. Even more so because it in fact is  not a gun, no one physically dies and because as we would train a militia to protect against enemies both foreign and domestic there could be a civil cyber army to take on threats from other nations if needed.

It would not be a right to be taken lightly. The Second Amendment isn’t now. You can’t randomly shoot people on the street and claim Second Amendment rights. It is specific and I would argue a certain best practice model for the Second Amendment should be developed anyway. But in today’s world one cannot protect their family with firepower alone as the Second Amendment currently accommodates. And if such a time comes to need such protections, those who have the ability should have the right to hack in self-defense the way that early American’s were able to bare arms to do as much. That is why hacking should be protected under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

Santorum rivals Romney in Iowa. Does it matter?

While experts sift through the results of last night’s completely over-analyzed Iowa caucus. Rick Santorum with a well-timed bump in popularity rivals Mitt Romney for first place in the first Republican contest to select their candidate. This caucus is an encapsulation of the Republican schizophrenia that is prevalent today. The establishment that wants a candidate who is not controversial . Someone who appeals to sensible middle-of-the-road folks that want to send someone competent and steady to the White House –without surprises.

Then they have the evangelical Christian wing who would like nothing more than to legislate their religion nationally, while at the same time balking at other governments who may be run by Islamist groups with similar goals in a different flavor. This is the Republican dilemma mixed in with a little Cult of Paul for spice. It’s not an enviable position and is one that weakens the party further going into the national campaign cycle.

Americans are worried about jobs and Republicans are worried about abortions. Something that might happen in a woman’s lifetime one time, for many not at all and yet listening to the Social Conservative Republicans you’d think callous women all over America go out for Starbucks and an abortion at their local Planned Parenthood every other weekend. The astonishing ridiculousness of that line of propaganda is completely absurd, and yet many really smart people buy into it. Enough to win the Election in 2012? I don’t think so. Coupled with the Libertarian Conservative line of pick yourself up by the bootstraps even if you don’t have boots, message that the GOP strategists have pulled from the 2008 files and are recycling once more comes off to many as a patronizing kick in the gut will come off at the polls with, I would imagine, the same results as 2008.

As I listen to the discussion, the first thing that comes to my mind is does it even matter who is chosen to be the candidate? I think it matters less than it has in the past. The strategists focus on that age old question “Were you better off than you were four years ago?”  They focus on individual policy platforms by each candidate and that worked before when the public was barely paying attention. In 2012 things are completely different. Party branding has burned into the public consciousness since 2010. The question in the voting booth on Election Day will not be “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  The question will be “Who will protect you from them?”  And who is them, you may ask? Well if you are middle-class or lower them would mean the destructive corporate interests, bankers and Wall Street players that place their bottom line before all else. Starving children and choices between food and medicine are none of their concern. If you are one of these particular corporate interests mentioned, the them is everyone else. And from that question the decision will be made for the next President of the United States.

As such, barring any extremist craziness, it really doesn’t matter who the Republican party chooses as candidate. The next Election will be a referendum on destructive partisan politics, legislating religion, government tyranny on civil rights and regarding very personal private decisions such as how one will live their life and protect their health. People have to know how much you care, before they care how much you know. The Republicans have lost a significant portion of the public’s trust. One candidate alone will not be able to fix that.

Politicians everywhere can learn from the downfall of Russell Pearce

Russell K Pearce is a juggernaut of conservatism in Arizona politics. As a person, he has a charm and charisma that even the most liberal of Democrats could begrudgingly admire, and many do. Although media in it’s laziness only wants to focus on immigration,  so that  people think that this  recall is just about making it easier for people to reside in the nation illegally, couldn’t  be farther from the truth.  Differences about Immigration is  the easiest answer to the question about why Russell Pearce was recalled, but it is not the complete answer. The complete answer is important. Current and future leaders should study the real answer, poli-sci students should dissect it, it has happened before and it can happen again.

 For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. ~Jonathan Swift

Bad things happen when politicians believe the power given by constituents is theirs personally. The fact is the job description demand those elected to office represent the people who sent them to office. Because of forgetting this important fact, politicians make bad decisions that are catastrophic to political careers. A politician must remember that it does not always matter what he/she personally thinks, what matters is how well the people who vote feel represented by the office the official was elected to uphold. The power the official holds is on loan from the people of his/her district and revocation of that power will occur in light of a forgotten agreement.

Enter the special interests. Smooth talking charismatic folks sent to stroke a politician’s ego. Many are friends and acquaintances from business dealings or social groups. They con the politician, who let’s face it, is open to being conned anyway, gets convinced that the power is theirs personally to use. That they hold the sword and it is theirs to do what they like with it. A special interest representative is like puffer fish they puff themselves up to look like they hold a great impact over the politician’s career. Like any pusher or dealer, they try to convince their prey that they need them, that they would be nothing without them. But they are full of hot air and hold only a small impact when their influence is deflated by the people of the community. The politician, distracted by the special interests, forgets the power belongs to the people. His/her job is only to be a responsible steward of the power on loan to him/her.

The reason why Arizona Legislative District 18 recalled Russell Pearce is that he thought the power was his personally to wield as he wished. He also underestimated the power given to him as Senate President. Being Senate President meant he represented the whole State, not just his district. The decisions he made influenced the State and the nation and required more than a hyperpartisan faction view to represent those who had loaned him the power to use for the good of the entire state ofArizona. He used the power as his own, and he did this regardless of what the rest of the City and State that he represented as Senate President wanted.

He lost touch with the people who gave him the power of State Senate President. He forgot about the consent of the governed. He began to believe that he knew better than everyone else did how things should be. Russell Pearce used intimidation to force special interest bills through the legislature. He dismissed the will of the people of the State ofArizonarepeatedly. He continued to shut them out of the Democratic process that is their right, because he felt the process of Democracy was too messy. It is too messy, but it still needs to happen.  Voters tried correspondence, protest, voter initiatives and various other tools at their disposal to get his attention and only as a last resort did they pull out the big guns of recall.

It is my hope that people like Russell Pearce who desire to hold public office will remember again how this system works. It works when the people offer their power to a representative they trust and that representative uses that power wisely and for the greater good of the people, they represent. When that ideal is lost, the people will pull that power back. It’s best to do what one can to avoid recall in this way as it is not a good situation for anyone.

Response to Ed Show Request

On his November 3, 2011 show on MSNBC, Ed Shultz put out a challenge for someone with an Independent Moderate Centrist Point of View to weigh in on the issues of Education, Unions, and Taxing the Wealthy. Although I am no spokesperson, I thought I’d write down my point of view and others can choose to take the dialog further.

 

As I see it the substantive difference between the Independent Moderate and the staunch Liberal is primary that the Indy Mod point of view is fluid. Not insipid, though I can see where those to the far left or right may at first glance perceive it that way, the Independent Moderate view it is fluid with what reality places before us to decide. No issue exists in a vacuum.  Whereas the staunch liberal and conservative view is set in stone no matter what is going on around it. That is what makes them outdated because the world order is in constant flux and we must be in flux with it.

 

Education

Education is the most powerful tool to combat poverty; a highly skilled workforce is a primary driver of the economic engine of the country. As such, I believe in a full reform of the Education system to comply with the needs of the 21st Century.

This includes:

1)      Starting school at three years old, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

2)      Including more foreign languages in the curriculum.

3)      Education as a national program with room to add local cultural ideals and local history.

  1. This offers the benefit of purchasing power of buying school supplies nationally.
  2. Consistent “branding” everyone truly gets the same curriculum.
  3. Have e-books for textbooks that can be updated easily and more cost effective.
  4. Every child when leaving high-school should have what is the equivalent of an Associates Degree in College now, including the basic liberal arts structure to build from.

4) I would not be opposed to some direct corporate involvement and sponsorship in education. After all we should be educating to the specific tasks needed by the future employers. Yet, we should be educating free-thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs in every school across America.

So it’s not about throwing money at a broken system. It’s about making the system more in line with the needs of employers and build on that knowledge for the America of  2021 and beyond not the same Educational practices of the America of 1821.

Unions

Unions make companies cumbersome, slow moving and inflexible in many ways. However, in today’s business culture they are essential to workers despite their shortcomings. I am a proponent of a global labor union. Although I am aware in many ways that could be a mess, it seems that the only way to negotiate with a multi-national conglomerate is to be multi-national as well. As the Occupy Movement is world wide it could possibly be the conception of a type of global labor movement. I am in strong support of the Occupy Movement.

Taxing the Wealthy

At this time, because of bad actors and lax policy there needs to be reform to bring things back into balance. As such, I would be more in favor of the Obama plan than the Ryan plan. Reviews of the systems of government is vital to make them more efficient, reduce unneeded redundancy and go line by line to see what is old and no longer serves the public and replace those programs with new innovative programs that are more in line with the needs of modern America. I don’t agree that the wealthiest should have to pay everyone’s tab so to speak, but there needs to be a balance. The economy is like an electrical circuit,  if the money isn’t flowing both ways the circuit doesn’t work.

It is imperative that the tax code become more concise ,  transparent, and frankly fair which is no easy task.

 

I hope this is helpful for Mr. Schultz to get a better idea about where the Independent Moderates stand on the issues.

For more from Sophia Tesch please visit http://www.indymodpov.com which discusses politics from and Independent Moderate Point of View.