Thursday, November 29, 2007

Edwards: 1, Republicans: 0

by grannyhelen

What does a candidate who takes strong positions, tells folks he won't back down and whose campaign is fueled by a progressive populist agenda get?

Votes.

He also wins over Republicans after they watch *their own party's* debate:





Someone like Jim Geraghty at National Review may whine, saying "where do they find these people?" ( http://campaignspot.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YTM4Y2ZiY2MyMTZjMTI5OGM3NWE1OTRjNThhMjY0YzE= ) but it's clear that even older Republicans are ready for someone to stand up and finally lead this country.

I'm an Edwards supporter. I've written my fare share of diaries praising him when he's given great speeches or hit home runs at Democratic debates.

But I've never been given the opportunity to do some candidate cheerleading after a debate where the candidate didn't even show up.

This is sweet.

On Media And Money, Or, Thoughts for Striking Writers

by fake consultant

There is no doubt the landscape is forever changing for those who wish to create and distribute “new media”-and for those who wish to profit from that creation.

In a scene reminiscent of the breakup of the Hollywood studio system, the “old media” gatekeepers are falling by the wayside…and the economic changes that have rocked the worlds of film exhibition, newspapers, network television, and the music industry in turn have now descended upon Hollywood’s content creation community in the form of the Writer’s Guild of America strike.

What’s the strike about, what sort of solutions might emerge…and what if the ubiquity of digital content distribution makes it impossible to earn money with the current economic model? Those are the subjects we’ll look at today.

Here’s the “why” in a nutshell:

Writers for television and film are employed by producers, and the Writer’s Guild represents (and negotiates for) those writers.

When distributors of content show a particular program, a payment is made to the producers, who then distribute some portion of that money to some of the persons involved in the show’s production-most notably, actors, writers, and directors. Those monies are called residuals.

But there are exceptions-and one of those is the Internet.

As of today, writers do not receive payments for programming distributed online.

There are two ways online distribution can make money: companies like Netflix (or the current TV networks themselves-here’s Fox and NBC/Universal’s joint effort) charge to view content delivered by download and a portion of that revenue is paid to producers; or the media is shown on an ad ad-supported service not unlike atomfilms or YouTube.

In that second model, there is no clear rule on how, or if, a producer will be paid for the showings-some media is being shown with no payment, and some deals are presumably being made that involve the distribution of ad revenue…and presumably there will be many more.

Anyone who has seen the demise of VHS and the rise of DVD (and today’s efforts to move us to Blu-Ray and HDDVD) knows that Internet distribution will eventually become the distribution method of choice…until some other media replaces that.

And thus the strike.

Writers feel the only hope they have to get paid in the future is to derive income from the distribution method of the future.

But what if the fate of the music business is the future of all media?

Courtney Love eloquently explains (with detailed math) exactly why signing a contract with a record company, recording albums, and touring is a career that pays more or less the same as working at Wal-Mart. Or, as she puts it: “sharecropping”.

As a result, for artists the real money in music has become the revenues those artists retain from their live performances…and the alternative methods artists and distributors have discovered to sell their media. It’s not just iTunes, either; ringtones have become a major new source of revenue, as Thomas Dolby and Nokia well know. Games, too.

And then there’s Jill Sobule and the QiGO key. Sobule is selling the keys at her concerts, and the keys provide access to a downloadable version of the same concert that she makes available in a few days at her web site. (By the way, she’s also providing a free download of her excellent live show from Joe’s Pub in NYC last July for anyone who is interested as a means of encouraging you to purchase a ticket for a future show.)

As for the record companies: just like cell phone airtime, there is less and less revenue in the thing, despite the fact that use of the commodity has exploded. (Something’s being played on all those new MP3 players, after all.)

So how does all this relate to the writer’s strike?

Well, consider this: if the money in music is in the live performance, and the media has become a near-valueless commodity item; and film and TV producers are hoping to hoping to earn a living by selling media, and have no outlet for live performance…well, basically, in an iTunes and YouTube world, what’s the future of writers, or producers, or any major visual programming company, anyway?

Is it possible that eventually the only media “stars” who really achieve great fortune are those who can parlay a “brand identity” into lifestyle products…and that the real “new media” may turn out to be a conglomeration of Jimmy Buffet, Jay-Z, High School Musical, Starbucks, and The Simpsons-and the next mega-intergalactic garage band or comedy animator or Jackass imitator with perfect fashion sense that finds their way through the clutter of iTunes?

In the end, it may turn out that distribution of the derivative rights is the only battle worth fighting-especially in a world where writers risk becoming wage-workers for producers of programming fighting for attention and decreasing revenues in an ever-fragmenting market…that occasionally yields a new cultural icon in which the writer/owners can all catch a wave of profit and finally, in that most Hollywood of clichés, ride their newfound wealth off into the proverbial sunset.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Huh?

by Don Wheeler


"I heard the news today, Oh Boy!..."

GLBT rights proposal withdrawn

So shouts the headline in today's South Bend Tribune. On top of the upsetting news, it's hard to miss the language, which could have come out of the Citizens for Puritan Values handbook. We were talking about closing a gap in human rights after all.

But my ire this morning is more directed at the sponsors - Charlotte Pfeifer and Randy Kelly. The Tribune quotes Ms. Pfeifer, "Randy and I put our heads together and decided this wasn't the time."

The article continues, "This is an important issue, Pfiefer said, and there wasn't time for the council to review the new information before the last meeting Dec. 10."

Huh?

Seems to me there's the same amount of time there was when she announced last week that she was going to introduce it. Also, putting heads together in advance seems like a better way to go.

Public announcements have consequences. Because of the time constraints, many of us were scrambling to put together support for this amendment. Now these people are in the awkward position of having to recontact potential allies and say "Never mind. Sorry I bothered you."

Ms. Pfeifer is right about one thing - this is an important issue. And to my mind, it's just had another setback.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nice Bio of John R. Edwards

Edwards' Presidential Bid a Reflection of Rise from Working Class Childhood

By Scott Shepard

John Edwards is really Richard Kimble of "The Fugitive." Or more accurately, he's the lawyer who could have saved the wrongly accused Kimble from having to roam America year after year in search of justice.

The TV show, which aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967, caused a "building fury" in young Johnny Edwards week after week because "no one ever bothered to take Dr. Kimble's side and make things right for him, or even try," Edwards would recall decades later.

Of course, Johnny Reid Edwards also recalls being equally fanatical about "Perry Mason." But television's longest-running lawyer series offered comfort at the end of each episode as Mason, played by Raymond Burr, extracted a dramatic witness stand confession from the real killer.

Without "The Fugitive," Edwards might never have embarked on this, his second campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for president of the United States. Because at the age of 11, at the height of the TV show's popularity, Johnny Edwards chose the profession that would eventually lead him into politics.

In a grade-school essay titled "Why I Want to be a Lawyer," Johnny wrote, "Probably the most important reason I want to be a defense attorney is that I would like to protect innocent people from blind justice the best I can."
Edwards might have followed his father, Wallace, into the mills of North Carolina: The bachelor of arts degree he earned from North Carolina State University in 1973 is in textile technology, and he is the first in his family ever to attend college. He started school at Clemson University in South Carolina, the "missed dream" of his high-school-educated father, and hoped to earn a football scholarship.

But Edwards transferred to more affordable North Carolina State before the school year was over, having run out of money and into the reality of big-time college football: 6-foot, 170-pound receivers need not apply, even if they are speedy and agile.

In college, he opposed the Vietnam War and, in 1972, though registered as an independent, voted for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, despite his father's conservative Republicanism. Edwards registered for the military draft but was not ordered to military service. And sometime in the mid-1970s, he changed his voter registration to Democrat.

New name, new life

In 1974, Edwards entered the University of North Carolina Law School in Chapel Hill, where he became known as "John," though his birth certificate reads "Johnny." Three years later -- and 10 years after the last episode of "The Fugitive" -- he left with a law degree and a fiancee, Mary Elizabeth Anania, the daughter of a Navy pilot who was widely regarded as one of the smartest members of the class of 1977.

They were married July 30, 1977, the Saturday after they both took the North Carolina bar exam. She still wears the $11 wedding ring he placed on her finger, he the $22 ring she placed on his. Their one-night honeymoon in Williamsburg, Va., was a gift from Elizabeth's parents. They continue to celebrate their wedding anniversary just as they did on their first: with dinner at Wendy's.

Over the next two decades, Edwards grew rich beyond his greatest expectations, accruing more than $45 million in judgments or settlements during his career as a personal injury lawyer in Raleigh. Somewhat superstitious, he sometimes wore special suits for closing arguments in trials -- a real-life version of the skilled, crusading attorney representing regular folks in times of tragedy and loss in some of John Grisham's novels.

Not bad for the "son of a mill worker," which he has so often noted in his quests for the presidency that now he jokes about it. "I'm sure that by now you may have heard something about me being the son of a mill worker," he frequently quips these days.

He says his itinerant and working-class childhood in the roughneck mill villages of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia -- with football, basketball, baseball and the plight of Richard Kimble as his main concerns -- and the summer jobs sweeping the floors of the mills, painting railroad crossing signs and laying carpet gave him "a sense of the dignity of hard work and the struggle of good men and women."

Edwards is Southern. He likes NASCAR, bluegrass music and North Carolina beach vacations, and his favorite meal is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, scratch biscuits and his mother's pecan pie and chocolate cake.

Wealthy populist

Edwards' persona for the 2008 campaign -- that of a champion for the working class -- doesn't fit with his lifestyle, some people have noted.

Indeed, critics have made much of the fact that Edwards has received pricey haircuts, has consulted for a Wall Street hedge fund that caters to the super-rich and lives in a big house -- a very big house, some 28,000 square feet.
Edwards has apologized for the haircuts, but not his lifestyle. He has frequently said that "nothing was handed to me" and that he worked hard to get where he is.

The "two Americas" campaign stump speech Edwards has been giving in one form or another since 2004 weaves the story of his up-from-the-bootstraps personal rise and his Grisham-like legal career with a call to heal the rifts that divide the nation, the establishment of "one America that works for all of us."

Personal challenges

But having lived on both sides of the economic divide in America is less consequential to the politics of John Edwards than the most defining events of his life:

The death of his son, 16-year-old Lucius Wade Edwards, in 1996, when the Jeep Cherokee he was driving flipped over in the wind.

The diagnosis of breast cancer Elizabeth received in the final days of the 2004 presidential campaign and the defeat of the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

The news in March that Elizabeth's cancer had returned in an incurable form.

Edwards still finds it difficult to speak at length about Wade. His most extensive account of the tragedy is found not in his speeches or interviews but in his 2004 autobiography, "Four Trials." It includes an account of how the two of them, the year before Wade's death, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, in part to help Edwards conquer his fear of heights. With coaxing from Wade, Edwards made it to the summit, nearly 20,000 feet.

Edwards and his wife have set up a number of scholarships and charities, most notably the Wade Edwards Foundation.

After Wade's death, Edwards sought new challenges and, at the urging of then-Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, ran for the U.S. Senate, defeating Republican incumbent Lauch Faircloth. He spent $6 million of his own money in a campaign that pitted him against the powerful political organization of North Carolina's other senator at the time, the legendary Jesse Helms.

Also after Wade's death, the couple decided they wanted more children in addition to daughter Cate, now 25, a graduate of Princeton and a student at Harvard Law School. Elizabeth underwent hormone shots and, at 48, gave birth to daughter Emma Claire in 1998 and, at 50, in 2000, to son John "Jack" Atticus -- not after the lawyer hero of "To Kill A Mockingbird," but after the Roman intellectual, a nickname a Latin teacher gave Wade.

"Our house was fairly joyless. ... And we said, 'Well, kids give us happiness,' Elizabeth Edwards explained in 2004 during her husband's first bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Elizabeth's illness threatened to end Edwards' campaign in March when it was discovered that her cancer had returned.

But the couple made the decision, he says, that "we were not going to go quietly go away" but would "continue to fight for what we believe in."

From The Campaign To Change America

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sometimes you get a "do over" Derek Dieter

I'm one of many citizens who got a letter last year from Councilman Dieter explaining his refusal to vote in favor of extending basic legal protections on the basis of sexual identity and/or orientation - protections that don't exist now. I found that letter more than a bit perplexing.

For one thing, I don't live in his district - and it was on Common Council letterhead. But it was the message I found a bit of a head scratcher, in retrospect.

He claimed that he agreed that protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity was important. He fretted, however, that the language of the amendment was problematic and subject to appeal.

Sounds reasonable enough. But citizens are still waiting for a draft from him which will overcome that concern of his. Also, it turns out that the same language was implemented in Indianapolis, and has been in force for approximately two years - without any legal challenge.

Heck, Mr. Dieter - we all get it wrong now and then. What matters is what you do next.

What you get to do now is the right thing. Turns out the language is fine. So you can vote yes with confidence.

Unless, that is, you weren't telling me the truth.

Don Wheeler

Friday, November 23, 2007

Patrick Mangan, Bizarro Superman?

by: Don Wheeler

Anyone who followed Superman in comic books (as I did) will likely remember the character Bizarro Superman. Like our hero, he had super powers, even wore a similar costume.

But he lived on Bizarro World, where everything worked backwords - by most earthlings' perceptions, at least. He would observe "I hate this meat", and devour it. "I must go to work", and then go to sleep. You get the idea.

So for anyone not familiar with the principal opponent to equal protection under the law for all South Bend citizens, let me introduce our own Bizarro Guy.

What follows is his post on the Citizens for Puritan Values website. Hope you didn't just eat.

They're Back! CCV just reived a confidential warning that the 1st Reading for the Special Rights for Homosexuals Ordinance will take place on Monday evening.

The sexual activists are back and now hope to pass the Special Rights for Homosexuals Ordinance before the end of the year!


They are trying while Charlotte Pfiefer is still in office (she lost her seat in the primary!) and while Rolland Kelly's son is on the Council filling his spot! They are hoping that most Christians will be too tied up with Thanksgiving and Christmas Church activities to engage in the culture war during these celebrations. They are hoping that we are down because we didn't replace the Mayor (even though we did win in 15 out of 22 city races in Mishawaka and South Bend). And apparently Mayor Steve Luecke would rather crusade for the homosexual agenda, than address the real economic and public health & safety issues of the City. We warned the community that this would happen if Luecke was given another chance . . . Now, thanks to the sexual activists . . . between Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas Celebrations we are back to the aberrant sexual practices and propaganda of the GLBT community . . .

Please get notices out to all your friends and converge on the County City Building at 3:30 p.m. with the "Special Rights Are Not Civil Rights" Posters. Posters are available at 1919 South Michigan Street. We will have a peaceful demonstration to lovingly oppose the homosexual agenda. We need 300 to 500 people to attend so that we can send a message that there is even more concern about this than ever! Everyone is needed! No one is excused from the battle because it is inconvenient! With our signs held high, we can make a quiet but powerful statement to the Council coming in to their committee meetings and to the media who we will bring out.


Please issue a prayer alert to your intercessory prayer teams!


With a big enough statement the vote may be tabled or cancelled . . . Short of that, according to the standard schedule, it looks like the 2nd reading and Hearing will be on Monday December 10th and the final hearing and Vote would be on Monday DECEMBER 24th!


That's right -- On Christmas Eve. Surely it is the spirit of anti-christ to attempt to mock the eve of the coming of the Savior with such an action.

We must continue to conduct ourselves with loving opposition to the homosexual agenda. Our indignance and outrage at the timing of this should be channeled into the sacrifices we will have to make to win this battle for the hearts and minds of our community. If you do not stand up, get involved and call on your friends and family members to take action, there may not be enough support to stop this. If you will stand up and be counted, I believe that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can hold off this last minute desperation attempt of the sexual activists to force the homosexual agenda on the entire community.


Will you join with us in standing up for holiness and purity in our community? We can lovingly oppose the homosexual agenda, and reach out to the GLBT community with the message of Jesus' love and redemption. We can also, like Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery, instruct them to "Go and sin no more . . . Although the timing of this battle is not of our choosing, the outcome is entirely in the hands and prayers of God's people!


For more information visit our website: www.nospecialrights.net . . . We will continue to update you as more information is available . . .Our next update should be tomorrow . . .


In Him,


--Patrick

Patrick E. Mangan Citizens for Community Values of Indiana PAC




Wow.

Well, it's important to know who we're up against. Remember, this is the crowd who lives the mantra "perceptions are more important than facts".

In us!

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

South Bend Human Rights Ordinance to be reintroduced

by: Rhonda Redman

As you probably know, Randy Kelly is finishing his father Roland's term on the South Bend Common Council. Because Roland's sole regret was that the amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance to include protection on the basis or sexual orientation and gender identity did not pass, Randy wants to bring the amendment up for a vote before his term ends at the end of the year.

It is currently legal in South Bend for an employer to fire an employee, a landlord to refuse housing and a business to restrict access to public accommodations solely on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (real or perceived).

Accordingly, the paperwork has been filed. We anticipate the 1st reading to be held on 11/26, with the 2nd & 3rd readings and public hearing on 12/10. The opposition (Patrick Mangan and his CCV crowd) were out in force last time and they are attempting to make an even stronger showing this time around. All we are asking is that people be judged as the individuals that they are and not be allowed to be discriminated against simply because of their orientation or gender identity.

Every individual and family in our city deserves to be protected from discrimination. This amendment isn't about protecting a small group of people, it protects everyone, as every person has both an orientation and gender identity.

Please come out and support this issue. It's important for both our residents and the prospective businesses who actively search out inclusive communities.

For more information: http://www.sbequality.org

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Thanksgiving - 2007

by Don Wheeler

When I was a kid growing up in Evanston, Illinois, Thanksgiving was all about tradition and rituals.

The feast and celebration was always at my grandparents’ (my mother’s parents) apartment about a mile from home. One of the great extravagances was the gorgeous shrimp cocktail which started the meal. My Grandmother would see the same butcher each year to order it well in advance. This shrimp would also represent the only legitimate seafood I would have most years.

Our celebration was always joined by two childless couples who were great friends of my grandparents – the Norways and the Rillings.

I remember the Norways had this gorgeous, white 1965 Ford Thunderbird with an interior which looked like an airplane cockpit. It was a pretty darn near new car in my memory. Harold Norway let me sit in the driver’s seat and play with the tilt, telescoping swing away steering wheel. Man that was cool!

George Rilling was a salesman for the Yellow Pages and liked cigars. He could be counted on to provide thick, translucent, plastic bags – with a yellow book background and a silhouette of walking figures superimposed. Those were great (and very tough) bags. He would also make sure to slip off (rather than break) the bands off his cigars, so that I could wear them as rings.

George had a small piece of our family’s mythology as well. My mother tells of him leaning over my bassinette, cigar in his mouth, pronouncing “Nobody’s three days old!” He was such a character and seemed so full of life.

But George took his life when I was a teenager - which devastated my Grandfather. And although everyone who was at these gatherings other than my mother and my sister are gone now, as Thanksgiving approaches each year I think of George Rilling. And I wonder about the demons which surely tortured him.

But mostly these days at Thanksgiving I am thankful.

In July of 2003 I was stung by a hornet. Not realizing the danger, I continued to work until it became clear that my body was shutting down business for keeps.

A South Bend emergency services paramedic saved my life that day. I wish I knew his name. I will never forget my despair- riding in the ambulance - at the thought of never seeing Paddy or my infant daughter again. It is good for me to remember that, hard as it is.

I am married to someone who loves, supports, challenges and believes in me. Together, we have a daughter who amazes and delights me every single day. I think you can understand why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and the one I take most to heart.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Can city government be too responsive? (part 2)


According to the South Bend Tribune, Common Council member Charlotte Pfeifer, D-2nd, has proposed a sweeping ordinance to address the issue of vacant and abandoned homes in the city of South Bend.
Ms. Pfeifer proposes extensive record keeping and notification to the city as well as the imposition of registration fees - particularly concerning abandoned homes.

I have little quarrel with intent of this program, but the enforcement requirements appear staggering.
The premise behind this proposal seems to be that the Code Enforcement Department is ineffective because it doesn't have enough to do. But as the photos indicate, Code Enforcement already has more on its plate than it can handle.
The first photo is of 516 E. Dayton. The window on the right is broken out and the porch is collapsing. The yard is filled with litter and as far as I know, no one's been in the place since the tenants left in the summer. About a month ago, I checked with Code Enforcement to see if there was an active file on the property. There was not.
The other photos are of structures (one house, two garages) which have been in the general condition you see for ten years or so. That's right - ten years. All these building are within a couple blocks of each other.
It makes no sense to dump a huge amount of additional work on an overmatched department. What would make sense would be to dedicate some additional resources to enable that department to effectively implement the measures currently at its disposal.
Given the circumstances, Ms. Pfeiffer's proposal - if enacted - would be voluntary at best. What is more likely is that it would be ignored. A perfectly good idea could well end up making city government appear ineffectual.
Let's start at the beginning. Let's figure out what we need to do to enforce existing ordinances, and then move on. It's likely to cost more money, but if that's what we think we should should do - so be it.
Don Wheeler

On A Different Thanksgiving Dinner, Or, The Cranberry And Sweet Potato Reconsidered

The American Thanksgiving Day holiday rapidly approaches, and in homes across this land we will be treated to the sights and smells of the holiday feast.

In millions of homes we will also celebrate with sound.

What sound is that, you ask?
Why, of course, the slurping sound of cranberry sauce sliding out of the can in all its quivering, cylindrical glory.

For some, this is the sound of happiness, but for others it’s a sound to be tolerated at best-and we come before you today to offer easy and fun alternatives…not just for your cranberry consideration, but also for those most humble-and most delicious-of tubers: yams and sweet potatoes.

So who hasn’t passed those bags of whole cranberries and thought “what do they do with those?”

To find out, you’ll need to grab a bag or two of berries (a small bag is good for 2-6 people…but if someone really likes the cranberry sauce, grab an extra bag), sugar (plain old white is okay, Demerara or raw sugar is better, cane juice works great as well, but the darkest sugars might be avoided…and you’ll need an amount more or less equal to the amount of berries), orange juice (only a few ounces, so you may already have it in the house), a bit of red wine (cabernet and merlot and shiraz are fine, port is better…and we’ll have lots left over to drink), and a bit of ginger root.

(If you can find “young ginger”, all the better; but any ginger root will do in a pinch. Grab a medium root. Powdered ginger? Not so much. Candied ginger? An intriguing possibility that I’ve never tried…but one that could be quite good.)

Now let’s talk preparation: the hardest part of this recipe is prepping the ginger…and that’s quite easy. All we have to do is dice it into tiny pieces. First, cut off a “bulb” of the root. Now take a thin-bladed knife and peel off the “skin”, exposing the yummy interior. Trim the excess off to create a “cubish rectangle” shape.

Now here’s the cool part: Make several parallel cuts almost, but not completely through, the ginger. Now roll it over clockwise (or counter…I’m easy) 90 degrees, and repeat the process of slicing the ginger. When you’re through, you should be holding on to one piece of ginger with many parallel slices and one end which is unsliced.

Now all we have to do is hold onto the unsliced end while cutting across the slices we’ve made (cross-cutting, if you will)…and we’ll have tiny little cubes of ginger (hint: this also works great for anything else you need to dice…especially onions). If this does not work out perfectly…who cares? This is supposed to be fun, and if you choose to chop your ginger into minute slivers with a chain saw it will eventually work out OK, so no worries.

(Helpful hint: If any of this is stressful…we have wine…and this recipe will require only about a glass or so. Need I say more?)

The last step in prep is to wash the berries.

The entire preparation process now complete, let’s make cranberry sauce:

Grab a saucepan, and apply more or less medium high heat, When the pan has heated, toss in a splash of oil and the ginger, and allow it to sauté just a bit. Do not allow the ginger to change color to brown or it will become bitter.

As soon as the ginger begins to change to a less raw look toss in those berries and darn near all the sugar. This is not an exact science, so we are holding back a bit of the sugar for now. If it turns out the sauce is not sweet enough we can add a bit later as we taste. Add a bit of orange juice now as well. More or less 3 ounces (or 90 ml for my world readers) per pound (500g) should do nicely…but a little more can’t hurt.

You’ll begin to notice the berries “breaking down” and becoming “saucelike” over the next few minutes-and if you trust them around the stove, keeping the sauce well stirred is a great job for the child cooks in the family who want to help. It is mildly hazardous (risk of burn), however, and you want to be careful that no one’s going to dump the sauce on themselves, or use a finger for tasting, as it will be quite hot. (The correct first aid: cool the affected area rapidly…and dipping that finger in a bowl of ice water is quite effective.)

The entire cooking process takes about 30-45 minutes (did you have one glass of wine or two…that usually makes the difference), and as you taste, add the wine (more or less the same amount as the orange juice you added earlier) and a bit more sugar if you wish.

The sauce can be served cold or warm (make it a day ahead to save work on the big day), and it will thicken up as it cools.

Now let’s talk about my friend the tuber.

We have two choices for your consideration today: a variation of the traditional mashed and covered with marshmallows sweet potatoes (mmmmm!), and a more avant-garde interpretation that still ties to times past.

(Helpful hint: the alternative version is sautéed on the stove, and if oven space is at a premium-what with the large meats and pies and bread and all-this could be a huge advantage compared to the traditional method.)

Sweet potatoes, yams, either one is gonna be fine for this-I‘m using Red Garnet yams, but there’s no need to be all high-faloutin’ about the thing. Pretty much any extra-sugary root will do-except beets, of course. (If you can roughly “match” the potatoes, they will all bake at about the same time.)

For the traditional preparation you’ll need exactly what you expect in addition to the sweet potatoes: those tiny marshmallows. But here’s where we flip it up…grab a bag of shredded coconut, and a bottle of ginger ale.

For the avant-garde version, we’ll need a bag of frozen corn, some onions (more or less an onion for every three of four potatoes. I use sweet onions like a Vidalia or Walla Walla for this…but red Italian or Maui Sweets offer potential I’ve not yet investigated), a bunch of green onions, and raw pumpkin seeds.

If you really love the cranberries dried cranberries are a great addition to this recipe as well.

Bake and peel the chosen produce, and if you’re going with the avant-garde recipe, dice (1” dice is about right…any smaller and you may end up with mashed potatoes) the potatoes and chill them in advance.

We’re also going to roast off the pumpkin seeds now: rub a sheet pan with oil (any common oil will do except extra virgin olive oil), lay out the seeds (one thin layer only!), and sort of rub them around so that they are lightly coated with the oil. Sprinkle the seeds with a bit of paprika and salt (fine grain sea salt is best, the big rough stuff…not so much. Table salt is okay, too). This is another great “kid job”; but ensure they don’t overdo on the oil.

Toss the pan in a 275 degree (135 Celsius) oven, and be patient…and give the seeds a stirring around every so often. You’ll see them start to brown up nicely in more or less 45 minutes, and they can also be held overnight. They won’t need refrigeration.

(I used to do this at 350 degrees (175 Celsius), but I got tired of burning seeds…the lower temperature takes longer, but the results are great.)

So now it’s the next day, and all you have to do is sauté the whole thing together: the diced potato, your freshly diced sweet onion, the pumpkin seed, the corn, the cranberries…let it all work for a few minutes, lay it out on a platter, and top with the green onion. There’s great color in the dish, the mix of textures in the potato and seeds and corn is interesting, and it does not have to be done in the oven.

All good stuff. (And remember, the key to good sauté is to start with a hot pan, and don’t overcrowd the food. The idea is to brown, not to steam…and that’s the outcome in an overcrowded pan. Better to sauté twice with small batches than to “steam” once.)

Sweet potato traditionalists…now it’s your turn.

Spread the coconut out on a dry sheet pan (it can be in a thick layer…we’ll be stirring, and coconut is more cooperative than pumpkin seeds in this regard) and bake the pan at 275 degrees (135 Celsius). This takes about 45 minutes to an hour (or more, if there’s lots of coconut), and requires the occasional stirring of the pan’s contents.

You’ll see the color change…when it’s nicely golden, pull out the pan and hold the coconut overnight. It won’t need refrigeration…and it’s dandy to munch on, so make a bit extra for yourself. It can get stale, so keep it in a covered jar or your favorite Tupperware-ish container. (Another handy hint: it’s also great on salads and vegetables and curries, and you might find yourself making little jars of toasted coconut all year long, and using it almost like a spice.)

Bake and peel (yes, I said peel. Leave the peels in the mashed potatoes.), and, while they’re still hot, mash the sweet potatoes. Anyone who’s ever mashed a potato knows a liquid is helpful at this point in the process-and that’s where the ginger ale comes in. (A side note: there are a lot of recipes that add brown sugar or butter at this point in the process. I don’t, but adding more flavors can’t hurt, and Thanksgiving is already the unofficial Cardiac Day, so if you’re inclined, bring on the butter, I suppose.)

Add enough of everything to bring the mixture to the consistency you’re looking for, stir in the coconut, and load the baking dish.

This is another one of those jobs that can be done the day before, and the infusion of ginger and coconut flavors (as with so many foods) is more noticeable the next day.

Everyone knows what happens next: kids steal half the marshmallows, the other half get put on the sweet potatoes, and parents have to fight later to get the same kids to eat the potatoes under the marshmallows at the dinner table.

And hopefully, great fun is had by all.

So that’s our holiday story: we offer some new ways of looking at old foods, and we do it in a way that leaves an extra glass of wine available to the cook.

As for my family…this will be the first Thanksgiving since our godson left for Kuwait, and I expect that to be a major part of our next conversation.

And as for all of you…enjoy your holiday (or try on an American habit for the first time…), and we’ll see you back here in a few days.

Monday, November 19, 2007

MLK, Global Warming And The Need For Systemic Change

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured. --Martin Luther King, Jr. "Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution"


Many researchers, led by scientists like NASA's James Hansen, now agree that an increase in global average temperature beyond 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit could constitute a "tipping point" leading to irreversible, extreme climate changes. If global carbon emissions continue to rise, principally from coal-fired power plants and cars, the Earth could easily reach that point by 2050.

In ominous tones, the report agrees: "Human activities could lead to abrupt or irreversible climate changes and impacts. The risks are related to the rate and magnitude of the climate change." -- "A Little Time Left On Global Warming", New Jersey Star Ledger, November 16th, 2007


Martin Luther King, Jr. is known for many things: his leadership of the civil rights movement, his outspokenness against the war in Vietnam and even his support of unions and advocacy of the poor. What he is less known for is the way that he looked at things, how he saw all life as interconnected.

And how he eschewed the "drug of gradualism" and incremental change.

Take for instance his response to a group of local clergy in Birmingham, Alabama, which was later published as the "Letter From A Birmingham Jail". The clergy had argued to King to push for small, incremental change. Why couldn't King just quietly negotiate? King outlined for them the attempts at negotiations:

Then came the opportunity last September to talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiating sessions certain promises were made by the merchants—such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores. On the basis of these promises Rev. Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstrations. As the weeks and months unfolded we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. Like so many experiences of the past we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us.


Basically, King is telling them: we met, promises were made, and nothing happened. And instead of waiting, and talking, and meeting some more, we need to push for change now. This doesn't mean "don't negotiate". What it means is negotiate from a position of moral strength. As King continues:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.


Nonviolent direct action doesn't always mean literally taking to the streets. The King Center's online guide to the Six Steps of Nonviolence lists several different ways to take direct action (link: http://www.thekingcenter.org/prog/non/6steps.html ). They can be as large and visible and strikes or walk outs, or as individual as letter writing campaigns...or as public as proposing legislation to remove a basic human right like access to health care from members of Congress until universal health care for all is achieved.

But I digress.

The politics in Birmingham that King mentions at the time are relevant. The City of Birmingham had just held elections, and the new administration was more tolerant, more forward-looking than the last. Why, oh why, Dr. King, couldn't you just restart the negotiations with this new administration?

Here is King's response (my emphasis added):

The only answer that I can give to this inquiry is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one before it acts. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is much more articulate and gentle than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.


So, negotiating small incremental change with individual people of good will does not result in the course correction needed to address an injustice. As King wisely noted, even though some key players may be on your side, groups are more immoral than individuals.

Fine. So, what do we do? Throw up our hands? Not at all...

You go back to the Six Steps of Nonviolence - I'll outline them for you here:

1. Information Gathering
2. Education
3. Personal Commitment
4. Negotiations
5. Direct Action
6. Reconciliation


And you ask yourself: did I gather all of the information I needed to understand both the dynamics of the problem, the root causes of the problem and is my proposal going to address these root causes, or will it just be a simple band-aid? Have I educated others regarding what the problem is, and what I intend to do to fix it? Have I broadcast my intentions loudly enough so folks know what I want to do and how I plan on doing it? Am I committed enough to my cause? Am I prepared for any slings and arrows coming my way? Have I tried to dialogue with my opponents, and confront them to discuss the problem and the solutions? Have I understood where they are coming from, and is it possible to find common ground? And finally...how effective was my direct action? Did it apply the pressure needed to get the parties back to negotiate?

If you go through these steps, King believed, you will find reconciliation. This is a true peace, where the ultimate outcome is removing the systemic problem that created the injustice.

This is systemic change.

You use systemic change when you have a systemic problem...and ain't no bigger systemic problem today on the planet than global warming. It touches every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, how we get to and from work, how our children are educated, what our foreign policy is, and even what each of our domestic household budgets look like.

You can't solve a systemic problem like this with incremental change. You can't just tweak the status quo a little here, and a little there, and expect to deal with the *root causes* of this issue. It's too massive to be dealt with incrementally.

That's why, in my humble opinion, Senator Clinton is *dead wrong* when she says "incremental change is the way to go" to handle this issue:

Incremental change is the only way to go unless there’s some major event like Pearl Harbor or 9/11: if Al Gore had been president, we would have had an energy and climate change program after 9/11. But ultimately, it’s imperative we get something passed and implement it, so that we can persuade Americans that it won’t be disruptive or lower their standard of living, but will actually create jobs and do good. We'll have to put together a smart coalition to withstand the attacks that will come. I'm aware of the difficulty, but I feel confident.
Link and a nod to thereisnospoon, as I have been unable to find a transcript of Senator Clinton's remarks independent of the one he provided from live blogs: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/11/19/62124/121

King's admonition of the fierce urgency of now could not be any more relevant today then when he spoke these words almost forty years ago when he delivered his "Beyond Vietnam" sermon at the Riverside Church:

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..."

Can city government be too responsive?

A couple of recent proposals by the city of South Bend brings up this question. The Mayor's office and the city Common Council have recently announced proposals addressing hotel/motels and vacant/abandoned homes, respectively. These were issues raised by the Mayor's opponents in the run-up to his successful re-election. The former under the umbrella of crime, and the latter as a quality of life issue.

Both of these proposals are pretty sweeping, and arguably onerous. We'll save the building issue for later, and focus on the motel issue today.

The city proposes to create three tiers of temporary residence designations. The ones most of us would use if we needed to, the ones we would probably avoid and the ones we really don't like. The basis for this designation is police calls - if I have this right. This seems an odd approach to me. All these businesses are in the same line of work. We should expect them to conform with city ordinances and penalize them if they don't. If we think we need stricter ordinances, then we should enact them - but they should apply to all enterprises in the same line of work. This proposal seems to want to initiate a commercial caste system and seems likely to run afoul of issues similar to those which struck down provisions of an earlier adult business ordinance.

And I wonder if the requirements thrust on the "untouchable" caste of motels are even desirable.

For example, the "untouchables" would be required to turn away people wanting to sleep off a bender - because they are not supposed to admit people under the influence of intoxicants. The clerk at the South Bend Motel would then be compelled to say "You can't sleep here, but if you've got the cash, drive drunk up to one of the downtown tier one motels. They're allowed to register you."

The Untouchables would also require photo identification of clients - but not the other two castes. So, a homeless person who's able to scrape up enough cash for a place to crash could be denied that bed just for lack of a picture ID.

It's hard to see the benefit to the citizens in either of these cases.

It's pretty long list of requirements imposed on these businesses, and it's hard to see how the city would have any ability to enforce them - unless they plan to routinely station police officers at the two designated untouchable motels. But they could do that now, without the ordinance. After all, the whole idea is to inhibit criminal activity.

One likely outcome would be for eager entrepreneurs to open cheap motels just outside the city limits (there are a few already). That would exempt them from these requirements, but wouldn't help the city much in it's objective.

No, this looks like a mess, with enforcement and possible constitutional issues as well.

There are complicated issues involved and I don't claim to have simple anwers. But I believe the city should look at a different approach.

Here's the link to the South Bend Tribune article about this proposal. See what you think.

http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071119/News01/711190348/1011/News

Don Wheeler

Eleven score and eleven years ago

"our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

One hundred forty-four years ago (Nov. 19, 1863) President Abraham Lincoln spoke at a ceremony dedicating a battlefield which claimed more American casualties than any battlefield ever had - or likely ever will.

As this anniversary approached, I couldn't help thinking that many of the issues President Lincoln spoke of are with us today. We are not at war among ourselves with weapons, but one could argue that we are indeed at war with ourselves.

Mr. Lincoln continued:

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men - living and dead - who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.


The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have have thus far so nobly carried on.


It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Let it be.

Don Wheeler

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why We Can Do Better Than Hillary

I've been cruising the blogs for some time now, and I've always been intrigued at the ardent Hillary Clinton supporters I've found on the web. I'm intrigued because, frankly, they're some of the angriest people out there.

My purely anecdotal experience in talking with some of these folks is their number one, big, huge, over-riding reason for supporting Hillary Clinton is not that she will push for the changes necessary to address things like Iraq, health care and global warming. It is not that she will address the gross economic inequities that have lead to working folks barely able to get by. It isn't that she'll even do anything about our outrageous gas prices or halt the spread of the Iraq war to neighboring states like Iran.

It's that...she'll rub the Rethuglican's noses in it. Yes, I am using the term "Rethuglican" because more often than not this is how these folks refer to our fellow human beings who register themselves with the GOP. While Hillary Clinton herself speaks of the wonders of compromise, and incremental change, and How Lobbyists Are People, Too, her most ardent supporters are pinning their hopes and dreams on the day that they can turn to their conservative coworkers at the water cooler and give them the glare that says "we beat you, stuff it!"

Forget issue oriented politics. Forget the fact that you might actually need the support of some of these folks in order to govern.

Forget the fact that it is our system that is the problem: the lobbyists who corrupt it; the corporate media who acquiesces to it and the politcians who have a vested interest in business as usual.

No, let's all turn our hatred and ire on our brothers and sisters who are struggling to make ends meet, who also have a vested interest in fixing global warming and who also want us to get out of Iraq like it was yesterday. Let's engage in the same politics of division that we've been doing for the past eight years, but this time let's put a Democrat in office. That'll show 'em.

And while we're so busy "showing 'em", the artic ice cap will continue to melt, soldiers and civilians will continue to die in Iraq and possibly Iran, millions of families will not be able to get the health care we need and our corrupted system will still let in lead-enhanced toddler toys and toxic apple juice in the name of unfettered, unregulated free trade.

Democrats: we are better than this. Yes, it is right to be outraged at the state of our nation right now. But let's direct the outrage at the folks who deserve it: the corporate lobbyists who have corrupted our democractic system and the politicians that have let them do it. Don't be horn-swaggled into thinking that one-upping Bob at the office will make your life any better. Bob ain't your problem.

The problem lies with politicians who excuse the corrupt system, who think that small, incremental change and protecting the status quo is the way to make our country better.

We are better than this. We can elect politicians that are better than this. We can elect folks like John Edwards, who understand that you can't accept big money and expect big change.

Let's take our country back. Now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The number one issue in the Presidential election

Courtesy of ONN (Onion Network News)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9AH-ufAkCU

Friends of the Earth Friday press release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NOVEMBER 16, 200712:31 PM

CONTACT: Friends of The EarthNick Berning, 202-222-0748,mailto:nberning@foe.org%20Mark Sokolove, 703-599-7656, mark@tigercomm.us

Friends of the Earth Action Releases Radio Ad Calling on Senator Clinton to Fix – or Ditch – the Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Bill Ad to run in Iowa challenges Hillary Clinton to join John Edwards in taking a stand against the special interest giveaways in the legislation

WASHINGTON - November 16 - Friends of the Earth Action (FoE Action; http://www.foeaction.org/), today released a new radio ad to run in Iowa called, "Clinton Fix or Ditch." The ad challenges Senator Hillary Clinton to join John Edwards in taking a firm stand against billions in special interest giveaways to polluting industries included the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill being considered by the U.S. Senate.

"As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Clinton has the opportunity to take a firm stance against the more than $750 billion in giveaways to global warming polluters currently included in the Lieberman-Warner bill," said Brent Blackwelder, president of FoE Action. "As our ad states, 'John Edwards has already taken a courageous stand against the bill and the special interests backing it.' Senator Clinton should join him and the growing movement against this deeply flawed bill by fixing or ditching it."

The release of the ad comes in advance of the League of Conservation Voters' (LCV) Presidential Forum taking place on Saturday in Los Angeles. Both Clinton and Edwards will be appearing at the forum to discuss global warming and energy issues.

"At tomorrow's forum, we urge Senator Clinton to let voters know exactly where she stands on the massive giveaways to corporate polluters currently included in the Lieberman-Warner bill. Whether this bill advances out of committee may hinge on her vote, which gives her the ability to force improvements. Anyone who wants to be president should show leadership on this crucial issue," said Blackwelder.
The bill is likely to be considered in committee on December 5.

FoE Action became the first national environmental group to endorse a candidate for president when it endorsed John Edwards on October 14. In making its endorsement, FoE Action noted that he has led the way among the field of candidates running for president on the preeminent environmental issue of the day -- global warming.

Earlier this month, Edwards announced his opposition to the current version of the global warming legislation introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman and John Warner. In detailing his opposition to the bill, Edwards said, "The critical question is simple: are we going to do everything climate science says is needed to save our planet? The Lieberman-Warner bill says no. Worst of all, it gives away pollution permits to industry for free -- a massive corporate windfall -- instead of doing what is right and selling them so that we can use these resources to invest in clean energy research and help regular families go green."

Friends of the Earth Action was founded in 1969 by David Brower, and for decades has been at the forefront of efforts to create a more healthy and just world. FoE Action and its sister organization, Friends of the Earth have more than 100,000 members and supporters in the United States.

Click here to read the ad script. Audio of the ad will be posted later at http://www.foeaction.org/.

###

Friends of the Earth Action (http://www.foeaction.org/) provides extra muscle to our sister organization, Friends of the Earth, in legislative battles affecting our environment. FoE Action and our affiliated PAC also serve as Friends of the Earth's political arm, making thoughtful political endorsements, providing direct support to candidates, and placing environmentalists in the field on critical campaigns. Friends of the Earth Action's mission is to promote a clean, healthy and just world and to ensure that we have lawmakers who will work to protect the environment.

###


Common Dreams NewsCenter is a non-profit news serviceproviding breaking news and views for the Progressive Community.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I don't watch CNN

OK, I don't watch all that much television. But I haven't watched CNN in years, and last night I discovered my happy accident.

I've had my gripes with MSNBC sponsored debates/forums, but they were pretty mild - and as far as I'm concerned - par for the course.

But CNN clearly wanted a food fight with a home team favorite, and they pulled it off.

I should have been clued in when I tuned in a bit early, and listened to Lou Dobbs and two people I don't know telling me what I'm concerned about and how the candidates aren't addressing it. I'm told we have an illegal alien crisis! Who knew? Somehow I missed that. As these three shouted at each other, it became clear that they were talking to each other and not many others. They appeared not to know what they were talking about.

Then came the Wolfman. He kicked us off with a manno a wommanno Clinton vs. Obama main event. Clinton got off a few scripted low blows (the challenger is taller) and then treated John Ewards (also a bit taller) to the same later.

Unlike previous debate/forums no decorum on the part of the audience was requested or (apparently) desired. I've heard rumors the Clinton campaign tried to buy up most of the recent Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner tickets, but got caught at it. I though of that as I noticed the "undecideds" in the Las Vegas event were curiously pro-Hillary. And as the camera panned the audience, I noticed quite a sizable number of empty seats at the edges of the room.

Lost in all this infotainment nonsense were good performances by Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Dennis K. seemed to decide to join Bill R. in the Clinton Greek chorus (he's nothing if not erratic).

This event was a mess, and a complete waste of everyone's time.

I was curious to know the reaction of Obama supporters. Barrack had a couple slips, but I thought he did pretty well and seemed to do better at staking out his own ground. Unfortunately, the Obama website does not allow for supporters posting directly, so I didn't find out.

The Edwards community, who does post directly, is spitting nails. I've never seem so many of them so riled up.

But...It's just one event.

And now we know, it's not just the Faux News Channel that's into sensationalism.

Don Wheeler

************************************

Here's an update from someone who was in the audience:


Tonight's debate

by: Greg Brown

Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 23:54:51 PM PST

(It's hard for me to disagree with what Greg is saying here. I'll have more on this in a debate wrap up in a little while. - promoted by Sven)

I was at tonight's debate and really appalled by the audience behavior. There was a lot of inappropriate cheering and even more inappropriate booing that interrupted candidates during their responses.

The fault for that lies with CNN and with us, Nevada Democrats. I think it particularly lies with the tendency of the Clinton campaign to turn every event into a rally rather than a disucssion. I don't think they intended for their supporters to behave this way but be under no illusion -- it was the Clinton supporters, only a part of the crowd, who were booing Obama and Edwards.


The coup de grace came at the end, when CNN -- which had made a big deal of vetting the questions to avoid having anyone who could be tied to any of the campaigns (as if having knowledge of the candidates' platforms and a preference among them renders one unable to pose a question). Then, they select only a handful of those to pose questions that were vetted ahead of time. After all that, they give the last question to a student who asks the most embarrassingly superficial question, possibly in American presidential history.


Tonight was an embarrassment for the Nevada Democratic Party.


And this from the Daily Kos:



Las Vegas Disgrace

by LV Pol Girl

Fri Nov 16, 2007 at 09:06:55 AM PST


I am so disappointed with the Democratic Party of Nevada. These folks are not Democrats, they're Hillary supporters. The audience was an embarrassment and I am ashamed to be from this city. No wonder we elect mob lawyers for Mayor.

The audience was basically divided into two sections. One side was UNLV, the well behaved section and the other section was the Hillary (oops, I meant the DNC) section. The DNC section is where I was seated and it was filled with Hillary supporters. The guy next to me said he was for Edwards and lied, because the only person he cheered for was Hillary. Loud, obnoxious, women were sitting behind me that talked throughout the debate and sneered "trial lawyer" every time Edwards spoke and called Obama "arrogant". I wanted to turn around and tell them that I guess they didn't have the nerve to call him "uppity".

LV Pol Girl's diary :: ::

The Democratic Party in this State is controlled by two people, Rory Reid, who was its past Chairman and Dina Titus, who ran for Governor in '06. The same Dina Titus that lost to the most incompetent politician in Nevada politics, in a year that the Democrats swept into office. This State's Party is in disarray and the '06 election is proof enough for everyone paying attention. All the people seated around me were given tickets by the Party and the ones I talked with said that they worked in Dina Titus' campaign for Governor. Rory Reid and Dina Titus are Hillary's biggest backers in this State and will use their control over this Party to win the caucus for her.


The audience that were around me behaved like they were at a boxing match at Caesar's Palace, cheering for Hillary and booing her two closest opponents, John Edwards and Barack Obama. Real Democrats don't boo Democrats.

Obama and Edwards looked like they backed off and just sat this one out, since they were not allowed to contrast themselves against Hillary. The audience members weren't informed, sophisticated Democrats, who could make their own decisions. They were followers who want to be in the lead. Our lousy Party leaders in this State, who could not win an election that the Democrats dominated in '06, are leading them.

I came out of the event solid Obama, loving Kucinich and respecting Edwards.

Diamonds, and Pearls, and Corporations Oh My!

What a difference some pre-planning makes. During the last debate the last five minutes were actually pretty darn interesting, filled with discussions on issues...or at least trying to sort out exactly where the front runner stood on the issues.

And tonight? What was The Final, Great Question of the Evening, the One On Everyone's Minds? Why, it was...

Does Hillary Clinton favor diamonds or pearls?

Oh, my!

I have a nasty internal cynic. It jumps out at me from time to time, regardless of how well I try to squelch its gleeful moroseness. Tonight it was in full force.

Before listening to the debates I heard an interesting rumor floating around the blogosphere that John Edwards was going to participate in the Writer's Guild of America strike tomorrow. Wow, I thought to myself, that's really walking your talk. How great to have a Presidential candidate walk off of a debate and onto a picket line.

And then...the debate started. Edwards shoved to the far corner of the floor. Hillary and Obama front and center. The thunderous applause for Senator Clinton as she walked in the room.

My internal cynic pounced:

"Look!" It cried, mouth agape. "He's supporting the writer's strike, and CNN is owned by Time Warner. The fix is in!"

"No." I reasoned with it, stroking its forehead. "That's just random. Bad luck of the draw. There's nothing untoward happening."

And then the debate went on. And on. And on. No real interaction between the candidates. Edwards using the brief time he was allotted to make stunningly transcendent statements about the need to make this debate about something greater than who got whom, and focus on the folks out there who need our help. To finally get some backbone and fight for what's right.

As the minutes dripped away my internal cynic groused around, kicking the cobwebs in my head as it complained about the lack of time given to Edwards, and Wolf Blitzer's failure to follow up to get clarity on anything from the Democratic frontrunner.

Finally, my internal cynic and I sat and listened with rapt attenion as Barack Obama was able to corner Hillary Clinton on an upstate-New York, Westchester County elitism that holds that someone making over $90,000 is "middle class", when that defines only 6% of the folks living in this country. Hillary started to try to say that this was really about her constituents and then -

We cut to commercial. A commercial about a hedge fund protecting the wealth of a fictional woman who owns multiple luxury properties in multiple countries.

"But wait just a little while longer." I insisted, as my internal cynic writhed in the painful irony of it all. "The really important part of the last debate was in the last few minutes. There's still time."

And then, in the last few minutes, a young girl in the audience asked...if Hillary Clinton Preferred Diamonds or Pearls.

Don't you hate it when your internal cynic is right?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

As the search for Tancredo's mind continues...

This video was posted as a response to the Tancredo offensive. I think you may enjoy it. It's entitled: "Timeless wisdom from the inventors from America". TurpisHaerecticum of YouTube is the author.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KYrB4IMdbY

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Balance, Or, Running A Business-And A Government

Todays will be the first of a series of stories in which we will explore an unusual Government, the Port of Seattle. This municipal corporation is the Nation’s first to be charged with operating a port facility in the public interest; and the challenges of aligning the interests of the Port’s customers and the interests of the owners (the voters of King County, Washington) will be the focus of the conversation.

It is a complex story that describes a Government in change, a Government affected by new patterns of voting, and a Government that is involved in creating regional transportation solutions while fighting a history that has engendered considerable public distrust.

We don’t today know where the story will end, because the outcome is yet a work in progress; but we will hopefully create a conversation that revolves around what Government can or can’t do for us, and how it sometimes gets done.

We’ll start with some history, and today we’ll start to introduce the important staff and the Port Commissioners as best we can-but as I said, some of this is still a bit of a mystery.

So let’s start with that history...

Seattle is a city that is defined by its relationship with maritime commerce: the 1896 Klondike gold rush brought the city into the 20th Century, fishing and shipbuilding have waxed and waned over time, and the evolution to container shipping has had its impact.

In an effort to take control of that relationship, the local citizenry voted in 1911 to create what the Port reports was:

“...the first autonomous municipal corporation specifically tasked to develop harbor and port facilities to encourage commerce.”


The proximity of Seattle to the Pacific and the rich fishing grounds of Alaska caused the Port to open Fisherman’s Terminal in 1912 (and for my Brit friends, true cod fish and chips right off the boat that were to die for were served at the Terminal’s tavern for many years...mmmm, sooo good!). The Seaport Division began to open commercial facilities to supplement their operations in 1915; and in 1949 Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) entered into the Port’s purview with the creation of the Aviation Division.

More recent history has seen the port open public marinas, cruise ship terminals, a grain shipping terminal (Eastern Washington is a giant farm, producing crops as diverse as wheat, onions, apples, hops, and grapes that produce some of the finest wines found anywhere), and a conference center.

Changes in the way the Port does business has also created the need to manage relationships with tenants, lessees, customers and other stakeholders in new ways; and in the newest chapter of its history the Port is proposing to embark on a reorganization that will create a new Real Estate Division for that purpose.

A fourth Division (Corporate, Professional, and Technical Services) is also proposed, and its name offers a pretty good idea of its functions.

There are at least two other histories of the Port that should be considered: the recent history and near future of the Port’s capital plan, and the highly contentious history that surrounds the Port’s relationship with the other stakeholders.

Let’s start with the easy one first: let’s follow the money.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be working from the proposed 2008 Port of Seattle Budget...which, as the lawyers say, will be herein referred to as “the 2008 Budget”.

More or less $3 billion is in the capital budget for the period 2007-2012 (table III-1 of the Budget), and $619 million of that is proposed for the 2008 Budget-the Aviation Division spending just over 55% of that, the Seaport and proposed Real Estate Division each spending about 20% of the total.

A series of capital improvements are underway at the Airport that include terminal upgrades, a baggage handling system upgrade, and the construction of a third runway-which has been the source of a great deal of tension between the Port and the local residents who live in the flight path. (Issues relating to the baggage handling system pose a problem of lesser intensity.)

The Lora Lake controversy, as the troubles with the local residents have come to be known, is a topic we’ll explore further...but for now, back to the money.

The Seaport is also investing in its real estate holdings, and about $25 million is projected for container and cruise ship terminal improvements, and another $6.5 million for security and “Green Port Initiative” improvements in the upcoming year.

In a move similar to the Alameda Corridor project in Southern California, the Port of Seattle, King County, State of Washington and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway are involved in a process that is intended to dramatically increase the amount of freight that can transit the Pacific Northwest by train by raising the height of the railroad tunnel that bores through the granite of the Cascade Mountains at Stampede Pass; thus allowing “double-stacked” container trains to transit the mountains at that point.

Land swaps and cash payments by the various parties will create a rail right-of-way that also supplements a series of hiking trails, creating a recreational and commercial asset.

This action, far from the port’s terminals, will allow the Port to move far more cargo...and as the current capacity of the existing rail lines has nearly been reached, this is a project of great importance to the Port’s future.

The Port is allocating $103 million to this project in the 2008 Budget, and it is the largest of the Real Estate Division’s projects by far-all other spending by the Division totals $12 million. (The discussion of whether this $12 million is being invested in projects that remove jobs from Union jurisdiction is the current iteration of another long-running controversy that we will discuss further as well...but not today.)

The Port is allocating $40 million to debt service for previous Seaport improvements.

Balanced alongside those expenses are projected combined 2008 operating revenues of $476 million and expenses of $306 million; of which $42 million will be allocated to paying off the capital improvements.

The Port also has the ability to levy taxes. The King County Assessor collects those taxes based on the value of property in the County and the percentage of the “levy” on those values that voters have authorized.

Some of the expenses we discussed above will be paid from current tax levies, and some from general obligation bonds, which are funded from future income.

Income from tax collections is projected to be $78 million in the 2008 Budget (not all of 2007’s budget will be spent, so there’s also $23 million carrying over from last year)...and the question of whether the Port should be collecting property taxes while making an operating profit is also controversial...but also a discussion for another day.

(Just for the record, the Port anticipates employing a bit over 1700 “FTEs” in the Budget.)

That’s hardly a complete picture of the Budget, but it gives us place to begin the discussion.

Let us now return to the Lora Lake controversy.

Rather than reciting the history of the project myself, I’m going to invite a surprise guest: Port of Seattle Commissioner Lloyd Hara (who was kind enough to answer my questions last night even though he was throwing a party at the time...thanks, Commissioner!), who sent the following description of the problems in an email from August 22nd of this year that presents an excellent example of how it can be very tough for an elected official to balance the competing interests of a variety of stakeholders:

“I came into office believing the great Third Runway disputes were finally settled - but this smoldering legacy erupted into a political firestorm when time came to demolish the Lora Lake Apartments.

The Commission (3-2, I voted with the majority) decided to demolish the units, per our year 2000 agreement with the City of Burien and King County. King County Housing Authority filed suit and got a stay to block demolition. It's now a no win situation, where any outcome could end up in lawsuits brought by King County or Burien. We are reviewing our options.

Background: In 1999, under FAA mandate to clear all residential units in the Runway Protection Zone, the Port purchased Lora Lake Apartments. As Third Runway litigation delayed construction, the Port found itself holding usable property that could be occupied in the interim.

We could have had these units managed privately (underlined in original) for market rate rents, and then demolished without controversy, but all parties felt it would serve the greater social good to have KCHA manage them as public housing.

Housing advocates questioned the wisdom of operating public housing so close to the airport, but the Port, City of Burien and KCHA signed an agreement for the Housing Authority to operate them. All parties agreed they would be vacated (underlined in original) and demolished at the end of this five year term (later extended to seven).

With demolition deadlines approaching, KCHA orchestrated a political campaign and mobilized interest groups to agitate for preserving Lora Lake. (KCHA informed us of their new posture only when vacate notices went to tenants in March of 2007.) This left everyone scrambling for last-minute solutions.

When the Commission learned of KCHA's intent to breach the agreement, we decided to honor Burien's wishes on the matter. Burien then chose to proceed with demolition, and we concurred. Then, as time ran short and political pressure mounted, two Commissioners up for re-election switched their position and opposed demolition. I came under pressure to join this faction.

I have worked hard to restore public trust and improve the Port's public accountability, and my personal trust was on the line with Burien. I weighed all the facts, and decided that it was very important to keep our agreements. We have similar agreements with other cities around SeaTac, and dishonoring the Burien agreement would invite other lawsuits on all sides. [See Tay Yoshitani's op-ed.]

Criticize my vote if you will, but I have built a career upon trust and do not feel that this issue merits breaking that trust. I am also disappointed in KCHA's breach of faith, housing activists theatrical string-pulling ("lamentations" and lock-ins), and my colleagues enthusiasm for political football.

I look forward to working our way through this mess, and it may be possible to preserve some housing in the process.”

(to the extent possible, emphasis is presented as in the original email)


To close out today’s conversation, a few words about the changing of the players:

Recent events, which are numerous and “spicy” enough to warrant their own story (perhaps even two), have created a feeling that change is warranted at the Port. Alec Fisken and Lloyd Hara’s elections to the Port Commission were the first of those changes.

The Port’s former CEO, Mic Dinsmore, has recently “left the building”, and he was replaced by the abovementioned Tay Yoshitani.

Our final topic for tonight’s story is related to the changes in how we vote.

Two of the five Port Commissioners stood for election this November 6th, but because many voters now use absentee ballots (voting by mail) the results of those elections are not yet known.

Two of the candidates are considered reformists, two are not (these are non-partisan positions); and the results are so close as of this writing that a mandatory recount is entirely possible.

At this point, today’s summary:

Seattle’s residents, conscious of their maritime tradition, took it upon themselves to own their own Port...and that Port has evolved to include an Airport, to be involved in freight mobility on a regional level, and to engage in real estate development.

There are major capital improvement projects underway funded by operating profits and tax collection.

There are so many contentious issues to be resolved that we aren’t even bothering to list them all today, but they are of sufficient severity that the Port has a new CEO-and of the five Commissioners one’s a reform Commissioner, and the two Commissioner’s elections that were held this year are currently too close to call.

And we saw an example of an elected official facing a series of bad choices that took a tough vote-and then took the time to explain why.

Next time: we introduce more of the stakeholders...which will inevitably lead to more discussion of controversy...and, if we’re lucky, some discussion of compromise and progress.

Has Tom Tancredo lost his mind?

Or was there ever one to lose?

Terms like "over the top ", "fearmongering", "irresponsible" don't even come close to describing this commercial Mr. Tancredo is airing in Iowa.

I don't want to spoil the experience for you. Follow the link below, and I think you'll agree.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZBjXr5CWUI

"George Bush on steroids", as John Edwards put it once.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Don Wheeler

A Short Rant About Health Care and the Media

Millions of people have no health care insurance in our country right now. Millions more have "junk insurance", that doesn't cover what they need to have covered when they get sick. Millions more are holding off on retiring because they can't afford the health care coverage on their own.

And then there's working folks like my husband and myself who are seeing our net pay decrease, even after cost of living raises, due to ever increasing health care costs.

That's the problem. Here's John Edwards's solution:



"...When I'm president I'm going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my Cabinet: I'm glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don't pass universal health care by July of 2009, in six months, I'm going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. There's no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when you don't have health care."

And here's Big Media's Retreat From Our Health Care Debate:

"...While a President Edwards could mount public pressure based on the 47 million Americans who lack health insurance, Congress is, to put it mildly, unlikely to relinquish its own coverage. In fact, some experts argue that such a law would violate the 27th Amendment's ban on "varying the compensation" of members of Congress without an intervening election. Schultz said Edwards would ask senior administration officials to voluntarily give up their health coverage if he fails to pass universal coverage..."

Link: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail /2007/11/13/edwards_impossible_promise.h tml

So, let me get this straight. There's an injustice of epic proportions happening in this country, because millions of our citizens can't get the health care they need.

And we can't fix that because...proposing legislation to Congress to remove their own health care coverage until the rest of us poor schlubs have it is unconstitutional?

Run that past me again?

Didn't we have a little thing in this country called a revolution? Wasn't a part of that whole thing addressing the denial of basic rights and freedoms for everyone, not just protecting them for the very few in charge of the government?

Isn't access to health care a basic right? Shouldn't that be protected by our Constitution?

When our Constitution was unjust in the past, or failed to address an injustice, we changed it. And if you're telling me that the Constitution currently promotes an injustice - by allowing some folks to have access to a basic right that is simultaneously denied to others - isn't it time to change the Constitution?

When our country was comprised of small printing presses, folks like Thomas Paine used them to promote the radical ideas of freedom and liberty, and the idea that you don't have to be a member of the ruling class to have access to basic rights.

Now our country's media is run by megalith corporations who distribute their news and opinion pieces via broadcast, cable, satellite and the internet, in addition to the good, old fashioned printing press. And instead of using this power to argue for basic rights and freedoms, they are now arguing exactly the opposite: that those in charge of our government should have access to a basic right that ordinary citizens do not have guaranteed access to...because they are in the government.

My how times have changed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Katherine S. Newman nails it in "The Nation"


Ms. Newman,the dean of social science at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Malcolm Wiener Professor of Urban Studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard authored a powerful essay in support of John Edwards and what he wants to do.

Here are a few excerpts:
"The race for the Democratic nomination is still that: a real race. For my money, there is no other candidate who will work as hard as Edwards for the nation's low-income families, the working poor, struggling students and the 47 million Americans who desperately need health insurance. Organized labor sees him the same way, which is why he has garnered this seal of approval (the SEIU endorsements) and the boots on the ground that it represents--even in the face of the Clinton juggernaut. They know that Edwards is the candidate who can actually win the general election, the one who is thinking about people like them."

"I first met Edwards at a gathering at the University of North Carolina's Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast only a few months before and exposed the "two Americas" of which Edwards had spoken throughout the 2004 campaign. He called the country's experts together--across party lines--to debate the causes, consequences and remedies for poverty in an era of unprecedented wage inequality. For two days we discussed what should be done to enhance the mobility of the working poor, how we should deal with the competition from low-wage countries like China and what the trends in out-of-wedlock births mean for single mothers below the poverty line.

Most politicians would have given their obligatory keynote address and retired to the comfort of their leather chairs. Edwards stayed the whole time, ran virtually all of the sessions, asked intelligent questions, probed for more practical answers and stuck around to talk with the presenters about how to cull from their academic research workable ideas that could form the basis of a campaign that has as its centerpiece the eradication of poverty in this wealthy nation."


This is a gorgeous endorsement from someone who is an expert on issues The Campaign To Change America is all about.
Ms. Newman closes with this. (The theme may seem familiar.)
"There is every reason to expect that the Democrats will end up with solid majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. We need a President who will grab this brass ring. We should not squander the opportunity on tepid, middle-of-the-road, blow-with-the-wind candidates who will be too busy trying to paint themselves as tough on crime or hard-nosed on Iran to seize a chance that may not come again in our lifetime. "

Some days are good, others better.


Don Wheeler

Broadcast media AWOL on body armor story?

From The Campaign To Change America
by Oklahoma Voter

Yesterday, I read two blog stories that provide the missing pieces to my wondering why body armor was not forthcoming for so long:
(http://www.alternet.org/story/66182) and
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-louise -slaughter/a-story-ignored-body-arm_b_71 524.html?load=1&page=3)

The name David H. Brooks belongs in the same category as Ken Lay. His story has the double-crossing drama of Ken Lay's Enron and Gary Winnick's Global Crossing, the fraud of Bernie Ebbers' Worldcom, and the over-the-top spectacle of Dennis Kozlowski's parties paid for by Tyco. Plus, people may have died...our precious troops who are laying their lives on the line in Iraq.On October 25, 2007, FBI agents arrested David H. Brooks, founder and ex-CEO of Point Blank Solutions, Inc., and its COO Sandra Hatfield. Charges included insider trading, fraud, obstruction of justice, and evading almost $200 million dollars in taxes.

The Oct. 25 indictment alleges Hatfield and Brooks cashed in tens of millions of dollars in stock during the period testers were warning the company about vest failures. It also alleges that Brooks called a Point Blank employee who brought erroneous body armor inventory data to his attention a "[expletive] snake," and threatened to scuttle any further employment opportunities after the whistleblower resigned.

(http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13 319,154813,00.html?ESRC=eb.nl)

According to the story in alternet.org, (http://www.alternet.org/story/66182)

Whether U.S. soldiers have been injured or killed as a result of the quality control problems with DHB vests is not known. The Pentagon has not even been forthcoming about whether there's been an investigation. However, according to Jim Magee, a retired Marine colonel and former head of DHB's Point Blank subsidiary, DHB did play a role in delaying the provision of state-of-the-art body armor to the troops.

A June 2006 Washington Post story quotes Magee explaining that in the lead-up to the Iraq War, Brooks successfully lobbied for an exclusive contract to make the vests for the body armor now issued to every U.S. soldier in Iraq. Magee claims that DHB's monopoly prevented many troops in Iraq from having proper body armor until nine months after the war began.

A sampling of the charges authorities say Brooks concealed from shareholders and the IRS:*

$7,900 for a facelift for Brooks' wife*
more than $1 million for expenses related to his 100 trotting and breeding horses*

$101,190 for a belt buckle studded with diamonds, rubies and sapphires*

$101,500 for an armored vehicle for his family's use*

more than $1 million for numerous family vacations, including frequent stays at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and various Caribbean and European villas*

$31,802 to transport one of his daughters and her college friends to Halloween parties in Madison, Wisconsin, using a private jet*

hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus checks drawn on a DHB bank account handed out by Brooks at a company Christmas party to non-DHB personnel, including his horse trainer *

and of course the predictable $10,000 here, $5,000 there for purchases at Luis Vuitton, Gucci, Gianni Versace, and Prada boutiques around the world.

What makes Brooks' greed particularly obscene is that the bullet-proof vests that boosted his fortunes in the first place turned out to be not so bulletproof after all. In May 2005, the U.S. Marines recalled more than 5,000 DHB armored vests after they failed ballistics tests for stopping 9 mm bullets.

As reported in a previous story for AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/story/38867), the Marine Corps Times revealed that Pentagon officials had dismissed repeated warnings by inspectors about deficiencies in DHB's vests.

In November 2005, the Marines and Army announced a recall of an additional 18,000 DHB vests. But even this news didn't dampen the mood at Brooks' infamous $10 million party a few weeks later.

While ostensibly in honor of his 13-year-old daughter, the event was packed with 80s nostalgia acts Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Tom Petty, the Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh, Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks, and Kenny G.

According to the indictment, Brooks billed the company $122,000 for video iPods and digital cameras given as party favors....

A debate continues to rage over whether the type of body armor produced by DHB, called Interceptor, is the most effective. According to a special report by NewsHour [(http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military/ july-dec07/armor_09-21.html)] in September, some experts argue that a newer technology, called Dragon Skin, is safer (but more expensive). Magee told the NewsHour that given this controversy and all the other problems with DHB, it's "bewildering" to see the company continue to get military contracts, including one in June for another $50 million.

In any case, according to the New York Times...(http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/busine ss/22vests.html)
The rapid growth in military spending has fattened the wallets of C.E.O.'s running major defense contractors, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning research group in Washington. The group, which labeled Mr. Brooks a "body armor profiteer" in a report it prepared last summer, noted that the average compensation for C.E.O.'s at 34 leading military contractors tripled from 2001 to 2004, to $3.9 million. That meant that C.E.O.'s pay packages were 23 times larger than generals' salaries and 160 times the size of an average soldier's pay.

Yes, corrupt people choose money over country and lives. Corrupt people in the arms business also have strong incentives to encourage politicians to own their stock and start wars. Corrupt broadcast news media will be AWOL if their CEOs/owners are politically biased. Such stories also explain how Blackwater and other private security forces might be better equipped than America's armed forces. There's not just two Americas, there's also two militaries.

Monday, November 12, 2007

John Edwards: Toward A New, Democratic Politics

The in-tuned blogosphere already knows a lot about John Edwards: the endorsements he's received by state SEIU chapters including the important states of Iowa and New Hampshire; the endorsement by Friends of the Earth and the most recent endorsement by Iowans for Sensible Priorities. Folks are also aware of his calls for an end to the corrupt system in Washington, D.C., a system he defines as being "rigged" against all of us people who work for a living.

At first blush, this may seem like smart politics. Appealing to the base. Riding the wave of middle class anger. But there's something a lot more profound going on here, something that is an anti-Bush, Rove-free approach to democratic politics.

Come follow me and I'll tell you what I mean...

If you're going to try to fix a problem or address an injustice, there's a few ways to go about it. You could, for instance, focus on the immediate problem at hand and do a lessons-learned analysis (for instance, not putting a well-connected but incompetent fellow in charge of FEMA, and just hope that disaster doesn't strike). You could also do some investigations to try and examine the immediate causes of the injustice (for instance, holding hearings on how billions of dollars were just misplaced in Iraq, never to be heard from again). Or, you could try to look at the whole mess holistically, peel away the layers and get to the core issue. You could also look at where we are, where we need to be and set out a roadmap for how to get there.

That's what Edwards is doing, and that's what makes him a truly unique candidate...especially if you want *change*.

Peruse the Edwards website and you'll come across the issues page: http://johnedwards.com/issues/ . On that issues page you'll see the following three main areas, with links to specific policy proposals:

1. Standing up for Regular Families, including links to policy proposals for universal healthcare, poverty, policies to improve the quality of life in rural America, strengthen food safety and other policies and programs that reach out to and improve the quality of life for the individual.

2. Restoring America's Leadership Role In The World. Here you'll find Edwards's foreign policy and proposals that shape how our nation is viewed across the world, including the areas of Iraq, Iran, terrorism, civil liberties and global poverty (for my own analysis of Edwards's foreign policy, including his firm stance against preventive war, please see this diary: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/11/6/17523/4824 ).

3. Investing In Our Future And Our Communities, an area which addresses policies and proposals that impact health and well-being of the community at large, including the areas of global warming, education, open media, veterans and civil rights.

All three of these main areas affect each other, and all of the policies inside of these three areas also impact other policies. Everything is inter-related. All of the pieces and parts of the proposals need to work together in harmony in order to create the systemic change we need to reclaim our country.

Finally, none of this can happen, none of this systemic change can take place unless we remove the influence of lobbyist money in politics. Bill Bradley outlines in this in this June, 2007 talk on how the influence of lobbyists can corrupt these policies through an "unstated connection" between the contribution and the result of that contribution:



Sure, John Edwards is a great orator, and there's wonderful speakers across the field of Democratic presidential candidates. But to get systemic change you need more than just speeches: you need well thought-out policies and proposals so you can hit the ground running and start creating that change as soon as you're elected. You need a roadmap, and Edwards provides an impressive one that shows us the steps we can take to fix our problems, take care of our citizens and become a respected member of the community of nations once again.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Edwards speech to the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa

Annual state Jefferson Jackson dinners are a big deal to Democrats all over the country. You can imagine how big a deal this year's Iowa JJ dinner held last night was. All the Presidential candidates were there to speak, their order by lot.

John Edwards drew the pole position and was introduced with great enthusiasm by none other than US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. Edwards had much to talk about, and his theme was best illustrated by a story he told towards the end of his speech.

One of the last cases he handled as a personal injury attorney was on behalf of a little girl who was grievously injured and permanently disabled by a swimming pool drain the manufacturer knew to be defective. Mr. Edwards described sitting with that girl's family and giving them hope for a better outcome. He then went into the courtroom and gave the offending company hell. He won that case.

He wants to accomplish something similar for all of us.

Video link to the full speech below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4rqysXGj0o

"It's time to be patriotic about something other than war."
- John Edwards

Don Wheeler

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A good old-fashioned butt kicking


Ken (The Hawk) Harrelson, the play-by-play commentator for the television broadcasts of the Chicago White Sox has an expression he uses when things aren't going so well for our heroes. We heard it a lot more this year than in the last two. "This is a good old fashioned butt kicking," he would grumble when we were down 8-2 or something like that.


Well, over at Juan Manigault Central and the Citizens For Puritan Values HQ, the play-by-play guy must have been saying something like that, because the South Bend Tribune reports 62% Luecke and 38% Manigault. (Tom Brown didn't even get 1%?!)


As you might expect, spirits at the West Side Democratic Club were pretty high. I can't tell you how many people told me the same quip about Juan Manigault working at Dairy Queen starting Wednesday. Each time I heard it I replied that Mr. Frick might not be able to afford the eventual severance package, and that he should be very, very careful.


Steve Luecke and Peg were quite gracious in victory, talked about the work ahead and noted the vindication and the mandate implicit in this lopsided vote. But I'd be less than honest to characterize the reaction of the Mayor's suppporters as being so generous.


By the standards of sportsmanship I grew up with, we were poor winners.


We were loud, we were boastful, we disparaged our opponent. The way I was raised, this behavior is unacceptable. We should enjoy our success quietly and comfort the loser.


But the the people in the hall were mad; the city they loved and worked to better had been defamed; our opponent had lied and misrepresented himself and so no quarter was given him.


Despite all the political cover the traditional press gave Juan Manigault, he could not escape his negativism, his checkered past and his arrogance. His party did him no favor by sending out those infamous graveyard postcards, though I think he thought they did.


It looks to me as though the citizens of South Bend are more interested in a leader with vision for a positive outcome, a leader with a record of (positive) accomplishment and the character to achieve these things. Luecke 62 Manigault 38.


Juan Manigault, I'm glad you lost so badly. I'll sleep better tonight.


Don Wheeler


What is John Edwards's Foreign Policy?

Here’s what they mean by preventive war—if we see a possible threat, we go to war; we don’t exhaust diplomatic, political, and economic options, we go straight to war. Under this Bush doctrine, military force is no longer the option of last resort.

snip

Now, I want to be very clear about something. I believe very strongly that any commander-in-chief must retain the right to respond with appropriate force when there’s real intelligence about an imminent threat to America.

But there is a difference between doing everything in our power to keep America safe and a reckless, belligerent policy that actually makes us less safe. The preventive war doctrine was a stunning departure from the policy that had kept America safe during both world wars and during the Cold War. It is wrong on the merits, wrong on the morals, and wrong for America.


From John Edwards's "Learning the Lesson of Iraq: A New Strategy for Iran". Link: http://blog.johnedwards.com/story/2007/11/5/122520/049

I've seen a number of diaries lately question what John Edwards's foreign policy vis a vis Iran would be. Would he invade Iran? What does "leaving all options on the table" really mean in our post 9/11, post-Bush the Younger world?

The purpose of this diary is to discuss Edwards's foreign policy, both in broadstroke and specifically with regard to Iraq, Iran and terrorism. The purpose of this diary is not to play "gotcha". No other candidates will be "called out". These are literally life and death issues as they deal with war and peace, and my hope is that we treat them with the proper amount of gravity and respect that they deserve.

Removing the Bush Doctrine of "Preventive War"

That being said, let's start with broadstrokes. Edwards is a multilateralist, which basically means he favors a "concert of nations" approach to international conflict resolution. Whether discussing Iran, Iraq or terrorism, or indeed other transnational issues like Global Warming or poverty, Edwards leads with statements like the one he wrote in his essay for Foreign Affairs:

Rather than alienating the rest of the world through assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement. We must reengage with our history of courage, liberty, and generosity. We must reengage with our tradition of moral leadership on issues ranging from the killings in Darfur to global poverty and climate change. We must reengage with our allies on critical security issues, including terrorism, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation. With confidence and resolve, we must reengage with those who pose a security threat to us, from Iran to North Korea. And our government must reengage with the American people to restore our nation's reputation as a moral beacon to the world, tapping into our fundamental hope and optimism and calling on our citizens' commitment and courage to make this possible. We must lead the world by demonstrating the power of our ideals, not by stoking fear about those who do not share them.
Link: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070901faessay86502-p0/john-edwards/reengaging-with-the-world.html

This is in contrast to the Bush administration, which favors a unilateralist approach in any conflict they really want to take on (note that the glaring exception of this is North Korea, which the Bush administration in my opinion has just simply placed on the back burner, in favor of utilizing their time and resources in trying to clean up Iraq, escalate the conflict with Iran and deal with all of the known and unknown knowns and unknowns that arise along the way).

In September, 2002, President Bush put on paper his administration's policy of "preventive war". This doctrine holds that the United States can take action against threats "before they are fully formed", which flies in the face of years of international jurisprudence regarding the right of a State to defend itself from imminent attack. As the Brookings Institute explained:

The concept is not limited to the traditional definition of preemption—striking an enemy as it prepares an attack—but also includes prevention—striking an enemy even in the absence of specific evidence of a coming attack. The idea principally appears to be directed at terrorist groups as well as extremist or "rogue" nation states; the two are linked, according to the strategy, by a combination of "radicalism and technology.
As quoted in "Preventive War and International Law After Iraq", link: http://www.globelaw.com/Iraq/Preventive_war_after_iraq.htm

It is this doctrine of preventive war that Edwards railed against in his Foreign Affairs article when he called the "War on Terror" a "bumpersticker":

But I believe we must stay on the offensive against both terrorism and its causes. The "war on terror" approach has backfired, straining our military to the breaking point while allowing the threat of terrorism to grow. "War on terror" is a slogan designed for politics, not a strategy to make the United States safe. It is a bumper sticker, not a plan. Worst of all, the "war on terror" has failed. Instead of making the United States safer, it has spawned even more terrorism -- as we have seen so tragically in Iraq -- and left us with fewer allies.


He has also specifically stated that the doctrine of preventive war has no safe haven in an Edwards administration:

First and foremost, we need to ensure that the preventive war doctrine goes where it belongs—the trash-heap of history. As he has done with so much else, Vice President Al Gore got it right about the preventive war doctrine. In 2002—the same year that George Bush introduced his preventive war doctrine—Gore made a speech at the Commonwealth Club in California. He said, and I quote, “What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.”

These are especially chilling words to read five years later—after Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and the president’s refusal to condemn torture, and they are particularly relevant to the situation with Iran.
link: http://blog.johnedwards.com/story/2007/11/5/122520/049

The only instance Edwards would use force in a pre-emptive strike is in the instance of imminent threat, and he would therefore return the United States to the norms of accepted international law with regard to the use of force.

Terrorism

So, how would an Edwards administration deal with an issue like international terrorism? By using a multilateral approach to deal not just with security and counter-terrorism, but also with systemic issues like poverty that help terrorism to take root. He plans to implement this multilateral approach through a newly formed organization, the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO):

Every nation has an interest in shutting down terrorism. CITO will create connections between a wide range of nations on terrorism and intelligence, including countries on all continents, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. New connections between previously separate nations will be forged, creating new possibilities.

CITO will allow members to voluntarily share financial, police, customs and immigration intelligence. Together, nations will be able to track the way terrorists travel, communicate, recruit, train, and finance their operations. And they will be able to take action, through international teams of intelligence and national security professionals who will launch targeted missions to root out and shut down terrorist cells.

The new organization will also create a historic new coalition. Those nations who join will, by working together, show the world the power of cooperation. Those nations who join will also be required to commit to tough criteria about the steps they will take to root out extremists, particularly those who cross borders. Those nations who refuse to join will be called out before the world.

It's important to note that CITO is not a panacea, nor will it be perfect. But it would represent the first step in a new direction. As President John F. Kennedy observed when he signed the treaty that first limited the testing of nuclear weapons, we must begin with the common recognition of a common danger. President Kennedy said then, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." Today, this new anti-terrorism organization would be such a first step.
link: http://www.johnedwards.com/news/speeches/a-new-strategy-against-terrorism/

Think of CITO as a NATO that is specifically tasked to fight global terrorism. Is it needed? Absolutely. Global terrorism is our generation's Cold War - it probably won't go away within our lifetimes and it is a big enough and - with enhanced global communication technology - a new enough threat to warrant an international organization of people who live, breath and eat how to combate it within the rule of international law (instead of leaving it up to the next belligerent superpower to sort out on their ownsome).

For the snapshot of Edwards's full plan to combat terrorism, visit his issues page here: http://www.johnedwards.com/issues/terrorism/

Iraq

In-tuned and hep bloggers are probably most familiar with this part of Edwards's foreign policy, so I'll be brief: immediate draw-down of 40,000-50,000 combat troops, a cessastion of combat missions and a standing force to protect the embassy and humanitarian endeavors in country.

For more of Edwards's Iraq policy, visit his issues page here: http://www.johnedwards.com/issues/iraq/

Iran

The main thing that sticks out for me in Edwards's approach to Iran is his insistence on including Russia and China in dealing with Iran as part of his consistent multilateralism:

We must work with China and Russia on the problem of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Both nations have economic relationships with Iran on trade and energy. But both nations also have a strong interest in stability in the Middle East. And neither nation wants the nuclear club to expand. In the first year of my administration, I will convene a conference with my Secretary of State and representatives from the “E.U. 3”—Great Britain, France, and Germany—Russia, China—and Iran, to discuss a way out of the stalemate of the Bush administration.
link: http://blog.johnedwards.com/story/2007/11/5/122520/049

The problem with the current sanctions authorized under Kyl-Lieberman and implemented by the Bush administration is that they are practically unilateral in nature. Couple this with the Bush doctrine of preventive war, and you have a number of our European allies uncomfortable in backing them, Russia and China not supporting them at all and Iran defiantly saying they will have no effect on their nuclear program (check out news articles on this here: http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUSL3051339620071106 and here: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=182484&version=1&template_id=37&parent_id=17 ).

Indeed, John Bolton, the Mighty Moustache, the Guy Who Roots for Diplomacy to fail, gleefully opined in today's New York Post:

I believe it was obvious from the outset that Iran wasn't going to renounce its quest for nuclear weapons voluntarily because it was part of a much larger strategy. The stakes were and are high: whether Iran and its radical Shiite version of Islam become dominant throughout the Muslim world, whether largely Persian Iran achieves effective hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East and whether a nuclear, terror-financing Iran emerges on the global stage as a real power.

snip

Regime change in Iran is the preferred option, and a feasible one given the regime's weakness. Rampant economic discontent caused by 28 years of economic mismanagement, the desires of younger Iranians to be freed from the mullahs' theology and dissatisfaction among Iran's ethnic minorities are all fertile breeding grounds for discontent. If we had supported and encouraged this dissent for the last four years, we might now be on the verge of regime change.

Absent regime change, the targeted use of force against Iran's program is the only option left. Risky and unattractive as it is, the choice may well be between the use of force and a nuclear Iran, which is really not a choice at all. Iran is already asserting itself in ways profoundly hostile to our interests and those of our close friends. Imagine adding Iranian nuclear weapons to that equation. That's why surrender is not an option.
link: http://www.nypost.com/seven/11062007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/dithering_diplomats_959824.htm?page=0

The issue with regard to Iran is this: do you really believe the Bush administration is willing and able to use sanctions in order to competently pursue diplomacy that results in peaceful conflict resolution? If not...don't give them the ability to escalate this conflict through practically unilateral sanctions, as it gives guys like Bolton just more air in their lungs to pronounce the Death of Diplomacy.

For more on Edwards's policy regarding Iran, visit this link: http://www.johnedwards.com/issues/iran/

Bottom line: a multilateral approach to conflict resolution, that removes the doctrine of preventive war and returns the United States to operating within the standards of international law is sorely needed right now, and this is the foreign policy Edwards is proposing. As Edwards stated in his recent speech on Iran:

In his first inaugural speech, in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt rejected the failed Republican policy of military intervention in Latin America and Europe. Instead, he told the nation, we should “dedicate this Nation to the policy of the Good Neighbor . . . the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.”

That’s the America we should be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

On Greener Torture, Or, These Days, Environmentalism Matters

There is no doubt that America, and the world, are changing the way things are done. Oil prices approaching $100 a barrel is part of the reason, but the concerns about availability of water and the potential for climate change are also foremost on consumer’s-and Government’s-minds.

The solution has been to “green up” in a thousand ways-everything from compact fluorescent lamps to “toilet bricks” have been offered as solutions; and they are becoming more and more an accepted part of our daily lives-and our future.

With that in mind, I come before you today to offer some ideas that can help “green up” an often overlooked area of Government operations-torture.

And why not?

Consider that “extraordinary rendition” alone has an enormous carbon footprint that is ripe to be reduced and you have some conception of the scope of the problem.

So let’s talk solutions.

For starters, there’s lots of “baby steps” we can take that would get us on the right track, and “waterboarding” offers a perfect example.

By now we have all seen the images of “Men In Black” pouring water over the face of the torture victim...but left unanswered is the question of where that water goes after it drains. For many years now, car washes in the US have moved to recycle their water through a system of drains and recirculating pumps, and I’m here to propose the military and other “associated entities” consider such an approach in their own work.

Of course, the naysayers amongst you will point out that oftentimes torture must be conducted under “field conditions”; but I would reply that there’s no reason not to think greener-and there’s no reason why the waterboard can’t be placed over a collection barrel and the water reused.

After all, we do want to show the world we care.

Another energy-intensive aspect to torture is the application of electricity in uncomfortable ways in an effort to extract information. This is another area where we can easily reduce the carbon footprint through simple means.

For starters, let’s change the “Nazi Interrogation Lamp” that always shines in the victim’s face to a “Fluorescent Interrogation Lamp”. With the advent of fluorescent replacements for the incandescent PAR 38 lamps, there’s no excuse for using the old technology anymore-and we reduce electricity usage by a quick 90%.

And the same is true with the old “car battery attached to the mattress” technique and its variants, which generally involve attaching jumper cables to various body parts. Surely we can improve on this inefficient means of providing field power. Why not move to solar, or wind energy?

The technology is already there, just waiting to be applied. The military already uses solar panels for powering up some field equipment...as do many others, including the Nation’s highway administrators, who have found them very useful in powering remote call boxes and other roadside infrastructure.

But let’s get out-of-the-box here: why not improve the efficiency of the entire torture process at the same time as we reduce its carbon impact? Couldn’t we, for example, put a second victim on a bicycle generator, blindfold them...and in a variation on the movie “Speed” tell them that they’ll be killed if their speed drops below the minimum needed to generate the amperage required to “impress” the first victim?

Of course, the biggest carbon waster of all is the process of “extraordinary rendition”. Moving a single individual to a foreign country for torture often involves unmarked aircraft of substantial size, a “transport team” that must be sustained, and a foreign destination facility that must be kept “powered up” as well.

I considered a number of options to resolve these problems, including a sort of “Con Air” approach that would put more of the victims on the same flights...but in the end I’ve become convinced the only real solution is to create a sort of “Hollywood enhanced” prop aircraft and “foreign” torture facility right here in the good old USA. This allows us to offer a realistic experience of rendition without the annoying burden of dumping soot into the atmosphere-and it saves the taxpayer a ton on per diem costs that would otherwise be going to support bars, hookers, and restaurants in foreign economies.

Colocation seems to be the key to this approach, and we have available facilities from Fort Meade, Maryland, to Groom Lake, Nevada, and points in between...including a certain hollowed out mountain that would be a perfect site if we want to increase the supervisory opportunities for our unofficial Secretary of Torture, Dick Cheney.

Not all the news is bad, of course. The holding facility at Guantanamo is a perfect example of a “green” prison-virtually no money spent on heating or cooling, and the “roach hotel” aspect to the facility’s management (“terrorists” check in, but they usually don’t check out) helps to keep down the “rendition impact” of the facility on the environment now and in the future.

Which brings us to the end of today’s story...and to the beginning of a new paradigm...a sort of “Jack Bauer meets Walden Pond” approach to torture that is, admittedly, morally reprehensible-but much more environmentally responsible.

Because, when it’s all said and done, the future will be green.

Learning the lesson of Iraq: A new strategy for Iran

From the Campaign To Change America

Nov 5, 2007
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

Thank you for having me here today. Thank you.

Five years ago, the Bush Administration went to war with Iraq, a war we all know now we did not need to fight.

Today, we see the results of that fateful decision -- a civil war with no end in sight... a black hole in our budget... and nearly 4,000 brave men and women in our military who have paid the ultimate price.

A famous philosopher once observed that those who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it. Unfortunately, the war in Iraq isn't even history yet, but the Bush Administration is repeating the march to war with Iran -- and they're getting help from people who should know a lot better.

George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the neocon warmongers used 9/11 to start a war with Iraq and now they're trying to use Iraq to start a war with Iran. And we have to stop them. We owe our American heroes -- the men and women in our armed services who are fighting so bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan today -- no less. Many of our soldiers are the same age as some of you here today -- or even younger. We owe them and their families this solemn oath: we will make every national security decision as carefully and responsibly as is humanly possible.

This is a critical moment. As a nation, we stand today at a fork in the road with Iran. We have a real choice about the direction we'll take. One path will replay the last seven years. It leads toward a dark future of belligerence, aggression, and war.

We need a new direction -- one that will defuse the Iran threat, rather than aggravate it, one that will make America safer, not make the world more dangerous.

To understand exactly what the administration is trying to do with Iran, we need to go back to the beginning of the Bush Administration and look at how they took us to war with Iraq.

In the spring of 2002, the nation was struggling to recover from the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11. At the same time, a group of Bush Administration neoconservatives, like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, were strategizing for ways to start a war with Iraq. And suddenly, instead of reacting to 9/11 by working to protect America from terrorists, they saw a political opportunity to promote their right-wing ideological agenda and demonize anyone who disagreed with them.

Here's what you have to know about these neocons -- they think might makes right, every time. They believe in domination, not debate. They think America should use our military power to impose our will wherever and whenever we want. They use a sledgehammer when we should use a scalpel.

And here's what you need to know about George Bush's foreign policy -- it's written by these neocons, lock, stock, and barrel.

So after 9/11, instead of focusing on the terrorist threat, George Bush started promoting a radical new neoconservative doctrine he called, quote, "preventive war" -- which would soon become part of his argument for war in Iraq.

Here's what they mean by preventive war -- if we see a possible threat, we go to war; we don't exhaust diplomatic, political, and economic options, we go straight to war. Under this Bush doctrine, military force is no longer the option of last resort.

By September of 2002, President Bush had included the new doctrine in his administration's National Security Strategy -- the document that guides our military in planning our defense. And then the next month, Congress voted to authorize the president to use force in Iraq. I was wrong to vote for this war. It was a mistake to give this president the authority to wage a reckless war in Iraq.

Now, I want to be very clear about something. I believe very strongly that any commander-in-chief must retain the right to respond with appropriate force when there's real intelligence about an imminent threat to America.

But there is a difference between doing everything in our power to keep America safe and a reckless, belligerent policy that actually makes us less safe. The preventive war doctrine was a stunning departure from the policy that had kept America safe during both world wars and during the Cold War. It is wrong on the merits, wrong on the morals, and wrong for America.

Harry Truman once said, "There is nothing more foolish than to think that war can be stopped by war. You don't 'prevent' anything other than peace."

That's exactly right. Think about it -- you don't prevent wars by starting them. It would be ridiculous if it weren't so dangerous.

This George Bush policy instead is, almost literally, "shoot first, ask questions later."

Armed with their preventive war doctrine, the administration used every excuse to march to war, when he should have taken every reasonable step to prevent war. And the war has backfired terribly. It damaged America's moral reputation, decreased our national security, and increased terrorism worldwide.

It will take years to repair the damage, and we must begin by ending the war in Iraq. It has now been exactly a year since the American people voted for a Democratic Congress that would end the war. Yet we still have the status quo.

When I am president, I will immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops, launch a diplomatic offensive to invest all local, national, and regional parties in the comprehensive political solution that will end the violence, and will completely withdraw all combat troops within 9 to 10 months.

The bottom line is simple -- no combat troops; no combat missions; no combat, period. Not sometime to be determined, not by 2013. By the end of my first year as president, by the end of 2009.

I believe every candidate for president owes the American people a clear and specific plan for ending the Iraq War, and I have done my part. You deserve to know exactly where we stand. With less than 60 days to the caucus, Senator Clinton has still not given specific answers to specific questions. How many troops will she withdraw, and when will she withdraw them? All she's said is that she will meet with her generals within two months of taking office. That's not a plan. That's not even a real promise. It's the promise of a planning meeting.

What's more, Senator Clinton wants to keep combat troops in Iraq to perform combat missions in Iraq. She will extend the war. I will end the war. Only in Washington would anybody believe that you can end the war and continue combat. On a matter as serious as Iraq, we need honesty and real answers -- not more double-talk.

And all of this is occurring in a very dangerous context -- when we badly need leadership that will stand up to the president. The neocons are once again preparing for war. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently told reporters that the administration has prepared "contingency plans" for attacks. George Bush has been rolling out reckless rhetoric, saying that "World War III" is just around the corner with Iran. And just over a week ago, Bush and Cheney declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
We have seen this movie before. And it doesn't end well -- in fact, as we all know too well, in Iraq, it hasn't ended at all.

In order to declare the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization -- something we've never done before for a government-run militia -- Bush was supported by the Senate. Many in our party opposed this vote, like Senator Dodd and Senator Biden, and I applaud them for that. Unfortunately, some supported it. Senator Clinton once again sided with Bush and the neocons -- helping them rattle their sabers and build their case for another preventive war.

It's clear that Senator Clinton and I learned very different lessons from the run up to the Iraq war. I learned that if you give this president an inch, he will take a mile -- and launch a war. But Senator Clinton apparently learned a different lesson, and she's giving the administration exactly what it wants once again.

Senator Clinton is voting like a hawk in Washington, while talking like a dove in Iowa and New Hampshire. One of her advisors told the New York Times that was because she was shifting from primary mode to general election mode. Well, we only need one mode from our president -- tell the truth mode all the time.

So let me be clear.

We should take Iran very seriously. And as commander-in-chief, if I ever learn that any nation is threatening an imminent attack, I will do what's necessary to protect America.

But the one thing we absolutely should not be doing is launching another so-called "preventive war" with Iran. American and the world possess a powerful arsenal of diplomatic and economic options that have not yet been used, let alone exhausted.

We need to use all those tools to force President Ahmadinejad, the Ayatollah Khameini, and the mullahs to understand that their nuclear ambitions and their support of terrorism will put the Iran on a fast track to utter isolation.

We already know diplomacy can work with even the toughest foes. The few foreign policy successes of the Bush Administration have come through the diplomacy it derides. Both North Korea and Libya have given up their struggle for weapons of mass destruction. While we need to keep the pressure on to make sure these countries keep their promises, the progress so far shows what can be accomplished in Iran.

We need to increase the division between extremists and the Iranian population. Ahmadinejad is already unpopular in his country and has failed to meet his promises to reduce corruption and improve the economy.
This is a country that's ready for change.

Women in Tehran today put on clothing they want to wear under the burkhas and veils they are forced to wear. Iranians everywhere share a hunger for ideas and free expression, seen in Iran's thriving black market in great literature, new classics, and even western videos. And it is Iranians like many of you in this room -- young people, students -- who are leading the charge to undermine the stifling oppression of Ahmadinejad.

We need to let the people of Iran know that Ahmadinejad's extremism and pursuit of nuclear weapons will only hurt them and destroy their country's prospects for advancement.

We need, in short, a new strategy for Iran. My plan for Iran has five principles.

First and foremost, we need to ensure that the preventive war doctrine goes where it belongs -- the trash-heap of history. As he has done with so much else, Vice President Al Gore got it right about the preventive war doctrine. In 2002 -- the same year that George Bush introduced his preventive war doctrine -- Gore made a speech at the Commonwealth Club in California. He said, and I quote, "What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States."

These are especially chilling words to read five years later -- after Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and the president's refusal to condemn torture, and they are particularly relevant to the situation with Iran.

I believe every candidate owes it to the American people to be very clear about where he or she stands on this question. As commander-in-chief, my national security policy will be based on deterrent strength and always protecting Americans -- in short, the use of force as a last resort.

As a part of this strategy, I will ask my National Security Advisor to remove President Bush's explicit endorsement of a preventive war doctrine from my National Security Strategies. And I will ask our Joint Chiefs of Staff to form military plans in accordance with proven national security strategies that we know can keep us and our allies safe -- not discredited and dangerous ideological fancies.

This strategy will keep America and our allies safe -- while showing the world we are once again a strong country that can always win war, but that prefers peace over war. Most importantly, it will restore our legitimacy in the eyes of the world. Everyone knows we're powerful. The question is what we use our power for -- and whether the rest of the world will once again see us as a force for good, rather than the bully we've become under Bush.

The second principle is to use bolder and more targeted economic sanctions to force Iran's leaders to understand that they cannot continue to buck the will of the international community without destroying their ability to be the modern, advanced nation they so desperately want to become.

There are smart sanctions that will achieve results, and there are reckless sanctions that will backfire and play into a policy of military attacks. The Bush-Cheney sanctions Senator Clinton supports are the most radical, unprecedented, and belligerent sanctions possible. These reckless sanctions will escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran -- the thing Bush and Cheney most want -- and have other unintended consequences, such as higher oil prices.

Instead, we should pursue smarter sanctions that will force Iran's leaders to realize that their pursuit of nuclear weapons will shut down their economy, further isolate them from the world community, and make them a rogue nation for generations.

We must fully enforce the Iran Sanctions Act, a law Congress passed to let the president punish companies who do business with Iran's extremist regime. We must work multilaterally -- most importantly, with our Western European allies -- to strengthen economic sanctions on Iran. And we should shut down Iranian access to the American financial system. The Bush Administration recently banned two Iranian banks from accessing our system. However, Iranians can still do business through third parties and through other banks. This must stop.

The third principle of my plan is to use "carrots" -- diplomatic measures to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and re-join the world community. We should draw Iran into compliance through incentives including increased refinery capacity and a regional fuel bank that Iran could use for peaceful purposes.
And we need to use the possibility of bringing Iran into multilateral economic organizations, including the WTO, as a carrot for change.

The fourth principle of my policy is to reengage with Iran.

Even Republicans like Senator Hagel are now urging the president to open up communications with Iran. Communication is not a concession. After all, we talked to our great enemy, the Soviet Union, at the height of tensions during the Cold War.

We should begin building a new course of diplomatic relations with Iran by expanding low-level talks between government officials on both sides in a neutral country. The goal of these talks should be to find a path out of the log-jam created by the Bush Administration and, ultimately, to achieve full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But we must always negotiate from a position of strength. Unlike President Bush, I believe we do need to meet with Iran. But any higher-level meeting should only happen if we verify that the meetings would promote America's national security interests and would not be used for propaganda or other improper purposes.

And the fifth and final principle is to reengage with other major nations on the challenge of Iran.
We must work with China and Russia on the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Both nations have economic relationships with Iran on trade and energy. But both nations also have a strong interest in stability in the Middle East. And neither nation wants the nuclear club to expand. In the first year of my administration, I will convene a conference with my Secretary of State and representatives from the "E.U. 3" -- Great Britain, France, and Germany -- Russia, China and Iran, to discuss a way out of the stalemate of the Bush Administration.

The strategy I've described to you today is the right way to keep America strong while keeping the peace.
It is the right way to force Iran to forgo its nuclear ambitions.

And it is the right way to restore America's historic role as a leader of the world community -- through a combination of strength, vision, and reengagement with the world.

America needs a president who can guide America through a dangerous world, with the wisdom of history by our side.

America has gone through similar challenges before.

In his first inaugural speech, in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt rejected the failed Republican policy of military intervention in Latin America and Europe. Instead, he told the nation, we should "dedicate this Nation to the policy of the Good Neighbor . . . the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors."

That's the America we should be.

This is the great vision of our great presidents. It is the vision of a nation of honor. It is the vision of a nation of everyday heroes, like the brave men and women fighting every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is the vision that guides me as I seek to be your president.

But I need your help. We can only rebuild America if we rebuild it together
.
Together, we can restore our values to Washington, and restore America's moral authority to the world. Thank you for being with me here today. God bless you and God bless America.

Senator John Edwards

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thanks for the support

I've had a few folks ask me about the traffic on Progressives, South Bend. Considering it started in July with somewhat occassional posts, it's come a long way.

For the week ending last Friday, there were 374 unique vistors and 629 page loads.

Thanks for dropping by. I certainly appreciate it.

Don Wheeler

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Markets Are...Well, We're Watching Them Closely, Or, Fox Business News Debuts

The news addicted have for some time had the habit of keeping CNBC on one of their monitors throughout the day; and those who follow news professionally will keep more than one of the channels they offer on multiple screens, so as to better track the activities of business markets around the world.

Many in the community of viewers are highly wealthy, highly influential...and likely the best demographic group available to advertisers anywhere outside of a polo match.

In an effort to tap into the wealth of the “polo crowd”, Fox Business has launched its rhetorical yacht into the media ocean, and we’ll compare the two channels today.

For the purposes of our discussion, I’m going to be comparing just the two flagship channels: Newscorp’s Fox Business channel, and NBC/Universal’s CNBC. There are additional international channels CNBC offers, but today our conversation will revolve around these two “brands”.

You do not have to watch the Fox Business channel long before it becomes evident that they are not seeking the same viewers as CNBC. To be more specific, it appears the Fox channel is targeting relatively unsophisticated “amateur” investors, as opposed to the highly sophisticated audience that CNBC appears to be targeting.

Evidence of this is found in the type of financial information each chooses to disseminate. For example, Fox Business does not report any information beyond stock prices and index averages during the day (including its proprietary “Fox 50” average). I did not observe any data being reported regarding interest rates on Treasury issues, no data on commodity prices, and no information on foreign exchange throughout the trading day.

After the markets closed, the Fox graphic only displayed the Dow Jones 30 Industrials Average, the S & P, and the NASDAQ, as opposed to CNBC, which offered a rolling graphic that shows the major US market indexes, gold, silver, oil, RBOB, 2-, 10-, and 30-year Treasuries, and on and on.

A visit to the websites confirms this difference in focus. CNBC’s site places considerable emphasis in reporting “technical” market data, but at the Fox site there was no evidence of reporting on things as basic as daily interest rate movements.

The other major difference you quickly note is the lack of charting. Every time you see discussion of a “product” on CNBC the screen fills with a chart and data showing the current price and relevant trends. The “talking head” will often move through several charts in a segment to graphically compare across an industry, or over a period of time. This almost never occurs at Fox, and in fact I only noted one chart over the several hours I spent today doing the “flip between” comparison.

Fox also offers a more “lifestyle” oriented broadcast-for example, much of today’s field reporting was based around visits by the reporter to several luxury goods shops in Chicago, with the goal of demonstrating that sales of high-end shoes and chocolate are as yet unaffected by the potentially impending recession. (It is fair to report that CNBC has also taken such a tack in the past, including “on the road” reports from several cities recently.)

An even more fundamental divide is found in the combination of two issues-the personalities of the presenters; and the manner in which set and “off-set” are integrated-or not-on both broadcasts.

Fox offers the more traditional “anchors at a desk” format, supplemented by cutaways to panels and a newsroom “reader/analyst” who fills in stories along with the anchor. There are, additionally, cutaways to reporters on the New York Stock Exchange floor, but this seems to take up less than five minutes an hour.

And how I feel for poor Liz Clayman.

She moved from CNBC to Fox Business, and my suspicion is that she questions that decision daily. As CNBC was discussing the impact of the FOMC’s recent interest rate cuts measured against the new employment numbers, Clayman was discussing Singapore Airline’s recent difficulties in convincing First-Class passengers on the new A-380 that joining the “Mile High Club” is inappropriate, despite the addition of private bedroom suites featuring double beds to the new aircraft’s cabin.

Her co-anchor was lost in peals of laughter during the entire story (and the panel discussion that followed), and, to be frank, it’s hard not to imagine that this is less of a news channel and more of a TV show spin-off that’s waiting for Ricky Gervais to come in and finish off the effect.

CNBC offers a far different look and feel, with shows being anchored from an anchor desk, cubicles, and finally directly from the floor during the last hour of the day. Much of the broadcast day (perhaps as much as 25%) originated directly from the floors of the NYSE and other Exchanges as well, including the Chicago Board of Trade’s open outcry pits.

The network has considerable history, and presenters such as Joe Kernan, Maria Bartaromo, David Faber and Mark Haines have become financial “celebrities” in their own right. This has raised questions in the past, and a regular viewer might wonder if the presenters are as much network news representatives as they are cheerleaders for the markets.

The experts are of a far higher caliber as well, including the slightly-right-of-Karl-Rove Lawrence Kudlow and other former Fed Board of Governors members, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, tons of investment bankers, brokers, traders, and whoever else can be snatched up for an interview.

And then there’s Cramer.

CNBC has a show called “Mad Money” starring the aforementioned Jim Cramer, which, to be kind, is best described as strategic investment advice for the ADD generation. Tons of useful (and sometimes self-admittedly erroneous) information presented at a machine-gun pace, with wacky hilarity provided by props, sound effects, and the rather quirky Cramer himself.

As of this moment, the equivalent show on Fox Business seems to be "The Dave Ramsey Show", a program that can be described as more of a personal finance show, where listeners call in for advice like “pay off the credit cards first” or “I would find a way to keep the dog” which appeared to be the answer to a question relating to whether an expensive dog should be kept or sold.

Some additional notes: Stewart Varney has migrated from CNN, and in an oddly Foxian quirk, the other “American” anchors make fun of his (Brit) accent...and, perhaps less oddly, Varney then proceeded to make fun (and not in a particularly friendly way) of the Australian reporter’s accent that was in the cutaway pitching the next story-literally changing his own voice to mimic her voice. (To those of you who are Scot, or Irish, or Welsh, or Australian, for that matter, a native of India, I can now say that I’ve had a glimpse of a part of your culture I never fully understood before...and it wasn’t pretty.)

There is also a question of the ethical approach each network takes.

CNBC functions in an environment that acts as though it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission: guests are queried as to their ownership interests in the stocks they pitch; questions are asked when guests offer analysis (“does your company offer services to company XYZ?”), and news about General Electric is accompanied by the statement that “GE is the parent company of this network”.

Fox Business takes a different approach. A visit to their website shows the top two stocks on their “Watchlist” are Newscorp and Dow Jones & Company-one the parent company of Fox, the other the company’s most important recent acquisition. No disclosure of these relationships are offered at the site.

And then there’s the matter of the edited reviews.

Those who follow Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” will recall Novenber 1st's "Worst Person In The World" describing how Fox had distributed a promotional brochure with negative reviews edited to make them appear positive. My favorite: the Toronto Globe and Mail’s assessment that Fox had changed business news...and that they should change it back. As you’ll recall, the Fox brochure contained an edited version of the review that did not contain the admonition to “change it back”.

Believe it or not, I witnessed Fox Business run a spot showing the same edited review-even after they were called on it.

Which bring us to another interesting point for the future: CNBC, several years ago, created a close relationship with Dow Jones, and Dow Jones reporters have forged a long-term relationship with the CNBC audience. The presence of each so closely intertwined with the other has given CNBC increased credibility and Dow Jones an important daily audience all day long...instead of just through the paper before the work day.

Fox is attempting to build the same relationship by linking to Forbes (who is, ironically, partially owned by the singer Bono), but the question for the future is: will the recent acquisition of Dow Jones by Fox change this relationship...and will the evidence of a lower ethical standard at Fox Business translate into the lowering of ethical standards at Dow Jones?

Fox is hoping to make a two-pronged approach into the serious business market with the business channel and their ownership of “The Wall Street Journal”; but if the Fox Business channel is the template by which that is to be done, it would suggest that the paper will either be less influential in the future with its current audience, or that it might need to change its focus from the business paper of record to the personal finance daily...a sort of Money Magazine meets Robb Report in newsprint form.

As I write this, both networks are out of their broadcast days, and oddly enough, both are running the exact same infomercial in sync...meaning it is possible to flip from one channel to the other seamlessly and watch the same program-which may be more of a commentary on American television than either network cares to admit.

So here we are: while CNBC represents the “traditional” style of market news as they and competitor Bloomberg view things, the Fox Business channel has come along to offer a new vision, the future of a major acquisition is at stake, and either Fox will be facing trouble ahead...or “Happy Hour” might indeed be the financial wave, waiting to be caught by market surfers disaffected by the previous norm.

In closing, a final word about the title of today’s story: it was an exact quote from a Fox Business “anchor” who was attempting to tell the viewers what the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up to as he was leading out to a commercial.

And it seemed to be allegorical for the entire Fox Business experience...a bit uncertain, a bit uncomfortable, and a bit more like “Fox and Friends” than real business news.

South's public school children are mainly low income

From The Christian Science Monitor

by Patrik Johnnson

Atlanta - The plight of the South's school-reform movement now hangs on kids from families that make less than $36,000 a year.

For the first time in 40 years, two new studies show, more than half of public school students in the South are eligible for free or reduced lunch – a watershed moment in a 15-year wealth slide that comes amid resurging racial and economic inequalities in the former Confederacy. The rise is part of a nationwide surge: Low-income students now represent 12 percentage points more of the student body than in 1990.

In response, schools from the Delta's cypress region to the Carolina pine flats face a struggle: How to continue to improve test scores, attract good teachers, and reduce dropout rates amid growth of a group of students whom studies show have greater difficulty reaching grade-level benchmarks?

"Measuring low-income students' success is now measuring the majority of students' success," says Steve Suitts, co-author of "A New Majority," a study released Tuesday by the Southern Education Fund (SEF) in Atlanta.

Nationwide, two overarching factors seem to be driving public-school woes, experts say: In recent years, the erosion of middle-class, blue-collar jobs has led to more people working for lower wages, and many parents who can afford private school have taken their children out of public schools altogether. This skews the average income of remaining families lower. The South in particular has been hard hit by the closing of textile plants in South Carolina and the changing coal economy of the Appalachian highlands. Another reason for the shift, some experts note, is the influx of poorer Latinos at least into the Carolinas and Georgia.

From one state to 13

In 1989, Mississippi was the only state with a majority of students who needed free or reduced lunch, according to the SEF study. In 2006, 13 states had a majority of low-income students, 11 of them in the South. The only states in the South unlikely to hit the tipping point are Virginia, with 33 percent, and Maryland, at 31 percent. (North Carolina hovered at 49 percent last year.)

Some 54 percent of students in the region come from families who make less than $36,000 annually, the cutoff point to qualify for free or reduced lunch, compared with a national average of 46 percent.

"Something has happened in the nation from 1990 to 2006, where our economic base has gotten more bottom-heavy," says Joan Lord, vice president for education policy at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, which released its own study this week that found the same phenomenon.

This is not to say that lower income automatically equals lower grades. Some of the best public high schools in the nation, many of them racially and economically integrated, are in the South. But in aggregate, the disparities are apparent. In Alabama, for instance, 43 percent of low-income students scored below basic, the lowest passing classification, on the 2007 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) math test, compared with 14 percent of students with incomes above $36,000.

What's more, studies show that low-income students are more likely to be held back in first and second grade and more likely to drop out of high school.

Those who do graduate from high school are less likely to go on to get a college degree.

"I think this data brings home why progress has been slow in improving education achievement in the South," says Cynthia Brown, a school policy expert at the Center for American Progress.

Many Southerners say the erosion of wealth in the public schools also reveals deeply ingrained attitudes in the South, where strong legislatures, weak governors, fiscal conservatism, and racial stereotypes stymie school progress. "I don't know how many times I've heard that public schools are really for the black kids," says Neal Thigpen, a political scientist at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C.

The civil rights era challenge to raise up black people through education is at stake, says William Taylor, chairman of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights in Washington. "If we're going to figure out how to get out of it, we have to figure out ways to change the dynamics."

Some school districts are implementing a variety of solutions. In Miami-Dade County, school officials are setting up "parent academies" in local churches and community halls in an attempt to make education a higher priority for families.

In Perry County, Ala., predominantly black schools with 80 percent low-income students regularly graduate 90 percent of their high-schoolers. Teaching the basics and character education are part of that success, residents there say.

Rise of resegregation

In some cases, districts that once sought to integrate feel they must re-embrace resegregation as a way to keep the public schools intact. Tuscaloosa, Ala., recently rezoned its middle schools, effectively ending the busing of black city kids to a suburban school.

School board member Ernestine Tucker, who voted against the plan, said the threat from white parents was implicit but obvious: "Rezone, or we pull our kids out of the public schools." "The only difference there is they have options," she says. "We don't have the same options."


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A sidebar: New Mexico and California also fall into this statistical group. DW







WVPE commentary to air Monday

The following will air Monday November 5, 2007 at 8:35 AM and 12:30 PM on 88.1 WVPE (FM). This will be the fourth P,SB commentary for the year, thus far. If desired, copies of the sound file are available.

Recently, Steve Skvara, who gained instant fame at the AFL-CIO Democratic Presidential Candidates Forum in Chicago, IL was in South Bend. His question at Soldiers Field to former Senator John Edwards (on health care) ended with: “What’s wrong with America, and what are you going to do to change it?”

I had the privilege of a conversation with Steve who lives just down the road from us near Valparaiso, IN. He is a retiree from the now defunct LTV Steel Corporation (the company whose engineered bankruptcy cost him his family health care coverage and one third of his pension). He’s currently an Executive Board Member of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) and agitates for health care reform. In his view, what’s needed is a national single payer system, but he’d happily settle for any effective universal coverage plan.

I was curious about how it came to be that in that vast crowd in Soldiers Field he was able to ask a question of the candidates. He explained to me that in an earlier event, he had posed a similar question which had come to the attention of the organizers of the Chicago forum. That put him into a pool (I think he said of 37 people) who were potential questioners. So there was a group of people who went to the event given cards with abbreviated versions of their question on their side and a number on the opposite side. Only shortly before the forum started, did the potential questioners find out if they would be called. And the “questionee” was basically by lot.

So what did Mr. Skvara have to say here in South Bend? Pretty much what many of us try to get people to understand: That nearly 50 million Americans have no health care insurance coverage, that most personal bankruptcies are driven by medical bills. That although we spend nearly twice as much per person as any other developed nation on health care our outcomes (life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.) lag behind most of these nations. His own cardiac specialist said we need a single payer system, because his billing service costs that doctor a quarter million dollars a year. There’s no medical care benefit to that expense. The other thing he had to say is something people who put up with listening to me likely have grown tired of hearing. The problem will not be corrected without us. Period.

Mr. Skvara’s experience is very instructional. He suffered a permanent disability due to an auto accident his family experienced. At the time, he had fabulous heath coverage – thanks to the efforts of organized labor. His family had coverage through the same program and though as a retiree he was required to pay for it – the cost was quite affordable. Then came the liquidation of LTV Steel and it was all gone.

When Mr. Skvara stood up in Chicago he qualified for Medicare due to his disability, but his wife had no coverage. I still find it very hard to keep it together watching the video (as I have many times) as he, struggling with his emotions, says he sits across the breakfast table from the woman who took care of their family for thirty-six years and he can’t afford to pay for health care for her – and seems ashamed of it.

It is we who should be ashamed. I know I am.

Happily, she now has some care. A medical group in Illinois is providing check-ups and tests for her thanks to someone who heard of their plight. But it’s because of someone who did a nice thing, instead of us doing the right thing. And it’s not coverage.

Here are a couple of my own thoughts on the topic. Opponents of universal health care coverage like to trot out the specter of “socialized medicine”. Their idea is that private insurance is the model. But insurance - by definition, is socialism. Gather the biggest pool possible in order to spread the risk. We each pay in our appropriate fraction of the total anticipated cost and receive a benefit only if we need it. Universal coverage is merely the logical extension of the insurance model.

Another thing I think about is that a long time ago we agreed that it was our responsibility as a society to provide a certain level of education to every citizen. Though some have tried to backslide on this one, I still think it is a good idea. People use the phrase “right to life” quite frequently. I’d suggest the right to life (or certainly, the right to a life of quality) often requires competent medical care – without the distraction of “how am I going to pay for this?’. How is this any less important?

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Don Wheeler
writer/editor
Progressives, South Bend

Reactions to the MSNBC Debate from rural South Carolina

From the Huffington Post

By Linda Hansen

Richardson tanked, Edwards spanked and Hillary was outflanked.

Bill Richardson lost any notion of support with his "Holier Than Thou" speech to others onstage about their piling on Hillary Clinton. After a minute or so of sermonizing, he was debate-watchers' toast. The consensus? "She says she's a big girl. She can take it. What's he running for, anyway? Veep in the new Clinton administration?"

So say a group of rural South Carolina women who watched -- and rated -- the performances of the candidates at the October 30th Democratic debate. There were seven of us; four African Americans, three Caucasians. We're longtime friends, all of us political activists. We range in age from 54 to 89. We're the women who volunteer, who phone-bank and get out the vote for every election. And we don't always agree on every issue, or on a candidate.

I have to be honest (that rule really does apply at Huffington Post) and tell you this is an Obama crowd. Four of the seven of us support his candidacy. The other three are undecided. Two of them have been leaning toward Hillary since late spring; the woman thing, the experience factor.

But Barack Obama did not win the night and Hillary Clinton was anything but "inevitable". In the post-debate straw poll among those of us who felt strongly enough about performances to vote, John Edwards was the clear winner with four first place and one second place votes. Obama took one first and two second place votes. Hillary's best showing was a single third place -- Joe Biden finished ahead of her. Edwards' tougher tone won the hearts of Southern ladies who are ready, as one of them put it, "...to stop all this monkeying around and tell it like it is!"

Edwards got cheers three times, for three powerful statements, all of them directed at Hillary. In response to HRC's vote in favor of Kyl-Lieberman, Edwards turned his well-coifed head in Hillary's direction and said "...if Bush invades Iran six months from now...are we going to hear 'If only I knew then what I know now'?" Every woman in the room was on her feet then, steno pads waving like flags, feet stamping and hollering. No one, it seems, is happy with that second concession to the Dubya Doctrine.

The women were moved when Edwards, on the subject of Iraq, said "If you want combat troops over the long term and no timetable for withdrawal, then Hillary Clinton is your candidate" and again when he spoke of passing on all our problems to our children and grandchildren rather than dealing with the hard realities ourselves. We're all mothers, most of us have grandchildren. We worry about the world we're leaving them.

Electability is a concern among this group of women. We're tired of losing. Chris Dodd got points for laying on the table the "unfair Clinton baggage" the HRC campaign brings with it. It's a real problem, that visceral hatred, and we have to face it. Re-energizing the far-Right is a Halloween ghoul of the worst sort here in the South. "The best we can hope for," one of the women watchers lamented, "is that those folks keep fighting amongst themselves over Rudy and Romney and stay home on election day." As much as some of us like Hillary, we worry that her nomination will incite the Right and cost us the White House. "We just cannot afford to lose," another of the women interjected.

Obama, the group said after the debate, got off to a slow start but did well overall. What he didn't do was hit the high notes that Edwards did. They responded well to Obama when he spoke to the issues of honesty and transparency in government, taking Hillary to task over lobbyists, about not facilitating the National Archives' speedy release of Clinton White House documents so the public can see evidence of her eight years' experience in impacting public policy. They cheered when he, unlike HRC, said he would lift the salary caps impairing Social Security solvency. "I'd be happy to contribute more if I made that kind of money," one said. "We need to start taking care of one another."
These women are torn about Obama's going on the offensive. It makes for schizophrenic support. They want him to hit back. No. No, they don't. He's better than that...but maybe he really should...or not. They were happy Edwards did it for them.

It's worth mentioning that Joe Biden made everybody's top three. He was forceful, they pointed out, and showed the wisdom of longtime public service in a positive way.

Dennis Kucinich did amazingly well with the group. They loved his single-payer, not-for-profit healthcare plan -- a fascinating development, since two of them are in the business of health and life insurance. We all loved Kucinich's repeatedly bringing up impeachment. Dubya is not popular here. None of us liked the tenor of Brian Williams' "Will you pledge..." question about Iran and nuclear capability. It sounded aggressive. When Kucinich scolded Williams and the MSM for their culpability in "ratcheting up the rhetoric for war" by framing questions in such volatile terms, he got applause. Pencils flew over paper as he spoke, checkmarks prominent next to his name. I thought he'd finish in the top three right up to the moment he said he'd seen a UFO. There was a collective groan. "No one's gonna take that man seriously now," someone muttered
.
At the end of the night the only candidate to drop out of the top tier was Hillary. Edwards, whether or not he won their votes, had a few new fans. The Obama bunch said they'd still vote for him, but would like to see an Obama/Edwards ticket. Biden won both attention and respect. Dodd got a big nod for having the courage to tell us the 800 pound gorilla in the room is more than a specter of Halloween and that we'd darn sure better acknowledge it.

Richardson became the non-candidate who panders for position with the frontrunner. Speaking of frontrunners, one of our group made two points: "It's sad," she said, "that more people probably watched the "Dancing with the Stars" results show than the...debate, but there might be a lesson [there]. The early frontrunner, the one almost everyone assumed would be in the finale, was booted from the show...who knows?"

And then there was Dennis Kucinich, who can win our hearts with lofty ideals only to shoot himself in the foot before our heads are ever engaged. It's important to note, however, that he is clearly the happiest candidate on any stage. We watched him and his gorgeous young wife in a lip-lock after the debate. It was worthy of any lusty Harlequin Romance book cover. If only Al and Tipper had looked so steamed-up in 2000...

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Also, visit http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/page?id=3489425 for ABC's buzzmaker of the week (from Rick Klein).

DW

Friday, November 2, 2007

Women Have Stories to Share - Michiana Monologues

Think of a significant or powerful experience in your life...

The experience may be humorous, exciting, beautiful, painful, inspiring, terrifying, empowering, embarrassing, sad…

Write this specific story to capture the complexity of being female.

Now, let your story be joined with the stories of dozens of other women.

This is the idea behind the creation of “monologues.”

An important new project, called Michiana Monologues, is in the works. The Monologues were inspired by Eve Ensler's award winning Vagina Monologues. What is a "monologue"? A monologue is one person speaking, and in this case, the person is a woman. In the monologue, the woman shares her experience about herself, her body, her experiences.

Here is info about the background of this project....

Sexual assault touches the lives of thousand of individuals each month. Promoting awareness of the impact of sexual assault, creating support for survivors of sexual assault, and increasing a community’s commitment to combat such assaults are essential goals for those who address this act of violence. Perhaps no one is as widely associated with opposing sexual violence as Eve Ensler, whose award winning production The Vagina Monologues has brought world-wide attention to the continuing problem of violence against women.

In 2005, after producing The Vagina Monologues for several years, members of the Saint Mary’s College community took a different approach, and created a production designed specifically for their campus. They produced The SMC Monologues, a performance of monologues both written and performed by members of the SMC community. The SMC Monologues reflect the unique experiences of women in the Saint Mary’s community and they have been produced for three years. In addition, the student/faculty team that developed The SMC Monologues has traveled to conferences in New York, California, and Wisconsin, presenting workshops on how to develop campus-focused monologues of this type. This year, members of the Indiana University South Bend community approached their Saint Mary’s College colleagues to ask for information about how to produce their own monologues. In the discussion that followed, the idea of collaborating in developing a South Bend community-wide monologues production was born.

The advantages of producing a monologues production specific to a given community, as pioneered by Saint Mary’s College, are numerous. First, writing a monologue often provides an empowering, healing experience for those who have survived sexual assault. Our society often silences survivors of sexual assault in a variety of ways, and the monologues gives a voice to these individuals through a medium that protects their anonymity. Second, because the monologues are written by community members, they are much more likely to reflect the specific issues, concerns, and perspectives of the local community to whom the monologues are presented. Thus, the monologues are more likely to be relevant to and have an impact on that specific community. Not all monologues are about sexual assault, for example. Other issues, including domestic violence, body image, women’s sexuality, and gender identity are addressed. Third, when the settings of events shared in the monologues are familiar and local, the audience is more likely to connect with the experiences shared in the monologues. Finally, the experience of violence against women as local is more likely to spur those who hear the monologues to political and social action in their communities. In summary, community-based monologues are a dynamic and effective way to respond to a variety of experiences that women have. Perhaps the most compelling topic is the experience, the impact, and the prevention of violence against women. The monologue-writing and performance process provides opportunities for support and empowerment to the survivors of violence, increases awareness of the issue, and promotes community involvement in prevention efforts.

Catherine M. Pittman

Associate Professor of Psychology

Saint Mary's College

Notre Dame, IN 46556

574-284-4533

www.michianamonologues.org

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Juan Manigualt campaign - a special comment

Countdown watchers will have an idea of what’s to come. It won’t be a gush.


Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport

I’m really annoyed with Juan Manigault. I was very clear that my political efforts this year would be invested in forwarding the candidacy of John Edwards for President. I was nearly giddy that for the first time in my life, there was someone who believed as I believe and had a good shot at winning the office. I am soon to return to that effort. I will be in Iowa to aid in caucus efforts at the end of the year. There’s probably no harm done. Still…

It all seemed to start with a casual conversation with a friend of mine who was involved with Mayor Luecke’s re-election bid. While working an event on the west side – The African American Cultural Arts Festival - I met Juan Manigault. I suspect I asked my friend about the campaign and what he knew about Mr. Manigault. He told me there were some unanswered questions about his stewardship of a state agency charged with connecting citizens with decent jobs. He later furnished a copy of the only article (circa 2002) The South Bend Tribune has ever done on the subject.

I’m really annoyed with Juan Manigault. After being completely unsuccessful in my attempt to get the Tribune to follow up on their own story, in late July I began my own investigation. My friend pointed me in useful directions at a couple points, and the more I dug, the worse it smelled. Three and a half months later, it smells no better.

There were intermediate trigger points. Juan Manigualt’s Michiana Point of View piece claiming Mayor Luecke was bullshitting everyone really got me started. Juan Manigault’s feigned outrage at Mayor Luecke not taking out a full page ad announcing a couple minor procedural complaints in the most recent city audit got me started on my public records search which exposed Mr. Manigault’s abysmal stewardship.

Though I’ve had made occasional editorial comments, I have mostly related either documented facts or direct testimony of others. But now you get my rant.

Juan Manigault is either the most disingenuous or delusional person I’ve come across. It’s as though he’s modeled himself after George W. Bush. No dissent, no recognition of factual information is permitted. Both Juan and George seemed to have been failures at everything they’ve put their hands on. But while George has had Daddy to bail him out in the past, Juan has been left to his own devices.

I’m sure it’s true that Juan has flushed less of the taxpayer’s money down the toilet than George W., but that seems little consolation. Something approaching a couple million dollars is enough to get my attention.

Shame on the proud Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, for allowing this guy to carry their banner. This guy who trashes efforts of honest citizens trying to better our city, this guy who projects his own deficiencies on his opponent. This guy whose motto is perceptions are more important than facts, then goes to great pains to manipulate those perceptions while disparaging the facts. I know the Republican Party is better than this.

When Juan Manigualt loses his election next Tuesday, his old job will be gone, his severance package may be challenged, and maybe – just maybe – someone in authority might look at his past malfeasance.

Or not. But at the very least, the citizens of South Bend will have dodged a poison tipped bullet.

Hoping this is the last I have to say about this matter.

Don Wheeler

What It's Like (WIB 11)

That was the title of a popular song by the artist Everlast. It begins: "We've all seen the man by the liquor store begging for your change..."

Each verse describes a life unfamiliar to most of us, and closes with variations of "God forbid you'd ever have to walk a mile in his shoes. ' Cause then you really might know what it's like to have the blues".

Thinking about the people who worked with Juan Manigault at the Northern Indiana Workforce Investment Board - particularly women - brought that song to mind.

The women I spoke with were competent professionals, yet at "the agency" they were made to feel less. When I told my wife the story of the impromptu prayer meeting Konnie Beasley experienced at her hiring interview she reacted "He never would have done that to a man". I believe that's right.

Konnie, who served valiantly in a hopeless job was called a liar repeatedly. If she dared ask the purpose of an expenditure, she was told it was none of her business - even though the check to pay for it would bear her signature, and she was - after all - the Vice President for Finance. She eventually took a leave of absence - due to heart problems her doctor believed were job related. While she was gone, her job was eliminated.

From what I hear, this sort of treatment was not unusual. Mr. Manigault didn't care to be questioned, tended towards heavy-handedness. It was very tense for the people working around him.

In addition to the issues of competence addressed over the last three months, voters should think pretty hard about whether Juan Manigault displays the interpersonal attributes desired in city government. What kind of organization would he lead? What type of people would he bring into seats of power?

Think about these things, then vote.

Democracy is not a spectator sport

Don Wheeler