Saturday, May 31, 2008

Truthout roundup 5/31

Buddhist monks assist cyclone survivors in absence of government, foreign aid; DNC Rules Committee may decide Clinton's fate today; Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols write about the collapse of journalistic integrity and reigning in Big Media; H. Candace Gorman writes about "a kinder, gentler torture"; NOW investigates the escalation of child prostitution in America; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Monks Succeed in Cyclone Relief as Generals Falter The New York Times reports: "They paddle for hours on the stormy river, or carry their sick parents on their backs through the mud and rain, traveling for miles to reach the one source of help they can rely on: Buddhist monks. At a makeshift clinic in this village near Bogale, an Irrawaddy Delta town 75 miles southwest of Yangon, hundreds of villagers left destitute by Cyclone Nargis arrive each day seeking the assistance they have not received from the government or international aid workers."

Florida, Michigan Fight Could Be Clinton's Last Stand David Lightman and Lesley Clark of McClatchy Newspapers write: "Hillary Clinton supporters are gathering for what could be her last big stand Saturday, as the Democratic Party's rules committee meets to decide how to resolve a dispute over Florida's and Michigan's 368 delegates to the Democratic National Convention."

Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols Who'll Unplug Big Media? Stay Tuned Writing for The Nation, Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols say, "On a Thursday in mid-May, the Senate did something that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. Led by Democrat Byron Dorgan, the senators - Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives - gave Rupert Murdoch and his fellow media moguls the sort of slap that masters of the universe don't expect from mere mortals on Capitol Hill."

H. Candace Gorman A Kinder, Gentler Torture H. Candace Gorman, writing for In These Times, says, "Every time I visit, Al-Ghizzawi asks me, 'What happened to America?' I try to explain the unexplainable. I tell him that the American government now believes that torture is permissible; that we can hold people forever without charge; keep people in isolation for years; bar communications with family members; force-feed those who want to die and refuse to provide medical treatment for those who want to live. I explain that the American people, whose nation once stood as a beacon of human rights, neither care about this nor want to hear about it."

NOW Child Prostitution "Living in the shadows of contemporary American society are tens of thousands of underage prostitutes - desperate, exploited kids robbed of their childhood and of hope. The Department of Justice says, on any given day, tens of thousands of children across America are involved in prostitution. NOW visits Atlanta to see how the growing problem of child prostitution is being tackled in the hopes of getting young people off the street."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Monthly Public Radio commentary to air 6/3

This month's commentary will air on WVPE Tuesday June 3, at 7:35 AM and 12:30 PM

Our daughter will start Kindergarten next August, so my wife and I spent a good deal of time researching the choices available. We looked into private schools (mostly as a backup), but we are pretty firm in our belief that taking students who are likely to do well out of the public school system is bad for that system. So we focused on choices within the South Bend School Corporation.

One option seems to be very popular in our circle of acquaintances – John F. Kennedy Academy. We investigated it, but there were some aspects of it that, in the end, made us think it wasn’t such a great fit for Sarah. So we made a different choice - our local Primary Center.

The Kennedy Principal mentioned at several points in her presentation that their program was designed for students “ready to learn”. That sounded fine for us – Sarah’s been enrolled in a top-notch preschool program for two years now and has many dozens of her own books. But I began to wonder about the kids who aren’t ready to learn.

We, as a society, have become a bit enamored with certain benchmarks. There are certain measurable achievements in terms of reading, writing and math that are the goal by the end of the Kindergarten year.

That has value, but maybe our emphasis should be on making sure all kids leaving Kindergarten are ready to learn. What would that mean?

I’d argue that nearly all humans are born learners and explorers. But some of us have that discouraged at an early age by persons or circumstances. Since this would be our first chance to restore those innate qualities – we should take it.

Our emphasis should be on building self-esteem, collaborative skills, early critical thinking, a joy of discovery… things like these. At this age, kids soak this sort of stuff up and this skill set could put them on a path of success. People accustomed to success seem to keep finding it throughout their lives.

Some students may need to be in smaller classes. We should spend the money to make that happen. If older children are ready to learn, they could function well in slightly larger classes. It might be a matter of shifting resources a bit.

When I was a Mentor in the Dream Team for Unity program, I saw what happens to children in the fourth and fifth grades who aren’t ready to learn. Their teacher valiantly held after school sessions for them – though she was clearly exhausted by that time of day. They seemed to try very hard. But it seemed clear to me that eventually some of them would be so discouraged by their lack of progress, or embarrassed by their skills as compared to their classmates, that they would give up. And we tend to give up on them.

That’s not good for them and it’s not good for us.

One obvious first step is Universal Full Day Kindergarten. I chose that phrase deliberately, because in Indiana – Kindergarten is an option. It shouldn’t be.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zimmerman recently proposed a system implementing full day Kindergarten which only required a modest additional investment. And just imagine the potential return.

But the Board of Trustees was unmoved and rejected his plan. Explanations of their reasoning were hard to find in the media, and since I didn’t attend the meeting – I won’t speculate. But decisions like these and the lack of discussions about them bother me a lot. So I may be at some meetings in the future.

I’m a Unitarian, and the first principle of Unitarian-Universalism is “To respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person”.

And that certainly should include our children.

Don Wheeler
Progressives, South Bend

Truthout roundup 5/30

Truthout's Matt Renner on the controversial "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007"; former prosecutors ask judge to force Miers and Bolton to testify before Congress; Army announces that suicides have reached record levels; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are urging super delegates to declare; 34 convicted for Guantanamo protest at Supreme Court; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Matt Renner Internet Attacked as Tool of Terror Matt Renner, of Truthout: "A controversial plan to study and profile domestic terrorism was scrapped after popular push back, however, the spirit of the legislation lives on in Senator Joe Lieberman's office. HR 1955, 'The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007' passed the House in October 2007 with almost unanimous support. The bill immediately came under fire from civil liberties watchdogs because of what many saw as a deliberate targeting of Muslims and Arabs and the possible chilling effect it might have on free speech."

Former Prosecutors Challenge White House Immunity Claim Marisa Taylor, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Twenty former US attorneys, both Republicans and Democrats, urged a federal judge Thursday to intervene in a constitutional battle over whether two White House officials should be forced to testify before Congress about the firings of nine US attorneys. The former top prosecutors, including two who served under President Bush, argue in court papers that the judge should reject the Bush administration's assertion of blanket immunity for presidential chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in the congressional investigation."

US Army Suicides Highest in 2007 David Morgan, of Reuters: "The US Army on Thursday said suicides among active duty troops in 2007 had reached the highest level on record, due partly to the stress caused by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army announced that 115 soldiers, including 22 National Guard and Army Reserve troops, killed themselves last year. That marked a 12.7 percent rise from the 102 suicides recorded in 2006. There were 85 Army suicides in 2005."

Leaders in Congress Seek to Settle on Nominee Carl Hulse, of The New York Times: "Hoping to bring their party's presidential nomination fight to an end, the two top Democrats in Congress said they were pressing superdelegates who had yet to declare a preference in the race to make their choice public by the middle of next week. Party officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, had been contacting uncommitted superdelegates, encouraging them to prepare to go public and resolve any last question about the contest between Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York."

Thirty-Four Convicted in Guantanamo Protest Case Keith L. Alexander, of The Washington Post: "Thirty-four people were convicted yesterday of misdemeanor charges stemming from a demonstration at the Supreme Court in January in which they decried conditions at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. DC Superior Court Judge Wendell P. Gardner Jr. said the demonstrators violated the law by protesting at the plaza of the Supreme Court, where such activities are banned. He rejected arguments that they were practicing free speech when they marched to the plaza, despite warnings from police, carrying banners and wearing T-shirts saying 'Shut down Guantanamo.'"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Playground for Preschoolers with Special Needs

Helping Preschoolers by Building a "Sustainable" Playground

I work as an Occupational Therapist for preschool children with special needs at two schools within the South Bend Community School Corporation. At one of these sites, our little preschoolers do not have a playground that is appropriate for them to play on. When my mother discovered this, she immediately thought there had to be grants or other funds from community organizations that could be tapped to finance the construction of a playground for these little ones.

Below is a letter composed by her and myself and presented to the school principal for his approval and signature. This letter requests approval for an Indiana Department of Environmental Management grant for a recycled rubber playground surface. We hope this is approved as we try to piece together the funds for this much-needed facility.

If you know of any businesses, individuals or organizations who may also be interested in helping out with this project, please don’t hesitate to post a comment to this site.

May 22, 2008

Mr. Michael Mendyk

Department of Environmental Management

State House

Indianapolis, IN 46204

Dear Mr. Mendyk,

Webster defines play as “amusing yourself,” “having fun,” “occupying yourself,” which makes it seem rather frivolous; but then he goes on to say it is “to participate,” “take part in,” “join in,” which gives it the much more importance in our lives that it deserves. Play is a significant component of everyone’s life; to children it is vital, to children with special needs, it is crucial.

To develop young minds to their fullest potential, the importance of gross motor play is well understood. For young children with developmental delays such as autism, Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, the need to climb, jump, swing, and run in a safe environment is even more important. Children with special needs require even greater levels of proprioceptive (spatial awareness) and vestibular (movement) input as a foundation for learning functional educational skills.

For example, a four-year-old with autism may be unable to sit still to listen to his Gramma read him a bedtime story. Therefore, learning to sit for a minute or two at “Circle Time” would be one of the goals his teachers, paraprofessionals, the Speech Therapist, and the Occupational Therapist would help him with at his special needs preschool.

Incorporating structure and gross motor play into his preschool day is an essential building block in helping our little friend modulate his impulses during teacher-directed learning activities. From learning to attend to a story at Circle Time, he can go on to learn turn-taking for communication and from there – the world is his.

The South Bend Community School Corporation’s Special Needs and Abilities Preschool (SNAP) Program has preschool classrooms at several locations, including Darden Primary Center. At Darden, nearly 100 three- to five-year-olds with special needs are enrolled in SNAP classes. Incredibly, Darden does not have a developmentally appropriate outdoor play facility for these youngsters. With the help of the Indiana Department of Environmental management, it is our hope to rectify this situation and have a suitable playground for the next school year. Therefore we are requesting our Darden SNAP program be considered a recipient for the recycled rubber play surface grant currently being offered by IDEM.

We recognize recycled rubber material is one of the most shock-absorbent surfaces available, important for all children, but in particular those children with balance difficulties who may be prone to falls, as well as children with osteogenesis imperfecta, whose delicate bones need extra precautions. The playground being sought should also accommodate the special needs of motorically challenged kids who may be in wheelchairs.

Furthermore, South Bend’s mayor, Steve Luecke, recently signed onto a pact to help South Bend become a more environmentally-friendly city. Using recycled rubber for a playground surface also fits right into the city’s mission of becoming more sustainable.

Please favorably consider this request for IDEM’s recycled rubber play surface grant for this deserving group of special needs preschoolers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


James Bankowski, Principal

Darden Primary Center

Are politicians failing our lobbyists?

In The Know: Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?

A South Bend schools success story

by Don Wheeler

(since The South Bend Tribune makes its stories unavailable - free anyway - after 7 days, I tend to post more of the text than I might otherwise)

In a recent article by Michael Wanbaugh, The South Bend Tribune notes significant success in reading test scores in three Primary Centers which had introduced a new (to them) reading program. After great success at Hay Primary Center, the program was expanded to Wilson, Harrison and Madison schools.

From an April 4 article, by the same author:

When Kristine Cohn felt the power of Light Bulb Lane here inside Hay Primary Center on Thursday morning, it was a bit overwhelming.

Light Bulb Lane is a special laboratory for struggling readers. Teachers utilize the Wilson/LiPS reading program to help students diagram, hear, visualize and ultimately understand the complex science that is the English language. Cohn, who is a regional representative for U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, was fortunate enough to witness a young boy at Hay beam as reading began to make a little more sense to him.

The occasion sent a surge of pride through the boy and made Cohn cry.

"To see that young boy and the light bulb go on, it was just very emotional for me," Cohn said. "That's what makes us teachers come back year after year, day after day. It's that wonderful of a moment."

Cohn has spent most of the week in the area. She visited Elkhart Community Schools on Tuesday and Mishawaka public schools Wednesday.

Based out of Chicago, Cohn is the top-ranking U.S. education official for Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin...

...From Washington (High School), Cohn went to Hay, which has been a pilot for the Wilson-LiPS reading intervention program since the 2003-04 school year.

Principal Craig Haenes credits the Wilson-LiPS program with making Hay one of the South Bend Community School Corp.'s strongest schools academically.

Hay has some of the highest ISTEP-plus scores in the corporation and has been labeled an exemplary school by the state ranking system four straight years.

The Wilson-LiPS program, which is funded through the Public Education Foundation, has since been expanded to other schools because of its success.

When we were "shopping" for Kindergarten programs, Mr. Haenes gave us a bit of history of how the Wilson/LiPS program came to his school.

He became aware that the Penn system was using Wilson/LiPS and thought it a good program and potentially helpful to his school. He apparently campaigned hard with then Superintendent Joan Raymond and eventually won her approval. The rest (as they say) is history. It gave us a lot of confidence in the people at Hay - which had a lot to do with our selection of that school.

From the article of May 25:

A year ago this month, Susan Warner, executive director of the Public Education Foundation, was gearing up for a major expansion. Warner and the board of the Public Education Foundation wanted to expand the successful Wilson/LiPS reading program at Hay Primary Center into another one of South Bend's schools.

Robert L. Zimmerman, superintendent of the South Bend Community School Corp., had other plans. He told Warner he wanted the program expanded into three more schools -- Wilson, Harrison and Madison primary centers...

...Warner says the preliminary data is very encouraging at the new schools."I'm really happy," she said. "All the students grew quite a bit in their reading levels. We saw at least a year's gain in almost all our students." Warner said she expects to notice a difference in third-grade English/language arts ISTEP scores next year at the three schools.

This year's second-graders will take that test next fall.

The Wilson/LiPS program has been the pride of Hay since its pilot year in 2003-04. Since then, ISTEP passing percentages in English/language arts have increased nearly 10 points...

..."I'm really excited to see the kindergartners come in next year with what they already know," Mary Ellen Grontkowski (a first grade teacher at Madison) said. "It has been a big learning experience. We worked very hard to meet all the needs of all the children as they surfaced."

Warner is thrilled at how well the expansion has gone. When the progress measurements at Wilson, Harrison and Madison started trickling in earlier this year, Warner rushed down to Zimmerman's office.

She just couldn't wait to show him. "We're seeing growth," Warner said, "that we've never seen before."

With news like this, a lot of us are wondering what in the heck is the School Board's gripe with Dr. Zimmerman?

Any theories out there? They sure aren't saying.

Truthout roundup 5/29

Truthout's William Rivers Pitt sits down with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul; Iraqis say some US troops are trying to convert them to Christianity; British to ban US cluster bombs; New York to honor same-sex unions from other states; John Ralston on McCain's issue; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

William Rivers Pitt Interview With Congressman Ron Paul William Rivers Pitt, of Truthout: "Despite what the mainstream news media choose to report, Senator John McCain of Arizona is not the last remaining Republican candidate for president today. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas never abandoned his run for the GOP nomination, and he fully intends to present himself before the Republican National Convention in September as a true conservative alternative to McCain's status-quo candidacy. In fact, according to a recent blog report published by The Los Angeles Times, Paul looks to do more than merely show up at the door."

Marines Attempting Christian Conversions, Iraqis Say Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel, of McClatchy Newspapers: "At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the US Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand. Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. 'Where will you spend eternity?' it asked."

US Cluster Bombs to Be Banned From UK Richard Norton-Taylor, of The Guardian UK: "The US will no longer be able to stockpile cluster bombs at its military bases in Britain under government proposals for an international ban on the controversial weapons, it emerged last night. As diplomats from more than 100 states unanimously passed a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs around the world, it emerged that British ministers are prepared to go further."

New York to Back Same-Sex Unions From Elsewhere Jeremy W. Peters, of The New York Times: "Governor David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada. In a directive issued on May 14, the governor's legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere 'should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.'"

Jon Ralston McCain's About-Face on Yucca Mountain John Ralston, of The Las Vegas Sun: "If a man told you for years that he didn't love you, essentially had no regard for you at all, and then suddenly, when he needed you, told you he adored you, would you fall for it? As John McCain, alighting in Reno today, tries to woo Nevada voters, he is hoping for the kind of short-term memory loss Christopher Nolan wrote about and filmed in 'Memento.' If Nevadans keep forgetting what he has said and done before, McCain might actually be able to convince voters here that his love for the state has simply been well-hidden. Very well-hidden."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Forest v. Trees

by Don Wheeler

The occasion of April Lidinsky's conference and resulting post opens the door to a discussion we on the left need to have if we are serious about winning the confidence of the mostly moderate populace. And given the weakened state of conservatism, no better time than now.

I am not an academic, but most people probably consider me an intellectual. I'm married to someone who is an academic and most certainly an intellectual. I've done a lot of different kinds of work and have met intellectual contractors, body shop owners, interior painters, etc. One of these was even illiterate, yet had no problem thinking deeply about things. Still, academics seem to be the face of intellectualism - for good or evil.

As you can imagine, I tend to be invited to social gatherings loaded with academics. Often, I find them a bit unpleasant. If there were a meter for detecting passive aggression - I'd have to set the thing to vibrate.

These folks may not be aware of it, but nearly all their "jokes" are at someone's expense - persons normally unnamed and certainly not present. Then of course there are scenes like Tom Sullivan describes in today's Truthout roundup:

Inevitably, as usually happens, some complain about how hopelessly ignorant Americans are, exhibiting little awareness of the incongruity of thinking people are stupid and expecting them to vote with you. The undercurrent of frustration is palpable - like Marian the librarian complaining about the unintelligencia of River City for ignoring all her counsel and advice, even though she can quote "Balzac and Shakespeare and all them other high-falutin' Greeks." Frustrated activists armed to the teeth with data assume stupidity is the reason more Americans don't vote with them.

Despite their efforts, this attitude leaks out in other settings, and others sense it.

I kind of get where this comes from. If you're the person who, from the early days of school on, knew the answer, finished the test early, often praised by your teacher, didn't have to study all that is easy for a certain smugness to set in. I've had this tendency myself, and I try hard to fight it. Then add to it a 5 - 10 year Hell Week (tenure seeking) and I suppose there must be an impact.

So these trees are the forest many people see.

Another problem is that many of these folks are experts in their field, but have difficulties accomplishing basic practical tasks without outside help. When others note this they wonder just how smart these folks actually are. I'll concede that these folks are not typical, but they're the ones you notice.

Another forest v. trees problem (in my view) was suggested by Ms. Lidinsky's most recent post:

Much has been written about the anti-intellectual bent in contemporary American culture. How has it come to be that while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are Harvard and Yale-educated, they seem to have to pander for our votes by proving themselves to be “average Joes (and Janes),” by bowling and tossing back Crown whiskey? Don’t we want our leaders to be smart?

And: don’t we have faith that our citizenry could come to value our own smarts, once again?

I think this is a misreading. While I agree that anti-intellectualism exists, I think people confuse that with anti-intellect ism. In my experience, intellect is highly valued. I'll come back to that.

The scenes of bowling (was the gutter-ball a symbol?), drinking and (as The Colbert Report added for John McCain) napping are, of course, media creations. It's been a long campaign, after all. But the idea that lots of people vote for the candidate whom they'd "like to have a beer with" means voters want to feel some kind of connection to and with a candidate. I don't find it weird at all that voters want some assurance that the candidate has some idea what their lives are like. And when I think about who I'd like to have a beer with, it's mostly people who have led interesting lives and/or done important work.

Which brings me back to the intellectual versus intellect question.

In social settings with groups of folks from varied backgrounds and occupations, I've noticed that knots of people tend to gather around those who are working on projects or problems - pretty much any kind. They are interested and engaged and free in their praise of efforts like these. Intellect is valued when it is applied to problems, but not when it sits in judgement.

Conservatives had this exact problem when I was growing up. They were the "intellectual elite" and Democrats had sustained Congressional majorities. Eventually, Conservatives learned to connect better. We need to do the same.

Truthout roundup 5/28

Former White House press secretary reveals in his new memoir how the Bush administration intentionally misled the American people on Iraq; four Iraqi witnesses offer grand jury testimony on the killing by Blackwater security guards of 17 innocent civilians in Baghdad; corruption case against Arizona congressman involves questioning of McCain staffers over federal land swap deals; US prison industry profits from crackdown on undocumented migrant workers; Tom Sullivan on the urgent need for progressive politics to start speaking in a language that everyone understands; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Former White House Press Aide: Bush Misled US on Iraq Michael D. Shear reports for The Washington Post: "Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated 'political propaganda campaign' led by President Bush and aimed at 'manipulating sources of public opinion' and 'downplaying the major reason for going to war.'"

Blackwater Grand Jury Hears Iraqi Witnesses ABC News's Brian Ross, Aadel Faiq and Len Tepper report: "The FBI has brought four Iraqi witnesses, including the father of a dead 9-year-old boy, to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Blackwater security guards accused of killing 17 innocent civilians last year at a Baghdad traffic square."

FBI Interviews McCain Staffers Susan Crabtree reports for The Hill: "Federal agents interviewed staffers for likely Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as part of their corruption case against Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.)."

Jail Growth Explodes as Feds Crackdown on Illegal Migrants Jay Root writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "Many in Congress are counting on border walls to discourage illegal immigration and dope smuggling from Mexico. Here in Del Rio, Texas, authorities are using prison walls instead."

Tom Sullivan The Elitism Thing Tom Sullivan writes for Campaign for America's Future: "When character attacks make us uncomfortable and defensive, maybe we should pay more attention and not dismiss them immediately as unfair or overblown. Like Republicans being obsessed with money. I can often identify an acquaintance as a Republican by how quickly money dominates the conversation. With the activist left, it is how quickly the topic of voter ignorance arises."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Truthout roundup 5/27

Two US soldiers killed in Iraq; lack of safety standards for residential air quality led to toxic FEMA trailers; pro-democratic Suu Kyi supporters arrested in Burma; states must balance local priorities and federal requirements in securing anti-terrorism funding; food banks struggle to keep food on the shelves as more Americans seek aid; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Blasts Kill Two US Soldiers in Iraq Ned Parker reports for The Los Angeles Times: "Two US soldiers were killed in a pair of roadside bombings over the weekend, the US military announced Monday. One soldier died in a bomb blast Sunday night in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad, that left two other soldiers wounded, the military said. No further information was immediately provided."

Safety Lapses Raised Risks in Trailers for Katrina Victims Spencer S. Hsu reports for The Washington Post: "Within days of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in August 2005, frantic officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered nearly $2.7 billion worth of trailers and mobile homes to house the storm's victims, many of them using a single page of specifications."

Burmese Police Seize Suu Kyi Backers Seth Mydans and Alan Cowell report for the International Herald Tribune: "Authorities in Myanmar were reported to have seized supporters of the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday hours before a deadline for the annual extension of her house arrest."

States Chafing at US Focus on Terrorism For The New York Times, Eric Schmitt and David Johnston report: "Juliette N. Kayyem, the Massachusetts homeland security adviser, was in her office in early February when an aide brought her startling news. To qualify for its full allotment of federal money, Massachusetts had to come up with a plan to protect the state from an almost unheard-of threat: improvised explosive devices, known as I.E.D.'s."

Food Banks Serving New Demographic Nationwide Evelyn Nieves writes for The Associated Press: "Jackie Hoffman sifted through a laundry bin filled with aging bread, choosing a loaf of white. Like nearly a third of the first 50 customers to arrive at the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton that morning, Hoffman was new to the pantry. But since she lost her sales job at a local newspaper in December, she has not found work in Stockton, which has the highest foreclosure rate in the country and a hurting job market."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Whose Culture?

by April Lidinsky

I just returned from four days in New York City, at the very hip Cultural Studies Association national conference, where university professors from many fields – literature, political science, religious studies, history, film and theater, and cultural and urban geography – met to discuss the ways we study and understand American culture in the past and present.

Two things struck me – beyond the super-coolness of the participants (More tattoos, fishnet hose, dark red lipstick, and men with rings in their ears and black leather jackets than I’ve seen in one place in a long time. I am quite certain I was the only conference attendee wearing khaki pants purchased from the sales rack at Kohl’s!).

1) In a few panels there was a clear sense of superiority over the poor benighted “public” – reinforcing every bad stereotype about smug Ivory Tower types who can’t believe what dupes average citizens are. This depressed me.

But … better news next!

2) In many more panels there was an interesting theme developing – that of academics recognizing that THEY have failed to engage meaningfully with policy-makers, and failed to put their research to the test of “How might this help others?” Folks remarked how successfully Right-wing “think”-tanks have managed to shape public debates and policy-making. Why hasn’t this happened on the Left?

After all, academics, when they are not busy studying their own navels, cultivate skills every citizen needs – and most folks are hungry for: How to ask good questions; how to begin to seek answers; how to value complexity over simplicity; how to seek multiple perspectives; how to challenge arguments and definitions that might hang on faulty premises, etc. Also – how to tell a good story, a story hung on facts that could persuade folks who don’t already agree. (This last one made my English-major heart sing.)

The conclusion I came away with was that THIS is the moment when even citizens who have supported the Bush-Cheney view of the world are starting to see the limits of simplistic claims. The Orwellian names this administration has cultivated (Homeland Security, Clear Skies, etc) are by now so transparently bankrupt that most citizens are hungering for a new approach, and perhaps educators are just the folks to remind everyone of these critical thinking skills that are essential to engaged citizenship.

Much has been written about the anti-intellectual bent in contemporary American culture. How has it come to be that while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are Harvard and Yale-educated, they seem to have to pander for our votes by proving themselves to be “average Joes (and Janes),” by bowling and tossing back Crown whiskey? Don’t we want our leaders to be smart?

And: don’t we have faith that our citizenry could come to value our own smarts, once again?

If not now, when?

Support the troops, end the war

by Don Wheeler

I am thinking back one year ago to Memorial Day 2007.

The John Edwards campaign spearheaded a nationwide event for the weekend entitled "Support The Troops - End The War". The idea was to protest the war in Iraq, speed the end and also to honor those who had served. There was even a website with the same title which has only recently been reclaimed.

Paddy and I took a leap of faith and decided to sponsor a picnic at our home.

The website showed "balloons" on a US map signifying all the events for the weekend. As one scrolled over these balloons, some details appeared. You could then click on the balloon for complete information. As it turned out, we were sponsoring the only Memorial Day picnic in northern Indiana. As you can imagine, it was hard to anticipate what kind of crowd would turn out.

Never one for pessimism, I thought it important to have a good supply of food on hand. I went to GFS for a couple cases of burgers (they're good - by the way) and a case of hot dogs (so-so). I laid in chips, buns, plates and utensils. I had a microphone and a small amplifier at the ready in case the group was large and people wanted to speak.

Well the big crowds didn't come, and much of the remaining supplies were used at our church picnic a couple weeks after. But the event was very pleasant - populated by 20 -30 Unitarians and/or Edwards supporters.

As part of the event, I commissioned a lawn sign: "Support The Troops! Bring Them Home" and This was done at the last minute, and in fact, the sign designer stashed the sign in a dumpster so I could pick it up after hours - which I did without incident.

But in one of the most unfortunate typos imaginable, the lower line read: .

The sign designer of course later corrected the mistake and was extremely apologetic.

The corrected sign has graced our front lawn ever since and as I placed it back after cutting the lawn - I hoped to soon be able to put it away for good.

May it be so.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Love is the spirit of this church...

remarks as prepared for First Unitarian Church of South Bend

by Don Wheeler

Love is the Spirit of this Church and Service is its Law.

Soon we will be saying these words together. Unlike some things we may say, I have confidence that we will mean it when we speak this.

As I thought about my politics and Unitarianism, I decided that I needed to take a bit of liberty with the topic and include you – my Unitarian Community as well.

I’m on the Interim Minister Search Committee, and recently one of the candidates asked us why we each come to this church. I was a bit surprised that I didn’t need to think about it. My response was, “Because these folks tend to bring out those things I like about myself, rather than those I don’t.”

This matters because, through that foundation and the amazing support of Paddy (my wife), I have the liberty and the determination to fight what I see as the good fight.

This last year and a half in my life has been pretty amazing. Like most people, my life has had many chapters. The one just prior to this one involved nest building around our very small child. But as Sarah approached her fourth birthday, and began to build her own life beyond the three of us, I started thinking more deeply about the world she was likely to inherent.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I supported John Edwards for President. [pause for chuckles] His vision and highly detailed program for achieving One America seemed to embody the first principle of Unitarian Universalism: “To respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person”. He had spent well over a year visiting refugee camps and slums abroad, organized and led relief and rebuilding efforts for New Orleans, picketed with Union workers, chaired an acclaimed anti-poverty forum…you get the idea…all prior to his campaign. I’m pleased that he is now heading the organization Half in Ten - which is dedicated to reducing the poverty rate in the United States by half in ten years. An ambitious effort to be sure – and so like him.

There is little in my life I am prouder of than being very involved in The Campaign To Change America – John Edwards 2008. We didn't get him the nomination, but we certainly changed the conversation. And the experience of my involvement in the Iowa Caucuses is something I’ll always cherish.

I was struck how one can insinuate oneself into a serious Presidential campaign. One the advantages was that I got to make the strategic decisions. The campaign advocated local involvement and even had a social action component called One Corps. Our local chapter was One America for St. Joseph County. The idea was to hold food drives and perform service projects in the community with the Edwards name attached. I started studying the paper’s community events calendar as well and made a point of attending many of them. This led to my meeting many community leaders and making many new connections.

I had never read a blog a year and one half ago, but after a couple months I became a regular on the Edwards blog and a regular contributor. At the same time, I began to communicate regularly with The South Bend Tribune – submitting my own letters as well as complaining about some of their reporting and columns they carried. What became clear was that there was no media outlet or significant forum for those of us in the Progressive Community.

Emboldened by my experience – I made one: Progressives, South Bend - last July. The masthead states “a forum to promote and discuss social action issues, ideas and events in the Michiana area.” I, too, was never one to aim low. I also became a regular contributor of WVPE commentaries.

The blog started modestly – a few pro Edwards essays, social action observations and my initial “The Other America” series offerings concerning poverty housing and subsidized housing in our area. I invited my two favorite Edwards bloggers to join in, and they did.

Then our own Chuck Leone go me interested in probing the background of one Juan Manigault – a candidate for Mayor. Through a freedom of information request I obtained about 180 pages of documents and wrote about my examination of them contemporaneously. Traffic boomed on Progressives, South Bend, and I discovered that when I went to meetings about social action efforts, at least some people knew of the blog.

Since that point I’ve worked on getting other contributors involved. We have people from the Green Party, South Bend Equality and, most recently, long-time Michiana Chronicles contributor April Lidinsky all joining in the conversation. (I’m still tickled to death about that).

Who knows what will come of this, but ten months ago I never dreamed that my decision to endorse Jill Long Thompson for Governor would mean much of anything to anyone but Paddy, for example. But people have told me that it did. It’s both humbling and gratifying.

I worry that what I’ve said to you sounds like “Look at me! Look at me!” That’s not what I want.

What I want to say, in telling my somewhat improbable story, is that most people ache for decent leaders. Decent is the word I meant, by the way. And to challenge each of us to always consider the possibilities…And to really believe that there always are possibilities.

I believe UU doctrine is about building things, not tearing them down. This congregation has been very important in building me. And now I’m trying to pay it forward.

I will continue in my effort to help eradicate poverty housing and hopefully will succeed in our effort to amend the City of South Bend Human Rights Ordinance to include protections for citizens in the GLBT community. I’ll try to help get Jill elected Governor and my guess is I’ll wind up involved in projects I can’t possibly anticipate at this point in time. I actually have one or two in mind – to be truthful.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Think about what you care about and if you haven’t been working on it, think about getting started. Odds are, the person next to you is involved in something very important to our community. That’s who we are and what we believe.

I’ll close with a quote from my most recent WVPE commentary about the Rebuilding Together workday. I think it sums up my politics pretty well.

Negativity is a wastive thing. Pointing out problems, real and perceived and doing nothing else sucks energy out of people and communities. That approach feeds cynicism and fatalism. People get convinced what they think or do doesn’t matter, can’t make a difference.

Well, it’s a lie!

The Rebuilding Together staff certainly put in many hours in preparation for the work. The House Captains put in some hours ahead of the event so that things would run smoothly. But what really made things happen were the hundreds of volunteers putting in a few hours each. It was those people who were rebuilding together.

So when someone says to you, 'There’s nothing I can do" or "what I do won’t matter" – tell them this story – or better yet, one of your own. The important thing is not to let the lie stand unchallenged. Everyone makes a difference in what they do or choose not to do.”

Love is the spirit of this Church, and service is its law.

Service is its law.

Thank you.

Truthout roundup 5/25

Ann Wright on the institutional acceptance of "sexual assault" in the military; Bob Barr's candidacy might hurt John McCain; deforestation on the rise in Brazil's rain forests; we may need a license to vote; top Colombian rebel leader is dead; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Ann Wright Rape Hobbles Bush Administration Policies Ann Wright, for Truthout: "One would hope that behavior that requires the 'regrets' of the president of the United States and the secretary of state and the stand-down of United States military forces for 'reflection' and retraining in ethics and leadership would be punished severely enough to send a clear signal that the behavior will not be tolerated. Yet the history of sexual assault and rape of women around US military bases, particularly in Okinawa, reveals a military institutional acceptance of this criminal behavior and a lack of enforcement of military regulations against such behavior by senior military officers."

Will Libertarians Draw Conservatives From McCain? Steven Thomma, of McClatchy Newspapers: "For years, conservative-minded home schooling mom Shana Kluck of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, voted Republican. No longer. Fed up with big government at home and military intervention overseas, she worked for Ron Paul in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. Now that he's fallen short, she's switching parties, traveling to Denver this weekend to help former Republican Congressman Bob Barr win the Libertarian presidential nomination."

Brazil Rainforest Analysis Sets Off Political Debate Alexei Barrionuevo, of The New York Times: "Gilberto Camara, a scientist who leads Brazil's national space agency, is more at ease poring over satellite data of the Amazon than being thrust into the spotlight. But since January, Dr. Camara has been at the center of a political tug-of-war between scientists and Brazil's powerful business interests. It started when he and his fellow engineers released a report showing that deforestation of Brazil's portion of the rainforest seemed to have shot up again after two years of decline."

License to Vote Anthony Zurcher, of The Texas Observer: "For sheer drama, the battle over a bill requiring Texas voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot at the polls had no equal in last year's legislative session. Shouting matches. Angry walkouts. A gravely ill Democratic senator roused from his sickbed on a moment's notice. Prepare yourself for an encore performance. Last month, a splintered US Supreme Court upheld an Indiana voter ID law considered the nation's most stringent. "

Colombia Says Top Rebel Commander Is Dead Reuters: "The founder and top commander of Colombia's FARC rebel force, Manuel Marulanda, has died after more than 40 years fighting the state from jungle and mountain camps, the government said on Saturday. The death of Manuel Marulanda, known as Sureshot, who organized the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla force in the 1960s, would be the heaviest blow suffered by Latin America's oldest surviving insurgency, already weakened by a serious of military setbacks."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Truthout roundup 5/23

Truthout's Maya Schenwar on the Senate vote to fund the wars; Michael Schwartz on how Bush's plans have foundered in Iraq; Burma's junta to allow relief workers in; McCain rejects pastors' endorsement; Iraq's leading cleric showing support to Shia militias; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Maya Schenwar Senate Resurrects War Funding Bill Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "As expected based on precedent, the Senate passed a bill Thursday morning to pump $165.4 billion into the pipeline for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As expected, the Senate rejected a provision that would have established a June 2009 goal for the partial redeployment of troops from Iraq. This move has pushed the withdrawal debate off the table until after Bush leaves office, according to Craig Jennings, federal fiscal policy analyst at the government watchdog group OMB Watch."

Michael Schwartz How the American Imperial Dream Foundered in Iraq Michael Schwartz, of "It's hard now even to recall the original vision George W. Bush and his top officials had of how the conquest of Iraq would unfold as an episode in the President's Global War on Terror. In their minds, the invasion was sure to yield a quick victory, to be followed by the creation of a client state that would house crucial 'enduring' US military bases from which Washington would project power throughout what they liked to term 'the Greater Middle East.'"

Burma Agrees to "All" Cyclone Aid Workers Reuters: "Myanmar's junta agreed on Friday to admit cyclone aid workers 'regardless of nationalities' to the hardest-hit Irrawaddy Delta, a breakthrough for delivering help to survivors, UN officials said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on a mission to help 2.4 million left destitute by the storm that struck three weeks ago, reached the agreement with junta supremo Than Shwe in a meeting lasting more than two hours in the remote capital of Naypyidaw."

McCain Too Denounces Pastor Juliet Eilperin and Michelle Boorstein, of The Washington Post: "Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) today rejected the endorsement of megachurch pastor and ardent Zionist John Hagee after learning of a sermon in which Hagee posited that Nazism was God's will. Hagee's sermon was delivered in the late 1990s but a video of it began circulating widely this week on the Web on the site talk2action, which monitors the religious right. The sermon calls Hitler a 'hunter,' a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, which quotes God saying he 'will restore [the Jews] to the land I gave to their forefathers.'"

Powerful Iraqi Cleric Flirting With Shiite Militant Message Hamza Hendawi, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra of The Associated Press: "Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against US-led foreign troops is permissible - a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad. The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hoosier Heartland workers endorse Long Thompson for governor

from Hoosiers for Jill

ARGOS, Ind. - Today Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson welcomed the support of the working men and women of the Hoosier Heartland Central Labor Council.

Representing approximately 3,817 members from 11 unions in Fulton, Pulaski, Wabash, Miami and Cass Counties, the Hoosier Heartland Central Labor Council (CLC) is the latest in a long line of labor organizations backing Long Thompson's gubernatorial bid.

"We are thrilled to announce our support of Jill Long Thompson for Governor," said Ron Butler, the president of the Hoosier Heartland CLC. "She has a long and distinguished record of fighting for working families, and that's the kind of leader we need in the Governor's office."

Long Thompson represented Northeast Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives serving from 1989 to 1995. She also served as U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development from 1995 to 2001. She received her B.S. in Business from Valparaiso University and her M.B.A and Ph.D. from Indiana University. Long Thompson most recently served as CEO of The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. A former educator, Long Thompson and her husband Don Thompson, a commercial airline pilot, live on their family farm in Marshall County.

For more information about Jill Long Thompson or her campaign, please visit or call 574- 892-6100.

Truthout roundup 5/22

Truthout's Matt Renner on modern day slavery; Israel and Syria resume peace talks; Joshua Holland on the emerging immigration police state; Congressman Vito Fossella may do jail time; Gareth Porter wonders where those Iranian weapons in Iraq are; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Matt Renner Slavery Today: A Clear and Present Danger Matt Renner, of Truthout: "Slavery never ended in the United States; it continues here and across the globe, facilitated by globalization, corruption and greed. There are more people enslaved today - controlled by violence and forced to work without pay - than at any time in human history. Experts put the number of slaves at 27 million worldwide. These men and women work across many sectors of the global economy, raking in profits for the criminals who hold them against their will. The US State Department estimates that 17,500 slaves are brought into the United States every year. An estimated 50,000 slaves are forced to work as prostitutes, farm workers and domestic servants in the US."

Israel, Syria Resume Peace Talks After Eight-Year Break Josef Federman, of The Associated Press: "Israel and Syria unexpectedly announced Wednesday the resumption of peace talks after an eight-year break, saying they have been speaking indirectly through Turkish mediators 'in order to achieve the goal of comprehensive peace.' The long-time adversaries each have something to gain from the dialogue. Israel wants to reduce Syrian support for anti-Israel militants in Gaza and Lebanon, while Syria is eager to improve ties with the US and end its international isolation."

Joshua Holland Homeland Security's Emerging Immigration Police Stat
e Joshua Holland, of AlterNet: "Last week, hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, flanked by helicopters, a trail of SUVs and a convoy of buses, descended on the tiny town of Postville, Iowa. They set up a perimeter around the 60-acre kosher meat-processing plant operated by the global giant Agriprocessors, Inc. and conducted the largest workplace raid in US history. Around 400 people were arrested -- most from Mexico, Eastern Europe and Guatemala -- representing 40 percent of the plant's workers and 17 percent of the town's population. Warrants for another 300 were issued."

Jail Is Likely for Congressman Fossella, Say Lawyers Jared Allen, of The Hill: "If Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) is unable to reach a deal with prosecutors on his DUI arrest, he will likely have to serve five days in jail before the end of the year, making him only the fourth sitting member of Congress to be locked up following a criminal conviction and dragging his troubles back into the spotlight just as Republicans were counting on them having vanished. Not since Rep. John Dowdy (D-Texas) was sent to prison for his 1972 conviction for bribery, obstruction of justice and perjury has a sitting member of the House been sentenced to jail or prison following a criminal conviction, according to the House historian."

Gareth Porter Where Are Those Iranian Weapons in Iraq? Gareth Porter, of Inter Press Service: "The US military command in Iraq continues to talk about an alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi Shiites opposing the US occupation, implying that they have become dependent on Iran for indirect-fire weapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). But US officials have failed thus far to provide evidence that would support that claim, and a long-delayed US military report on Iranian arms is unlikely to offer any data on what proportion of the weapons in the hands of Shiite fighters are from Iran and what proportion comes from purchases on the open market."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Vicksburg Campaign - a storm attempt

by Don Wheeler, Jacob Wheeler and Shelby Foote

The fact that the Confederate Army had held Vicksburg, Mississippi from the start of the war into 1863 had posed problems for the Union Army. Although the Union had successfully captured the Mississippi River north and south of the town, it couldn't make complete use of the river as a supply route. Vicksburg carried the nickname "The Gibraltar of the West" because of huge defensive advantages it had. Situated on a steep bluff overlooking the river, it was nearly unapproachable.

In fact, the Union Army failed in multiple attempts over more than a year's period of time to even get close. Finally, General Grant found a successful method, and it was time for the approach to the city itself. (The events described happened almost exactly 145 years ago in May of 1863).

From Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative

Their belief that they would carry the place by storm, here and now, was matched by Grant, who issued his final orders before noon. "Corps commanders will push forward carefully, and gain as close position as possible to the enemy's works, until 2 p.m.; at (which) hour theywill fire three volleys of artillery from all the pieces in position. This will be the signal for a general charge of all the army corps along the whole line." A closing sentence, intended to forestall the lapse of discipline that would attend a too-informal victory celebration, expressed the measure of his confidence that the assault would be successful, bringing the campaign to a triumphant close today: "When the works are carried, guards will be placed by all division commanders to prevent their men from straggling from their companies."

They were a confident bunch. They had some reason to be - as my great-great-grandfather, Jacob, described the approach of his unit, The Chicago Board of Trade Regiment, to the attack point:

It was said that General Grant, after Jackson was taken, and it was taken quick, telegraphed to Vicksburg to send on all the reinforcements they could spare; and signed some Secech (Confederate) General's name to it. They obeyed promptly by sending 40,000 men and a long train of ammunition, which was burnt by them to keep it falling into our hands. It was a shrewd yankee trick and it paid off. We fell on them with nearly double their numbers - captured 72 pieces of artillery and a great number of prisoners.

We stopped the chase at 10:00 o'clock at night. They stopped about 3 miles ahead of us and built large campfires, but started on the run long before day with our folks after them. They succeeded in
getting most of their troops over the Black River, but not before we captured 17 pieces of Cannon and 3000 troops, besides drowning 2000 of them. We were so close to them that they could not get all their troops over before they burned the bridge. If it was not for the river, we would have been in
Vicksburg as soon as they were. During the night we built several bridges and early in the morning started for here (the rear of Vicksburg).

We have now got them surrounded. We occupy the center, the Left of our Army rests on the Mississippi River and the Right on the Yazoo River. We are on the left of Sherman's Corps. It is the strongest point of their fortifications...

It looked like a promising situation, but as was often the case in the Civil War, things did not always go as planned.

From Shelby Foote's account:

At the appointed hour, the guns boomed, and the blue clots of troops rushed forward, shoulder to shoulder, cheering as they vied for the honor of being the first to scale the ridge; whereupon, as if in response to the same signal, a long low cloud of smoke, torn along its bottom edge by the pinkish yellow stabs of muzzle flashes, boiled up with a great clatter from the rebel works ahead. The racket was so tremendous that no man could hear his own shouts or the sudden yelps of the wounded alongside him. What was immediately apparent, however, amid a confusion of sound so uproarious that it was if the whole mad scene was played in pantomime, was that the assault had failed almost as soon as it got started...

...Emerging into the open, an Illinois captain saw "the very sticks and chips, scattered over the ground, jumping under the hot shower of rebel bullets." Startled, he and his company plunge forward, tumbled
into a cane-choked ravine at the base of the enemy ridge, and hugged the earth for cover and concealment. All up and down the line it was much the same for those who had not scattered rearward at the first burst of tire; once within point blank musket range,there was little the attackers could do but try to stay out of sight until darkness gave them a chance to pull back without inviting a bullet between the shoulder blades.

This was, of course, Jacob Wheeler's outfit - and his account is even more graphic:

On the 22nd we made a charge on their works, but were repulsed. The air was literally filled with shot and shell. They had a fire on us from three different directions and it was fearful. It is a miracle to us all, how any of us escaped alive. Our Regiment had 106 killed and wounded in less than half an hour. Our Lt. Colonel lost an arm. LT. Whittle of our Company was hit in the arm - he had an artery cut. The captain of Company K lost an arm. Company G lost their Lieutenant; so did Company E lose theirs. Their Captain had a ball through his face. Our Company had five killed and nine wounded: one was Will Maugle; Joe Ebersoll was badly wounded in the left shoulder - both from our town. All the rest of the Ottawa boys were all right.

The boy that stood before me had both of his legs shot off, the boy that stood by the side of me had his head shot off, and the one who stood behind had his bowels thrown all over him.

It was a fearful scene, but I understand there will be no more charges. We intend to take the place by siege.

Which they eventually did. Confederate General Pemberton, seeking good terms, surrendered Vicksburg on July 4 of that year.

Remember the "Promise Keepers"?

by Don Wheeler

Remember the so-called Promise Keepers? They are the MEN who show their fierce love of and devotion to their mate by insisting on obedience (as they claim the Bible dictates). It seemed strange to me that women would go along with this, but I guess they have the right to make that choice.

But if that group red-lined my "creepy meter", this next one buried the needle. From a recent New York Times article:

COLORADO SPRINGS — In their floor-length gowns, up-dos and tiaras, the 70 or so young women swept past two harpists and into a gilt-and-brocade dining room at the lavish Broadmoor Hotel, on the arms of their much older male companions.

The girls, ages early grade school to college, had come with their fathers, stepfathers and future fathers-in-law last Friday night to the ninth annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball. The first two hours of the gala passed like any somewhat awkward night out with parents, the men doing nearly all the talking and the girls struggling to cut their chicken.

But after dessert, the 63 men stood and read aloud a covenant “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”

The gesture signaled that the fathers would guard their daughters from what evangelicals consider a profoundly corrosive “hook-up culture.” The evening, which alternated between homemade Christian rituals and giddy dancing, was a joyous public affirmation of the girls’ sexual abstinence until they wed.

a bit later...

Recent studies have suggested that close relationships between fathers and daughters can reduce the risk of early sexual activity among girls and teenage pregnancy. But studies have also shown that most teenagers who say they will remain abstinent, like those at the ball, end up having sex before marriage, and they are far less likely to use condoms than their peers


In a ballroom after dinner, bare but for a seven-foot wooden cross at one end, the fathers and daughters gathered along the walls. Kevin Moore, there with his three girls, told the men they were taking a stand for their families and their nation. Then he and Mr. Wilson walked to the cross with two large swords, which they held up before it to make an arch.

Each father and his daughter walked under the arch and knelt before the cross. Synthesized hymns played. The fathers sometimes held their daughters and whispered a short prayer, and then the girls each placed a white rose, representing purity, at the foot of the cross. Mr. Lee and Rachel walked away holding hands.


We can be sure these "agreements" weren't entered into by equals. And this sort of conversation seems best held in an ongoing way and in private.

That's how I see it.

Half in ten: from poverty to prosperity

By Don Wheeler

"Half in Ten", - a project intended to cut the poverty rate in half in ten years, recently unveiled it's new website and is actively seeking contributions. From the front page:

Half in Ten plans to reduce poverty in the United States by 50 percent within 10 years. Under the leadership of Senator John Edwards, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN), and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), have joined forces on the campaign to:

(1) Elevate and sustain a focus on the situations facing the poor and middle class today

(2) Build and strengthen an effective constituency to demand legislative
action on poverty and economic mobility

(3) Advance specific legislative and
policy proposals that will deliver real benefits to struggling American families

For more information on how to reduce poverty in America, see
From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half by the Center for American Progress Task Force on Poverty.

The Campaign To Change America continues.

Truthout roundup 5/21

Truthout's Maya Schenwar and Matt Renner on the crisis in veterans' mental health care; FBI agents were ordered to stop investigating war crimes at Guantanamo; Foggo indicted again in "Duke" Cunningham fraud case; military special ops denied broad new powers; former chief of staff Hamilton Jordan is dead at 63; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Veterans Attest to PTSD Neglect by VA Maya Schenwar and Matt Renner, of Truthout: "Recently released documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are further proof that the VA has failed to adequately address the crisis in veterans' mental health care, according to a former top VA employee turned veterans' advocate. In March, Norma J. Perez, the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coordinator at a VA facility in Temple, Texas, wrote an email to her subordinates stating: 'Given that we have more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, R/O [ruling out] PTSD ... we really don’t or have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD.'"

FBI "War Crimes" Investigation at Guantanamo Shut Down in 2003 Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, of The New York Times: "In 2002, as evidence of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay began to mount, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at the base created a 'war crimes file' to document accusations against American military personnel, but were eventually ordered to close down the file, a Justice Department report revealed Tuesday. The report, an exhaustive, 437-page review prepared by the Justice Department inspector general, provides the fullest account to date of internal dissent and confusion within the Bush administration over the use of harsh interrogation tactics by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency."

Kyle Foggo Indicted Again in "Duke" Cunningham Case Matthew Barakat, of The Associated Press: "A new indictment of a former top CIA official alleges that he received bribes in the form of 'sexual companionship' in exchange for helping a friend get an edge in landing multimillion-dollar contracts from the agency. Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday obtained a superseding indictment against Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo, who as executive director held the CIA's No. 3 rank before leaving in 2006. The indictment accuses Foggo of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in meals, vacations and other perks in exchange for helping friend Brent Wilkes obtain various contracts with the CIA."

Wider Antiterrorism Role for Elite Forces Rejected Thom Shankar, of The New York Times: "The military’s elite Special Operations Command has quietly stepped back from a controversial plan that gave it the authority to carry out secret counterterrorism missions on its own around the world. The decision culminates four years of misgivings within the military that the command, with its expertise in commando missions and unconventional war, would use its broader mandate too aggressively, by carrying out operations that had not been reviewed or approved by the regional commanders."

Former White House Aide Hamilton Jordan Dies at 63 Walter Putnam, of The Associated Press: "Hamilton Jordan, a political strategist from south Georgia who helped propel Jimmy Carter to the White House and served as his chief of staff, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. Jordan, 63, died at his home in Atlanta about 7:30 p.m., said Gerald Rafshoon, who was Carter's chief of communications. 'He was a great strategist. He just couldn't strategize his way out of this,' Rafshoon said from his home in Washington."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Truthout roundup 5/20

Obama to reach important milestone today; McCain's ties to lobbyists tarnishing image; Georgia and Russia heading toward war; US warplane enters Venezuelan air space; British obstruct cluster bomb treaty; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.20

Oregon, Kentucky Likely to Make Obama's Day Nicholas Riccardi and Stuart Silverstein, of The Los Angeles Times: "The Democratic presidential nomination contest -- relegated to almost a sideshow in recent days as fireworks intensified between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain -- is all but certain to pass an important milestone today as voters head to the polls in Kentucky and Oregon. By day's end, Obama expects to have locked up a majority of the pledged delegates to the party's national convention. Though not assuring Obama of the nomination in August, the achievement would signal that victory is near in his hard-fought battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton."

McCain Finds a Thorny Path in Ethics Effort Barry Meier and Kate Zernike, of The New York Times: "Sorting out the lobbying entanglements of his campaign advisers is proving to be a messy business for Senator John McCain. On Monday, just days after it issued new rules to address conflicts of interest, the McCain campaign was furiously sifting through the business records of aides and advisers. The new rules were prompted by disclosures that led to the abrupt departure from the campaign of a number of aides who worked as lobbyists, including some with ties to foreign governments."

Threat of Georgia-Russia War Escalates Walker, of The Independent UK: "Two photos stand out in the office of the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili - there's an autographed one of him with his buddy, George Bush; then there's the unsmiling one with his nemesis Vladimir Putin. The body language says it all - the Georgian looks the other way, the Russian disdainfully at the ground. Yet more than anyone else, Mr Putin has defined the presidency of Mr Saakashvili, who came to power in the rose revolution of 2003 promising to bury Georgia's Soviet past. This week's parliamentary polls come at a time when Mr Saakashvili's battle with the Kremlin has plumbed new depths. With both countries refusing to blink first in the showdown over the renegade province of Abkhazia there is a very real prospect of war."

US Navy Aircraft Violates Venezuela's Airspace Patricia Rondon, of Reuters: "A US Navy jet violated Venezuelan airspace around two small Caribbean islands over the weekend in what the South American country said was a provocation coordinated with neighboring Colombia. Venezuela and the United States bicker over everything from energy policy to arms sales. The incursion comes amid heightened tensions over accusations that Venezuela helped a guerrilla army fighting the government in US ally Colombia. The Pentagon said a Navy aircraft on a counternarcotics mission had navigation problems that led it to stray into Venezuelan airspace on Saturday."

Britain Obstructs Global Ban on Use of Cluster Bombs Kim Sengupta, of The Independent UK: "The British Government is accused of being the chief obstacle to the signing of a treaty to ban cluster bombs, which have maimed and killed thousands of civilians worldwide. Countries that have suffered the impact of the bombs, humanitarian groups and former commanders of British forces have called for the UK to drop its insistence on retaining cluster munitions, a stance, they say, that is likely to scupper hopes of securing an agreement at an international conference starting in Dublin today."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Show Your Green Wheels

Michiana Bike-to-Work Week

With spring in the air, South Bend, Mishawaka and the Michiana Bicycle Coalition, announce that June is Michiana Bike Month; June 2 through 6 is Bike-To-Work Week and Monday, June 2nd is Bike-To-Work Day. The National and Indiana bike to work week is in May, however it will be celebrated later in Michiana to take advantage of the weather.

Mayors Luecke and Rea will be taking part in the festivities. Everyone in Michiana is encouraged to try cycling for fun, fitness or transportation. On Bike-To-Work Day, cyclists will gather at the Jon R. Hunt Plaza in front of the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend or at Beutter Park in Mishawaka. There will be a fun ride, free coffee, juice, bagels and fruit for participating cyclists. Live entertainment will be provided throughout the day and several businesses and organizations, including the St Joe Valley Greens, will also be on hand to provide information about sustainable living.

Mark your calendar, check the air on your bike’s tires and plan on riding your bike on Monday, June 2nd.

For more information, including a great link for calculating the amount you'll save on fuel when you cycle instead of drive, visit the official Michiana Bike to Work Week website.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Edwards on Today

John Edwards details his decision making re: his endosrsement. (From The Today Show)

And the endorsement itself - a message of unity, if I've ever heard one.

In the year I worked for John Edwards, I heard this speech many times. Unless Mr. Obama has plans to change his focus to these things, one could accuse Mr. Edwards of projecting. Or maybe, Mr. Edwards will hold Mr. Obama's feet to the fire in exchange for this unqualified endorsement. We'll see....

Truthout roundup 5/16

Truthout's Maya Schenwar on Thursday's "bizarre" war funding vote; case moves forward against Blackwater employee accused of murder; death toll in Burma reaches 43,000; Israel and US agree that there needs to be "tangible action" on Iran; Tom Engelhardt on American "insecurity"; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Asking You For Money Is a Good Thing Friday 16 May 2008
TO has a day-to-day impact on the news flow in the US and beyond. Because we are funded by our readership, we are free to address the concerns of our readership. Sure, fundraising is annoying. For you, and for us too. But the alternative is far worse, corporate broadcasting unchecked and unchallenged. Toss a few bucks in, it matters.

Just click this link for our electronic donation options: can also donate by check, made payable to: Truthout P.O. Box 231278 Encinitas, CA

Or donate by phone: 213.489.1971

*REMEMBER: You can select a monthly plan to provide us with automatic, recurring support. Please sign up for whatever you can afford.

t r u t h o u t 05.16

Maya Schenwar War Funding "Victory," Bizarro-Style Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "At first glance, it seems like a shocking triumph for the antiwar movement: After five years of war, the House of Representatives finally voted down a war funding bill on Thursday afternoon, while simultaneously passing a provision to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. The catch? The 'triumph' was engineered by House Republicans, most of whom voted 'present' on the funding bill, which would have provided $168.4 billion for operations for Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Republicans had voted for the funding, as they usually do, the 85 Democrats who voted 'yea' would've easily tipped the boat in the war funds' favor."

Probe of Blackwater Killing Moves Forward Gene Johnson, of The Associated Press: "A Justice Department team has traveled to Iraq to investigate the fatal shooting of an Iraqi guard by a security contractor, hastening the resolution of questions about whether US attorneys can prosecute him, an official said Thursday. The contractor, Andrew Moonen of Seattle, was fired by Blackwater USA but never prosecuted and eventually given an overseas job by another contractor. The shooting outraged Iraqis, who questioned how an American could go free under such circumstances."

Burma Cyclone Death Toll Soars Above 43,000 Associated Press: "Burma's junta warned today that legal action would be taken against people who trade or hoard international aid as the cyclone's death toll soared above 43,000. It was the first acknowledgment by the military government, albeit indirectly, of problems with relief operations in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. The warning came amid reports that foreign aid was being sold openly in markets, and that the military was pilfering and diverting aid for its own use."

Israel: US Sees Need for "Tangible Action" on Iran Reuters: "The United States and Israel agree on the need for 'tangible action' to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman said after a visit by US President George W. Bush. 'We are on the same page. We both see the threat ... And we both understand that tangible action is required to prevent the Iranians from moving forward on a nuclear weapon,' Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said on Friday."

Tom Engelhardt Kiss American Security Goodbye Tom Engelhardt, of Tomdispatch: "When the history of this era is finally written, based on the Tai Chi Principle, Osama bin Laden and his scattering of followers may be credited for goading the fundamentalist leaders of the United States into using the power in their grasp so - not to put a fine point on it - stupidly and profligately as to send the planet's 'sole superpower' into decline. Above all, bin Laden and his crew of fanatics will have ensured one thing: that the real security problems of our age were ignored in Washington until far too late in favor of mad dreams and dark phantoms. In this lies a bleak but epic tale of folly worthy of a great American novelist (wherever she is)."

More on B & I & O

by Dan Lindley

Does this reflect a dysfunctional government? Are Gates and Negroponte Obama supporters? I do not think President Bush would be intentionally so ironic.


"President Bush used a speech to the Israeli Parliament onThursday to liken those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” toNazi appeasers ­ a remark widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator BarackObama, who has advocated greater engagement with countries like Iran and Syria."New York Times, May 16, 2008


"The United States should construct a combination of incentives and pressure toengage Iran, and may have missed earlier opportunities to begin a usefuldialogue with Tehran, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday."Washington Post, May 15, 2008


"Launching a congressional critique of China, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Thursday that persistent, peaceful dialogue is paying off in aligning Beijing with the United States on several major world fronts."AP, May 16, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush and Isreal and Obama

sent by Gene Blanchette

I thought it was worth sending out this piece by Paul Begala. Begala himself is a Catholic. He is not an Obama supporter, and I can attest to the fact that he was a pro Likud fanatic when he was a Clinton White House minion. It is not often that a prominent pro Israel American columnist will use as strong language as Begala does about his President.
Bush Uses Holy Land Pulpit to Launch Smear Campaign
Paul Begala

George W. Bush is unworthy of the presidency. He is a disgrace to himself, our Nation, and the high office he holds.

In a speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday, Mr. Bush forfeited the last scraps of his moral authority, dishonoring himself by using one of the world's most important pulpits to launch a false and vicious political attack against Barack Obama.

I am such a strong supporter of Israel that when I worked in the White House some of my friends called me a "Likkud Democrat." It is especially appalling to supporters of Israel that Mr. Bush would stand on a hilltop in Jerusalem to invoke the Holocaust in order to make a cheap and deeply dishonest political point.

I am a person of faith, so it is especially galling that a man who calls himself a brother in faith would stand in the Holy Land and violate one of the Commandments God gave to Moses: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

This is what Mr. Bush said, according to the text released by the White House:

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

His attack was disgraceful, demeaning and dishonest. Bush's own government has repeatedly conducted negotiations with terrorists and radicals, including:

Bush sent Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, then posted to Baghdad, to negotiate with Iran over security issues affecting Iraq. Bush's current Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told ABC News, "We are willing to sit down with Iran face to face for talks on Iraqi security at the invitation of the Iraqi government. We've had three rounds of those talks and we've told them we are ready to again."

Although Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was behind the December, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans, the Bush Administration conducted months of negotiations with the terrorists, culminating in a 2003 agreement to dismantle Libyan long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction;

North Korea.
The Bush Administration, led by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, has held numerous direct negotiations with the North Korean regime, a charter member of Mr. Bush's "axis of evil."

It should be noted that in each instance, the negotiations actually advanced America's security position. So even the Bush administration, by its actions, attests to the efficacy of negotiating with evildoers.

All this is to say George W. Bush is a hypocrite. So deep is his cynicism that he would go on foreign soil to invoke history's greatest crime to condemn conduct he himself has engaged in.

As an American I am ashamed that such a man represents me.

I say this as someone who has not supported Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries; someone who has reservations about Sen. Obama's plan to engage Iran in talks without any preconditions. But there comes a time when intra-party rivalries must yield, and all of us must stand together against the degradation of the Office of the Presidency.

On Jury Duty, Or, "To Protect And Not Serve"

While it is generally the policy of your friendly fake consultant to avoid direct contact with the American legal system, contact is sometimes unavoidable, which is why we have recently spent a couple of days as a guest of the King County, Washington, Superior Court...and came about as close as a non-criminal can get to being compelled to remain longer.

That’s right, it was time for Jury Duty—and if my mind wasn’t so oddly warped I’d be going back tomorrow to hear testimony...but it is, and I’m not.

All of that explained; a few words about the similarities between this process and flying, and then finally a few kind words for a handy espresso shop and we should have a complete story for today...and a couple things to discuss tomorrow.

So let’s get to it.

“You Are Summoned...” the Notice in the mailbox ominously intoned “...For Jury Duty.”

It’s a risk we take as citizens of a democracy...we can avoid voting, or running for office, or even being informed in any way of the workings of Government if we so choose—but eventually most of us get snagged by the giant net of Jury Duty.

In King County the process begins with the random selection of those who are either registered to vote or who are holders of Driver’s Licenses or State Identification Cards. On this morning about 200 of us are gathered in downtown Seattle at the King County Courthouse in the “Jury Assembly Room”...and most of us don’t look all that exuberant about the thing.

It’s 8 AM, which I frankly find a bit of an...uncivilized...hour in which to have to do public business, but there we are. Some of the group have already begun to chat up a bit; but most of us seem to be trying to wake up or to complete errands that might have piled up, whether it be on the phone or laptop.

Eventually we are welcomed to the process by Judge Richard Eadie, who offers a few words of encouragement that are designed, as Jebidiah Springfield once famously said, to “embiggen” the experience; we then watch a movie that explains the Constitutional basis for the process and reminds us of the need to keep an open mind...and to avoid any discussion or personal investigation of the events under consideration until the trial has ended.

We also meet our “Den Mother” and the other members of the Court staff that we will interact with directly, and we are again reminded that the term of service is to be either two days or “one trial”.

What this means is that we will be selected for a jury and will hear the testimony and participate in the deliberations required for that trial (which could theoretically take months, but rarely does), or we will be dismissed after two days if we have not been selected for service on any particular jury.

Either way, the pay is $10 per day plus mileage. There are employers that will cover the difference in pay and others who do not.

In a kind of unexpected way the Jury Assembly Room is a bit like flying—there’s a security checkpoint and its accompanying lines, everyone is confined for hours to a relatively small space with relatively little to do, and there’s an hour-and-a half “layover” in the middle that allows you to escape into the world outside. The chairs are a bit like “Jerry Springer Chairs” in that they are comfortable, but too heavy to throw around easily.

(There is some good news—the room is wi-fi connected, and there are vending machines...there is not, however, access to espresso.)

What we are all waiting for is to be sent into a particular courtroom as part of a pool of prospective jurors, and that occasionally occurs as our Den Mother announces that “the following Jurors will come up and report to...” followed by the list of what seemed to be groups of either 35, 50, or 60.

We are told that random selection is responsible for our placement on these lists as well, and just after lunch on the first day my name comes up. We assemble in a line, the barcodes on our ID badges are scanned, and we are given large laminated numbers, making me Juror Number 28 or whatever.

After lunch, our Den Mother calls for the group of jurors to which I’m assigned...and announces that we are not going to be serving after all. As it turns out, the parties in our case chose to reach a settlement before jury selection, and they no longer need us.

By now the staff have determined that there are not going to be any other jury pools called up for selection today...and we’re sent home early, for which the universal sentiment appears to be relief.

So we return the next day—only we aren’t required to show up until 8:45...the theory being, I presume, that as grizzled veterans of the process we won’t need the motivational speech and video again.

Once again an announcement is made for a pool, and my name comes up. I become Juror Number 29 of 50. We are directed to report to the third floor, where we are met by the Bailiff for that Court. We are instructed exactly how and where to sit once we enter the courtroom (numerical order...), and we do file in and take our seats, 13 of us in the actual jury box, and the remainder in the seats normally reserved for the public.

The Judge enters and begins her discussion by introducing the Prosecuting Attorney, the Defense Attorney, and the Defendant, all of whom are seated in the courtroom as we enter. We are also introduced to the Court Reporter and Court Clerk. She explains that there are 13 Jurors because the 13th is an Alternate Juror who will either be dismissed at the beginning of deliberations...or that Juror will fill in if, in the words of the Miss America Pageant, one of the others were “unable to fulfill their duties...”. The Court staff and both attorneys know which chair will be the Alternate Chair, no one else does.

The Judge then continues to the role of the Jury and that we have begun the voir dire process, how that process works, and that the goal of the process is to help the attorneys present to make better judgments regarding the biases or prejudices that we might have that would affect our ability to fairly rule on the merits of the case.

We are also told that the reason we have the big laminated cards with our numbers on them is because we will need to hold them up for identification during the selection process as we answer questions.

The first question: how many will suffer hardships if we participate in a trial that lasts four or five days? 11 of the Jurors are dismissed after inquiries are made into their circumstances. Examples? One Juror had pre-paid tickets for a Monday flight, another only gets two days of pay from his employer.

Jurors are pulled in numerical order from the “pews” to fill the gaps in the jury box...and from here on, if a Juror is removed from the prospective panel in that jury box, a replacement will rise from the pews to take the spot.

Each of us are then asked to rise and answer general questions: names, city of residence, occupation, and hobbies.

The attorneys are provided a limited amount of time to question the group (20 minutes, in this case); and one of the first questions from the Prosecutor is: “Who is excited to be on a Jury?”

As it turns out, most of those who said yes were not around at the end of the process.

In response to the questions regarding our prior affiliations with crime or law enforcement we discover that one of the prospective Jurors is a retired Seattle Police Officer...and one is currently serving on staff as a prosecutor at the King County Attorney’s Office (yes, Virginia, prosecutors can also be jurors...).

The Defendant, we are told, is accused of possessing cocaine, and there are a number of questions asked of us that focus on our ability to make decisions based on circumstantial evidence.

We are questioned as to our attitude about drugs...and some of the answers are surprising.

“Can possession of drugs be a victimless crime?”

An older gentleman responds that he does not understand why the Government is in the business of protecting citizens from themselves. Others point out that there are victims: the family is offered as an example.

Another prospective Juror reports that in his experience as a substance abuse counselor he saw little evidence that incarceration by itself resolved the drug problems of those incarcerated.

At this point the Prosecutor saw me nodding my head...and asked why.

My response was that “alcohol kills 250,000 annually in the US, pizza kills 500,000, and all illegal drugs combined kill 30,000.” I went on to opine that considering the numbers, you would think we would put 8 times the effort into stopping alcohol as Those Evil Drugs. I did not mention the 100,000 killed by Hospital-Acquired Infections, and the lack of a “War on MRSA”...even though I should have...nor did I remind those assembled that the King County Bar Association (of which the Prosecutor is presumably a member) supports decriminalizing drug possession.

At this point Defense and Prosecution have questioned the prospective Jurors, and it’s time for the Challenges. Each attorney may remove an unlimited number of Jurors from the jury box either “for cause”, or a limited number (6 each, in this case) for no cause at all--the preemptive challenge .

Neither attorney chooses to seek dismissals of Jurors for cause; and now each in turn gets to preemptively challenge one Juror at a time...and as each removes a Juror, the likelihood that I’ll have to serve on the jury increases...and to be honest, despite the allure of doing my civic duty, I really don’t want to.

And then all of a sudden, there I am in the box—and the Prosecutor has only one challenge left...and he’s looking at me...and I can tell he’s really mulling this one over...and then he says the magic words: “The State dismisses Juror Number 29.”

And just like that, I’m giving my big laminated number to a Jail Guard and I am on my way back downstairs...and more or less 45 minutes later, my term as a Juror is over.

What did I learn?
How about this: life is a balancing act, and evidence of that balancing act was everywhere to be seen.

I saw that evidence first hand in the conflict between duty and convenience, I saw and did appreciate the challenges and balanced conflicts that exist in trying to make trials fair...but I was also reminded of the illogical and somewhat unbalanced nature of the War on Drugs—and finally, I was reminded that even though some may never experience the problems commonly associated with any drug use, others will suffer who never use drugs at all.

What the Edwards endorsement means

by Don Wheeler

Not all that much, John Edwards has said over the past few weeks. I tend to agree. But Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times seems to disagree. He begins his story:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Edwards gave his long-awaited endorsement to Senator Barack Obama on Wednesday, bolstering Mr. Obama’s efforts to rally the Democratic Party around his candidacy and offering potential help in his efforts to win over working class white voters in the general election.

“The Democratic voters in America have made their choice, and so have I,” Mr. Edwards told a roaring crowd of more than 12,000 people here in the Van Andel Arena, on a day when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was trying to capitalize on her victory on Tuesday in West Virginia and convince superdelegates and contributors that she still has a chance to capture the Democratic nomination.

“There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America — not two — and that man is Barack Obama,” Mr. Edwards said at an event that resembled the closing night of a party convention, with the two men standing arm in arm and waving as the crowd chanted “Yes we can!”

Here's the area where he thinks Edwards will help.

His endorsement came after victories by Mrs. Clinton in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states with large working class populations indicated potential weaknesses along racial and class divides — weaknesses that Mrs. Clinton has tried to exploit to convince superdelegates, contributors and voters in the remaining contests that she has a better chance to beat Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the fall.

Mr. Edwards could potentially help Mr. Obama with that group. A Southerner, he had directed his candidacy at the same white and working class voters Mr. Obama is trying to woo.......

...His endorsement went on to be as much about Mr. Obama as it was a populist cry for universal health care, ending poverty, better schools and an end to the war in Iraq. But the drama and excitement of the moment was reserved for Mr. Obama, with Mr. Edwards’s endorsement meant to send a sharp and clear signal that the long race is nearly over.

The theory seems to be that since many working class folks identified with Edwards, his nod of approval will shift these folks to Obama's camp. I'm a tad skeptical.

If Barack Obama wants to win the support of these folks, he's going to have to do it the Smith-Barney way (per John Houseman): he'll have to "ehrrn it!". So far it doesn't appear that he wants to go to the trouble.

In fact, yesterday in Michigan, he managed to pull off a rare double-dis in a single event. He not only failed to even address concerns of the United Auto workers who there, being supportive and a bit expectant - when asked about that omission by Peggy Agar, a local channel 7 reporter - he replied "Hold on, Sweetie.." and laughed. And never answered the question.

John Edwards brought the crowd to its feet in the 2007 winter meeting of the DNC when he said "The time is past for half measures, broken promises, sweet rhetoric...."

This situation reminds me of a scene in the movie "The Big Easy" in which the actress playing the mother of the Dennis Quaid character turns to Elen Barkin and says "You think you're gonna straighten out my boy?". The Ellen Barkin character says somewhat nervously "Yes, I think its possible". The former chuckles loudly and says "You got your work cut out for you Cher."

Best of luck, John.

California Court Affirms Right to Gay Marriage

Adam Liptak
New York Times

Same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court’s 4-to-3 decision striking down state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman makes California only the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages. The decision, which becomes effective in 30 days, is certain to be an issue in the presidential campaign.

“In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship,” Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote of marriage for the majority, “the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

California already has a strong domestic partnership law that gives gay and lesbian couples nearly all of the benefits and burdens of heterosexual marriage. The majority said that is not enough.

Given the historic, cultural, symbolic and constitutional significance of the concept of marriage, Chief Justice George wrote, the state cannot limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. The court left open the possibility that another terms could denote state-sanctioned unions so long as that term was used across the board.

The state’s ban on same-sex marriage was based on a law enacted by the Legislature in 1977 and a statewide initiative approved by the voters in 2000, both defining marriage as limited to unions between a man and a woman. The question before the court was whether those laws violate provisions of the state Constitution protecting equality and fundamental rights.

Conservative groups have proposed a new initiative, this one to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. If it is allowed onto the ballot in November and approved by the voters, Thursday’s decision would be overridden. The groups have gathered more than a million signatures on initiative petitions and submitted them to the state.

Justice Marvin R. Baxter, dissenting, said the majority had should have deferred to the state Legislature, which has in recent years increased legal protections for same-sex couples.

“But a bare majority of this court,” Justice Baxter wrote, “not satisfied with the pace of democratic change, now abruptly forestalls that process and substitutes, by judicial fiat, its own social policy views for those expressed by the people themselves.”

The California Legislature has twice passed bills allowing same-sex marriages, but they were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said they would overturn the 2000 referendum.

Mr. Schwarzenegger opposes the current ballot initiative seeking a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He said Thursday that he respected the court’s decision and would not support overturning it.

In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco directed the county clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Before the California Supreme Court halted the practice, more than 4,000 same-sex couples received marriage licenses in San Francisco.

Why don't we cherish strong women?

by Don Wheeler

To answer my own question - some of us do. Some of us even marry them and brag about our good fortune. But many of us don't. I can speak about it from a male perspective, perhaps April can pitch in about why she thinks some women have trouble too.

I think some of this has to do with the public face most of us present to do what ever it is we need to get done and make the rest of our lives work. Men who get to know other men well come to realize that the public face of this other man may not tell one all that much about what goes on inside. It seems to me that many of these men don't make that sort of leap in reasoning to women. I think many in this group expect women should behave as though they were already friends. It sort of fits the mythic stereotype.

I kind of understand this. I find myself wishing people generally interacted on this basis. I think I might a bit more than some others. But I certainly realize that most people don't.

In April's Misogyny I won't miss, either post, she (with help from Marie Coco) notes some of the indignities heaped upon Hillary Clinton - especially recently. I couldn't agree more with the analysis. Just to pile on a bit, I've seen that nutcracker in both the Signals and Wireless catalogues - fundraisers for Public Television and Public Radio. I think that sucks.

But here's another side. I stopped watching SitComs a long, long time ago. Why? Because the successful formula seemed to require the male adult in the cast to be the butt of all the jokes. He's made to seem clueless and incompetent - the mother and daughter(s) continually trick, tease or come to his rescue. He's just happy to be there.

We don't like it (we say) that fathers aren't involved with their families, yet the ones we portray in mass media who are there aren't of any value or substance.

So...woman are bad, men are bad...What's left?

One thing that has made this "feminism thing" easier for me is that I like women - and not just for the one thing that some men do. I've also worked with strong, competent women in the past.

But it's also true that being a feminist as a man is kind of a tricky business. On the one hand, one is suspect until one has proven his bona fides. It's not always clear what that takes, and sometimes it doesn't appear possible. On the other, many men will look at one askance. The upside is limited.

Unless, of course, you want to attract a strong woman. Just ask John Edwards. Or me.

Truthout roundup 5/15

Truthout's Christopher Kuttruff on new net neutrality legislation; local opposition to Blackwater's proposed training facility near San Diego; string of losses worrying Republicans; politics is interfering with intelligence reforms; Bush policies have squeezed out moderates in the Middle East; House passes veto-proof farm bill; Robert Scheer on the torture of the torture laws; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Reader-Supported News IS the Revolution. The minute you remove corporate dollars as the dominant means of supporting the news, and replace that with support from the community the news serves, right there, you've got an information revolution. Donate, we'll earn it. Just click this link for our electronic donation options: You can also donate by check, made payable to:Truthout P.O. Box 231278 Encinitas, CA 92023. Or donate by phone:213.489.1971

*REMEMBER: You can select a monthly plan to provide us with automatic, recurring support. Please sign up for whatever you can afford. t r u t h o u t 05.15

Christopher Kuttruff New Legislation and Debate on Net Neutrality Christopher Kuttruff, of Truthout: "Last week, lawmakers proposed legislation on network neutrality that would open up the possibility for antitrust lawsuits against companies that violate the bill's regulations. The bill has fueled the ongoing debate about the implications of network regulation. On Thursday, May 8, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) introduced the 'Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008' (H.R. 5994) which seeks to prevent anti-competitive and discriminatory activity by broadband Internet service providers."

Blackwater's Proposed San Diego Training Facility Draws Criticism Tony Perry, of The Los Angeles Times: "Blackwater Worldwide, the global security firm whose conduct in Iraq has drawn criticism, is again trying to open a training facility in the face of local opposition. In March, the firm dropped plans to build a 220-acre training camp in rural Potrero, about 45 miles east of downtown San Diego. A coalition of rural property owners, environmentalists and antiwar activists opposed its effort to build a 'combat town.'"

Republican Election Losses Stir Fall Fears Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse, of The New York Times: "The Republican defeat in a special Congressional contest in Mississippi sent waves of apprehension across an already troubled party Wednesday, with some senior Republicans urging Congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush to head off what could be heavy losses in the fall. The victory by Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat elected in a once-steadfast Republican district on Tuesday, was the third defeat of a Republican in a special Congressional race this year."

Political Clashes Underline Limits to Intelligence Reform Greg Miller, of The Los Angeles Times: "As head of analysis for all US spy agencies, Thomas Fingar was making final edits last summer on a long-awaited intelligence report on Iran. The draft concluded that Tehran was still pursuing a nuclear bomb, a finding that echoed previous assessments and would have bolstered Bush administration hawks. Then, just weeks before the report was to be delivered to the White House, new intelligence surfaced indicating that Tehran's nuclear weapons work had stopped."

David Ignatius The Squeeze on the Middle East's Moderates David Ignatius, of The Washington Post: "Watching the news from Lebanon, it's poignant to read the title of a new memoir by Jordan's former foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, 'The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation.' The daily headlines tell us that centrist Arabs such as Muasher are becoming an endangered species. The center is under siege in Lebanon and across the Middle East as the region becomes more polarized between Iranian-backed extremists and US-backed forces."

House Approves Farm Bill by Veto-Proof Margin Michael Doyle, of McClatchy Newspapers: "The House on Wednesday emphatically approved a massive five-year farm bill by a veto-proof margin, setting up President Bush for a major political embarrassment. Brushing off Bush's opposition, many Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in approving the farm bill 318-106. This is well over the two-thirds vote needed to override Bush's promised veto."

Robert Scheer The Tortured Law on Torture Robert Scheer, of Truthdig: "Ah, yes, those torture confessions have proved so useful. That, at least, was the claim of our president in justifying one of the most egregious assaults ever on this nation's commitment to the rule of law. But now comes news that charges have been dropped against the so-called Sept. 11 attacks' 20th hijacker, one of dozens so identified, because the 'evidence' he supplied under torture and later recanted is not credible enough to go to trial. That fact, of course, will not compel President Bush to cut the tortured prisoner loose."

Hold on, Sweetie

Misogyny I Won't Miss, Either

by April Lidinsky

As we watch the melancholy wind-down of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and weigh the likelihood of her possible vice-presidential role, it’s worth reflecting on the ways she’s been characterized by the Talking Heads (alas, not the rockin’ music group). Journalist Marie Cocco enumerated some of the examples of “Misogyny I Won’t Miss” in today’s Washington Post. Here are a few of her points:

* I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

* I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

* I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

* Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

* I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.

* When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).

* Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

Perhaps the best case scenario is that Americans will begin talking about – really engaging reflectively with -- the ways we talk about leadership, and the leaders who embody those values. If HRC gets the vice-presidential slot, you can bet these conversations will continue, perhaps with insight, or perhaps only with venom. If she doesn’t, the poison may simply linger in the air until the next woman is bold enough (bitchy enough??) to try for the top spot in our government.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Long Thompson, Party leaders call for change in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - In another sign of the growing solidarity of the Democratic Party, today state and local party leaders joined gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson in calling for real change in Indiana.

In a news conference at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday, Indiana House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), Senate Democrat Leader Richard Young (D-Milltown), State Party Chair Dan Parker and several other state legislators, Marion County elected officials and party leaders pledged their support to Long Thompson's candidacy.

"After four years of the misguided policies of the Daniels administration, Hoosiers want new leadership and a new direction for our state - and with Jill leading the ticket that's what Democrats will bring this fall," said Bauer, who spoke on behalf of the members of the House Democratic Caucus.

"Our party is energized like never before and we are ready to do everything we can to help elect Jill Long Thompson Governor and get Indiana moving again."

A former college professor, city councilwoman, Congresswoman and Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture, Long Thompson is the first woman in the state's history to secure the gubernatorial nomination of either political party.

"We are thrilled to have Jill Long Thompson as the standard bearer of our party because we know that she will stand up and fight for the working people of this state," said Young, who represented his colleagues in the State Senate Democratic Caucus. "Jill has the right kind of experience and vision to put Indiana back on track."

Long Thompson will continue to travel the state in the coming days meeting with party leaders and organizing her statewide campaign.

"I am honored to have secured the nomination of this party and to have the full backing of its leadership," said Long Thompson. "Indiana Democrats have an historic opportunity this fall to not only expand our party and win races up and down the ballot, but to chart a new course for Indiana - and by working together that's what we will do."

Long Thompson represented Northeast Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives serving from 1989 to 1995. She also served as U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development from 1995 to 2001. She received her B.S. in Business from Valparaiso University and her M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Business from Indiana University. A former educator, Long Thompson most recently served as CEO of The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. Long Thompson and her husband Don Thompson, a commercial airline pilot, live on their family farm in Marshall County.

For more information about Jill Long Thompson or her campaign, please visit or call 574- 892-6100.

Supporting "College for everyone"

by John Edwards

I want to begin by thanking each of you for all of your support and commitment over the last year. It has meant so much to Elizabeth and me. We have been very busy since January working on the causes that got us into the campaign in the first place -- helping to build the One America we all believe in.

You may have heard me talk about one of those programs called College for Everyone -- a scholarship pilot project that Elizabeth and I started a few years ago in Greene County, North Carolina.

The program is based on a simple promise to students: make good grades, work at least 10 hours a week, and stay out of trouble -- and the program will help pay for your first year of college. Since we launched this effort in 2005, the percentage of Greene County high school graduates attending college has increased from 54 percent to 74 percent.

As I write you, 165 high school seniors in Greene County are set to graduate in May and 94% have been accepted into N.C. colleges and universities.

Most of these young people are doing just what many of us did -- sitting around the kitchen table with their parents, wondering how they will pay for tuition.

Every parent wants to give their child the opportunity that comes with a college education. But for too many American families, the dream of a college degree is just that -- a dream. Now, I need your help to make the dream of a college education a reality for some hard-working students in rural Greene County.

That's why I need your help today -- with a tax-deductible donation of $10, $25, $50 or $75, whatever you can afford -- to bring us one step closer to our goal of College for Everyone. By contributing now, you will help fulfill the college dreams of deserving students in Greene County and show the world that if we work together on big and important issues, change is possible.

But change can only come with your help. Please contribute now and bring us closer to building One America where every child has the opportunity to go as far as his or her talents and hard work will take them.

Thank you.

P.S. Contributions made by Friday go towards scholarships for the students graduating in May. Please respond today.

Paid for by John Edwards for President 410 Market Street, Suite 400, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 (919) 636-3131.

Truthout roundup 5/14

Clinton routs Obama in West Virginia; Democrats pick up house seat; Bush's trip to Mideast has low expectations; Burma police block aid workers; McCain opposes new education benefits for returning troops; Harriet Miers expects to battle Congress beyond Bush years; Saudis warn Iran over meddling in Lebanon; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.orgSupport TO, a Little Goes a Long WayWednesday 14 May 2008With just minimal support from our readers we do so much. We represent a serious challenge to news organizations many times larger with far greater budgets. Your help matters. The donation process is quick and easy. Take a moment and check in. Thanks to all our active donors, and to all our new donors.Just click this link for our electronic donation options: can also donate by check, made payable to:TruthoutP.O. Box 231278Encinitas, CA 92023Or donate by phone:213.489.1971*REMEMBER: You can select a monthly plan to provide us with automatic, recurring support. Please sign up for whatever you can afford. t r u t h o u t 05.14

Clinton Beats Obama Handily in West Virginia Patrick Healy, of The New York Times: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won a lopsided victory on Tuesday over Senator Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary, where racial considerations emerged as an unusually salient factor. Mrs. Clinton drew strong support from white, working-class voters, who have spurned Mr. Obama in recent contests. The number of white Democratic voters who said race had influenced their choices on Tuesday was among the highest recorded in voter surveys in the nomination fight. Two in 10 white West Virginia voters said race was an important factor in their votes. More than 8 in 10 who said it factored in their votes backed Mrs. Clinton, according to exit polls."

Democrats Pick Up Mississippi House Seat Aaron Blake, of The Hill: "Democrat Travis Childers won Tuesday's Mississippi special election runoff for Sen. Roger Wicker's (R) former House seat, handing Democrats the biggest of their three special election takeovers this cycle and sending a listless GOP further into a state of disarray. Childers led GOP candidate Greg Davis 53-47 with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting. Turnout increased substantially over the 67,000 voters who cast ballots in the April 22 open special election, with more than 100,000 voting in the runoff."

Low Hopes for Bush Mideast Trip Peter Grier, of The Christian Science Monitor: "The pageantry of President Bush's trip to the Middle East this week is sure to be impressive. On May 15, he'll tour the ancient fortress of Masada, then commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel with an address to the Knesset. The next day he'll travel to Saudi Arabia to help mark the 75th anniversary of formal US-Saudi relations. He'll meet with Saudi King Abdallah at the king's farm. The substance of the journey, however, is unlikely to live up to the White House's once-high expectations."

Burma Police Block Aid Workers, Food Piles Up The Associated Press: "Police barred foreign aid workers from reaching cyclone survivors in hard-hit areas Tuesday, while emergency food shipments backed up at the main airport for Myanmar's biggest city. Relief workers reported some storm survivors were being given spoiled or poor-quality food rather than nutrition-rich biscuits sent by international donors, adding to fears that the ruling military junta in the Southeast Asian country could be misappropriating assistance."

What's McCain Have Against Education Benefits for Veterans? David Lightman, of McClatchy Newspapers: "The 'Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act' sounds like the kind of rally-round-the-flag plan that John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all could embrace. Instead, it's become one of the starkest dividing lines between McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, and his likely Democratic opponent. The bill, which the House of Representatives is expected to debate as soon as Thursday and the Senate could take up next week, would increase education aid to all military members who've served on active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001."

Harriett Miers Says Her Clash With Congress Will Outlast Bush Max B. Baker, of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers predicted that her constitutional clash with Congress over executive privilege and the separation of powers doctrine may not be settled until after President Bush leaves office next year. Miers, a former US Supreme Court nominee, was sued and cited for contempt by the Democratic-controlled Congress earlier this year for declining to talk about her role in the firings of US attorneys while serving the Bush administration. 'It wouldn't surprise me if it extended beyond this administration,' Miers said."

Saudis Sends Sharp Warning to Iran Over Lebanon Sam F. Ghattas, of The Associated Press: "Saudi Arabia sent Iran a sharp warning over Lebanon Tuesday, saying Tehran's support for Hezbollah will damage its relations with other Muslim and Arab countries. More soldiers fanned out through Beirut, with orders to use force to restore security to a nation shaken by nearly a week of sectarian clashes. Lebanese buried more of their dead and tried to resume life in a capital dissected by roadblocks."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Heartfelt Reclaiming of the Term "Liberal"

By April Lidinsky

Nick Bromell has a beautiful essay in the most recent edition of The American Scholar on the generous roots of liberal rhetoric, titled “The Liberal Imagination of Frederick Douglass: Honoring the Emotions that Give Life to Liberal Principles.” The connections he builds to the deficits of contemporary political rhetoric are illuminating.

It’s gotten me thinking about why “progressive” has overtaken “liberal” as the buzzword. Are we afraid to be seen as liberals? This piece makes me want to reclaim the term, based on its evocative historical foundations, which Bromell captures as:

In the 18th and early-19th centuries, liberal simply meant generous. A liberal person gave unstintingly, and his opposite was a person who was mean—grasping and slow to give. This distinction shaded gradually into another, and liberal generosity began to imply an open stance toward life and a broad-minded attitude toward other people’s ideas and values. Meanness, by contrast, suggested a strict, close-minded disposition that could become mean-spirited—prejudiced, unkind, or even cruel.The semantic thread that winds its way through these first meanings of liberalism originates in the Indo-European root leudh-, which in turn is closely associated with leu-, meaning to loosen” or “let go.” Liberal generosity and broadmindedness are at bottom a kind of looseness and self-abandonment. As a liberal person, you let yourself go; you set aside your personal self-interest, and you open yourself to life and the world.

Using Douglass’s political rhetoric as an example of the rich feeling and empathetic possibility of a more generous politics than we have become used to – on the right or the left – Bromell notes that the liberal temperament, which he sees most in the approach of Barack Obama, is one that is

composed of generosity and flexibility, a predisposition to respect and identify with others, and a willingness to be vulnerable in order to do so. It is based on a deeply felt conviction of the common humanity of all people, and it serves as a powerful check on our inclinations toward arrogance, meanness, and prejudice.

This notion of flexibility as a strength – rather than a sign of weakness, of “flip-flopping” or “waffling” – is one I hope voters will take to heart (to borrow the liberal rhetoric of sentiment). I have found it astounding ever since George Bush the First labeled Bill Clinton a “waffler” that the Left hasn’t been able to respond better to that often-empty charge. After all, in most arenas, changing one’s mind upon learning more information – talking to more people, weighing more data – well, that’s a STRENGTH, not a weakness! Why has clinging to one perspective – even when the evidence changes or one learns more – become a sign of political strength? (Would we value this trait in our doctors?) As Bromell notes of the lame response of John Kerry when he was accused of flip-flopping:

What if he had counterattacked instead? What if he had declared that what Republicans called flip-flopping he called changing his mind in the light of new information? What if he had said that a strong leader is one who has the courage to alter course, not one who stubbornly persists in a policy that is failing? What if he had insisted that American voters faced a clear choice about the kind of leadership they wanted: either a liberal who was more open-minded, flexible, and ready to adapt to a changing situation; or a conservative who was more stubborn, more strictly wedded to consistency at any price, more fearful of the future? What if he had dared to embrace and articulate the core qualities of the liberal mind or temperament?

What language, what approach, do we want our leaders to use? Will we reward them for daring to embody flexibility and empathy as a strength for the future that draws power from the past?

The times, they aren't a-changing

You may have noticed that April Lidinsky has joined as a contributor. She is well known for her essays over the years on "Michiana Chronicles" aired on WVPE each Friday.

My first notice of Ms. Lidinsky was her reading of "Signs of the Times" one Friday, years ago. It was early 2003 and I found her essay powerful in the way it captured the mood of despair and uncertainty in the days before we knew we would invade Iraq. I clearly wasn't the only one - a few days later, the station aired it again.

I hadn't read it in a long time and thought I'd see if it still had the same impact. It does... and I remember those days vividly.

What's more (unfortunately) the theme is once again applicable. Many of our citizens fear our reckless and foolish President will soon find an excuse to attack Iran.

I hope April won't mind me sharing her words with you. The times, they aren't a-changing.

Signs of the Times
by April Lidinsky
first broadcast January 23, 2003

What are the signs of our times? Well, here are a few I’ve seen in Michiana recently: “Instead of War, Invest in People”; “Weapons of Mass Distraction”; “There is No Good Reason for a War in Iraq”; “No War for Oil” – that one depressingly dusted off from what I’ve heard referred to, also depressingly, as the First Gulf War; and then I’ve seen in the newspaper its cheeky reincarnation: signs with cartoon images of Bush and Cheney wearing wet, black mustaches with the slogan, “Got Oil?” I am collecting these signs, keeping track. These are signs of hope that more and more Americans, like most world citizens, desire a peaceful solution to the crisis in Iraq.
Here’s my sign story. Over Christmas, we visited friends in St. Louis and were amazed to find block after city block with houses that had signs staked in their yards declaring “War on Iraq? Not in our Names.” After having spent weeks shouting back at the radio and shaking newspapers in disbelief, I felt a bit more sane, and in good company. We spoke with the printer and had 200 signs sent up to South Bend, and now most of them are staked out on lawns and propped up in windows around town. When folks stop in front of our house to read our signs, I feel something close to hope.
Last Saturday, over 500 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into a South Bend church for a public “Music for Peace” event and march. Here’s another sign of the times I saw there: “Don’t Attack Iraq; Babies Live There.” At last Saturday’s peace event, everyone was watching the babies in the crowd – beaming at one pink-buntinged infant swaying in her father’s arms to the rolling voices of the gospel choir. There were kvetching babies, nursing babies, grinners and gooey droolers; twin toddlers in stiff snow pants circling each other in a staggering dance at the back of the room to music that carried both fear and hope.
Besides babies, there were high school students in showy letter jackets, college students and grade-schoolers, older couples in tidy, matching parkas – all of our bodies serving as signs of the way information, ideas, and hope spreads, as someone in the PTO shares news of the peace march with other parents, and they spread the news to workplaces, to libraries and grocery stores, from students to teachers to book groups to community centers – more and more voices in a global chorus that seems increasingly difficult to ignore.
For those many of us who have marched on Washington, this Michiana procession was quite a different animal. There was no wild chanting; no towering, surreal Bread and Puppet creations; no street theater. Our short march was quiet, solemn, as though pitched to the bagpipe dirge we’d heard in the church as we set out on the march, its high keening melody and resolute drone exactly in tune with the marchers.
As we walked through the snow, my daughters and their friend struggled earnestly to hold their sign straight against choppy currents of wind. But cars honked to us in encouragement, and we exclaimed at our numbers, stretching for many blocks, several people wide. It gave me hope.
On our kitchen windowsill, with its desolate backdrop of frozen tree limbs and frosted fencing, our kindergartner is growing in a recycled cookie tin a green bean plant, which now, improbably, sports a bean the size of a snip of embroidery floss, and has just popped out two more cheerful purple flowers. The plant holds all the promise of the future, of spring, of hope. I hope there will not be a war.
But, of course, I do not fool myself into thinking my hope feels exactly like the hope of the residents of Baghdad, who also hope there will not be a war. Do you remember how, after the eerie empty sky days following 9-11, all of our heads tipped skyward in fear every time we heard a buzz? Multiply that fear by as many times as your heart can take, and you’ll have a tiny glimpse into the daily life of the already beleaguered citizens of Iraq, for whom any buzz on the horizon might signal the fiery end.
Here’s another sign of the times – the words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
At the end of the march, we all crowded into the dark, woolen warmth of another church, holding candles and singing “Shalom” in a round that made our numbers seem to swell. One candle lit the next until we were a sea of light, the tiny flames we held blurring in my teary eyes into a smeared curtain of fire. In one blink, I saw destruction; in the next, absolute, unflickering hope.

Truthout roundup 5/13

Death toll in China reaches 10,000; McCain touts wind energy, but voted against it; UN leader tells Burma to let the aid in; Bob Barr enters presidential race; Krugman on oil prices; Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III on sound bite politics; Supreme Court throws itself off apartheid case; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Hey You, Who Do Not Donate!Tuesday 13 May 2008If you believe in this thing join the supporters. Make a donation. Come on, you can do it, it's simple: just hit the link. We are grateful, and we will do good things with your money.Just click this link for our electronic donation options: can also donate by check, made payable to:TruthoutP.O. Box 231278Encinitas, CA 92023Or donate by phone:213.489.1971*REMEMBER: You can select a monthly plan to provide us with automatic, recurring support. Please sign up for whatever you can afford. t r u t h o u t 05.13

Death Toll in China Quake Put at 10,000 Mark Magnier and Barbara Demick, of The Los Angeles Times: "A magnitude 7.9 earthquake rocked China from mountains to coast Monday, knocking down schools, homes and chemical plants and killing thousands of people, many of them children trapped in their classrooms. As of daybreak today in China, the death toll stood at 10,000, with most of the victims in south-central China's Sichuan province, where the quake was centered 60 miles northwest of the provincial capital, Chengdu."

McCain Touts Wind Energy, but He Opposed Key Legislation Sam Stein, of The Huffington Post: "Over the past few years, Sen. John McCain has earned maverick stripes by taking a stance on climate change that few of his Republican colleagues share. But back in 2005, when McCain had the chance to vote for a bill that would have included the largest expansion of financial incentives to produce clean wind energy, he didn't."

UN Leader Tells Burma to Hurry on Aid Warren Hoge and Seth Mydans, of The New York Times: "As the authorities in Burma raised the cyclone death toll to nearly 32,000 and admitted one American military aircraft, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pressed the junta on Monday to accept international assistance. He expressed 'deep concern and immense frustration' with what he called 'the unacceptably slow response to this grave humanitarian crisis.' In unusually blunt language for a United Nations leader, Mr. Ban said: 'This is not about politics; it is about saving people's lives. There is absolutely no more time to lose.'"

Bob Barr to Run for President as Libertarian Johanna Neuman, The Los Angeles Times: "Bob Barr, a former congressman from Georgia and a former Republican, today announced his candidacy for president as a Libertarian who would rein in federal spending and foreign wars. 'The government has run amok fiscally,' he said at a press conference. Saying that during the first quarter of this year the private sector was losing millions of jobs while the federal government was 'hiring with enthusiasm,' Barr added, 'As the American people see their standard of living falling, the standard of government keeps going up.'"

Paul Krugman The Oil Nonbubble Paul Krugman, of The New York Times: "After all, a realistic view of what's happened over the past few years suggests that we're heading into an era of increasingly scarce, costly oil. I don't find that vision particularly abhorrent, but a lot of people, especially on the right, do. And so they want to believe that if only Goldman Sachs would stop having such a negative attitude, we'd quickly return to the good old days of abundant oil."

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III Sound-Bite Politics - Shallow Analysis and the Sinking of Senator Obama Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III for Truthout: "There are deep issues with this process and the manner in which mainstream media outlets are using distortions to distract the American electorate. These distractions are causing real problems for Obama. Television networks ABC, NBC, CNN and others, as well as newspaper sources such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, are deliberately distracting Americans with sound bites and shallow analysis."

Supreme Court Conflicts Stop Apartheid Case Linda Greenhouse, of The New York Times: "The Supreme Court tossed itself off a big case Monday. The court couldn't take up an apartheid dispute involving some of the nation's largest companies because too many of the justices had investments or other ties with those corporate giants. It appeared to be the first time in at least a quarter-century that the justices' financial holdings prevented them from taking a case."

VIDEO Tom Morello Sits Down With Truthout's Geoff Millard While out on the Justice Tour, Tom Morello, the revolutionary guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, sat down with Truthout's Geoff Millard to discuss what the Justice Tour is and why he makes socially conscious music.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jill's ready for the fight

By Bill Ruthhart

It took close to 24 hours after Indiana's polls closed for Jill Long Thompson to sew up her win as the Democratic nominee for governor, but she wasted no time Wednesday homing in on her next target: Mitch Daniels.

Driving south after a campaign rally in Fort Wayne, the former congresswoman made about 50 phone calls, including a number in which she sought campaign contributions.

She's going to need the help.

Daniels has raised more than $8.8 million, according to current finance reports. He's run 11 different television ads in the past two months, during which he was uncontested in the primary.

In the same period, Long Thompson ran four TV ads. She raised $1.4 million and spent most of it in her narrow win over Indianapolis architect Jim Schellinger.

Her rival raised more than twice the amount Long Thompson did -- $2.9 million, according to finance reports.

The last of Indiana's votes trickled in Wednesday, and at 4:15 p.m. Schellinger called Thompson to concede. He declined to comment.

Schellinger's campaign manager, Tim Jeffers, said they spent much of the day watching late returns from Marion and Lake counties while analyzing provisional ballot returns.

"We wanted to take our time," he said. "We were all half-asleep."

With all but two of the state's 5,230 precincts reporting Wednesday, Thompson won about 7,000 more votes than Schellinger.

Lake County made the difference.

With vote totals in from much of the state Tuesday night, Schellinger narrowly led Long Thompson before the Lake County ballots were counted.

Around midnight, he headed home. Lake County's returns didn't come in until later.

With support from party leaders in Lake County and the backing of most mayors there, Schellinger's campaign expected him to win there.

"He went to bed certainly thinking he wasn't going to lose," Jeffers said of Schellinger. "But I don't think he slept well, either."

In the end, Long Thompson won 55 percent of Lake County's vote to Schellinger's 45 percent.

"We were anticipating coming out of Lake with 10,000 or 15,000 votes, and we lost by 10,000-plus," Jeffers said. "We don't know what happened. We thought Lake County was in our hip pocket."

Long Thompson credited her success there to a grass-roots effort, particularly the support of the United Steelworkers and Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez.

While Long Thompson won 70 percent of the vote in Allen County, an area considered a stronghold for her, Schellinger won his home turf, Marion County, by a much slimmer margin. He won here by fewer than 4,000 votes, or 51 percent of the vote.

On Wednesday, Long Thompson was less interested in reviewing her win and more eager to take on Daniels.

"I'm ready to now take this campaign to the fall, win and then spend eight years rebuilding Indiana's economy, bringing health-care costs down, increasing our high school graduation rate and stopping the privatization madness of Governor Daniels," she said.

Cam Savage, communications director for Daniels' campaign, said the governor's strategy for re-election doesn't change by facing an experienced candidate such as Long Thompson instead of a first-timer such as Schellinger.

"It doesn't matter to us who we face," Savage said. "The important thing is we'll run a positive campaign on the issues."

Daniels, he said, plans to highlight his accomplishments while offering a vision for the future.

"Our campaign will be one where we talk about the job the governor has done and his administration is doing in bringing positive changes to Indiana," Savage said.

During their primary race, Schellinger reported $524,000 in donations of $10,000 or more since April 15, compared to $494,000 for Long Thompson.

Daniels, without the need for last-minute cash to push a primary bid, raised nearly as much: $475,000.

Long Thompson, though, said she wasn't fazed by Daniels' ability to drum up contributions.

"I expect to be very competitive in the fundraising," she said, "and even more competitive in getting votes."

It's war, Patrick Mangan

The Citizens for Puritan Values have reached a new low. The latest dispatch from Bizarro World is a brazen attempt to intimidate the Superintendent of the South Bend School Corporation about a nationally recognized event.

Our friendly fake consultant had a nice post about this. Fellow poster Rhonda added this.

Here's the junk from Pat Man.

Jacob Stephen (Phalan) Wheeler

by Don Wheeler

Jacob S. Phalan was born in New York City in 1839 to Irish immigrant parents. He spent his early childhood in an orphanage and was later "bound out" to a harness maker. I'm assuming that involves some sort of unpaid apprenticeship.

At some point he changed his last name to Wheeler and later enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. He served in what was commonly referred to as the "First Chicago Board of Trade Regiment" - Company B of the 72nd Illinois - from July of 1862 until the war's end. All but 18 of the 108 men in the company were reported to have been killed.

My father, Robert Wheeler, put a lot of time in after retirement tracing our family history. He had a hard time finding much information from outside sources about his great-grandfather, but luckily Jacob liked to write.

From Bob Wheeler's research:

Little is known for certain about Jacob's antecedents and his early life. In later years he specified that he was born in New York City on September 11, 1839. That was probably only a best guess based on the date of his admittance to the orphanage. Records of St. Patrick's Orphan Asylum, which Jacob consulted in 1910, provided no information on his parents or siblings, and very little on Jacob himself. Only that Jacob S. Phalan, age 5, was admitted on September 10, 1844, and discharged May 28, 1852, at age 13, to Philip Heeny. Jacob was never able to find any information of his family even though he made substantial efforts in his later years. He apparently did not know the names or origins of his parents. He believed that he had at least two brothers and a sister - all older than he.

Luckily for us, Jacob wrote a bit to a good friend in Galena, IL - and later in life to his son Stephen. The bulk of what we know about his life comes from those letters. Bob Wheeler continues:

There are at least two family stories as to how the name Wheeler was selected. One, that it was taken from the name of a sewing machine company, and a second that it was taken from a political poster Jacob chanced to see as he was fleeing New York City. Both family stories have it that he was in trouble with the law when he left New York. In any event it would appear that his fear of the Knownothings was sufficient by itself, to abandon, to abandon his Irish name.

His reasons for leaving New York come through very clearly in a letter to his son Charles, probably written about 1909. He was greatly frightened by the activities of the Knownothings and the great riots in New York in the 1850s. He says in his letter:

"I saw it and you have not the slightest conception of
the state of affairs at that time. I still remember the killing of Bill Poole
and his burial out at Greenwood Cemetery and it scared me out of the City and did
much to turn me from Catholicism. Bloody times - they were worse than the war -
and I have seen both. I was doing well and getting on but those scenes are with
me still and to me worse than War the way I looked at it and more horrible. So
much more more frenzied hate, unbottled frantic fanaticism let loose and running
wild. Hope never to see any more of it. War unintended; just hell let loose and on

I am moved in so many ways to have my great-great-grandfather's thoughts and experiences to read. A man who couldn't possibly have much in the way of formal education was a deep thinker and a compelling writer. I plan to share more of his writing with you.

But what I want to really emphasize is to urge YOU to write.

I'm sure Jacob never dreamed his great-great-grandson Don would would cherish and gain from his thoughts and experiences. You may think something like that about yourself.

Odds are, you're wrong.

Truthout roundup 5/12

Truthout's Matt Renner interviews fraud investigator Dina Rasor; domestic spying on the rise; cease-fire in Sadr City doesn't alleviate fear of more violence; fierce fighting continues in Beirut; Burma still exports rice as its people starve; John Edwards urges Hillary Clinton to be careful to not hurt the party's chances to win in November; Guantanamo ruling aids critics case against tribunal system; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

A Few Support TO, Please Join ThemMonday 12 May 2008All that TO does is supported by a small fraction of our readership. Imagine what would be possible if everyone kicked in just what they could afford. The link below gives you quick, easy donation options. Take a moment, contribute. Thanks in advance.Just click this link for our electronic donation options: can also donate by check, made payable to:TruthoutP.O. Box 231278Encinitas, CA 92023Or donate by phone:213.489.1971*REMEMBER: You can select a monthly plan to provide us with automatic, recurring support. Please sign up for whatever you can afford. t r u t h o u t 05.12

Matt Renner Interviews Fraud Investigator Dina Rasor Matt Renner, of Truthout: "Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman present firsthand accounts of fraud, deception, negligence and treachery by contractors during the privatized invasion and occupation of Iraq. This is the first war that was designed to rely on contractors - private companies with profit as their top priority - for transportation, food, water, spare parts and even protection."

Domestic Spying Far Outpaces Terrorism Prosecutions Richard B. Schmitt, of The Los Angeles Times: "The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court -- one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing -- has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously."

Sadr City Residents Fear a Cease-Fire Means More Violence Leila Fadel, of McClatchy Newspapers: "One day after an agreement between followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr and the Iraqi government to end more than six weeks of fighting, the streets in parts of the vast Shiite slum of Sadr City were deserted, amidst signs of a battle. Wires snaked out of potholes and from underneath tires - signs of past or future roadside bombs; abandoned pickup trucks, destroyed by airstrikes, littered the streets, and bullets or shrapnel scarred the houses."

Fierce Fighting Breaks Out East of Beirut Nada Bakri, of The New York Times: "Fierce clashes broke out on Sunday in the mountains east of Beirut between supporters of the Western-backed government and followers of Hezbollah, the militant group backed by Iran. The fighting, in the Shouf and Aley districts in the mountains overlooking the capital, Beirut, followed overnight clashes in the northern city of Tripoli that left at least two people dead and five wounded, according to security officials."

Burma Exports Rice as Cyclone Victims Starve Ian MacKinnon, of The Observer UK: "Burma is still exporting rice even as it tries to curb the influx of international donations of food bound for the starving survivors of the cyclone that killed up to 116,000 people. Sacks of rice destined for Bangladesh were being loaded on to a ship at the Thilawa container port at the mouth of the Yangon River at the end of last week, even though Burma's 'rice bowl' region was devastated by the deadly storm a week ago."

Edwards: Clinton Didn't Choose Words Well on Race The Associated Press: "Former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said Sunday that he thinks Barack Obama will be the party's presidential nominee and that Hillary Rodham Clinton must be careful not to damage the party's prospects in November as she continues her campaign. 'She has to be really careful that she's not damaging our prospects, the Democratic Party, and our cause, for the fall.'"

Judge's Guantanamo Ruling Bodes Ill for System William Glaberson, of The New York Times: "A decision by a military judge on Friday to disqualify a top Pentagon official from any further role in a Guantanamo war crimes case was a major new challenge to the Bush administration's legal approach to the war on terrorism. The ruling, in the case against Salim Hamdan, a detainee who was a driver for Osama bin Laden, transformed what had been something of a Pentagon soap opera over how to prosecute detainees into a formal ruling that gave new force to critics' accusations of improper political influence over this country's first use of military commissions since World War II."

VIDEO Matt Renner Interviews Fraud Investigator Dina Rasor Matt Renner, of Truthout: "Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman present firsthand accounts of fraud, deception, negligence and treachery by contractors during the privatized invasion and occupation of Iraq. This is the first war that was designed to rely on contractors - private companies with profit as their top priority - for transportation, food, water, spare parts and even protection."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bill O'Reilly, public servant

by Emily Litella

I don't generally watch The Oh Really(?) Factory on the Faux News Channel. Come to think of it, mostly I see clips of it on Countdown. But I had always wondered why there is this continous stream of print next to Bill's talking head on the screen of my television.

Finally it struck me! Mr O'Reilly must have concluded that his fans are poor readers. By doing it this way, they will eventually be able to recognize some of the words.

He even gets them wrong sometimes, just to see if they are paying attention.

What a guy!

Truthout roundup 5/11

Obama and McCain plan for fall campaigns; Jim VandeHei and David Paul Kuhn comment on how Republicans are getting "massacre[d]" at the polls; rising death toll and danger in aftermath of Burma cyclone; veterans population shrinks but number of disabled vets grows; Florida GOP using race, sex as voter calling cards; Hispanic voters trending Democrat; Bill McKibben writes about "a last chance for civilization"; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.11

Obama and McCain Map Fall Strategies The New York Times's Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny write: "Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are already drawing up strategies for taking each other on in the general election, focusing on the same groups - including independent voters and Latinos - and about a dozen states where they think the contest is likely to be decided this fall, campaign aides said."

Jim VandeHei and David Paul Kuhn GOP Getting Crushed in Polls, Key Races In The Politico, Jim VandeHei and David Paul Kuhn say, "In case you've been too consumed by the Democratic race to notice, Republicans are getting crushed in historic ways both at the polls and in the polls."

Tragedy of Dead and Survivors in Burma Grows Worse Reuters reports: "Desperate survivors of Cyclone Nargis headed out of Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta in search of food, water and medicine, but aid workers said on Sunday that thousands will die if emergency supplies don't get through soon."

Number of Disabled Vets Up With Iraq, Afghan Wars Jennifer C. Kerr of The Associated Press writes: "Increasing numbers of US troops have left the military with damaged bodies and minds, an ever-larger pool of disabled veterans that will cost the nation billions for decades to come - even as the total population of America's vets has begun to shrink."

Florida Republicans Use Race and Sex to Woo Black Voters The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo says that "For a sign of Florida Republicans' all-out effort to attract black voters, look no farther than the glossy full-colored The Black Republican magazine that launches broadsides like these: The KKK was the 'terrorist arm of the Democratic Party.'"

Ann Wright Protest Camps Against American Military Bases in Japan and Italy According to Truthout contributor Ann Wright, "The presence of the US military, 63 years after World War II, is a huge source of anger for the citizens of Japan, Korea, Germany and Italy. On the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the US military uses an artillery firing range known as Yausubetsu. The range is small in comparison to ranges in the United States and Germany - only 30 kilometers by 10 kilometers - but the source of irritation to Japanese farmers whose land was taken for the range and for those who live near the range is large. The peaceful rolling hills and valleys of the area are the home of the dairy industry of Hokkaido. The Japanese have used a cartoon of an angry dairy cow with boxing gloves as their symbol of protest of the US military's use of the range."

Democrats Tout Shift in Hispanic Voting Beth Reinhard of The Miami Herald reports: "Hispanic voters registered as Democrats have overtaken Hispanic Republicans in Florida, signaling a trend that, if it continues, could have far-reaching implications for the 2008 election and US foreign policy."

Bill McKibben A Last Chance for Civilization In, Bill McKibben writes: "Even for Americans, constitutionally convinced that there will always be a second act, and a third, and a do-over after that, and, if necessary, a little public repentance and forgiveness and a Brand New Start - even for us, the world looks a little Terminal right now

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Truthout roundup 5/10

CIA ordered to provide "torture" memo; Iraqi Shi'ite reach agreement to end fighting in Sadr City; Pentagon general disqualified from first detainee trial; conservatives break ranks with Bush administration in support of shield law; Burma blocking UN food aid; J. Sri Raman writes about India's nuclear anniversary; Dan Bacher comments on the recent protest by Klamath River tribes and fishermen demanding that Warren Buffett "Un-dam the Klamath"; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.10

Judge Orders CIA to Turn Over "Torture" Memo Reuters reports that "A US judge ordered the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday to submit to the court a 2002 memo said to specify harsh interrogation methods used on suspected terrorists held abroad."

Truce Agreement in Sadr City Wisam Mohammed and Waleed Ibrahim of Reuters write: "Iraqi Shi'ite factions on Saturday reached a deal to end fighting between militia and security forces in the Baghdad bastion of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that has killed hundreds of people, officials said."

Judge Drops General From Detainee Trial William Glaberson, The New York Times, writes: "In a new blow to the Bush administration's troubled military commission system, a military judge has disqualified a Pentagon general who has been centrally involved in overseeing Guantanamo war crimes tribunals from any role in the first case headed for trial."

Conservatives Supporting Shield Law for the Press The New York Times's Eric Lichtblau and Philip Shenon say, "An unusual cast of conservatives has added momentum to a bill that would protect the confidentiality of reporters' sources, even as the Bush administration has lobbied vigorously against the idea."

Burma Seizes UN Food Aid, Blocks Foreign Experts Seth Mydans of The New York Times writes: "The military leaders of Myanmar seized a shipment of United Nations food aid on Friday intended for victims of a devastating cyclone, declaring that they would accept donations of food and medicine but not the foreign aid workers international groups say are in equally short supply there."

J. Sri Raman India's Nuclear Anniversary Truthout contributor J. Sri Raman says, "May 11 will mark the tenth anniversary of an event that represented a turning point in the history of modern India. On that date in 1998, the largest South Asian state turned away from a long-pursued path that had taken it to a place of pride in the region and in the international arena."

Dan Bacher Klamath River Tribes and Fishermen Disrupt Berkshire Hathaway Meeting Writing for Truthout, Dan Bacher states, "Klamath River Basin tribal leaders, Native American activists, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers and conservationists returned home to California and Oregon after disrupting Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, last weekend."

Edwards discusses poverty and the election.

John Edwards made appearences recently on major shows discussing the state of the nomination fight, the general election and announced his "Half in ten: from poverty to prosperity" program.

Program details:

Katha Pollitt - a gender specific writer

by Don Wheeler

It's funny how the mind can wander when considering a well written essay, sermon, etc. That happened to me as I read April's post of Friday.

It's not that I disagree with the theme(s) or the evidence. It is the type of thing that needs to be brought up again and again so people (and I include myself) focus on portrayed gender roles that become pervasive enough that it becomes easy not to notice.

But I must admit to some chagrin when I read Katha Pollitt use a term like misogynist - for what ever one calls the female version - she is that.

My wife has subscribed to The Nation since well before we met and, when at her house, I often tried to read copies of it. I say "try" because I found much of it unreadable. The guest writers were often good, as was David Corn's stuff, but some of the commentaries were akin to looking at the world via "fun house" mirrors - there were some recognizable colors and features, but generally what was portrayed was unrecognizable to me in the world I live in. (Alexander Cockburn's rants, hallucinations, and hyperbole are prime examples of this genre.)

I don't group Ms. Pollitt with AC, but I did notice after reading a few of her columns - one consistent theme. She loathes men (particularly the Caucasian variety) and assigns them all the sins of the calendar. Whatever the title or purported subject matter of her biweekly commentary, you can be sure to find this thread in it.

Like most humans, I don't like being disliked, derided and dismissed by someone who doesn't know me, and (especially) because of the group I am a part of by circumstance of birth.

So when Katha Pollitt speaks, I can't hear her.

But, as I thought of this, I'll bet many women encounter male writers who cause a similar response in them. I've certainly seen flashes of it, but it's funny how much easier it is to see it when I am the target.

I must admit I never thought of Chris Matthews as a Conservative - he never struck me as being advanced enough to have ideology. He gained the nickname "Tweety" among John Edwards bloggers. I assume it was due the random misfiring of his mind which occurs during most of his appearances.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wherefore Women? More Musings

By April Lidinsky

Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation, has a gift for taking the temperature of the moment, drawing together many examples that give a reader a broad perspective punctuated by specific examples. Her latest column, “Backlash Spectactular,” is a terrific example, as she assesses our gender politics at a moment when women’s progress and women’s backsliding are so strangely intermingled. The occasion of her piece is the fact that Washington University in St. Louis is giving an honorary doctorate to Phyllis Schlafly and hosting conservative commentator Chris Matthews (Pollitt calls him a “mad misogynist” and it’s hard to disagree) as the commencement speaker.

What could such decisions tell us about the gains and losses for women in the U.S., now? Here’s a taste:

Tell me the backlash against feminism isn't crackling up a storm. I try to keep my eye on the big picture and the bottom line: education, employment, autonomy, power. Surely, I tell myself, the fact that half of all new med students are female is more important than Paris Hilton's omnipresent visage; that a woman has made the first viable run for the presidency says more about the United States than that media clowns like Matthews basically call her a crazy castrating bitch on a daily basis; or that Caitlin Flanagan, smarmy enemy of working mothers (and another big believer in compulsory sex for wives), won a National Magazine Award for reviews and criticism.

Pollitt also weighs in on the recent failure of the Senate to support the Lilly Ledbetter bill regarding women’s right to sue over pay equity issues, along with the closing of shelters for battered women nation-wide for lack of funding. (The resources in our own area are frighteningly thin; our excellent YWCA facility is often very near or at capacity.)

Yes, women are making progress in education, and perhaps we’ll have a woman on the Democratic ticket after all (stranger things have happened in politics), but Pollitt’s closing examples are persuasively alarming:

Culturally, there's misogyny wherever you look: Grand Theft Auto IV, which offers players the opportunity to have sex with prostitutes and kill them, got rave reviews and is expected to have $500 million in sales its first week out. If there's a pro-woman cultural event with that kind of reach and impact, I'd like to hear about it. It certainly wouldn't be Vanity Fair's photo of tween icon Miley Cyrus, clad in nothing but a bedsheet at all of 15 years old--or the daily media onslaught urging women to focus on their babies like a Zen master contemplating a rock--when not taking pole-dancing lessons, getting Botoxed or catching up on the latest "studies" purporting to prove that they lack the drive and brains to do anything better with their brief time on earth. Feminism, please call home!

Women and men who support gender equity: Let’s not leave gender politics behind as we move to the next phase of the election.

Truthout roundup 5/9

Civilians evacuated from Sadr City; Sari Gelzer on mental health of returning troops; Hezbollah gunmen seize control of parts of Beirut; 1.5 million affected by Burma storm; Clinton campaign chair says race will end in June; Congressman Hinchey blasts the Blue Dogs; Bush's FEC appointments seen as a move to aid McCain; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.09

Iraqi Military Orders Sadr City Residents to Evacuate Leila Fadel, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Iraqi security forces, after more than 40 days of intense fighting, on Thursday told residents to evacuate their homes in the northeast Shiite slum of Sadr City and to move to temporary shelters on two soccer fields. The military's call indicated the possibility of stepped-up military operations and came as Iraqi security forces raided a radio station run by backers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. In the southern port city of Basra, militants launched rockets that struck a coalition base, killing two contractors and injuring four civilians and four coalition soldiers."

Sari Gelzer The Soldiers Project: Mental Health Care Confidential Sari Gelzer, of Truthout: "The significant numbers of returning service members and veterans who are in need of mental health care have recently been put into the spotlight by a RAND Corporation report, which found approximately 300,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression. However, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Judith Broder did not need to hear statistics four years ago to realize the wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were going to have a profound psychological impact on returning troops."

Hezbollah Gunmen Seize Control of Beirut Areas The Associated Press: "Shiite opposition gunmen seized control of several Beirut neighborhoods from Sunni foes loyal to the US-backed government on Friday as sectarian clashes reminiscent of Lebanon's bloody 15-year civil war raged in the capital. At least 11 people have been killed and more than 20 wounded in three days of street battles and gunfights, security officials said."

UN Says 1.5 Million People Affected by Burma Storm Aung Hla Tun, of Reuters: "The United Nations estimated 1.5 million people have been 'severely affected' by the cyclone that swept through Myanmar, as the United States expressed outrage with the country's junta over delays in allowing in aid." Also, Andrew Buncombe, of The Independent UK: "Despite the obvious suffering, massive devastation and pressing need for urgent action, the Burmese authorities were continuing to insist yesterday that everything was under control. On the front page of the New Light of Myanmar - a state-run government publication - was a picture of the Prime Minister, Thein Sein, handing over 20 television sets and 10 DVD players as part of the 'relief' operation. This, in a region where there has been no electricity since the 130mph storm struck."

Top Clinton Aide Says Race Will End in June Scott Martelle and Bob Drogin, of The Los Angeles Times: "As talk swirled this morning over when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton should end her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, her campaign chairman predicted the party would have a presumptive nominee in June and, if it's not Clinton, she would campaign for Sen. Barack Obama. The comments by Terry McAuliffe seemed aimed at persuading superdelegates and Democratic Party leaders that Clinton would not hurt party unity by pressing her campaign through the final June 3 primaries in Montana and South Dakota."

Hinchey Calls Blue Dog Behavior "Absolutely Shameful" Daniel W. Reilly, of The Politico: "Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) issued a stern rebuke to a group of fellow House Democrats on Thursday, saying that the behavior of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition was 'absolutely shameful,' after the group revolted on Wednesday over the cost of veterans' educations benefits in a war funding measure, delaying consideration of the $183 billion supplemental spending bill. 'It is absolutely shameful that members of the Blue Dog coalition would vote to take this country into Iraq on false intelligence and lies, repeatedly vote to fund the disastrous military occupation of that country, but choose to turn their backs on the brave members of our armed forces by refusing to support an expansion of education benefits for them when they come home,' Hinchey said in a statement."

Bush's FEC Moves Seen as Aiding McCain's Campaign Michael Luo, of The New York Times: "For months, the White House and Senate Republicans have been content to let a political impasse over vacancies at the Federal Election Commission persist, sidelining the regulatory agency in the throes of a heated presidential campaign. But on Tuesday, President Bush suddenly announced three new nominees to the commission. He also backed away from Republicans' insistence that the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who faces vigorous opposition from Democrats, be voted upon with other nominees to the commission."

Thinking about November

New York Times

The fight for the Democratic nomination seems to be winding down. It’s not completely over, but the odds now overwhelmingly favor Barack Obama.

Assuming that Mr. Obama is the nominee, he’ll lead a party that, judging by the usual indicators, should be poised for an easy victory — perhaps even a landslide.

Yet Democrats are worried. Are those worries justified?

Before I try to answer that question, let’s talk about those indicators.

Political scientists, by and large, believe that what happens on the campaign trail, while it gives talking heads something to talk about, is more or less irrelevant to what happens on Election Day. Instead, they place their faith in statistical analyses that identify three main determinants of presidential voting.

First, votes are affected by the state of the economy — mainly economic performance in the year or so preceding the election.

Second, the approval rating of the current president strongly affects his party’s ability to hold power.

Third, the electorate seems to suffer from an eight-year itch: parties rarely manage to hold the White House for more than two terms in a row.

This year, all of these factors strongly favor the Democrats. Indeed, the Democratic Party hasn’t enjoyed this favorable a political environment since 1964. Robert Erikson, a political scientist at Columbia, tells me: “It would be difficult to find any serious indicator that does not point to a Democratic victory in 2008.”

What about polls that still seem to give John McCain a good chance of winning? Pay no attention, say the experts: general election polls this early tell you almost nothing about what will happen in November. Remember 1992: as late as June, Gallup put Ross Perot in first place, Bill Clinton in third.

There’s just one thing that should give Democrats pause — but it’s a big one: the fight for the nomination has divided the party along class and race lines in a way that I believe is unprecedented, at least in modern times.

Ironically, much of Mr. Obama’s initial appeal was the hope that he could transcend these divisions. At first, voting patterns seemed consistent with this hope. In February, for example, he received the support of half of Virginia’s white voters as well as that of a huge majority of African-Americans.

But this week, Mr. Obama, while continuing to win huge African-American majorities, lost North Carolina whites by 23 points, Indiana whites by 22 points. Mr. Obama’s white support continues to be concentrated among the highly educated; there was little in Tuesday’s results to suggest that his problems with working-class whites have significantly diminished.

Discussions of how and why Mr. Obama’s support narrowed over time have a Rashomon-like quality: different observers see very different truths. But at this point it doesn’t matter whose fault it was. What does matter is that Mr. Obama appears to have won the nomination with a deep but narrow base consisting of African-Americans and highly educated whites. And now he needs to bring Democrats who opposed him back into the fold.

It’s possible that this will happen automatically — that bad feelings from the nomination fight will fade away of their own accord. In recent decades, Democrats have had little trouble unifying after hard-fought primary campaigns.

But this time the division seems to go deeper than ordinary political rivalry. The closest parallel I can think of is the bitter intraparty struggles of the 1920s, which pitted urban, often Catholic Democrats against Protestant farmers.
So what can be done to heal the party’s current divisions?

More tirades from Obama supporters against Mrs. Clinton are not the answer — they will only further alienate her grass-roots supporters, many of whom feel that she received a raw deal.

Nor is it helpful to insult the groups that supported Mrs. Clinton, either by suggesting that racism was their only motivation or by minimizing their importance.

After the Pennsylvania primary, David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, airily dismissed concerns about working-class whites, saying that they have “gone to the Republican nominee for many elections.” On Tuesday night, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, declared that “we don’t have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics.” That sort of thing has to stop.

One thing the Democrats definitely need to do is give delegates from Florida and Michigan — representatives of citizens who voted in good faith, and whose support the party may well need this November — seats at the convention.

And to the extent that campaigning matters, Mr. Obama should center his campaign on economic issues that matter to working-class families, whatever their race.

The point is that Mr. Obama has an extraordinary opportunity in this year’s election. He should do everything possible to avoid squandering it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rasmussen roundup

Clinton leads Obama in West Virginia by a 2 to 1 margin

The Democratic Primary competition will move to West Virginia on May 13. That’s a competition Hillary Clinton will be looking forward to with eager anticipation. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the race shows that Clinton attracts 56% of the Likely Democratic Primary Voters while Obama is supported by 27%. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.

Those results are virtually identical to an earlier election poll conducted in mid-March.

Clinton is viewed favorably by 72% of West Virginia’s Primary Voters, Obama by 48%. Clinton’s numbers are unchanged while Obama’s ratings have dropped five percentage points.

Clinton will need a big victory in West Virginia to help bolster her talking point about winning the most popular votes. While Obama supporters dismiss this talking point as meaningless, it will be repeated many times in the coming weeks and months. Still, the former First Lady has but one path to the nomination—stay close and hope that Obama makes a mistake.

In West Virginia, 72% say they’re at least somewhat likely to vote for Clinton over McCain in the general election. However, only 56% say they’re somewhat or very likely to vote for Obama.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) have followed recent news stories about Obama’s former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) say it’s likely that Obama shares some of Wright’s controversial views. Those figures are similar to the national average for all voters, not Democrats.

Nationally, the race between Obama and Clinton remains close in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

Today's Presidential tracking poll

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows Barack Obama attracting 46% of the vote while John McCain earns 44%. At the same time, Hillary Clinton has a five-point lead over McCain, 48% to 43%. This is the ninth consecutive day that Clinton has outperformed Obama in the general election match-ups (see recent daily results). Tracking results are updated daily by 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Data from Rasmussen Markets gives Democrats a 60.2% chance of winning in November.

Yesterday, Rasmussen Reports released data showing McCain with a four-point edge over both Democrats in Wisconsin. Later today, new results will be released for Missouri and Georgia.

Other data released yesterday shows that voters are evenly divided on the federal gas tax holiday. On the broader topic of taxes, most voters are worried that the next President will raise taxes so much that it harms the economy.
In the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, Obama holds a 47% to 43% advantage over Clinton nationally (see recent Democratic Nomination results). Tracking poll results are based upon nightly telephone interviews and reported on a four-day rolling average basis. Only one night of interviews for today’s update were completed after the Indiana and North Carolina Primaries. Expectations that Obama will be the Democratic nominee have risen sharply in the past couple of days. Just before Tuesday’s Primaries, Rasmussen Markets data gave Obama a 73% chance of winning the Democratic nomination. The most recent results give Obama a 89.9% chance of emerging victorious (these results are updated on a 24/7 basis by market participants).

As Obama appears to be wrapping up the Democratic Nomination, Rasmussen Reports notes that the VP slot belongs to Hillary Clinton if she wants it. A separate commentary by Rutgers University Professor Gerald Pomper makes the case for Virginia Senator James Webb as Obama’s running mate.

On the Republican side, Kathryn Jean Lopez from the National Review makes her case that Mitt Romney should be named as John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate. An earlier Rasmussen Reports commentary said that Romney is one of three candidates McCain should never consider. The other two are Mike Huckabee, and Condoleeza Rice.

Other commentaries today include one by Robert Novak who notes that Obama may turn out to be either a flawed or a fantastic candidate. In a “Perfect Calm for John McCain,” Froma Harrop asserts that “The core problem for Democrats is that Obama's backers are reliable Democrats, whereas Hillary Clinton's are unreliable Democrats.” Joe Conason writes “Hillary Plays the Crazy Card.”

There are, of course, still a few remaining Primaries to play out in the long-running process for the Democratic Nomination. Next week’s contest is in West Virginia where Clinton has a huge lead. The week after, Obama leads in Oregon while Clinton has a huge advantage in Kentucky.

Among all voters nationwide, McCain is viewed favorably by 49% and unfavorably by 48%. (see recent daily favorable ratings). Obama’s numbers are now a bit better than McCain’s—51% favorable and 47% unfavorable. That’s the second straight day that Obama’s favorable ratings have been higher than McCain’s by even a single point. Prior to these past two days, that hadn’t happened since March 10. For Clinton, the reviews are a bit less flattering--46% favorable and 52% unfavorable.

The Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator shows Democrats leading in states with 200 Electoral Votes. The GOP has the advantage in states with 189. When “leaners” are added, the Democrats lead 260 to 240 (see summary of recent state-by-state results). The ongoing competition between Obama and Clinton may be causing angst for party leaders, but the competition has been good for the Party label. In fact, the Democrats now have the largest partisan advantage over the Republicans since Rasmussen Reports began tracking this data on a monthly basis nearly six years ago.

Daily tracking results are collected via nightly telephone surveys and reported on a four-day rolling average basis. The general election sample is currently based upon interviews with 1,600 Likely Voters. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Results are also compiled on a full-week basis and crosstabs for the full-week results are available for Premium Members. See crosstabs for general election match-ups, favorable ratings and Democratic primary.

Feminist Dilemma ..... or not

While I have not been a Hillary Clinton backer for a long time, I have found it very exciting to see such a strong, brilliant, almost supernaturally energetic woman campaigning for the presidency.

I have also found the sexism in media coverage pretty thoroughly heartbreaking.

It’s been strange for me to walk the line of defending powerful women, while observing the hard truth that the reason HRC is where she is is in no small part due to the fact that she’s figured out how to play the old boys’ power game better than most men. (Is this the progressive vision feminism has worked for? I wonder. ) How else to interpret her gas-tax holiday pandering, or her “obliterate Iran” bluster?

While it seems impossible for her to capture the nomination at this point, the resurgence of sexism and disrespect in the calls for her to end her campaign have again raised my hackles. The theme of “Die, witch!” (think Wizard of Oz) recurring in commentaries shouting for her to get out of the way has left me feeling pretty bleak about our gender politics in a political season when even our female candidate is expected to have “testicular fortitude.”

What should progressive power look like in a moment when so much is at stake?

And are we at a political crossroads when, ironically, a male candidate may be able to afford to be more feminist than a female candidate can be?

Convential wisdom - a challenge

by Don Wheeler

There is the assertion, virtually unchallenged, that the continuing nomination fight and the divisions created by it, are seriously harming the chances of the Democratic nominee.

Since the nominee is pretty much known at this point, I find all the hand-wringing a bit curious.

Democracy is not a neat process. Dictatorships are, Monarchies are - but we claim we don't like these.

It's my view the contest should continue until one person can claim the number of pledged delegates necessary to win nomination. That shows a confidence in the system and trust in our fellow citizens. It also allows the Obama campaign to show confidence and generosity of spirit. They have a big problem, but it isn't this.

Their big problem is a segment of their own supporters.

These folks, who tend to be loud and often confrontational, have spread two myths which are damaging to Obama's general election campaign.

Myth #1
Barack Obama is a progressive. Everything is relative, I suppose, but if one looks at the policy proposals made by the field of Democratic candidates - Obama's are clearly the most conservative. People often confuse populism with progressivism, but Mr. Obama can't reasonably be classified as anything left of a moderate.
Witness his own actions and statements:
During Barack Obama’s Sunday appearance on Fox News, the interviewer (Chris Wallace) asked him for an example of “a hot-button issue where you would be willing to buck the Democratic Party line” and say that Republicans have the better idea.Mr. Obama’s answer was puzzling because he gave
credit where it isn’t due — and thereby undermined what could be a very effective Democratic line of argument.
In particular, Mr. Obama attributed to Republicans the idea that regulation can be flexible rather than a matter of “top-down command and control,” and in particular for the idea of controlling
pollution with a system of tradable emission permits rather than rigid regulations.
(from Paul Krugman's "Party of Denial" column)

In addition - in Nevada, ahead of the caucuses, Mr. Obama praised Ronald Reagan's leadership abilities. Later, a chief advisor of his reassured the Canadian government that they shouldn't worry too much about Mr. Obama's stated goal of reopening NAFTA. He has also derided the Clinton Health Proposal (The Edwards Health Proposal to many of us) for it's mandates to include all citizens as a "big government" intrusion.

It seems pretty clear that these supporters are not on the same page as their candidate.

Their claims make him a fatter target for the SOP of the GOP that Obama is "too far out of the mainstream" (fill in the blank). This perception has probably had some effect already. Almost 90% of self-described "working class" Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters went for Hillary Clinton. (A bit ironic, since her proposals are at least a bit more progressive.) In the end though, it was probably myth #2 that made them the most nervous.

Myth #2
Barack Obama is something approaching a Deity. We're all grownups here, so I don't need dig too deeply to disprove this one - I suspect.
Many of us were inspired by John Edwards' vision, so I don't mean to disparage the notion of seeing someone as a transformational figure. But fervent Edwards supporters (while liking the man) were enthused about what he wants to do. For these Obama supporters I'm speaking of, it's mostly about who Obama is. This attitude was most unhelpful when Barack Obama had to address charges of elitism.
This is not a line of contention likely to win over folks who are preoccupied with the concerns of day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck living. In fact, I suspect it would make people in this group pretty wary. It makes me wary, in fact.
From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would
mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence
does not.
Yes, I know that there are lots of policy proposals on the Obama campaign’s Web site. But addressing the real concerns of working Americans isn’t the campaign’s central theme.Tellingly, the Obama
campaign has put far more energy into attacking Mrs. Clinton’s health care proposals than it has into promoting the idea of universal coverage.
During the closing days of the Pennsylvania primary fight, the Obama campaign ran a TV ad repeating the dishonest charge that the Clinton plan would force people to buy health insurance they can’t afford. It was as negative as any ad that Mrs. Clinton has run — but perhaps more important, it was fear-mongering aimed at people who don’t think they need insurance, rather than reassurance for families who are trying to get coverage or are afraid of losing it.
No wonder, then, that older Democrats continue to favor Mrs. Clinton.The question Democrats, both inside and outside the Obama campaign, should be asking themselves is this: now that the magic has
dissipated, what is the campaign about? More generally, what are the Democrats for in this election?
(Paul Krugman: "Self-inflicted Confusion")
This group of voters is probably the easiest for McCain to try to peel away, so the Obama strategists better take this challenge seriously.
At least they have the luxury of a pretty weak and inept opponent.

Truthout roundup 5/8

Truthout's Maya Schenwar on the gains made by women in electoral politics; Blue Dogs vow to fight against assistance for returning troops; Michigan Democrats approve plan for seating delegates; 216 arrested in protest of Sean Bell verdict; Obama looks to start general election campaign; "surge" in Iraqi prisoners a concern; unprecedented conditions could be attached to war spending bill; and more Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.08

Maya Schenwar Women in the Running Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "America has pretty much agreed that, whether or not Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, she will have made history. However, no matter the outcome of the primary season, the struggle for women's voices to be heard in the political sphere will be far from over. Despite all the focus on Clinton's gender over the course of her campaign, there's been surprisingly little discussion of the gender makeup of the political system as a whole. Like the rest of the world, the US has been moving forward in terms of women in politics, but it's doing so in spurts and slower than many of its neighbors. Ten years ago, this country ranked 37th in terms of women's political representation. It now sits in 71st place, according to a recent Interparliamentary Union study."

Blue Dogs Vow to Bite on Iraq Spending Bill Mike Soraghan, of The Hill: "A small group of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats is threatening to block the emergency war spending bill over a program for veterans' benefits not offset with tax hikes or spending cuts. Because of that problem, and the efforts by House Republicans to stall floor action with procedural motions, the vote on the carefully crafted supplemental measure could be delayed until Friday or next week."

Michigan Democrats Plan for Delegate Seating Kathy Barks Hoffman, of The Associated Press: "Michigan Democratic leaders on Wednesday settled on a plan to give presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton 69 delegates and Barack Obama 59 as a way to get the state's delegates seated at the national convention. Clinton won the Jan. 15 Michigan primary and was to get 73 pledged delegates under state party rules, while Obama was to get 55. The state also has 29 superdelegates."

216 Arrested in Protests of Sean Bell Case Acquittals Thomas J. Lueck, of The New York Times: "In the largest public protest against the acquittal of three detectives in the shooting death of Sean Bell, 216 people were arrested on Wednesday in carefully orchestrated demonstrations that halted traffic at busy intersections in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the police said. The demonstrations, described by the Rev. Al. Sharpton as 'pray-ins,' played out on a bright spring afternoon as boisterous displays of civil disobedience in which people signed up to be arrested, assuring organizers and lawyers that they were carrying proper identification to show to the police."

Obama's Got a Confident New Strategy Peter Nicholas, of The Los Angeles Times: "Barack Obama hasn't managed after months of political combat to force Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the presidential race, so he's about to try another approach: ignoring her. Confident that he has built a near-impregnable lead, his campaign aides said Wednesday that Obama would begin shifting his focus toward the general election. Obama still plans to campaign in states that remain on the primary calendar -- he is to appear in Oregon over the weekend -- but he may also start showing up in states that are considered important in the November contest: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania."

The "Surge" of Iraqi Prisoners Ciara Gilmartin, of Foreign Policy in Focus: "Amid all the talk about the US military 'surge' in Iraq, little has been said about the accompanying 'surge' of Iraqi prisoners, whose numbers rose to nearly 51,000 at the end of 2007. Four years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, occupation forces are holding far more Iraqis than ever before and thousands more languish in horrendous Iraqi-run prisons. Detainees are held by the US command in two main locations -- Camp Bucca, a 100-acre prison camp and Camp Cropper, inside a massive US base near the Baghdad airport. The number of Iraqis held in these facilities has steadily risen since the early days of the occupation. In 2007, the inmate count rose 70% -- from 14,500 to 24,700."

Pressure to Cut Costs, Troops Strains "Surge" Jim Lobe, of Inter Press Service: "Growing impatience in Congress over the enormous costs being racked up by the Iraq war, as well as the Pentagon's belief that it needs more troops in Afghanistan to fight insurgents there, is putting the vaunted success of the George W. Bush administration's 'surge' strategy to the test. Although the House of Representatives appears poised to approve an additional 163 billion dollars Thursday for military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of the year, most observers believe that Congress will impose unprecedented conditions on Iraq-related spending."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Long Thompson wins Indiana Democratic gubernatorial primary

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Jill Long Thompson got by with a little help from her friends.

The former congresswoman from northeast Indiana spent much of Tuesday night huddled with friends in a Fort Wayne hotel room crunching the numbers in the Democratic governor's race and saw her former constituents vote for her in droves to help her beat Indianapolis architect Jim Schellinger in the primary Tuesday night.

"It was an intense night," Long Thompson said early Wednesday. "You're always on edge during the day of the election, but we have done a good job of crunching numbers so knew where we were."

She received more than 70 percent of the vote in Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties, 67 percent in Adams, Huntington and Wells county, and 63 percent in LaGrange - all parts of her former district - helping her to eke out a 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent victory over Schellinger, according to unofficial results tallied by The Associated Press. She will face Gov. Mitch Daniels in November.

"The strong support in my old congressional district was important," said Long Thompson, who now lives in rural Marshall County near Argos.

Schellinger was not conceding defeat. His campaign issued a statement late Wednesday morning saying there were some precincts where votes were uncounted, there were provisional ballots to count and sort through, and a recanvass process that could show shifts in county vote totals.

"As we know, the election process is sometimes a lengthy one when elections are very, very close," campaign manager Tim Jeffers said in a statement. "But as Democrats, we believe every vote must count. It's important that we protect the integrity of the election process, especially with this many new registered voters and record turnout."

Schellinger spokeswoman Jennifer Wagner said the campaign was "fact finding," and had not decided yet whether to seek a recount.

Long Thompson said late Wednesday morning that she believed she was clearly the winner and looked forward to taking on Daniels.

"Let me just say that all the major news organizations have declared me the winner," she said.Long Thompson, who has a Ph.D in business, said she thought her background in economic development was a key factor in her win.

After declaring victory, she said she planned to go back in her room and pray with her supporters "to rebuild Indiana's economy."

The race went back and forth during the night Tuesday, with Long Thompson leading early, Schellinger edging ahead for several hours, and Long Thompson moving ahead after 1 a.m. EDT when results from Lake County came in.Schellinger, a regular donor to the party who was making his first run for office, had an early fundraising advantage and backing from some big-name state Democrats. Long Thompson had better name recognition, having represented northeast Indiana in Congress from 1989 to early 1995 and running unsuccessfully for Congress in north-central Indiana in 2002. She also served as undersecretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration.

Long Thompson heads into November's race at a financial disadvantage against the well-funded Daniels, who had no primary opponent.

"The challenger would have to have a lot of money just to catch up with name recognition," William Kubik, a political science professor at Hanover College in southern Indiana, said before the results were in.

But party officials hope voter displeasure with some of the first-term governor's changes will bolster Long Thompson. Both candidates had criticized Daniels for leasing the Indiana Toll Road and other privatization efforts and ending collective bargaining rights for state employees. They also said that Daniels' job-creation efforts have fallen far short of expectations and that the sluggish economy has taken a toll on Indiana families.

While both candidates ran TV ads for weeks, Daniels blitzed the airwaves with commercials of his own. In one he acknowledged that many people think he has ushered in change too fast. He says he understands that sentiment but hopes people believe he wants to improve Indiana.

Daniels has outraised and outspent the two Democrats, and as of March 31 had $5.3 million cash on hand - four times that of Schellinger and Long Thompson combined.

Long Thompson said she doesn't think she will have any trouble winning over Schellinger's supporters."We've very unified about our belief in the importance of beating Mitch Daniels," she said.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A short note about the right to vote

by Don Wheeler

I have faithfully voted over the years - and in fact was one of the early benefittors of the change in voting age to 18. In the first Presidential Election of my era of eligibility in 1976, I strongly favored Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) and voted for him in the Illinois primary. He would, of course, eventually make way for Jimmy Carter. So my first vote in a Presidential general election was for former Governor Jimmy Carter. Since then I voted for John Anderson, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Edwards (John Kerry's name was in the way)...

My wife was born in Canada, but lived there only briefly. As a result she is a Canadian citizen. It seems that George W. Bush's performance (and perhaps a rather pesky husband) was what it took to goad her into becoming an American citizen - which she officially became ealier this year.

She voted in her first United States election today and Sarah (our five year old) went with her. We plan to have Sarah go to the polls with one of us each time we have the chance to vote.

Paddy beamed a bit when I saw her later. I will go do my part shortly.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

And in honor of this great day of opportunity in Indiana, I share with you this beautiful essay by Wade Edwards - the late son of John and Elizabeth.

This essay was written by Wade in the fall of his junior year. It was entered into the National Conversation Essay Contest, conducted by the Voice of America and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Wade was one of ten national winners. In March 1996, three weeks before his death, he attended the award ceremonies in Washington, D.C., which included a visit with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the private residence at the White House.


A little boy and his father walk into a firehouse. He smiles at people standing outside. Some hand pamphlets to his father. They stand in line. Finally, they go together into a small booth, pull the curtain closed, and vote. His father holds the boy up and shows him which levers to move.

"We're ready, Wade. Pull the big lever now."

With both hands, the boy pulls the lever. There it is: the sound of voting. The curtain opens. The boy smiles at an old woman leaving another booth and at a mother and daughter getting into line. He is not certain exactly what they have done. He only knows that he and his father have done something important. They have voted.

This scene takes place all over the country.

"Pull the lever, Yolanda."

"Drop the ballot in the box for me, Pedro."

Wades, Yolandas, Pedros, Nikitas, and Chuis all over the United States are learning the same lesson: the satisfaction, pride, importance, and habit of voting. I have always gone with my parents to vote. Sometimes lines are long. There are faces of old people and young people, voices of native North Carolinians in southern drawls and voices of naturalized citizens with their foreign accents.

There are people in fancy clothes and others dressed in overalls. Each has exactly the same one vote. Each has exactly the same say in the election. There is no place in America where equality means as much as in the voting booth.

My father took me that day to the firehouse. Soon I will be voting. It is a responsibility and a right. It is also an exciting national experience. Voters have different backgrounds, dreams, and experiences, but that is the whole point of voting. Different voices are heard.

As I get close to the time I can register and vote, it is exciting. I become one of the voices. I know I will vote in every election. I know that someday I will bring my son with me and introduce him to one of the great American experiences: voting.

c. Wade Edwards Foundation 1996

...and, as read by his little sister who never got a chance to know him

A Baltimore Oriole courts the company truck

This little guy seems completely smitten with the "blue Daddy truck", as Sarah refers to it.

He hangs out a good part of the day - singing to it, seemingly admiring the dashboard...

It's the funniest thing.

Truthout roundup 5/6

Battle over war funding looming; Clinton and Obama face two big tests today; African-Americans more likely to get jail sentences for drugs; Scott Ritter on military service; justice system moving very slowly for detainees; McCain courts the right wing; study shows 3.5 million new voters; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.06

Democrats Set to Defy Bush on War Bill Carl Hulse, of The New York Times: "Defying President Bush, House Democrats are preparing to forge ahead with a war spending measure that would include extended unemployment assistance and new educational benefits for returning veterans. After a meeting Monday evening of House Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to bring a $178 billion measure to the floor this week. What could be a contentious debate on the matter is likely to be held on Thursday, aides said."

Two Candidates, Two States and One Big Day Shailagh Murray and Perry Bacon Jr., of The Washington Post: "On a final, fevered day of campaigning, Sen. Barack Obama looked to voters in Indiana and North Carolina to reverse a string of defeats in key states, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton fought to keep her improbable comeback hopes alive with a pair of strong showings. Sensing momentum in a state she was once expected to lose handily, Clinton spent part of Monday campaigning in North Carolina, where she championed her proposal to suspend the federal gas tax for the summer, promised to take on oil companies over alleged price gouging, and pledged a return to the economic progress of the 1990s, when her husband was president."

Racial Disparities Persist in Drug Arrests Reuters: "The US 'war on drugs' disproportionately targets urban minority neighborhoods with African Americans being arrested and imprisoned on drug charges at much higher rates, according to a pair of reports released on Monday by rights groups. New York-based Human Rights Watch said a review of new statistics across 34 states found persistent racial disparities among drug offenders sent to prison. The 67-page report concludes that a black man is 11.8 times more likely than a white man to be sent to prison on drug charges."

Scott Ritter The Pentagon vs. America Scott Ritter, for TruthDig: "I recently heard from an anti-war student I met while I was speaking at a college in northern Vermont. The e-mail included the following query: 'I told you about how I wanted to build a career around social activism and making a difference. You told me that one of the most important things was to make myself reputable and give people a reason to listen to you. I think this is some of the best advice I’ve received. My issue however is that you mentioned joining the military as a way to do this and mentioned how that is how you fell into it. ... We talked extensively about all of our criticisms of the military currently and our foreign policy. ... What I don’t understand is, how can you [advise] someone who wants to make a difference with the flawed system, to join that flawed system?'"

Justice System for Detainees Is Moving at a Crawl Josh White, of The Washington Post: "At the end of a tattered, sunbaked runway dotted with large green tents here is a building aptly called the Expeditionary Legal Complex Courtroom, surrounded by coils of concertina wire, where the most notorious alleged terrorists in US custody are supposed to face charges related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Nearly seven years later, however, not one of the approximately 775 terrorism suspects who have been held on this island has faced a jury trial inside the new complex, and US officials think it is highly unlikely that any of the Sept. 11 suspects will before the Bush administration ends."

McCain Courts Right Wing Alexander Bolton, of The Hill: "Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) will launch a new push Tuesday to ingratiate himself with social conservatives who mistrust him but whose support is vital to his hopes of winning the White House. Right-wing leaders, who know he needs their backing, are working on a list of demands to pin him down on choosing judges with a conservative philosophy. The two sides are engaged in a minuet that will determine the shape of this year’s Republican presidential platform."

More Than 3.5 Million New Voters, AP Survey Finds Mike Baker, of the Associated Press: "Overall, the AP found that nearly one in 65 adult Americans signed up to vote in just the first three months of the year. And in the 21 states that were able to provide comparable data, new registrations have soared about 64 percent from the same three months in the 2004 campaign. Voters are flocking to the most open election in half a century, inspired to support the first female president, the first black or the oldest ever elected

John & Elizabeth Edwards: What We Like (and Dislike) About Clinton & Obama

People Magazine

Elizabeth Edwards likes Hillary Clinton's plan for universal health insurance. Husband John Edwards doesn't much care for Clinton's "old politics."

So goes the his-and-her debate in the Edwards household (their kitchen, to be specific), as they spoke exclusively to PEOPLE Monday on the eve of primary voting in their homestate of North Carolina – the latest must-win state in this year's protracted Democratic presidental nomination fight between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. In their first joint interview since John, the Democratic former senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee, dropped out of the race in January, the couple named what they liked and disliked about each of the remaining Democrats – and Mrs. Edwards didn't hesitate: "I like Hillary's health care plan."

What doesn't she like about the senator from New York and former first lady? "The lobbyist money," she adds. On Obama, she says: "The fact that he has motivated so many young people to be involved, I think is fantastic." But, she adds: "I don't like his health care plan or his advertising on health care, which I think is misleading."

John Edwards Speaks Out

Her husband, who said he got yet another phone call from Obama as recently as last week (both Clinton and Obama have heavily courted the Edwardses' endorsement, and Mrs. Edwards said she had an email from one of the campaigns that very morning), also weighed in on the pros and cons.

On Clinton: "I like something different about Hillary. I think her tenacity shows a real strength that's inside her."

What doesn't he like about Clinton?

"Um, still a lot of the old politics," John Edwards said. As for Obama, he says: "Sometimes I want to see more substance under the rhetoric." But he cited two things he likes about the charismatic young senator from Illinois: "One is, I think he really does want to bring about serious change and a different way of doing things. And secondly, I think it's a great symbolic thing to have an African-American who could be president."

Differing Opinions?

At that, Mrs. Edwards rolled her eyes and, gripping the arms of her kitchen chair with some exaggeration, seemed about to lunge from her seat.

"What about the great symbolic thing about a woman ..."

"It's important. It's important," her husband said. "I know it."

Bottom line: the couple said they will not endorse either remaining candidate, saving their political capital for their own causes – his, fighting poverty; hers, fighting for universal health care.

For more from the Edwardses' exclusive interview with PEOPLE, pick up the next issue, on newsstands Friday

Sunday, May 4, 2008

On Larry, Curly, and Mo, or, independent candidacy anyone?

I must admit the names are not a great fit, but I couldn't come up with a better characterization of the three stooges running for 2nd District St. Joseph County Commisoner.

What comes around goes around, or, what you reap.. - The Democrats
The incumbant, Steve Ross, has complained bitterly of the campaign tactics employed by his opponant - Dave Thomas. Dave Thomas, it would appear, studied the tactics used by one Steve Ross against David Niezgodski four years ago. Misleading charges, pandering to simplistic viewpoints - those appear to be a winning strategy in our District.
Dave Thomas makes much of Mr. Ross' failure to repeal the so-called wheel tax. He decries Mr. Ross' results at securing higher dollar amounts for road repairs in our District - despite the fact Mr. Ross has made plenty of noise on the topic.
One legitimate charge he makes is Mr. Ross' poor conduct involving County personnel - highlighted by his driving away a highly regarded County Engineer - Susan Al-Abassas.
But when I asked Mr. Thomas what he hoped to accomplish as Commisioner at the Dygus Day event, he could only regurgitate Ross complaints and point out that he was an accountant. I gave him three chances at this question, phrased differently each time. I think we have the answer.
Mr. Ross has been an embarrassment. He's called out county personnel in public forums (an absolute no-no in the Kindgarten Intro To Management courses) repeatedly. He's suggested that poorly paid staff should pony up the cost of their required continuing education courses.
So with two lousy "Democrats", we should look at the Republican.
Richard J. Zeigler, Sr. - A Hearing Voices special
It turns out that Mr. Zeigler is running because God has been speaking to him on the topic for about ten years.
So, Progressives, South Bend offers a poll on this topic (vote in comments):
Mr. Zeigler has picked this time because:
A. God became worried about the statute of limitations and applied more pressure.
B. Mr. Zeigler's listening skills aren't all they should be.
C. Chris Riley was even more desperate than usual.
D. Juan Manigault didn't like his chances.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Truthout roundup 5/2

Please consider contributing to Truthout, so the truth may continue

House Judiciary Committee threatens Karl Rove with a subpoena; Robert Parry on Rev. Sun Myung Moon; longshoremen shut down West Coast ports protesting the war; cameraman freed after six years at Guantanamo; super delegate switches from Clinton to Obama; EPA official forced out while fighting Dow Chemical; Bush administration refuses to release communications with telecoms; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.02

House Committee Threatens Rove With Subpoena Ben Evans, of The Associated Press: "The House Judiciary Committee threatened Thursday to subpoena former White House adviser Karl Rove if he does not agree by May 12 to testify about former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's corruption case. In a letter to Rove's attorney, committee Democrats called it 'completely unacceptable' that the Republican political strategist has rejected the panel's request for sworn testimony even as he discusses the matter publicly through the media."

Robert Parry The Right's America-Hating Preacher Robert Parry, for Consortium News: "While Sen. Obama has to explain what he knew and when he knew it about Wright's angry sermons, the Bush Family floats above its financial and political associations with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a South Korean theocrat who had denounced the United States as 'Satan’s harvest' and likened American women to 'prostitutes.' In his angry sermons, Moon has gone further than saying 'God-damn America' - as Wright did - to vowing to sweep aside American democracy and individualism as he builds a one-world state."

Union's War Protest Shuts Down West Coast Ports William Yardley, for The New York Times: "West Coast ports were shut down on Thursday as thousands of longshoremen failed to report for work, part of what their union leaders said was a one-day, one-shift protest against the war in Iraq. Cranes and forklifts stood still from Seattle to San Diego, and ships were stalled at sea as workers held rallies up and down the coast to blame the war for distracting public attention and money from domestic needs like health care and education."

Al Jazeera Cameraman Freed From Guantanamo After Six Years The Associated Press: "An Al-Jazeera cameraman was released from US custody at Guantanamo Bay and returned home to Sudan early Friday after six years of imprisonment that drew worldwide protests. Sami al-Haj arrived at the airport in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, on a US military plane along with two other Sudanese released from Guantanamo."

Defection of Longtime Super Delegate Jolts Clinton The Associated Press: "Hillary Rodham Clinton was jolted Thursday by the defection of one of her longtime super delegate supporters, a former national party chairman who urged fellow Democrats to 'reject the old negative politics' and unify behind Barack Obama. 'A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue' a long, self-destructive Democratic campaign, Joe Andrew added in a letter designed to have an impact on the turbulent race nationally as well as in his home state of Indiana, site of a primary next week. 'A vote to continue this process is a vote that assists John McCain,' Andrew wrote."

EPA Official Ousted While Fighting Dow Michael Hawthorne, of The Chicago Tribune: "The battle over dioxin contamination in this economically stressed region had been raging for years when a top Bush administration official turned up the pressure on Dow Chemical to clean it up. On Thursday, following months of internal bickering over Mary Gade's interactions with Dow, the administration forced her to quit as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency's Midwest office, based in Chicago. Gade told the Tribune she resigned after two aides to national EPA administrator Stephen Johnson took away her powers as regional administrator and told her to quit or be fired by June 1."

Bush Administration Keeps Communications With Telecoms Secret Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, of Newsweek: "The Bush administration is refusing to disclose internal e-mails, letters and notes showing contacts with major telecommunications companies over how to persuade Congress to back a controversial surveillance bill, according to recently disclosed court documents. The existence of these documents surfaced only in recent days as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a privacy group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation."

Party of denial

New York Times

During Barack Obama’s Sunday appearance on Fox News, the interviewer (Chris Wallace) asked him for an example of “a hot-button issue where you would be willing to buck the Democratic Party line” and say that Republicans have the better idea.

Mr. Obama’s answer was puzzling because he gave credit where it isn’t due — and thereby undermined what could be a very effective Democratic line of argument.

In particular, Mr. Obama attributed to Republicans the idea that regulation can be flexible rather than a matter of “top-down command and control,” and in particular for the idea of controlling pollution with a system of tradable emission permits rather than rigid regulations.

Well, that’s not at all what actually happened — and the tale of what really did happen has a lot of relevance to current events.

It’s true that the first President Bush established a market-based system for controlling sulfur dioxide emissions, which has been highly successful at controlling acid rain. But by then the idea of markets in emission permits had long been accepted by economists of all political stripes.

And it had also been accepted by leading Democrats. The Environmental Protection Agency began letting cities meet air-quality standards using emissions-trading systems during the Carter administration — which also led the way on deregulation of airlines and trucking.

Furthermore, the sulfur dioxide scheme actually marked a sharp change in policy from the Reagan administration, which — committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution — spent eight years opposing any effort to control acid rain.

Rather than admit that pollution is a problem the government has to solve — even as the consequences of acid rain became ever more alarming, not to mention as America’s failure to act provoked a near-crisis in relations with Canada, which was suffering the effects of U.S.-generated sulfur dioxide — the Reaganites insisted that there was no problem at all. They denied the evidence, questioned the science, called for more research and did nothing. Sound familiar?

And that, surely, is the line the Democrats should be pushing in this election: Republicans have become the party of denial. If a problem can’t be solved with deregulation and tax cuts, they pretend it doesn’t exist.

Climate change is the obvious contemporary parallel with acid rain. But if the Democrats really want to pin the denialist label on John McCain, health care is the place to focus.

The health care situation, in case you haven’t noticed, is going from bad to worse. Many smaller companies stopped offering benefits between 2000 and 2005. In the past, health coverage has tended to improve when the economy recovers from recession — but the “Bush boom” brought at best a temporary stabilization.

And now that the economy is weakening again, another plunge is in progress: last week UnitedHealth warned investors that its business is suffering because fewer employers are offering coverage to their workers.

The Democrats have been offering real plans in response; they’re not perfect, but they are serious.

The G.O.P., by contrast — and this goes as much for Mr. McCain as for the Bush administration — hasn’t even tried to address concerns about coverage. Instead, it has all been about costs, which Republicans insist (wrongly) can be dramatically reduced by a policy of, you guessed it, deregulation and tax cuts.

Until a few days ago, the only answer the McCain campaign offered to those worried about lack of coverage was the vague, implausible assertion that the magic of the marketplace would make health care cheap enough for everyone to afford.

Now Mr. McCain has admitted that maybe a government program is needed for those who can’t get private insurance. This appears to be a response to criticism from Elizabeth Edwards, who has been pointing out that deregulated insurers would deny coverage to anyone with, say, a history of cancer — a category that includes both her and Mr. McCain himself. But the way Mrs. Edwards has rattled the McCain campaign is evidence of just how vulnerable he is on the issue.

The point is that the health care issue could be Exhibit A for a Democratic campaign based on the argument that they are the party of pragmatic solutions, while modern Republicans won’t even acknowledge problems that don’t fit into their rigid ideological framework.

But are Democrats ready to make that case?

To be clear, both Democratic candidates have been saying things they shouldn’t; Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have endorsed the bad idea of a gas tax holiday.

But I think Mr. Obama is doing much more harm to the Democratic cause by echoing Republican attack lines on such issues as insurance mandates and Social Security. And now he’s demonstrating his post-partisanship by giving Republicans credit for good ideas they never had.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hillary jousts with Bill-O

8,500 schools participate in National Day of Silence

from PlanetOut News:

SUMMARY: A record number of students participate in the National Day of Silence, many honoring Lawrence King.

Resistance by the nation's most vehemently antigay groups could not keep the National Day of Silence from garnering a record number of participants this year. More than 8,500 middle schools, high schools, and colleges in the United States participated in the 12th annual day of action on April 25, which is coordinated by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network to promote safe school environments for LGBT and ally students.

"A lot of students were mobilized by what happened to Lawrence King," GLSEN spokesman Daryl Presgraves told The Advocate. "I think a lot of the messages the students were sharing -- the T-shirts they were wearing, the posters they made -- mentioned him in some way or honored him to bring about safer schools."

King, 15, was shot twice in the head on February 12 by 14-year-old classmate Brandon McInerney in a classroom at E.O. Greene Middle School in Oxnard, Calif. McInerney's supposed motive? Embarrassment over the openly gay King telling other students he had a crush on McInerney. This year's DOS was dedicated to King.

The American Family Association, an organization that opposes gay visibility and equality, sent an action alert to its members in March, urging them to pull their children out of school on April 25. Despite their efforts, a record number of schools participated in DOS.

"Many of the kids pulled out of school probably were the ones who should have heard the message the most," Presgraves said, adding that the AFA and like-minded organizations are a prime illustration of why the day of action must continue annually.

Carolyn Laub, the executive director of the San Francisco based Gay-Straight Alliance Network, said that involvement this year probably spiked because of the AFA's outcry.

"As school administrators saw the bulletin, they actually went out and learned more about the Day of Silence, making them even more supportive," she said. "The right to safe schools is an important message that educators should be behind."

In Los Angeles, more than 900 students, or 60 percent, at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex participated in what may be the largest single DOS recognition ever.

Jessica Pierce, organizing director for the U.S. Student Association, a student advocacy group, said that more than 700 college campuses worked with them to participate in the Day of Silence. Students observed the DOS with performance art; at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, participants made a cemetery of those victimized by hate crimes based on their perceived or actual identity, she said in an e-mail.

Across the country, most students went through the day without incident, but some students were bullied. Presgraves said that posters were ripped down, and other participants reported name-calling, but for the most part, "students remained silent though it, and it was mostly a positive day."

Laub said that most of the schools her organization works with -- 660 registered California student groups -- had a good day, but at least two incidents were reported to the GSA Network as of Monday. A group of students in Fresno met with resistance from school administrators, and participants in a Sacramento-area school were harassed and called names.

In Lebanon, Mo., police officers patrolled the grounds of Lebanon High School, anticipating violence, according to KSPR-TV, an ABC affiliate in Springfield, Mo. Leading up to the DOS, a large number of parents threatened to keep their children home from school. The controversy caused many students to ditch school out of protest against the DOS, and others didn't show up because they feared for their safety. Lebanon's hallways were relatively quiet on Friday. As principal Robert Smith said in the report, the event was "blown out of proportion."

In Snoqualmie, Wash., nearly 100 protesters gathered at Mount Si High School, approximately 30 miles east of Seattle, to rally against the DOS. The group, led by antigay pastor Ken Hutcherson, whose daughter attends Mount Si, prayed and sang loudly outside the school. About 40 counterprotesters beat on drums, chanting "Go home," according to the Seattle Times. Almost a third of Mount Si students did not attend classes on Friday.

But according to Presgraves, the protesters were unable to derail the DOS.

"AFA and its partners basically failed," Presgraves said. "Their effort was to stop the Day of Silence and continue the bullying that goes on in schools, but the message was heard in more schools than ever, in more schools that had never heard of the Day of Silence before." (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)


Why this JRE guy endorses JLT

Many of Indiana’s John Edwards supporters are supporters of Jim Schellinger. I thought I would be as well, but as I’ve studied his candidacy and that of Jill Long Thompson’s, I begin to wonder why that is the case.

Any gripes I have with Mr. Schellinger are pretty minor. Should he win the primary, I’ll have no trouble supporting him. But for an Edwards Democrat, Jill Long Thompson is a lot better fit for what we need in Indiana.

An Edwards Democrat believes in challenging the system, believes in telling the truth- even when it’s hard, believes in challenging citizens into doing their part - and in return – giving them more information; therefore, more influence.

One of the first things I heard that Jill Long Thompson wanted to do was something I had no idea we needed to do. It turns out Indiana is one of a very few states which does not provide for legislative confirmation of any Governor appointee. As it stands, the heads of the departments which run the State’s business are completely subject to the whims of the Governor. “Advise and Consent” doesn’t apply here.

Jill Long Thompson has pledged to volunteer confirmation authority to the General Assembly for her appointees, and would work towards making that process the law in Indiana. Who knew we didn’t do that already?

She has also pledged that her first action as Governor would be to restore collective bargaining rights for state employees. The first action by Mitch Daniels was to confiscate those rights.

Jill Long Thompson unabashedly stands for a woman’s right to make the decisions about abortion and for civil unions. Mr. Schellinger makes fairly pro-life noises, and doesn’t care to be too specific about it – at least in terms of the policy implications.

This matters because – should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade – this issue will succumb to the vagaries of the many state governments. Governor Long Thompson can be counted upon to support the law we now know – with a veto, if necessary. Governor Schellinger – who knows?

Jill Long Thompson researched ways of creating employment and discovered a program which had worked well in other states. Her version creates three tiers where the most significant benefits will be realized by companies who create employment in our most challenged areas. But she proposes some benefit for any company creating new employment opportunities anywhere in Indiana. Naturally, there are requirements that these jobs offer a living wage, responsible benefits and the like. Details of her proposals can be found at

Though Jim Schellinger protests that he is not a politician – he doth protest too much. In the recent Ft. Wayne debate, he told us he was the sixth child of eight, he worked his way through college in a machine shop and – by the way – he isn’t a politician. I know this because I heard this at least three times, and the question posed to him didn’t seem to matter.

In one instance, after waiting her turn, Ms Long Thompson (clearly puzzled) asked “Wasn’t the question about privatizing State functions?”

It was, of course.

Jill Long Thompson won the US House seat formerly held by Dan Quayle in 1988. She was re-elected (twice) until she was gerrymandered into a new district. She then served as Under Secretary of Agriculture for rural development – managing 7000 employees and a $10 billion budget – holding that post until 2001.

She has the vision, experience and tenacity to get done what needs to be done for us.

I ask you to support her on May 6, 2008.

Don Wheeler
Progressives, South Bend

Truthout roundup 5/1

Documents obtained by ACLU show detainee abuse continued after 2003; US officials say Iraq to decide on what to do about Iran; civilians among the dead in Sadr City; former Guantanamo prosecutor says evidence against detainees is tainted; Hoyer tries to keep "blue dogs" from defecting on FISA; Iran complains about Clinton threat; Obama closing in on Clinton's super delegate lead; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 05.01

ACLU: Torture of Detainees Continued After 2003 Directive Adam Goldman, of The Associated Press, reports "the military continued to use abusive interrogation methods on detainees after a 2003 directive meant to end such practices, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday after reviewing newly released documents. The Department of Defense documents shed light on the use of psychologists in military interrogations and the failure of medical workers to report abuse of detainees, the ACLU said. 'The documents reveal that psychologists and medical personnel played a key role in sustaining prisoner abuse - a clear violation of their ethical and legal obligations,' ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said."

US Officials: Decision on Confronting Iran Up to Iraq The Associated Press reports "Iraqi leaders have been given the latest US evidence of Iranian support for militias inside Iraq, and Baghdad will decide what to do about it, two senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday. Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki possesses the evidence, which other officials said contradicts Tehran's stated commitment to stop providing arms, weapons technology and training to Shiite militias inside Iraq."

Iraq Civilians Reportedly Among Sadr City Dead Tina Susman, of The Los Angeles Times, reports "the US Army said they were militants. Sadr City residents said at least some were civilians, and photographs showed a dust-covered child being pulled from a mountain of rubble after Tuesday's fighting. Whatever the facts, at least 28 people were dead after the four-hour battle, the latest killed in a showdown between US and Iraqi forces and Shiite Muslim militiamen over recent weeks."

Former Guantanamo Prosecutor Says Trials Tainted Reuters reports "the former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals testified on Monday that the tribunals were tainted by political influence and evidence obtained through prisoner abuse. Air Force Col. Moe Davis, who quit the war court last year, said political appointees and higher-ranking officers pushed prosecutors to file charges before trial rules were even written."

Blue Dogs on Hoyer's FISA Leash Alexander Bolton, of The Hill, reports "Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democrats' point man in negotiations on an overhaul of intelligence surveillance law, is keeping his eye on conservative Blue Dog Democrats who might defect on the issue under Republican pressure. The topic has reached a critical point because surveillance orders granted by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general under the authority of the Protect America Act begin to expire in August."

Iran Complains to UN About Clinton Comment Claudia Parsons, of Reuters, reports "Iran complained to the United Nations on Wednesday about US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's comment the United States could 'totally obliterate' Iran in retaliation for a nuclear strike against Israel. Iran's deputy ambassador to the United Nations sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Security Council expressing Iran's condemnation of 'such a provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible statement.'"

Obama Closing In on Clinton's Advantage Among Super Delegates The Associated Press reports "Barack Obama is closing in on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's advantage among superdelegates, building on his lead in the primary race even as he faces troubled times. Party leaders are encouraging superdelegates to pick a side by late June to prevent the fight from going to the national convention in August, and it seems some are listening as the race enters its final five weeks of voting

WalMart, Meijer and the Big Box "Hall of Shame"

by Don Wheeler

One has to do with despicable behavior towards an employee's medical care. The other - likely illegal campaign activity.

First, the former.

Many of you may have followed the loathsome conduct of WalMart towards the Shanks family. After serious public pressure (plenty of which was supplied by Keith Olbermann), it appeared that WalMart thought better of their conduct and would finally behave in a responsible way. Or....?

Shanks say Wal-Mart hasn’t dropped the insurance claim
Shanks say Wal-Mart hasn’t dropped the insurance claim

Now, the latter. From the AP:

ACME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — At first, it seemed like
the typical squabble over construction of a big-box superstore in a suburban
community. Opponents worried about traffic and sprawl; supporters championed
shopping convenience, economic growth and property rights. But the feud in
northern Michigan's Acme Township has escalated into a state investigation of
possible election misconduct by Meijer Inc., a retail chain based in Grand
Rapids with more than 180 stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and

The privately held company has acknowledged it probably
violated state law by donating to an effort to recall seven elected Acme
officials who objected to Meijer's development plans, and by failing to report
its activities.

And yesterday (also published in the South Bend Tribune):

In a letter to Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn
Land, a Meijer attorney said the company also may have illegally contributed to
a 2005 ballot initiative that overturned a moratorium on big-box store
construction in Acme Township.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the
nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said it’s not unusual for
developers to lean on local officials to approve construction

But what sets this case apart, he said, is the apparent
extent of Meijer’s behind-the-scenes involvement in Acme Township politics. The
company’s role is detailed in documents made public in a lawsuit against the
company.“For a corporation to secretly finance a recall campaign is pretty
unique,” Robinson said.

I say, vote with your wallet.