Monday, June 30, 2008

The choice they made

By WILLIAM KRISTOL
New York Times

Half a century ago the philosopher Leo Strauss remarked that the passage in which the Declaration of Independence proclaims its self-evident truths “has frequently been quoted, but, by its weight and its elevation, it is made immune to the degrading effects of the excessive familiarity which breeds contempt and of misuse which breeds disgust.”

I’ve had occasion to test this claim. The last few years, we’ve spent July Fourth at the house of friends who have had the assembled company read the entire declaration. It’s a longer document than one thinks; the charges against the king take quite a while to get through.

But I can report from firsthand experience that the declaration as a whole, and not just its most famous phrases, remains remarkably immune to the degrading effects of excessive familiarity. I was doubtful at first that reading the declaration would enhance the overall beer-and-hamburger experience of the day. But the effort has proved more thought-provoking and patriotism-stirring than I expected.

So this year, perhaps pressing our luck (and patience), I’m thinking of proposing the reading of an additional text: Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Roger Weightman of June 24, 1826.

With regret, the 83-year-old Jefferson wrote that his ill health compelled him to decline the invitation to travel to Washington for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of American independence. But then, perhaps knowing this would be his final word, Jefferson sets forth in stirring prose his faith in the universal significance of the Declaration of Independence:

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government.”

Jefferson claims his faith is based on the progress of enlightenment. He is confident that “all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.” Indeed, “The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view, the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god.”

Jefferson may have been overly sanguine that the spread of the light of science would necessarily strengthen the cause of human rights. But even the optimistic Jefferson was well aware that the enemies of liberty and equality could regroup and resist — certainly abroad, perhaps even at home.

That’s one reason he trusted that “the annual return of this day” would “forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” Our devotion — and the sacrifices inspired by that devotion — are needed to make effectual the palpable truth of human equality.

The fate of equality, Jefferson makes clear, also depends on those who see further than, and act first on behalf of, their fellow citizens. In the letter, Jefferson pays tribute to his fellow signers — “that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword.” He wishes he could meet with the few of that band who still survived “to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.”

So the signers of the declaration made the bold and doubtful choice for independence. Their fellow citizens ratified the choice. But they might have been slow to act if the worthies had not moved first.

For, as the declaration itself notes, “all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” The people are conservative. Liberty sometimes requires the bold leadership of a few individuals.

Perhaps that’s why the representatives, who have signed on behalf of “the good people” of the colonies, “mutually pledge to each other” their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in support of the declaration. Their pledge isn’t to the people. The pledge is an individual one by the signers to one another.

And the pledge has to be supported by a sense of honor — even of sacred honor. The declaration’s assertion of equal rights, one may say, is supported by what is necessarily unequal, the sense of honor of those acting on the people’s behalf.

Shortly after writing the letter to Weightman, Jefferson died at home in Monticello. On that very same day — the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the declaration, July 4, 1826 — in Quincy, Mass., Jefferson’s fellow drafter and signer John Adams also died. Yet as Adams reportedly said on his death bed, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

Maybe I'll get better on my own

The New York Times

While politicians have been debating endlessly over the best ways to reform the American health care system, the plight of American patients has rapidly worsened. A new national survey found that an alarming 20 percent of the population, some 59 million people in all, either delayed or did without needed medical care last year, a huge increase from the 36 million people who delayed or did not seek care in 2003.

As expected, people who have no health insurance — there are some 47 million of them — were most likely to make that difficult choice. But insured people also chose to go without care in ever-larger numbers.

According to the survey, the main reason is soaring medical costs, which have outstripped the modest growth in wages in recent years. High costs are deterring not only the uninsured from seeking care, but also many insured people who are struggling with higher deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses as their employers or health plans shift more of the cost burden to them.

Many patients with insurance said they went without care because their health plans would not pay for the treatment or their doctors or hospitals would not accept their insurance. Both insured and uninsured patients said they skipped treatments because they had trouble getting timely appointments, were unable to get through on the telephone, or could not make it to a doctor’s office or clinic when it was open. No doubt a weakening economy, high fuel prices, the home foreclosure crisis and general economic anxiety also played a role.

Sadly, previous gains in caring for low-income children have reversed, largely because their parents lost employer-sponsored coverage.

The telephone survey of some 18,000 Americans was conducted by the Center for the Study of Health System Change, a respected nonpartisan research group, and was financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It relied on respondents’ views that they needed the care and did not explore what health consequences resulted.

Champions of so-called “consumer-directed health care” might argue that the market is working — people are wisely delaying or forgoing care of low marginal value. But it is disturbing that unmet medical needs increased the most for people in poor or only fair health — those most likely to get even sicker if they don’t get treatment.

The new survey further strengthens the case for universal coverage, with moderate cost-sharing provisions. All Americans should be able to get medical care when they need it.

The Obama agenda

By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times

It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton?

Current polls — not horse-race polls, which are notoriously uninformative until later in the campaign, but polls gauging the public mood — are strikingly similar to those in both 1980 and 1992, years in which an overwhelming majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the country’s direction.

So the odds are that this will be a “change” election — which means that it’s very much Mr. Obama’s election to lose. But if he wins, how much change will he actually deliver?

Reagan, for better or worse — I’d say for worse, but that’s another discussion — brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.

Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing “a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.

We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans’ health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: “The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”

So whom does Mr. Obama resemble more? At this point, he’s definitely looking Clintonesque.

Like Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama portrays himself as transcending traditional divides. Near the end of last week’s “unity” event with Hillary Clinton, he declared that “the choice in this election is not between left or right, it’s not between liberal or conservative, it’s between the past and the future.” Oh-kay.

Mr. Obama’s economic plan also looks remarkably like the Clinton 1992 plan: a mixture of higher taxes on the rich, tax breaks for the middle class and public investment (this time with a focus on alternative energy).

Sometimes the Clinton-Obama echoes are almost scary. During his speech accepting the nomination, Mr. Clinton led the audience in a chant of “We can do it!” Remind you of anything?

Just to be clear, we could — and still might — do a lot worse than a rerun of the Clinton years. But Mr. Obama’s most fervent supporters expect much more.

Progressive activists, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama during the Democratic primary even though his policy positions, particularly on health care, were often to the right of his rivals’. In effect, they convinced themselves that he was a transformational figure behind a centrist facade.

They may have had it backward.

Mr. Obama looks even more centrist now than he did before wrapping up the nomination. Most notably, he has outraged many progressives by supporting a wiretapping bill that, among other things, grants immunity to telecom companies for any illegal acts they may have undertaken at the Bush administration’s behest.

The candidate’s defenders argue that he’s just being pragmatic — that he needs to do whatever it takes to win, and win big, so that he has the power to effect major change. But critics argue that by engaging in the same “triangulation and poll-driven politics” he denounced during the primary, Mr. Obama actually hurts his election prospects, because voters prefer candidates who take firm stands.

In any case, what about after the election? The Reagan-Clinton comparison suggests that a candidate who runs on a clear agenda is more likely to achieve fundamental change than a candidate who runs on the promise of change but isn’t too clear about what that change would involve.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Mr. Obama really is a centrist, after all.

One thing is clear: for Democrats, winning this election should be the easy part. Everything is going their way: sky-high gas prices, a weak economy and a deeply unpopular president. The real question is whether they will take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to change the country’s direction. And that’s mainly up to Mr. Obama.

Truthout roundup 6/30

Dean Baker compares Obama and McCain's health care plans; US government advised Iraq on its oil deals; Republican "attack machine" not as well oiled as in the past; Charlie Black is playing to fear card for McCain; Oliver Stone makes movie about Bush; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Dean Baker Barack Care Versus John Care
http://www.truthout.org/article/barack-care-versus-john-care Dean Baker, for Truthout: "By far the most important domestic policy issue facing the next president will be fixing the health care system. The United States stands out among wealthy countries in not guaranteeing health insurance to its citizens. Yet, even though many people cannot get access to care, we still pay more than twice as much per person as the average in other wealthy countries. And we have the worst outcomes. Only a severely over-medicated politician would claim we have the best health care system in the world."

US Advised Iraqi Ministry on Oil Deals
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-advised-iraqi-ministry-oil-deals Andrew E. Kramer, of The New York Times: "A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say. The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts' announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq's oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism."

Lack of Funds Hobbling the "Republican Attack Machine"
http://www.truthout.org/article/lack-funds-hobbling-republican-attack-machine Steven Thomma, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Democrats and the media have used the term so much that it's almost an article of faith. But the so-called 'Republican attack machine' waiting with piles of unregulated cash to chew up Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is anything but. Obama cited the threat of unregulated attack groups - called '527s' because they're authorized to raise unlimited cash under that section of the Internal Revenue Service code - to justify dropping his pledge to take public financing - along with its spending limits - for the general election campaign. Yet there's no 2008 equivalent to the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which spent $22 million attacking Democrat John Kerry."

The Boston Globe The Same Old Politics of Terror
http://www.truthout.org/article/the-same-old-politics-terror The Boston Globe: "When asked about the effect of another terrorist attack on American soil, John McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black, responded rashly and bluntly. 'Certainly it would be a big advantage' for McCain, Black told Fortune magazine recently. Similarly, the strategist described the assassination of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto in December as 'an unfortunate event,' but said 'it helped us' in the contest for the nomination. It would be unfair to McCain, and to Black, to take this analysis as an indication that the Republican team is hoping for or counting on a terrorist incident. Still, Black's observation does bring up the question of whether the threat of terrorism will help Republicans, or whether the politics of security have shifted since the last presidential election."

John Horn Oliver Stone's "W"
http://www.truthout.org/article/oliver-stones-w John Horn, of The Los Angeles Times: "It's a conversation any father and son might have -- a quick chat about baseball, families and world affairs. But when the speakers are President George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, even a seemingly innocuous conversation can suddenly carry great weight, especially when Oliver Stone is at the controls. With sweat cascading down his face on a steamy June night in Louisiana, the Oscar-winning director was directing James Cromwell (playing the elder Bush) and Josh Brolin (starring as President Bush) through a critical moment in 'W.,' Stone's forthcoming -- and potentially divisive -- drama about the personal, political and psychological evolution of the current president."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/29

Seymour Hersh on US-Iranian relations; US raid kills relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki; Iran threatens to shut down Persian Gulf oil lanes if attacked; an embedded journalist in Iraq; the last superpower and an opportunity to end war; the "price" of an Iraqi life; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Preparing the Battlefield
http://www.truthout.org/article/preparing-battlefield Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker: "Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership."

US Raid Kills Maliki Relative; Crisis Grows Over US-Iraq Agreement
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-raid-kills-maliki-relative-crisis-grows-over-us-iraq-agreement Hannah Allam of McClatchy Newspapers, "Senior Iraqi government officials said Saturday that a U.S. Special Forces counterterrorism unit conducted the raid that reportedly killed a relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, touching off a high-stakes diplomatic crisis between the United States and Iraq."

Iran Threatens to Shut Down Persian Gulf Oil Lanes if Attacked
http://www.truthout.org/article/iran-threatens-shut-down-persian-gulf-oil-lanes-if-attacked The Los Angeles Times' Borzou Daragahi: "The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard said the government might shut down vital oil lanes through the Persian Gulf if the country were attacked by the United States or Israel, according to a newspaper report Saturday."

Michael Massing Embedded in Iraq
http://www.truthout.org/article/embedded-iraq Michael Massing of New York Review of Books, "The embed had proved surprisingly easy to arrange. No one had objected to the three New York Review articles I had sent in as samples of my work. On the application form, I had written that I wanted to visit a typical Baghdad neighborhood to see how the surge was working and to get a sense of what more had to be done before the US could begin to draw down its forces in any significant number."

David Korten Smart Security and the End of War
http://www.truthout.org/article/smart-security-and-end-war Yes! Magazine's David Korten, "Cheap oil provided an energy subsidy that defined the wars, economies, settlements, values, and lifestyles of the 20th century. The result was a century of wasteful extravagance and inefficiency that encouraged us to squander virtually all Earth's resources - including water, land, forests, fisheries, soils, minerals, and natural waste recycling capacity."

The Price of One Iraqi Life
http://www.truthout.org/article/the-price-one-iraqi-life In These Times' James Foley: "US military tries to pacify grieving Iraqis with condolence payments."

New 'Umbrella' Website for All Bike News in Michiana

[Passing this along from Jeff Nixa, one of Michiana's premier bike activists and regular contributor to WVPE's "Michiana Chronicles" -- KJH]

::::

Bike People:

We now have a wonderful "umbrella" website to promote all things bike-related in the Michiana area at http://bikemichiana.org.

Henry Scott and Adam Bee have upgraded the original SouthBendBikes/ Wordpress blog created by Jerry Hinnefeld in 2006 for the bike lanes advocacy group. The BikeMichiana site now includes:

* An interactive blog/ discussion board on area bike events and issues
* Information on the bike groups affiliated under the Michiana Bike Coalition
* Bike facilities
* Area group rides and races: special events and weekly rides
* News and photos (e.g. new North Shore Blvd. bike lanes)
* Bike Routes
* Archives of past posts to the bulletin board
* Local, state and National bike organizations
* Local bike shops
* Online bike resources
* Links to subscribe to bike news

Visitors to the site may read and reply to bulletin board posts. If you would like access to be able to create new posts, just follow the links under "About This Site" to the discussion board through Google Groups called Bike Michiana. The group is free to join.

Need a simple web location to post things like your bike group mission statement and contact information? We're happy to add a page listing your details. The web site managers can be reached by email at bikemichiana@gmail.com.

We are still talking about the best way to establish a listserve/ mailing list, and are considering the Bike Michiana Google Group that Adam Bee has created.

The www.BikeMichiana.org format was chosen as the best balance between features, user-friendliness, and adaptability over the long run.

A huge thanks to Henry and Adam for their hours of skilled volunteer work on this new site.

Jeff Nixa, member
Michiana Bike Coalition

On Politics And The Internet, Or, Who Are We Missing?

It is by now an accepted fact of life that the Internet is having some sort of impact upon the political process…after all, if it wasn’t, would we even be here?

But we’ve all wondered exactly how much impact; and now the good folks at the Pew Research Center have taken the time and trouble to do some survey work that seeks to answer that very question

The logical approach would be to “walk through” the data (which is, frankly, good news for Obama) and see what they have to say about it…but let’s take a different approach today.

Let’s instead look at the data and ask ourselves: who aren’t we reaching, why, and what implications might those answers have going forward—and downticket?

First things first: we’ll be evaluating data obtained from Pew’s “The Internet and the 2008 Election” report (part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project)…and if you don’t regularly visit the Pew sites, you should. They are a fantastic resource for those interested in reality-based reality—and in this election season, reality will matter.

It’s possible to summarize the report’s findings in a paragraph or two, and let’s use that as a jumping off point:

--Democrats are significantly advantaged in this election cycle because of the Internet, and particularly Obama Democrats. This is primarily because voters’ political engagement through the Internet is primarily a function of age and income—that is to say, those who are the most engaged trend to younger age groups and higher income brackets.

--The more someone is politically engaged through the Internet, the more likely they are to use the Internet as something beyond a “reference library”. These “Webitics 2.0” users organize and connect with each other, donate online, forward political messages to others…and even create their own media to advance their political interests (not to mention their “separation anxiety”).

--The trend of increased Internet influence upon the political process has been reinforced over time; and voters in the 2008 cycle are roughly twice as likely to use the Internet as a tool of political involvement as they were in ’04. (As with the rest of the data, however, this trend skews younger as well.)

--These advantages are unlikely to accrue to those running for other offices in this cycle…unless the candidate has an unusually well-educated—or especially young—constituency.

--These results are not particular to either party. Younger Republicans use the Web as well, but since there are fewer Republican supporters in younger age groups Republican-leaning sites tend to have lower traffic numbers.

The facts out of the way, we are ready to turn to the analysis…which brings us to the first question: who aren’t we reaching?

Two-thirds of those from 50-64 years of age, and 85% of those 65 and older do not “look online for information about politics or the campaigns”, the Pew folks tell us. More than 75% of those with a high school education don’t either.

We also aren’t reaching those with lower incomes: 60% of those with incomes from $30-50,000 and nearly 80% of those with incomes below $30,000 do not use the Internet for information about politics. By contrast, if you made $75,000 or more last year (or you’re a college grad), two-thirds of your income bracket is getting information online.

Obama supporters and activity are strongest in places like the DailyKos website, these numbers suggest…and perhaps not surprisingly, older and lower income voters are the voters least likely to be found there.

So where are those voters?

You might think that talk radio is where they are to be found…but that’s where it gets weird. More than 75% of talk radio listeners are college educated, according to Arbitron data—and over 60% have incomes above $50,000. Older voters are listening to talk radio, however, as you might expect—70% of listeners are 45 or older…just about exactly where Obama’s supporters are least likely to be found.

But what about Obama’s other “area of interest”: those with incomes below $30,000, and not college educated?

I can’t offer you an answer based on any real information at all…but here’s a guess based on talking to a few folks who are under 30, and don’t have college educations: at the moment, most of these folks seem disinterested in politics altogether—and that means they’re unlikely to be found online or listening to talk radio.

So what’s an Obama to do?

He may already have part of the answer: concerts. News outlets that are not…shall we say…”Democratic-leaning” have reported that as many as half of the 75,000 attendees at Obama’s Portland, Oregon rally were drawn to the event because of the “opening act”, the Decemberists.

If it’s true, it’s genius.

Try to imagine the last time a candidate attracted to a political event more than 30,000 “outsiders” who were uninterested in politics in the first place.

Another possible solution might explain the decision to not limit his spending: to get to those over 50, Obama will probably have to bombard that group with advertising that appeals to their economic interest…and also counters the McCain “security” advantage within that group. To advance both those messages at the same time, nationwide, will be enormously expensive—but even here we can find data that offers us an opportunity.

Returning to the Arbitron data, we see that the highest proportion of talk radio’s audience is found in the Intermountain West and a bloc of States that consist of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri—and New England. We also discover that half of that audience does their listening at home, not in the car (just for reference, about 1/3 of that audience is listening in the car).

This suggests that the potential exists for large-scale radio buys to have a disproportionate impact in reaching a key audience that Obama seeks to either discourage altogether or possibly convert to his side—and lucky for us, radio is inexpensive compared to TV advertising. Better yet, the states with the highest talk-radio audiences are in relatively inexpensive media markets….or reachable as “cohort” markets serviced by larger markets. For example, a purchase in Boston gets you coverage throughout New England.

What about those farther down the ticket? At the moment, the DCCC is not as flush with cash as Obama, suggesting an interesting scenario indeed: Obama pulls tons of new voters into the system, plus draws lots of interested Democrats.

This “raises all the boats” for downticket Democratic candidates…but it does so by placing those candidates in Obama’s debt, which could be a powerful tool when it’s time to actually legislate.

Is this Democratic advantage likely to erode over time?

After all, it is more likely than not that some of today’s younger Democrats will become Republicans as they age…and it is also more likely than not that those weaned on Facebook will eventually adapt it to the advantage of the Republican cause as they age and gain influence within that Party’s structure.

So what are the lessons here?

We are seeing the rollout of the Internet as a powerful tool of politics—if you’re under 50 and have an income over $50,000.

Over time, that impact should increase as the population using the internet themselves age.

The voters Obama is now seeking to either discourage to convert are not available to him using the tools that have been the most effective for him so far…but moving forward with concerts combined with “carpet-bombing” media markets with TV and radio spots should make those voters more accessible.

If I’m correct, and this is the Obama strategy going forward, there’s one thing we know for sure: considering the amount of money he’ll need to pull it off, there’s going to be no shortage of emails from David Plouffe in your inbox soliciting money from now until November.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

61% of Donnelly's fundraising comes from PAC contributions

[The following comes from the Donnelly Watch blog -- KJH]

A Donnelly Watch reader alerted us to some interesting information regarding Rep. Donnelly’s fundraising. According to information made available electronically by Federal Election Commission on June 24, 2008, 61% of Donnelly’s fundraising comes from Political Action Committees (PACs).

Interestingly, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has rejected PAC money.

Why isn’t Rep. Donnelly following Sen. Obama’s lead?

Rep. Donnelly’s opponent, Luke Puckett has received only 1% of his fundraising total from PAC contributions.

Furthermore, Rep. Donnelly’s top contributor thus far is the Renco Group, a New York City-based holding company controlled by Ira Rennert.

From Rennert’s wikipedia entry:

Rennert was awarded the The Awful Truth Man of Year Award in 1999 by filmmaker Michael Moore, based on a 1996 EPA Report which lists Magnesium Corp Of America as the top single polluting industrial facility in the United States and a second EPA report from the same year which lists Renco Group Inc. as the top most polluting parent company (based on total on-site and off-site releases)


The Renco Group is essentially a holding group that owns other companies, such as Doe Run, and used to own AM General, manufacturer of the Hummer. Ira Rennert, bought AM General for $133 million in 1992. Ronald Perelman, a Wall Street corporate raider, bought a 70 percent interest in AM General of Mishawaka, Indiana. The deal reportedly cost close to US$1,000,000,000. The company makes the military Humvee, as well as the Hummer H1 and H2 sold by General Motors. In February 2008 the Company acquired Delphi’s interiors and closures business which has been renamed Inteva Products, LLC.

The Renco Group’s wikipedia entry includes the following section under the heading “Pollution.”

The Renco Group also owns mills and mines in the United States and South America, and pollution problems at the company’s properties have sparked public outcries, environmental lawsuits, and hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental penalties and fines. One Renco subsidiary, U.S. Magnesium, is accused of polluting the Great Salt Lake.

Smelting operations by another Renco subsidiary, Doe Run Company, have caused are responsible for elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and cadmium in Herculaneum, Missouri and elevated levels of lead, copper, zinc, and sulfur dioxide in La Oroya, Peru and Doe Run, Missouri.

In 2007, La Oroya was listed by Blacksmith Institute as one of the “World’s Worst Polluted Places.”

Truthout roundup 6/28

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship address America's policy of securing oil at any price; battle over tanker contract sharpens; Bob Herbert writes about the "painful truths" of torture; legal action part of handgun advocates' arsenal; Midwest levee breaks; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship It Was Oil, All Along
http://www.truthout.org/article/it-was-oil-all-along For Truthout, Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write: "Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al-Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be ... the bottom line. It is about oil."

GOP Fight Over Air Force Tanker Contract Intensifies
http://www.truthout.org/article/gop-fight-over-air-force-tanker-contract-intensifies Roxana Tiron, The Hill, reports: "The legislative battle over a controversial Air Force aerial tanker contract is intensifying between Boeing and Northrop Grumman supporters."

Bob Herbert All Too Human
http://www.truthout.org/article/all-too-human The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert says, "Thursday was the 21st anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. It was also the same day that two Bush administration lawyers appeared before a House subcommittee to answer questions about their roles in providing the legal framework for harsh interrogation techniques that inevitably rose to the level of torture and shamed the US before the rest of the world."

Gun Advocates' Other Weapon: Lawsuits
http://www.truthout.org/article/gun-advocates-other-weapon-lawsuits The Los Angeles Times's Maura Dolan writes: "Emboldened by Thursday's US Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of individuals to own handguns, advocates said they would immediately challenge a San Francisco law that prohibits guns in public housing and sue other cities nationwide to overturn gun restrictions."

Midwest Levee Breaks, Corn Price at New High
http://www.truthout.org/article/midwest-levee-breaks-corn-price-new-high Carey Gillam of Reuters reports: "The Mississippi River on Friday burst through an earthen levee that may have been weakened by burrowing muskrats, swamping a Missouri town and adding to billion-dollar losses in US Midwest flooding that has fueled fears of soaring world food prices."

Friday, June 27, 2008

NY millionaire gets prison for enslaving workers

By FRANK ELTMAN
Associated Press Writer

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) -- A millionaire who inflicted years of abuse on two Indonesian housekeepers held as virtual slaves in her Long Island mansion was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in prison.

Varsha Sabhnani, 46, was convicted with her husband in December on a 12-count federal indictment that included forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harboring aliens.

The trial provided a glimpse into a growing U.S. problem of domestic workers exploited in slave-like conditions.

The victims testified that they were beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, and forced to climb stairs and take freezing showers as punishment. One victim was forced to eat dozens of chili peppers against her will, and then was forced to eat her own vomit when she couldn't keep the peppers down, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt called the testimony "eye-opening, to say the least - that things like that go on in our country."

"In her arrogance, she treated Samirah and Enung as less than people," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Demetri Jones. "Justice for the victims: That's what the government is asking for."

Federal sentencing guidelines had recommended a range of 12 to 15 years in prison for Sabhnani, who was identified as the one who inflicted the abuse. In addition to prison, she will serve three years' probation and was fined $25,000.

"I just want to say that I love my children very much," the defendant told the court as two of her grown children looked on. "I was brought to this Earth to help people who are in need."

Mahender Sabhnani, 51, who is free on bail while awaiting his own Friday sentencing, wept as he watched his wife's punishment pronounced.

He was charged with the same crimes because he allowed the conduct to take place and benefited from the work the women performed in his home, prosecutors said. He is expected to receive a much shorter prison term.

Prosecutors contended the accusations amounted to a "modern-day slavery" case. They said the maids were subjected to "punishment that escalated into a cruel form of torture," which ended in May 2007, when one of the women fled early on the morning of Mother's Day. She wandered into a Dunkin' Donuts wearing nothing but rags, and employees called police.

"This did not happen in the 1800s," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko said during the trial. "This happened in the 21st century. This happened in Muttontown, N.Y."

The women, whose relatives in Indonesia were paid about $100 a month - the women themselves received no cash - said they were tortured and beaten for misdeeds that included sleeping late or stealing food from trash bins because they were poorly fed. Both women also said they were forced to sleep on mats in the kitchen.

Spatt postponed a decision on the amount of back wages owed to the women. Prosecutors suggested the women were due more than $1.1 million, while defense attorneys said the figure should be much lower. The couple also face fines and could be forced to forfeit their home, which is valued at almost $2 million. Mahender Sabhnani ran a lucrative international perfume business out of a home office.

One of the women arrived in the Sabhnanis' Muttontown home in 2002; the second in 2005. Their passports and other travel documents were immediately confiscated by the Sabhnanis, the women testified.

The defense, which intends to appeal, contended the two women concocted the story as a way of escaping the house for more lucrative opportunities. They also argued the housekeepers practiced witchcraft and may have abused themselves as part of a self-mutilation ritual.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Hoffman said 175 letters were submitted to the court detailing Sabhnani's charitable acts around the world. He called her "a woman who spent a lifetime doing good deeds."

Hoffman said that around 2004 or 2005, Sabhnani's weight plummeted from 325 pounds to 135. "She did it by starving herself," and that resulted in a chemical imbalance and significant malnourishment. "She had become a very different person."

"I think it's very harsh," Hoffman said after the sentencing. "She has suffered dramatically."

Brady Center statement about Supreme Court handgun decision

(U.S. Supreme Court Decides Historic Second Amendment Case)

Supreme Court after Heller decision is released: Our fight for sensible gun laws continues


Washington, D.C. - Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, issued the following statement:

“Our fight to enact sensible gun laws will be undiminished by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller case. While we disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, which strips the citizens of the District of Columbia of a law they strongly support, the decision clearly suggests that other gun laws are entirely consistent with the Constitution.

“For years, the gun lobby has used fear of government gun confiscation to thwart efforts to pass sensible gun laws, arguing that even modest gun laws will lead down the path to a complete ban on gun ownership. Now that the Court has struck down the District’s ban on handguns, while making it clear that the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on access to dangerous weapons, this ‘slippery slope’ argument is gone.

“The Court also rejected the absolutist misreading of the Second Amendment that some use to argue ‘any gun, any time for anyone,’ which many politicians have used as an excuse to do nothing about the scourge of gun violence in our country and to block passage of common sense gun laws. Lifesaving proposals such as requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales, limiting bulk sales of handguns, and strengthening the power of federal authorities to shut down corrupt gun dealers can now be debated on their merits without distractions of fear or ideology.


“The Heller decision, however, will most likely embolden criminal defendants, and ideological extremists, to file new legal attacks on existing gun laws. With the help of the Brady Center’s legal team, those attacks can, and must, be successfully resisted in the interest of public safety.

“After the Heller ruling, as before, approximately 80 Americans will continue to die from guns every day. Our weak or non-existent gun laws contribute to the thousands of senseless gun deaths and injuries in this country that occur each year. We must continue to fight for sensible gun laws to help protect our families and our communities.”

While the Justices disagreed by the narrowest of margins, 5 - 4, on whether the Second Amendment provides an individual, non-militia based right to bear arms, all nine Justices agreed that a wide variety of gun laws are presumptively constitutional, including restrictions on carrying concealed weapons, guns in schools and other sensitive places, and bans on "dangerous and unusual" weapons.



Click here to read the U.S. Supreme Court decision

Click here to make a donation

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The Other America - Chapter 56 (a slight return)

by Don Wheeler

About a year ago, on the John Edwards Blog, I wrote about the appalling lot of the citizens of Port Arthur, Texas. Unfortunately, that post is lost (with the campaign) and I have been unable to locate the source article that provoked my post.

More unfortunately, there is no shortage of material on these citizens' plight - including several reports from earlier this month.

From the New York Times:


PORT ARTHUR, Tex. — This downtrodden chemical town on the Gulf of Mexico has no shortage of nicknames: Cancer Alley, the Armpit of Texas, Ring of Fire.

Built on a gush of oil wealth, Port Arthur eventually wooed chemical and waste plants as well. But since the 1970s, this city, which is majority African-American, has complained that it has become a dumping ground for the nation’s toxic waste.

Now, if a French-owned waste management company has its way, the Port Arthur area will be the final destination for 40 million pounds of toxins from Mexico.

“Bring it all to southeast Texas,” Hilton Kelley, a community activist, said wryly. “Who’s next? Germany? Finland? England? Aren’t our oil refineries and chemical plants enough? We have a right to a clean environment, and the nation sees us as expendable in the name of big business.”

Despite a federal ban on importing PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, the company, Veolia Environmental Services, has asked the Environmental Protection Agency for an exemption to move the chemicals by truck from Mexico and to burn them at its incinerator just outside Port Arthur. The incinerator has been disposing of the United States’ PCB waste since 1992.

In March, the E.P.A. gave tentative approval to the proposal. A final decision is expected after August.

And the Houston Chronicle:


Jun. 13--PORT ARTHUR -- The west end of this Gulf Coast refinery town is a weedy pocket of poverty, with blocks of shuttered storefronts and blue tarps still covering the rooftops of houses damaged by Hurricane Rita nearly three years ago.

Hilton Kelley, 47, sees his neighborhood's commercial activity moribund, its residents sick, its children with nothing to do, and he blames the fire-and-fume-belching cluster of oil and petrochemical plants around Port Arthur.

Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to grant a request by the operator of a Port Arthur incinerator to import up to 20,000 tons of highly toxic PCBs from Mexico for their disposal. To many people living on the city's predominantly black west end, the proposal is the ultimate affront.

"This adds insult to injury," said Kelley, who heads the Community In-Power and Development Association. "Enough is enough already."

Veolia Environmental Services' petition comes nearly 30 years after legislation that banned the manufacture of PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, also prohibited bringing them into the United States. The EPA ruled in 1996 that the chemical compounds may be brought into the country for incineration, but a federal appeals court overturned the decision.

Agency officials, echoing the reasons for reversing the ban a decade ago, argue that the destruction of PCBs in this country is safer than allowing stockpiles to fester in Mexico and other nations.

But critics contend that there are cleaner, safer disposal methods for PCBs. When burned, they produce dioxin, which is linked to cancer, brain damage, reproductive problems and other ailments in humans.

And if that wasn't enough, The Chronicle states later on in the article:

Refinery to expand

The health problem is part of the plight of Port Arthur, where the median household income is about $35,000 a year, less than half of Sugar Land. While there isn't much left of downtown, new houses, restaurants and big-box stores are sprouting along the corridor leading to Beaumont and away from the biggest plants.

Last year Motiva began an expansion that will more than double the capacity of its Port Arthur refinery to 600,000 barrels a day by 2010 and make it the largest in the country. The plant is across the street from the Carver Terrace public housing project.

The Army also began shipping 1.7 million gallons of a nerve gas byproduct called hydrolysate from Indiana to Veolia's incinerator, located about five miles west of downtown on Texas 73. The contract is worth $49 million. Veolia applied to import PCBs in November 2006 before receiving the Army contract. Under the proposal, the company would ship the compounds by truck through Houston to Port Arthur -- a distance of about 460 miles from entry points in Brownsville and Laredo.

Mexico now sends PCBs to Europe for incineration, exposing the compounds to loss at sea. The transportation cost for overseas shipment is at least three times more expensive than moving the waste from Monterrey, Mexico, to Port Arthur, according to the company.

Oh, and for some historical perspective (from Rachael's HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS #274---February 26, 1992---)


CHEMICALS CAUSE CANCER IN WORKERS AND NEARBY RESIDENTS, 9 MORE STUDIES SHOW


When citizens attend public hearings to learn about a new dump planned for their neighborhood, they often encounter a hired consultant with a college degree in science or engineering who ridicules the idea that chemicals harm humans. Such a person, wearing an expensive three-piece suit, will stand at the microphone and look over the top of his spectacles, putting on his best "expert" look, and say something like, "We know you little ladies are concerned, and you have a right to be, but if you could just study the scientific literature, as I have done, you would realize that there is no evidence of harm to humans from chemical exposures."

The question to ask such a person is, "Are you merely uninformed or are you lying?" for in reality there are numerous scientific studies showing that exposure to chemicals harms humans. Last week we reviewed 10 such studies. This week we briefly report on nine more.

The dozen chemicals found most often at toxic waste sites are trichloroethylene (TCE), lead, chromium, toluene, benzene, tetrachloroethene, trichloroethane, chloroform, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), cadmium, and zinc. [1] If you look at a list of the top 200 chemicals found at hazardous waste sites, you quickly see that these dozen are representative: a few metals, and many chlorinated compounds made from petroleum. Petroleum products and chlorine can be combined in a host of interesting ways to make "chlorinated hydrocarbons," which do not ordinarily occur in nature, which tend to be toxic, which tend to persist in the environment once they are created, and which enter food chains and concentrate as they move from small plants to small animals and then into bigger animals. In general, the bigger the animal (fish, bird, or mammal), the more chlorinated hydrocarbons can be found in its flesh.

Coming soon, to a neighborhood near you!

Fuels on the Hill

By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times

Congress has always had a soft spot for “experts” who tell members what they want to hear, whether it’s supply-side economists declaring that tax cuts increase revenue or climate-change skeptics insisting that global warming is a myth.

Right now, the welcome mat is out for analysts who claim that out-of-control speculators are responsible for $4-a-gallon gas.

Back in May, Michael Masters, a hedge fund manager, made a big splash when he told a Senate committee that speculation is the main cause of rising prices for oil and other raw materials. He presented charts showing the growth of the oil futures market, in which investors buy and sell promises to deliver oil at a later date, and claimed that “the increase in demand from index speculators” — his term for institutional investors who buy commodity futures — “is almost equal to the increase in demand from China.”

Many economists scoffed: Mr. Masters was making the bizarre claim that betting on a higher price of oil — for that is what it means to buy a futures contract — is equivalent to actually burning the stuff.
But members of Congress liked what they heard, and since that testimony much of Capitol Hill has jumped on the blame-the-speculators bandwagon.

Somewhat surprisingly, Republicans have been at least as willing as Democrats to denounce evil speculators. But it turns out that conservative faith in free markets somehow evaporates when it comes to oil. For example, National Review has been publishing articles blaming speculators for high oil prices for years, ever since the price passed $50 a barrel.

And it was John McCain, not Barack Obama, who recently said this: “While a few reckless speculators are counting their paper profits, most Americans are coming up on the short end — using more and more of their hard-earned paychecks to buy gas.”

Why are politicians so eager to pin the blame for oil prices on speculators? Because it lets them believe that we don’t have to adapt to a world of expensive gas.

Indeed, this past Monday Mr. Masters assured a House subcommittee that a return to the days of cheap oil is more or less there for the asking. If Congress passed legislation restricting speculation, he said, gasoline prices would fall almost 50 percent in a matter of weeks.

O.K., let’s talk about the reality.

Is speculation playing a role in high oil prices? It’s not out of the question. Economists were right to scoff at Mr. Masters — buying a futures contract doesn’t directly reduce the supply of oil to consumers — but under some circumstances, speculation in the oil futures market can indirectly raise prices, encouraging producers and other players to hoard oil rather than making it available for use.

Whether that’s happening now is a subject of highly technical dispute. (Readers who want to wonk themselves out can go to my blog, krugman.blogs.nytimes.com, and follow the links.) Suffice it to say that some economists, myself included, make much of the fact that the usual telltale signs of a speculative price boom are missing. But other economists argue, in effect, that absence of evidence isn’t solid evidence of absence.

What about those who argue that speculative excess is the only way to explain the speed with which oil prices have risen? Well, I have two words for them: iron ore.

You see, iron ore isn’t traded on a global exchange; its price is set in direct deals between producers and consumers. So there’s no easy way to speculate on ore prices. Yet the price of iron ore, like that of oil, has surged over the past year. In particular, the price Chinese steel makers pay to Australian mines has just jumped 96 percent. This suggests that growing demand from emerging economies, not speculation, is the real story behind rising prices of raw materials, oil included.

In any case, one thing is clear: the hyperventilation over oil-market speculation is distracting us from the real issues.

Regulating futures markets more tightly isn’t a bad idea, but it won’t bring back the days of cheap oil. Nothing will. Oil prices will fluctuate in the coming years — I wouldn’t be surprised if they slip for a while as consumers drive less, switch to more fuel-efficient cars, and so on — but the long-term trend is surely up.

Most of the adjustment to higher oil prices will take place through private initiative, but the government can help the private sector in a variety of ways, such as helping develop alternative-energy technologies and new methods of conservation and expanding the availability of public transit.

But we won’t have even the beginnings of a rational energy policy if we listen to people who assure us that we can just wish high oil prices away.

Truthout roundup 6/27

Truthout's Maya Schenwar on harsh detention and obstacles faced by undocumented, unaccompanied children; what will happen now after the Supreme Court gun decision; Clinton and Obama come together in sign of unity; Islamic nuclear physicist accuses the DOE of prejudice; The Associated Press not publicizing case of jailed journalist; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Maya Schenwar Child Detainees Battle System Alone
http://www.truthout.org/article/child-detainees-battle-system-alone Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "Undocumented children entering the US alone must confront barriers that extend far beyond the border. If apprehended, they're met with a sometimes-brutal detention period, followed by a trial under a legal system that treats them the same as apprehended adults, according to children's rights advocates and recent reports by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's Office (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office. OIG estimates that more than 10,000 unaccompanied and undocumented children will be detained this year, not counting children who are immediately deported upon contact with Homeland Security."

What's Next After Supreme Court's Gun Decision?
http://www.truthout.org/article/whats-next-after-supreme-courts-gun-decision Michael Doyle, of McClatchy Newspapers: "The Supreme Court's landmark decision Thursday striking down the District of Columbia's gun ban will have wide-ranging legal, political and public safety consequences. There will be more lawsuits, probably lots of them. Some guns laws will survive, while others will fall. The decision will help showcase the Supreme Court as a potential issue in the 2008 presidential campaign and will put some other politicians on the spot."

Obama, Clinton Join Together in Show of Unity
http://www.truthout.org/article/obama-clinton-join-together-show-unity Anne E. Kornblut and Matthew Mosk, of The Washington Post: "Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton showered each other with praise yesterday in their first joint appearance since the end of the Democratic presidential primary season at an event in which the senator from New York urged hundreds of her top donors to get behind the party's presumptive nominee. Clinton spoke first at the event, telling her disappointed supporters that Democrats 'are a family, and we have an opportunity now to really demonstrate clearly we do know what's at stake, and we will do whatever it takes to win back this White House.'"

Muslim Physicist Says US Energy Department Retaliated Against Him
http://www.truthout.org/article/muslim-physicist-says-us-energy-department-retaliated-against-him Ramit Plushnick-Masti, of The Associated Press: "An Islamic nuclear physicist on Thursday accused the US Department of Energy of revoking his security clearance in retaliation for his criticism of the government's treatment of Muslims. Moniem El-Ganayni had worked at the Bettis Laboratory in the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin for 18 years. He was fired in May after the department revoked his security clearance, according to a federal lawsuit filed on his behalf Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union."

AP Maintains Low Profile on Detained Cameraman in Iraq
http://www.truthout.org/article/ap-maintains-low-profile-detained-cameraman-iraq Joe Strupp, of Editor & Publisher: "Three weeks after Associated Press cameraman Ahmed Nouri was detained by Iraqi and US military forces, AP is maintaining a low profile on his case, offering little comment and virtually no reporting on his ongoing detention. Not a surprise, given that such sensitive situations often result in little or no publicity early on, with hopes that negotiations will move best with few outside distractions."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Honor principles behind Fourth of July

[The following is a letter to the editor that was recently published in the South Bend Tribune. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an incredible document, visionary and still largely unfulfilled nearly 60 years after the US and many other countries adopted it through the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. --KJH]


Honor principles behind Fourth of July
VOICE OF THE PEOPLE - South Bend Tribune
June 25, 2008

July Fourth is a time of national reflection on the American promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Declaration of Independence attests to the value our nation's founders attached to the ideals of freedom and equality, and many other countries have established similar rights for their citizens.

In 1948, as the world was coming to terms with the horrors of World War II, citizens and world leaders hoping to prevent future wars established the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt worked tirelessly to advance a world order based on freedom and tolerance rather than violence and oppression.

The UDHR proclaims all people have rights to education, desirable work, health care and other rights essential to human dignity. It crosses all national, ethnic and religious borders and has inspired proponents of democracy and freedom around the world.

Several Michiana civic organizations are launching a Human Rights Initiative to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the UDHR (see michianasocialforum.org) to encourage public conversation about the current state of human rights in our local, national and global communities.

We hope the principles celebrated this Fourth of July will inspire you to join us in working for human rights and dignity.

Karl Hardy
Michiana Social Forum
South Bend

Truthout roundup 6/26

Truthout's Marc Ash on the "corrupt and useless Congress"; four more US soldiers dead in Iraq; Joseph L. Galloway on what General Taguba knew about the torture scandal; border patrol copying contents of laptops, weapons contracting gone bad; and more .... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Marc Ash Congress Still Corrupt and Useless
http://www.truthout.org/article/congress-still-corrupt-and-useless Truthout's Executive Director Marc Ash: "For those who thought Tom Delay's departure would really change anything in Congress, this past week was a strong cup of coffee. On Capitol Hill, politics and greed still trump the good of the nation, still trump the Constitution, still trump all. While nothing that happened in Washington this past week was new or should have surprised anyone, we were nonetheless served clear notice, anew, that this is a democracy under siege."

Four US Soldiers Dead in Iraq
http://www.truthout.org/article/four-us-soldiers-dead-iraq Ernesto Londono, of The Washington Post: "Four US soldiers died in roadside bombings Tuesday and Wednesday, the US military said, bringing to 10 the number of Americans killed in Iraq since Monday. Three US soldiers and an interpreter were killed in a roadside bombing late Tuesday in Nineveh province, a military statement said. In recent weeks, US and Iraqi forces have stepped up operations against Sunni insurgents in the area."

Joseph L. Galloway General Taguba Knew Torture Scandal Went to the Top
http://www.truthout.org/article/general-taguba-knew-torture-scandal-went-top Joseph L. Galloway, of McClatchy Newspapers: "By regulation - and no doubt by the design of those who appointed him - Taguba could not investigate any uniformed or civilian official whose rank was higher than his own two stars. Taguba and his investigators sifted and probed and assessed the blame as high as they were permitted to go. Taguba believed - no, he KNEW - that the responsibility for this outrage went much higher. He knew it reached to the office of then Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and likely beyond to the lawyers who served President George W. Bush and perhaps even to the president himself."

US Border Agents Copying Contents of Travelers' Laptops
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-border-agents-copying-contents-travelers-laptops Federica Narancio, of McClatchy Newspapers: "US border agents are copying and seizing the contents of laptops, cell phones and digital cameras from US and foreign travelers entering the United States, witnesses told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. The extent of this practice is unknown despite requests to the Department of Homeland Security from the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and several nonprofit agencies."

War Contracting Gone Bad
http://www.truthout.org/article/war-contracting-gone-bad Matthew Blake, of The Washington Independent: "A Congressional report released Tuesday details the sordid story of how the military contractor AEY, and its 22 year-old company president, Efraim Diveroli, won, and then lost, a $298-million Pentagon contract to supply munitions to Afghanistan security forces. AEY and Diveroli became infamous after a March New York Times story detailed how the company, which employed less than a handful of people and operated from an unmarked Miami Beach office, rapidly rose to become one of the most successful, and unreliable, wartime contractors."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/25

Marjorie Cohn says Supreme Court Justice Scalia cited false information in habeas corpus dissent; political contributions from telecom industry tied to FISA vote; Nick Turse reveals some of the Pentagon's lesser-known defense contractors; state of Florida will pay billions to US Sugar company for Everglades property; Iraqi refugees find less job security and economic opportunity in US; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Marjorie Cohn Scalia Cites False Information in Habeas Corpus Dissent
http://www.truthout.org/article/scalia-cites-false-information-habeas-corpus-dissent Marjorie Cohn writes for Truthout: "To bolster his argument that the Guantanamo detainees should be denied the right to prove their innocence in federal courts, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush: 'At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield.' It turns out that statement is false."

Telecom Donations Tied to FISA Vote
http://www.truthout.org/article/telecom-donations-tied-fisa-vote Mike Lillis reports for The Washington Independent: "When scores of House Democrats joined Republicans last week to reauthorize a controversial White House spying program, many critics attributed that support to election-year jitters. But as liberal voters continue to bash Democrats on the issue, some campaign finance reformers charge that political contributions from the telecom industry, which benefited handsomely under the bill, probably also swayed votes."

Nick Turse Billion-Dollar Babies
http://www.truthout.org/article/billion-dollar-babies Nick Turse writes for TomDispatch.com: "The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change ... Then there's a select group that are masters of the universe in the ever-expanding military-corporate complex, regularly scoring more than a billion tax dollars a year from the Department of Defense. Unlike Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, however, most of these billion-dollar babies manage to fly beneath the radar of media (not to mention public) attention. If appearing at all, they generally do so innocuously in the business pages of newspapers. When it comes to their support for the Pentagon's wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are, in media terms, missing in action."

Florida Strikes Deal With Big Sugar, Funds Everglades Restoration
http://www.truthout.org/article/florida-strikes-deal-with-big-sugar-funds-everglades-restoration Carol J. Williams reports for The Los Angeles Times: "Florida will pay a sugar company $1.75 billion for 187,000 acres blocking the path of the 'river of grass.'"

Driving Cabs Instead of Building Bridges, Iraqis Languish in US
http://www.truthout.org/article/driving-cabs-instead-building-bridges-iraqis-languish-us Pamela Constable reports for The Washington Post: "Two years ago, Firas Safar was a successful Baghdad printer, winning contracts with US authorities to produce brochures for aid missions, posters for army units, and several million copies of the new Iraqi constitution. Today Safar, 31, is a jobless refugee in Takoma Park, part of a new wave of professional Iraqis who have received special immigration privileges because, in many cases, their work for US authorities or organizations resulted in threats or violence back home. For many such as Safar, it has meant trading economic security in Iraq for personal security here."

Why I'm voting Republican

Forwarded by a friend:


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Working for workers

My thanks to Robert for passing this on.

Who’s losing out in this sputtering economy?

Not corporate CEOs. Too many of them have made sure to secure a golden parachute for themselves, while workers face soaring health care costs, foreclosures and an uncertain future.

The Employee Free Choice Act would help level the playing field and get our economy back on track. That’s why we’ve launched a huge campaign to get 1 million people to support this bill and tell Congress it’s time for change!

Sign the petition—we’re already at 29,349 signatures! We need you to be one of them.

The Employee Free Choice Act would give more workers the chance to negotiate for better benefits, wages and working conditions by forming unions.

And that will help all of us. There’s strength in numbers, and as we build our collective muscle, we can raise living standards, improve health care and stop corporate America’s race to the bottom.

But some CEOs try to stop unions, preventing their workers from negotiating a contract. In fact, 30 percent of corporations illegally fire pro-union workers during union organizing drives. Of course, no CEO would agree to work without a contract. So why can’t their workers have the same rights?

It’s time to bring back some fairness. That’s why we need 1 million voices supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. But a million people is a LOT of people. We won’t reach our goal without YOUR friends and family.

Do you support this bill? Take one minute to sign our petition. Upload a photo while you’re at it!

Anti-union groups are mounting a campaign to fight this bill. We can’t match our opponents dollar for dollar, but we can prevail if enough people rally to this important cause.

The economy should work for all of us, not just the privileged few. We can get there with your help.

In solidarity,
Working Families Network, AFL-CIO

P.S. To learn more about the Employee Free Choice Act, click here.

Please click the link below to tell your fellow union members about the Labor 2008 walks.

Tell-a-friend!

From Theory to (Progressive) Practice

by April Lidinsky

I just returned from my second academic conference of the summer, and was happy to see that once again, a strong conversational thread running through the panels was: How can we more effectively apply scholarly research and skills to making real, progressive change in the public sphere?

This approach to moving from the classroom to the community has always been central to women’s and gender studies classes, since the discipline was founded in the activist 1960s. Unlike other, older disciplines with "ivory tower" roots, women's studies has always been about doing your research, and then rolling up your sleeves and engaging with the community.

I thought of all this when reading a June 23, 2008 New York Times article, Big Paycheck or Service? Students Are Put to Test about the move some universities are making to encouraging their graduates to apply their educational training to public service, as opposed to Wall Street.

The ways educators are speaking with students on this issue resonates with the definitions of “Progressive” that have been floated on this blog. Here’s a bit from the NYTimes article:

In his commencement speech last month at Wesleyan University, Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, voiced a similar theme when he sounded an impassioned call to public service, and warned that the pursuit of narrow self-interest — “the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy ... betrays a poverty of ambition.”

Universities are so concerned about this issue that some — Amherst, Tufts, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, for example — have expanded public service fellowships and internships. “We’re in the business of graduating people who will make the world better in some way,” said Anthony Marx, Amherst’s president. “That’s what justifies the expense of the education.”

This year, Tufts announced that it would pay off college loans for graduates who chose public service jobs. And officials at Harvard, Penn, Amherst and a number of other colleges say one reason they have begun emphasizing grants instead of loans in financial aid is so students do not feel pressured by their debts to pursue lucrative careers.

Of course, one needn’t look only to Ivy League schools to see this movement in action. This past spring, one of the lively posters on this blog, Kathleen Petitjean, spoke with my Women and Sustainability class at IU South Bend about Green politics and public activism, and she inspired many conversations, and some new friendships, too. And like any public intellectual worth her salt in 2008, Kathleen blogged about it on her "If We Only Connect" site!

Could it be that South Bend is ahead of the curve on bridging scholarly and political activism? Maybe it’s just the beautiful June weather that’s buoying my optimism, but I'd say the answer is a sunny, blue-skied YES.

DFA call to action

Over the last 8 months, you and I have stopped Congress from granting retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies who illegally spied on Americans for the Bush administration -- at least three times.

On Friday, Democratic Leadership in the House of Representatives decided to stand with President Bush instead of with America. They voted for a so-called "compromise" to let AT&T, Verizon and the entire Bush administration off the hook for lying to America and illegally tapping our phone calls.

If this bill passes the Senate, then Americans will never be able to hold President Bush accountable for warrantless wiretapping.

We need to take action to stop this horrible bill. Last time immunity came up for a Senate vote, Senators Dodd, Feingold and Obama each said they would filibuster to stop it from passing. They will need 60 votes to keep a filibuster going and stop the Senate from caving to pressure to support this fake "compromise".

Call your Senators right now and demand they support a filibuster of any Senate bill that will ultimately grant retroactive immunity to telecoms who spied on innocent Americans.

Evan Bayh (202) 224-5623

Richard Lugar (202) 224-4814

Suggested Text:

"I'm calling to demand Senator (Bayh or Lugar) support a filibuster of any bill that will ultimately grant immunity to telecommunications companies who spied on innocent Americans. Can I count on the Senator to stand up to President Bush and his fear mongering?"

CLICK HERE TO REPORT YOUR CALL

Let's call a spade a spade. This bill is a complete capitulation to Bush and the telecom lobby. We need all the support we can get in this fight to uphold the constitution.

The vote is scheduled to happen this week. We need to act today. Please make your call right now.

Thank you for everything you do,

-Charles
Charles Chamberlain, Political Director
Democracy for America

Long Thompson commemorates Ttile IX anniversary

Historic legislation gave women equality in education; measure pushed by Birch Bayh

INDIANAPOLIS - Marking the 36th anniversary of passage the historic Title IX legislation, today Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson issued the following statement:

"As the first woman in Indiana history to earn the gubernatorial nomination of a major political party, I could not let this anniversary pass without comment.

While I grew up and went to school before Title IX became law, its passage still had a profound impact on my life. In fact, without Title IX, I don't know if could have ever had the chance to run for Governor.

As a Hoosier, I am especially proud of the leading role that Senator Birch Bayh played in this landmark legislation. Thanks to his leadership and vision, generations of girls and woman now enjoy their rightful place in our society.

Title IX is an example of government at its best and why it is so important to elect strong leaders. It has broken down artificial barriers, provided new hope and opportunity and has made our country stronger."

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the federal statute prohibiting sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

On Buying Out The Fleet, Or, Here’s A Gas War We Can Win

There is no way to save us from our dependence on oil, we are told, except to drill for more oil wherever it can be found—and some will even tell us it’s possible that there’s so much oil not yet discovered off the coast that all our problems will be over once we poke a few holes in the ground and git ‘er done.

Of course, it’s also possible there are monkeys to be found in certain of my body cavities…and I’m hoping most fervently that no one proposes drilling in my ANWAR in an effort to find out.

But what if there was another way?

What if we could afford to convert our gas-powered cars to something else…something that could reduce our national gasoline consumption by 70%?

Something we could put into place just as quickly as offshore wells could be drilled—and maybe even faster.

A “Manhattan Project” of fleet conversion, if you will.

Well, Gentle Reader, I think we can—and today we examine a way it might be done.

Those who are regular readers in this space probably recognize this as the part of the diary where we introduce background information while keeping the plan a bit of a secret…just to build the suspense…but today, let’s do the opposite: let’s open with a plan, and then provide the supporting numbers.

So here it is: Americans are quite familiar with the concept of paying farmers to not grow crops—why not apply the same logic to this problem? To be more specific, I’m proposing we subsidize drivers, through loans and grants, to get out of gasoline cars and into electric, just as quickly as we can—and to apply the money that will be saved on gas and other expenses to repay the investments needed…meaning that over time this could be an idea that’s either revenue neutral or net positive, depending on the future price of gas.

To examine how the numbers work out, let’s begin with the costs of today’s cars:

The first, and most obvious, is oil itself…and the State Department estimates we spent about $400 billion on imported oil in 2007.

The cost of making fuel substitutes is adding up as well, and experts point to ethanol as one substitute that imposes many costs, some of which are as yet unquantifiable, but clearly substantial. Among those costs is a subsidy of nearly 50 cents per gallon paid to ethanol producers that will cost us roughly $4 billion this year-and we expect that amount to grow to $7 billion a year by the middle of next decade, if production estimates prove correct.

Then there’s automobile maintenance. The American Automobile Association reports that maintaining a car and keeping it in tires averages five and a half cents per mile—and the Department of Transportation estimates Americans drove more than 3 trillion miles in 2006. Multiply the two and we apparently spend somewhere around $165 billion annually on maintenance.

Like it or not, we must acknowledge that we also spent some portion of our military budget on “oil security”. The 2007 Defense Department budget request—without the War Supplemental requests—came in at $471 billion. Supplemental requests ware estimated to be another $90 billion. A charitable estimate might assign 30% of that number to “oil security”, adding roughly $175 billion more annually to our oil costs. An estimate of 50% equals more or less $280 billion annually. We’ll use the lower number today.

Add these together, and we spend at least $735 billion, plus an unknown amount from additional “ethanol costs”, to drive gasoline powered cars annually.

So what would it cost to replace them?

In my proposal, the Federal Government would provide a grant of $15,000 to the owners of the 136.5 million cars on the roads (that’s a 2005 number), which would basically pay off the loans on those cars. They would have to be turned over to the Government for scrapping. (Any leftover money would have to be spent on the replacement car.) That’s just about $2 trillion over the 10-year life of the program…or $200 billion a year.

Additionally, I would provide low-interest loans of up to $30,000 to purchase a new electric car. (Just for reference, you can buy a Prius for $23,770.) At 5% interest, that’s a maximum $150 billion “carrying cost” annually…but if the loans are priced at 5%, it’s a virtual wash. (There will be some losses for delinquencies—but as with student loans, the IRS can help with collections…)

We will have to upgrade the electric grid to provide about 17% more power than it does today, and based on the Edison Electric Institute’s numbers that means we need to provide about 180,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity.

Is it possible to generate that much power using a no-fuel source like, maybe…windmills? The answer seems to be: yes. The Pacific Northwest alone has the potential to generate 137,000 of those 180,000 MW—and beyond that there’s tons of wind potential on the Great Plains…and believe it or not, even Texas (yes, I said Texas...) now sees wind farming as a cash crop.

So how much would it cost to build all that capacity? 229 MW of wind capacity installed near Whisky Dick, Washington (how cool is that…I got to say “Whiskey Dick” in a serious story…) is costing Puget Sound Energy $380 million. Based on that number it should cost about $299 billion for the new wind turbines--assuming no “bulk discounts” or decreases in price as the technology advances. Add 50% for new transmission and distribution, and you get roughly $450 billion…which is about $45 billion a year over 10 years

Having demonstrated that it’s possible to make this change, we need to take some time to address the biggest problem that prevent us from simply “flipping the switch” and putting this plan in place.

What is it? Batteries. To make a long story short, batteries for different types of electric car applications demand either high power or long-lasting power—and a battery that can provide both is usually too heavy and emits too much waste heat (the more heat, of course, the more energy lost, making the battery less efficient).

Charging time is another issue. To charge batteries quickly requires high voltage, and a nation of rapid charging cars could have problems delivering enough power through the electrical grid as it’s currently designed…and at the moment, charging batteries using 120V current takes hours, not minutes.

But there’s good news on the horizon—and a company that is the world leader in the batteries that power cordless tools is one of the companies that thinks they can advance the state of the art. A123 Systems makes the batteries that power one of the most impressive of today’s electric cars, the Tesla.

A123 Systems put 6,831 AA battery-sized batteries in a car that’s a very close cousin of the Lotus Elise (the cars’ chassis are built on adjacent assembly lines) and the resulting car is quite amazing.

220 miles on a charge (this is a plug-in car…no gasoline engine of any kind); and performance that is shocking to those who think of electric cars as inherently boring and lacking in performance. What do I mean by shocking? Well, the car has been slowed down quite a bit by the introduction of the new monospeed transmission, so acceleration from 0-60 mph is now up to 3.9 seconds from 3.2.

It seems to be able to turn a bit of a corner as well…as this video demonstrates…

Of course, this is a $100,000 car—and without backup power, you better not travel more than 219 miles to the next outlet, or it might be tow time.

More typical performance is found in the Subaru R1e—an all-electric plug-in car that is a variant on a car currently available in Japan, which can travel at speeds up to 65 mph for 50 miles before needing a charge.

Both of these cars appear to require less than $2 a day for charging for most electric consumers in the US.

Eventually the market may move to “series hybrid” electrics, which, like railroad locomotives, use small fossil-fueled engines to run a generator that provides the electricity for the car. The Chevy Volt, expected on the market for the 2010 model year, is such a car. The company reports the first 40 miles of travel would use the plug-in batteries only, and beyond that the engine kicks in to spin the generator (and recharge the battery), which gives the car a range of 640 miles on 12 gallons of fuel.

Which brings us to the final question: how fast could such a conversion occur?

The Census Bureau tells us that 12,087,000 cars, more or less, were manufactured in the US in 2006. If we instituted a lottery system (or something similar) to choose who gets ‘em first, it should take about 10 years to replace the fleet—and if we allow consumers to buy US and foreign-made cars under the terms of the program, the conversion could occur considerably faster.

So that’s it.

I’m proposing we buy out gasoline cars with borrowed money, and I’m suggesting that 70% of the $400 billion we spend annually on gas, as well as most of the $165 billion we spend each year to fix gasoline engines could be saved by the conversion, helping to repay the costs incurred…I’m proposing that we lend ourselves the money to buy new electric cars—but I expect that money to be repaid by the owners of those cars—I’m further suggesting we can “windmill” our way into providing the additional generating capacity required, and I’m suggesting that we justify this highly unusual intrusion by the government into the private economy on National Security grounds…because reducing our gasoline consumption by 70% makes our OPEC friends 70% less powerful…and also puts us at a competitive advantage compared to China and any other country who hasn’t yet broken their oil addiction.

And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also one enormous public works project that can’t help but create hundreds of thousands of long-term jobs in our very beaten-down manufacturing sector.

Obama, are you listening?

AUTHOR”S NOTE: George Carlin has left us…with a few thoughts on the American Dream that offer a far better eulogy than anything I could ever provide.

Truthout roundup 6/24

Top McCain adviser says new terrorist attack would give the Republican presidential campaign a boost; federal appeals court rejects "enemy combatant" label for Guantanamo detainee; Robert Parry tackles the underlying troubles with campaign finance reform; executive privilege suit argued in court; Tom Engelhardt comments on the influx of foreign oil company contracts in Iraq; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Aide: Terror Attacks "Big Advantage" to McCain
http://www.truthout.org/article/aide-terror-attacks-big-advantage-mccain Edward Luce and Andrew Ward report for The Financial Times: "John McCain's right-hand man hit a raw nerve on Monday when he said another terrorist attack on US soil would prove a 'big advantage' to the Republican nominee's general election chances. The comments by Charlie Black, who is arguably Mr McCain's most experienced adviser, put into words what many Republicans and Democrats have privately been stating for months."

In a First, Court Overturns Guantanamo Hearing
http://www.truthout.org/article/in-a-first-court-overturns-guantanamo-hearing For McClatchy Newspapers, Marisa Taylor reports: "A federal appeals court for the first time has rejected the military's designation of a Guantanamo detainee as an enemy combatant. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned as 'invalid' a military tribunal's conclusion that prisoner Huzaifa Parhat is an enemy combatant. The court directed the Pentagon either to release or transfer Parhat or to hold a new tribunal hearing 'consistent with the court's opinion.'"

Robert Parry Campaign Finance Reform Has Failed
http://www.truthout.org/article/campaign-finance-reform-has-failed Robert Parry, editor of Consortium News, writes: "Barack Obama's decision to opt out of federal campaign financing has riled newspaper editorialists, TV pundits and even some progressives who view regulating 'money in politics' as the silver bullet to kill the special-interest domination of Washington. But the fury over Obama's choice to rely on his Internet-based small donors - rather than take nearly $85 million in federal funding - misses a difficult truth that may be especially heretical on the Left: campaign-finance reform has been, by and large, a failure."

Court Hears Arguments in Executive Privilege Case Involving Bolten, Miers
http://www.truthout.org/article/court-hears-arguments-executive-privilege-case-involving-bolten-miers Susan Crabtree reports for The Hill: "Congressional Democrats could have had White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers arrested by the House sergeant at arms instead of filing suit to enforce subpoenas against them, the House general counsel argued Monday. District Judge John Bates heard nearly three hours of oral arguments Monday in a lawsuit over the limits of executive privilege."

Tom Engelhardt No Blood for... er... um...
http://www.truthout.org/article/no-blood-er-um For TomDispatch.com, Tom Engelhardt writes: "More than five years after the invasion of Iraq - just in case you were still waiting - the oil giants finally hit the front page. Last Thursday, the New York Times with this headline: 'Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back.' (Subhead: 'Rare No-bid Contracts, A Foothold for Western Companies Seeking Future Rewards.') And who were these four giants? ExxonMobil, Shell, the French company Total and BP (formerly British Petroleum). What these firms got were mere 'service contracts' - as in servicing Iraq's oil fields - not the sort of 'production sharing agreements' that President Bush's representatives in Baghdad once dreamed of, and that would have left them in charge of those fields. Still, it was clearly a start."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Truthout Roundup 6/23

Major news networks are blocking war coverage; Mugabe's opponent drops out of Zimbabwe presidential race; immunity-inclusive FISA bill headed for Senate; NATO and Pakistani guerrillas exchange fire; Maude Barlow argues that water should be viewed as a human right; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Reporters Say Networks Block War Report
shttp://www.truthout.org/article/reporters-say-networks-block-war-reports Brian Stelter, of The New York Times, reports: "Getting a story on the evening news isn't easy for any correspondent. And for reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is especially hard, according to Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News. So she has devised a solution when she is talking to the network. 'Generally what I say is, "I'm holding the armor-piercing R.P.G.,"' she said last week in an appearance on 'The Daily Show,' referring to the initials for rocket-propelled grenade. '"It's aimed at the bureau chief, and if you don't put my story on the air, I'm going to pull the trigger."' Ms. Logan let a sly just-kidding smile sneak through as she spoke, but her point was serious. Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever."

Mugabe's Rival Pulls Out of Zimbabwe Vote
http://www.truthout.org/article/mugabes-rival-pulls-out-zimbabwe-vote According to Shashank Bengali, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew Sunday from this week's run-off presidential election in the beleaguered southern African nation, saying he could no longer participate in a race that's been marred by the widespread intimidation, torture, mutilation and murder of his supporters. The decision effectively hands victory to longtime President Robert Mugabe, whose supporters have engaged in a campaign of terror that has left at least 85 opposition members and activists dead in recent weeks, according to Zimbabwean human rights groups."

FISA Overhaul Set to Clear Senate
http://www.truthout.org/article/fisa-overhaul-set-clear-senate In Congressional Quarterly, Tim Starks reports: "Despite a deep divide among Democrats, the Senate is expected to clear legislation this week overhauling electronic surveillance rules that would grant President Bush much of what he has sought in a lengthy struggle with Congress. With no senators threatening to hold up the bill (HR 6304), one of the last hopes for opponents faded June 20 when Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois announced he would vote for the legislation. Some civil liberties groups that oppose the measure had called on Obama to use his position in the party to derail it."

From Afghanistan, NATO Shells Militants in Pakistan
http://www.truthout.org/article/from-afghanistan-nato-shells-militants-pakistan Abdul Waheed Wafa and Dexter Filkins report for the International Herald Tribune: "NATO forces in Afghanistan shelled guerrillas in Pakistan in two separate episodes on Sunday, as escalating insurgent violence appeared to be eroding the alliance's restraint along the border."

Maude Barlow Life, Liberty, Water
http://www.truthout.org/article/life-liberty-water In YES! Magazine, Maude Barlow writes: "It's a colossal failure of political foresight that water has not emerged as an important issue in the U.S. Presidential campaign. The links between oil, war, and U.S. foreign policy are well known. But water-whether we treat it as a public good or as a commodity that can be bought and sold-will in large part determine whether our future is peaceful or perilous."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Green Party Candidate Offers Voters Real Choice on November 4th

The South Bend Tribune recently published a letter from a voter expressing her disappointment that Senator Clinton had withdrawn from the race for the Democratic party’s Presidential nomination. I feel the writer’s pain; I was unable to vote for Congressman Dennis Kucinich in May as he, too, had withdrawn from the Democratic primary. The letter-writer declared she intended to write-in Hillary Clinton’s name on her ballot in November.


Indiana’s election rules stipulate the only "write-in" votes that may be counted on Election Day are for those persons registered as "write-in" candidates: write-in votes cast for Clinton or other persons not registered as a write-in with the State Election Board will not be counted.


Voters considering discarding their vote by staying home on November 4th , writing-in an ineligible person or casting a vote for “not-the-other-guy” should consider voting for this year’s Green Party Presidential candidate.


The Green Party’s National Presidential Convention will be held July 10th-13th in Chicago. Currently Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is leading the delegate count, although the race is far from over. In Indiana, the Green Party candidate will be a legitimate write-in name whose votes must be counted according to State and Federal law.


To hear the four Green Party candidates debate live tonight, Saturday June 21st from 8-9:30 p.m. (ET) go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/millerpolitics.


For more information about the Green Party, go to http://gp.org/.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why Do Terrorists Have Rights?, Or, A Government, Restrained

There is a lot of debate in the public space this week over the impact of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling that gives detainees in a “holding pattern” at Guantanamo Bay access to the United States Courts for the purpose of presenting petitions of habeas corpus.

It is a generally accepted misunderstanding that the Court’s ruling gave new rights to the detainees, which seems to be the issue that is the most controversial.

The purpose of today’s discussion is to explain why that view of the ruling is dead wrong…and to offer some thoughts on why this ruling might actually be one of the most important “restraint of government” rulings to have come down the pike in some time.

So off we go, eh?

First, the background. The Supreme Court has ruled in Boumediene et al. V. Bush, President of the United States, et al. that some Constitutional protections do extend to “non” US territory, and that the Military Commissions Act can not restrict the US Courts from having jurisdiction over “any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of detention of an alien detained by the United States since September 11, 2001.”

The Government had attempted to argue that because the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station’s holding facility is located on Cuban territory Constitutional protections do not apply, and that view was dismissed by the Court. The Court instead relied on a concept known as the “Territorial Incorporation Doctrine” which grants some, but not all, of the Constitution’s rights to those who live in US Territories…and as the Court noted, having “complete and uninterrupted control of the bay for over 100 years” pretty much makes it a US Territory, despite its physical location.

And that’s where we begin to address the question of whether this ruling gives new rights to detainees.

In reading the ruling, one thing that stands out is that the Court is not so much empowering the Plaintiffs as it is restraining the power of Government to operate outside the control of the Constitution—that the Court is saying that whatever the United States Government does, to the extent the sovereignty of other nations allows, it must do it within the framework of that document…and that despite the Administration’s desires, there is no legal basis to deny these detainees access to any judicial forum beyond the military tribunals offered by the Military Commissions Act. This from Boumediene V. Bush:

And although it recognized, by entering into the 1903 Lease Agreement, that Cuba retained “ultimate sovereignty” over Guantanamo, the United States continued to maintain the same plenary control it had enjoyed since 1898. Yet the Government’s view is that the Constitution had no effect there, at least as to noncitizens, because the United States disclaimed sovereignty in the formal sense of the term. The necessary implication of the argument is that by surrendering formal sovereignty over any unincorporated territory to a third party, while at the same time entering into a lease that grants total control over the territory back to the United States, it would be possible for the political branches to govern without legal constraint.

Our basic charter cannot be contracted away like this. The Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply. Even when the United States acts outside its borders, its powers are not “absolute and unlimited” but are subject “to such restrictions as are expressed in the Constitution.”


The Court goes on to suggest that if the Government’s view were to be upheld, it would be possible for the President and Congress to interpret law. The Court says that is not allowed, and refers to one of our most fundamental legal precedents to illustrate its point. To quote the 1803 case Marbury v. Madison:

It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.

Why shouldn’t we allow Government, from time to time, to act outside of the Constitution? There are those who will point out that we are in dangerous times, and that it is sometimes necessary for the Government to take exceptional measures to ensure our protection.

The answer is fundamental: the Constitution exists to enumerate exactly what Government is allowed to do. In this country We, The People, control all the rights and liberties of our Nation…and we grant to Government some powers from time to time as we choose through the Constitution. From time to time we also remove some of those powers.

What we never do is allow Government to grant unto itself rights, or to strip We, The People of rights.

The Court, in this ruling, reasserts that most basic of American principles—that Government is under the control of The People—that it is not a power unto itself, that its powers derive from the grants we give it…and that every person affected by the Government’s actions has a basic right to contest those actions, whether the Government likes it or not.

This is the fundamental difference between freedom and despotism; and we are the most privileged Nation on Earth for exactly that reason.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/18

Waxman's committee subpoenas FBI interviews of Bush and Cheney; Bush listed with Musharraf and Ahmadinejad as world's least trusted leaders; documents show detainees were hidden from the Red Cross; journalists in Gaza protest the killing of a Reuters cameraman; report shows Halliburton-KBR was overpaid for shoddy substandard work; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Neo-Con Controlled News

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FBI Interviews of Bush, Cheney Subpoenaed
http://www.truthout.org/article/fbi-interviews-bush-cheney-subpoenaed McClatchy-Tribune: "A House committee subpoenaed yesterday records of the FBI's interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into the leak of a covert CIA officer's name. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform demanded the documents from Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey days before former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is expected to testify about Cheney's role in leaking CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to the news media in 2003."

Bush, Musharraf, Ahmadinejad Least Trusted Leaders
http://www.truthout.org/article/bush-musharraf-ahmadinejad-least-trusted-leaders Reuters: "US President George W. Bush is ranked only slightly above the rulers of Pakistan and Iran as one of the least-trusted leaders in the world, a survey released on Monday showed. The survey, carried out by WorldPublicOpinion.org in 20 countries around the world, found that no national leaders inspired wide confidence outside their own countries. But Bush, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ranked at the bottom, the polling showed."

Documents Confirm US Hid Detainees From Red Cross
http://www.truthout.org/article/documents-confirm-us-hid-detainees-from-red-cross Warren P. Strobel, of McClatchy Newspapers: "The US military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents that a Senate committee released Tuesday. 'We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,' Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who's since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture."

Gaza Journalists Demand Israel Answer Over Killing
http://www.truthout.org/article/gaza-journalists-demand-israel-answer-over-killing Reuters: "Journalists in the Gaza Strip held a symbolic work stoppage on Monday as part of a protest to demand that Israel explain why its troops killed a Reuters cameraman in the Palestinian enclave two months ago to the day. The demonstration, during which journalists laid down their cameras, came on a day when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will unveil a memorial dedicated to journalists killed while reporting on wars around the world."

Halliburton Subsidiary KBR Faulted for Hurricane Work
http://www.truthout.org/article/halliburton-subsidiary-kbr-faulted-hurricane-work Derek Kravitz, of The Washington Post: "Reports of problems with defense contractor KBR Inc. just keep piling up. The Houston-based company's efforts to repair Navy facilities following Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina were deemed shoddy and substandard, auditors say, prompting one technical adviser to claim that the federal government 'certainly paid twice' for many KBR projects because of 'design and workmanship deficiencies,' according to a report released today by the Defense Department's inspector general."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

John Edwards on "This Week"

The headline of this show: Will he or won't he?

Former Senator Edwards commented on the passing of Tim Russert, parried charges by Senator McCain of Senator Obama's intentions.

John flatly refuted all McCain's charges and charaterizes many of Senator McCain's proposals as "crazy".

The real intrigue came when Edwards seemed to back away a bit from his earlier statement that he would not be on the list of potential running mates for Barack Obama. When asked point blank by George Stepanopolis, John said he was not seeking that role, but added- "I'd take anything he asked me to do seriously..."


http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=5170851

Truthout roundup 6/17

Guantanamo detainees made first ties with terrorist groups while in prison; McCain jumps on the straight-up Republican bandwagon; Pentagon fires official for refusing to approve questionable KBR charges; Barbara Ehrenreich muses on the commercialization of rural America; California kicks off a host of same-sex weddings; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Your Democracy, Your Decision

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Wrongly Jailed Detainees Found Militancy at Guantanamo
http://www.truthout.org/article/wrongly-jailed-detainees-found-militancy-guantanamo Tom Lasseter reports for McClatchy Newspapers: "Mohammed Naim Farouq was a thug in the lawless Zormat district of eastern Afghanistan. He ran a kidnapping and extortion racket, and he controlled his turf with a band of gunmen who rode around in trucks with AK-47 rifles. US troops detained him in 2002, although he had no clear ties to the Taliban or al Qaida. By the time Farouq was released from Guantanamo the next year, however - after more than 12 months of what he described as abuse and humiliation at the hands of American soldiers - he'd made connections to high-level militants."

McCain's Playbook: Hate, Fear and Caveman Politics
http://www.truthout.org/article/mccains-playbook-hate-fear-and-caveman-politics According to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "The idea that John McCain is kicking off his trek to the White House by fleeing at top-end speed from the faltering Republican brand is the kind of absurdly facile misperception that only the American campaign press could swallow whole. The reality is that the once independent-thinking McCain has by now completely remade himself into a prototypical, dumbed-down Republican Party stooge -- one who plans to rely on the same GOP strategy that has been winning elections ever since Pat Buchanan and Dick Nixon cooked up a plan for cleaving the South back in 1968. Rather than serving up the 'straight talk' he promises, McCain is enthusiastically jumping aboard with every low-rent, fearmongering, cock-sucking presidential aspirant who's ever traveled the Lee Atwater/William Safire highway."

Army Overseer Tells of Ouster Over KBR Stir
http://www.truthout.org/article/army-overseer-tells-ouster-over-kbr-stir For The New York Times, James Risen reports: "The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops."

Barbara Ehrenreich This Land Is Their Land
http://www.truthout.org/article/this-land-is-their-land In a portion from her latest book, excerpted in The Nation, Barbara Ehrenreich writes: "I took a little vacation recently--nine hours in Sun Valley, Idaho, before an evening speaking engagement. The sky was deep blue, the air crystalline, the hills green and not yet on fire. Strolling out of the Sun Valley Lodge, I found a tiny tourist village, complete with Swiss-style bakery, multistar restaurant and 'opera house.' What luck--the boutiques were displaying outdoor racks of summer clothing on sale! Nature and commerce were conspiring to make this the perfect micro-vacation. But as I approached the stores things started to get a little sinister--maybe I had wandered into a movie set or Paris Hilton's closet?--because even at a 60 percent discount, I couldn't find a sleeveless cotton shirt for less than $100. These items shouldn't have been outdoors; they should have been in locked glass cases. Then I remembered the general rule, which has been in effect since sometime in the 1990s: if a place is truly beautiful, you can't afford to be there. All right, I'm sure there are still exceptions--a few scenic spots not yet eaten up by mansions. But they're going fast."

California Gay Marriages Begin Today
http://www.truthout.org/article/california-gay-marriages-begin-today Sue Rochman, of The Advocate, reports: "At 5 p.m. today California’s supreme court ruling goes into effect, the words 'Party A' and 'Party B' replace 'bride' and 'groom' on marriage licenses, and wedding bells will start ringing for same-sex couples throughout California. And at 5:01, Bailes and Pontac will be the first same-sex couple to say 'I do' in Yolo County."

On Open-Source Campaigning, Or, Do It Yourself Yard Signs

Just yesterday I was doing some reading at the BlueNC site, and I found this story by persondem who is planning to make and presumably distribute anti-McCain yard signs.

persondem was asking the community for slogans...which got me to thinking, “why not?”

Before I knew what I was doing I had created roughly 50 of the darn things—and that’s how we get to today’s story...

As I said, there are quite a few...so do you have a handy beverage and a snack?

OK, then, if you’re ready, here we go...


McCain?
Family values?
Ask his first wife...

McCain for President?
"A cold chill down my spine..."
--Senator Thad Cochran
(R-Mississippi)

We need a President...
...not McPatton.

McCainonomics:
Only tax the middle class.
Then the rich can afford
to hire more of us.

John McCain or Ron Paul?
Who’s the real conservative?

McCainonomics:
$3 billion a week
X 100 years =
Your kid’s future

McCain’s foreign policy?
Visit nice places.
Meet nice people.
Then kill them.

What flip-flops more than
a Waffle House pancake?
McCain

Screw the people.
Vote McCain.

Who needs change now
when things are so great?

The Keating Five
wasn’t a basketball team.
McCain = business as usual.

McCain: “Hey lobbyist!
Why don’t ya come up
and see me sometime...”

McBush Part III:
This time it’s...kind of sad, really.
Choose better.
Choose Obama.

Remember when...
...people liked America?
Vote Obama.

Halliburton thanks you
for your generous support
of our bottom line.

McCain: He never met a
lobbyist he didn’t like.

Iceboxes...
buggy whips...
...McCain.

Second wives
for McCain.

Why support our vets when
we can spend that money
bombing Iran?

Broken economy.
Broken military.
Broken reputation.
McBush ‘08

Is it appeasment
when you surrender
your principles?
Ask McCain.

Look out! It’s the
Swerving Talk Express.

Truth, Justice,
and the Lobbyist Way.
Vote McCain.

Flip-flops.
Summer shoes...or
McCain strategy?

McCain supports
oil rigs
near our beaches.
Do you?

Better GI Bill?
McCain: Gee, I
don’t think so...

Obama wants you.
McCain wants...
your kids.

90% of the military
is in Iraq.
Gas is $4.50/gal.
Can we afford either?
Vote Democratic in ‘08

I went to Iraq
and all I got
was this lousy
artificial arm.
End the war now.

Price of gas: $4.50/gal.
Prosthetic arm: $30,000
A soldier’s sacrifice: priceless.
End the war now.

War in Iraq...
...gas costs $4.50
War in Iran...?

Do you work part time
to pay for gas?
Elect McCain and it’ll be
full time.

Support remedial economics.
Vote McCain.

Can your kids afford
McBush?

Gas costs more...
Food costs more...
Government works less.
McBushonomics explained.

McCain: A better GI Bill?
They don’t need no stinking
GI Bill...

No Iraq timelines
and we’ll be home in 2013.
That’s my McCain!

The Bush tax cuts are bad
and I support them.
That’s my McCain!

Christian Evangelists are bullies
until I need their votes.
That’s my McCain!

I support immigration reform
but not my own bill.
That’s my McCain!

I won’t be seen with Mr. Bush
but he can raise money for me.
That’s my McCain!

Sunni? Shia?
Shunni? Squia?
I’m not quite sure.
That’s my McCain!

I support campaign finance reform
but not my own bill.
That’s my McCain!

I understand the Middle East
if Lieberman is close by.
That’s my McCain!

I support the troops
but not a new GI Bill.
That’s my McCain!

I travel to Iraq
but I can’t remember who’s who.
That’s my McCain!

The economy is in trouble
and economics is my weak area.
That’s my McCain!

Tax cuts for the rich
deficits for you.
That’s my McCain!

She stood by me
all through Vietnam
so I dumped her.
That’s my McCain!


So who else is making signs this summer?
Feel free to use these...and send in a few of your own.

Let’s kick his butt...and have some fun doing it!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mayor Luecke Includes Hydro Project in Address to Michiana Watershed

"Moving Forward as a Cool City"


On June 10, South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke addressed the Michiana Watershed at a meeting marking the organization's 50+1 year anniversary. Mr. Luecke used this opportunity to highlight the efforts the city is undertaking to meet the goals set in the "Cool Cities" pact to address global climate change and reduce the city's carbon footprint.


Mayor Luecke specifically mentioned the East Race Hydroelectric Project:


"The City has begun conversations with key partners to explore the creation of a hydroelectric project at the Century Center dam with public and/or private investment. There are several possibilities: In one scenario, the facility could provide power to the city’s North Pumping Station and possibly provide heat or electricity to nearby vendors. Such a project could include a world-class viewing chamber to see fish climbing the fish ladder as well as the interior of the powerhouse.


It’s not easy being green. It’s hard to always be cool. But with imagination, creativity and the commitment of partners like Michiana Watershed, the City of South Bend will move forward to that end."


Now that it's closer to reality, can we name it?


How terrific it is to see the hydro project show up in an address by the Mayor and to see he included the viewing chamber as a part of the project. Hopefully soon he'll begin referring to this feature as the "Sheggwe Viewing Chamber" in honor of the name the Potowatomi Native-Americans gave this river that runs through us!


Truthout roundup 6/16

US-backed Iraqi troops massing on town near Iranian border; British preparing for Iraq pullout; many Guantanamo detainees are not terrorists; Congress close to deal on FISA; Peter J. Boyer on Keith Olbermann; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

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Backed Iraqi Forces Mass at Amara
http://www.truthout.org/article/iraqi-forces-mass-outside-southern-city-amara Andrew E. Kramer and Alissa J. Rubin, of The New York Times: "The Iraqi Army continued to mass troops outside the southern city of Amara on Sunday and Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, offered a three-day amnesty and weapons buyback program to militants willing to surrender. Similar offers in the past few months have presaged other military operations, in Basra, the Sadr City slum of Baghdad and in Mosul in northern Iraq."

British Ready to Announce Iraq Pullout
http://www.truthout.org/article/brown-ready-rain-bush-parade-with-iraq-troop-pull-out Colin Brown, of The Independent UK: "Gordon Brown is ready to override the misgivings of George Bush by going ahead with a major announcement on British troop withdrawals from Iraq. The US President will sit down to talks with Mr Brown today after their dinner at Downing Street last night sparked anti-Bush protests in Parliament Square. Before he arrived at No 10, Mr Bush issued a veiled warning to Mr Brown that now was not the right time to be withdrawing forces from Iraq."

America's Prison for Terrorists Often Held the Wrong Men
http://www.truthout.org/article/americas-prison-terrorists-often-held-wrong-men Tom Lasseter, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Because the Bush administration set up Guantanamo under special rules that allowed indefinite detention without charges or federal court challenge, it's impossible to know how many of the 770 men who've been held there were terrorists. A series of White House directives placed 'suspected enemy combatants' beyond the reach of US law or the 1949 Geneva Conventions' protections for prisoners of war. President Bush and Congress then passed legislation that protected those detention rules."

Democrats and Republicans Close to Deal on Spy Bill
http://www.truthout.org/article/fisa-negotiators-near-deal Manu Raju, of The Hill: "House and Senate negotiators are on the verge of striking an accord on a contentious overhaul of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), several aides said Friday. The development comes after a Thursday meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Kit Bond (R-Mo.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Bush administration officials, according to two aides."

Peter J. Boyer One Angry Man: Is Keith Olbermann Changing TV News?
http://www.truthout.org/article/one-angry-man-is-keith-olbermann-changing-tv-news Peter J. Boyer, of The New Yorker: "Olbermann's central place at MSNBC is nowhere more evident than in the network's extensive political coverage. One on-air promotional ad extolled MSNBC as 'The Place for Politics': it showed a full-screen image of Olbermann, followed by smaller images of such NBC News figures as Russert, Williams, Mitchell, and Tom Brokaw, who were presented in groups of four."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On A Civil Campaign, Or Things I Hope We Don't Say About McCain

Our Republican friends have begun the campaign season with their usual class and style; and the resulting Internet gossip has reported that Obama is a secret Muslim, that his Christian Reverend is the scourge of American religion, that he’s no patriot...and that he associates with every evil person on the planet, either by allowing them into his campaign or by his willingness to talk to those who hate us the most.

And Obama has, to this point, chosen to remain above the fray.

Because Obama has chosen the high road, I wanted to offer a few words about how we can be a more civil blogging community—and about a few things we should seek to leave off the table.

For example, it would be utterly inappropriate for us to question John McCain’s commitment to family values. After all, lots of husbands leave their wives for richer, younger women. And it’s perfectly natural. I mean, even if your current wife raised your three kids while you were in a Vietnamese prison camp that’s no reason why you should stay with her—especially if she can’t help finance your future.

And most especially if she was oh, I don’t know...perhaps the victim of horrendous injuries that were no fault of her own. ...that maybe caused her to gain a few pounds...and walk on crutches.

For example, this is the sort of thing we should not say:

“After he came home, he walked with a limp, she [Carol McCain] walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona [Cindy McCain, his current wife] and the rest is history”.


Surprisingly, that is the sort of thing Ross Perot would say, and he made a point of calling up Jonathan Alter earlier this year to express exactly that sentiment.

How would Perot know? As it turns out, he paid for Carol McCain’s medical care.

But that’s not something I would say about McCain, because I’m trying to elevate the conversation.

Another thing we should avoid discussing, if we seek the high road, is this whole question of what happened to McCain as a POW.

For example, it might be insensitive of us to question whether post-traumatic stress syndrome is the reason for McCain’s extreme temper and violent mood swings...even though others do.

And we shouldn’t question if these outbursts disqualify him from office...even though former Republican Senator Bob Smith did...even though he apparently went off on Republican Senator John Cornyn in a Republican Caucus meeting...even though Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran gets a “cold chill down my spine” when he considers the possibility of a McCain Presidency.

But again, in my efforts to elevate the tone of the discussion I’ll leave all of that off the table.

Finally, if we really intend to take a high-minded approach to this campaign, the last thing we should be discussing is this recurring story that McCain blocked efforts to determine whether American POWs were removed from Korea and Vietnam to the USSR for medical experimentation and other purposes.

Even further, it would be highly impolite of us to point out that there are groups trying even now to position McCain as anti-POW...but there are those who are making that effort—including Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, who report McCain actually gave information to the Vietnamese and made propaganda statements for them from his hospital bed.

So I hope all of this serves as a reminder that we should really work hard to make this as polite and civil a campaign as we possibly can; and I hope you use these examples of what we should not be doing as a guide to help you present McCain in a way that enervates and enriches the discussion...because after all, the last thing we want is to have another campaign like '04's on our hands.

Truthout roundup 6/15

Sam Ferguson writes from Buenos Aires on the belated sentencing of Dirty War torturers; violence skyrockets in Afghanistan's eastern region; Norman Solomon warns of Bush's "diplomacy" talk leading up to an attack on Iran; Congress struggles to address the housing crisis; Truthout's Dan Bacher writes on the Bush administration's retraction of $70 billion in aid to fishermen; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org



"Worst Massacre in Argentine History" Goes to Trial

http://www.truthout.org/article/worst-massacre-argentine-history-goes-trial From Buenos Aires, Sam Ferguson writes for Truthout: "On a narrow street in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, just blocks from the city's most emblematic landmarks - the Obelisk, the Casa Rosada, the Congress - sits a neglected federal police station, the Intendencia of the federal police. Buses and small taxis whiz by, depositing soot on the rusting frame of the nine-story outpost at 1417 Moreno Street. Save the Argentine flag hanging from the second floor and a small police coat of arms above the entrance, the station looks the same as many other buildings crammed next to it frame against frame. Rusty old air-conditioners gasp for air, dirty tinted windows open to the little sun that penetrates the urban canopy. Boxy and functional, it was built long after Argentina had hopes of becoming a world power. It is a typical bureaucratic dump, constructed only with regard to the bottom line. It is where cases are filed to be forgotten."



A Sober Assessment of Afghanistan

http://www.truthout.org/article/a-sober-assessment-afghanistan The Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson reports, "The outgoing top US military commander in Afghanistan said Friday that attacks increased 50 percent in April in the country's eastern region, where US troops primarily operate, as a spreading Taliban insurgency across the border in Pakistan fueled a surge in violence."



Norman Solomon Bush's Deadly "Diplomacy"

http://www.truthout.org/article/bushs-deadly-diplomacy Media critic Norman Solomon writes for Truthout, "With 219 days left in his presidency, George W. Bush laid more flagstones along a path to war on Iran. There was the usual declaration that 'all options are on the table' - and, just as ominously, much talk of diplomacy.... That's how Bush talks when he's grooving along in his Orwellian comfort zone, eager to order a military attack."



What Happened to Housing?

http://www.truthout.org/article/what-happened-housing For The Washington Independent, Mike Lillis reports: "Earlier this week, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) took to the chamber floor and made a bold announcement about congressional efforts to tackle the nation's accelerating foreclosure crisis. 'There is no question in my mind that the almost daily information we are receiving on the performance of our economy should continue to spur action on the part of this Congress,' the Senate Banking Committee chairman said. 'We hope to put on the president's desk by July 4 this comprehensive Financial Services/Banking Committee proposal.'"



Dan Bacher Bush Tries to Raid Salmon Disaster Funds

http://www.truthout.org/article/bush-tries-raid-salmon-disaster-funds Dan Bacher writes for Truthout: "West Coast representatives and leaders of fishing groups are outraged over an attempt by the White House to yank $70 million in disaster funding from commercial and recreational fishermen in order to pay for the 2010 US Census. The Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Monday, June 9, sent a proposal to Congress to amend the president's budget and take back $70 million of the $180 million West Coast representatives had put into the farm bill for disaster assistance for fishermen devastated by fishing closures off California and Oregon and in Central Valley rivers."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/14

Four Marines killed, hundreds of inmates escape in Afghanistan prison suicide bombing; Ireland rejects Lisbon Treaty, sparking political unrest; massive flooding in Midwest endangers world's corn supply; Robert Naiman writes about "our other war"; NOW investigates claims that the Army is issuing "wrongful discharges for honorable service"; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Four Marines Die in Afghanistan; 870 Inmates Escape
http://www.truthout.org/article/four-marines-die-afghanistan-870-inmates-escape Noor Khan And Jason Straziuso, The Associated Press, report: "About 870 prisoners escaped during a Taliban bomb and rocket attack on the main prison in southern Afghanistan that knocked down the front gate and demolished a prison floor, Afghan officials said Saturday. And in western Afghanistan on Saturday, a roadside bomb exploded near a US military vehicle, killing four Americans in the deadliest attack against US troops in the country this year, officials said."

Ireland Derails a Bid to Recast Europe's Rules
http://www.truthout.org/article/ireland-derails-a-bid-recast-europes-rules The New York Times's Sarah Lyall and Stephen Castle write: "Europe was thrown into political turmoil on Friday by Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, a painstakingly negotiated blueprint for consolidating the European Union’s power and streamlining its increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy."

Floods Threaten World's Corn
http://www.truthout.org/article/floods-threaten-worlds-corn Stevenson Jacobs of The Associated Press reports: "Floods that have inundated the Midwest could reduce world corn supplies and drive food prices higher at a time when Americans are stretching their grocery budgets and when people in poor countries have rioted over rising food costs."

Robert Naiman "What About Afghanistan?"
http://www.truthout.org/article/what-about-afghanistan Writing for Common Dreams, Robert Naiman asks, "What about Afghanistan? A majority of the US population and the Congress - like the majority of Iraqis and Iraqi parliamentarians - want the US to withdraw from Iraq by a date certain. Senator Obama, the Democratic nominee, is expected by his supporters to get the US out of Iraq if he is elected President. But about our other war, the war in Afghanistan, there is little public debate. Why not?"

NOW Is the Army Casting Aside Its Neediest Soldiers?
http://www.truthout.org/article/is-army-casting-aside-its-neediest-soldiers "NOW travels to Texas' Fort Hood in order to meet traumatized soldiers fighting a new battle, this one against the army they served. NOW also interviews the army's top psychiatrist, Col. Elspeth Ritchie."

Joe Donnelly panders to the Right on ANWR, civil liberties

Donnelly Watch has republished a series of stories detailing 2nd Congressional District Republican challenger Luke Puckett's attempts to criticize incumbent Joe Donnelly's stances on issues of oil drilling in ANWR and civil liberties.

Sadly--and predictably--Donnelly's response has been to quickly issue statements proclaiming that he's actually in agreement with Puckett's conservative views and to distance himself from the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The "Progressive" open thread - update 1

This post is by request of one of our readers.

I was wondering if you could post an entry giving your definition of “progressive”. Is being progressive the same as being liberal, a subset of liberalism, or something totally different? I’ve noticed that your
website heavily promotes Democrats, yet you do have contributors that promote the Green Party. What does progressivism embrace politically? Does it include that most dreaded bugaboo of the American political/economic sphere, “socialism”? Can progressivism be a part of other traditions? For example, the Teddy Roosevelt Republican era was considered progressive, and the Conservative
Party of Canada was once called the Progressive Conservative Party (thought I have a feeling that Canadian Conservatives are of a different breed than our U.S. neo-cons!). And…is it only a political stance, or an entire philosophy unto itself?


I’m asking this question not only to clear this up for me, but I think it is important that you take control of your title. I have no idea how many readers you have or how far your influence extends, but I do not doubt that if local conservatives get wind of your efforts, they will certainly tack onto you a definition of “progressive” that will not be supportive to you. It is best to stake your claim early, and
give a clear definition from the start. So many pundits throw around terms like liberal, conservative,
progressive, etc., all of which can have different meanings to different people. When it comes to ensuring that people understand your position, semantics is everything
.


Sounds like an interesting project. I'll start things off and hope that others will pitch in. I also will repost this at the top of the page for a while, in hopes to draw more attention to it.

DonVila said:

For me, being progressive is more of a philosophy than a political stance. It is foremost (in the Unitarian/Universalist vernacular) "a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being". It is a belief that, in a democracy, government should work towards the betterment of the many - rather than the few. The particulars of achieving these ends are not important. But all public policy should be judged on this basis.

I grew up in a progressive Christian household - my paternal grandfather Wendell was a Congregational minister. My elders took Jesus at his word that we should care most about those with the greatest challenges. And they stressed that I should always strive to learn more about people who are less like me. Because, for the most part - in a practical way - we are all so alike.

I think it's really that simple for me.

I'm eager to hear what others think.

Paul said...

So refreshing to read your take on Christianity, which is also mine. I'm a housebound, mostly disabled person and it happens that a few days ago my neighbor sent a uniformed county representative to serve me official notice that the guy who's been cutting my lawn for the last two years had gotten grass on their driveway. The county rep was truly embarrassed - also angered. He made it clear to me, standing at my bedside, that he would not come again to issue another such complaint. (Luckily the home health aide happened to be here to let him in or things would have been more complicated.)

As soon as he came I knew what it was really all about. This neighbor had asked me to cut down two trees on my lawn some months ago. I had a tree guy look at them. He said one needed to come down, the other's perfectly healthy and in no danger at all of falling.

I'd forgotten all about it, then the last few weeks my neighbor approached two different people coming in and out of my house on two different occassions, telling them to tell me I need to take the tree down. Both looked at the tree and politely told her they couldn't see anything wrong with it.

This was evidently her retaliation.

Even if I were healthy I would have no interest in playing the Judge Judy show with this person, but as it is, with my sister as the sole family member able to help me, we're in a particularly bad position to
do extra stress and time on nonsense. We're hoping my neighbor can get over her tree and grass traumas. If I'd known how much the tree meant to her I'd have happily spent the several hundred dollars to avoid this but it's too awkward now to approach her with "I surrender! If I cut down my tree will you please go back to just ignoring me?"


I stopped asking this woman and her husband, in whose name the driveway grass complaint was issued, for help even with little things from time to time shortly after moving here four years when she began answering the phone with "Hello Paul, whaddya want now." And they've never offered.

Since I literally can't leave the house and people are only in and out quickly to houseclean and arrange my food, they couldn't possibly ask for a less intrusive neighbor than I am. It's like nobody's home almost all the time from the perspective of my neighbors, except for those flying grass blades every few weeks.The one time I had to press my life alert button, she followed the emergency crew in to have a look at me and the inside of my house. Found me in my boxer shorts and kept going "He's so skinny..." It
was like a bad dream. The crew, of course, had no idea she didn't belong there.This must sound made up! Entirely true I'm afraid, and there really is no other side to this story - never an unpleasant word from me or my sister directed to them.


And every single Sunday, like clockwork, I hear their car doors slam as they go to and from church...

June 9, 2008 12:54 PM


Joy said...

Paul-That is terrible the way your neighbors treat you. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who think only of themselves, even among those who would claim to be religious or spiritual.

Don-Good to know that you consider progressivism as a philosophy. I feel that claiming it only as a political position would fail in the long run. Even if a political party were honest in its attempt to bring
about progressive and supportive community values to a nation, as time goes by, I think the party would eventually become less concerned with the original goals and more focused on power and control, even through corrupt means. (This is how I tend to view all political programs--rather cynical, ain't I?) Progressivism would just become a buzz word.


People tend to think of politics as "Let the politicians run things" and thus, once they've voted, folks just go about their own business and only worry if they think things are going wrong for them personally. Holding progressivism as a philosophy keeps you thinking of others, not just your own little corner of the world; and gets you considering what you can do, what you can say, how you can act for others, rather than just leaving it up to some party leaders. In order to truly be progressive, helpful, &
honoring of one another, there must be a personal touch to it. It has to be owned by each of us. Then, if we need to use political processes to ensure a progressive society, it will stay true to its form because the people will hold government to its original intent.


I hope some of the other blog contributors have something to add.

June 10, 2008 8:40 AM

I've always liked Katie Couric

by Don Wheeler

Back when I used to watch network television, I liked Katie Couric on the Today Show. I remember she was derided by some for being perky (or something like that). I remember her response being something like "There are worse things I could be called".

I remember how she's handled all sorts of adversity which would have left many of us completely non-functional.

She wrote a real cool children's book in 2000, by the way, called "The Brand New Kid". I bought it before Sarah was more than a concept, thinking she would like it. I was right - it's a favorite.

So I'm not surprised that Ms. Couric, bucking the status quo again, made a point of drawing our attention to the treatment of Hillary Clinton in this past campaign. Ms. Clinton was not anything close to my first choice for the nomination, but I think we should think about how the narrative went - particularly when the air of inevitability was released.

It reminds me of pirhanas feeding.

Diebold accidentally leaks 2008 election results

(The link works properly now)

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Truthout roundup 6/13

Truthout's Maya Schenwar on Congress's "Plan Colombia" for Mexico; Elliot Cohen on John McCain's ties to PNAC; Bush regrets his tough guy image; Supreme Court ruling could free Guantanamo prisoners; Iowa under water; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Maya Schenwar Plan Mexico
http://www.truthout.org/article/plan-mexico Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "As Congress gears up to fund another year of war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is also readying a nearly half-billion-dollar aid package that would initiate a Columbia-like drug war in Mexico. The majority of funds would fuel the Mexican military, known for rampant human rights abuses and participation in organized crime. In May, the House and the Senate both approved versions of the drug-fighting legislation, dubbed 'Plan Mexico,' tucked into the 'Global War on Terror' supplemental spending bill. The House Foreign Affairs Committee simultaneously passed a bill authorizing $1.1 billion for Mexico over the next three years."

Elliot Cohen John McCain's Chilling Project for America
http://www.truthout.org/article/john-mccains-chilling-project-america Elliot Cohen for Truthdig: "John McCain has long been a major player in a radical militaristic group driven by an ideology of global expansionism and dominance attained through perpetual, pre-emptive, unilateral, multiple wars. The credo of this group is 'the end justifies the means,' and the end of establishing the United States as the world’s sole superpower justifies, in its estimation, anything from military control over the information on the Internet to the use of genocidal biological weapons."

Bush Regrets Tough Guy Talk
http://www.truthout.org/article/bush-regrets-tough-guy-talk Reuters: "President George W Bush admitted on Wednesday that his tough rhetoric had given the world the impression was a 'guy really anxious for war' and said he now wished he had used a different tone on the global stage. In an interview with The Times, Bush said his main aim in the seven months before his presidency ends was to leave his successor a diplomatic framework for tackling Iran."

Supreme Court Ruling Could Free Scores From Guantanamo
http://www.truthout.org/article/supreme-court-ruling-could-free-scores-from-guantanamo Michael Doyle and Carol Rosenberg, of McClatchy Newspapers: "The Supreme Court's landmark Guantanamo Bay decision Thursday could free foreign prisoners while it inflames Capitol Hill. Some consequences are immediate, for a case that's big legally, politically and militarily. Within hours of the court's decision in the combined cases known as Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States, attorneys were preparing to demand hearings for detainees long held without charges."

A River's Unthinkable Rise
http://www.truthout.org/article/a-rivers-unthinkable-rise Rick Smith, of The Gazette: "What had been unimaginable the day before became reality as rain pounded anew on the city and its river. Early Thursday, breaks in temporary additions made to the earthen levee at the Time Check Neighborhood sent water toward the more than 1,000 homes and businesses in that northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood. Some residents were still there, not having left with the city's mandatory evacuation order of the day before. Firefighters in boats spent the early morning rescuing those trapped inside."

Bad cow disease

By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times

“Mary had a little lamb / And when she saw it sicken / She shipped it off to Packingtown / And now it’s labeled chicken.”

That little ditty famously summarized the message of “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair’s 1906 exposé of conditions in America’s meat-packing industry. Sinclair’s muckraking helped Theodore Roosevelt pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act — and for most of the next century, Americans trusted government inspectors to keep their food safe.

Lately, however, there always seems to be at least one food-safety crisis in the headlines — tainted spinach, poisonous peanut butter and, currently, the attack of the killer tomatoes. The declining credibility of U.S. food regulation has even led to a foreign-policy crisis: there have been mass demonstrations in South Korea protesting the pro-American prime minister’s decision to allow imports of U.S. beef, banned after mad cow disease was detected in 2003.

How did America find itself back in The Jungle?

It started with ideology. Hard-core American conservatives have long idealized the Gilded Age, regarding everything that followed — not just the New Deal, but even the Progressive Era — as a great diversion from the true path of capitalism.

Thus, when Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, was asked about his ultimate goal, he replied that he wanted a restoration of the way America was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

The late Milton Friedman agreed, calling for the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration. It was unnecessary, he argued: private companies would avoid taking risks with public health to safeguard their reputations and to avoid damaging class-action lawsuits. (Friedman, unlike almost every other conservative I can think of, viewed lawyers as the guardians of free-market capitalism.)

Such hard-core opponents of regulation were once part of the political fringe, but with the rise of modern movement conservatism they moved into the corridors of power. They never had enough votes to abolish the F.D.A. or eliminate meat inspections, but they could and did set about making the agencies charged with ensuring food safety ineffective.

They did this in part by simply denying these agencies enough resources to do the job. For example, the work of the F.D.A. has become vastly more complex over time thanks to the combination of scientific advances and globalization. Yet the agency has a substantially smaller work force now than it did in 1994, the year Republicans took over Congress.

Perhaps even more important, however, was the systematic appointment of foxes to guard henhouses.

Thus, when mad cow disease was detected in the U.S. in 2003, the Department of Agriculture was headed by Ann M. Veneman, a former food-industry lobbyist. And the department’s response to the crisis — which amounted to consistently downplaying the threat and rejecting calls for more extensive testing — seemed driven by the industry’s agenda.

One amazing decision came in 2004, when a Kansas producer asked for permission to test its own cows, so that it could resume exports to Japan. You might have expected the Bush administration to applaud this example of self-regulation. But permission was denied, because other beef producers feared consumer demands that they follow suit.

When push comes to shove, it seems, the imperatives of crony capitalism trump professed faith in free markets.

Eventually, the department did expand its testing, and at this point most countries that initially banned U.S. beef have allowed it back into their markets. But the South Koreans still don’t trust us. And while some of that distrust may be irrational — the beef issue has become entangled with questions of Korean national pride, which has been insulted by clumsy American diplomacy — it’s hard to blame them.

The ironic thing is that the Agriculture Department’s deference to the beef industry actually ended up backfiring: because potential foreign buyers didn’t trust our safety measures, beef producers spent years excluded from their most important overseas markets.

But then, the same thing can be said of other cases in which the administration stood in the way of effective regulation. Most notably, the administration’s refusal to countenance any restraints on predatory lending helped prepare the ground for the subprime crisis, which has cost the financial industry far more than it ever made on overpriced loans.

The moral of this story is that failure to regulate effectively isn’t just bad for consumers, it’s bad for business.

And in the case of food, what we need to do now — for the sake of both our health and our export markets — is to go back to the way it was after Teddy Roosevelt, when the Socialists took over. It’s time to get back to the business of ensuring that American food is safe.

NRA backs new Iraqi initiative; warns of "slippery slope"


In The Know: New Iraqi Law Requires Waiting Period For Suicide Vest Purchases

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/12

Truthout's Matt Renner reports on the logjam of war contractor fraud suits; Congressman Dennis Kucinich has introduced 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush; targeted strike to cripple Iran's nuclear program under discussion again; Congress moving to ban the outsourcing of war detainees' interrogation to mercenary private contractors; Bush is offering concessions to the government of Nouri al-Maliki; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Matt Renner Logjam of War Contractor Fraud Suits
http://www.truthout.org/article/logjam-war-contractor-fraud-suits Truthout's Matt Renner reports: "A backlog of whistleblower lawsuits against military contractors has been swelling and festering since the early days of the so called war on terror. According to critics, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has blocked the progress of these lawsuits to spare the Bush administration a major political black eye should the truth about ongoing war profiteering be revealed, a charge the DOJ denies."

Obama Must Learn From Kucinich's Election Theft Impeachment
http://www.truthout.org/article/obama-must-learn-from-kucinichs-election-theft-impeachment Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, of The Free Press, write: "Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. Two of the articles deal with the fact that Bush was never elected, and in fact stole the election of 2004 in Ohio. They should serve as a cautionary notice to the Obama campaign that this year's election could also be stolen. Kucinich's courage in introducing these articles is underscored by the fact that the Congress should have removed Bush from office years ago. From lying to the world to perpetrate the war in Iraq, to violating the Constitution on scores of basic civil rights and liberties issues, to fostering a regime based on unprecedented corruption and robbery, George W. Bush would be known as the worst president in the history of the United States if in fact he had been elected president."

Strike on Iran Nuclear Sites Under Discussion Again
http://www.truthout.org/article/strike-iran-nuclear-sites-under-discussion-again Dion Nissenbaum, of McClatchy Newspapers, writes: "Six months ago, after American intelligence agencies declared that Iran had shelved its nuclear-weapons program, the chances of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran before President Bush left office seemed remote. Now, thanks to persistent pressure from Israeli hawks and newly stated concerns by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the idea of a targeted strike meant to cripple Iran's nuclear program is getting a new hearing."

The New York Times Interrogation for Profit
http://www.truthout.org/article/interrogation-profit The New York Times writes: "Congress is finally moving to ban one of the Bush administration's most blatant evasions of accountability in Iraq - the outsourcing of war detainees' interrogation to mercenary private contractors. Operating free of the restraints of military rule and ethics, some of these corporate thugs turned up in the torture scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison and walked away with impunity. Others are now believed to be in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency at secret prisons that remain outside the rule of law, exempted even from the weak 2006 rules on interrogating prisoners."

Bush Forced to Rethink Plan to Keep Iraq Bases
http://www.truthout.org/article/bush-forced-rethink-plan-keep-iraq-bases Leonard Doyle, of The Independent UK, writes: "Faced with Iraqi anger over a US plan to enable Washington to keep military forces in the country indefinitely, George Bush is offering concessions to the government of Nouri al-Maliki in an effort to salvage an agreement, it emerged yesterday."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Long Thompson responds to Daniels' convention speech; urges reality check

Democratic nominee says Daniels isn't living up to promises

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson issued the following statement in response to Governor Mitch Daniels' speech to the Indiana State Republican Convention on Monday.

"Governor Mitch Daniels stood before his party's convention and continued his attempt to rewrite history and his record. He continued to try to convince Hoosiers that we are all living on an "Island of Growth" and that he and his "Freight Train of Change" have improved our lives. Yet, the numbers tell a much different story.

Four years ago, at the same Republican State Convention, then-candidate Mitch Daniels promised to bring real change to Indiana. He criticized Governors O'Bannon and Kernan and said he could do better. He cited the state's high rates of job loss, personal bankruptcy and home foreclosures. He talked about the high school dropout rate, the fact that Hoosier workers earn less than the average American worker and he pledged to improve the efficiency of state government.

Now, after four years under Mitch Daniels' leadership, it is only fair to look at those same benchmarks to judge the effectiveness of his administration.

The results are not good. We are still hemorrhaging jobs. In April Indiana lost another 3,100 jobs and nine major layoffs were announced impacting 2,263 jobs. Hoosiers still make less than workers in other states and personal income has actually dropped since Governor Daniels took office.

Indiana is still among the leading states in personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures. Nearly one third of our High School students still don't graduate. And, from the Department of Local Government Finance, to the Family and Social Services Administration, to the Department of Workforce Development, the Daniels administration has taken mismanagement and inefficiency to a new level.

At this critical time in our state's history, when so many families are facing economic uncertainty, results matter now more than ever before. While the Governor criticizes anyone who sees things differently than he does and labels them "negative," Hoosiers deserve more. They need more than election year promises; they need leadership that understands the challenges they face each and every day, and leadership that will fight for them.

As Democrats head to our State Convention later this month, we will continue our call for wholesale change. We will talk about the problems facing Hoosier families, whether the Governor likes it or not. And we will continue to offer new leadership, new ideas and a fresh start.

By his own standards, Governor Daniels administration has failed - and it is time for new leadership that will put our state back on track and restore Indiana's promise."

Long Thompson represented Northeast Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives serving from 1989 to 1995. She also served as U.S. 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 a farm in Marshall County.

For more information about Jill Long Thompson or her campaign, please visit http://www.hoosiersforjill.com/ or call 574-635-JILL.


"We even understand the nonsense they so often spout. When, against an avalanche of evidence, they insist that Indiana's economy is doing fine, just fine, we recognize that, for the most human of reasons, they may actually believe it. If you had spent these last years in the comfortable insulation of public office, never once in Birdseye or Bippus, Merom or Mongo, you too might blind yourself to things the average Hoosier's eyes tell him every day."

Governor Mitch Daniels speech to the 2004 State Republican Convention

The lake that is no more


photo courtesy of The Chicago Tribune



In one of the more amazing recent events, Lake Delton in southern Wisconsin has "left the premises".

That's the Lake Delton that forms the heart of the famed Wisconsin Dells tourist area and a great deal of the economic activity of the region. From The Chicago Tribune:


The apparent loss of Lake Delton for the summer—the signature landscape for the tourism-heavy Wisconsin Dells—figures to deal an economic blow to the season just as it was getting started. Along the lake, boat renters, hotel owners, tour operators and bait shop owners are bracing for losses.
video

The severe damage in central Wisconsin is only part of a broad and still evolving Midwestern flood and storm system that has broken levees, closed or wiped out bridges, and led to the evacuation of towns and cities in at least two states.


and


Against a backdrop of stunning video images of an empty Lake Delton, tourism officials scrambled Tuesday to assure the public that the damage was not widespread and that the Dells "are open for business."

The Wisconsin Dells have grown into a major regional tourist magnet, attracting an estimated 3 million visitors a year and generating $1 billion in tourist expenditures—most from indoor and outdoor water parks not on the lake.Still, there were reports of tourists canceling vacation reservations, many because the resorts along the lake saw their shores wiped out.

and


The amphibious vehicles of the Original Wisconsin Ducks tour company were jammed, ferrying tourists over land through woods destroyed by the raging waters. The Ducks plied the Wisconsin River, where
debris bobbed in the headwaters.

But at Tommy Bartlett's—the self-proclaimed Greatest Show on H2O—owner Tom Diehl said his renowned troupe has already felt the pinch. He lost five days of shows to the storm—about $200,000 in revenue—and is trying to find jobs for 22 water-skiers who no longer have a lake to ski on.


So what happened? And what can be done? James Janega, also of the Chicago Tribune, explored that aspect. :



But they agreed that something must be done quickly to help the tourism industry that is built around the Wisconsin Dells' popular lake. Some have written off the idea of restoring the lake by summer's end."It's hard to describe the force of water when it wants to move in one direction,"

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said. "It isn't that it broke through a dam. It pushed aside about 250 yards of earth, maybe 15 feet deep and 50 yards across. It pushed the edge of the lake until it fell into the Wisconsin River."Civil engineering experts and geologists blame prodigious downpours that in recent weeks soaked and softened the low point between Lake Delton and the river.
and


The result reminded University of Wisconsin-Madison sedimentary geologist Shanan Peters of a glacial lake draining, which is exactly what exposed the Dells millenniums ago. A finger of water found its way through loose soil and the soft sandstone, and then a torrent followed it.




Bill O'Reilly thinks you're crazy

Truthout roundup 6/11

Truthout's Maya Schenwar interviews two Iraqi Parliamentarians; Tom Engelhardt on George Bush via the Internet; Ron Paul to hold alternate convention in Minnesota; senators want more answers on torture policy; South Korean government could collapse; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Maya Schenwar Iraqi Parliament's Push for Sovereignty
http://www.truthout.org/article/iraqi-parliaments-push-sovereignty Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "Last week, for the first time, two Iraqi members of Parliament (MPs) testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They spoke bluntly. 'The anarchy and chaos in Iraq is linked to the presence of the occupation, not withdrawal from Iraq,' Nadeem Al-Jaberi, an MP and co-founder of the Al-Fadhila party, testified. Under questioning by Republican Congress members, Al-Jaberi repeatedly renounced the 'success of the surge,' and added, 'What we strive for is establishing a balanced relationship between the two countries. But nothing of this could be made possible until the troops withdraw from Iraq.'"

Tom Engelhardt One Man's Online Journey Through Bush's Alphabet Soup
http://www.truthout.org/article/one-mans-online-journey-through-bushs-alphabet-soup Tom Engelhardt, of TomDispatch: "In these last years, the Bush administration's unbounded sense of imperial impunity, and an older American belief that this country possesses a moral code exceptional among nations, have proven a lethal geopolitical cocktail. This curious perspective has led our administration to commit acts of horror in our name, while absolving us from thinking about how others might look on those acts -- and by extension, how they think about us."

Ron Paul to Host Parallel GOP Convention
http://www.truthout.org/article/ron-paul-host-parallel-gop-convention Sarah Wheaton, of The New York Times: "Representative Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate, will be the main attraction at the Twin Cities confab. No, not the Republican National Convention fewer than eight miles away at the XCel Center, but at his own party, to be held on the second day of the event that will seal Senator John McCain as the GOP nominee. 'This isn't a protest,' said Jesse Benton, the libertarian-leaning Republican's spokesman. 'This is a celebration of limited government and Republican principles.'"

Senators Demand More Answers on Torture Policies
http://www.truthout.org/article/senators-demand-more-answers-torture-policies J. Taylor Rushing, of The Hill: "Unsatisfied Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday pressed the Bush administration for more answers on its torture policies. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized a report from the Department of Justice as vague and incomplete. Panel members said the document by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine and testimony by FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni did nothing to resolve concerns that US interrogators could still be allowed to torture terror suspects."

Huge Protest in Seoul Threatens to Topple Government
http://www.truthout.org/article/huge-protest-seoul-threatens-topple-government Choe Sang-Hun, of The International Herald Tribune: "President Lee Myung Bak confronted the biggest challenge to his young and unpopular administration Tuesday as tens of thousands of demonstrators filled central Seoul to protest his agreement to resume imports of American beef and to denounce a broad range of other government policies. The entire cabinet offered to resign as a way to help Lee find a way out of the crisis. It was unclear how many cabinet members Lee would replace, but he indicated that the changes could be substantial."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taking South Bend Towards Energy Independence


Urging Drilling in ANWR is no Solution for Energy Independence


The South Bend Tribune reported on Thursday a group called the “Notre Dame College Republicans” presented U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly’s staff with a petition urging Donnelly to authorize exploration for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Edward Yapp, pictured in the article and identified as a member of the ND College Republicans, complained it costs him $50 to tank up his Volvo sedan and “want(s) to focus on ANWR and domestic drilling.” Proponents of drilling think doing so would help lower the cost of gasoline but in reality, the amount of oil that could be extracted economically from this last bit of pristine wilderness would, according to the US Geological Survey, amount to what Americans burn in a year. Some agencies estimate the recoverable amount to be even less. Furthermore, the earliest any oil would reach Mr. Yapp’s Volvo would be ten years, assuming the oil extracted from the widely spaced puddles, would, in fact, be directed to American fuel tanks.



Are We Just Pawns of the Mining Industrialists?


The Natural Resources Defense Council notes that using the promise of “energy independence” in the light of high fuel prices is a smokescreen for a larger agenda to open other areas of U.S. wilderness for energy, timber and mineral exploitation. So while I’m very sorry that people like Mr. Yapp reports having difficulty paying the fuel prices set by a small group controlling this resource, his group’s efforts seem more an attempt to exploit cash-strapped drivers and break our resolve to protect our natural heritage.



There are more Sustainable Solutions


Contrary to what the oil industry would like us to believe, we are not going to be able to drill our way to energy independence. Only be reducing our demand for oil, both foreign and domestic, and investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy, will this country achieve energy independence.


In South Bend we have running through us the renewable energy of our river, which provided the power to grow South Bend from a fur-trading post to a self-sustaining city producing all the goods its people needed. Today, city officials have resurrected design plans for a 1.5 Megawatt hydroelectric generator for the East Race of the St Joe River. The energy from this generator could be used to power South Bend’s Water Works and the Water Treatment facilities. Additionally, the design plans include a wheel-chair accessible below water level viewing chamber to allow visitors to watch the generator’s turbines on one side and fish migrating up the fish ladder on the other. This project will reduce South Bend’s need for coal-burning electricity, reducing the city’s “carbon footprint” and bring visitors to our beautiful river.



Helping South Bend and other Cities Become Energy Independent


Projects like this take capital, however, and I ask Mr. Yapp, his Notre Dame Republicans and anyone else to urge Notre Dame to consider adding “green energy” to their portfolio by helping South Bend to fund this venture. Notre Dame, which has its own coal-fired generator and which uses South Bend’s water treatment plant (and quite heavily on certain weekends in the Fall), would be an excellent candidate as a partner in syndicated capital for a hydroelectric generator.


Furthermore, rather than urging Mr. Donnelly to fold to the will of industry giants wanting to exploit the last of our wilderness, Mr. Donnelly needs to prod Congress to fully fund the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant Program signed by President Bush last December. These grants must be funded by Congress as they could be used to also help cities like South Bend invest in hydroelectric power and take us one giant step closer to true “energy independence.”

Forrest Church is dying

by Don Wheeler

If I may be allowed a bit of self-indulgence, this is a wicked blow.

I don't know how it is for others, but for me there are very few people with whom I have had no personal relationship, which have great significance in my life. The Reverend Forrest Church of All Souls Unitarian Church of New York City is one of three I can think of.

He was making the NPR talk show circuit in 1996 when I first heard him speak about his beliefs and his life. The occasion, I believe, was the paperback release of "God and Other Famous Liberals". One comment he made has really stuck with me: "Tell me about the God you don't believe in. Odds are, I don't believe in that God either."

Up to that point, I wasn't sure the existence of God was even an interesting question. Additionally, he and what he had to say had two independent personal connections for me.

Though I grew up in a Congregational household, Unitarians were regarded with high esteem by my parents. When I told my father (now deceased) I was joining the First Unitarian Church of South Bend (in no small part due to Rev. Church) he was remarkably pleased.

The other connection has to do with Forrest Church being the son of the late Senator Frank Church (D-ID). Frank Church was the first (and only one of two) Presidential candidates I have ever been enthusiastic about. If you're not familiar with Senator Church's contributions, look into it. You'll see what progressive patriotism is all about.

Anyway, Forrest Church's cancer has returned - and the prognosis is bleak. From the Summer edition of UU World:

After enjoying a year of fine health, in late January 2008 I learned that my cancer had recurred, having spread to my lungs and liver. There is no way to sugarcoat this news. I must face the certainty that my cancer is terminal and the great likelihood that my future will be measured in months, not years.

The only church service I have ever designed and led was based on "God and Other Famous Liberals". Here's how Rev. Church starts the first chapter entitled "The Most Famous Liberal of All".

Who is the most famous liberal of all time? It simply has to be God. No one is more generous, bounteous, or misunderstood, Not to mention profligate, Take a look at the creation. God is a lavish and indiscriminate host. There is too much of everything: creatures, cultures, languages, stars; more galaxies than we can count, more asteroids in the heavens than grains of sand on earth. Talk about self-indulgence, in the ark itself, if you take the story literally, there must have been a million pairs of insects. We may not like it, but that's the way it is.

Every word I can conjure for God is a synonym for liberal. God is munificent and openhanded. The creation is exuberant, lavish, even prodigal. As the ground of our being, God is ample and plenteous. As healer and comforter, God is charitable and benevolent. As our redeemer, God is generous and forgiving. And, as I said, God has a bleeding heart that simply never stops. Liberal images such as these spring from every page of creation's text. They also characterize the spirit, if not always the letter, of the Bible, which teaches us that God is love.


It's not hard to see how someone could "get religion" behind ideas like these.

We will be losing Rev. Church much sooner than we'd like. He has prepared many of us for loss, he has comforted many of us in our losses. I think he'll understand that I don't want to wait until he's gone to honor him.

Here are some excerpts from the essay when he broke the news. The link to the complete article is here.

I’ve said I didn’t become a minister until I performed my first funeral. When dying comes calling at the door, like a bracing wind it clears our being of pettiness. It connects us to others. More alert to life’s fragility, we reawaken to life’s preciousness. To be fully human is to care, and attending to death prompts the most eloquent form of caring imaginable.

When those we love die, a part of us dies with them. When those we love are sick, we too feel the pain. Yet all of this is worth it. Especially the pain. Grief and death are sacraments, or can be. A sacrament symbolizes communion, the act of bringing us together. To comfort another is to bring her our strength. To console is to be with him in his aloneness. To commiserate is to share her pain.

and

For us to be here in the first place, for us to earn the privilege of dying, more than a billion billion accidents took place. Even the one in a million sperm’s connection with the equally unique egg is nothing compared to everything else that happened from the beginning of time until now to make it possible for us to be here.

What a luxury we enjoy, wondering what will happen after we die, even what will happen before we die. Having spent billions of years in gestation, present in all that preceded us—fully admitting the pain and difficulty involved in actually being alive, able to feel and suffer, grieve and die—we can only respond in one way: with awe and gratitude.

Four honored by WHY for their commitment to fighting poverty

Elvis Costello
Sen. John Edwards
WCBS Newsradio 880
The National Farmworker Ministry


New York - On June 9th at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City WHY (World Hunger Year) paid tribute to the 2008 WHY-Chapin Award Honorees and honor the 2007 Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award winners.

These honorees are being recognized for their exemplary work and dedication on issues of hunger and poverty on a local, national and worldwide level.

In a musical career spanning more than 28 years, Elvis Costello is best known for his performances with The Attractions, The Imposters and with pianist, Steve Nieve, as well as for pop, rock, operatic and jazz collaborations. His charitable efforts are as varied as the balance of his work: performances and other appearances to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina victims; Live Aid for African Famine Relief; Virgin Unites' Heaven's Angel's Campaign to send health-care workers and critical medicines and supplies into remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa; and the Richard deLone Special Housing Fund for Prader-Willi Syndrome ? a chromosome disorder that affects 1-in-15,000 births and leaves its victims starving, among others.

From the start of his career as a trial lawyer, spanning his service in the U.S. Senate and two Presidential candidacies, to director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sen. John Edwards works tirelessly as an advocate for people living in poverty. Today, he keeps the public dialog focused by reminding us that "[i]n the richest country in the history of the globe, we have more millionaires and more billionaires that ever - but we also have more Americans living in poverty - 37 million people unable to fulfill their basic needs of food and shelter, no matter how many jobs they work - not less."

John Edwards' remarks in accepting his honor can be heard here

They are both inspiring and very hard to hear.

In the great CBS tradition of Edward R. Murrow, WCBS Newsradio 880 has been serving radio listeners in the Greater New York area with the very best of news, traffic, and weather since 1967. WCBS Newsradio 880 is also the home base for WHY's annual Hungerthon broadcast. As demonstrated by its partnership with WHY, WCBS Newsradio 880 doesn't just cover its community, WCBS Newsradio is part of the community, committed to telling stories, and supporting programs that can make a difference in the world we all live in.

National Farm Worker Ministry (St. Louis, MO) is an interfaith organization that supports farm workers as they organize for empowerment, justice, and equality, educating people about farm worker conditions through labor camp tours, workshops, publications, videos, web and e-news, then mobilizes them to act in support of farm worker campaigns through letter writing, marches, vigils or boycotts. Together with farm workers, NFWM harvests justice!
Honorary Dinner Chairs

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has been an active part of WHY and its work since the beginning. Along with Harry Chapin, he served on the Presidential Commission on World Hunger. For more than 25 years, he has served on WHY's Board of Directors and Advisory Board. In 2000, WHY honored Leahy with its first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Marilyn Bergman is President and Chairman of the Board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the first woman to be elected to its Board of Directors. She brings to the leadership of ASCAP the unique experience of the creator, being herself an award-winning lyricist along with her husband, Alan Bergman.

The 2007 winners of the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Awards will also be recognized.

*** WHY is a nonprofit organization co-founded by the late singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, and radio talk show host and present Executive Director Bill Ayres in 1975. WHY attacks the root causes of hunger and poverty by promoting effective and innovative community-based solutions that create self-reliance, economic justice and food security.

The great seduction

By DAVID BROOKS
New York Times

The people who created this country built a moral structure around money. The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence. Benjamin Franklin spread a practical gospel that emphasized hard work, temperance and frugality. Millions of parents, preachers, newspaper editors and teachers expounded the message. The result was quite remarkable.

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Sixty-two scholars have signed on to a report by the Institute for American Values and other think tanks called, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture,” examining the results of all this. This may be damning with faint praise, but it’s one of the most important think-tank reports you’ll read this year.

The deterioration of financial mores has meant two things. First, it’s meant an explosion of debt that inhibits social mobility and ruins lives. Between 1989 and 2001, credit-card debt nearly tripled, soaring from $238 billion to $692 billion. By last year, it was up to $937 billion, the report said.

Second, the transformation has led to a stark financial polarization. On the one hand, there is what the report calls the investor class. It has tax-deferred savings plans, as well as an army of financial advisers. On the other hand, there is the lottery class, people with little access to 401(k)’s or financial planning but plenty of access to payday lenders, credit cards and lottery agents.

The loosening of financial inhibition has meant more options for the well-educated but more temptation and chaos for the most vulnerable. Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated. Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco. They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.

The agents of destruction are many. State governments have played a role. They aggressively hawk their lottery products, which some people call a tax on stupidity. Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. The spending is starkly regressive. A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average, $645 a year on lottery tickets, about 9 percent of all income. Aside from the financial toll, the moral toll is comprehensive. Here is the government, the guardian of order, telling people that they don’t have to work to build for the future. They can strike it rich for nothing.

Payday lenders have also played a role. They seductively offer fast cash — at absurd interest rates — to 15 million people every month.

Credit card companies have played a role. Instead of targeting the financially astute, who pay off their debts, they’ve found that they can make money off the young and vulnerable. Fifty-six percent of students in their final year of college carry four or more credit cards.

Congress and the White House have played a role. The nation’s leaders have always had an incentive to shove costs for current promises onto the backs of future generations. It’s only now become respectable to do so.

Wall Street has played a role. Bill Gates built a socially useful product to make his fortune. But what message do the compensation packages that hedge fund managers get send across the country?

The list could go on. But the report, which is nicely summarized by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead in The American Interest (available free online), also has some recommendations. First, raise public consciousness about debt the way the anti-smoking activists did with their campaign. Second, create institutions that encourage thrift.

Foundations and churches could issue short-term loans to cut into the payday lenders’ business. Public and private programs could give the poor and middle class access to financial planners. Usury laws could be enforced and strengthened. Colleges could reduce credit card advertising on campus. KidSave accounts would encourage savings from a young age. The tax code should tax consumption, not income, and in the meantime, it should do more to encourage savings up and down the income ladder.

There are dozens of things that could be done. But the most important is to shift values. Franklin made it prestigious to embrace certain bourgeois virtues. Now it’s socially acceptable to undermine those virtues. It’s considered normal to play the debt game and imagine that decisions made today will have no consequences for the future.

Book Review: "Social Ecology and Communalism" by Murray Bookchin

(Below is a book review of a collection of essays by Murray Bookchin, a lifelong American radical who was the principal architect of "social ecology" which I've studied over the past several years. This book is a good introduction to Bookchin's ideas which are worth considering for anyone interested in social and ecological transformation. -- KJH)




::::

Radical Clarity to the Concept of Real "Change"

by Karl Kardy


Book Review: Social Ecology and Communalism by Murray Bookchin. Edited by Eirik Eiglad. Oakland, AK Press: 118 pages. ISBN 978-1-904859-49-9 [Available to purchase from AK Press]

The American presidential election season has pundits and pollsters proclaiming "change" a primary factor in the minds of many voters. It's little wonder that this stark period - marked by the so-called "War on Terror," the extension of neoliberalism across the globe, and the urgency of global warming - has motivated such vague desires among the citizenry. Undefined, undifferentiated and ultimately relegated to mere platitudes, "change" here means little; it is cosmetic, commodified, and reinforces the status quo. Absent is a lens, a coherent perspective through which current and future movements might comprehend and ultimately transcend the prevailing order, inspiring the crucial transformative "change" so necessary to reverse today's regressive and reactionary tendencies.

While the US Green Party struggles on and plans yet again to rely on a presidential candidacy to foster a "trickle down" growth for state and local parties, there is little to suggest that Greens or any other marginalized American Left movements are positioned to fill this void of coherent analyses and strategies for reconstructive action. Yet the American Green movement's early history included the influence of social ecology, a body of thought primarily developed by Murray Bookchin, that articulates just such a vision based on ecological principles, notions of radical democracy, and a celebration of our uniquely human potentialities. Bookchin was a keynote speaker at the first national gathering of US Greens in 1987 and his work, including more than 20 books, numerous essays, articles, speaking engagements, and the co-founding of the Institute for Social Ecology, affected the formation of the Left Greens and played a prominent role in debates over direction for the nascent American Green movement.

Social Ecology and Communalism, a recently released collection of four essays written in Bookchin's later years, offers an accessible introduction to social ecology's fundamental rejection of social hierarchy and domination, critique of instrumental reasoning in favor of a dialectical philosophical orientation, and it's ecological "libertarian municipalist" political strategy. It should be noted that Bookchin's version of "communalism" bears no relation to the (largely religion-based) sectarianism it evokes in South Asia. Instead, here communalism refers to the theory and system of government in which local communities are associated in a confederation.

Norwegian communalist Eirik Eiglad edited this collection and presents the reader with a fascinating, if brief, biography of Bookchin, a man literally raised in the radical political culture of Depression-era New York City. Early adulthood saw Bookchin involved in various Communist Party organizations, though he soon broke with the Communists, aligning for a time with the Trotskyist movement before moving towards libertarian socialism after World War II. Eventually, after years of activism, writing, and serious study of radical theory, he engaged in the anarchist movement. With the appearance of his seminal 1964 essay "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought" began to clearly articulate an explicitly radical and ecological body of thought.

The collection's initial lengthy essay "What is Social Ecology?" represents an attempt at a concise elaboration of social ecology's basic premise that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep seated social problems. Bookchin traces the roots of social hierarchy and domination in early aboriginal societies, at the same time observing examples of distinctively social and egalitarian human institutions that represent the latent human striving for freedom. In particular, he identifies the "irreducible minimum" - a social custom that held that all members of the community are entitled to the means of life regardless of the amount of work they perform - and "usufruct" - a notion of property that allowed for the use of the means of life, as needed, by one group or individual so long as they were not already being used by another - as examples of customs which persisted, evolved, and even today continue to exist in latent forms.

These twin legacies of hierarchy and freedom, he suggests, have evolved through history and provide crucial insights into today's social climate. It is the institutionalization of capitalist ideology, reinforced by notions of social Darwinism and instrumental rationality - one that reduces human reasoning faculties to a mere "means-ends" tool that neglects any concern for what "ought be" - that represents a logical, yet not inevitable, unfolding of the legacy of hierarchy and domination.

Bookchin calls for the replacement this existing "grow or die" mentality with an ethics of complementarity, rooted in ecological principles and informed by a dialectical philosophical orientation writing that humanity "can draw far-reaching conclusions for the development of an ecological ethics that in turn can provide serious guidelines for the solution of our ecological problems." Through a developmental, historical perspective we may "educe" the means to a synthesis of the nonhuman and human spheres into a "free nature" where humanity acts ethically and creatively within the wider natural world.

The two subsequent essays, "Radical Politics in an Era of Advanced Capitalism" and "The Role of Social Ecology in a Period of Reaction," focus on both social ecology's concept of politics and its relationship to the Enlightenment tradition, respectively. Here Bookchin underscores the importance of reason, ethics, and citizenship to the social ecology project.

"Politics these days has been identified completely with statecraft, the professionalization of power" - a vital recognition that leads to his call for a re-thinking of citizenship in the spirit of the Athenian polis, positing the importance of face-to-face direct democracy and an emphasis on the neighborhood, town, and municipality. Bookchin places this emphasis on citizenship, face-to-face municipal politics under the rubric of "libertarian municipalism" a strategy based on human-scale eco-communities linked through confederal bodies guided by reason and ethics rather than profit and the private accumulation of power. For Bookchin, it will be "the ability and willingness of radicals to (redefine politics)" that "may well determine future movements like the Greens and the very possibility of radicalism to exist as a coherent force for basic social change."

"The Communalist Project" closes the collection and was Bookchin's last major work before his passing in July 2006. Significant for it's far-reaching scope and positioning of social ecology and libertarian municipalism under the "communalist" banner, the piece begins with an impassioned plea:

Whether the twenty-first century will be the most radical of times or the most reactionary or will simply lapse in the gray era of dismal mediocrity - will depend overwhelmingly upon the kind of social movement and program that social radicals create out of the theoretical, organization, and political wealth that has accumulated during the past two centuries of the revolutionary era.

Seeking to place Communalism in historical perspective, Bookchin surveys the major Left traditions, endeavoring to illustrate how communalism incorporates the better elements from each while offering provocative critiques of Marxism, anarchism, and revolutionary syndicalism. Bookchin describes libertarian municipalism as the "praxis" of the communalist framework and emphasizes the importance of the civic dimension of the modern world's great revolutions, not the least of which, for Bookchin, was the Paris Commune of 1793.

Bookchin is clear in his belief that the primary concerns of today's radicals should include a solid grounding in the study of history, specifically that of modern revolutionary era. He is also unequivocal in his rejection of what he considers the oft-confused and contradictory aspects of contemporary trends in mysticism and spirituality, "lifestyle anarchism," and the reconstitution of various outdated Left ideologies.

It's telling that Bookchin's ideas were so inspirational to the initial development of the US Greens while the emphasis was on the building of a transformative grassroots movement. Yet as Green Party US emerged and the more radical and movement-oriented activists drifted away, the valuable insights and provocative critiques put forth by Bookchin and social ecology receded from view for many Green activists. Social Ecology and Communalism presents a potential source of rediscovery, an inspiration in a time where lucid alternatives to the grim prospects of enduring social and ecological crises are desperately needed.

Karl Hardy is a graduate student at Prescott College in social ecology and a community activist in South Bend, Indiana.

Upcoming Meetings and Events: A Message from the Community Forum on Economic Development

(passing this along from CFED -- KJH)

The June meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, June 17, will be a PUBLIC FORUM:

Local Initiatives to Meet Global Challenges: South Bend's Efforts to
Protect the Environment


The meeting will be held from 7 - 9 pm, at the Office of the Minority
Health Coalition, 915 N Bendix (in LaSalle Square).
Presenters:

Gary Gilot, South Bend's Director of Public Works, will review ways
that his department addresses global warming as it manages streets,
water, sewer, and trash services. He also will address plans for
higher density development within the City.
Christine Fiordalis, Chair of the Michiana Group of the Sierra Club,
will review the history and current status of the Cool Cities
Initiative, a program that has been endorsed by over 800 local
governments, including the City of South Bend.

Additional events of interest:

The next meeting of the South Bend Community Garden group will be
Tuesday June 10 at 6:30 pm in the Pokagon Room at the St. Joseph Public
Library in downtown South Bend. They will be reviewing presentation
information for neighborhood, church and organizations about starting
community gardens. All who are interested in developing and/or
presenting are encouraged to attend. For more information about South
Bend Community Garden activities, visit www.sbcg.org.

An Observer Corps is a structured way for individuals to exercise their
right to know. Volunteer observers attend local government meetings to
gather information about the issues being discussed as well as the
process by which they are being discussed. The League of Women Voters
of the South Bend Area is partnering with other local groups, including
the Community Forum for Economic Development, to establish an Observer
Corps in St. Joseph County. For more information about this developing
project, attend the coalition's next planning meeting scheduled for
Thursday June 12, at 5:30 pm, in the Pokagon Room at the St. Joseph
Public Library or email Lisa Plencner: lisa.plencner@comcast.net

The 9th Annual Juneteenth Celebration will be held on Friday June 13,
Saturday June 14, and Sunday June 15 at LaSalle Park and the Charles
Black Center, 3419 W. Washington Street in South Bend. The event is
sponsored by the South Bend Chapter Indiana Black Expo, Inc. (SBCIBE).
The Community Forum will have an informational booth at the Saturday
activities. If you are available for part of the day to assist at the
booth email Tonia Ladner, tonia.ladner@oaklawn.org.

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday July 12, 10 am to 2 pm, PUBLIC MEETING - An
opportunity to help guide the future of LASALLE SQUARE. Details
available soon.

Truthout roundup 6/10

US is seeking 58 military bases in Iraq; Robert Perry on John McCain's neoconservatism; Obama campaigning on the economy; lobbyists profiting off high oil prices; old spy rules may be in place soon; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

US Seeking 58 Bases in Iraq, Shiite Lawmakers Say
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-seeking-58-bases-iraq-shiite-lawmakers-say Leila Fadel, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed 'status of forces' agreement that will allow US troops to remain in the country indefinitely. Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another US demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran."

Robert Parry Make No Mistake: McCain's a Neocon
http://www.truthout.org/article/make-no-mistake-mccains-a-neocon Robert Parry, of Consortium News: "Since clinching the Republican presidential nomination, John McCain has sought to hide the forest of his neoconservative alignment with George W. Bush amid the trees of details, such as stressing differences over military tactics used in Iraq. But the larger reality should be clear: McCain is a hard-line neoconservative who buys into Bush's 'preemptive war' theories abroad and his concept of an all-powerful 'unitary executive' at home."

Barack Obama Change That Works for You
http://www.truthout.org/article/change-that-works-you Barack Obama: "We will begin this general election campaign by traveling across the country for the next few weeks to talk about what specifically we need to do to build a 21st economy that works for working Americans. I will speak with economic experts and advisors at the end of the tour, but first I want to speak with you, and hear about your thoughts and your struggles in the places where you live and work."

For Lobbyists, High Gas Prices Are Good News
http://www.truthout.org/article/for-lobbyists-high-gas-prices-are-good-news Jim Snyder, of The Hill: "There may be one group of people who don't mind the soaring oil prices - lobbyists. Rising gas prices have provided steady employment on K Street, even if the spike has made it more expensive to fill up the SUVs lobbyists seem to favor. Advocates of various stripes have had to fend off a variety of legislation that would do everything from opening OPEC up to antitrust lawsuits, to allowing oil and gas developers access to offshore areas now off-limits, to taxing 'windfall profits' the industry now gets and redirecting the money to promote renewable energy."

Return to Old Spy Rules Is Seen as Deadline Nears
http://www.truthout.org/article/return-old-spy-rules-is-seen-deadline-nears Eric Lichtblau, of The New York Times: "With Congress at an impasse over the government's spy powers, Congressional and intelligence officials are bracing for the possibility that the government might have to revert to the old rules of terrorist surveillance, a situation that some officials predict could leave worrisome gaps in intelligence."

VIDEO Bill Moyers: The Patriot's Dream
http://www.truthout.org/article/bill-moyers-the-patriots-dream Bill Moyers on the importance of substantive journalism for a healthy democracy.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Reading

by April Lidinsky

The soaking rains and heat we’ve had over the past week have rocketed my garden into high gear, and gotten me thinking about growth of all kinds. I am still holding in my mind last week’s School Board-members-in-training meeting, at which Lifelong Learners were upheld as the uber-model of citizen-servant. It’s a model I hope I emulate, as a hungry reader.

I just signed up my daughter for the public library’s summer reading club – a fun way to keep track of the wanderings of one’s imagination during these generous months -- and my own reading list has diversified for summer, too.

In fact, I’m reading a book about reading right now – a glorious little meditation by French author Daniel Pennac, titled Better Than Life. (It contains a “Reader’s Bill of Rights” that is essential reading.)

Here’s a taste, to whet the appetite of any reader hoping to grow as fast as a pole bean in early June heat. Pennac is describing here the power of reading aloud to his son:

Without realizing it, we were discovering one of the essential functions of
stories – and more than that, of art itself – which is to call a truce in the
daily battle we fight.

Love was given a new
skin.

Everything was freely bestowed. (Pennac 36)

Helping the Katrina Homeless

The Editors
New York Times

New Orleans is struggling with a growing number of sick and disabled people who have become homeless since the hurricane. This crisis will only get worse until local, state and federal officials come together behind a plan that finds short-term housing for them immediately, and permanent affordable housing for them quickly.

Congress can start by approving a modest, $73 million in funding to house many of the region’s ill and disabled residents, who would also be provided with psychiatric and social services. Such a measure passed the Senate, but it is facing resistance in the House.

Congress also needs to take at least two additional steps to prevent even more people from becoming homeless in New Orleans, where rents have soared since the storm. It should extend the disaster housing assistance program, which is set to expire in March 2009, so more people are not forced into the streets. It should also rewrite federal disaster law to permit the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide the long-term assistance that thousands of hurricane survivors are clearly going to need.

In New Orleans, homeless services agencies estimate that the homeless population has doubled since the storm. The homeless are said to be sicker and more severely disabled than in the past. Outreach workers have come across people suffering from severe mental disorders, as well as from cancer, AIDS and end-stage kidney disease.

In what could be a harbinger of things to come, 30 percent of the people surveyed in one homeless encampment reported that they had moved onto the streets after being cut off from Federal Emergency Management Agency housing assistance or while living in a household that had lost the benefit.

The state of Louisiana has committed itself to creating 3,000 units of supportive housing targeted to extremely low-income families, which includes many people with disabilities and special needs. But for the units to be affordable, Congress must pass the $73 million in funding to pay for rent subsidies.

This would be a terrible place to economize. The dollar amount is small, and the lives of some of this country’s most vulnerable citizens — who were already abandoned once by their government — are at stake.

It's a different country

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

Fervent supporters of Barack Obama like to say that putting him in the White House would transform America. With all due respect to the candidate, that gets it backward. Mr. Obama is an impressive speaker who has run a brilliant campaign — but if he wins in November, it will be because our country has already been transformed.

Mr. Obama’s nomination wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. It’s possible today only because racial division, which has driven U.S. politics rightward for more than four decades, has lost much of its sting.

And the de-racialization of U.S. politics has implications that go far beyond the possibility that we’re about to elect an African-American president. Without racial division, the conservative message — which has long dominated the political scene — loses most of its effectiveness.

Take, for example, that old standby of conservatives: denouncing Big Government. Last week John McCain’s economic spokesman claimed that Barack Obama is President Bush’s true fiscal heir, because he’s “dedicated to the recent Bush tradition of spending money on everything.”

Now, the truth is that the Bush administration’s big-spending impulses have been largely limited to defense contractors. But more to the point, the McCain campaign is deluding itself if it thinks this issue will resonate with the public.

For Americans have never disliked Big Government in general. In fact, they love Social Security and Medicare, and strongly approve of Medicaid — which means that the three big programs that dominate domestic spending have overwhelming public support.

If Ronald Reagan and other politicians succeeded, for a time, in convincing voters that government spending was bad, it was by suggesting that bureaucrats were taking away workers’ hard-earned money and giving it to you-know-who: the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks, the welfare queen driving her Cadillac.

Take away the racial element, and Americans like government spending just fine.

But why has racial division become so much less important in American politics?

Part of the credit surely goes to Bill Clinton, who ended welfare as we knew it. I’m not saying that the end of Aid to Families With Dependent Children was an unalloyed good thing; it created a great deal of hardship. But the “bums on welfare” played a role in political discourse vastly disproportionate to the actual expense of A.F.D.C., and welfare reform took that issue off the table.

Another large factor has been the decline in urban violence.

As the historian Rick Perlstein documents in his terrific new book “Nixonland,” America’s hard right turn really began in 1966, when the Democrats suffered a severe setback in Congress — and Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.

The cause of that right turn, as Mr. Perlstein shows, was white fear of urban disorder — and the associated fear that fair housing laws would let dangerous blacks move into white neighborhoods. “Law and order” became the rallying cry of right-wing politicians, above all Richard Nixon, who rode that fear right into the White House.

But during the Clinton years, for reasons nobody fully understands, the wave of urban violence receded, and with it the ability of politicians to exploit Americans’ fear.

It’s true that 9/11 gave the fear factor a second wind: Karl Rove accusing liberals of being soft on terrorism sounded just like Spiro Agnew accusing liberals of being soft on crime. But the G.O.P.’s credibility as America’s defender has leaked away into the sands of Iraq.

Let me add one more hypothesis: although everyone makes fun of political correctness, I’d argue that decades of pressure on public figures and the media have helped drive both overt and strongly implied racism out of our national discourse. For example, I don’t think a politician today could get away with running the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.

Unfortunately, the campaign against misogyny hasn’t been equally successful.

By the way, it was during the heyday of the baby boom generation that crude racism became unacceptable. Mr. Obama, who has been dismissive of the boomers’ “psychodrama,” might want to give the generation that brought about this change, fought for civil rights and protested the Vietnam War a bit more credit.

Anyway, none of this guarantees an Obama victory in November. Racial division has lost much of its sting, but not all: you can be sure that we’ll be hearing a lot more about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and all that. Moreover, despite Hillary Clinton’s gracious, eloquent concession speech, some of her supporters may yet refuse to support the Democratic nominee.

But if Mr. Obama does win, it will symbolize the great change that has taken place in America. Racial polarization used to be a dominating force in our politics — but we’re now a different, and better, country.

Truthout roundup 6/9

Pentagon officials urged Guantanamo interrogators to trash notes; national average for gas prices hits four dollars a gallon; Obama maps out 50-state strategy; Afghans reflect on six years of war; US soldier and 20 others killed by suicide bomber in Iraq; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Guantanamo Interrogators Told to Trash Notes
http://www.truthout.org/article/gitmo-interrogators-told-trash-notes Michael Melia, of The Associated Press: "The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday. The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the US deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial."

Rural US Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average
http://www.truthout.org/article/rural-us-takes-worst-hit-gas-tops-4-average Clifford Krauss, of The New York Times: "Gasoline prices reached a national average of $4 a gallon for the first time over the weekend, adding more strain to motorists across the country. But the pain is not being felt uniformly. Across broad swaths of the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, the combination of low incomes, high gas prices and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets."

Obama Strategy: 50 States
http://www.truthout.org/article/obama-maps-a-nationwide-push-gop-strongholds Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, of The New York Times: "Senator Barack Obama's general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states - from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana - as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said."

A Tattered Afghanistan Reflects on Past Six Years
http://www.truthout.org/article/fear-disillusion-and-despair-notes-from-a-divided-land-peace-slips-away The Guardian UK: "Six years after the fall of the Taliban, Nato claims the war is being won. But as Peter Beaumont discovered in his journey across the country, the West is in danger of losing the peace as millions suffer the fallout from social and economic collapse. Afghanistan's problems spring from 'lies and promises that were not kept. There is no security. Everything is in disorder. And the poor are no better off than they were before. They have to take out loans that they cannot return.'"

Suicide Car Bomb Kills US Soldier, Wounds 20
http://www.truthout.org/article/suicide-car-bomb-kills-us-soldier-wounds-20 Sameer N. Yacoub, of The Associated Press: "A suicide truck bomber who concealed his explosives under tanned animal hides struck a US patrol base Sunday in northern Iraq, killing one US soldier and wounding 18 other Americans, US and Iraqi officials said. Two Iraqi contractors working at the base in Tamim province also were wounded, according to a brief statement from the military."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The "Progressive" open thread

by Don Wheeler

This post is by request of one of our readers.

I was wondering if you could post an entry giving your definition of “progressive”. Is being progressive the same as being liberal, a subset of liberalism, or something totally different? I’ve noticed that your website heavily promotes Democrats, yet you do have contributors that promote the Green Party. What does progressivism embrace politically? Does it include that most dreaded bugaboo of the American political/economic sphere, “socialism”? Can progressivism be a part of other traditions? For example, the Teddy Roosevelt Republican era was considered progressive, and the Conservative Party of Canada was once called the Progressive Conservative Party (thought I have a feeling that Canadian Conservatives are of a different breed than our U.S. neo-cons!). And…is it only a political stance, or an entire philosophy unto itself?

I’m asking this question not only to clear this up for me, but I think it is important that you take control of your title. I have no idea how many readers you have or how far your influence extends, but I do not doubt that if local conservatives get wind of your efforts, they will certainly tack onto you a definition of “progressive” that will not be supportive to you. It is best to stake your claim early, and give a clear definition from the start. So many pundits throw around terms like liberal, conservative, progressive, etc., all of which can have different meanings to different people. When it comes to ensuring that people understand your position, semantics is everything.



Sounds like an interesting project. I'll start things off and hope that others will pitch in. I also will repost this at the top of the page for a while, in hopes to draw more attention to it.

DonVila said:

For me, being progressive is more of a philosophy than a political stance. It is foremost (in the Unitarian/Universalist vernacular) "a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being". It is a belief that, in a democracy, government should work towards the betterment of the many - rather than the few. The particulars of achieving these ends are not important. But all public policy should be judged on this basis.

I grew up in a progressive Christian household - my paternal grandfather Wendell was a Congregational minister. My elders took Jesus at his word that we should care most about those with the greatest challenges. And they stressed that I should always strive to learn more about people who are less like me. Because, for the most part - in a practical way - we are all so alike.

I think it's really that simple for me.

I'm eager to hear what others think.

About our priorities

War bill helps Iraqis, may ignore Katrina victims

By JOHN MORENO GONZALES,
AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A long way from Iraq and the war debate in Washington, Herman Moore sat outside a tent in a downtown New Orleans homeless camp, trying to make sense of a proposal that helps Iraqi war refugees but will likely exclude Hurricane Katrina victims.

"Messed up is not the phrase. I think you know the phrase," Moore said. "This place has been forgotten, just forgotten."

The 56-year-old lifelong city resident is referring to Congress' plan to spend $212 billion to finance the war in Iraq. In the massive spending bill, $350 million is set aside to help Iraqi refugees while just $73 million has been allotted to help shelter physically and mentally disabled Katrina victims - and that money could be cut as early as Tuesday.

Along with funding the war through the first month of the next president's term, the bill provides Jordan's military $100 million and Mexico's armed forces $50 million. In response, lawmakers like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu have attached over $30 billion to the proposal for what they see as domestic priorities.However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must trim the bill or face a threatened veto from President Bush. While the California Democrat supports the housing money for 3,000 rent-aid vouchers, it is part of $2.9 billion in Katrina assistance that may end up being cut.

Landrieu said the housing assistance funds are vital to a city that has seen its homeless population double to an estimated 12,000 since the 2005 disaster.

"I fully support giving our troops the funding they need and am concerned about the plight of Iraqi refugees," the Democrat wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "But we cannot neglect the most pressing emergency here at home along the Gulf Coast."

Unfortunately for Landrieu, some fellow Democrats don't have that appetite for spending. A group of 49 congressional Democrats, known as the Blue Dog Coalition, support cutting the housing vouchers in an effort to tame the national debt. While declining to comment on the prospect of helping Iraqi refugees while overlooking Katrina victims, Blue Dog leader Rep. Allen Boyd wrote in an e-mail that the $9 trillion national debt includes significant amounts financed by foreign banks.

"In this bill and others, the Blue Dogs and I are pushing for our priorities to be paid for, instead of borrowing the money from China that will have to be paid back with interest by our children and grandchildren," Boyd said.

Those arguments don't mean much to Patrick Clark, 43, as he stocked his tent with donated food at the homeless camp Friday. He said the government was all too willing to increase the debt with war spending but is turning its back on those most in need of help after Katrina.

"People died. People lost homes, jobs," said Clark, a former truck driver who has had trouble finding work since the storm. "We should help people right here."

Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and killed 1,600 in Louisiana and Mississippi. In its wake, homelessness has become painfully visible.

A 150-person shantytown in front of City Hall where Clark and Moore lived has since moved to a freeway underpass near the Louisiana Superdome.The residents are a mix of people suffering from mental health problems, drug addiction and physical ailments. In recent weeks, it has thinned out with the warmer temperatures, some people going to shelters and others into gutted and abandoned homes.

Tourists, professional sports teams and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards have visited the site, at times equating the several blocks of tattered men and women to a refugee camp.

"When the Katrina disaster happened we couldn't help but notice here was forced displacement in the richest country in the world," said Joel Charny, vice president for policy for Refugees International, a Washington-based humanitarian advocacy organization.

"You just don't want to be in a situation where it's either money for people who are disabled and really hurting in New Orleans, as opposed to money for people who are dislocated because of the war in Iraq," he said. "Our view, at the risk of sounding naive, is that money would be available for both."

Advocates have lobbied for the housing vouchers for years. They were cut from the 2006 war supplemental bill under similar political pressures."I'm pleading with them not to negotiate with the lives of 3,000 of our most vulnerable citizens," said Valerie Keller, co-chair of the Louisiana Supportive Housing Coalition. "People have been languishing in New Orleans for two and a half years."

Truthout roundup 6/8

Dan Rather blasts corporate news at a media reform conference; New York Mayor Bloomberg invites Obama and McCain to an "historic" town hall meeting; gun violence in Washington DC prompts police checkpoints; with proof of abuse, a Guantanamo defense lawyer asks court to dismiss charges; setback to counter-terrorism efforts on Afghanistan-Pakistan border; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Dan Rather Slams Corporate News at Conference
http://www.truthout.org/article/dan-rather-slams-corporate-news-conference Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather delivered a blistering critique of corporate news media on Saturday night at the National Conference for Media Reform hosted by Free Press. Read the full text of Rather's prepared remarks.

New York Mayor, ABC News Invite Obama, McCain to Historic Town Hall
http://www.truthout.org/article/new-york-mayor-abc-news-invite-obama-mccain-historic-town-hall New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ABC News have invited Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain to participate in a 90-minute, primetime town hall meeting to be broadcast live from Federal Hall in New York City. Both Obama and McCain have indicated a willingness to participate in such a forum - unprecedented in the history of modern presidential campaigns.

Groups to Monitor DC Vehicle Checkpoints
http://www.truthout.org/article/groups-monitor-dc-vehicle-checkpoints The Associated Press reports police in the nation's capital set up controversial vehicle checkpoints Saturday in a neighborhood reeling from gun violence, with civil liberties groups considering legal action and closely observing officers.

Detainee's Attorney Seeks Dismissal Over Abuse
http://www.truthout.org/article/detainees-attorney-seeks-dismissal-over-abuse The Washington Post's Josh White reports that a military defense attorney for a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has asked that all charges against his client be dismissed. The detainee was subject to an abusive practice called the "frequent flier program," which meant he was moved repeatedly from one detention cell to another in quick intervals and usually at night, a program designed to deprive detainees of sleep.

Militants' Rise in Pakistan Points to Opportunity Lost
http://www.truthout.org/article/militants-rise-pakistan-points-opportunity-lost Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times reports that the US and its allies have squandered an opportunity to cement alliances with tribal elders they regard as key to driving Islamic extremists out of havens along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. As a result, counter-terrorism officials and diplomats say they now face a long and costly effort to regain influence there.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/7

Burma's junta forcing storm refugees from shelters; Bob Herbert says we should "savor the moment"; Obama beating McCain in battle for Latino voters; mixed results of FEMA trailer park closings; deadly disease supposedly cured by stem cells; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Burma's Junta Evicting Cyclone Victims From Shelters
http://www.truthout.org/article/burmas-junta-evicting-cyclone-victims-from-shelters The New York Times reports: "Within a week of the storm that flooded the delta here last month with waves as high as 20 feet, the monasteries in this village were swarming with 14,000 people who had lost their families, homes and livelihoods. Now those refugees are all but gone."

Bob Herbert Savor the Moment
http://www.truthout.org/article/savor-moment The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert says, "Friday was the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Had he lived, he would be 82 now. It’s impossible to gauge the what-ifs of history. But nevertheless, I wonder what Kennedy, a complicated man with a profound sense of the moral issues at play in politics, would have made of the idea that Barack Obama has captured the Democratic Party’s nomination for president."

Latinos Favor Obama Over McCain
http://www.truthout.org/article/latinos-favor-obama-over-mccain In The Los Angeles Times, Peter Wallsten reports: "Some Democrats have worried that Latinos view Obama warily and will be drawn to Republican nominee John McCain, who has been popular in that community and has campaigned in it aggressively - already airing Spanish-language radio ads in the heavily Latino battlegrounds of New Mexico and Nevada. But there are signs that Obama begins the general election battle for Latinos with significant advantages."

FEMA Park Closures Test Promise of Recovery
http://www.truthout.org/article/fema-park-closures-test-promise-recovery Shaila Dewan of The New York Times says, "The closing of Renaissance Village, near Baton Rouge, and the other remaining FEMA parks represents the final chapter in one of the largest and most tumultuous efforts by the federal government to provide emergency housing to a displaced population. Over the course of two years and nine months, the Federal Emergency Management Agency put up 9,000 families in trailer parks scattered around the Gulf area, where residents endured cramped, inadequate and often poisonous conditions."

Stem Cells Apparently Cure Boy's Fatal Disease
http://www.truthout.org/article/stem-cells-apparently-cure-boys-fatal-disease Thomas H. Maugh II, The Los Angeles Times, writes: "Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, researchers have apparently cured a fatal genetic disease in a two-year-old Minneapolis boy, which could open the door for other stem cell treatments."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/6

Senate panel rebukes Bush and Cheney for exaggerating the case for war with Iraq; Robert F. Kennedy's children remember him 40 years after his assassination; Obama and Dean team up to test 50-state strategy; Iraqi lawmakers tell Congress they oppose the security deal being negotiated by al-Maliki and Bush; senior McCain staffer confirms reports that McCain supports warrantless wiretapping; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Senate Panel Rejects Case for War
http://www.truthout.org/article/senate-panel-rejects-case-war Greg Miller, of The Los Angeles Times: "In a long-awaited report, the Senate Intelligence Committee rebuked President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney today for making prewar claims -- particularly that Iraq had close ties to Al Qaeda -- that were not backed by available intelligence. The report, which was supported by some Republicans but criticized by many others, accuses the president and other members of his administration of repeatedly exaggerating the evidence of an Al Qaeda connection to take advantage of the charged climate after the September 11th attacks."

The Kennedys Remembering Our Father
http://www.truthout.org/article/remembering-our-father Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for The New York Times: "Forty years ago today, as he was celebrating his victory in California's Democratic presidential primary, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. To mark the occasion, the Op-Ed page invited his children to share their memories of him. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: 'Do you know how lucky you are?' he asked me, and then repeated, 'Do you know how lucky you are? You have a great responsibility. Do something for these children. Do something for our country.'"

Sam Stein Obama and Dean Team Up to Recast the Political Map
http://www.truthout.org/article/obama-and-dean-team-up-recast-political-map Sam Stein, of Huffington Post: "Sixteen months after he launched his campaign for the White House, Sen. Barack Obama may, just now, be entering his campaign's most perilous stage. Facing a rift of sorts within the Democratic Party and concerns over the scope of his political base, the Illinois Democrat is pursuing an unconventional path to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave: unlike those before him, he has pledged to redraw the electoral map by putting new, traditionally Republican states in play. A slew of political factors will determine Obama's success in turning red states blue. But the Senator, in no small measure, will be aided in his task by reforms that preceded his run for the presidency. For all of the hoopla surrounding the candidates, the 2008 presidential election will be the first truly national test of the viability and prescience of Howard Dean's 50-state strategy."

Iraqis Wary of US Security Agreement
http://www.truthout.org/article/iraqis-wary-us-security-agreement Anne Flaherty, of The Associated Press: "Iraqi lawmakers told Congress on Wednesday that they have serious misgivings about a long-term security agreement being negotiated this year with President Bush, putting themselves squarely in line with Democrats who say hashing out a deal before Bush leaves office is bad timing. Opposition in the US and Iraqi legislative bodies underscores the political hurdles facing Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as they try to settle the terms under which US troops can continue operating in Iraq after a United Nations authorization expires at the end of the year."

Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretaps
http://www.truthout.org/article/adviser-says-mccain-backs-bush-wiretaps Charlie Savae, of The New York Times: "A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush's program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team. In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/5

Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control revealed; Guantanamo trial will be a test to justice system; Robert Scheer on John McCain; Caroline Kennedy to help Obama choose vice president; US to conduct missile defense today; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Revealed: Secret Plan to Keep Iraq Under US Control
http://www.truthout.org/article/revealed-secret-plan-keep-iraq-under-us-control Patrick Cockburn, of The Independent UK: "A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November. The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country."

US Justice on Trial at Guantanamo
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-justice-trial-guantanamo Adam Zagorin, of Time: "Confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators are to be arraigned at Guantanamo on Thursday before a military commission, ahead of a trial later this year. Pentagon officials like to compare the Guantanamo process to the Nuremberg tribunals that convicted top Nazi war criminals at the end of World War II. But critics say the Nuremberg analogy actually highlights the shortcomings of military justice at the US Naval base."

Robert Scheer What Makes McCain Tick?
http://www.truthout.org/article/what-makes-mccain-tick Robert Scheer, of Truthdig: "Will the real John McCain stand up? Actually, I don't expect him to, now that he is the Republican presidential candidate, pandering to the irrationalities that drive his party. Nor is it likely that the fawning mass media will pressure him to the point of clarity. But I remain genuinely confused as to what makes him tick. McCain is the most confounding of candidates, veering as he does from the stance of provincial reaction to sophisticated enlightenment within an almost instantaneous time frame."

Caroline Kennedy to Aid Obama in VP Pick
http://www.truthout.org/article/caroline-kennedy-aid-obama-vp-pick Kristin Jensen and Chris Dolmetsch, of Bloomberg: "Barack Obama, in his first day as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, named Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Jim Johnson and Eric Holder to lead the search for a running mate. All three have strong ties to Washington. Kennedy Schlossberg is the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy. Johnson served as chief executive officer of the government-chartered mortgage-finance company Fannie Mae, and Holder worked as a deputy US attorney general under President Bill Clinton."

US Plans Hawaiian Missile Test Thursday
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-plans-hawaiian-missile-test-thursday The Associated Press: "The US military on Thursday plans to intercept a ballistic missile in its first sea-based missile defense test since the USS Lake Erie shot down an errant satellite in a real-world mission earlier this year. The test, off Kauai, is the latest test of the military's sea-based missile defenses, called the Aegis ballistic missile defense program. The military will fire a Scud-like missile, which has a range of a few hundred miles, from a decommissioned amphibious assault ship, the USS Tripoli."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Contemplating a Run ...

by April Lidinsky

Along with over 100 people on Tuesday night, I attended the Chamber of Commerce’s “Community Coalition for School Boards – Candidate Workshop,” held in the Student Activity Center at IU South Bend because of the enormous (pre-registration required) turn-out.

News coverage

It was exciting to see who showed up – beyond 4 school board members (only one of whom voted to keep Superintendent Zimmerman). The diversity was heartening to me, really – on a visual scan, it seemed to be folks from a wide range of backgrounds. (The presenters were all white, and almost entirely male – just a reminder of the existing power structure in town. It’s interesting to consider what it would mean for our school board to reflect the rich diversity of South Bend.)

We had thick packets, free refreshments, and a full evening’s program of speakers, whose mission was to help all of us figure out what makes a “great – not a good, but a great” school board member. One speaker, Dr. Stuart Yager, who has experience as a superintendent in more than one state, argued for “a tolerance for ambiguity” – as well as being a person with vision, and being willing to listen. His key point, though, was that “Great school board members Love To Learn.” They are life-long learners who embody excitement about education, and who model it. What a great test for any of us, really, as we think about all the ways we model for children (our own, our nieces and nephews, or the neighbor kids) an excitement about engaging with the world, and stretching ourselves.

There was plenty of nuts-and-bolts advice, too, about how much time it takes to be a school board member (short answer: it’s seasonal, but it can be anywhere from 8 hours a week to much more), what resources it takes (Dr. Bill Hojnacki, former SBSC board member, recommended having friends who are willing to financially support your bid!), and what to read (John Carver and Miriam Mahew Carver’s Reinventing Your Board and the state and national School Board Association websites).

Really, what I came away with was that we have to embody what we hope for our children – and to make good on our beliefs that education is the foundation of democracy.

I hope many folks in that room are up for the challenge. For myself, I need another year or two of attending school board meetings, talking with people about their hopes for the public school system (especially friends who have chosen not to put their kids in the public schools), and test myself to see if I have the “tolerance for ambiguity” and strength it takes to make difficult decisions for the greater good … potentially at the expense of others. In other words, it takes leadership.

I’ll echo Don: “Can we do it?”

We can’t afford not to.

Truthout roundup 6/4

Truthout's Maya Schenwar on the Department of Defense's outsourcing oversight of contractors; Clinton stops short of conceding; McCain gambling on Gramm; Israeli prime minister warns Iran; Congress attempts to stop the Pentagon propaganda machine; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Maya Schenwar DOD Contracts Out Contractor Oversight
http://www.truthout.org/article/dod-contracts-out-contractor-oversight Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "The Department of Defense (DOD) now employs contractors to keep contractors in check in Iraq, under a new framework for war industry management solidified last month. In April, the Pentagon split its largest military contract in Iraq - formerly belonging to the Houston-based corporation KBR, Inc. - among companies Fluor and DynCorp, in addition to KBR. A fourth company, the British-American service provider Serco, is responsible for managing and overseeing the other three, according to its contract, signed last year and now in effect."

Clinton: "No Decisions Tonight"
http://www.truthout.org/article/clinton-no-decisions-tonight Sam Youngman, of The Hill: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), a winner in the South Dakota primary but defeated in the battle for the nomination, sounded a farewell note to the campaign trail Tuesday night, but she stopped short of conceding defeat to presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). In her remarks to supporters in New York, Clinton said she would take a few days to talk with party leaders and supporters before making a decision 'with the best interest of our party and our country guiding my way. This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight,' Clinton said to thunderous applause."

John McCain's Gramm Gamble
http://www.truthout.org/article/john-mccains-gramm-gamblePatricia Kilday Hart, of The Texas Observer: "The GOP presidential nominee is relying on the ex-senator who helped bring you the mortgage crisis and Rick Perry. In the early evening of Friday, December 15, 2000, with Christmas break only hours away, the US Senate rushed to pass an essential, 11,000-page government reauthorization bill. In what one legal textbook would later call 'a stunning departure from normal legislative practice,' the Senate tacked on a complex, 262-page amendment at the urging of Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. There was little debate on the floor. According to the Congressional Record, Gramm promised that the amendment-also known as the Commodity Futures Modernization Act-along with other landmark legislation he had authored, would usher in a new era for the US financial services industry."

Olmert Vows to Squelch Iran's Nuclear Hopes by "All Possible Means"
http://www.truthout.org/article/olmert-vows-squelch-irans-nuclear-hopes-all-possible-meansAgence France-Presse: "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that Iran's quest for nuclear capacity must be stopped by all possible means, and urged the world to warn Tehran of its devastating repercussions. In a keynote speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Olmert, whose three-day visit to Washington has been clouded by calls at home for his resignation over suspicion of graft, also said he believed peace with the Palestinians was 'truly attainable.'"

Banning Military Propaganda Could Be Hard to Do
http://www.truthout.org/article/banning-military-propaganda-could-be-hard-do Anne Flaherty, of The Associated Press: "Congressional Democrats want to ban Pentagon propaganda on the Iraq war, but they are likely to find that enforcement is easier said than done. An existing legal prohibition, for example, didn't deter a Pentagon program aimed at influencing retired military officers frequently interviewed in the media. It also didn't prevent a culture within the Bush administration that former White House spokesman Scott McClellan claims favored propaganda over honesty in selling the war to the public."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Being There"

by Don Wheeler

That was the title of the last Peter Sellers motion picture (what an anachronistic term) where he went from Chauncey, the White House gardener, to President Chauncey Gardener - through his ability to inspire others via his vacuous non-sequiturs. Sound familiar?

But I'm thinking of a different case of being there.

Last night's public meeting of the South Bend School Corporation was a very strange experience for me.

I got there a bit late, and didn't find any copies of the agenda. It was standing room only - that was fine with me. I did know a major business item was taking public comments about proposed remedies for schools on probationary status - and that seemed to be just getting underway as I arrived. It was done school by school; residents would identify themselves and their address, then make their comment. A buzzer would sound if their allotted time expired.

There were many thoughtful comments. Many of our fellow citizens, clearly nervous, spoke their hearts. They spoke of their efforts, the dreams they had for their children...Some spoke of ways they felt at least somewhat defeated by the system. Parents spoke, teachers spoke and childless citizens of the community as well.

One young mother had some comments which particularly reached me. In essence, she wondered aloud why things seemed to be going well for schools near the perimeter of the corporation, but not so well for those in the interior. Gulp!

I've chronicled our Kindergarten Odyssey, and how we settled on our neighborhood Primary Center - Forrest G. Hay. By any measure, it is a great success story. But it's as close the perimeter as any school could be.

It was clear many people in the room had made something of a habit of attending these meetings. For the less initated (like me) not knowing the customs and procedure of these meetings added some mystery. And since I'd read the evaluation had been completed on Dr. Zimmerman's performance as Superintendant last week, the subsequent agenda item to dump him took me completely off guard.

Being there, I was able to feel the varying moods in the room. I could not detect a single individual there who was pleased with the decision. My guess is some people expected it, many (if not most) did not. My recollection is that a collective gasp was uttered, then the boos began.

I was surprise how upset I was. But I think everyone's sense of fair play had been violated. I don't know of anyone in the community who enjoyed more public support than Robert Zimmerman. But he was fired (I don't care what they call it) and we don't know why. That rankles.

I hope Dr. Zimmerman will follow Board member Bill Sniadecki's suggestion that he release the evaluation. I'm assuming that was a friendly suggestion.

I saw Carolyn Peterson for the first time. Ms. Peterson is President of our local NEA chapter - the union (and bargaining agent) of and for our teachers. Their contract is expiring, on top of the mess our School Board has created. But that wasn't what she was there to talk about. Again and again she wearily made her way to the microphone with important information - throughout the roll call of probationary schools. She was there as an advocate for teachers, but much more as an advocate for our children. At the end of the meeting, when the public was allowed comment on "non-agenda items", Ms. Peterson (clearly heartbroken) took her turn expressing bitter disappointment with the Board's action.

Ann Rosen's and KimberlyBarnbrook's (at-large) terms expire at the end of this year. They were of the five. Every resident of the South Bend School Corporation can help sponsor retirement parties for them by voting for successors.

Tonight, the Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a program for people with an interest in running for School Board. The venue has been changed (I suspect) due to a higher than expected demand. I will be there, April Lidinsky will be there along with people I saw last night and other motivated citizens.

"Can we fix it?" (Bob the Builder)

"Yes we can!"

Calling Dr. Doom

By DAVID BROOKS
New York Times

It took Christopher Columbus about 70 days to get to the New World — a bit less than half as long as it took us to get through the 2008 primary calendar. But by Tuesday night, we’ll have reached our destination, and people in the Obama and McCain camps are feeling good about themselves.

Neither campaign is planning a major pivot for the fall. Both are confident they have a strategy for victory.

So my role today is Dr. Doom — to break through unmerited confidence and raise the anxiety level in both camps.

Since effectively wrapping up the nomination, Barack Obama has lost 7 of the last 13 primaries. Obama’s confidants say that this doesn’t matter. In states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, primary election results are no predictor of general election results.

That’s dubious. Though voters now prefer Democratic policy positions on most major issues by between 11 and 25 points, Obama has only a 0.7 percent lead over McCain in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. His favorability ratings among independents has dropped from 63 percent to 49 percent since late February.

Furthermore, Obama has spent the past several months rolling up his sleeves and furiously courting working-class votes. It doesn’t seem to be working. Ron Brownstein of the National Journal calculates that Obama did no better among those voters in a late state like Pennsylvania than he did for 26 out of 29 earlier primary states where he lost the working class.

There is something about his magic that resonates powerfully with the well-educated but doesn’t translate with the less-educated. As a result, you get all these odd poll results. Voters agree with Obama’s original position on Iraq, but according to the Pew Research Center, they trust McCain more to handle the issue.

We haven’t had two presidential candidates as far removed from the mainstream suburban lifestyle. McCain’s family has been military for generations. But Obama’s path through the university towns is particularly elusive.

Peter Hart did a focus group for the Annenberg Public Policy Center with independent voters in Virginia that captured reactions you hear all the time. These independent voters were intrigued by Obama’s “change” message, but they knew almost nothing about him except that he used to go to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church. It’s as if they can’t hang Obama’s life onto anything from their own immediate experiences and, as a result, he is an abstraction. As Hart points out, people’s inability to come up with a clear narrative about Obama could make it easy to label him in the fall.

Finally, the Obama people are too convinced that they can define McCain as Bush III. The case is just factually inaccurate. McCain will be able to pull out dozens of instances, from torture to global warming to spending, in which he broke with his party, as Rush Limbaugh will tell you.

The Republican camp, meanwhile, is possessed of the belief that Obama is a charming lightweight. Republican senators have contempt for Obama’s post-partisan image, arguing that he and his staff refused to even participate in backroom bipartisan discussion groups.

But Obama is far from a lightweight, as Republicans will learn if he agrees to do joint town meetings with McCain. McCain’s jabs that Obama is naïve will backfire. In this climate, a candidate can’t define the other guy, only himself. When McCain attacks Obama for being naïve, all voters see is McCain being sour and negative.

More fundamentally, McCain’s problem is that his party is unfit to govern. As research from the Republican pollster David Winston has shown, any policy becomes less popular when people learn that Republicans are supporting it. If the G.O.P. sponsored the sunrise, voters would prefer gloom. Many Republicans are under the illusion that they are in trouble because they’ve betrayed their core principles. The sad truth is that if they’d been more conservative, they’d be even further behind.

I’ve spent the past few years trying to find conservative experts to provide remedies for middle-class economic anxiety. Let me tell you, the state of free-market thinking on this subject is pathetic. There are a few creative thinkers (most of them under 30), but for the most part, McCain is forced to run in an intellectual void.

Today, he is scheduled to give a forceful speech on why “reform” is better than “change.” He plans to describe how to remobilize government and address economic anxiety. But McCain’s reform message is only being carried by him and a few bloggers. Obama can draw on a coherent body of economic work and 10,000 unified voices.

This election will be asymmetric. Obama has to come up with a personal narrative voters can relate to. McCain needs to come up with a one-sentence description for why he represents a clean break and a compelling future.

Neither campaign has done that. I don’t know what they’re so happy about.

Truthout roundup 6/3

Obama may claim victory tonight; global warming is hitting Spain hard; Bush shows support for Musharraf; Ron Paul is taking it to the convention; Senator Byrd is hospitalized; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Obama Pushes Effort to Claim Victory Tonigh
thttp://www.truthout.org/article/obama-pushes-effort-claim-victory-tonight Adam Nagourney, of The New York Times: "Senator Barack Obama's campaign began a concerted effort on Monday to rally undecided superdelegates around him so he can claim the Democratic presidential nomination after the primaries end on Tuesday night. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton invited fund-raisers and other supporters to an election-night rally in New York City where, aides said, she was prepared to deliver what they described as a farewell speech that summed up the case for her candidacy. They said Mrs. Clinton was not likely to withdraw from the race on Tuesday night, probably waiting until later in the week, once Mr. Obama's victory appeared clear."

Global Warming Africanizing Spain
http://www.truthout.org/article/global-warming-africanizing-spain Elisabeth Rosenthal, of The New York Times: "Southern Spain has long been plagued by cyclical drought, but the current crisis, scientists say, probably reflects a more permanent climate change brought on by global warming. And it is a harbinger of a new kind of conflict."

Bush Continues Support for Musharraf
http://www.truthout.org/article/bush-continues-support-musharraf Saeed Shah, of McClatchy Newspapers: "President Bush reached out Friday to support longtime ally Pervez Musharraf, calling the embattled Pakistani president to assure him of continued US backing. Musharraf's demise is now considered almost a foregone conclusion in Pakistan, but Bush's intervention appeared to be a powerful signal that Washington wouldn't welcome Musharraf's exit."

For Paul, It Ain't Over Till It's Over
http://www.truthout.org/article/for-paul-it-aint-over-till-its-over Daniel Stone, of Newsweek: "John McCain may be the presumptive nominee, but the Republican race isn't over-at least not to Ron Paul. The Texas congressman remains an official GOP candidate and has about $5 million in the bank, and a mighty band of fanatical followers. Will the fiercely antiwar conservative become a distraction for McCain at the Republican convention? Paul spoke with Newsweek's Daniel Stone."

Senator Byrd Hospitalized After Suffering a High Fever
http://www.truthout.org/article/senator-byrd-hospitalized-after-suffering-a-high-fever J. Taylor Rushing, of The Hill: "Senator Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) was admitted to the hospital for the third time this year on Monday night, this time for overnight observation after suffering a high fever. Byrd, 90, the longest-serving senator in US history, was taken to a Virginia hospital in the early evening and will stay there overnight after feeling ill throughout the day, spokesman Jesse Jacobs said. Jacobs said Byrd had felt 'lethargic and sluggish' throughout the day, but attended the lone Senate vote of the day, at 5:30 p.m."

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Blue" Meets "Green" Energy

Introducing Idea for Hydro Plant to Local Union and Labor Organizations


Today I presented my brief audio/slide Power Point show, "The Sustaining Waters of the Sheggwe" at the St Joe Valley Building and Construction Trades Council meeting. Present were leaders of various union contractors and labor organizations. Robin Forsythe, a union plumber with Local 172, facilitated the opportunity for me to speak to this group.


The slide show is a history of the river’s importance to our city’s birth and its potential for hydroelectric power on the East Race. "Green energy" projects such as the East Race hydroelectric generator is a natural fit for union support; union contractors pay living wages, health insurance and retirement benefits to their members. Human rights for workers is every bit as important for achieving sustainability as is ensuring our energy sources are clean and renewable.


Gary Gilot, South Bend’s Director of Public Works followed up with additional information about the East Race hydro project. According to Mr. Gilot, the city has received the updated feasibility information from Lawson-Fisher Associates. Mr. Gilot noted that the design of the generator includes three turbines, two which would be turned by the river’s flow at all times and a third that would act as a back-up. Mr. Gilot envisioned that the third turbine could be utilized during periods when the river was high, such as during a rain storm. If the hydro plant’s electricity was used to power the water treatment facility, this surge in energy provided by the river would dovetail nicely with the water treatment’s higher demand for electricity during storms. Mr. Gilot also reported that the city is composing proposals for various entities in the city such to try to secure corporate sponsorship for this project. He noted that certain not-for-profits may be interested in adding "green energy" in their portfolios.


Jim Sheetz, President of the Building Trades and Business Agent for Plumbers and Pipe-fitters Local 171 agreed that labor organizations could support a project like this in South Bend. Mr. Sheets noted that he would write letters of support for the hydro project to Mayor Steve Luecke as well as Congressman Joe Donnelly and too let these elected officials know that labor organizations support a "green energy" project such as this. The East Race hydroelectric generator could be a win-win project for all entities involved.


Robin and I plan to meet within two weeks to form a strategy for taking this idea to the next step for labor support.


Stay tuned.

School Board dumps Dr. Zimmerman

by Don Wheeler

After a lengthy, yet somewhat perfunctory session, South Bend School Corporation Board President Sheila Bergeron dropped the bomb. From their closed session she introduced a motion to instruct the Board's legal consul to initiate buyout negotiations for the balance of Dr. Robert Zimmerman's contract as Superintendent of Schools.

The same Board who recently couldn't find about $130,000 to fund all day Kindergarten has now committed to spend more than that to pay Dr. Zimmerman not to work. This by a roll call vote of 5 - 2.

I picked quite a first school board meeting to attend. An enterprising fellow with a fruit stand would have sold out in minutes.

The gallery was stunned and incensed. Teachers had strongly backed Dr. Zimmerman, the South Bend Tribune warned against this action - all to no avail. Community member after community member reminded the Board of their fiscal duties, that they had just rejected full day Kindergarten and teachers in the district are without a contract. Many vowed to defeat the five members voting affirmative.

Interestingly, Bill Snaidecki, the first to speak in opposition, suggested Mr. Zimmerman make the Board's evaluation public - so we all could see what led to his ouster. I couldn't read Dr. Zimmerman's attitude about his suggestion. Dawn Jones also spoke out strongly in opposition.

None of the other five had anything to say on the matter.

Truthout roundup 6/2

Truthout's Maya Schenwar interviews Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky; McClellan thinks Rove should have been fired; US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships; Tom Engelhardt on General Ricardo Sanchez's book; McCain's ties to Phil Gramm are hurting his campaign; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Interview With Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
http://www.truthout.org/article/interview-with-congresswoman-jan-schakowsky Maya Schenwar, of Truthout: "Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has had enough of the war in Iraq, and she's had enough of the military contractors that are making it possible. 'These are the guys who carry guns - I would call them mercenaries - who are engaged in inherently governmental activities,' she told me in a recent interview, noting that while contractors carry out many of the same functions as the military, they are held to much less stringent standards. 'One has to ask, 'Is it the policy of the United States of America that contractors can get away with murder?' And frankly, so far, it seems like the answer is 'yes.'"

McClellan: Bush Should Have Fired Rove
http://www.truthout.org/article/mcclellan-bush-should-have-fired-rove The Associated Press: "President Bush broke his promise to the country by refusing to fire aide Karl Rove for leaking a CIA agent's identity, said Scott McClellan, the president's chief spokesman for almost three years. 'I think the president should have stood by his word and that meant Karl should have left,' McClellan said Sunday in a broadcast interview about his new tell-all book, a scathing rebuke of the White House under Bush's leadership."

US Accused of Holding Terror Suspects on Prison Ships
http://www.truthout.org/article/us-accused-holding-terror-suspects-prison-ships Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor, of The Guardian UK: "The United States is operating 'floating prisons' to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees. Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained."

Tom Engelhardt Presidential Bloodlust
http://www.truthout.org/article/presidential-bloodlust Tom Engelhardt, of TomDispatch: "I was brought back with a start to just such evil-doers of my American screen childhood last week by a memoir from a once-upon-a-time insider of the Bush presidency. No, not former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who swept into the headlines by accusing the President of using 'propaganda' and the 'complicit enablers' of the media to take the US to war in 2002-2003. I'm thinking of another insider, former commander of US forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez."

Gramm-UBS Lobbyist Questions Dog McCain Campaign
http://www.truthout.org/article/gramm-ubs-lobbyist-questions-dog-mccain-campaign Mark Hosenball, of Newsweek: "For weeks now, John McCain's presidential campaign has faced awkward questions about the outside activities of several top advisers. Add one more name to the list: former Texas senator Phil Gramm, McCain's longtime friend and one of his five campaign co-chairs. According to McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker, the co-chair position affords Gramm 'broad input into the structure, financing and conduct of the campaign.'"

Appeal from freepress.net

Dear Don,

Don't let Corporate Media continue to enable government propaganda.
Take Action Now: Investigate the Propaganda

The country is still buzzing over a tell-all book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. In his explosive memoir, McClellan reveals that the Bush administration ran a "political propaganda campaign" to mislead the American public on the war in Iraq.

But he takes it one step further, implicating the mainstream media for its role in "enabling" this propaganda: "The national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House" in spreading the president's case for the war, McClellan writes. The mainstream media didn't live up to its watchdog reputation. "If it had, the country would have been better served."

This should be a shock to everyone. The president's own spokesman lays a large share of the blame for Bush's pro-war propaganda on the media's "deferential" treatment of White House spin.

Please become part of a growing people-powered campaign to investigate this scandal and make media more accountable to the public:

Make Mainstream Media Answer for Spreading Pro-War Propaganda

Click on the link above and sign a letter that urges House Committee Chairs Ike Skelton, John Tierney and Henry Waxman to convene full congressional hearings about propaganda in the news.

The media's complicity in promoting this war was confirmed Wednesday night by CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin who said that network executives had pushed her not to do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration as the nation readied for war.
"
The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation," Yellin told CNN's Anderson Cooper. (Watch the video).

More than 100,000 Free Press activists and allies have already urged their members of Congress to launch an investigation into the media's role in spreading pro-war propaganda. By joining their call, you will be part of a massive coalition of citizens, bloggers and independent media who refuse to let Big Media off the hook:
Expose the Propaganda 'Enablers' and End Fake News

McClellan's memoir comes on the heels of an April 20 New York Times exposé, which revealed an extensive -- and likely illegal -- Pentagon program to recruit and place pro-war military pundits on nearly every major news outlet in America. Congress has promised to investigate the Pentagon’s role in the scandal, but it shouldn't end there.

Our democracy is in peril when mainstream media fail to question the official view and put the interests of ordinary Americans first. This watchdog role is especially critical during a time of war.

Sign the letter and then tell your friends to help send a loud message to Congress: We're not backing down until the truth comes out.

Gratefully,

Timothy Karr
Campaign Director
Free Press Action Fund
http://www.freepress.net/

P.S. Thanks to you, Free Press is leading the charge to hold media accountable for spreading propaganda. Our next step is to run a powerful ad to put Congress on notice to act. Contribute now and send the message: We're not backing down.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Truthout roundup 6/1

Bush administration issues order to halt any new proposals for regulations on June 1; Obama campaign offers "negotiated surrender"; ten killed in Iraq suicide bombing; what realities lie behind the mythology of John McCain; economic impact of California chinook salmon bag limits; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org

Bush Administration Orders Stop to New Regulations
http://www.truthout.org/article/bush-administration-orders-stop-new-regulations Charlie Savage and Robert Pear report for The New York Times: "The Bush administration has told federal agencies that they have until June 1 to propose any new regulations, a move intended to avoid the rush of rules issued by previous administrations on their way out the door."

Hillary Clinton to Be Offered Dignified Exit
http://www.truthout.org/article/hillary-clinton-be-offered-dignified-exit In The Telegraph UK, Tim Shipman reports: "Hillary Clinton will be offered a dignified exit from the presidential race and the prospect of a place in Barack Obama's cabinet under plans for a 'negotiated surrender' of her White House ambitions being drawn up by Senator Obama's aides."

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least Ten West of Baghdad
http://www.truthout.org/article/suicide-bomber-kills-at-least-ten-west-baghdad Kim Gamel reports for The Associated Press: "A suicide bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint west of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 10 people including the local police chief, an official said."

Michael Tomasky Who Is John McCain?
http://www.truthout.org/article/test-footnotes-for-who-is-john-mccain In the New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky takes a detailed look at the realities behind the John McCain myth: "It is little remembered today that the political career of John Sidney McCain III, a career now thoroughly laundered in mythology, began with the help of several fortuities."

California Salmon Closure May Lead to Estimated $250 Million Loss
http://www.truthout.org/article/california-salmon-closure-may-lead-estimated-250-million-loss Dan Bacher writes for Sacramento News and Review: "Fishing for chinook salmon on the Sacramento and American rivers in downtown Sacramento, just a short distance from the state Capitol, is a unique tradition that has been an integral, iconic component of life in the capital city for decades."