Thursday, July 31, 2008

Truthout roundup 7/31

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write on Americans' responsibility to call out our wayward leaders; McCain's newfound enthusiasm for offshore drilling angers some supporters; lawmakers fear a fall shutdown of the federal government; Senator Coburn blocks aid for paralyzed veterans; more than ever, workers' hours are being trimmed to part time; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 07.31

Moyers and Winship The Wave of "Capitol Crimes" Continues
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write for Truthout: "Like the largesse he spread so bountifully to members of Congress and the White House staff - countless fancy meals, skybox tickets to basketball games and U2 concerts, golfing sprees in Scotland - Jack Abramoff is the gift that keeps on giving. The notorious lobbyist and his cohorts (including conservatives Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed) shook down Native American tribal councils and other clients for tens of millions of dollars, buying influence via a coalition of equally corrupt government officials and cronies dedicated to dismantling government by selling it off, making massive profits as they tore the principles of a representative democracy to shreds. A report earlier this summer from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform builds on an earlier committee investigation that detailed some 485 contacts between Abramoff and the Bush administration. According to the new report, 'Senior White House officials told the Committee that White House officials held Mr. Abramoff and members of his lobbying team in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues on policy matters.'"

McCain Bets on Offshore Drilling
In The Washington Independent, Sherry Jeffe writes: "On a January afternoon in 1969, Paradise was violated and the modern environmental movement was born. Six miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., a 'blowout' erupted below a Union Oil Co. platform, spewing crude oil from drilling-induced cracks in the Santa Barbara Channel floor. It took almost two weeks to cap the leak and, before it was plugged, the oil spill had grown to more than 3 million gallons. It spread across 800 square miles of ocean, spoiling more than 35 miles of Southern California's coast.... In the wake of Santa Barbara's calamity, the U.S. president, a Republican and a California native, observed, 'What is involved is the use of our resources of the sea and of the land in a more effective way and with more concern for preserving the beauty and the natural resources that are so important to any kind of society that we want for the future. The Santa Barbara incident,' Richard M. Nixon concluded, 'has frankly touched the conscience of the American people.'"

Fears of a Government Shutdown
Mike Soraghan and Manu Raju report for The Hill: "The prospect of a September government shutdown loomed over the Capitol on Wednesday as the two parties fought over rising energy prices. It's a fight some members of either party are willing to have, but others worry about who will get blamed for a repeat of the 1995 shutdown that President Clinton pinned on a Republican Congress. Lawmakers and staff are starting to talk not just about how to avoid such a repeat, but also about who would gain and lose November election votes if it happened."

Aid Bill for Paralyzed Vets Blocked by GOP Senator
For The Air Force Times, Christian Hernandez reports: "A bill promising more money for programs that help paralyzed veterans is part of a bundle of legislation tied up in partisan bickering in the Senate. The Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve Act, which includes money for research into spinal cord injuries, is one of about 36 bills combined by Senate Democrats into what they are calling the Advancing America's Priorities Act."

A Hidden Toll on Employment: Cut to Part Time
Peter S. Goodman, of The New York Times, reports: "The number of Americans who have seen their full-time jobs chopped to part time because of weak business has swelled to more than 3.7 million - the largest figure since the government began tracking such data more than half a century ago. The loss of pay has become a primary source of pain for millions of American families, reinforcing the downturn gripping the economy. Paychecks are shrinking just as home prices plunge and gas prices soar, furthering the austerity across the nation."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Local vigil for Tennessee vicims scheduled for Thursday

Dear Community:

Again, senseless violence has touched our lives. As we Unitarian Universalists struggle to make sense of the tragedy in Knoxville, Tennessee, we turn to each other, and to our entire community. Sanctuary means safety, and a religious sanctuary of any faith affords the attendees a feeling of safety and calm. Usually, that is. On Sunday morning in Tennessee one man whose life was unhappy shattered the holiness and safety of the sanctuary for the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalists, during a children's worship time. The news reports say that he chose us (we Unitarian Universalists) because of our liberal viewpoints on different matters, and that liberals were to blame for the problems in his life. The sorrow and destruction brought on by his violence make no sense to us and all we can do is hold each other. Our brothers and sisters in Tennessee will gather to bolster each other, to remember that love is stronger than fear or hate, that working toward peace and justice is always good work, even when it becomes dangerous, and that in crises, we have each other--our beloved community.

During that same time – 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 31st, we in Elkhart will be in solidarity with them in our sanctuary. You are invited to join us in love and peace, as well as sorrow and grief. At 7:00 p.m. on July 31 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart (1732 Garden Street), we will gather together, to sing and cry and light candles and remember that in the darkness of unimaginable violence, the love of community brings a beacon of light to the hearts of all who gather.

Join us, even if our tradition is not your own.

In sorrow and faith,
Rev. Amy DeBeck, Minister
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart


Truthout roundup 7/30

Sam Ferguson profiles a woman whose life is forever bound to the tragedies of Argentina's Dirty War; Obama's political persona contrasts with his former law-professor image; Admiral Fallon shares views on Iraq and Iran; negotiations between Zimbabwe's Mugabe and Tsvangirai may have collapsed; harsh immigration policies fuel the prison business; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 07.30

Sam Ferguson The Fatima Massacre
Truthout contributor Sam Ferguson writes: "'No me basta,' says Haydee Gastelu. Often. Literally, it translates from Spanish to mean 'it's not enough for me.' But the dicho could also be interpreted as 'it never ends.' For Mrs. Gastelu, both are true. During the last 32 years, Mrs. Gastelu has relentlessly pursued the suspected murderers of her son Horacio, who was 'disappeared' by the repressive intelligence services of Argentina's last military government in 1976. On August 7 of that year, he and his girlfriend, Ada Victoria Porta, were dragged from Porta's house by a small unit of plain-clothed men in the middle of the night. Porta's family reported seeing the couple forced into a Ford Falcon, hogtied and hooded, as they were driven away. Two weeks later, a predawn blast rocked the small town of Fatima, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. When the sun rose, workers found the remains of 30 bodies, scattered as far as 60 feet in diameter, incinerated by dynamite. Horacio was amongst the victims of the blast, though Mrs. Gastelu did not know it at the time."

Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Apart
The New York Times's Jodi Kantor reports: "The young law professor stood apart in too many ways to count. At a school where economic analysis was all the rage, he taught rights, race and gender. Other faculty members dreamed of tenured positions; he turned them down. While most colleagues published by the pound, he never completed a single work of legal scholarship. At a formal institution, Barack Obama was a loose presence, joking with students about their romantic prospects, using first names, referring to case law one moment and 'The Godfather' the next. He was also an enigmatic one, often leaving fellow faculty members guessing about his precise views. Mr. Obama, now the junior senator from Illinois and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, spent 12 years at the University of Chicago Law School. Most aspiring politicians do not dwell in the halls of academia, and few promising young legal thinkers toil in state legislatures. Mr. Obama planted a foot in each, splitting his weeks between an elite law school and the far less rarefied atmosphere of the Illinois Senate."

Fallon Reemerges to Speak Out on Iran
In The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman reports: "In a roundtable Tuesday, Adm. William 'Fox' Fallon, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East ousted for dissenting from the Bush administration's bellicose posture toward Iran, gave a rare public elaboration of his view of multilateral cooperation for security in the region. In one of his first public appearances after his abrupt departure as head of U.S. Central Command, Fallon said at the National Press Club that Gulf countries 'clearly recognize that the U.S. plays a strong leadership role,' and desire that to continue. Further, they ask the U.S. 'to be active' in the region -- though part of being active, he said, included the advice 'don't start a war' with Iran."

Zimbabwe Crisis Talks Adjourn Amid Rumors of a Breakdown
The Christian Science Monitor reports: "It's been a little more than one week since President Robert Mugabe shook the hand of his bitter rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, in what was billed as a historic first step toward a power-sharing government for Zimbabwe. But negotiations - which are closed to the media - were adjourned on Tuesday amid reports that the two teams could not agree who would sit at the top of a unity government. Lead mediator and South African President Thabo Mbeki insisted that the talks had not broken down, but the antagonism between Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is so strong on such a wide array of issues that negotiators should prepare for a protracted struggle, experts say."

Why Texas Still Holds 'Em
Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones reports: "In 1997, with the private prison business booming, the Corrections Corporation of America picked a 64-acre plot near Austin, Texas, for its newest lockup. A medium-security prison, it was named after the company's cofounder and designed for some 500 federal inmates. But the anticipated stream of prisoners never arrived: By the time the T. Don Hutto Correctional Center opened, a glut of private prison beds, along with CCA's own poor track record, had left the company nearly bankrupt. Its stock, which once traded at around $45 a share, bottomed out at 18 cents. Several of its facilities were shuttered or sat empty for years, including the Hutto prison, which CCA moved to close in 2004. But Hutto, like CCA itself, has risen from the ashes thanks to a sudden source of new business: the Bush administration's crackdown on immigrants."

BREAKING House Panel Votes to Cite Rove for Contempt
Laurie Kellman, of The Associated Press: "A House panel Wednesday voted to cite former top White House aide Karl Rove for contempt of Congress as its Senate counterpart publicly pursued possible punishments for an array of alleged past and present Bush administration misdeeds. Voting along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee said that Rove had broke the law by failing to appear at a July 10 hearing on allegations of White House influence over the Justice Department, including whether Rove encouraged prosecutions against Democrats."

More on the shooter (and hater)

Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list

4-page letter outlines frustration, hatred of 'liberal movement'

By Hayes Hickman (Contact), Don Jacobs (Contact)
Originally published 07:44 a.m., July 28, 2008
Updated 05:43 p.m., July 28, 2008

Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals "who are ruining the country," court records show.
Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children's musical.

Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson. who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.

Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

Adkisson told Still that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."

Adkisson told officers he left the house unlocked for them because "he expected to be killed during the assault."

Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday's mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of "the liberal movement," and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."

Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.

The letter, recovered from Adkisson's black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church's parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week.

"He fully expected to be killed by the responding police," the police chief said.

Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.

"It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance," the chief said. The church has a "gays welcome" sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.

Owen said Adkisson's stated hatred of the liberal movement was not necessarily connected to any hostility toward Christianity or religion per say, but rather the political advocacy of the church.

The church's Web site states that it has worked for "desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women's rights and gay rights" since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.

Adkisson does not appear to be a member of any church himself, Owen said.

"In his written statement, he does not ascribe to any affiliation," the chief said. "It does not appear he's a member of any organized group."

Officers recovered 76 shells for a 12-gauge, semiautomatic shotgun inside the church. Among those shells were three spent rounds. He had carried the shotgun inside the church in a guitar case, Owen said.

"He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties," the chief said.

Adkisson is accused of killing two people and injuring seven others. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Greg McKendry, 60. Also killed in the shooting was Linda Kraeger, 61, who was visiting the church from Westside Unitarian Universalist Church.

Injured were Joe Barnhart, 76, and Jack Barnhart, 69, who are brothers; Betty Barnhart, 71; Linda Chavez, 41; John Worth Jr., 68; Tammy Sommers, 38; and Allison Lee, 42. Jack and Joe Barnhart are brothers, and Jack and Betty Barnhart are married.

At about 10:25 a.m., two staffers from Second Presbyterian Church next door, placed a large flower arrangement from their church's sanctuary atop TVUUC's sign along Kingston Pike.

"Our hearts go out to this church. This is our community. We love these people," said Julie Lothrop, assistant to the pastor.

The shooting began at 10:18 a.m. Adkisson was arrested minutes later after being restrained by church members.

Three of those wounded remain in critical or serious condition at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Two others were treated at a local hospital and released. One of those suffered an injury when trampled as worshippers left the church.

The letter was not addressed to anyone but was signed by Adkisson, Owen said.

Adkisson's criminal history includes a DUI in Calfornia and in Clinton.

He had been a member of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne, according to Owen.

Public Defender Mark Stephens' office has been appointed to represent Adkisson.

Through a spokeswoman this morning, Stephens said he could not comment.

If the suspect's own resume is accurate, Owen said, Adkisson worked in a variety of places across the country and most recently worked in Knoxville in 2006. The chief did not specify where Adkisson last held a job. Adkisson also holds an associates degree in mechanical engineering.

More than 200 people were packed into the church's sanctuary watching the children's musical, "Annie Jr." when a gunman opened fire.

McKendry, according to witnesses and police, confronted Adkisson, who shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Witness Barbara Kemper said Adkisson walked past the area where children were awaiting their stage call and into the sanctuary.

Witnesses said Adkisson did not aim the shotgun at children but focused on the pews filled with adults. The first blast left many wondering if the disabling boom was part of the musical program.

"We heard the first shot," said Marty Murphy, 66, a church member since 2000. "It sounded like a bomb went off. We thought it was part of the program at first.

"The second shot is when everyone started calling 911 and telling everyone to get down."

Murphy and others said Adkisson didn't say a thing before he began firing. Kemper, however, said Adkisson was yelling "something hateful."

Witnesses said Adkisson had a fanny pack around his waist that contained extra shells for his shotgun.

"There were shotgun shells all over the place, so he must have thought he was going to get more shots in," Murphy said. "He had those shells everywhere.

"Who would have thought, here in Knoxville?" she said.

News Sentinel staff writers Bob Fowler, J.J. Stambaugh, Frank Munger and Amy McRary contributed to this story.

More details as they develop online and in Tuesday's News Sentinel.

News Sentinel staff writers Bob Fowler, J.J. Stambaugh, Frank Munger and Amy McRary contributed to this story.

Blessings, Robert (AKA Rune)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Truthout roundup 7/29

Marjorie Cohn examines the illegality of both major fronts of the "war on terror"; life expectancy in the US is closely tied to income; Pakistan's prime minister tells Bush not to strike his country unilaterally; Monday ranks as one of the year's bloodiest days in Iraq; Homeland Security declares "Period of Heightened Alert" in run-up to conventions; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 07.29

Marjorie Cohn End the Occupation of Iraq - and Afghanistan
Truthout contributor Marjorie Cohn writes: "In light of stepped-up violence in Afghanistan and for political reasons - following Obama's lead - Bush will be moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Although the US invasion of Afghanistan was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq, many Americans see it as a justifiable response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the casualties in that war have been lower than those in Iraq - so far. Practically no one in the United States is currently questioning the legality or propriety of US military involvement in Afghanistan. The cover of Time magazine calls it 'The Right War....' The invasion of Afghanistan was not legitimate self-defense under article 51 of the Charter because the attacks on 9/11 were criminal attacks, not 'armed attacks' by another country. Afghanistan did not attack the United States.... Those who conspired to hijack airplanes and kill thousands of people on 9/11 are guilty of crimes against humanity. They must be identified and brought to justice in accordance with the law. But retaliation by invading Afghanistan is not the answer and will only lead to the deaths of more of our troops and Afghans."

Unequal America
Elizabeth Gudrais reports for Harvard Magazine: "When Majid Ezzati thinks about declining life expectancy, he says, 'I think of an epidemic like HIV, or I think of the collapse of a social system, like in the former Soviet Union.' But such a decline is happening right now in some parts of the United States. Between 1983 and 1999, men's life expectancy decreased in more than 50 U.S. counties, according to a recent study by Ezzati, associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and colleagues.... The United States no longer boasts anywhere near the world's longest life expectancy. It doesn't even make the top 40. In this and many other ways, the richest nation on earth is not the healthiest. Ezzati's finding is unsettling on its face, but scholars find further cause for concern in the pattern of health disparities. Poor health is not distributed evenly across the population, but concentrated among the disadvantaged."

Pakistani PM Warns Bush Against "Unilateral" Action
According to Agence France-Presse: "Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani held talks with US President George W. Bush here Monday and called on the United States not to act 'unilaterally' against Islamic militants in Pakistan. Gilani, whose new government has been facing intense US pressure to crack down on Pakistan-based militants, told reporters after his meeting with Bush at the White House that Pakistan was committed to fighting extremists. 'We are committed to fight against those extremists and terrorists who are destroying and making the world not safe,' he said. 'This is a war which is against Pakistan, and we'll fight for our own cause.'"

Bombers and Ethnic Clashes Kill 61 in Iraq
For The New York Times, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Sabrina Tavernise report: "Three women wrapped in explosives killed dozens in Iraq on Monday, shaking the country as chaos and ethnic violence erupted in the volatile northern city of Kirkuk, where tensions had already run high between majority Kurds and ethnic Turkmens. All told, at least 61 people were killed and 238 wounded, nearly all of them Kurdish political protesters in Kirkuk and Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad.... Concerns about stability ran so high that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered a battalion of Iraqi troops to reinforce Kirkuk and put other unspecified 'emergency reserve' troops on alert in case the violence spread, state-run television reported late Monday."

US Headed for "Heightened Alert" Stage
Pierre Thomas reports for ABC News: "Government officials have been quietly stepping up counterterror efforts out of a growing concern that al Qaeda or similar organizations might try to capitalize on the spate of extremely high-profile events in the coming months, sources tell ABC News. Security experts point to next month's Olympics as evidence that high-profile events attract threats of terrorism, like the one issued this past weekend by a Chinese Muslim minority group that warned of its intent to attack the Games. Anti-terror officials in the U.S. cite this summer and fall's lineup of two major political parties' conventions, November's general election and months of transition into a new presidential administration as cause for heightened awareness and action. This is what the Department of Homeland Security is quietly declaring a Period of Heightened Alert, or POHA, a time frame when terrorists may have more incentive to attack."

Edwards, Clinton lead in VP poll

from Rasmussen Reports

When it comes to whom voters like among Barack Obama’s possible running mates, it’s all about the also-rans.

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey finds that 56% have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, including 21% who view him Very favorably. He slightly edges Senator Hillary Clinton, who is viewed at least somewhat favorably by 51%, with 27% characterizing their view of her as Very Favorable.

But both Edwards and Clinton, who ran against Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, have high negatives, too, rivaling the numbers for those who hold them in highest regard. While only 35% view Edwards at least somewhat unfavorably, 20% say their opinion of him is Very Unfavorable. For Clinton, with 46% regarding her at least somewhat unfavorably, nearly three out of 10 voters (29%) say they think of her Very unfavorably.

Obama is not expected to name his choice until closer to the Democratic National Convention in late August. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, the only name he would acknowledge as being on his short list is Clinton’s.

The high number of “not sure” responses in the new survey indicates that voters are not even aware of many of the Democratic vice presidential possibilities. Sixty-one percent (61%), for example, are not sure how they feel about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is often mentioned as a dark horse candidate for vice president. Fifty-one percent (51%) say the same about Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, a Vietnam War Marine veteran who is highly regarded by many in the party, but Webb already has said he is not interested in being Obama’s running mate. By contrast, only 2% say they are not sure what they think about Clinton.

Politically speaking, vice presidential candidates add little to a ticket overall and are seen as more valuable in targeting a set group of voters or a section of the country. Clinton was initially viewed as a valuable addition to the Democratic ticket because of her attractiveness to women voters, but women are already moving toward Obama’s candidacy more than men at this juncture.

Fifty-one percent of voters said Obama should pick Clinton as his running mate in a survey in early June, right after he wrapped up the nomination. In another survey later that month, only 37% thought Clinton wanted to Obama to win but 44% thought she should be on the ticket with him.

In the latest poll, another Obama rival in the Democratic primaries, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, is viewed at least somewhat favorably by 35% and somewhat unfavorably by nearly as many (34%).

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana has higher unfavorables than favorables, with 30% viewing him at least somewhat unfavorably while 21% view him at least somewhat favorably. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who toured Afghanistan and Iraq with Obama last week and is the one Republican who is considered a possible Democratic vice presidential nominee, has a similar problem – with 30% regarding him at least somewhat unfavorably but only 24% seeing him in a favorable light.

For Democrats specifically, again those with the highest visibility have the highest ratings. Clinton is the leader, with 46% regarding her Very favorably. Edwards is next with 38% saying they have a Very Favorable view of him. Twenty-one percent (21%) feel that way about Biden.

By comparison, 21% of Democrats view Virginia Governor Tim Kaine at least somewhat favorably, but only 4% regard him Very favorably. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Democrats are unsure what they think of Kaine.

In the Rasmussen Reports vice presidential markets at the time of this survey, Bayh is favored by 33.9%, with Kaine at 18.2%, Biden at 15% and Sebelius at 13.3%. Clinton is near the bottom at 3.9%, and no one is trading in Edwards. These figures are from a prediction market, not a poll and are updated on a 24/7 basis. Current expectations for leading candidates is available HERE

Lest we needed a reminder...

The New York Times front page story by Eric Lichtblau offers us yet another reminder how important protection from workplace discrimanation is. From the story entitled Report Faults Aides In Hiring at Justice Department:

Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions, picking less-qualified applicants for important nonpolitical positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department’s credibility, an internal report concluded on Monday.

A longtime prosecutor who drew rave reviews from his supervisors was passed over for an important counterterrorism slot because his wife was active in Democratic politics, and a much-less-experienced lawyer with Republican leanings got the job, the report said.

Another prosecutor was rejected for a job in part because she was thought to be a lesbian. And a Republican lawyer received high marks at his job interview because he was found to be sufficiently conservative on the core issues of “god, guns + gays.”

Full story

Here's the text file of the report

Monday, July 28, 2008

more Truthout 7/28

Audit Find Millions Wasted in Iraq Reconstruction Contract
Agence France-Presse: "Millions of dollars were likely wasted on a $900 million army contract to build courthouses, prisons, police and other security facilities in Iraq, an audit released Monday has found."

Rights Group Wants US Officials Probed for Ordering Torture
Agence France-Press: "A Nobel-prize-winning rights group said US officials committed war crimes by ordering what the group says was torture of detainees, and called for them to be probed and prosecuted."

Special-Interest Lobbies Pour Cash Into Judicial Races
Tim Jones, The Chicago Tribune: "Sixty-six percent of Americans can name at least one judge on the popular TV show 'American Idol,' while only 15 percent can identify John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court. That's according to a poll showing Americans are largely clueless when it comes to knowledge of the nation's judicial system."

US Deficit to Reach Record $490 Billion in 2009
Roger Runningen, Bloomberg: "The U.S. budget deficit will widen to a record of about $490 billion next year, an administration official said, leaving a deep budget hole that will constrain the next president's tax and spending plans."

EPA to White House: Greenhouse Gases Endanger Health
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post: "Under a subpoena threat from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Environmental Protection Agency late Wednesday sent the panel a copy of its December 5 proposal to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act - as a brief loan."

Hundreds Protest Immigration Raid in Small-Town America
Agence France-Presse: "Led by 43 women with electronic tracking bracelets on their ankles, hundreds of people from around the country marched down main street in Postville Sunday to protest the biggest immigration raid in US history, at a kosher meat plant, that has split this tiny Iowa town asunder."

Incidentally Single, Intentionally Mothers
Michele St. Martin of Minnesota Women's Press, "Women in their 30's and 40's are increasingly choosing to become parents without partners, challenging stereotypes and conventions. Who are they, why are they choosing single motherhood, and what do they have to say about it?"

Drug Ad Rules Are Hazy, Enforcement Often Slow, GAO Reports
The Associated Press: "When federal regulators catch a drug company peddling prescription medications for an unapproved use, it takes them an average of seven months to issue a warning, according to a draft report by Congressional investigators. It typically takes four more months for the company to fix the problem. During that time, a lot of prescriptions can be written."

Pamela Smith A Step Backward for Voting System Transparency
Pamela Smith for The Verified Voting Foundation: "On June 26, 2008, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah) introduced the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act (S. 3212). The press release accompanying the introduction of S. 3212 observes, 'the ability to ensure there is an accurate, reliable and transparent method for Americans to cast and count votes is fundamental to our democratic process.' Unfortunately, S.3212 falls far short of ensuring accuracy, reliability, and transparency in our elections and is likely to do more harm than good."

Go directly to our issues page:

Church shooter disliked "liberal movement"


The man who attacked Sunday congregants at a Knoxville church was motivated by anger over joblessness and politics, according to Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen, IV.

In a Monday press conference, Owen said the suspect, 58-year-old Powell resident Jim D. Adkisson had written a four-page letter before the attack, a type of manifesto in which he laid out his frustrations.

Adkisson, whom Owen says has an AA degree in mechanical engineering, was apparently out of work, and about to see his food stamp benefits decrease. Adkisson has a work history that has ranged all over the United States, and is apparently a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division. Owen said the letter spoke of Adkisson's anger toward "the liberal movement," and gay people.

The letter was found in Adkisson's car after the attack. It indicated the suspect had spent time planning the shooting, and that he entered the TVUUC sanctuary on Kingston Pike Sunday morning with the intent to kill as many people as possible before being killed himself by police. Owen said Adkisson brought 76 shells for his 12 gauge shotgun with him to the shooting scene.

Owen indicated Adkisson likely targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church for its progressive views. The church is well-known in the community as a welcoming congregation for gay Knoxvillians and their families. The church also has a long history of working on behalf of civil rights, aid for the needy, peace initiatives, and other social justice issues.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation, and may consider the shootings a hate crime.

The Chief said Adkisson acted alone, and that he brought the weapon he used to the church inside a guitar case. The gun was apparently purchased at a pawn shop approximately one month ago, and the ATF is assissting the KPD in gathering more information regarding the gun's sales history.

Several male members of the congregations tackled and held the suspect before he could reload and shoot more victims, an action Owen said certainly saved many lives.

Despite the fact that a children's musical performance was taking place at the time the shots rang out, Owen does not believe Adkisson intended to specifically target children.

(Thanks, Catherine)

There Are No Words

There are no words to describe the recurring dismay I feel every time a motorist endangers me or another bicyclist or pedestrian by driving too closely or too quickly or too recklessly. Is there something inherent in the egocentricity of our car culture that breeds such callous disregard for one another?

There are no words to describe the simmering impatience I have with elected city, county and state representatives who lack the foresight to include safe causeways for cyclists and pedestrians in every road project. Is there something inherent in a system that retains incumbents who must be constantly reminded that automobiles need not be our only means of transportation?

There are no words to express the seething frustration at our state laws that dictate only 3% of the monies collected for most speeding tickets stays in the city to pay our police. Where is the incentive to enforce speed limits when more than 70% of a reckless driver’s fine goes to Indianapolis?

There are no words to express the numbing shock at hearing the news that while riding his bike, Patrick Sawyer had been struck by a careless driver who initially, reprehensibly left the scene. Patrick was doing all the right things; he was riding with traffic, as he was legally entitled to do, he was wearing a helmet, he had lights on his bike, he was wearing bright, reflective clothing. These are the things all of us conscientious cyclists do, yet the chilling reality is it isn’t enough in the path of an unchecked, reckless driver on a street built by apathetic officials who consider only the automobile in their dealings with the road-builders.

Patrick Sawyer died as a result of his devastating injuries; there are no words to describe the heartfelt sadness for our community. We all lost a vibrant, energetic, creative and giving member of our fold and we are all the poorer for his passing.

There are no words to describe the deep sorrow I have for Patrick’s family. In the wake of a dreadful moment in time, Patrick leaves behind his beautiful wife, Nancy, and their four young children who will miss him desperately.

My friend Henry sent me an email of Patrick’s passing while I was in Rhode Island. From nearly a thousand miles away, he had forwarded a plea from Nancy for something good to come from Patrick’s death. All I can do is try to find the words to plead: if you are an elected official, please consider everyone’s safety when considering every public project. If you are a police officer, please reign in the reckless drivers. And if you are a driver, please, for the sake of all of us, for god’s sake watch where you are going. Give to all of us, your neighbors in this community, whether we are on foot, in a wheelchair or on a bicycle, the gift kindness and our mutual humanity.

Postal workers endorse Long Thompson

from Hoosiers for Jill

INDIANAPOLIS - Confident that she can deliver the right kind of change for Indiana, today the Indiana Postal Workers Union's Executive Board officially endorsed Jill Long Thompson's campaign for Governor.

"All across this state, working families are struggling. Hoosiers make less than workers in other states. We continue to lose jobs. Indiana ranks near the top in terms of home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies, the cost of health care and high school dropout rates. And, worst of all, our current Governor doesn't seem to think there's a problem," said IPWU State President Douglas Brown.

"Our members and thousands of working people throughout Indiana believe we need new leadership and a new direction. We need a Governor who will work to grow this economy, strengthen our schools and improve the lives of all Hoosiers," added Brown. "Because of her long term dedication to working people, we know that Jill Long Thompson will be that Governor - and that's why we proudly endorse her candidacy."

Representing more than 4,000 men and women throughout the state, the Indiana Postal Workers Union joins a growing list of labor organizations supporting Long Thompson's campaign. Unions that have previously endorsed include: the United Steelworkers; the Service Employee International Union; Communication Workers of America; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the American Federation of Government Employees; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; the United Transportation Union; the Indiana State AFL-CIO's Executive Board; five local Teamster locals; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; Indiana International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; and Local #446 of Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees

"Traveling this great state on our Hoosier Hometown Tour, Dennie Oxley and I have heard the call for change loud and clear," said Long Thompson. "And with the help of the Postal workers, I know that we can be successful this fall and begin to create an economy that works for all Hoosiers. It is an honor to have the Indiana Postal Workers Union's support."

Known for her ability to get things done, Jill Long Thompson is an accomplished public servant. She has served as a city councilor, a Congresswoman and as Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture. Long Thompson grew up on her family's farm in rural Whitley County and was the first in her family to go to college. She received her undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University and went on to earn a master's and Ph.D. in business from Indiana University. A farmer and college professor by trade, Long Thompson lives with her husband Don Thompson, a commercial airline pilot, on their farm in Marshall County.

Dennie Oxley is a 10-year veteran of the state legislature, currently serving as the Majority Whip in the Indiana House of Representatives. A former high school math teacher, school administrator and businessman, Oxley brings a wealth of public and private sector experience to the team. Oxley is a graduate of Indiana University Southeast, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in education. A lifelong resident of English, a small community in Crawford County, he resides there with his wife, Jayme, and their two young daughters.

For more information about Jill Long Thompson, Dennie Oxley or their campaign to restore Indiana's promise, please visit or call 317-635-Jill.

Another temporary fix

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

So the big housing bill has passed Congress. That’s good news: Fannie and Freddie had to be rescued, and the bill’s other main provision — a special loan program to head off foreclosures — will help some hard-pressed families. It’s much better to have this bill than not.

But I hope nobody thinks that Congress has done all, or even a large fraction, of what needs to be done.

This bill is the latest in a series of temporary fixes to the financial system — attempts to hold the thing together with bungee cords and masking tape — that have, at least so far, succeeded in staving off complete collapse. But those fixes have done nothing to resolve the system’s underlying flaws. In fact, they set the stage for even bigger future disasters — unless they’re followed up with fundamental reforms.

Before I get to that, let’s be clear about one thing: Even if this bill succeeds in its aims, heading off a severe credit contraction and helping some homeowners avoid foreclosure, it won’t change the fact that this decade’s double bubble, in housing prices and loose lending, has been a disaster for millions of Americans.

After all, the new bill will, at best, make a modest dent in the rate of foreclosures. And it does nothing at all for those who aren’t in danger of losing their houses but are seeing much if not all of their net worth wiped out — a particularly bitter blow to Americans who are nearing retirement, or thought they were until they discovered that they couldn’t afford to stop working.

It’s too late to avoid that pain. But we can try to ensure that we don’t face more and bigger crises in the future.

The back story to the current crisis is the way traditional banks — banks with federally insured deposits, which are limited in the risks they’re allowed to take and the amount of leverage they can take on — have been pushed aside by unregulated financial players. We were assured by the likes of Alan Greenspan that this was no problem: the market would enforce disciplined risk-taking, and anyway, taxpayer funds weren’t on the line.

And then reality struck.

Far from being disciplined in their risk-taking, lenders went wild. Concerns about the ability of borrowers to repay were waved aside; so were questions about whether soaring house prices made sense.

Lenders ignored the warning signs because they were part of a system built around the principle of heads I win, tails someone else loses. Mortgage originators didn’t worry about the solvency of borrowers, because they quickly sold off the loans they made, generally to investors who had no idea what they were buying. Throughout the financial industry, executives received huge bonuses when they seemed to be earning big profits, but didn’t have to give the money back when those profits turned into even bigger losses.

And as for that business about taxpayers’ money not being at risk? Never mind. Over the past year the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury have put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on the line, propping up financial institutions deemed too big or too strategic to fail. (I’m not blaming them — I don’t think they had any alternative.)

Meanwhile, those traditional, regulated banks played a minor role in the lending frenzy, except to the extent that they had unregulated, “off balance sheet” subsidiaries. The case of IndyMac — which failed because it specialized in risky Alt-A loans while regulators looked the other way — is the exception that proves the rule.

The moral of this story seems clear — and it’s what Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has been saying for some time: financial regulation needs to be extended to cover a much wider range of institutions. Basically, the financial framework created in the 1930s, which brought generations of relative stability, needs to be updated to 21st-century conditions.

The desperate rescue efforts of the past year make expanded regulation even more urgent. If the government is going to stand behind financial institutions, those institutions had better be carefully regulated — because otherwise the game of heads I win, tails you lose will be played more furiously than ever, at taxpayers’ expense.

Of course, proponents of expanded regulation, no matter how compelling their arguments, will have to contend with very well-financed opposition from the financial industry. And as Upton Sinclair pointed out, it’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary — or, we might add, his campaign war chest — depends on his not understanding it.

But let’s hope that the sheer scale of this financial crisis has concentrated enough minds to make reform possible. Otherwise, the next crisis will be even bigger.

Truthout roundup 7/28

Truthout contributor Dean Baker writes on what Congress can do to help families facing foreclosure; Chalmers Johnson examines the influence of the military-industrial complex; the US military admits to more civilian killings; bombs kill 17 in Istanbul; as food prices rise, college students become regulars at food banks - on the receiving end; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 07.28

Dean Baker Time to Address Foreclosures
Truthout contributor Dean Baker writes: "Last week Congress finally passed its long-debated housing bill. In addition to securing the multimillion-dollar salaries of the top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and protecting their shareholders from facing the full consequences of their bad stock picks, the bill also provided funds for guaranteeing new mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. The bill allows lenders to bring failing mortgages to the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), which will guarantee a new mortgage at 85 percent of the current appraised value of the home. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that lenders will bring 400,000 mortgages to the FHA over the next three years. CBO expects that 140,000 of these mortgages will go into foreclosure a second time, leaving a net of 260,000 homeowners who will hang onto their homes as a result of this program. By contrast, there are likely to be 2.5 million to 3 million foreclosures in both 2008 and 2009. This means that the housing bill will likely help less than five percent of the families facing foreclosure over the next two years, leaving 95 percent of this group out of luck."

Chalmers Johnson The Military-Industrial Complex: It's Much Later Than You Think
For, Chalmers Johnson writes: "Most Americans have a rough idea what the term 'military-industrial complex' means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. 'Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,' he said, 'or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea ... We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions ... We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications ... We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.' Although Eisenhower's reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its 'unwarranted influence' has, I believe, largely been ignored."

US Concedes Iraq Victims Were Law-Abiding, Not Insurgents
Leila Fadel, of McClatchy Newspapers, reports: "The U.S. military said Sunday that the three people killed last month after U.S. soldiers shot at their car in one of the most secured areas of Iraq were civilians, not criminals as the military initially reported. The correction came more than a month after a bank manager at a branch inside the airport, Hafeth Aboud Mahdi, and two female bank employees were shot at by U.S. soldiers as they sped to work on a road within the secured airport compound."

Bombs Strike Istanbul Neighborhood, Killing 17
For Reuters, Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk report: "The death toll in two bomb blasts in Istanbul rose to 17 on Monday in an attack that increased tension hours before a top court was to begin deliberating on whether to ban the governing party. State news agency Anatolian, citing officials, said the toll rose after one person died from wounds sustained in the Sunday evening blasts in a working class neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul. More than 150 people were wounded in the attacks which officials said left 115 people being treated in hospital, including seven in a serious condition."

Struggling College Students Turn to Food Banks
Whitney Malkin, of The Associated Press, reports: "Just blocks from the University of Washington, a line of people shuffle toward a food pantry, awaiting handouts such as milk and bread. For years, the small University District pantry has offered help to the working poor and single parents in this neighborhood of campus rentals. Now rising food prices are bringing another group: Struggling college students. 'Right now, with things the way they are, a lot of students just can't afford to eat,' said Terry Capleton, who started a Facebook group called 'I Ain't Afraid to be on Food Stamps' when he was a student at Benedict College in South Carolina."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Breaking: Gunman opens fire in Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church

CNN) -- Seven people were shot and critically wounded Sunday at a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tennessee, authorities said.

Police have arrested a suspect in the attack, which occurred about 10 a.m. ET at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, said Capt. Brent Seymour, a Knoxville Fire Department spokesman.

According to church members, children from the congregation's summer theater workshop were preforming the musical "Annie" when the gunman opened fire, WVLT reported.

The seven gunshot victims were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center -- located just across the Tennessee River from the church -- Seymour said. About 12 others were treated for minor injuries at the church, he said.

The Four Apoplectic Horsemen - Souder, Buyer, Pence, & Burton

Charlotte A. Weybright
Berry Street Beacon

Standing shoulder to shoulder - almost (Souder was absent but I am sure he was there in spirit), the Four Apopletic Republican Horsemen from Indiana demanded that a vote on opening up more land and coastal areas to drilling be taken before Congress’s August recess. Of course, those familiar with the situation have said that it will be a good ten years before the drilling produces any results.

But the four have never let reality get in the way of politicking, so no one expects them to start now. After all, it is an election year. Their posturing sounds great to the American people who have been coping with high gas prices, high food prices, and an economic downturn. However, the four deftly avoid any discussion about the far-off, in-the-future production.

Their hypocrisy is evident in their actions. While they were demanding that additional drilling be undertaken, they opposed H.R. 6251: Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act, a bill that would have prohibited the Secretary of the Interior from issuing new Federal oil and gas leases to holders of existing leases who do not diligently develop the lands subject to such existing leases or relinquish such leases. The goal of the bill was to encourage oil companies to utilize already existing lands and make better efforts to manage and produce from those lands.

What a novel idea - have the oil companies better manage their existing leased lands rather than go after prohibited lands.

Their actions are just one more example of the real prize at the end - opening up coastal waters and ANWR to drilling. The four horsemen aren’t interested in measures that would encourage the oil companies to more responsibly manage the lands they already lease. They - as well as the other big business Republican supporters want one thing and one thing only - drilling in the coastal waters and, especially, drilling in ANWR.

As Obama HQ opens in Ann Arbor

from National One Corps

Saturday July 26, 2008: I was invited to the opening of the Obama HQ
in Ann Arbor, MI, to mark 100 days before the election.

It was a hot, hazy, humid morning, but I went, and found 160 others
there, including Debbie Dingell, a total plus in the Michigan
Democratic Party. I also ran into a very cool Obama volunteer there,
Denise Heath. A self-desccribed Leftist, Denise was originally a
supporter of John Edwards. Outmaneuvered by morons in the Michigan
Democratic Party, Denise could not vote for JRE in the Michigan
Primary on January 15, however due to the fact that the National DNC
had stripped Michigan of its delegates for “jumping the gun” ahead of
Super Tuesday. The paid volunteers were kinda creepy. I got the
feeling they had only read the Cliff Notes to The Audacity of Hope.
The staff member who introduced Debbie to the crowd introuced her as
"Mrs Dingell" as if she were a elderly matron or mental patient.
Debbie gave the best speech of all, warning that GOP had yet to pull
out their weapons in this critical race to take back the White House.
Michigan polls have McCain and Obama running neck and neck. Scary,
eh? Let's forget the primary and focus on the general election.
Michigan has 17 electors! Gore won Michigan handily in 2000, and
brought in a mediocre Senate candidate (Debbie Stabenow) on his coat-
tails, dumping a Bush sycophant (Spence Abraham) and helping keep a
Democratic voice during the middle Bush years

Bored with the Obama people, I strolled up Liberty Street toward
campus, and then down State Street to the Michigan Union. There, I
thought about a young John F. Kennedy, standing on those steps on
October 14, 1960, feeling, like Denise an incredibly brash feeling of
American hope after 8 years of Republicans in the White House. Jack
spoke without notes to Michigan students on those steps, referring to
his own Harvard as an Eastern branch of the University of Michigan:
“It is the most important campaign since 1933, mostly because of the
problems which press upon the United States, and the opportunities
which will be presented to us in the 1960s. The opportunity must be
seized, through the judgment of the President, and the vigor of the
executive, and the cooperation of the Congress. Through these I think
we can make the greatest possible difference.

How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your
days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing
to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around
the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one
year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to
contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the
answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think
Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far
greater than we have ever made in the past.”

On that day, on those steps, the Peace Corps was born. Thanks Jack.
Your torch still burns, as I learned today, from Denise and from other
new friends like Peter I had met at the Obama HQ!

Peace Corps? One Corps? Shall we organize here to celebrate the 48th
anniversary of October 14?

The author posts as antonius.alta

Saturday, July 26, 2008

John Edwards' war on poverty

The link below is to a segment of the PBS show NOW, hosted by David Brancaccio.

John explains (among other things) how humans are completely interconnected in all the serious issues we face. How it's the job of the next President to make plain to citizens that this applies within our borders - and outside as well.

He highlights the successes in the 1960s War on Poverty and notes the ways in which it didn't work so well. We should note strategies that worked well and build from those, he argues. "Attack poverty, or our democracy fails."

When the topic turned to political "reality", John Edwards said, "You have no idea how many times I heard (me!) from political consultants that 'you need to talk about the middle class. You can talk about inequality, but you can't talk about poverty.'"

Mr Edwards continued, "The Hell I can't!"

Invest the thirty minutes to watch this great program, and get ready to believe we can do seemingly impossible things.

For those of us who worked hard for his candidacy, this really shows what we and he always said. It was never about him personally. It was always about the work we wanted to do.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Forestalling a blockade of Iran

from Joe Miller

Dear Friend,

Progress is being made by peace groups, labor, and retired military leaders in derailing House Congressional Resolution 362 which calls for a naval blockade of Iran. Many feel that such a blockade would lead to a military confrontation with, and war with, Iran. Senator Evan Bayh is the sponsor of a similar resolution in the Senate -- Senate Resolution 580. Both resolutions have a large number of cosponsors.

Here's an excerpt from Mark Weisbrot's article that captures the importance of defeating H. Con. Res. 362 and S. Res. 580:

... "On May 22, a bill was introduced into Congress that effectively called for a blockade of Iran, H. Con. Res. 362. Among other expressions of hostility, the bill calls for: "prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles,
ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran ... " This sounded an awful lot like it was calling for a blockade, which is an act of war. A dangerous proposition, especially given all the efforts that the Bush-Cheney administration has taken to move us closer to a military confrontation with
Iran, the bluster and the threats, and the refusal to engage in direct talks with the Iranian government. The last thing we need is for the war party to get encouragement from Congress to initiate more illegal and extremely dangerous hostilities in the Persian Gulf. If the bill were to pass, the Bush
Administration could take it as a green light for a blockade. It's hard to imagine the Iranians passively watching their economy strangled for lack of gasoline (which they import), without at least firing a few missiles at the blockaders." ...

Below find links to several short articles that provide added insight into why it is exceptionally important to oppose H. Con. Res. 362 and S. Res. 580. Representatives Wexler (D-FL), Frank (D-MA), Cohen (D-TN), Allen (D-ME), and Clay (D-MO) have now removed their names as cosponsors of H. Con. Res. 362




Mark Weisbrot: Anti-War Movement Successfully Pushes Back Against Military Confrontation With Iran 7/23/08

Iran Nuclear Watch: California Labor Federation Opposes Military Attacks on Iran 7/24/08

Iran Nuclear Watch: Retired Military Leaders Oppose H.Con.Res. 362 7/10/08

Sarah van Gelder: Americans Say No to War with Iran: Will Washington Listen? 7/13/08

Arianna Huffington: Scary Thought: Is Condi Rice Our Last, Best Chance for Peace? 7/16/08

H.CON.RES.362: Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony, and for other purposes.

S.RES.580: A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Joseph Miller
Associate Professor of Psychology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Truthout roundup 7/25

Memorandum shows Justice Department's authorization of waterboarding; Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel criticizes McCain's rhetoric on Iraq; hearing on Bush's "imperial presidency" to take place today; US and NATO investigate their forces' airstrikes on Afghan civilians; fuel spill on Mississippi River creates ongoing havoc; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

New Torture Memo Shields Interrogators
Spencer Ackerman reports for The Washington Independent: "One of the most important building blocks in the Bush administration's apparatus of torture became public today. An Aug. 1, 2002 memorandum from the Justice Dept.'s Office of Legal Counsel to the Central Intelligence Agency instructed the agency's interrogators on specific interrogation techniques for use on Al Qaeda detainees in its custody. Most of the 17-page memo is blacked out and unreadable. But at least one of those techniques is waterboarding, the process of pouring water into the mouth and nostrils of a detainee under restraint until drowning occurs."

Hagel Chides McCain on Iraq
For The Associated Press, Anna Jo Bratton reports: "Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, fresh from an Iraq trip with Democrat Barack Obama, said the presidential candidates should focus on the war's future and stop arguing over the success of last year's troop surge. Hagel didn't name names but aimed his remarks at Republican John McCain. McCain, while Obama traveled the Middle East, has attacked Obama for opposing the military escalation last year that increased security in Iraq."

Impeachment Backers Gear Up for Congressional Hearing
In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sabrina Eaton writes: "Impeachment backers including anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan and Republican constitutional law scholar Bruce Fein held a press conference this afternoon in anticipation of tomorrow's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the 'imperial presidency' of George W. Bush and possible legal responses to it. While Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan is not billing the hearing as an effort to impeach Bush, Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich will attend to make his impeachment case before the committee."

Civilian Airstrike Deaths Probed
The Washington Post's Candace Rondeaux reports: "US and NATO military officials in Afghanistan have launched investigations into three separate U.S.-led airstrikes that Afghan officials say killed at least 78 civilians this month. The investigations come during what U.N. and Afghan officials say is one of the deadliest years for civilians since the war began. In the first six months of this year, the number of civilians killed in fighting has increased by nearly 40 percent over the same period last year, according to U.N. data."

Major Fuel Spill Endangers Mississippi River
For The New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mark Schleifstein reports: "A 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi River remains closed indefinitely to ship traffic this morning, as salvage workers drafted plans to remove a split fuel barge from beneath the Crescent City Connection in New Orleans and a half-dozen emergency spill contractors continued efforts to corral hundreds of thousands of gallons of thick, smelly fuel oil as it floated toward the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, residents of Algiers remained skeptical of the assurances given by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Sewerage & Water Board officials that their water is safe to drink, with many choosing to drink bottled water instead. 'We don't want to give a date right now' for reopening the river, said Coast Guard Capt. Lincoln Stroh, who controls shipping on the river as captain for the Port of New Orleans."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What's wrong with gay (or straight) parents raising gay kids?

from Beacon Broadside

Today's post is from Matt Kailey, the author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide the Transsexual Experience (Beacon Press, 2005), the editor of Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado GLBT Voices (Johnson Books, 2007), and the managing editor of Out Front Colorado, Colorado's oldest and largest GLBT publication.

Another anti-homosexual brouhaha is brewing. Psychologist Trayce L. Hansen has reviewed nine studies that examined the sexual orientation of children raised by same-sex parents and has concluded that children raised by same-sex parents "have a 4 to 10 times greater likelihood of developing a non-heterosexual preference than other children."

I'm not going to try to debunk Dr. Hansen's limited findings. Basically, what she did was examine studies that found few, if any, differences between children raised by same-sex and opposite-sex parents (and those differences that were found tended to favor the children raised by same-sex parents) and deconstructed them in order to find some flaw. I have no doubt that someone will deconstruct Dr. Hansen's own methods and find some flaw as well – this is what researchers do. And Dr. Hansen, who has written before about the "problems" of children raised by same-sex couples, and who appears to be a psychological darling of the religious right set, seems to have entered into her current project with an agenda already in place, making her "findings" suspect at best. However, none of that matters.

Let's just say, for one brief, hallucinatory moment, that Dr. Hansen's findings are correct and that children raised by same-sex parents do have a "4 to 10 times greater likelihood of developing a non-heterosexual preference than other children." So what?

One of the problems with trying to prove that gay men and lesbians are "just like everyone else" and that children raised by same-sex parents are "just like everyone else" is that "everyone else" translates to "non-gay-or-lesbian." In other words, our own argument makes us "less than" and holds up heterosexuality as the standard to shoot for.

I have read many studies involving same-sex parenting, including some of the studies that Dr. Hansen examines. My own beliefs hold that any problems that children raised by same-sex couples exhibit (and there don't seem to be many, according to these studies) have to do with societal opinion rather than improper parenting. If society thinks that your family unit is "bad" or "wrong," of course that will have some repercussions. The fact that these children are well adjusted and healthy in the face of such negative public opinion speaks to the excellent parenting that they are receiving.

But are they more prone to same-sex attraction than children raised by opposite-sex couples? The studies that Dr. Hansen attempts to debunk say no, and every legitimate medical and psychological association in the country has publicly stated that sexual orientation is not a choice (does Dr. Hansen belong to the APA?). But what difference does it make? What if they all grew up to be gay, lesbian or bisexual – with a handful of transgendered kids thrown in for good measure? Would this be such a terrible outcome?

I would argue that Dr. Hansen's findings are questionable, based on the fact that her history indicates an agenda going in – not a hypothesis, which would be legitimate, but an agenda. But I would also argue that, even if legitimate research found that 100 percent of children raised by same-sex couples developed same-sex attractions, it just wouldn't matter. Homosexuality, when separated from negative societal opinions, is simply not an issue. Let's move on.

On Extraordinary Awards, Or, Wounded Troops, Wounded Again

We come together today to discuss one of the more disturbing things that the Administration has done recently…and for a President who claims he “supports the troops”, this story is even more disturbing than usual.

It has his fingerprints all over it, however: laws ignored, rules rendered irrelevant, secrets kept from those who need to know—and ultimately, the cost of his bad decisions are being borne by those who have already paid about a high a price as could be possible in the service of this Nation.

Follow along, my friends, and I will treat you to a magic trick: one in which “Support The Wounded Troops” magically becomes “Screw The Wounded Troops” right before your very eyes…and while you probably won’t feel like applauding at the end, it’s nonetheless a trick you don’t want to miss.

We hear, from time to time, of people who receive very large cash awards for injuries—and while the amounts of money may seem exceptional, we also realize that these are people who will have exceptional burdens in the future.

These burdens are most exceptional when they are borne by soldiers in the field who are wounded in the service of the United States, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (the DVA) will, from time to time, provide “extraordinary awards” to wounded servicemembers. These awards either exceed $250,000 or are retroactive eight years or more…or both.

Until recently, DVA Regional Offices had the authority to issue such awards, and they did so with some regularity. These cases might arise, of course, because the severity of an injury causes the permanent inability of someone to ever return to gainful employment…or they might arise because newly accepted information has made a veteran (or a class of veterans) eligible for retroactive benefits that the DVA chose not to award in the past. The Agent Orange veterans fall into such a category.

The authority for the DVA’s rules and regulations is Title 38 of the US Code; the controlling rules and regulations themselves are found in Chapter 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations. It’s all well understood law with a clear application, decision, and appeals process.

It is unusual law, as well, in that the DVA has a “duty to assist” those who might have a claim in their efforts to convince the DVA to give them the award they seek. The claims system is supposed to be nonadversarial; however, the American Bar Association feels that the system does not fit that description today.

In what must have been an effort to prove the ABA correct, the DVA’s Compensation and Pension Service sent out a “fast letter” in August of 2007 requiring the Regional Offices to submit, for their approval, all “extraordinary awards”. The letter outlined a new approach for this type of review:

…Do not offer these rating decisions to any veteran’s representative for review until the C&P Service makes a final determination regarding the propriety of the decision…

… If the C&P Service concurs with the VSC [Veterans Service Center, meaning “the local office”] decision, the veteran’s representative (if applicable) will then be allowed to review the decision prior to its promulgation…

…If the C&P Service determines the decision is improper, it will provide specific corrective action.

--from the “fast letter” of August 27, 2007 (emphasis from the original)

In a letter that appears to have produced by some sort of stenographically inclined circus clown (I’m not kidding…check the link) the DVA acknowledges to Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) that the new reviews have caused 91 of 494 cases to be rejected for reasons that are unknown to the claimants…reviews that were conducted by the C&P Service without any opportunity for the claimants to provide input or participate in the process.

The reason we know about all this is because one veteran, Steven G. Stratford, has begun to push back—and also because of Larry Scott’s VA Watchdog dot Org website, which has been following this story for nearly a year now.

Stratford has presented to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims a request for a Writ of Mandamus (mandamus is found today in the word “mandate”…and a Writ of Mandamus mandates a governmental agency to act in a certain manner) that would:

…order Respondents [the DVA] to immediately rescind the unconstitutional “extraordinary award” scheme and fully restore all illegally confiscated entitlements and awards.

Unconstitutional, did you say?

As it turns out, yes.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

--The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution

The “due process” guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment entitles the veteran to a fair appeals process, not a “double secret probation” kind of process; and the benefits for which a veteran is qualified are a property right guaranteed by the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment.

The story of Steven Stratford and his battle with the DVA is amazing in itself.

Stratford was a Vietnam veteran of the Air Force, and he has been at this since 1987, when he filed a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which was denied twice, in 1997 and 2003. On both occasions the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ordered the DVA to rethink the decision…which they did, the San Diego VA Regional Office agreeing in May of 2007 that Stafford was entitled to an award retroactive to 1987.

The very next month the C&P Service began creating a new review procedure, which was announced in the “fast letter” we discussed above. No “rulemaking” was associated with the new review procedure—and no claimant was informed as to the C&P Service’s new plans.

Just before Halloween of 2007 a new decision was issued again denying the claim—it was decided the PTSD was not service-related after all, despite the DVA’s own reports earlier in the year that it was. The two reports that sided with Stratford were noticeably absent from the discussion, it is reported.

To this day the DVA refuses to allow Stratford access to his own files…and Statford’s attorney tells the Court in the application for the Writ that the DVA remains unable to provide any statutory or regulatory authority authorizing the new review process.

Stafford’s not the only one in this fight, either. Veterans For Common Sense and Veterans United For Truth are also seeking to “enjoin” the DVA (through an injunction) to follow their own Mental Health Strategic Plan, to provide immediate care for veterans who present at VA facilities with “suicidal intentions”, and, if the Order as proposed were to be adopted:

“…Defendants are hereby enjoined from applying or taking any administrative action to enforce the provisions of the Extraordinary Awards Procedure…

… Within 90 days of this Order, Defendants shall establish a comprehensive remedial plan to develop and implement procedures to satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause, including a right to retain paid counsel, steps to insure the availability of pre-decisonal hearings at the Regional Office adjudication level, and the readjudication of all SCDDC claims where Regional Office grant amounts or retroactive awards were reduced as a result of the Extraordinary Awards Procedure…”

And for the moment, that’s all we know, as both cases are before the courts awaiting decisions.

So that’s the story: we send people overseas to go into harm’s way on our behalf, they suffer injuries and we deny them compensation for years…sometimes even decades…and when they finally do prevail, the DVA introduces a secret new “star chamber” to keep the deck stacked against the veterans.

Unfortunately for the DVA, they may have returned injured—but they also returned as fighters…and if the courts grant the requests, we’ll see a major victory for veterans…and if that happens, maybe this Administration actually will support the troops for once.

Now that’s a magic trick I would applaud.

Patrick Sawyer Memorial Bike Ride Tues 7-29

[For those that don't know, Patrick Sawyer died of injuries sustained from a hit-and-run accident-- he was riding his bike and struck by a car from behind.For more information, please see this website.]

There will be a fundraising ride in Pat’s honor next Tuesday night, July 29th. The ride will start from the Northpoint Elementary School in Granger, IN. There will be a prayer at 6 PM immediately preceding the ride.

The ride will take place during the regular Outpost Tuesday Night Ride, but will have the special purpose of generating contributions for the Patrick Sawyer fund. Cash, credit cards and checks (made out to “Benefit of Patrick Sawyer”) will be accepted the night of the event.

Please check back here in the next couple of days; several local bicycle shops are helping to organize this fundraising effort, and we will have more details soon.


Visitation will be Sunday, July 27th from 1-5pm.

Hickey Funeral Home

17131 Cleveland Rd

South Bend, IN

Visitation will also be Monday 10-11am at Little FLower Church

54191 Ironwood Rd

South Bend, IN

Funeral at Little FLower Church Monday at 11 am

Luncheon will follow where we will remember Pat. Everyone will have a chance to speak about Pat, to celebrate his life, to give words of remembrance. We encourage all those who have memories and thoughts to share.

In lieu of flowers, please consider giving to the fund which is set up for the children: Danny, Joey, Tommy, and Laura. You can go to any Key Bank branch or send donations to:

Benefit of Patrick Sawyer

Key Bank

South Bend, IN 46601

Truthout roundup 7/24

Truthout's Maya Schenwar reports on the latest high-profile Iraqi to endorse a withdrawal timetable; Mukasey attempts a legal justification for his avoidance of torture investigations; Congressional Democrats score a host of legislative victories; Truthout's J. Sri Raman writes on the reasons behind the Indian parliament's overwhelming approval of the Bush-Singh nuclear deal; as food prices rise, East Africa in desperate straits; veterans group runs ad criticizing McCain's war platform; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Maya Schenwar Former "Bush Puppet" Calls for US Withdrawal
Truthout's Maya Schenwar reports: "Dr. Ayad Allawi, the former interim Iraqi prime minister previously referred to even by US Congress members as a 'Bush puppet,' voiced his strong support for a US withdrawal timeline during a Wednesday Congressional hearing. During his term in office, from June 2004 to April 2005, Allawi endorsed the US's controversial bombings of Fallujah and echoed Bush's speeches almost word for word in many of his own statements; The Washington Post reported that Bush administration officials coached Allawi on the content of his public comments. Prior to his involvement in the US-backed, post-invasion Iraqi government, Allawi worked with the CIA. Yet, on Wednesday, Allawi blatantly called for 'a time frame for reduction of US forces,' a statement that stands in stark contrast to the hazy, deadline-less 'time horizon' recently advocated by President Bush."

Using Law to Justify Torture
Daphne Eviatar, of The Washington Independent, reports: "For months now, Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey has refused to investigate whether Bush administration officials committed war crimes by authorizing the torture of suspected terrorists. His reasoning? Any actions were authorized by the administration’s lawyers, and so cannot constitute a crime. As he wrote to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), one of 56 House Democrats who last month called on Mukasey to appoint a special counsel: 'It would be both unwise and unjust to expose to possible criminal penalties those who relied in good faith on ... prior Justice Department opinions.' But can the alleged use of torture be so easily waived away?"

Democrats Rack Up Wins
In The Hill, Mike Soraghan reports: "Democrats are marching through their legislative agenda as they near the fall election season, scoring several key victories and forcing President Bush to abandon his veto threats. The latest triumph came Wednesday when Bush dropped his opposition to a massive housing-rescue bill and the House subsequently passed the measure, 272-152. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can add that win to her party overriding Bush on a water resources bill, the farm bill and an effort to stave off sharp cuts to doctors under Medicare. They also forced the president to back down on GI education benefits and unemployment compensation - both of them included against his wishes in the emergency war-spending bill."

J. Sri Raman Another "Bipartisan" Victory for Bush-Singh Deal
Truthout's J. Sri Raman writes: "Very few found the victory of India's government in a confidence vote in the country's parliament on Tuesday evening anything like startling news. The margin of victory, however, turned out to be much wider than many had expected. This created a tailor-made situation for conspiracy theories, with the media going to town with two of them. Almost no one has talked of a collaboration theory, though that is more connected with the catalyst of the parliamentary debate - the US-India nuclear deal."

Veteran's Ad Hits McCain on Troop Pullout
According to The Associated Press: "A veterans group critical of the war in Iraq accuses John McCain of wanting to occupy Iraq indefinitely, against the wishes of the country's leaders, in an ad that will air later this week. The group,, calls attention to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's desire for a troop withdrawal timetable. The group will spend $100,000 to run the ad on the MSNBC and CNN cable channels from Friday through the middle of next week."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hoosiers for Jill releases campaign video

by Don Wheeler

Jill Long Thompson's gubernatorial campaign recently released a ten minute video to introduce her statewide. With a couple of minor grumbles, it looks like a pretty solid effort to me. The people speaking for her have pretty serious credentials, and it's a particular kick for me that Birch Bayh (a bit of a hero to my mother) speaks up on her behalf.

I'd like to hear what others think.

Rev. Forrest Church on love and death

The Rev. Forrest Church of All Soul's Church (NYC) published a post on The Beacon Broadside yesterday, dealing with issues all of us must face as the end of our life approaches. From the post:

Death is central to my definition of religion: religion is our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die. We are not the animal with advanced language or tools as much as we are the
religious animal. Knowing that we must die, we question what life means. The answers we arrive at may not be religious answers, but the questions death forces us to ask are, at heart, religious questions. Where did I come from? Who am I? Where am I going? What is life's purpose? What does all this mean?

All of these questions obviously have special urgency for me now that I have been told I have only months left in my life. Hearing word of my diagnosis of terminal cancer, a longtime parishioner, who has known her full share of death, wrote me of her heartache. "My heart has been broken again," Camille wrote, "and for that I am overwhelmingly thankful; without love this would not be possible." She had it just right. And she and others in my congregation made me think that I needed to write one last book, one that would consolidate my thoughts on love and death. Fighting the most convincing deadline of my life, I none-the-less experienced great joy writing Love & Death. I discovered, in confronting my diagnosis, that death is not life's goal, only life's terminus. The goal is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for. This is where love comes into the picture. The one thing that can't be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go.

Truthout roundup 7/23

Maya Schenwar On Iraq: Wiping Out the Legend
Maya Schenwar writes for Truthout: "A silent mythos is enveloping the liberal consciousness in the waning days of the Bush presidency. It spins like this: When it comes to Iraq, Americans' one reassurance is that this war can't possibly be repeated, not now that we've watched its consequences play out and caught a glimpse of the deception that caused it. As a result of Iraq, the logic goes, we will likely elect a new leader who railed against the war from its inception. We'll then shift toward a foreign policy that disavows offensive interventionism. We will make new friendships and repair old ones. We will live in peace. However, in the forward to 'Lessons From Iraq: Avoiding the Next War,' a collection of essays from the progressive think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, editor Miriam Pemberton warns against such now-we-know-better thinking. She cautions against the oft-uttered mantra surrounding large-scale deeds of evildoing, 'Never Again.'"

Bush Administration Rushes to Change Workplace Toxin Rules
In The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig reports: "Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers' on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins. The agency did not disclose the proposal, as required, in public notices of regulatory plans that it filed in December and May. Instead, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's intention to push for the rule first surfaced on July 7, when the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted on its Web site that it was reviewing the proposal, identified only by its nine-word title."

Kurds Storm Out as Iraqi Parliament O.K.'s October 1 Elections
Nancy A. Youssef, for McClatchy Newspapers, reports: "The Iraqi parliament approved a bill Tuesday that calls for crucial provincial elections on Oct. 1, but the secret ballot alienated Iraqi Kurds and very likely will lead to the postponement of the process until next year, several members of parliament told McClatchy. Opponents charged that some of the ruling Shiite Muslim parties were trying to delay the elections by forcing the law through instead of negotiating a compromise. They said the bill was almost certain to be vetoed and challenged in constitutional courts."

Robert Scheer Obama on the Brink
Robert Scheer writes for "Barack Obama is betraying his promise of change and is in danger of becoming just another political hack. Yes, just like former maverick John McCain, who has refashioned himself as a mindless rubber stamp for the most inane policies of the miserably failed Bush administration. Both candidates are embracing, rather than challenging, the fundamental irrationality of Bush's 'war on terror,' which substitutes hysteria for rational analysis in appraising the dangers the country faces."

Torn Apart by War, Kept Apart by the Patriot Act
For the Lexington Herald-Leader, Steve Lannen reports: "Losi Grodya works two jobs, has a driver's license, is working on a community college degree and is readying to take her U.S. citizenship exam. Despite all she has accomplished since settling in Lexington as a refugee from her native Democratic Republic of Congo nearly six years ago, she feels helpless when she talks on the phone with her daughters. Their home has been a Rwandan refugee camp for the past four years. 'They ask me when they are coming. Why is it taking so long? They tell me since I am in America, I must be able to do something to get them to come, but I've tried everything I can,' Grodya said. 'I just want them to come here so we can all be together again. ... But I can't even do that.'"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bicyclist injured in hit-and-run dies

[from the South Bend Tribune--KJH]

Article published Jul 22, 2008

Bicyclist injured in hit-and-run dies
Police release name of suspect, forward case to prosecutor's office.

By ERIN BLASKO Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Kelly Harrington was adrift when Patrick Sawyer paddled into her life.

"My husband and I met Pat on the river," Harrington, of South Bend, said. "We were in this big aluminum canoe and we were basically going in circles. Pat came and gave us a few pointers."

Patrick, an accomplished canoeist, later gave Harrington a few lessons in kayaking, and encouraged her to compete in the sport. They became fast friends.

"He had such a love and enthusiasm for the sport and for sharing it with everyone," she said. "He was so very patient and had a fantastic sense of humor."

With Sawyer's death, Harrington now finds herself similarly adrift.

The 40-year-old South Bend man died about 2:30 a.m. Monday as a result of injuries suffered after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident last week while riding his bicycle along Cleveland Road.

He had been in a medically induced coma since Wednesday.

"He was doing everything right," Harrington said. "He was family oriented; he was going to school; he was so dedicated to a healthy lifestyle ... and it's just senseless."

Sawyer leaves behind four children -- an 8-year-old daughter and three sons, ages 10, 12, and 14 -- and his wife, Nancy Sawyer, with whom he founded Paddlefest, an annual canoe and kayak race at St. Pat's Park, in 2001.

County police on Monday identified 21-year-old Shane Ryan McGee, of South Bend, as the lone suspect in the case. McGee, in the company of his attorney, turned himself in Thursday, more than 24 hours after he allegedly hit Sawyer. He was questioned and released.

The case has been turned over to the St. Joseph County prosecutor's office for review, county police spokesman Sgt. William Redman said.

They are recommending McGee be charged with failure to stop at a traffic accident resulting in death, a Class C felony.

Catherine Wilson, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said prosecutors are awaiting results of an autopsy to be performed on Sawyer today before deciding whether to formally charge McGee.

It is unknown why McGee failed to stop following the accident, which occurred about 5 a.m. Wednesday. A nearby resident called police after he heard a crash and came outside to find Sawyer lying on the ground next to his mangled bike, police said.

Sawyer was riding with traffic when he was hit. He was wearing a helmet and reflective vest and had lights on his bicycle.

His death has sparked calls by his wife and by local bicyclists to make the community more bicycle-friendly.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Hickey Funeral Homes of South Bend, a family spokesperson said.

Truthout roundup 7/22

t r u t h o u t 07.22

Simona Perry Interview With Representative Jay Inslee
Truthout's Simona Perry interviews Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington. Perry writes, "Representative Jay Inslee (D-Washington), inspired by John F. Kennedy's 1961 Apollo Project - with the ambitious vision of putting humans on the moon - believes that if the people of the United States are given a goal, the hope, and the motivation, they, not just government, will lead the way in solving one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, global warming."

Serbia: Karadzic Arrest Opens Doors to EU
Vesna Peric Zimonjic reports for Inter Press Service: "One of the most wanted men in the world, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, was arrested Monday night by Serbian security forces. 'The Hague indictee Radovan Karadzic was located and arrested in the action performed by Serbian security forces,' the office of President Boris Tadic announced. The statement added that Karadzic was immediately handed over to the Special Court in Belgrade, which deals with war crimes and organised crime."

A Battle Over "the Next War"
In The Los Angeles Times, Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel report: "For more than 30 years, the Pentagon establishment considered it an essential duty to prepare for a war of national survival. But under Gates, that focus has fallen from favor. In public speeches and private meetings, Gates has chastised many commanders as ignoring wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while they plan for speculative future conflicts. 'We should not starve the forces at war today to prepare for a war that may never come,' Gates said in a stinging address last month, one of a series he has delivered. Gates even has coined a term for what he sees as a military disorder: 'next-war-itis.'"

Israel-Hamas Standoff Deepens Water Woes
The Christian Science Monitor's Rafael D. Frankel reports: "Five hundred yards south from where hundreds of children play in the water next to this refugee camp, a pipe spills 20 million liters of raw sewage into the Mediterranean Sea each day. Between 105 and 120 million liters of sewage are generated daily in Gaza. Of that, only 20 million liters are fully treated, while another 40 million liters are partially treated. The rest flows raw into the sea, storm drains, and a massive landfill north of Gaza City, which spans 4.3 million square feet. The resulting pollution has sullied not only the seawater, but also the aquifer below Gaza, causing a severe shortage of potable water and putting the population at risk for a range of illnesses."

Chris Hedges Bad Days for Newsrooms - and Democracy
For, Chris Hedges writes: "The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print."

VIDEO Simona Perry: Interview With Representative Jay Inslee
Truthout's Simona Perry interviews Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington. Perry writes, "Representative Jay Inslee (D-Washington), inspired by John F. Kennedy's 1961 Apollo Project - with the ambitious vision of putting humans on the moon - believes that if the people of the United States are given a goal, the hope, and the motivation, they, not just government, will lead the way in solving one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, global warming."

Cost of Loan Bailout, if Needed, Could Be $25 Billion
David M. Herszenhorn, reporting for The New York Times, writes: "The proposed government rescue of the nation's two mortgage finance giants will appear on the federal budget as a $25 billion cost to taxpayers, the independent Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday even though officials conceded that there was no way of really knowing what, if anything, a bailout would cost."

Blackwater to Leave Security Business Following Problems in Iraq
Elana Schor, reporting for The Guardian, writes: "Blackwater, the US private military contractor widely accused of abuse of power in Iraq, is getting out of the security business." Blackwater's decision to shift its business to other sectors, however, may be prompted by other motives, like a potential US pullout from Iraq, according to Daniel Schulman of Mother Jones.

Is Blackwater Leaving the Security Biz?
Daniel Schulman, writing for Mother Jones, reports: "If his controversial company exits the private security business, Blackwater president Gary Jackson wants you to know exactly who's to blame: 'If you could get it right,' he told the AP, referring to the journalists covering Blackwater, 'we might stay in the business.'"

Bob Herbert Madness and Shame
Bob Herbert, writing for The New York Times, asks: "You want a scary thought? Imagine a fanatic in the mold of Dick Cheney, but without the vice president's sense of humor."

Bush Administration Proposes Squeezing Oil From Rock
Dina Cappiello reports for The Associated Press: "The Bush administration wants to set the stage before leaving office for developing oil shale, rocky deposits in the western US that could eventually yield 800 billion barrels of oil, according to government estimates."

Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy
Louis Uchitelle reports for The New York Times: "Across the country, women in their prime earning years, struggling with an unfriendly economy, are retreating from the workforce, either permanently or for long stretches."

A Test of Justice for Rape Victims
Sarah Tofte reports for The Washington Post: "Every two minutes, someone is raped in the United States. Every year, more than 200,000 rape victims, mostly women, report their rapes to police. Most consent to the creation of a rape kit, an invasive process for collecting physical evidence (including DNA material) of the assault that can take up to six hours. What most victims don't know is that in thousands of cases, that evidence sits untested in police evidence lockers."

Bush Administration Plans End Run for Abstinence-Only Funds
Scott Swenson reports for RH Reality Check: "The Bush Administration Department of Health and Human Services isn't getting much rest these days, using every moment of its final few months to leave an indelible ideological mark on government."

House Defeats Paper Ballot Funding
Michael Hardy reports for Federal Computer Week: "The House rejected a bill last week that would have funded the purchase of paper ballots as a backup to electronic voting systems for the upcoming election."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Should we fiddle while earth burns?

by Gene B

AS a follow up to Gore's speech I am sending out two more pieces -- this is the last of my long e-mails for a while -- it is time for me to become an essayist again!

The first piece is a speech by Professort Lester of MIT:

The second is a piece by an artist -- the producer of the "Full Monty".

All the added emphasis is mine

This is a transcript of a speech by Richard K. Lester, MIT professor of nuclear science and engineering and director of the Industrial Performance Center, who spoke on 14 JUL 2008 at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association. Lester is a co-author of recent MIT reports on the future of nuclear energy and coal energy, and he has published widely on the management and control of nuclear technology. He is currently leading the Energy Innovation Pathways Project, an interdisciplinary MIT assessment of the capabilities of the U.S. energy innovation system.

I found the speech interesting, so I thought I would bring it to you. A quote that particularly caught my eye is the following: "And so, to conclude, it is long past time for serious federal leadership on energy innovation. But it is also time to move beyond the Manhattan/Apollo Project metaphor. A better metaphor might be a domestic Marshall Plan for energy innovation. The original Manhattan project involved a relatively small number of people working in secret. The original Marshall Plan took everyone, working together, to rebuild the broken European economy."

Energy Innovation: What’s Here and What’s Coming

Prof. Richard K. Lester Massachusetts Institute of Technology

remarks prepared for presentation to the National Governors Association Centennial Meeting Philadelphia, PA July 14, 2008

Governor Pawlenty, Governor Rendell, thank you for the privilege of speaking at this historic meeting.

I would like to discuss the role of technological innovation in solving our energy problem, and, especially, the important question of what role for policy – state as well as federal – in accelerating the innovation process.

I want to begin with three simple messages.

Recent progress in the clean technology field has been substantial. New kinds of generating capacity are being added --in some cases, notably wind, at an impressive rate. Costs are coming down, albeit sometimes more slowly than was promised.

Investment in next-generation technologies is increasing. The strong interest of the venture capital community is particularly welcome.

Ambitious targets are being set. Some of the most effective policy interventions are occurring at the state and local levels. California has been a leader. In my own state of Massachusetts, important clean
energy legislation was enacted just this month. Other states are on a similar path.

That said --and here is my first message – these activities aren’t remotely close to the scale of effort that will be required to solve the problem.

My second message concerns the future of nuclear power and of coal-fired electricity with carbon capture and storage.

These two options won’t win any popularity contests, and some would fiercely dispute that
they belong in the clean technology category at all. But without large-scale deployment of both, especially in the critical 2020 to 2050 timeframe, it is unlikely --to the point of implausibility --that the world will be able to avoid serious and perhaps even disastrous ecological and economic damage from climate change.

Coal is an abundant, relatively low-cost energy resource that is widely distributed around the world, and in the US we depend on it for half of our electricity. We cannot continue to burn it as we have, but we cannot afford to turn our back on it either. We must therefore find ways to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and to store the carbon dioxide safely underground, at reasonable cost.

Nuclear power is the only carbon-free energy source that is already contributing on a large scale and that is also expandable with few inherent limits. Public opinion has been gradually shifting in its favor, but the failure to demonstrate and implement an effective final disposal strategy for high-level waste remains a tremendous barrier to public acceptance, no matter how many expert panels and commissions opine that this is a technically feasible task.

The Yucca Mountain project may or may not meet the regulatory criteria that will eventually be applied to it. But there is no doubt that we can do better, and doing better should be a high priority.

No serious person would dispute the importance of these two innovation goals: affordable carbon capture and storage, and safe, implementable high-level nuclear waste disposal. But my basic message here is that in both cases current U.S. policies are putting our nation at least partly on the wrong track, and that this is almost certain to cause further delays in the availability of viable coal and nuclear power --delays that we can ill afford.

My third message is perhaps best conveyed by the poet Wallace Stevens, born not far from
here in Reading, PA. Stevens wrote of ‘the lunatics of one idea . . . . in a world of ideas’. He was referring to ideologues and fanatics, who, blinded by their single idea, couldn’t see the world around them. But he might as well have been talking about the energy debate, where such lunacy has unfortunately been all too common.

The fact is that there is no single idea, no silver bullet, that will solve the problem. First and foremost, we need new ways to use energy more efficiently. But very likely also much bigger contributions from solar, wind, biomass, nuclear, and also advanced fossil fuel technologies. In our current circumstances, we can ill afford the self-indulgence of those who --however well-intentioned – like to tell the world that they are anti-this, or anti-that.


So far I’ve been talking about our energy problem. But this is incorrect. Because we really have three separate problems, each on its own very difficult to solve. And because the solutions to one will sometimes make the others worse, the overall difficulty is more than additive – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The first problem is the projected increase in the use of energy. Unless the world goes into a deep and prolonged recession, by the middle of this century global energy use will likely have doubled, and electricity use will have tripled, placing great pressure on energy supplies and prices.

And in case there is any doubt: whatever role speculators may be playing in the current oil price spike, the underlying issue here is growing demand.

This is an era in which hundreds of millions of people, perhaps even billions, are lifting themselves out of poverty into what we in this country might recognize as at least a way-station on the road to a middle-class standard of living, all within the span of a few decades. This is an economic accomplishment that has no precedent in all of human history, and we should celebrate it.

One of the consequences is sharply increased energy use. But in case anyone thinks that a tripling of electricity demand by mid-century implies irresponsible, profligate consumption, I point out that this
would mean, roughly speaking, that the richest billion of the world’s population at that time would be using electricity at about the same rate that the average American uses it today, the middle 7 billion would be using it at a rate that the average Chinese is likely to reach in just a few years (or a bit more than a third of the average American’s usage today), and the poorest billion would still have no electricity at all. That is what a tripling of electricity demand by mid-century will mean.

The second problem is that for at least the next several decades the world will remain heavily dependent on the Persian Gulf for its premium fuels.

More oil and gas will certainly be found and produced in other parts of the world – though perhaps not at a rate sufficient to offset the decline in existing fields. In any case these new supplies will generally be more costly, and because of the twist of geological fate which led much of the world’s low-cost oil and gas resources to be deposited in the Gulf region, that volatile area will continue to dominate the global supply picture for the foreseeable future.

The third problem is of course that of climate change. This may or may not be the most serious problem of all, but it is certainly the most complex when we consider the scientific, technological, economic and political aspects together – as of course we must.

Much has now been learned about this problem, but many major uncertainties remain. So when the question is asked: how fast should we move to try to slow climate change? – the answer isn’t obvious.

Figuring it out will mean finding a strategy that strikes a balance between the increased economic cost of actions to reduce emissions, on the one hand, and the benefits of those actions (in terms of ecological and economic damage averted in the future), on the other. Unfortunately almost every element in that equation is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that the longer we wait to take action, the more costly the consequences will be. The clock is ticking, and it won’t stop ticking simply because we can’t or won’t decide what to do.

The best chance we have – perhaps the only chance --of solving these problems, of breaking out of this
triple straitjacket of price, climate, and security pressures, is to accelerate the introduction of new technologies for energy supply and use and deploy them on a very large scale.

Accelerate relative to what? Relative to what would happen if we left innovation entirely to the forces of the marketplace. This may be an obvious point, but it is still worth emphasizing.

Energy innovation is different from other kinds of innovation for a very important reason. The major impetus for it comes from outside the marketplace. Two of our three big problems – energy security and climate change – are not now factored into the great majority of the millions of decisions made in the marketplace every day by suppliers and consumers of energy.

So, even if innovation can help solve those problems – and there is no doubt that it can --the economic
incentives created by the play of market forces alone won’t be enough to bring it about. The question is not whether to augment these forces, but how.

Some are calling for a crash program by the federal government -a Manhattan Project or an Apollo Project for energy innovation.

These calls helpfully communicate the urgency and the scale of the challenge. But in another sense they are a distraction because, if we take them literally, we will end up solving the wrong problem.

In both the Apollo and Manhattan Projects there was a single, clearly-defined (though high-risk) technical goal. There was also just one customer – the federal government. Success meant achieving a single implementation of the new technology. In both cases this took just a few years to achieve. And cost was essentially no object.

Not one of these things applies to the case of energy. Here we have multiple and sometimes conflicting goals (lower prices, reduced carbon emissions, increased security). We have many different kinds of customers – from individual tenants and homeowners to giant industrial energy users. We have multiple time-scales, from a few years to many decades. Success will come not from a single implementation but only if the technology is adopted by many firms, or by many more individuals. And finally, energy is a commodity, so cost is crucial.

In this last sense, the upcoming energy revolution is not only not like the Manhattan project, it isn’t even like the digital revolution, to which it is sometimes also compared. It is actually much harder. Because energy innovations, unlike many digital technologies, usually must compete against an incumbent technology in an existing market, and this imposes tough, nonnegotiable requirements on cost competitiveness, on quality, and on reliability from the very beginning.

So, if we don’t need a Manhattan Project for energy innovation, what do we need?

One thing we surely need is a strategy for energy prices. Many experts argue that the greatest spur to innovation would be to make sure that the full costs of energy provision and use are incorporated in
the market price paid by consumers, including the cost of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions or their consequences, and the full cost of ensuring uninterrupted flows of oil from the Middle East.
Some argue, in fact, that if only we could get the price right, the market will do the rest --that a properly adjusted energy price will call forth the necessary innovations by making new technologies more attractive in the marketplace.

Price is very important, but it won’t be sufficient on its own.

Partly this is because we aren’t likely to ‘get the price right’ in that sense. For example, while the U.S. will probably have a carbon price at some point, perhaps even quite soon, this is sure to have escape ramps, exemptions for critical sectors, and other loopholes that will make it fall well short of what the economic models prescribe --that is, a uniform price across the economy which ramps up at the economically optimal rate. Even more elusive, of course, will be the ideal of a carbon price that is harmonized across the globe.

But equally important, a pricing approach won’t be sufficient because it won’t address the rest of the
energy innovation system --by which I mean the entire complex of direct support, indirect incentives, regulations, public and private research and educational institutions, codes, standards, and markets within which new technologies are developed and taken up by energy suppliers and users.

In the coming decades this system will be called upon to deliver hundreds of billions of dollars of mostly private investment in innovative technologies, make hundreds of sites available for the construction of controversial new energy facilities, and every year train tens of thousands of young people with a strong background in energy systems engineering.

The evidence of the last three decades tells us that the current innovation system has fallen short. Yet the demands on it going forward will be much greater than anything we have yet seen. This system is in need of a major overhaul.

This effort must address the entire innovation process, including obstacles to commercial demonstration, to early adoption, and to large-scale deployment. This is not just about research
and development.

There is no doubt that funding on a much larger scale will be needed for both fundamental research and technology development. Both government and private investment in energy R&D are far below where they should be.

But the whole point is to achieve scale in technology applications. And without attention to critical bottlenecks downstream of the R&D stage --including commercial technology demonstrations, which have often been poorly handled by the federal government --many of the potential benefits of more R&D funding won’t be realized.

In short, we must be as creative and rigorous in our thinking about how to redesign the institutions for
innovation as we will need to be about the innovations themselves.

For example, we must find a way to overcome the obstacles to sound innovation strategies created by the annual government budgeting and appropriations process, by federal procurement regulations, and by shifting political winds.

Here is one idea: Suppose we adopted the principle that the public good part of the energy innovation system beyond basic research (which the Department of Energy manages quite well) should be directly funded by industry sales, rather than by general tax revenues.

Suppose that these funds were collected in the form of a small fee applied to all end-user sales in a given
industry segment – electricity service, for example, or gas service --ifthe majority of the firms in that segment voted to do so (Congress would probably have to approve this.) A fee of less than three tenths of a cent per kilowatt hour – or about 60 cents per week for the average household – would generate an
annual stream of revenue five times larger than the total annual DOE budget for applied energy research, development and demonstration.

Suppose, then, that the firms in this industry organized themselves into interest groups, or innovation boards, which would each be responsible for a different technological pathway – smart grid technologies, carbon capture and storage, next generation photovoltaics, and so on.

Each board would request proposals to fund work in its domain from businesses, public research laboratories, universities, and others. To qualify to receive these funds, bidders would have to agree to
put the resulting intellectual property into the public domain – available to everyone.

At the beginning of each cycle, every firm in the industry would distribute the fees collected from its customers among these boards based on their work programs and its own priorities. If, say, a utility was particularly eager to see progress in carbon capture and sequestration, it might allocate funds to the carbon capture and sequestration board. Or, if it was concerned about skilled manpower shortages, it would allocate funds to the energy education and training board, which might have an ongoing scholarship program for power engineering students.

If a utility was unhappy with the progress being made by one board, it could redirect its funding to another. Or it could itself decide to form a board in a new area and fund that, perhaps in
conjunction with other firms. It would in any case have to commit all of its innovation fees to one board or another.

Such a scheme would create a guaranteed stream of revenues for energy innovation, while avoiding both the Federal appropriations process and the problem of underinvestment by private free riders. It would ensure that decisions on what to do and who should be funded to do it would be made by those closest to the energy marketplace. And by requiring IP to be shared, it would avoid unfair competitive advantage.


Another idea: There is great potential for small, entrepreneurial firms to contribute to innovation in the energy sector, as they do in other industries.

But the energy industries are dominated by large incumbent providers who are often slow to embrace transformative or disruptive innovations. These firms typically have tightly integrated supply chains and close ties to government regulators, and they rely on highly-regulated pipelines or wires to deliver
energy services to end users. This creates a formidable barrier between entrepreneurial newcomers and end users, and tends to force innovation towards the upstream end of the value chain.

But many opportunities for innovation lie right at the interface with the end-user. Most consumers are
indifferent to energy itself – that is, to BTUs or kilowatt hours. What they care about are the services that energy enables: affordable comfort, mobility, lighting, and so on. The provision of energy is almost always just one part of a larger set-up in which a value-added service is delivered to the consumer.

Finding opportunities to combine energy services in creative new ways with other services and products is exactly where smaller entrepreneurial firms can be expected to shine. We need to find ways to let these firms compete and grow in this important innovation space.


What role for the states in all this?

Decisive progress on the major energy issues will require decisive action at the federal level. It cannot be achieved by states alone. And the longer the delay in serious leadership at the federal level, the
more difficult it will be to harmonize conflicting policies.

But many of the relevant authorities – to regulate utilities, to make land-use decisions, to set building codes and zoning requirements, to support public education, and so on – reside at the state and local levels. So the task will require a partnership of federal, state, and local governments.

There is more than enough to do here for everyone. Whole new industries are likely to develop in support of the energy transition, and state-level policies promoting innovation take-up and the development of a skilled workforce will be vital.

Jobs will be generated at every skill level – not just the top end of the range --and since many of these jobs must be located close to the point of energy use, they are at less risk of outsourcing to lower-wage economies.

Just as one example, let’s suppose that by the year 2030 the U.S. was generating 5% of its electricity from small-scale photovoltaic installations – an ambitious goal, though not as ambitious as some recent targets. A rough estimate is that this would create twenty years of steady local work for 45,000-50,000 installers – mostly electricians and construction workers – and perhaps double that number if we include indirect labor. About two hundred thousand additional jobs would be created upstream in the PV value chain – some of which would also be located here in the U.S. And of course this doesn’t include the other 95% of the power sector, where many more new jobs are also likely to be created.


And so, to conclude, it is long past time for serious federal leadership on energy innovation. But it is also time to move beyond the Manhattan/Apollo Project metaphor. A better metaphor might be a domestic Marshall Plan for energy innovation. The original Manhattan project involved a relatively small number of people working in secret. The original Marshall Plan took everyone, working together, to rebuild the broken European economy.

Let us recapture that inspired exercise of American leadership at home. As we did once before on
foreign soil, let us combine a vision of what can be with a command of hard facts and data to build an effective system for energy innovation in every one
of our United States.

Thank you again for the honor of being with you this morning.

Richard K. Lester
Richard Lester is director of the Industrial Performance Center (IPC) and a professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on industrial innovation and the public and private management of technology. In recent years he has led several major studies of national and regional productivity, competitiveness and innovation performance commissioned by governments and industrial groups around the world. His latest books include: Innovation – The Missing Dimension (Harvard University Press, 2005), co-authored with Michael J. Piore; Making Technology Work: Applications in Energy and the Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2004), co-authored with John M. Deutch; and The Productive Edge: A New Strategy for Economic Growth (W.W. Norton, 2000). His new book on the role of universities in local and regional innovation systems will be published by Princeton University Press next year.
Professor Lester is also active in research on energy technology innovation, and co-teaches a popular MIT course on “Applications of Technology in Energy and the Environment”. He is a co-author of the recent MIT reports on The Future of Nuclear Power (2003) and The Future of Coal (2007), and has published widely on the management and control of nuclear technology. He is currently leading the Energy Innovation Pathways Project, an interdisciplinary MIT assessment of the capabilities of the U.S. energy innovation system.


The original link to this transcript can be found here:


Even oilmen believe our planet is burning up, says Full Monty writer behind terrifying TV drama
By Simon Beaufoy
Last updated at 10:12 PM on 19th July 2008

I am sitting in the office of a man who was, until recently, chief executive of one of the biggest oil companies in the world: a man who made his company billions of dollars. I listen, make the odd nervous note and reflect that it's been a long road since I wrote one of Britain's best-loved films, The Full Monty.

As a scriptwriter, I have met lots of powerful people, but my reaction is always the same. When I went to the Oscars, I sat next to a pleasant, elegant woman and chatted happily to her until somebody pointed out it was Claudia Schiffer. After that, I could not utter another word.

But today it isn't because I am star-struck that I am terrified; it is because the oil man is telling me the opposite of everything he should say. Over the tinkle of teacups, he is predicting the end of civilisation.

Rupert Penry-Jones and Neve Campbell in Simon Beaufoy's new two-part drama, Burn Up

My friends give me uncomfortable looks about my new film, Burn Up, because I have a Cassandra-like reputation for writing fiction about things that later become fact.

Many years ago, I made a film called The Darkest Light about a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Two years later, it happened for real.

I wrote the script for another film called Yasmin that suggested disaffected British Muslim youths could turn to terrorism. A year later came the London suicide bombings.

I'm not boasting: I just listen to experts who prove frighteningly accurate.

Burn Up - starring Rupert Penry-Jones, who played Adam Carter in the hit BBC series Spooks - is about the moment runaway climate change collides with an unprecedented oil crisis.

So given my track record, my friends are keen to know what happens at the end.

Once I had decided to write a drama about climate change I spoke to everybody who was prepared to talk.

Surprisingly, this turned out not just to be the usual environmental suspects such as Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth or WWF, but people in the oil industry.

And these weren't disaffected whistle-blowers, but some senior figures who were prepared to step out of the shadows and tell me just how scared they were.

The oil man predicting an apocalypse was one of them. I had gone to his office expecting him to tell me global warming was at best an uncertain science based on dodgy data, at worst a Left-wing conspiracy designed to tax us all to death.

'Fiddling while Rome burns': Even oil industry chiefs now privately admit global warming will worsen disastrously without urgent action

Oil companies pumped out the oil that was producing the carbon dioxide, so why would he tell me any different?

Sure enough, that's how the interview started. The world was 'going through a 40-year transition period from a carbon economy to a hydrogen economy' where oil would smoothly be replaced by other sources of renewable energy.

He talked on convincingly. The tea-lady brought round the trolley. I felt reassurance waft over me: the environmental scaremongers were wrong.

Then I looked up. A '40-year transition period'? I cleared my throat, and nervously suggested that Sir John Houghton, the scientist who led the first Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, had told me we had at best ten years to stop the increase in global temperatures, otherwise we were in danger of runaway climate change. Ten years tops. Not 40.

The CEO stopped in his tracks. 'Oh, you've talked to him, have you?' His tone changed.

He sat down heavily and said: 'Well, I know John and he's right, and if you want to know what I really think, I think we're fiddling while Rome burns.' He was the first of many to come to the confessional. People who for the sake of their careers shouldn't even have returned my phone calls were opening their hearts to me. Why such dangerous honesty towards a writer?

I found the answer at a conference of the Tipping Point organisation which puts artists and scientists together to learn about climate change.

We met at Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre, in which were placed signs reading 'politics', 'business', 'the media' and 'science'. We were asked to stand under the sign we thought offered the most hope of progress on the issue.

With some giggling and shoving, 200 people crowded underneath the various signs. When this musical chairs for adults finally stopped, there were just two people under the 'science' sign. Only one of them was a scientist.

We were aghast. The room was full of eminent scientists from across the world, yet none of them had the confidence to stand under their own sign.

Why? ' Because nobody is listening, ' they answered. 'For 15 years we've been warning about rising sea levels, melting icecaps, changes in sea currents, weakening monsoons, the acidification of the ocean. Yet nobody is listening to us.'

It is extraordinary. There are thousands of scientific studies by climatologists, oceanologists, biologists - every ologist imaginable - charting the current and future effects of climate change. Yet half the population of this country still doesn't believe it.

Today, there's a lot of talk about renewable energy and the G8's latest pledge of cutting carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. But we've got ten years to turn this around, not 40.

Sir James Lovelock, author of the Gaia theory on the ecological balance of the planet, told me it was like the days of appeasement before the Second World War when Hitler was rearming, polishing the boots of his stormtroopers and annexing countries while much of the British Establishment chose to look the other way.

I was so frightened by what I heard that I put solar panels and a wind generator on my roof, changed to a green electricity tariff, cycled everywhere.

Did it make one jot of difference? No. But if I couldn't change my behaviour knowing what I now knew, how could I expect a government to change?

As I dug around the oil industry, I came across another extraordinary elephant in the room that nobody dared mention, but which will become crucial in the fight to prevent irreversible warming: Peak Oil.

This is what they call the moment when we start running out of the stuff.

When I started on this journey, three years ago, oil was 50 dollars a barrel and the Peak Oil theorists were dismissed as alarmist fringe elements. We were apparently at least 50 years away from Peak Oil. Anyone who dared to say different was simply laughed at.

But then I met a man employed by the oil industry to collate data on oil reserves, and he told me that already we are not producing enough oil to meet demand, and even if output were increased, it would be used up by growing demand from China and India.

So, I asked, what did this mean?

'A global crash,' he said, 'at a guess somewhere between 2008 and 2010.'

I left his office on a beautiful, globally-warmed day with house prices soaring and the financial markets blossoming. Clearly, the man was nuts.

But who is nuts, now? Oil has hit 147 dollars a barrel, house prices are plummeting and the stock markets are going through the floor. And yet, still, is anyone listening?

Somehow, I had to turn a mass of complex science and politics into something people would want to watch, but how could I dramatise carbon dioxide, an enemy you can't see, smell or touch?

It would be like Spooks without the terrorists, The Wire without the drug dealers.

I found the answer in men like John Ashton, Tony Blair's 'climate tsar'. A former diplomat, he now shuttles between China and Europe, patiently negotiating, encouraging, persuading the Chinese, soon to become the world's biggest emitters of CO2, to sign up to emission reduction targets.

You are unlikely to see his name anywhere, for that is certainly not his style, but if we ever get ourselves out of this mess, it is people such as John who will have saved us.

And that's what gave me the key to Burn Up: the lies and duplicity of the denial industry pitched against people desperate to prevent runaway climate change.

I concealed a mass of factual science and politics inside the Trojan Horse of a racy thriller.

And where does this leave me? What does Cassandra have to say about the chances of humanity solving this most dangerous of puzzles?

You might be surprised to know that I believe there is still hope.

As Rupert Penry-Jones's character says in the film: 'Oil. Oil is everything.' Its all-consuming use has caused the problem and now its scarcity might just save us.

A spiralling price that triggers a global power-down could buy us the time to stop the warming. In fact, it's happening right now.

Will it work? We're about to find out.

• Burn Up begins on BBC2 at 9pm on Wednesday and concludes at the same time on Friday.

Eye on the ball

I will be posting this each month, until the election, lest we forget what we need to do.

The candidate that never was

by Don Wheeler

fake consultant's most recent contribution presents a view that, though currently popular, doesn't match well with the information we have- though I agree with the conclusion for the most part.

For one thing, there is built into it the premise that recent actions and utterings by Barack Obama represents some sort of shift in (fill in the blank), and or that this is driven by campaign consultants. For any casual observer of the the campaign thus far, this is just a logical extension of the Obama effort. And it's a bit sloppy to point out McCain's opposition to the Martin Luther King holiday without noting McCain's later repudiation and apology for that stance.

M. consultant was an advocate for John Edwards, as was I, and my guess is that the friend he refers to was as well. It's not hard to understand an Edwards supporter's misgivings about Obama.

John Edwards and his supporters recognized a unique opportunity to radically shift government policy towards Progressivism. To that end, bold proposals addressing serious, entrenched problems were offered. As Edwards stated at the 2007 DNC Winter Meeting, "We are at the point in our history where we have to leave behind half measures, broken promises and sweet rhetoric".

The Obama candidacy was presented by his fierce supporters as a second coming of one kind or another. Kennedy, Lincoln and others were offered as possibilities. Through the Iowa caucuses (where I worked) this seemed like a bit of a stretch - but somewhat understandable.

But after that, the candidate himself courted a major Las Vegas newspaper editorial board by admiring Ronald Reagan's leadership, dispatched campaign officials to Canada to assure their leaders not to take his expressed desire to reopen the NAFTA too seriously. He later spoke approvingly of the Republicans' success in de-regulating many industries in the 1980s - though that action seems to have caused the public interest great damage and expense.

More recently, he reversed his promise to participate in the public campaign financing system (if his opponent participated) and his promise to filibuster the FISA legislation if it contained immunity for the telecom industry.

And to further disappoint progressives, he applauded the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban.

Throw in the most expensive (per person) and incomplete health care proposal of any Democratic candidate and you have...

"half measures, broken promises and sweet rhetoric".

But we have to be grownups about this. The opportunity has been lost, now we have to shift to damage control.

He's still better than the other guy.

Reminds me of 2004

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On Imperfect Choices, Or, Jesus Ain't Running

A question has come across my inbox today, and as I am wont to do I began to answer my email friend (who I’ve known, by the way, since we both posted on the John Edwards blog). More or less 100 words into the reply it occurred to me that this was a question best answered in front of a larger audience.

The question? My friend is having trouble committing to Obama.

Why? I’m paraphrasing, but it would be fair to say that the sudden emergence of Obama’s “handlers” was a factor...and although it’s not in the note, I suspect the fact that Obama has “tacked to the center” recently on various issues is part of the problem as well.

It’s a great question...and in an effort to provide a great answer I’m going to offer a few words of my own—and then I thought we might reach back a bit into history and see if there might be something we can learn.

Having come to the metaphorical tee and taken the first shot, let’s head down the fairway and see where that ball might be...and where we can get it to go.

Our good friends at Democracy for America have been running “Night School” for those seeking to learn about the campaign process from the inside, and just a couple nights ago we held a training on “The Political Mind”, with George Lakoff leading the discussion.

Professor Lakoff talked about how to frame a discussion; and I’m going to see if I can apply some of what I learned in the response I offer here.

The question “should I vote for Obama, despite his imperfections?” which is the question I was asked, does not correctly frame the allow me to offer a question from an alternative “framing”:

The real question you have to ask is which of the two candidates that might actually win—McCain or Obama—is less flawed than the other?

There will be no perfect candidates—now or ever...and waiting for the perfect candidate to support is guaranteed to lead to disillusionment every time.

To put it bluntly: Jesus ain’t running...and absent any other Deities appearing on the electoral horizon, perfection seems unattainable.

Between McCain and Obama, the choice gets quite simple.

McCain talks about military tactics, Obama talks about military strategy.

Obama talks about the ecomony, McCain talks about how his economic spokesman, Phil Gramm, the guy who wrote McCain’s economic policy, doesn’t speak for him on the economy.

For more McCain...issues...or, issues...or, ummm, issues, or just the fact that he, for some reason, hates Martin Luther King Day, check the Web.

Now for a bit of encouraging history.

We elected a President once before who was far from the President he became—a pro-business candidate who did not support the abolition of slavery, but instead a compromise leading to the gradual phase-out of the practice...something that was already occurring in the North.

“...You suggest that in political action now, you and I would differ. I suppose we would; not quite as much, however, as you may think. You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it. So far there is no cause of difference. But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slave -- especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you would see the Union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you to yield that right; very certainly I am not. I leave that matter entirely to yourself.

I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations, under the constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union...”

--From a letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

And there was division from those in his own Party who were not inclined to make deals on the moral issues he was willing to make compromises upon:

“In the interior of the country, the cities as well as the rural districts, I found the people much more unanimous. The panic has not been felt so severely there, and the political feelings of the people are less controlled by mercenary motives. While some politicians in the large cities were somewhat inclined to smooth the difficulty over by a compromise, the Republican masses in the country are just as strongly and uncompromisingly opposed to anything that would look in the least like a lowering of the Republican standard.

I was in western New York when Thurlow Weeds compromise articles came out and when it was rumored that Seward was preparing to make a compromise speech. The feeling was very intense every where, Thurlow Weed's propositions were generally condemned, and I have heard the most conservative and moderate Republicans say, that Seward could not yield a single inch of ground without destroying himself and forfeiting forever the confidence of his friends.

What I have seen and heard, not only in New York, but in Pennsylvania and New England also, forces the conviction upon my mind, that every serious attempt on the part of the Republicans in Congress, to patch up a compromise by yielding a single one of the principles of the Chicago platform, will inevitably result in the immediate disruption of the Republican party. It turns out again what I have observed quite frequently, that as far as courage and consistency are concerned, the rank and file are far ahead of their leaders.”

--From a letter written by Carl Schurz, December 18, 1860

This candidate wanted a bi-partisan Administration...and that wasn’t making the Party faithful happy, either:

“...We have now a still higher issue -- a higher duty -- the preservation of the Republic itself! We must not "back down" -- we can make no compromise with traitors, but we can, and I think we must now, as we did in 1854-5, ignore all other issues for the time being, and invite the co-operation of men of all parties in putting down treason. The enemies of the Republic appear to be fearfully numerous, and to prevent accessions to their ranks, the friends of the Union must evrywhere become united.

To accomplish this, I beg respectfully to suggest, whether it may not be necessary to organize the administration different from what your friends, under other circumstances would have expected -- to exclude men, however worthy or prominent, who would be objectionable to the friends of the Union in other parties?

In Ohio, I am quite sure that no man would be more [accessable?] in this view, than Thomas Ewing. All parties regard him as by far most able man in the State. For the firmness and courage exhibited by him in cabinet of President Taylor, he is admired, and would be trusted by all reasonable anti slavery men. I have been intimately accquainted with him for many years, and am satisfied that upon all important public questions, his opinions do not differ from yours. While it is true that he has not professed to be a Republican, I know that he has...acted with no other party -- has voted for Republicans or not voted at all...”

--From a letter written by Thomas C. Jones, December 24, 1860

And from that highly controversial candidacy, we got Abraham Lincoln.

So what am I trying to say?

Politics is a process made up of humans.
All humans are flawed.
Therefore, we will never have a perfect candidate.
We will have to settle.

In choosing between McCain and Obama, ask yourself: who is going to be your best candidate...who is more likely to get you to the place you want to be on the issues that matter to you—and just like the SATs, there may not be a perfectly correct answer...instead, you may have to choose the “most correct answer”.

Vigil reminder

HI all...we are having our regular vigil at l-2 p.m. at Cleveland and grape
Rd. Bring your own sign or use ours.

On Monday we have apts with district reps at Rep. Donnelly's office at 207
West Colfax Avenue
South Bend, IN 46601
Phone: 574.288.2780

And at 5 p.m. at Senator Bayh's office which is at 30 S. Main St.
Suite 110
South Bend, IN 46601
(574) 236-8302
(574) 236-8319 fax

We will be discussing the need for more anti-war leadership from these two
representatives as well as their votes on the FISA legislation.

We will be able to have up to 8 people attend the info session. The others
will maintain our regular vigil at 5 p.m. at Jefferson and Main.

Please let me know if you can make it. I will contact you by phone/email
with last minute details on Monday.

Ellyn Stecker, MD
South Bend, IN
574-532-8166 cell
Fund Human Growth and Development
Honor vets/Save money for health care/End war.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Michiana-area bicyclist critically injured in hit-and-run accident

[The following is text from a website set up for Patrick Sawyer]

On Wednesday, July 16, 2008, Patrick was riding his bike to go swimming before he started his day at nursing school (he only has a couple of weeks left of school until he graduates). Around 5:40 am, he was hit by a car (around 17500 Cleveland Rd). The driver did not stop. There were no eye witnesses. A nearby resident heard the crash and came out to investigate. The resident found Pat laying next to his severely mangled bike. The car was no where to be found. 911 was called. Pat had on strobe lights, reflective vest, and helmet.

He was taken to Memorial Hospital. Pat was extremely confused at this point, but conscious. He did not know who he was or what happened. They took him down for a CT. The neurosurgeon decided that surgery was needed.

Pat is now in a drug induced coma. They guess he will be in a coma for about a week. It can be several weeks. They want him to have very little stimulation.

Thursday afternoon, the driver turned himself in. The police did not charge him with anything. They are turning it over to the prosecutor.

This is Julie. I am Pat’s sister-in-law, Nancy’s sister. Please write in with comments. This will be our journal to keep track of what’s going on. When Pat wakes up from all of this, I’m sure he will want the details of what happened and he would also love to see everyone’s comments. If you have any questions, please ask. I want to get all the information out there, but I feel like I’m still missing a lot. Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts.

There have been several stories in the South Bend Tribune related to Patrick's accident.

A gloomy assessment, and, the way out

Contributor Gene B offered this link earlier, but I think it merits it's own post.

L-ish economic prospects

The New York Times

Home prices are in free fall. Unemployment is rising. Consumer confidence is plumbing depths not seen since 1980. When will it all end?

The answer is, probably not until 2010 or later. Barack Obama, take notice.

It’s true that some prognosticators still expect a “V-shaped” recovery in which the economy springs back rapidly from its slump. On this view, any day now it will be morning in America.

But if the experience of the last 20 years is any guide, the prospect for the economy isn’t V-shaped, it’s L-ish: rather than springing back, we’ll have a prolonged period of flat or at best slowly improving performance.

Let’s start with housing.

According to the widely used Case-Shiller index, average U.S. home prices fell 17 percent over the past year. Yet we’re in the process of deflating a huge housing bubble, and housing prices probably still have a long way to fall.

Specifically, real home prices, that is, prices adjusted for inflation in the rest of the economy, went up more than 70 percent from 2000 to 2006. Since then they’ve come way down — but they’re still more than 30 percent above the 2000 level.

Should we expect prices to fall all the way back? Well, in the late 1980s, Los Angeles experienced a large localized housing bubble: real home prices rose about 50 percent before the bubble popped. Home prices then proceeded to fall by a quarter, which combined with ongoing inflation brought real housing prices right back to their prebubble level.

And here’s the thing: this process took more than five years — L.A. home prices didn’t bottom out until the mid-1990s. If the current housing slump runs on the same schedule, we won’t be seeing a recovery until 2011 or later.

What about the broader economy? You might be tempted to take comfort from the fact that the last two recessions, in 1990-1991 and 2001, were both quite short. But in each case, the official end of the recession was followed by a long period of sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment that felt to most Americans like a continued recession.

Thus, the 1990 recession officially ended in March 1991, but unemployment kept rising through much of 1992, allowing Bill Clinton to win the election on the basis of the economy, stupid. The next recession officially began in March 2001 and ended in November, but unemployment kept rising until June 2003.

These prolonged recession-like episodes probably reflect the changing nature of the business cycle. Earlier recessions were more or less deliberately engineered by the Federal Reserve, which raised interest rates to control inflation. Modern slumps, by contrast, have been hangovers from bouts of irrational exuberance — the savings and loan free-for-all of the 1980s, the technology bubble of the 1990s and now the housing bubble.

Ending those old-fashioned recessions was easy because all the Fed had to do was relent. Ending modern slumps is much more difficult because the economy needs to find something to replace the burst bubble.

The Fed, in particular, has a hard time getting traction in modern recessions. In 2002, there was a strong sense that the Fed was “pushing on a string”: it kept cutting interest rates, but nobody wanted to borrow until the housing bubble took off. And now it’s happening again. The Onion, as usual, hit the nail on the head with its recent headline: “Recession-plagued nation demands new bubble to invest in.”

But we probably won’t find another bubble — at least not one big enough to fuel a quick recovery. And this has, among other things, important political implications.

Given the state of the economy, it’s hard to see how Barack Obama can lose the 2008 election. An anecdote: This week a passing motorist shouted at a crowd waiting outside a branch of IndyMac, the failed bank, “Bush economics didn’t work! They are right-wing Republican thieves!” The crowd cheered.

But what the economy gives, it can also take away. If the current slump follows the typical modern pattern, the economy will stay depressed well into 2010, if not beyond — plenty of time for the public to start blaming the new incumbent, and punish him in the midterm elections.

To avoid that fate, Mr. Obama — if he is indeed the next president — will have to move quickly and forcefully to address America’s economic discontent. That means another stimulus plan, bigger, better, and more sustained than the one Congress passed earlier this year. It also means passing longer-term measures to reduce economic anxiety — above all, universal health care.

If you ask me, there isn’t much suspense in this year’s election: barring some extraordinary mistakes, Mr. Obama will win. Assuming he wins, the real question is what he’ll make of his victory.

Truthout roundup 7/18

Burma's opposition looks to begin new phase of armed resistance; distracted US government fails to address economy head on; summer heats up in the US as the globe warms; Guantanamo's war crimes court begins trials; contractors' poor job on electrical work at Iraq bases puts soldiers in danger; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

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Friday 18 July 2008

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In Burma, Opposition Eyes Escalation
Clancy Chassay, The Guardian UK: "Members of Burma's battered and disparate opposition are growing disillusioned with the old methods of the pro-democracy movement and are seeking ways to escalate their armed struggle with the help of covert western support. 'There is a very real debate among us about how to begin a more sustained armed struggle,' an organiser of last September's failed uprising told the Guardian. 'We are ready for that kind of action, if we can get the supplies and training that we need.'"

As Economy Sours and Oil Rises, Washington Postures
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "During a week of economic turmoil and wildly fluctuating energy prices, Washington lawmakers did little to calm consumers, opting instead to spent a lot of time trying to land political punches. Republicans kept talking about the importance of allowing drilling off US coastlines. Democrats countered with how releasing some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve might help drive down oil prices."

Summers Hotter as Climate Changes
David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post: "Climate change will have a 'substantial' impact on human health in the coming decades, making wildfires and hurricanes more likely, cooking up more smog, and making summer heat waves longer, hotter and deadlier, according to a new report today from the Environmental Protection Agency. The report details how rising temperatures could slowly but significantly shift the rhythms of nature that Americans are used to - with disruptive, sometimes even deadly, consequences. In the West, it found, changing weather patterns could thin the snowpacks that feed rivers, with repercussions for both hydroelectric dams and water supplies."

War Crimes Trials Begin at Guantanamo
Jim Loney, Reuters: "A Yemeni likely to be the first person tried before the US war crimes court at Guantanamo naval base was more than just a driver for Osama bin Laden, US agents said on Thursday. Salim Hamdan transported weapons and said he swore allegiance to and got his paycheck directly from the al Qaeda leader, the agents told a judge in pretrial hearings at the isolated US base in Cuba. Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. Lawyers for the accused terrorist facing the first US war crimes tribunals since World War II say Hamdan was just a driver and mechanic in bin Laden's motor pool who did the job because he needed the $200 monthly paycheck."

Electrical Risks at Bases in Iraq Worse Than Previously Said
James Risen, The New York Times: "Shoddy electrical work by private contractors on United States military bases in Iraq is widespread and dangerous, causing more deaths and injuries from fires and shocks than the Pentagon has acknowledged, according to internal Army documents. During just one six-month period — August 2006 through January 2007 — at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq, including the military’s largest dining hall in the country, documents obtained by The New York Times show. Two soldiers died in an electrical fire at their base near Tikrit in 2006, the records note, while another was injured while jumping from a burning guard tower in May 2007."

The coming activist age

The New York Times

We’re entering an era of epic legislation. There are at least five large problems that will compel the federal government to act in gigantic ways over the next few years.

First, there is the erosion of the social contract. Private sector firms are less likely to provide health benefits, producing a desperate need for health care reform. Second, there is the energy shortage. Rising Asian demand strains worldwide supply, threatening industry and consumers, and producing calls for a bold energy initiative. Third, there is the stagnation in human capital. During the 20th century, Americans were better educated than the citizens of any other power. Since 1970, that lead has been forfeited, producing inequality and wage stagnation. To compete, the U.S. will require a series of human capital initiatives.

Fourth, there’s financial market reform. In an intricately connected world, even Republican administrations cannot allow big institutions to fail. If government is going to guarantee against failure, then it is inevitably going to get more involved in regulating how businesses are run. Fifth, there’s infrastructure reform. The U.S. transportation system is in shambles and will require major new projects.

All of this means that the next few years will be an age of government activism. You may think, therefore, that this situation is ripe for Democratic dominance. The Democrats are the natural party of federal vigor. Voters prefer Democratic approaches to issues like health care and education by as much as 25 percentage points.

Yet, historically, periods of great governmental change have often been periods of conservative rule. It’s as if voters understand that they need big changes, but they want those changes planned and enacted by leaders who will restrain the pace of change and prevent radical excess.

Two of the most prominent conservative reformers were Benjamin Disraeli and Theodore Roosevelt. Both reframed the political debate so that it was not change versus the status quo, it was unfamiliar change versus cautious, patriotic change designed to preserve the traditional virtues of the nation.

Disraeli inherited a British Conservative Party that was a political club for the landowning class. He created One Nation Conservatism, a reminder that Britain was one community, with a sense of mutual responsibility across classes. Then, at the pinnacle of his career, he embraced reform, expanding the franchise to the socially conservative working class.

Disraeli saw this change as a way to restore ancient glories. Or, as he put it: “In a progressive country, change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change, which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.”

Like Disraeli, Roosevelt was a romantic nationalist. While the more progressive reformers spoke the international language of modernization, Roosevelt spoke the language of highly charged Americanism.

He believed private property was the basis of American greatness. He built his persona around the classic American icons: the cowboy, fighter and pioneer.

He defended his initiatives as the way to maintain the economic and social order. People had enough change in their lives; they were looking for government that could preserve the way things already were. If the trusts threatened the traditional small businessman, he would take on the trusts. If industrialism threatened the natural landscape, he would become a preservationist.

His formula was like Disraeli’s: political innovation to restore traditional national morality. He had an image of an American hero — thrifty, hard-working, vigorous and righteous — and sought to create a Square Deal for that sort of person. “The true function of the state as it interferes in social life,” Roosevelt wrote, “should be to make the chances of competition more even, not to abolish them.”

John McCain’s challenge is to recreate this model. He will never get as many cheers in Germany as Barack Obama, but for a century his family has embodied American heroism. He will never seem as young and forward-leaning as his opponent, but he did have his values formed in an age that people now look back to with respect.

The high point of his campaign, so far, has been his energy policy, which is comprehensive and bold, but does not try to turn us into a nation of bicyclists. It does not view America’s energy-intense economy as a sign of sinfulness.

If McCain is going to win this election, it will because he can communicate an essential truth — that people in a great and successful nation do not want change for its own sake. But they do realize that it’s only through careful reform that they can preserve what they and their ancestors have so laboriously built.

JLT reports strong fundraising numbers

from Hoosiers for Jill

INDIANAPOLIS- Showing considerable financial strength, the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson officially released its fundraising totals for the second quarter of 2008.

The campaign raised $1.6 million in the period compared to incumbent Governor Mitch Daniels $1.8 million.

"We are extremely happy with these figures," said Travis Lowe, Long Thompson campaign manager. "Not only are Jill's numbers on par with other nationally targeted races, the fact that we nearly matched an incumbent Governor's fundraising says a great deal about the strength of this campaign and Mitch Daniels' vulnerability."

"This is another sign of the growing fissures in the Republican Party," added Lowe."Mitch Daniels has had to deal with losing a convention fight over his attorney general candidate, a challenge from a sitting Republican Senator and poll numbers that aren't moving despite spending more than $10 million on his campaign. This just points to the fact that neither Hoosiers, nor Republicans are happy with his leadership. "

Nearly90 percent of Long Thompson's donations came from in-state sources and more than 70 percent were $100 or less. The campaign also reported more than 200 donations of $25 or less, some as low as $5.

"This report demonstrates the breadth of the support Jill Long Thompson and Dennie Oxley are enjoying," added Lowe. "They are continuing to travel the state on their "Hoosier Hometown Tour," reaching out to Hoosiers and visiting communities that have been overlooked by this administration."

"They are committed to rebuilding this economy and restoring Indiana's promise. With this kind of continued support, we will have the resources to continue to spread that message."

Known for her ability to get things done, Jill Long Thompson is an accomplished public servant. She has served as a city councilor, a Congresswoman and as Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture.Long Thompson grew up on her family's farm in rural Whitley County and was the first in her family to go to college. She received her undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University and went on to earn a master's and Ph.D. in business from Indiana University. A farmer and college professor by trade, Long Thompson lives with her husband Don Thompson, a commercial airline pilot, on their farm in Marshall County.

Dennie Oxley is a 10-year veteran of the state legislature, currently serving as the Majority Whip in the Indiana House of Representatives. A former high school math teacher, school administrator and businessman, Oxley brings a wealth of public and private sector experience to the team. Oxley is a graduate of Indiana University Southeast, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in education. A lifelong resident of English, a small community in Crawford County, he resides there with his wife, Jayme, and their two young daughters.

Links about our energy future

from Gene B

I am sending out links to the Al Gore speech on energy. I believe this program could be a potentially transformative step forward in our attempts to reduce CO2, reduce fossil fuel usage, reduce world tensions, and move towards to a more just world. The first link is Gore's speech. The second is an Al Gore interview with Katie Couric. The third is an article by a French investment banker (Jerome Guillet) whose work I have followed for some years, and the fourth is the NY Times blog on Gore's speech together with positive and negative comments.

As you all know I am relatively knowledgeable on the subject of energy. I am convinced it will take an effort similar to the project Gore is describing to get the US to lead the world away from the catastrophes towards which we are currently leading the world.

So much for fair play

from Karita Hummer
National One Corps

Dear Friend,

I just sent my resume to John McCain.

I'll tell you why... Yesterday, the Senate failed to pass the Fair Pay Act, which would allow women to demand equal pay for equal work. Senator McCain (R-AZ), who didn't even come to vote, said that instead of legislation allowing them to demand equal pay, women simply need "education and training." Not only is his information wrong -- women still are all too often paid less for the same work, even though they have the same education and training -- he's also sending a message to our nation, to our sons and daughters, that this pay gap is okay, and it's women's fault for being paid less.

So to send a message to Congress, and specifically Senator McCain, I signed this petition for Fair Pay and sent Senator McCain my resume -- to show that women have plenty of education, what we need is Fair Pay. You should send yours too!

Don't worry if you don't have your resume perfected -- you can just write a quick note. Women now make up 58% of college graduates and nearly half of the labor force, but still earn less pay for the same work as men. Worse yet, mothers only make 73 cents to a man's dollar, for the exact same job. College graduate, high school graduate, law school diploma, nursing degree, whatever your training; women should make equal pay for equal work. Don't you agree?

-- me

P.S. Got friends and colleagues who are more than well-enough educated and trained to deserve equal pay? (Of course you do.) Tell them to send their resumes in, too!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The dark side of the Toyota Prius

By Paul Abowd

The National Labor Committee (NLC), a New York-based human rights group, has been investigating working conditions at Toyota Motor Corp., and the labor used to produce its best-selling Prius hybrid cars.

In its 65-page report released in June, NLC includes first-hand testimony of factory conditions in “Toyota City,” outside of Nagoya, Japan — less than 200 miles southwest of Tokyo — where the largest auto company in the world employs some 70,000 people.

The report alleges that Toyota exploits guest workers, mostly shipped in from China and Vietnam. According to the NLC, these workers are “stripped of their passports and often forced to work — including at subcontract plants supplying Toyota — 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while being paid less than half the legal minimum wage.” Workers are forced to live in company dormitories and deported for complaining about poor treatment, the report finds.

Low-wage temporary workers make up one-third of Toyota’s Prius assembly-line workers, mostly in the auto-parts supply chain. They are signed to contracts for periods as short as four months, and are paid only 60 percent of a full-time employee’s wage.

Parts plants run by subcontractors advertise standard, nine-hour, five-day-a-week jobs. But according to the NLC, “the typical shift was 15 to 16.5 hours a day, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. or 1:00 a.m.”

In 2002, Kenichi Uchino, 30, died while working at the “green” Tsutsumi plant that assembles the Prius. During the 13th hour of a routine 14-hour day, Uchino collapsed on the shop floor of the internationally lauded “sustainable” factory, which uses sulfur-oxide-eating paint and boasts 5 percent emissions reductions. A Japanese court ruled that Uchino’s death was caused by exhaustion from overwork.

His wife, Hiroko Uchino, described a grueling lifestyle that included an 85-hour workweek prior to his death. The NLC published his time cards, which reveal that he was “putting in 106.5 to 155 hours of overtime … in the 30 days leading up to his death.”

Much of this overtime went unpaid. (Toyota explained Kenichi’s extra hours as “voluntary quality control activities,” says the report.) But in court, his survivors were able to win pension payments.

The NLC also alleges that Toyota — through its subsidiary Toyota Tsusho — has joint business ventures with Burma’s military regime. The charges arise from an agreement between Tsusho, Suzuki and the junta to set up parts and material plants in Burma, and produce vehicles for the military government. These ties remain despite a 2001 declaration from the company that it ended contracts with the Burmese government.

In the wake of the report, the company wrote a letter to stockholders: “Toyota has carefully considered the current environment in Burma, has conveyed to Toyota Tsusho Corporation its concerns about that environment, and has asked Toyota Tsusho to reconsider its business activities in the country.” As the largest owner of Tsusho’s stock (more than a third), Toyota itself has a role to play in cutting these ties.

The NLC report also connects the company’s overseas misdeeds to the American economy. Millions of dollars in car parts shipped by Toyota Tsusho are received by Tsusho America, which distributes them to Toyota assembly plants in the American South. This influx of foreign auto infrastructure uses an overwhelming ratio of non-union labor, fueling the diminution of union density in the auto sector.

What’s more, a memo leaked from Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., plant to the New York Times in late 2007, exposed “management’s plans to cut $300 million in labor costs across Toyota’s North American operations over the next three years.” To do this, Toyota plans to introduce tiered wage scales and reduced health benefits for U.S. Toyota workers, which should come as little surprise to an American auto workforce that has suffered similar attacks from Detroit’s Big Three manufacturers for the past three decades.

As NLC Director Charles Kernaghan says, if Hollywood celebrities — such as actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz — can popularize green driving, they can also help end Toyota’s sweatshop labor regime and its ties to Burma’s dictatorship.

Says Kernaghan: “We hope that these same celebrities will now also challenge Toyota to improve its respect for human and worker rights.” far

by Don Wheeler

Last night, accompanied by the love of my life, I went to our gorgeous Morris Civic Auditorium to see Crosby, Stills and Nash perform. It seems important to express our gratitude to those who donated funds and those who did the hard work of restoring this wonderful venue. At one point, Graham Nash told us that it was a privilege for them to perform in such a wonderful place.

But, of course, the privilege was mostly ours.

It seemed to me, by the tenor of the first set, that one reason that these guys who couldn't possible need to tour, are on the road to - at least in part - give energy to folks who aren't fans of war and injustice. If I'm right about that, it sure worked at The Morris. There was an abundance of energy on the stage and in the seats.

If I were a better reporter, I could fill you in on the very talented backing performers. I do know the bassist hails from our little town. He got quite a cheer. One of the keyboard players was James Raymond - son of David Crosby. A son David didn't know existed until a few years ago.

Back around the turn of the century, there was a little-publicized event at a club (then) called Heartland featuring a group called CPR (Crosby, Pevar and Raymond). The brief article in The Trib mentioned that David Crosby had recently discovered James' existence and that they had formed a band along with Jeff Pevar (who had played lead guitar with CSN in the past).

If you haven't been there, it's a very small place. You sat on stackable chairs and it was pretty informal. I don't think I was alone in wondering what to expect.

Suddenly, they strode out, waved briefly and a launched into an amazing, high energy version of "Eight Miles High".

Andrew Hughes, reviewing the show for The Trib, started his assessment with "I have to warn you, this is going to be a gush".

By the time they were into their second number, people weren't just on their feet. They were on their feet standing on their chairs. Not long after, David Crosby stepped back, his face a bit flushed, said "You people are flat, fucking, wonderful".

Back at you, guy. It was the best show I'm likely to ever experience.

But, this one was real good, too.

People who sing, even just a little, realize how hard it is to sing close harmony (CSN's hallmark) cleanly. If you don't sing, just take your appreciation of these guys up 50%.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who came back after the show to look over my collection of their work. One number they didn't do also seems appropriate in our current situation. The song I'm thinking of came from the American Dream CD of 1988 which included Neil Young. This was, in fact, Neil's song.

You have people near you right now going through something like this. If you can listen to this and keep your eyes dry - you're stronger than I am.

Midnight...that old clock keeps ticking
The kids are all asleep - and I'm walking the floor
Darling, I can see that you're dreaming
And I don't want to wake you up
When I close the door

This old house of ours was built on dreams
And a businessman don't know what that means
There's a garden outside she works in every day
And tomorrow morning a man from the bank's gonna come and take it all away

Lately, I've been thinking about Daddy
And how he always made things work
When the chips were down
And I know I got something inside me
There's always a light there to guide me
To what can't be found

This old house of ours is build on dreams
And a businessman don't know what that means
There's swing outside the kids play on every day
And tomorrow morning a man from the bank's gonna come and take it all away

Take it all away...take it all away...take it all away...

Remember, how we first came here together?
Standing on an empty lot - holding hands
Later, we came back in the moonlight
And made love right where the kitchen is
And we made our plans

This old house of ours is built on dreams
And a businessman don't know what that means
There's a garden outside she works in every day
But tomorrow morning a man from the bank's gonna come and take it all away.
Take it all away...take it all away...

Take it all away.

Green Party announces 2008 presidential slate; Local Greens cast votes for McKinney/Clemente

Chicago's stately Symphony Hall was the site of the Green Party's national nominating convention where former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was chosen as their Presidential candidate for this November's election.

"I am asking you to vote your conscience, vote your dreams, vote your future, vote Green," McKinney told an enthusiastic crowd of over 400 delegates and observers from across the country. She was joined on-stage by her parents Billy McKinney, her mother Leola, son Coy and dozens of other Green Party candidates from across the country seeking public office and re-election.

McKinney, who reminded the crowd that she and her father were the first father-daughter team in any state legislature and her 12 years of service in Congress as a Democrat. Her term in Congress is notable for her consistent votes for environmental protections, voters' rights and challenges to the Bush administration on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the events surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. She joined the Green Party after her second Democratic primary election defeat in 2006.

The Green Party also overwhelmingly accepted hip-hop journalist and activist Rosa Clemente of New York as Ms. McKinney's running mate. A graduate of Auburn and Cornell Universities, Clemente cited the urgency in addressing issues of social justice and environmental degradation, telling supporters, "the Green Party is not an alternative party, the Green Party is the imperative party."

"McKinney is a very politically experienced and intelligent woman and a great choice," said Robin Beck, one of the local delegates present at the convention. "Combined with the youth and energy of Clemente, the Green Party is ready to lead the US into a new era of equality and sustainability."

Changes to the Green Party platform were also debated and voted on at the convention in Chicago; passionate opposition to wording on guest worker programs by a strong Latino/a caucus sent the draft back for further review.

Cynthia McKinney's name will likely appear on the ballot on the Green Party line in nearly 40 states, however, Hoosier voters will be required to write her name on November 4th. This is an area of concern for local Greens as St Joe County's record for counting and certifying write-in votes has been challenged in the last two elections.

"St Joseph County actually certified zero votes for our registered candidate for Secretary of State two years ago, thus disenfranchising the hundreds of voters who cast write-in votes the Green Party candidate," noted Karl Hardy, co-coordinator of the local Greens chapter. "This trampling of the rights of voters cannot continue and we will be doing what we can to ensure that all legal votes are counted and certified as required by Indiana law."

For more information:

Cynthia McKinney
Rosa Clemente

St. Joe Valley Greens
Green Party US

Truthout roundup 7/17

Administration plans to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan; House approves intelligence bill requiring that Congress members be briefed on most sensitive covert actions before those operations are funded; The New York Times on Barack Obama's "sensible and comprehensive" Iraq plan; Ramon Castellblanch on the holes in McCain's immigration proposals; sharp geographical disparities in life expectancy are worsening in US; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

House Passes CIA Contractor Ban Over Veto Vow
Randall Mikkelsen of Reuters reports: "US lawmakers defied a White House veto threat on Wednesday and voted to bar CIA contractors from interrogating suspected terrorists, in the latest clash over detainee treatment in the US-declared war on terrorism. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved the provision in adopting a broad measure to authorize funding of US intelligence agencies for the 2009 fiscal year. A related bill awaits action in the Senate."

US-Led Forces Confirm Killing Afghan Civilians
According to Reuters, "US-led coalition troops have killed eight Afghan civilians in an air strike in the western province of Farah during a raid against suspected militants, the US military said. The acknowledgement came as reports of more civilian deaths caused by a fresh air raid by foreign forces emerged on Thursday from the neighboring province of Herat."

Iraqi Election Season Prompts Bombs, Governmental Conflict
For McClatchy Newspapers, Nancy A. Youssef and Sahar Issa report: "Throughout Iraq, legislators, armed factions and former members of Saddam Hussein's regime were electioneering Tuesday - some with bombs, others through vitriolic audio messages - in an effort to bolster themselves for the scheduled fall provincial elections. The government hasn't set an election date, but Iraqis of all persuasions think that the process could reshape the political landscape. Nearly every interest group has begun positioning itself."

Nick Turse The Pentagon and the Hunt for Black Gold
Nick Turse writes for, "For years, 'oil' and 'Iraq' couldn't make it into the same sentence in mainstream coverage of the invasion and occupation of that country. Recently, that's begun to change, but 'oil' and 'the Pentagon' still seldom make the news together."

Le Monde Saudi Overture
Le Monde's editorialist applauds Saudi King Abdullah's willingness to participate in an interfaith conference of the three great "religions of the Book" in Spain this week.

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US Prepares to Boost Its Afghan Forces
In the Los Angeles Times, Peter Spiegel and M. Karim Faiez report: "Senior US military officials are developing plans to speed the deployment of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, including possibly pulling the next brigade scheduled to go to Iraq this fall and sending it to Afghanistan instead. President Bush has already committed to beefing up the US presence in Afghanistan next year. But Defense Department officials said the recent efforts of military planners would accelerate the process and could allow the new brigade of 3,500 soldiers to deploy there before the end of this year."

House Passes Intelligence Authorization Bill
Walter Pincus reports for The Washington Post: "The House yesterday passed by voice vote the fiscal 2009 intelligence authorization bill, which limits the funds available for covert actions next year until all members of the House intelligence panel are briefed on the most sensitive ones already underway. As included in the bill, 75 percent of money sought for covert actions would be held up until the briefings are held."

The New York Times Talking Sense on Iraq
In a staff editorial, The New York Times states, "It has been obvious from the start of the 2008 campaign that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the biggest foreign policy challenges awaiting the next president. But there has been precious little detailed discussion of them on the campaign trail. Until this week, when Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, offered a sensible and comprehensive blueprint for dealing with the mess that President Bush created by bungling the war of necessity against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which could have made Americans safer, and starting a war of choice in Iraq, which made the world more insecure."

Ramon Castellblanch McCain Not a Hero on Immigration
For The Progressive, Ramon Castellblanch writes: "Senator John McCain is no hero on immigration. His 2006 immigration proposal, which he has disowned in front of anti-immigrant audiences, would have meant cheap labor on both sides of the border and would have made a joke of the idea of integrating immigrants into our way of life. And it would have allowed the heartless immigration raids on Latino workplaces to continue, breaking up families and disrupting communities. McCain’s proposal would have done nothing to address the root causes behind the immigration problem: low-wage businesses here and south of the border and a US trade policy that is devastating the Mexican countryside."

American Inequality Highlighted by 30-Year Gap in Life Expectancy
Leonard Doyle reports for The Independent UK: "The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday."

Dean To Visit Crawford, Texas...Bloggers Close Behind

In a bit of news that can only be described as poetic, Howard Dean plans to start registering voters this morning at the Crawford, Texas, Community Center, according to a press release that came across my inbox last evening.

According to the press release, he should be out in the parking lot at 8:45 local time...which is just about now.

Dean, we are told, will be joined by Representative Jim Dunnam and McLennan County Democratic Chair John Cullar.

Later today, Dean has a similar event planned for Austin, where he will also be giving a keynote address at the Netroots Nation Convention.

Here's the link, courtesy of PR Newswire.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On The Weird Twists Of History, Part Two, Or, Why We Have A Fourth Amendment

Those who are coming to this story today have jumped into the middle of quite a tale. I put myself in a tough position last time by promising to link a British “garden of lust”, Benjamin Franklin, and 18th Century bloggers into a narrative that concludes with the nascent United States of America and its shiny new Fourth Amendment.

So far, amazingly enough, I’m pulling it off.
If you need to catch up, here’s what’s been going on:

When last we was in a world of scandal and intrigue; with King George III and the Earl of Bute (and of course, their assorted minions) very upset with John Entick, author, and John Wilkes, author and world-class raconteur (and drinking buddy to Franklin), because they had the temerity to...well, blog.

The Earl of Bute had taken so much abuse from the Johns that he had been forced to resign from his position as Prime Minister...leaving the minions under his control, many said, only now from behind the scenes.

Something needed to be done...and when you have minions, you put them to use.

In 1762, as the influence of “The Monitor” continued to grow, George Montague Dunk, the Second Earl of Halifax (and a member of the Privy Council) and the highest ranking minion available, issued the King’s Chief Messenger, Nathan Carrington, a general search warrant ordering him to:

“...make strict and diligent search for [Entick], mentioned in the said warrant to be the author, or one concerned in the writing of several weekly very seditious papers intitled, "The Monitor or British Freeholder, No 357, 358, 360, 373, 376, 378, and 380, London, printed to J. Wilson and J. Fell in Paternoster Row," containing gross and scandalous reflections and invectives upon his majesty’s government, and upon both Houses of Parliament, and him the plaintiff having found, to seize and apprehend and bring together with his books and papers in safe custody before the earl of Halifax to be examined concerning the premisses, and further dealt with according to law...”

--From the report of Entick v. Carrington, 19 Howell’s State Trials 1030 (1765)

A four hour search was conducted of Entick’s home, and all his books and papers were carried away to be examined in an effort to prove that the charges of seditious libel (essentially, speaking out against the King) were valid.

In what has become one of the most important trials in British legal history—and ours—John Entick sued the messenger, literally, claiming that any general search warrant is inherently invalid, that Carrington should have known this, and that Carrington never should have relied upon the authority of Lord Halifax to permit the search.

If Entick had been trespassed upon, then the papers seized were inadmissible; and that meant Entick could not be convicted of seditious libel. Here’s how Entick’s lawyer put it, again according to Howell’s:

“...As to the second. A power to issue such a [general] warrant as this is contrary to the genius of the law of England; and even if they had found what they searched for, they could not have justified under it. But they did not find what they searched for, nor does it appear that the plaintiff was the author of any of the supposed seditious papers mentioned in the warrant; so that it now appears that this enormous trespass and violent proceeding has been done upon mere surmise.

But the verdict says, such warrants have been granted by secretaries of state ever since the Revolution. If they have, it is high time to put an end to them; for if they are held to be legal, the liberty of this country is at an end. It is the publishing of a libel which is the crime, and not the having of it locked up in a private drawer in a man’s study. But if having it in one’s custody was the crime, no power can lawfully break into a man’s house and study to search for evidence against him. This would be worse than the Spanish inquisition; for ransacking a man’s secret drawers and boxes, to come at evidence against him, is like racking his body to come at his secret thoughts...

... But it is said, if the secretary of state has power to commit, he has power to search, etc. as in the case of stolen goods. This is a false consequence, and it might as well be said he has a power to torture.”

We need to take a moment to discuss the meaning of a general warrant—and all of a sudden we get to the part where our very own Fourth Amendment enters the story. Rather than tackling the legal issue myself, I’ll quote from the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Stanford v. Texas, 379 U.S. 476 (1965), a seized books case:

“...The petitioner has attacked the constitutional validity of this search and seizure upon several grounds. We rest our decision upon just one, without pausing to assess the substantiality of the others. For we think it is clear that this warrant was of a kind which it was the purpose of the Fourth Amendment to forbid - a general warrant...

The Fourth Amendment provides that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

These words are precise and clear. They reflect the determination of those who wrote the Bill of Rights that the people of this new Nation should forever "be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects" from intrusion and seizure by officers acting under the unbridled authority of a general warrant. Vivid in the memory of the newly independent Americans were those general warrants known as writs of assistance under which officers of the Crown had so bedeviled the colonists.

The hated writs of assistance had given customs officials blanket authority to search where they pleased for goods imported in violation of the British tax laws. They were denounced by James Otis as "the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty, and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law book," because they placed "the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer."

The historic occasion of that denunciation, in 1761 at Boston, has been characterized as "perhaps the most prominent event which inaugurated the resistance of the colonies to the oppressions of the mother country. `Then and there,' said John Adams, `then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born.'"

What is significant to note is that this history is largely a history of conflict between the Crown and the press. It was in enforcing the laws licensing the publication of literature and, later, in prosecutions for seditious libel that general warrants were systematically used in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. In Tudor England officers of the Crown were given roving commissions to search where they pleased in order to suppress and destroy the literature of dissent, both Catholic and Puritan. In later years warrants were sometimes more specific in content, but they typically authorized the arrest and search of the premises of all persons connected with the publication of a particular libel, or...the arrest and seizure of all the papers of a named person thought to be connected with a libel

Two centuries have passed since the historic decision in Entick v. Carrington, almost to the very day. The world has greatly changed, and the voice of nonconformity now sometimes speaks a tongue which Lord Camden might find hard to understand. But the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee to John Stanford that no official of the State shall ransack his home and seize his books and papers under the unbridled authority of a general warrant - no less than the law 200 years ago shielded John Entick from the messengers of the King.”

And in fact Carrington did lose the lawsuit to Entick. This, from the ruling in Entick v Carrington, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 K.B. (1765):

“...our law holds the property of every man so sacred, that no man can set his foot upon his neighbour's close without his leave; if he does he is a trespasser, though he does no damage at all; if he will tread upon his neighbour's ground, he must justify it by law. The defendants have no right to avail themselves of the usage of these warrants since the [Glorious] Revolution [of 1688], and if that would have justified them they have not averred it in their plea, so it could not be put, nor was in issue at the trial; we can safely say there is no law in this country to justify the defendants in what they have done; if there was, it would destroy all the comforts of society; for papers are often the dearest property a man can have...

... The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their property. That right is preserved sacred and incommunicable in all instances, where it has not been taken away or abridged by some public law for the good of the whole...By the laws of England, every invasion of private property, be it ever so minute, is a trespass. No man can set his foot upon my ground without my license, but he is liable to an action, though the damage be nothing; which is proved by every declaration in trespass, where the defendant is called upon to answer for bruising the grass and even treading upon the soil. If he admits the fact, he is bound to show by way of justification, that some positive law has empowered or excused him....”

So Entick won.
But what about Wilkes?

Well, the “triple headed, Cerebrean” Government Wilkes referenced in “The North Briton” No. 45 prosecuted him for seditious libel as well, using another general search warrant to effect the seizure of evidence.

Wilkes was able to prevail at trial by invoking his Parliamentary immunity from arrest on libel charges. Quoting Wilkes, describing the still-upcoming trial:

[The case will] "teach ministers of arbitrary principles, that the liberty of an English subject is not to be sported away with impunity, in this cruel and despotic manner...[and also] "determine at once whether English liberty be a reality or a shadow."

Then Wilkes returned the favor—figuratively “suing the messenger” in the second of our illegal warrant blockbusters, Wilkes v. Wood, 98 Eng. Rep. 489 (1763)
In fact, he’s the one who sued first...and based on the events of his trial, Entick filed the lawsuit against Carrington that we just discussed. A few words from the report of the trial:

“...Serjeant Glynn [defense counsel], then enlarged fully, on the particular circumstances of the case, but remarked that the case extended far beyond Mr. Wilkes personally, that it touched the liberty of every subject of this country, and if found to be legal, would shake that most precious inheritance of Englishmen. In vain has our house been declared, by the law, our asylum and defence, if it is capable of being entered, upon any frivolous or no pretence at all, by a Secretary of State...

That of all offences that of a seizure of papers was the least capable of reparation; that, for other offences, an acknowledgement might make amends; but that for the promulgation of our most private concerns, affairs of the most secret personal nature, no reparation whatsoever could be made. That the law never admits of a general search-warrant. That in France, or Spain, even in the Inquisition itself, they never delegate all infinite power to search, and that no magistrate is capable of delegating any such power...”

And a few words from the Lord Chief Justice in his verdict:

“...When we consider the persons concerned in this affair, it ceases to be an outrage to Mr. Wilkes personally, it is an outrage to the constitution itself...

Secretary Williamson, in Charles the Second’s time, for backing an illegal warrant, was sent to the Tower by the House of Commons. The jury, he observed, had no such power to commit; he knew it well; but, for his part, he wished they had, as he was persuaded they would exercise it, in the present case, as it ought to be...”

The Government response to their defeat?
To prosecute Wilkes for a very, very naughty joke indeed.

It turns out that back in the crazy Monks of Medmenham days an exceptionally ribald book called “An Essay on Woman”, a parody of Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man”...and here was a chance to strike back at Wilkes...if only the annoying immunity thing wasn’t in the way.

So he was promptly thrown out of Parliament, and then charged with blasphemous libel. He immediately fled the country, spending four years in exile.

Now here’s the good part: Wilkes decided to return, because, despite his outlaw status, he had been elected to Parliament (again) in April 1768. He was the subject of riots in the nights following his surrender; and it is reported that 11 persons were killed as a result of the public outcry over his imprisonment. (Matter of fact, it’s also reported that the anger over the issues surrounding Wilkes’ arrest was so profound that it reached across the profound that the cities of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Wilkesboro, N.C. bear his name.)

A political party, the Wilkites, had sprung up...and so had the Government’s anger over Wilkes’ status, which led to his second expulsion from Parliament, on February 3, 1769. On February 16th, he was reelected—and expelled the next day. Exactly one month later...the voters did it again—and so did Parliament.

The score so far?
The British Parliament, 3; The British Voters, 0.

Round four again went to Wilkes, again temporarily—this time by a vote of 1,143 to 296.

In a move reminiscent of the 2000 US Presidential election, Parliament promptly awarded the seat to Wilkes’ opponent, Colonel Henry Lawes Luttrell.

All the while he was still in prison...and while still in prison he was elected an Alderman of London...then he was released...then, ironically, elected Sheriff...then, in 1774, in a move Ken Livingstone could surely appreciate, he was elected Lord Mayor of London—and then finally (fifth time’s the charm!) he was returned to Parliament....and this time they let him stay, which he did for another 16 years.

So remember, roughly 3500 words ago, when I said in Part One that I could draw a direct line between all of this and the FISA debate today and its impact on the Fourth Amendment?

Well, I’m not going to do it.
Instead, I’ll again let the United States Supreme Court address the question, which they do with great eloquence in Stanford v Texas:

"...As MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS has put it, "The commands of our First Amendment...(as well as the prohibitions of the Fourth and the Fifth) reflect the teachings of Entick v. Carrington, supra. These three amendments are indeed closely related, safeguarding not only privacy and protection against self-incrimination but `conscience and human dignity and freedom of expression as well...

In short, what this history indispensably teaches is that the constitutional requirement that warrants must particularly describe the "things to be seized" is to be accorded the most scrupulous exactitude when the "things" are books, and the basis for their seizure is the ideas which they contain...No less a standard could be faithful to First Amendment freedoms.

The constitutional impossibility of leaving the protection of those freedoms to the whim of the officers charged with executing the warrant is dramatically underscored by what the officers saw fit to seize under the warrant in this case...”

And that’s the crux of the argument over the FISA compromise.

Should the protection of freedom from warrantless wiretapping “be accorded the most scrupulous exactitude when the "things" are”...not books, but communications?

When we see how wide a net the warrantless wiretapping program cast, does it teach us a lesson about the “constitutional impossibility of leaving the protection of those freedoms to the whim of the officers charged with executing the warrant”?

And of course, when the Fourth Amendment is endangered, can the First or the Fifth be safe?

Well, it’s been a long journey, Gentle Reader...but we are at the end.

We began this trip in a garden of lust...then we met two 18th Century bloggers...we found ourselves caught up in the struggle over general warrants (which sound mighty familiar in the “warrantless wiretap” context)...and then two extremely important trials...and then the connection between the names of some of our cities and Wilkes...and finally, as I promised, we drew a straight line between the distrust of an overly intrusive Government and our own demands for freedom...which are today again under attack.

The circle has been closed, and with that, I bid you good day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On The Weird Twists Of History, Part One, Or, Why We Have A Fourth Amendment

This may be one of the strangest tales I have ever brought to the table, Gentle Reader, and yet one of the most fundamental in describing the birth of our Bill of Rights...and most especially the Fourth Amendment.

As many of you know, the new FISA compromise may or may not allow warrantless wiretapping of American citizens on a wholesale scale.

Something you may not know is that a similar debate raged in England (centered around the right of Government to seize the papers of whomever they chose, and use the papers as evidence against those persons) during the reign of King George III—or that it involved scandalous sexual behavior, Benjamin Franklin, the 18th Century version of blogging, and two men who decided to take on the corruption of the Crown...and won.

And because of all that, we have a Fourth Amendment today.

Ready for a tale of liberty and ribaldry?
Then let’s plunge right in, shall we?

So you live in 18th century England, you’re rich...and kind of bored.
What is a gentleman to do?

Well as it turns out, one option is to buy an old monastery, expand the cave system underneath, open yourself a well-appointed “garden of lust” with a really cool Latin motto (“Fay Ce Qve Vovdras”...”Do As You Will”), and invite a few of the most powerful men in England...and the join you in heavy drinking and crazy escapades that involve, to give just one example, shipping in prostitutes from London dressed up as nuns for an evening’s entertainment.

Which is exactly what Sir Francis Dashwood did in the village of West Wycombe; just six miles north of London by way of the River Thames.

It was a fabulous situation...the Abbey was secluded, on top of a hill, and shrouded by a grove of trees. The only access to the caves was by boat—and that meant it was possible to hop on a boat in London...and hop off, at the caves, unobserved...and then later, still unobserved, head back home, polite society none the wiser.

The “Monks of Medmenham”, as the group’s members called themselves (they did not call themselves “The Hellfire Club”, legends notwithstanding), did indeed include some of the most important of the English landed gentry (and, it was rumored, some of their wives...): including the Earl of Sandwich, Benjamin Franklin, and the man who will be one of the two focal points of today’s discussion, John Wilkes.

But the thing is, eventually all that romping gets a bit old; and a gentleman again finds himself with time on his hands...

Wilkes was a man with political ambition, and so he set about bribing the local voters to obtain a seat in Parliament...only to find his party tossed out of leadership and into the role of the opposition—which turned out to be perfect for somebody inclined to this sort of humor:

When the Earl of Sandwich, a sometime friend, told him that "you will die either on the gallows, or of the pox," Wilkes said, "That must depend on whether I embrace your lordship's principles or your mistress."

--Jack Lynch, from the article “Wilkes, Liberty, and Number 45

To take the story further we need to know that King George III (who saw “The Madness of King George”?) chose as his Prime Minister his former “finishing tutor”, John Stuart, the Earl of Bute. The new Earl had quite a personal history of his own; in fact there were questions as to whether the new King’s mother and the new Earl had a personal history of their own.

Another item of shared personal history: the new Earl and Wilkes were both members of the Monks of Medmenham.

The Earl of Bute had a problem getting his program through Parliament, and to overcome his inability to “talk up” his ideas (some suggest he experienced antipathy because he was a Scot...something Gordon Brown might well understand) he published “The Briton”, a newspaper published in London...which saw Wilkes answer with “The North Briton”, which, in a time and place that had no free press, began its very first issue of June 5, 1762, thusly:

The liberty of the press is the birth-right of a Briton, and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country. It has been the terror of all bad ministers; for their dark and dangerous designs, or their weakness, inability, and duplicity, have thus been detected and threwn to the public, generally in too strong and just colours for them long to bear up against the odium of mankind. Can we then be surpriz’d that so various and infinite arts have been employed, at one time entirely to cast aside, at another to take off the force, and blunt the edge, of this most sacred weapon, given for the defence of truth and liberty?

This shot across the bow having been fired; Wilkes proceeded to lay 44 more broadsides into the hull of Government, including this quote from the final “The North Briton”, No. 45, in reference to the Earl’s resignation from Government, and the rumors that he still pulled the strings from behind the scenes:

The Scottish minister has indeed retired. Is his influence at an end? Or does he still govern by the three wretched tools of his power, who to their indelible infamy, have supported the most odious of his measures, the late ignominious Peace, and the wicked extension of the arbitrary mode of Excise? The North Briton has been steady in his opposition to a single, insolent, incapable, despotic minister, and is equally ready, in the service of his country, to combat the triple-headed, Cerberean administration, if the Scot is to assume that motley form.

You cannot talk about the Government in this way without consequences, and...well, we’ll come back to that in a minute.

Before we do, I want you to meet John Entick. Entick began his professional career as a schoolmaster, then an author. He had a bit of an eclectic taste—his first book being a Latin grammar, then a book on theology...and in an ironic twist, he at one point tried to publish an edition of Chaucer. He was also famous for his dictionary.

Entick was as upset by the political situation as Wilkes, and he found his voice in “The Monitor, or the British Freeholder”, which was where he wrote this:

...Now, although he allows, that “These Mixed constitutions [as opposed to absolute monarchy] are the very best, that human wisdom could ever discover for the regulation of human societies; yet that these, though perhaps productive of fewer evils, than either of the other, must necessarily partake of the evils belonging to both, and be supported by more or less violence, as they more or less approach the despotic; or of corruption, as they come nearer to the democratic principles: for corruption must always increase in due proportion to the decrease of arbitrary power; since where there is less power to command obedience, there must be more bribery to purchase it, or there can be no government at all...”

You’ll recall my saying that there would be consequences for selling this sort of thing in King George’s and the Earl of Bute’s England, and here’s where we start getting to the heart of the story.

But not today.

Instead, in a development worthy of Luke and Laura, we’re employing the come back in about 36 hours, and we’ll have the King’s messengers roaming the countryside, a spectacular trial or two—and a guy who gets elected to Parliament from his jail cell four times in four months.

And of course, when it’s all over...the United States will have a Fourth Amendment.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Local Greens Attend Historic Event

St Joe Valley Greens sent two delegates and two alternates to the National Green Party Convention in Chicago. Several other members of the St Joe Valley Greens were able to attend the Convention allowing delegates the opportunity to caucus with their local before casting their votes.

On Saturday, the Green Party voted on a platform and elected Cynthia McKinney for their Presidential candidate and Rosa Clemente as her running mate. This represents the first time a Black woman and a Puerto Rican woman head the ticket for the two highest offices in the Executive branch of the U.S. government!

In addition to electing candidates for the national ticket, Greens from across the country had an opportunity to meet Greens currently holding offices and running for offices in many other states, network with other Greens and attend workshops on building the party.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. McKinney addressed all the key values of the Green Party of social justice, grassroots democracy, ecological wisdom and non-violence. She spoke of her 12 years of work as a maverick in Congress including her vote against the war in Iraq as well as her efforts to protect the environment, investigate election fraud and voter disenfranchisement, investigate the attacks of September 11th and introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice. To those who would suggest a vote for a Green Party candidate is a "wasted" vote, McKinney responded with this:

"the only 'wasted' vote is a vote against your conscience."

See you in a few days

We are off for a brief family camping trip. Hopefully, the other contributors with continue to keep you informed and entertained in my absence. See you soon.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

John Edwards brings poverty campaign to Hartford


There is no bus, no banner, no trailing press contingent. But John Edwards still is campaigning, five months after ending his run for president.Edwards brought his new anti-poverty campaign Thursday to a Hartford public housing project, where residents say they have struggled for attention at the state Capitol."I'm blessed to have been given this national voice because of my own presidential and vice presidential campaigns," Edwards said. "But what I want to do is be a megaphone for those who are not being heard."

Edwards, 55, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina who ran for president in 2004 and 2008, said he intends to represent people desperate to be heard.

(Related links) John Edwards In Hartford Photos

"I'm going to make their stories heard all across this country and fight for what I think is fairness and justice in America," Edwards said.

He offered no megaphone for those stories Thursday, however. The press and public were excluded for space reasons from a round-table discussion at the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Hartford about poverty in the city that Edwards conducted with Mayor Eddie A. Perez, legislators and some local residents and activists.

"What was so terrific about our meeting here today was we had a group of people, including political leaders and local leaders, who are completely committed to this cause," Edwards said.

His organization is Half in Ten, named for its goal of cutting poverty by half in 10 years. The club was chosen because it sits on the edge of the Bowles Park housing project and was the setting for a visit by President Bush in April.

Bowles Park also is one of the state-financed housing projects suffering from long-deferred maintenance, which has drawn sympathy, but no major infusion of cash, from state officials.

Rose Price, a resident who uses a walker, said she needs knee surgery, but mold in her apartment has so compromised her lungs that doctors are afraid to subject her to anesthesia.

"He is going to bring some kind of help, I hope," Price said of Edwards.Edwards said he was in Hartford, where the last U.S. census found nearly one-third of the residents living in poverty, to spark local leaders to action.

But the problems at Bowles Park are not new, and Price testified about them at the Capitol in February 2007.

Edwards spoke to reporters for 14 minutes outside the club after the round-table discussion, flanked by Perez; Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz; House Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D- Meriden; Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield; and others.

Asked about Gov. M. Jodi Rell's rationale for vetoing a minimum wage increase — that it would hurt business and eliminate jobs for the poor — Edwards replied, "She's wrong."

Edwards said studies show that the local economy improves when the minimum wage is raised above the national minimum. The Connecticut minimum wage already was well above the national minimum.

"It's common sense," Edwards said. "Number one, people are able to support themselves. Number two, they make more money, so they infuse the local economy with more money. And because of those things, the local economy grows and jobs are created."

The legislature overrode Rell's veto, so the minimum wage will increase in January from $7.65 to $8. Edwards said that reducing poverty will require a higher federal minimum wage, widely available health care and more unionization.

Edwards, who has endorsed Barack Obama, played down the recent flap over the Rev. Jesse Jackson being captured on a television microphone criticizing Obama with vulgar language for what Jackson described as talking down to black people.

"I believe that Sen. Obama represents in so many ways the hopes and aspirations for many Americans," Edwards said. "It's not just African Americans, but including African Americans."

He noted that Jackson has apologized.

Edwards repeated his standard line about the possibility of becoming Obama's running mate, the status he accepted four years ago from John Kerry.

"I'm not seeking the job," Edwards replied. "If anything that Sen. Obama asks me to do ... allows me to serve my country, I would seriously think about it."

Contact Mark Pazniokas at

Truthout roundup 7//12

Dana Milbank Pull Up a Chair, Mr. Rove
Dana Milbank writes for The Washington Post on Karl Rove's refusal to appear before the House Judiciary Committee this week: "Karl Rove had never been so agreeable. The former chief strategist to President Bush was the only witness listed on the agenda for yesterday's meeting of the House Judiciary Committee, and he proved to be uncharacteristically contained. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee holding the hearing, declared herself 'extremely disappointed and deeply concerned' about Rove's behavior."

McCain's Broken Marriage and Fractured Reagan Friendship
Richard A. Serrano and Ralph Vartabedian report for The Los Angeles Times: "Outside her Bel-Air home, Nancy Reagan stood arm in arm with John McCain and offered a significant - but less than exuberant - endorsement... In a written statement, she described McCain as 'a good friend for over 30 years.' But that friendship was strained in the late 1970s by McCain's decision to divorce his first wife, Carol, who was particularly close to the Reagans, and within weeks marry Cindy Hensley, the young heiress to a lucrative Arizona beer distributorship."

J. Sri Raman Blasts That Shake South Asia
J. Sri Raman writes for Truthout: "Terror strikes anywhere and everywhere have larger targets than lives and limbs. This is even more so in the case of bomb blasts carrying the terror tag in the South Asian triangle of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Every blast here does not stop with creating trauma and tension in the country where it takes place. It also threatens peace among the countries, triggering campaigns against each other."

Kidnapped US Soldiers Found Dead
Nancy A. Youssef and Sahar al-Issa report from Baghdad for McClatchy Newspapers: "The remains of two US soldiers kidnapped during a military patrol last year were found after a US-captured suspect led soldiers to their location, the Pentagon announced Friday."

Russia, China Veto UN Sanctions on Zimbabwe Regime
John Heilprin reports for The Associated Press: "Russia and China vetoed US-proposed sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders Friday, the global community's latest attempt to take concrete action against a regime widely criticized for a violent and one-sided presidential election."

Barack Obama Doesn't Rule Out Hillary Clinton for Vice President
Peter Nicholas reports for The Los Angeles Times: "Barack Obama told a potential donor to his campaign that Hillary Rodham Clinton is on his list of possible vice presidential running mates, but that her husband's status as a former president makes matters 'complicated.'"

Bill Moyers Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column? Bill Moyers, from an adaptation of his keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform, writes for In These Times: "Democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent at the same time that it enhances the power of the state and the privileged interests that the state protects. And nothing characterizes corporate media today more than its disdain toward the fragile nature of modern life and its indifference toward the complex social debate required of a free and self-governing people."

US Environmental Agency Lowers Value of a Human Life'
The Guardian UK reports: "It sounds like a spot of gallows humour, but the numbers are no joke: the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has lowered the value of a human life by nearly $1 million under George Bush's administration. The EPA's estimate of the 'value of a statistical life' was $6.9 million as of this May - down from $7.8 million five years ago - according to an Associated Press study released today."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blacketor really gets it wrong

by Don Wheeler

The Tribune editors are right -- the education of our children in the South Bend Community School Corp. should become a critical concern for all people living in South Bend, as well as the entire county. Public education affects all aspects of our community -- business, government and families.

Thus begins former School Board Trustee Jo Blacketor's OpEd piece in today's South Bend Tribune. She and I can agree on this part, but little else in her analysis has much merit.

I have no reason to believe that Superintendent Robert L. Zimmerman was not a good and honorable man, but I do believe the challenges of the South Bend school system exceeded both his expectations and abilities. This same observation holds true for interim Superintendent James Kapsa. We need leaders with great courage, fortitude and the disposition of an alley cat because renewing hope requires breaking ineffective habits and dismantling entrenched positional policymakers.
If one claims lack of ability, particularly on the part of the current administrator, some evidence would be nice. Or at least her reasoning. And what in the world does that last sentence even mean?

She then provides us with her suggestion of a revised Board make-up.

The board makeup could be: four elected at-large representatives and three appointed. This would take care of the fact that presently none of the "district" boundaries are aligned with the so-called district elected members. Two elected members could be chosen during presidential election and two elected during the mayoral election cycle. The appointees could be: one from the mayor's office, one from the Parent Teacher Association and one from the Chamber of Commerce. These appointments could be staggered every two years so that at any time the board would have a blend of new ideas with veteran wisdom and discernment.

Everyone's entitled to his/her view, but these kinds of suggestions often come from people who think we should elect judges. In a way, they must think setting policy for a school system is more complicated than making studied decisions of law. I'm not sure that's true. Additionally, the elected members would no longer have a normal two year cycle of elections. The mayoral and presidential elections are only one year apart. I do think the idea of dumping the district concept has some merit (since most kids' families have some choice in where their children go).

This particular setup is vaguely reminiscent of how Hong Kong used to be administered.

I've been pretty fond of the Representative Democracy model, myself. And in most local governmental units and most businesses (with Boards), it's fairly standard practice to elect the policy makers, who then appoint the administrator.

The problem isn't the one she describes. The task is to get the community more involved in the election process. The recent actions of the South Bend School Board have probably gone a long way in furthering that.

As far as this next part - I find a lot of problems with the conclusions she seems to draw.

But, what plan does South Bend have for academic improvement? The recent accountability process reveals that among 1,896 schools statewide, 40 are marked as failing for the fourth year. All four of South Bend's high schools are among those 40. With all the good works happening in the K-5th grade (i.e., Wilson LiPS reading program), if we lose our kids at middle or high school level, can we claim success?

As far as I know, the only real Primary Center success stories are Kennedy and Tarkington (magnet programs) and Hay (the only neighborhood school to have used Wilson LiPS for more than a year). I'd point out as well, that most Primary Centers have yet to see Wilson LiPS in their schools.

The struggling Freshman in our High School was in Kindergarten nine years ago. The school that child went to is very different than the one that exists today.

It's just crazy to think everything works great for kids until they leave their neighborhood primary center. What is much more likely is that kids leave the Primary Centers unprepared for the next step. That's what needs to be addressed. Improving the Intermediate level and High schools is certainly important, but getting children started on the right path early in their lives will always need to be the top priority of any school board.

There are some fairly obvious first steps. Kindergarten should be mandatory, and it should be full day. For kids like our daughter with two years of great pre-school - its not that important. But some of the children who give up in high school may well have been planted in front of a TV in some relative's home until they were dropped off for the First Grade. We can sympathize with that family's challenges, we can scorn them, but what we can't do is pretend that sort of thing never happens. We, as a society, can't afford to take that chance. It's both a matter of morality and self-interest.

And the answers are not going to come by ceding our authority and responsibilities as citizens. There is a lot of energy for success in this city, and I saw plenty of it at the infamous School Board meeting of early June.

It is up to those of us who are energized to infect others with the urgency this task will require.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

It's our birthday - they can cry if they want to...

cry if they want to, cry if they want to!

by Don Wheeler

(My apologies to Leslie Gore)

It was July 11, 2007 that I, aided by contributions from fake consultant and grannyhelen, launched this blog.

We gained some notoriety during the Mayoral campaign, and it's fun to see the much larger community we have become.

Happy Birthday everyone!

Take action for low income families

from Half In Ten from poverty to prosperity

Yesterday, Senator John Edwards spoke to over 1,000 young people at the Campus Progress National Conference in Washington, DC. Senator Edwards asked these 1,000 young activists to pledge their support for Half In Ten and find 10 friends to do the same. Watch him call on these students to form the core of a movement to change this country forever. To grow this movement, we need you, too.

As we build this movement, there are specific changes that we can make today to reach our goal of reducing poverty by half in ten years. Yesterday, Senator Edwards discussed one of these: the need to expand the Child Tax Credit. Current law denies the CTC to millions of poor children and their families because they earn too little to owe federal income tax. By lowering the minimum earnings from the current $12,050 to $8,500 for 2008, families of more than 13 million children will become newly eligible to receive the credit or receive an increased amount.

During these tough economic times, helping our lowest-income families should be a top priority. The House of Representatives has begun to address this need by approving H.R. 6049, which expands the CTC to all families who make at least $8,500 a year. But it’s looking like the Senate might not go as far as the House and would leave over 1.5 million low-income children out entirely or give their families a smaller refund.

We must all voice our support for real change to the CTC. Add your name to this petition urging Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to:

Expand the CTC to the children who need it most, allowing those families making $8,500 a year to access the credit, and

End the annual increases in required earnings that deprive low-income families and children from this needed help.

Starting today at East Harlem’s Yorkville Common Pantry, Senator Edwards is heading out on the road, learning from citizens affected by poverty, rallying with community activists, and putting pressure on elected officials.

Together, we can build a movement to cut poverty in half, but we need you—educating yourself on the issues, bringing your friends and family into Half In Ten, and urging elected officials to take action—to make the concrete changes that can pull families out of poverty.

Truthout roundup 7/11

William Rivers Pitt Interview With Rep. Barbara Lee
Truthout: "Barbara Lee (D-California) remains stoutly determined to drag her Congressional colleagues, as well as the Bush administration, away from continuing to support the long list of foreign and domestic policy decisions that have damaged the Unites States at home and abroad. In this video, she sits with William Rivers Pitt to discuss several of these issues in detail."

Israel Hints at Pre-Emptive Attack on Iran
Rupert Cornwell, of The Independent UK: "The sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear progamme has grown louder as a defiant Tehran claimed to have conducted missile tests for a second day running, the US warned that it would defend its interests and its allies in the region, and Israel hinted it was ready to stage a preventive attack to destroy Iranian nuclear installations."

Bush Signs Spy Bill and Draws Lawsuit
Randall Mikkelsen, of Reuters: "President George W. Bush signed a law on Thursday overhauling the rules for eavesdropping on terrorism suspects but immediately met a civil liberties challenge calling it a threat to Americans' privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in Manhattan federal court as Bush signed the measure and called for the law to be voided as a violation of constitutional speech and privacy protections."

McCain's Arizona Woes Continue
John Dougherty, of The Washington Independent: "In a sign of continued weakness in his home state, an online poll shows Sen. John McCain trailing Sen. Barack Obama by 3-percentage points in Arizona. The poll also shows the candidacy of Liberterian Bob Barr is having a significant impact on McCain's campaign by siphoning off conservative voters nationwide. The Arizona poll was part of nationwide Zogby International poll that put Obama ahead in total electoral votes with 273 to 160 for McCain."

Iraq's Complicated Oil Fields
Spencer Ackerman, of The Washington Independent: "In mid-June, Iraq's oil minister, Husain Shahristani, announced that he would grant no-bid development contracts for Iraq's oil fields to Western oil giants. Exxon, Shell, BP and Total stood to earn billions off the deals, since Iraq possesses nearly as much potential oil reserve -- and perhaps even more -- as Saudi Arabia, the nation with the world's most oil. Within days, The New York Times reported that a team of US State Department advisers urged Shahristani and other ministry officials to grant the contracts to the oil barons."

Fears Rise on Trillion-Dollar Trouble for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
Rob Lever reports for Agence France-Presse: "A downward spiral for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was unabated Thursday despite reassuring comments from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, as fears grew about the firms which underpin trillions of dollars in the housing system."

Nick Mottern Time for Iraq War Oil Profits Taxes - Part II
Nick Mottern writes in the second of this two-part series for Truthout: "Based on an analysis of economist Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, we estimate about 25 percent of oil company profits since the 2003 invasion of Iraq can be traced to the war's impact on world oil prices. On this basis, the excess war profit for ExxonMobil alone, between 2003 and 2008, would amount to about $40 billion."

Racial Discrimination in Ohio: Neighborhood Denied Water Service
Julie Carr Smyth reports for The Associated Press: "Residents of a mostly black neighborhood in rural Ohio were awarded nearly $11 million Thursday by a federal jury that found local authorities denied them public water service for decades out of racial discrimination."

Latin America Revolted by European Union's Immigration Policy
Writing for Geneva's Le Temps, Angelique Mounier-Kuhn reports how, in recent years as reception conditions in the United States have deteriorated, Latin Americans have been moving into the EU. The EU's recent response to the increase in undocumented immigrants - approval of a stringent "Return Directive" - has Latin America's leaders up in arms.

A Fake Consultant Exclusive: “All Suspicious Persons Will Be Monitored."

Many words have been proffered regarding the FISA bill this week, and I was actually preparing an analysis of the events when, to my surprise, I received an email that made me alter my schedule completely.

I want to apologize in advance to Danny Medress, over at Democracy for America, for whom I was preparing the analysis; and all I can tell you, Danny, is that this was of such import that the schedule had to be slipped.

That said, presented here in its entirety is the memo I received …and having read it through, I have to say I feel much safer.

WASHINGTON—July, 10, 2008

FCNS--Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the FBI, and the National Reconnaissance Office jointly announced today that because of the new authorities and tools they have under H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, they can now absolutely assure the American people that there will be 100% coverage of every single “suspicious person” in the United States.

DHS Undersecretary Harry Paratestes told the assembled media that two major programs have been implemented to assure that 100% coverage is achieved.

First, the implementation of the “Algorithm Impact Project” which will allow specially-designed software programs to decide which Americans need to be wiretapped.

“The AI Project”, Paratestes said, “is the most effective tool to date to ensure all communications between any possible terrorist is captured and recorded.”

As has been previously reported, the AI Project will direct NSA and NRO resources by starting with a “baseline” assumption that all communications are suspicious until proven to be safe.

“Fortunately, we are responding to the threat posed by all unmonitored communications by instituting a ’full capture’ communications protocol that will capture all the communications that the AI Project does not track as unsafe”, Paratestes reported to a questioner. “This policy ensures that any dangerous communications the AI Project misses are retained for at least 10 years for analysis in case they might later become actionable.”

Paratestes also described, for the first time, the newest of the DHS security innovations to be introduced: the “Binary Management Program”.

“We simply cannot allow any suspicious person to be able to move about freely in the United States” BMP Program Manager Heywood Jablomi told the assembled press, “and to that end we intend to hire 150,000,000 new employees to remain in close contact with the other 150,000,000 suspicious persons in the United States 24 hours a day. This will achieve 100% coverage of any suspicious individuals and simultaneously achieve 100% employment. I’ll say it again, so you know we mean it: all suspicious persons will be monitored.”

Several persons expressed concerns regarding the scope and nature of the program; and those suspicious persons have been removed from the general population for a period of investigation.

“We are looking for a location to site the new detention facility that will be required”, Jablomi told the assembled reporters, “and we can announce today that we are down to two sites for final consideration: Nevada and Wyoming.”

Paratestes ended the meeting with an optimistic assessment of the future: “With everyone in America being monitored, we will finally be free and safe, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural…fluids. God bless you all.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another Summer of Love?

by April Lidinsky

This piece runs on WVPE on July 11, 2008. While it takes up the national news of same-sex marriages, the penultimate paragraph pulls in our local battle to expand the city Human Rights ordinance to include LGBT citizens.

WVPE: Another Summer of Love? April Lidinsky for Michiana Chronicles. July 11, 2008

So, how's everyone's summer? I hope you still have all your fingers, after last week's barely-legal back-yard fireworks. Exploding stuff seems to suit the apocalyptic American mood right now, between fires in California and floods in the Midwest. Gas is up, the economy's down, gosh, even our summer drinks are on the rocks!

And yet, in the face of all these bad vibes, we're experiencing what pundits have called a Summer of Love, because of the waves of same-sex marriages headlining the news. Looking at the photos of the ecstatic couples in California who, at least until the November election, are finally able to marry, often after 20, 30, or 40 years together – well, you'd wonder who could begrudge them that hard-earned happiness. While entertainment TV might be filled with goulish close-ups of hetero divorces like Christy Brinkley’s, we could instead be cheering on same-sex couples who are willing to make a commitment in exchange for the more than 1400 legal rights of marriage – you can look it up! – from hospital visitation to jointly filed taxes and many more, that straight couples often take for granted. In this time of cutbacks – of Americans "staycationing" in the backyard because we can't afford to go anywhere -- do we really have to be stingy about love, too?

It reminds me of recent visits with families of new babies, in which alarmed older siblings are – with careful kid logic – working through the idea that now there might be less love to go around. Tell the kids that love is among the few things that expands, limitlessly, upon increasing demands? Well, it just blows kids’ minds. But you'd kind of hope as adults, as voters, we'd get it by now.

And yet here we are, still, struggling with how to portion out love, as well as rights – because both are bound up in American marriage. Despite our cultural romance with love stories, the bottom line is that marriage is a legal contract about responsibilities, benefits, and basic human rights.

Anyone who's been in – or even near -- a marriage knows they are far less about romance than the practical work of partnering -- dividing chores, sharing burdens and finances and joys, dealing intimately with illness and dying, and practicing daily empathy, even when you don't feel like it. In other words, marriage is a practice of good citizenship. Just-released research has shown that same-sex partnerships tend to be far better at achieving equitable citizenship in the home – better at fairly dividing the chores – grocery shopping, vacuuming, taking kids to the dentist -- that drive maddening wedges between many heterosexual couples. So, same-sex marriages may model the very best of what we hope for in all partnerships: Empathetic good citizenship that strengthens homes as well as communities.

One of my favorite writers, legal scholar Patricia Williams, says Americans are too parsimonious about rights. Rather than guarding them for society's favorites, she urges extravagantly, "Society must give [rights] away … Unlock them … giv[e] them to slaves … Give them to rivers … Give to all of society's objects and untouchables the rights of privacy, integrity, and self-assertion; give them distance and respect. Flood them with the animating spirit [of] rights …” (The Alchemy of Race and Rights [1991], 165).

Here in South Bend, I hope our Common Council will rise to the occasion when they have an opportunity to act generously on this topic. A future vote could expand our Human Rights Ordinance to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens, with the logic that sexual orientation and gender identity -- something we all have -- should never prevent any of us from our rights to fair housing, public accommodations, education and employment. In 2006, this appeal to equity failed by just one vote. During this Summer of Love, let’s reconsider what it really means to love one's fellow citizens – to want for one another what we want for ourselves. Are other cities in our listening area ready to declare for equity, too?

After all, love and good citizenship are so elementary that they are at the heart of the not-just-for-children animated film Wall-E. It’s filled with Chaplinesque goofiness, reminding us how much delight we can take in the every day stuff of life, from old brassieres to paddle balls. But Wall-E also models the way intimate partnerships can inspire empathy on a larger scale – for our communities, our planet, and, heck, the universe. Wall-E is an apocalyptic tale – perfect for this summer -- but it also plants its feet firmly in the soil of optimism. Now that the smoke from last week's fireworks has cleared, maybe we’ll see, finally, that more than ever in these times of cut-backs, generosity with rights, as with love, enriches us all.

For Michiana Chronicles, this is April Lidinsky [music: “Put on your Sunday Clothes” from “Hello Dolly” and the Wall-E soundtrack]

Truthout roundup 7/10

Norman Solomon Obama and the Progressive Base
Norman Solomon, writing for Truthout, questions the "progressive" image Senator Barack Obama has cultivated: "These days, an appreciable number of Obama supporters are starting to use words like 'disillusionment.' But that's a consequence of projecting their political outlooks onto the candidate in the first place."

Air Force Reopens Bidding on Flawed Tanker Contract
Leslie Wayne, reporting for The New York Times, writes: "The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that it would reopen bidding on a $35 billion contract for midair refueling tankers, allowing Boeing to continue its effort to wrest the business from a partnership of Northrop Grumman and the European parent of its rival Airbus."

Tom Engelhardt Reality Bites Back: Why the US Won't Attack Iran
Writing for Tom Dispatch, Tom Engelhardt says that an attack on Iran "... would result in a global oil shock of almost inconceivable proportions. For any American who believes that he or she is experiencing 'pain at the pump' right now, just wait until you experience what a true global oil shock would involve."

Seven UN Peacekeepers Killed in Ambush in Darfur
Mohamed Osman and Maggie Michael, reporting for The Associated Press, write: "In a brazen attack on horseback and from SUVs mounted with anti-aircraft weapons, some 200 gunmen ambushed peacekeepers from a joint U.N.-African Union force in Sudan's Darfur region, killing seven in fierce battles that lasted more than two hours, U.N. officials said Wednesday."

Serge Truffaut Double Blow
In Le Devoir, Serge Truffaut deplores European passivity over US plans to install new military outposts in Eastern and Central Europe
Dean Baker Housing Market Meltdown Cause Massive Losses
Dean Baker, for the Center for Economic and Policy Research: "As Senators McCain and Obama fine-tune their plans for Social Security in preparation for the 2008 presidential election, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that, due to the collapse of the housing bubble, the vast majority of Americans have accumulated little or no wealth. This means that they will be almost completely reliant on Social Security and Medicare to support them in their retirement years."

Sridhar Pappu Obama and the Latino Vote
Sridhar Pappu, of The Washington Independent: "By the time she finished clapping, Roselia Rameriez had made up her mind. Ramirez, who had traveled to Washington from Big Spring, Tex., to attend the national convention of LULAC--the League of United Latin American Citizens--entered the Washington Hilton Tuesday afternoon still undecided about who she would support for president. Though a lifelong Democrat, who had only gone over to the other side once, to vote for Ronald Reagan, she had been unsure through the spring. But after hearing the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, give an impassioned speech that stirred the subterranean interiors of the Hilton's International Ballroom, Ramirez related to him in a new way. Once she had heard his thoughts on how to help Latino children, and of his own experience as a community organizer in Chicago, everything suddenly seemed clear. 'Now I will vote for Obama,' Ramirez said."

Baker and Christopher Put War Powers Back Where They Belong
James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher, for The New York Times: "The most agonizing decision we make as a nation is whether to go to war. Our Constitution ambiguously divides war powers between the president (who is the commander in chief) and Congress (which has the power of the purse and the power to declare war). The founders hoped that the executive and legislative branches would work together, but in practice the two branches don't always consult. And even when they do, they often dispute their respective powers."

ACLU Will Challenge FISA Bill in Court
Nick Juliano, of Raw Story: "As the Senate voted to endorse a Bush-administration backed plan to expand its surveillance authority and grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated warrantless wiretapping, the American Civil Liberties Union unveiled plans to challenge the new law in court. 'This fight is not over. We intend to challenge this bill as soon as President Bush signs it into law,' said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project."

Congress Studies How People Track Your Online Use
Joelle Tessler, of The Associated Press: "Executives from major Internet players - Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. - are due for a grilling about online privacy in a Senate committee Wednesday, but the company likely to get the most scrutiny is a small Silicon Valley startup called NebuAd Inc. NebuAd has drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates in recent weeks for working with Internet service providers to track the online behavior of their customers and then serve up targeted banner ads based on that behavior. According to Ari Schwartz, vice president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a civil liberties group, NebuAd's business model raises many of the same concerns as an earlier generation of 'adware' companies."

Dana Milbank Military Whistleblower Highlights Attempts to Keep War Dead From Public Dana Milbank for The Washington Post says: "The ghost of Rummy is proving difficult to exorcise. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tried to sweep out the symbols of his predecessor's capricious reign, firing acolytes of Donald Rumsfeld and bringing glasnost to the Pentagon. But in one area, Rummy's Rules still pertain: the attempt to hide from public view the returning war dead."

Naked in Hijab NPR's Corey Flintoff reports, "A conservatively dressed Iraqi matron holding a provocative sign and a picture of a naked woman stood against the dusty concrete blast wall outside the main checkpoint where Iraqi workers enter and leave Baghdad's Green Zone."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

CAFO supporters sniffing at Ball State report

Charlotte A. Weybright
Berry Street Beacon

I am an opponent of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and have made that position clear in the past. Governor Daniels and Lieutenant Governor Skillman have made it their priority to double pork production in the next few years, and, through their support of minimizing regulatory restrictions requiring CAFOs to provide manure disposal plans, the industry is well on its way to accomplishing that goal.

However, a new Ball State study shows the pork industries in Jay and Randolph counties are virtually irrelevant to the local economy. This is anything but good news to those who support the notion that CAFOs are great for the economy and generate much-needed economic benefits which outweigh the environmental dangers.

The reason the CAFO industries have little or no effect? Easy, the corporate entities that run the vertically-integrated operations don’t buy locally, and the cloven-hoofed animals are shipped elsewhere for processing, thus denying local businesses the opportunity to profit not only at the front end but also at the tail end of the process. Feed is purchased from the cheapest sources outside the region, and most major purchases come from the outside. The money that is made is sent right back outside the region. But there is one product that the CAFO industry has been kind enough to leave in the region: manure.

In addition, since CAFOs are structured to use a minimal amount of labor, the operations don’t even generate much-needed jobs. What little employment is produced requires workers to be exposed to hazardous gases and toxins, thus limiting any “job creation” benefit that might occur.

As can be expected, Deb Abbott, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Agriculture, dismissed the idea that CAFOs fail to generate economic benefit. She was joined, naturally, by Michael Platt, executive director of of the Indiana Pork Producers who called the Ball State study flawed. His allegation? The reporting of low average wages was inaccurate. No challenge to the fact that the corporations spend their profits outside the region, no challenge to the fact that CAFOs produce very little employment, and no challenge to the fact that CAFOs do not generate significant economic benefits to the region.

The Governor’s great plans to use “breakthrough technology” to double hog production may very well work; however, his vision of generating any economic benefit triggered by that same technology may very well fail.

Berry Street Beacon is a progressive blog out of Ft. Wayne, IN

Truthout roundup 7/9 - w/updates

Russia threatens use of "military resources" in response to US/Czech missile defense deal; judge tells Department of Justice to give Guantanamo detainees their day in court; in Darra Adam Khel, Pakistan soldiers refuse to fight Taliban; G8 Leaders enjoy 18-course meal while discussing world food crisis; Independent UK calls G8 climate deal "just more hot air"; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

US Draws Russian Fire, Signing Missile Defense Deal Agence France Presse: "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed Tuesday what she called a 'landmark' missile defense deal with the Czech Republic, drawing immediate condemnation and threats from Russia. The accord permits the siting of a tracking radar station on Czech soil as part of an extended US missile shield that Washington says is necessary to ward off potential attacks by so-called 'rogue' states such as Iran. Moscow immediately threatened to respond with 'military resources' to what it sees as a threat on its doorstep from the proposed system."

Judge Tells DoJ: Guantanamo First The Associated Press: "A federal judge overseeing Guantanamo Bay lawsuits ordered the Justice Department to put other cases aside and make it clear throughout the Bush administration that, after nearly seven years of detention, the detainees must have their day in court. 'The time has come to move these forward,' Judge Thomas F. Hogan said Tuesday during the first hearing over whether the detainees are being held lawfully. 'Set aside every other case that's pending in the division and address this case first.' The Bush administration hoped it would never come to this. The Justice Department has fought for years to keep civilian judges from reviewing evidence against terrorism suspects."

Pakistani Soldiers Won't Confront Taliban Saeed Shah, of McClatchy Newspapers: "The Taliban fighters were sitting in the back of a pickup, parked right outside the army fort in Darra Adam Khel, a wild town in Pakistan's troubled northwest that's famous for its arms bazaar. The Islamic militia, linked with al Qaida, has controlled Darra for about six months. Wrapped in head scarves, with just their eyes showing, and bristling with weaponry, its members patrol the streets and impose their own austere rules. They've become such a routine sight in the town that no one pays them any attention."

James Chapman A Summit That's Hard to Swallow James Chapman, of The Daily Mail: "Just two days ago, Gordon Brown was urging us all to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions. But yesterday the Prime Minister and other world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis. The dinner, and a six-course lunch, at the summit of leading industrialised nations on the island of Hokkaido, included delicacies such as caviar, milkfed lamb, sea urchin and tuna, with champagne and wines flown in from Europe and the US."

The Independent UK A Worthless Gust of Hot Air The Independent UK: "The leaders of the world's eight largest economies committed themselves to 'avoiding the most serious consequences of climate change'. They also set themselves a goal of halving global emissions by the middle of the century. It is hard to fault the target. But how is it going to be achieved? There is no detail in the communique; no medium-term targets; no commitment to agreeing a legally binding successor to the Kyoto protocol at Copenhagen next year. There is not even agreement on the date from which CO2 cuts will be measured. By far the biggest problem, though, is the lack of detail on the method. These leaders can set all the long-term goals they like, but without realistic means of achieving them, any document they produce will simply be a gust of hot air."

Waxman Threatens Mukasey With Contempt Laurie Kellman, for The Associated Press, reports: "A House panel threatened to cite Attorney General Michael Mukasey with contempt of Congress unless he produces documents from an FBI interview with Vice President Dick Cheney regarding the leak of a CIA agent's identity."

J. Sri Raman A Raw Deal for India J. Sri Raman, for Truthout, writes that the connection between the US nuclear industry's "quiet rehabilitation" and the US-India nuclear deal "could not have been lost on close observers."

Obama: Iranian Missile Test Calls for Talks Mark Silva, of The Baltimore Sun: "Sen. Barack Obama, asked today about his response to Iran's test-firing of a missile reportedly capable of reaching Israel, maintained that the demonstration calls out for stepped up, direct U.S. diplomacy with Iran."

Six Die in Attack on US Post in Turkey Alan Cowell and Sebnem Arsu, for The New York Times, report: "A group of unidentified gunmen opened fire on Turkish security guards outside the United States Consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday, the Turkish authorities said, and at least three police officers and three assailants were killed. Officials said that a fourth assailant escaped."

Hard Like Iron Sylvie Kauffman reports for Le Monde on the Australian government's sudden revision of foreign investment review policy with respect to Australia's raw materials extractive companies: current targets for Chinese direct investment.

John Edwards looks forward, and back

from NPR's Talk of the Nation

Former Sen. John Edwards talks about what went right and what went wrong with his campaign for president, his plan to cut poverty in half by 2018, and whether — if asked — he would accept the Democratic Party's nomination for vice president.

Edwards is currently the national chairman of "Half in Ten: From Poverty to Prosperity," a new campaign that aims to cut poverty by 50 percent over the next ten years.

On The Air Force Bomber Problem, Part 2, Or, Let's Talk Options

When last we met we had a conversation about the challenges the Air Force faces in providing a capable bomber force. We discussed the age of the existing bomber fleet’s backbone, the B-52, the limitations of the B-1, and the fact that the B-2s is limited by the age of the aircraft’s electronics from participating in the “network-centric warfare” model most appropriate for the 21st Century military.

We also examined the probability that future air-defense systems will likely soon raise the threat level to a point where existing US aircraft will no longer be able to operate safely in the highest threat environments.

So what are we to do?

Today we’ll consider several options, including some that change the nature of the heavy bomber fleet in very fundamental ways.

Let’s start with a question that came to light after the first diary was published: why have a bomber capability at all? Here is the response I offered on my personal blog:

...consider darfur.

we know that government aircraft are bombing innocent civilians.

we could presumably disable the aircraft that are doing the bombing and the airfields that support them through aerial bombing of our own; and i would submit to you that such an action would be neither indiscriminate killing nor unjustified.

if we had an administration in power that was so inclined, we could presumably diplomatically "encourage" the cessation of these somali government attacks by presenting the credible threat of bombing as the alternative if the offensive actions do not cease.

in that instance, the capability of bombing is useful without any application of force.

you may recall that iraqi "no fly zones" did control baathist air attacks on kurds and shi'a in the '90s...and while force was used, it seemed less indiscriminate than more so--and reasonably justified as well.

In order to figure out where we’re going let’s again consider what we see as affecting the future. To close out yesterday’s story we asked the following three questions:

--will the emphasis move from manned to unmanned aircraft--and by how much?

--will future wars be more likely to be fought over contested or uncontested airspace?

--and what might be the biggest "doctrinal shift" question: will the US continue to operate nuclear-capable bombers?

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) seems to be the obvious solution: low risk to personnel—at least ours—greater maneuverability, and the potential for more “stealthy” designs.

But before we go too far down this path, we need to make ourselves aware that these aircraft types have limitations of their own:

First, payload: a B-1 can carry up to 30 2,000-pound bombs, but the largest of the currently anticipated UAVs (the X-47A) can only carry two 2,000-pound munitions. Fuel capacity is an issue as well-the heavier or less aerodynamic the aircraft, the more it has to refuel; reducing ”loiter times” over any location.

Next, something you would never consider as a battlefield issue: communications bandwidth. To remotely communicate with a Predator sending streaming video, for example, would require roughly half of the secure satellite bandwidth owned by the military in 2003—which was more or less equal to the capacity of two T-1 lines.

Not much has changed since then.

There are space based solutions proposed, but even the fastest satellite data connections available today are roughly the equivalent of a slow DSL (256k) Internet connection.

To field coordinated groups of UAVs and RPVs would require a quantum leap in bandwidth—and there have been some proposals, including a laser-based data transfer system that could offer 40Gbps capacity. While this would be a fantastic upgrade, it is a line of sight system, there are certain technical issues still being resolved, and lasers are subject to countermeasures that could result in an adversary disrupting the “control loop” and jamming communications between commanders and aircraft.

To route the data from such a system back to command, however, also requires “backhaul” capacity...meaning every mission would require extra UAVs just to maintain the network. There are proposals to resolve this as well as US Navy ships dedicated to providing remote network “hop” capacity (believe it or not...airships are even making a comeback); but the important point to remember from all of this is that there will be very few missions that ever involve simply sending out a couple of robot airplanes to fix the problem.

The need for refueling also limits the deployment options for UAV and RPV aircraft—at least until confidence is established in “automated” air refueling operations.

There are also issues related to the access these aircraft will have to the US domestic, military and international air traffic control systems that are yet to be addressed; meaning the protocol for operations not “in the black” are still being worked out. The goal is to be able to file instrument flight plans for missions flown by these aircraft and to separate these vehicles by altitude; today ascent and descent procedures through commercial air traffic routes are also still being worked out.

An additional issue: these aircraft have maneuverability characteristics that change the instruction set they can receive—for example, more rapid ascents and descents can be ordered than would be normal for manned aircraft.

If our air forces are never used, they have achieved their finest goal.

--Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Nathan F. Twining , March 1956

Before we can fully consider the application of unmanned aircraft, there are two more issues to address: cost of the vehicles and the safety of the weapons load.

You might think these aircraft would be less expensive than manned aircraft, but that might not be true. One reason is because the X-47A, to give a single example, is required to carry almost 5,000 pounds of payload...and that creates a minimum size and cost limit that can’t be ignored. Three demonstrator X-47A aircraft will cost just over $1 billion, but that includes engineering and development costs that, if spread over a larger production run, would be much lower per unit.

Another cost issue is “mission creep”. It is the unofficial policy of the United States Military-Industrial Establishment that once something is designed, it needs to do more...and more...and more. For those unfamiliar with the process, see: Bradley Fighting Vehicle. This policy will impact the design of any UAV or RPV, and they will virtually all trend up to larger and larger (and more costly) designs over time.

It is possible that some relief will be found in the concept of “modularity”, but that remains to be seen.

Now a major issue: the perception of the safety of the weapons carried on board these aircraft will control how these aircraft are designed and used.

This related directly back to one of our first questions: will be continue to operate nuclear-capable bombers? If the answer is yes, then we need to realize that unmanned aircraft cannot be used for that mission...because nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to accept nuclear-armed unmanned aircraft that could be just a few software glitches away from disaster.

But the same is true for conventional weapons as well. It would not be likely that an unmanned aircraft with the payload of a B-1 would be coming down the road, if only because of the damage to US interests from an accidental attack on a hospital, or school, or some similarly horrendous target—or a “radio confusion” failure that results in the same outcome.

All of this augurs for the possibility that future unmanned aircraft are unlikely to become much larger than the current designs...even though I expect the current designs to get somewhat larger, again because of “mission creep”. Consider, however, that a vehicle carrying twice the load of an X-47A would still only carry four 2,000-pound munitions, not 30, as the B-1 does today.

Another way to deploy weapons in high threat environments is to use cruise missiles from “standoff” locations, which is a capability of the B-52; and there are efforts to develop new cruise missiles that would replace the current Tomahawk cruise missile (it’s too slow and is now vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire) with a missile functionally equivalent to the current “best available anywhere” BrahMos supersonic cruise missile being fielded by the Indian Army in a joint venture with Russia.

There are proposals to either “life extend” the existing B-52 fleet to perform this mission until 2030 (when super-duper hypersonic aircraft might be deployed) or to field a new penetrating bomber by 2018...and Congress today is moving the Air Force toward the new bomber.

Why does the Air Force need expensive new bombers? Have the people we've been bombing over the years been complaining?

--Former Alabama Governor George Wallace

You may recall that way up there at the top of the story I had promised a possible solution, and here’s where we get to the “interesting new idea” part of the deal.

Colonel Bryan J. Benson (soon to be Brigadier General Benson...and if you’re reading this, congratulations!) is the Vice Commander of the Air Mobility Command’s central control center at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, which means he directs the operations of the Air Force’s “airline” of 1,200 transport and refueling aircraft (“motto: the proud bird with the camouflage tail!”); and in his 1996 thesis to the School of Advanced Airpower Studies he proposed developing a fleet of “Transport / Bombers” based on an aircraft platform like the Boeing 767 or Airbus A380...which also happen to be the two candidate aircraft to replace the KC-135 Airborne Tanker.

Such an aircraft would, from the inside, be a freighter, using the standard roller floors and pallet system common to all other military transport platforms. One 2.000 pound, and possibly two 500-pound bombs could be accommodated on each 88” x 108” pallet, and a 767 freighter can carry 18 pallets. This would allow the use of these aircraft to augment the bomber fleet in “uncontested airspace” situations.

Additionally, exterior racks can be fitted that would allow this type of aircraft to deploy cruise missiles from standoff locations in situations where flying over the target is unsafe.

Here’s the best part. It is very expensive to maintain a fleet of dedicated bombers and a fleet of transport aircraft...and you need extra aircrew for the bombers, at substantial cost, even if no bombing is actually going on.

But a fleet of convertible aircraft can do all sorts of things...even provide airlift capacity in disaster relief situations...and, just as with the KC-45 tankers, they would be able to perform multiple missions on the same out-and-back flight (for example, a bomb run followed by a pick-up of cargo from a “regional” base)—something today’s bombers cannot do.

And with all that said, we come to the end.

What have we learned?

Even in times of peace, there is a place for having the capability to project force by bombing...and there are situations where the threat of imminent bombing can force desirable diplomatic results.

The Air Force is quickly coming to a point where we are unable to ensure that aircrews can safely perform missions in high-risk environments...and beyond that, the bombers currently used in low-risk environments are approaching 50 years of service life.

There are several options available, including a new dedicated bomber, expansion of the use of UAV and RPV aircraft, the use of improved cruise missiles, and the Bomber / Transport concept. It is possible to adopt several of these options together, but we would be unlikely to achieve all our military objectives with any single option.

Cost, the availability of supporting infrastructure (bandwidth...), and the public perception that we might be building robot killers from the movie “Terminator” will all affect the choices we make.

This is big-money stuff, once again, and we are going to need to be informed if we want to control where all this might be going—so I hope this creates discussion, and I hope we can refine the ideas along the way...and with any luck, maybe we can influence the process.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Long Thompson, Oxley launch "Hoosier Hometown Tour"

Democratic candidates will visit smaller communities throughout the state

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. – Recognizing that that every community matters, today Jill Long Thompson and Dennie Oxley kicked-off their “Hoosier Hometown Tour” in the small communities that have shaped their lives.

The Democratic candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor will visit a number of Indiana’s often overlooked communities throughout the summer, meeting with local residents, touring local businesses, stopping by county fairs and announcing their plans to restore Indiana’s promise.

“Both Dennie and I grew up and live in small towns. We understand the unique challenges these places and people face,” said Long Thompson, a former Congresswoman and Under Secretary at the United States Department of Agriculture. “We also recognize the tremendous potential that all of our communities have – and as Indiana’s next Governor and Lieutenant Governor we are going to work with local leaders to unlock it.”

A native of Larwill, a rural community in Whitley County, Long Thompson began Monday campaigning in nearby Columbia City. Later, she stopped in Huntington, Hartford City and North Manchester, where she once taught at Manchester College.

Oxley, who began the day in his hometown of English, in Crawford County, visited Jackson and Bartholomew counties.

“I wanted to begin this portion of the campaign, in Northeast Indiana, because that’s where it all began for me,” said Long Thompson who now lives near Argos, a rural community in Marshall County. “It was in these communities and from these people that I learned the value of hard work, unrelenting optimism and the belief that one should never give up or give in.”

“I know that Hoosiers all across Indiana share that same outlook and determination, yet today far too many of our citizens don’t have the same opportunities I once did,” added Long Thompson. “We cannot continue to allow state government to ignore huge swaths of the state because a major highway doesn’t connect them or they don’t meet some arbitrary population criteria.”

Demonstrating Long Thompson’s and Oxley’s commitment to engaging all communities in Indiana’s economy, earlier this year they released their economic plan, which is centered on helping all communities. The plan calls for revamping the state’s tax structure, changing state law to allow businesses and individuals to pool together buy health insurance in bulk, addressing the state’s high school dropout rate by reforming the state’s education policy and bringing broadband connectivity to all corners of the state.

The Democratic team has also previously proposed an “Economic Tiers” program to direct economic investment in the state’s struggling counties. Under Long Thompson’s plan, the state’s 92 counties would be categorized into three different tiers with the state’s economic development dollars allocated accordingly. The tiers, which would be updated regularly, would be determined by a county's unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita.

“Turning this economy around is going to take more than stepping off an RV in a small town every four years to film another television commercial,” said Oxley, who represents portions of eight Southern Indiana counties the Indiana General Assembly. “It’s going to take the recognition that this is a team effort in which every community and every citizen must have the chance to get in the game.”

“Because of who we are and where we come from, both Jill and I are committed to making this happen,” added Oxley. “We know that by including communities of all sizes, we can ensure good jobs, good wages and a better future for all Hoosiers for years to come.”

On Tuesday Long Thompson will join Oxley as they continue their “Hoosier Hometown Tour” making several stops in Clay, Morgan, Owen, Putnam and Vigo Counties. Daily blog entries from both Jill Long Thompson and Dennie Oxley detailing their trips can be found at beginning Monday evening.

Local Greens Headed to National Convention

Local Greens serve as delegates to Presidential Nominating Convention
National Green Party gathering takes place July 11-14

Several members of the St. Joe Valley Greens will be traveling to Chicago
this weekend to attend the Green Party US's National Convention where Green
delegates from across the country will adopt a national party platform and
nominate the Green presidential candidate.

Former South Bend City Common Council candidate Kathleen Petitjean and
current IUSB political science student Robin Beck, both of the St. Joe
Valley Greens, were elected delegates and will be among hundreds of
delegates from around the country who will cast votes to decide the Greens'
presidential candidate.

"It's very exciting to be a part of the largest national gathering of Greens
since 2004. I'm honored to represent Greens from North Central Indiana and
to cast a vote to nominate a Green candidate for president," said Petitjean
who collected 23% of the vote in her 2007 bid for office. "I'm looking
forward to having a true progressive alternative to the corporate-friendly
policies of McCain and Obama."

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney currently holds a significant
lead in pledged delegates though three other candidates remain on the
ballot. After serving 4 terms in the US House of Representatives as a
Democrat, McKinney left the Democratic Party in September 2007 and formally
joined the Green Party the following month. Ralph Nader, who ran as the
Greens' presidential nominee in 2000 and received nearly 2.9 million votes,
will not run for the Greens' nomination having opted for an independent

The eventual Green Party presidential candidate's name will not appear on
the Indiana ballot later this fall because the Green Party does not have
ballot access in this state. Citizens interested in voting Green will have
to write in the candidate's. Ballot access experts assert that Indiana's
ballot access laws are among the most restrictive in the country. No Green
candidate has ever appeared on a statewide Hoosier ballot and Indiana is one
of only five states where Nader did not achieve ballot access in either his
2000 or 2004 campaigns.

"Keeping Greens off the ballot in Indiana only serves to limit the public
discussion on important issues including environmental protections,
sustainable energy alternatives, the erosion of the middle class, and the
role of corporations in our society," said Beck, co-founder of the GLBT
Resource Center of Michiana. "Third parties give voters a choice--what is so
wrong with that?"

July Public Radio commentary

Our July commentary will air on WVPE (88.1 FM) on Thursday. July 10 at 7:35 AM and 12:30 PM

When last we spoke, I was expressing my belief that a change in emphasis is needed for our Kindergarten curriculum. Ironically, in between the time I recorded that - and the time it was broadcast – a South Bend School Corporation Meeting happened. And I happened to attend it.

I got there a bit late, and didn't find any copies of the agenda and it was standing room only. I was aware a major business item was to take public comments about proposed remedies for schools which are on probationary status - and that seemed to be just getting underway as I arrived. This 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 a lot of 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.

After that process and a few housekeeping type issues, 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.

As you’ve doubtlessly heard, this provoked anger and dismay from a great majority of the people attending. But it was a done deal – only two members dissented, though quite strongly.

I saw Carolyn Peterson for the first time at this meeting. Ms. Peterson is President of our local NEA chapter - the union (and bargaining agent) of and for our teachers. Their contract has expired, 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 (among many others) expressing bitter disappointment with the Board's action regarding Dr. Zimmerman.

The level of support Dr. Zimmerman had is at the very least noteworthy. I have no particular information or knowledge to enhance or detract from it. And I do realize that there are constraints regarding personnel matters. But it’s my view that the School Board gave the community no reason for any confidence in the process which led to their decision – and that’s an even bigger problem. If citizens have no confidence in the processes used by a School Board – they’re unlikely to have confidence in the Board itself.

Curiously, one of the current members – who happened to vote in the majority – had an Op Ed published in The South Bend Tribune recently. She laid out her view of how the search process for our next Superintendent ought to play out. I think much of what she had to say makes a great deal of sense, but it seems odd to have a public presentation like this from a single member of the Board – rather than a “sense of the Board” as a whole.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that a long ago scheduled School Board Candidate Training Workshop, sponsored by the Community Coalition for School Boards, which was scheduled for shortly after this fateful School Board meeting, attracted over 100 participants. (I even had the pleasure of meeting well-known Michiana Chronicler, April Lidinsky – who, of course, is herself an educator, that evening). It was a very informative session and there was a lot of energy in the room. And it was clear that the sponsors were tickled to death both by the turnout, and by the participation.

I hope that energy continues, because positive change doesn’t happen on its own. I’ve recently heard from the sponsoring organization – they’re doing follow up right now. Hopefully, the people attending are weighing their options – whether that be running for office, backing a candidate or whatever effort seems most useful to them.

As you’ve heard, democracy is not a spectator sport.

Don Wheeler

Arming Mickey Mouse?

July 7:

A new Florida law permits workers to bring legal guns to work.

Officials at Walt Disney World say they are exempt, and the NRA and some prominent Florida lawmakers are fighting back. Dan Abrams is joined by Florida Republican Rep. Stan Mayfield, who helped pass the law, and Brian Siebel of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Truthout roundup 7/8

Truthout's Theresa Kleinhaus and Maya Schenwar write on violent governmental intervention in communal land disputes in Oaxaca, Mexico; Group of Eight agrees to long-term emissions cuts, but eschews shorter-term goals; pressure intensifies for China in advance of Olympic Games; Congressman Henry Waxman pushes to eliminate position of Karl Rove-type advisers; Trita Parsi writes on avenues for dialogue with Iran; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Kleinhaus and Schenwar Oaxaca's Government Land Grab
For Truthout, Theresa Kleinhaus and Maya Schenwar report: "In villages across Oaxaca, where land has been owned communally for centuries, paramilitary groups are doing their bloody part to change the scene."

G-8 Leaders Pledge Emissions Cuts by 2050, Avoid Short-Term Goals
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Alan Cowell report for The New York Times: "Pledging to 'move toward a low-carbon society,' leaders of the world's richest nations on Tuesday endorsed the idea of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, but failed to set a short-term goal for reducing the toxic heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet. The declaration of the so-called Group of Eight - the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia - called on developing nations like China and India to follow suit. It drew immediate criticism from environmentalists, who said it did not go far enough."

Olympics Near, China Grows Anxious
For McClatchy Newspapers, Tim Johnson writes: "These will be no ordinary Olympic Games. They will be the most extravagant ever put on, designed to dazzle the world and display China's reclaimed status as a major world power. Reaching into its deep pockets, China has erected awe-inspiring new buildings and sports venues, spending an estimated $40 billion, or three times as much as Athens did four years ago. On display will be China's rising economic clout and its national pride, but under the glamour one can also see the nation's penchant for social control, its aggrievement at the world, and its polluted skies."

Taking Aim at the Next Karl Rove
Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill: "Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has primary jurisdiction over the executive branch, is considering legislation to eliminate Karl Rove-type advisers in future administrations. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hints broadly that such a bill could ban the use of federal funds to finance such a politically partisan office."

Trita Parsi Reading Solana in Tehran
Trita Parsi writes for Inter Press Service: "Conciliatory noises from Tehran over the nuclear issue have left Washington and Brussels baffled, and unconvinced of Iran's intentions. Having grown accustomed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's uncompromising language, Tehran's new tone has raised more suspicion than hope among cynics in Western capitals.... While Iran certainly may be playing for time -- reducing tensions tactically while awaiting the Bush administration's exit from the U.S. political scene could help outmanoeuvre any effort by Washington to push for additional measures against Iran -- the idea that Iran is responding to the threat of force remains, at best, an incomplete explanation of the latest developments."

Maliki Stunner: He Wants US Pullout Timetable
Robert Dreyfuss, of The Nation: "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tossed a bombshell today. In a news conference about the still-secret US-Iraqi talks, which began in March, Maliki for the first time said that the chances of securing the pact are just about nil, and instead he said Iraq will seek a limited, ad hoc renewal of the US authority to remain in Iraq, rather than a broad-based accord."

US, Czech Republic Sign Missile Defense Deal
Agence France-Presse: "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a missile defence deal with the Czech Republic on Tuesday, describing it as a step forward for global security despite staunch Russian opposition. The accord permits the siting of a radar station on Czech soil as part of an extended US missile shield that Washington says is necessary to ward off potential attacks by so-called 'rogue' states such as Iran."

Amendment Would Put Spy Lawsuits, Amnesty on Hold Pending Investigation
Ryan Singel, of Wired Magazine: "On Tuesday, the Senate resumes considering whether to hand new dragnet spy powers to the nation's spooks and to grant retroactive amnesty to telecoms that secretly helped the government spy on Americans without warrants for five years. The Senate seems set to bless the president's secretive program and to free some of the nation's largest corporations from the indignity of due process under the law, making an odd amendment from New Mexico Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman the last real hope for those who want a court to rule on the legality of Bush's spying program."

Trailer Graveyards Haunt FEMA, Neighbors
Pam Fessler, of NPR News: "After high formaldehyde levels were found in travel trailers used to house the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government said it would use them again only if it had no other choice. Which raises the question - what should be done with the almost 100,000 trailers now sitting idly at sites around the country, at a cost to the government of $130 million a year?"

"We Have Seven Years Left to Reverse the CO2 Emissions Curve"
Rajendra Pachauri, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change president and Nobel Laureate, says in an interview with Le Monde's Laurence Caramel and Stephane Foucart that humanity has only seven years to reverse the present greenhouse gas emissions trend before we cross a threshold of "serious danger."

On The Air Force Bomber Problem, Or, It May Be Time For That Bake Sale

I come today with a message many of you will not want to hear, particularly in a time when we are looking forward to ending a war...and in a time where we are already struggling to provide enough money for military funding, the last thing you want to hear from me is that we need to send a couple hundred billion more to the Air Force—and that we need to do it soon.

Nonetheless, we have a problem we need to fix.

Of course, I hate to present a problem without a solution...and today I have two ideas that can help with the problem—and maybe save the taxpayer a mess of money in the process.

Y’all ready?
Then let’s go...

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: the Air Force relies on bombers to perform a variety of “softening up” missions: such missions can be as simple as dropping a single bomb on a gun emplacement or as final as the last bomb dropped on the last day of human existence to soften up a missile silo.

The bomber they rely upon the most is the B-52...and it’s just getting too old to do the job it has undertaken for a half century. The newer bombers are either too small, too vulnerable to anti-aircraft systems or too few in numbers to replace the B-52--and that means we are going to have to find a replacement.

Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all!

It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

--Sun Tzu; “The Art of War

Obviously, a variety of missions require a variety of tools, so let’s take a minute to describe the bomber fleet as it currently exists.

The B-52, previously introduced, weighs in at just a bit over 480,000 pounds (about the same weight as a Boeing 767). 60,000 of that is weapons load. The aircraft can carry nuclear weapons like the B-83 gravity bomb but it is used extensively to deliver conventional weapons, which can cover the gamut from cluster munitions to “penetrating weapons” to cruise missiles. 94 of the aircraft are reportedly operational today.

A typical attack on an enemy troop formation might involve dropping 150 or so MK-82 500-pound bombs from three of these aircraft at high altitude. The effect is so shocking to the massed forces that they often surrender to the nearest US troops, and that happened over and over during the first Gulf War.

For hardened positions, the aircraft deploys MK-84 2000 pound bombs or the AGM-142 cruise missile (the Have Nap), and for situations where the “threat environment” does not allow the B-52 to fly over a normal target, the JASSM cruise missile has a range of up to 200 miles, and the AGM-86/C cruise missile allows for attacks from 600 miles away with near-“through the window” accuracy....assuming all goes well. More on that in tomorrow's part 2.

This is not a supersonic aircraft, however, and as Soviet air defenses improved in capability the need for a more survivable aircraft was identified, leading to the introduction of the B-1A during the 1980’s. The swing-wing design of this aircraft allowed for high performance at supersonic speeds and improved low-speed flight as well. An advanced version of this aircraft, the B-1B, flies today.

The B-1B does not carry nuclear weapons, but at 477,000 pounds maximum takeoff weight it can actually carry more MK-82 bombs than the B-52—as many as 84. This aircraft can also carry weapons that “glide” to a target from substantial distances (out to 40 miles) so as to increase survivability. This is a supersonic aircraft, it employs various technologies to allow it to operate at extremely low altitudes, and 69 of these aircraft are reported to be currently operational.

For a variety of reasons (including problems in the B-1 program) the Air Force introduced the B-2, the primary reason being the improvements in “stealth” design that had come to light over the intervening years; and this bat-winged aircraft is able to operate in the highest-threat environments of any US manned aircraft...again, assuming all goes well.

This is the lightest of the three aircraft, at 160,000 pounds, but it can carry highly precise GBU-37 munitions, which are designed to crack open bunkers by combining a GPS guidance system and a nearly 5000 pound warhead and the equally accurate AGM-137 TASSAM “stealth” cruise missile, which the others cannot.

This is a $2.1 billion aircraft, however, and only 20 were built. There are only 16 currently operational aircraft in the inventory...and it has a bit of a computer problem:

The B-2’s data processing systems, based on the Intel 286 processor, are limited in their ability to be upgraded to interoperate with other DOD systems. This limitation makes real-time mission changes more difficult in comparison to more modern aircraft like the F-22 or F-35. The B-2’s current processing capabilities also limit the aircraft’s ability to incorporate the latest enhancements (sensors) that would enhance its survivability.

--Congressional Research Service; “The Next Generation Bomber: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress”

There are a variety of smaller bombers as well, and the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and the new F-22 bomber concept have all served, are serving, or may soon be serving in the role. The best known of this group, however, might be the F-117 “stealth” fighter...which is really just a small bomber in a Batman outfit.

When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

--Sun Tzu; “The Art of War

So now that you know the players, let’s discuss the missions.

It is possible, as we discussed earlier, that the mission might be penetrating the enemy’s borders and delivering weapons in an extremely high threat environment...and the F-117 or B-2 are the only two manned aircraft in the US inventory that can perform this mission. Only the B-2 can deliver nuclear weapons in such an environment, and it has far greater unrefueled range.

In what might be described as “medium threat” environments the B-1 can use its speed to evade some threats; but for the most part these aircraft operate in zones that have “suppressed” air defenses.

The B-52 can operate only after an environment is cleared of most threats; but like a “bomb truck” it can go out and do its daily runs with high reliability; it has some self-defense capability as well as electronic countermeasure systems that some feel are superior to the B-1’s.

So that’s the aircraft and the missions, which leaves the question...what’s the problem?

It is very simple: we used to be the world leader in shooting things down.
We also used to be able to avoid—or destroy--everyone else’s “shooter-downer thingies.”

But that’s no longer true.

Iran has apparently acquired the Russian S-300 air defense system (described as a better version of our Patriot system) which means it could likely shoot down all current US aircraft with the possible exception of the B-2 and F-117—but there is every possibility that an attack launched against such an air defense system would suffer aircraft and aircrew losses.

If that’s not bad enough, Sweden’s SAAB has tested a “hypersonic” anti aircraft missile that flew at above Mach 5 speeds (roughly 6,500 mph or 10,500 Kph)...far faster than any currently acknowledged aircraft of any country.

As a result, we no longer have absolute confidence that we can hit whatever we need to if we really need to...unless we decide to launch a ballistic missile on the target...which usually means a nuclear missile.

We need better options...and now we’re getting to the “solutions” part of the thing.

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

--Sun Tzu; “The Art of War

The decision over what to put in place to carry out the bomber mission in the future —and how much it might cost--will depend on a few factors:

--will the emphasis move from manned to unmanned aircraft--and by how much?

--will future wars be more likely to be fought over contested or uncontested airspace?

--and what might be the biggest “doctrinal shift” question: will the US continue to operate nuclear-capable bombers?

We have covered a lot of ground today...and I am regularly guilty of letting stories go too let’s stop right here—and in part 2, tomorrow, we’ll consider some answers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

So, where's Murphy?

The New York Times

From the gun clubs of Northern Virginia to the sports bars of Capitol Hill — wherever D.C.-area Republicans gather — you hear the question:

“Murphy” is Mike Murphy, the 46-year-old G.O.P. strategist who masterminded John McCain’s 2000 primary race against George Bush, helping McCain come close to pulling off an amazing upset. Murphy was then chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s successful Massachusetts governor run in 2002.

Murphy remained close to both men, and as a result sat out the G.O.P. nominating contest this past year, not wishing to work against either of them. It was widely assumed, though, that if either McCain or Romney won the nomination, the winner would bring Murphy on board for the general election. So far it hasn’t happened. I believe it soon will.

I hasten to disclose that Murphy is a friend. I should also disclose that when I called to say I had heard he might well be signing on with McCain, he went Sergeant Schultz on me, saying nothing.

But here’s what I gather from acquaintances and sources in and around the McCain campaign.

McCain is frustrated. He thinks he can beat Obama (politicians are pretty confident in their own abilities). But he isn’t convinced his campaign can beat Obama’s campaign. He knows that his three-month general election head start was largely frittered away. He understands that his campaign has failed to develop an overarching message. Above all, McCain is painfully aware that he is being diminished by his own campaign.

This last point is galling. McCain has been a major figure in American public life for quite a while. And yet his campaign has made him seem somehow smaller. Obama is a first-term senator with no legislative achievements to speak of. His campaign has helped him seem bigger, more presidential.

Even Obama’s adjustments for the general election — his flip-flops — have served in an odd way to enhance his stature. Some of them suggest, after all, that he is at least trying to think seriously about what he would do if he were actually president. So Obama has achieved the important feat, as the campaign has moved on, of seeming an increasingly plausible president. McCain seems a less plausible president today than he did when he clinched the nomination.

So McCain decided it was time for a campaign shake-up. Last week he moved lobbyist Rick Davis aside. He seemed to put Bush-Rove alum Steve Schmidt more or less in charge. But the full plan, as I understand it, was — and is — to have Schmidt, a good operative and tactician, take over day-to-day operations at headquarters, while bringing Murphy on both to travel with McCain and as chief strategist.

But McCain hesitated to carry out both steps of the plan at once, worried about an overload of turmoil. And Murphy’s arrival would mean a fair amount of turmoil. The current McCain campaign is chock full of G.O.P. establishment types, many of whom aren’t great fans of the irreverent Murphy. Murphy’s also made no secret of his low opinion of the Bush-Rove political machine that has produced many of these operatives. And Murphy hasn’t made his possible entry into the campaign smoother by telling a New York Times reporter the other day that “the depressingly self-absorbed McCain campaign machine needs to get out of the way” of its candidate.

Still, Jeb Bush — whose winning Florida gubernatorial campaigns Murphy guided — was with McCain in Mexico City last week. I’m told he argued that the time to bring on Murphy is now. McCain didn’t disagree. And so I expect that in the next couple of weeks we’ll learn that Murphy is coming on board as chief strategist, with Schmidt running operations at the headquarters. This would be a structure very much like the Obama campaign, led by the combination of strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe.

Why Murphy? As observers of the 2000 effort know, he has a deep rapport with McCain — including an ability to tell him when he’s made a mistake. He’s a creative campaign tactician and an imaginative ad maker — but his great skill has always been an ability to find a clear theme for his candidates, as he did for McCain in 2000, who ran then as a conservative reformer and champion of national greatness.

The McCain campaign this year desperately needs a message and a narrative that is both appropriate for the candidate and for the times. Thinking such a complex challenge through, and executing it, is Murphy’s strength. And he’s run victorious statewide campaigns in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa — where it’s not enough simply to mobilize the Republican base.

With Murphy in charge, McCain will have the campaign team he wants. Then all they’ll have to do is come from behind to win against a superior organization, more money, a gifted candidate and a Democratic-tilting electorate. Oh well: no challenge, no glory.

Truthout roundup 7/7

Dean Baker redefines "free trade"; Obama clarifies comment on "refining" war timetable; lull in Iraq violence is shattered; American officers stood by during mass executions of political prisoners during Korean War; conservatives prepare to pressure McCain in the lead-up to September's convention; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Dean Baker Free Trade, Why "Free" Matters
For Truthout, Dean Baker writes: "Senator McCain was in Colombia last week touting his support for the trade agreement that the Bush administration had negotiated with the country. He also touted his support for NAFTA, contrasting both positions with Senator Obama's opposition to the two pacts. McCain had an important ally in his campaign. The media decided to embellish McCain's case by touting his support for 'free trade,' as opposed to the specific deals in question. This is a very important difference and it reflects deeply held biases in the media."

Obama: I Will End the War
Reuters reports: "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Saturday his plan to end the Iraq war was unchanged and he was puzzled by the sharp reaction to his statement this week that he might 'refine' his timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat troops. 'For me to say that I'm going to refine my policies I don't think in any way is inconsistent with prior statements and doesn't change my strategic view that this war has to end and that I'm going to end it as president,' Obama told reporters on his campaign plane."

A Wave of Attacks in Baghdad
Zaid Sabah reports for The Washington Post: "A wave of attacks in Baghdad and areas north of the capital Sunday shattered a relative lull in violence, killing 16 people and injuring 15 a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq's government had defeated terrorism."

US Knew of Mass Korean Killings
The Associated Press reports: "The American colonel, troubled by what he was hearing, tried to stall at first. But the declassified record shows he finally told his South Korean counterpart it 'would be permitted' to machine-gun 3,500 political prisoners, to keep them from joining approaching enemy forces. In the early days of the Korean War, other American officers observed, photographed and confidentially reported on such wholesale executions by their South Korean ally, a secretive slaughter believed to have killed 100,000 or more leftists and supposed sympathizers, usually without charge or trial, in a few weeks in mid-1950."

Conservatives Ready to Battle McCain on Convention Platform
According to Michael D. Shear, of the Washington Post: "Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September's Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party's official declaration of principles."

Suicide Attack Kills 40 in India's Afghanistan Embassy
Sardar Ahmad, of Agence France-Presse: "A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-filled car into the gates of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 40 people including four Indian nationals, officials said. The blast in the heart of Kabul scattered human flesh and severed limbs outside the embassy of India, one of Afghanistan's staunchest allies as the war-torn country battles an increasingly bloody Taliban insurgency."

Secret Film Reveals How Mugabe Stole Election
Duncan Campbell and Paul Lewis, of The Guardian UK: "A film that graphically shows how Robert Mugabe's supporters rigged Zimbabwe's election has been smuggled out of the country by a prison officer. It is believed to be the first footage of actual ballot-rigging and comes as Zimbabwe's president faces growing international pressure."

As G-8 Meets, Free Trade Under Fire
Mark Trumbull, of The Christian Science Monitor: "The march toward economic globalization is not shifting into reverse gear, but it shows signs of deceleration as leaders of the developed world meet in Japan this week for their annual summit. They'll be focusing on issues of immediate concern - from how to tame the alarming inflation levels to non economic concerns such as delicate nuclear diplomacy with North Korea. But their agenda also includes a more general problem: how to maintain expansion of global commerce, which has helped many countries reach new levels of prosperity but has costs as well as benefits for workers."

Obama to Accept Nomination With Crowd of 75,000
ABC News Denver: "Confirming rumors that surfaced last week, the Democratic National Committee announced Monday that Sen. Barack Obama will make his acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High instead of at the Pepsi Center, where the convention will be held. The reason for the move is to open the event up to the public and to allow tens of thousands of more people to actively participate in the process, DNC officials said. The Pepsi Center can hold 21,000 people for special events but Invesco Field at Mile High, where the Denver Broncos play, can seat more than 76,000 -- not including seats on the field."

Chinese and Japanese Best-Placed for Oil Contracts in Iraq
Writing for Geneva's Le Temps, Stephane Bussard suggests, "The Western press talks primarily about Western oil companies, although it's the Chinese and the Japanese that are the best-placed in the race for contracts."

Behind the Bush bust

The New York Times

By huge margins, Americans think the economy is in lousy shape — and they blame President Bush. This fact, more than anything else, makes it hard to see how the Democrats can lose this election.

But is the public right to be so disgusted with Mr. Bush’s economic leadership? Not exactly. We really do have a lousy economy, a fact of which Mr. Bush seems spectacularly unaware. But that’s not the same thing as saying that the bad economy is Mr. Bush’s fault.

On the other hand, there’s a certain rough justice in the public’s attitude. Other politicians besides Mr. Bush share the blame for the mess we’re in — but most of them are Republicans.

First things first: pay no attention to apologists who try to defend the Bush economic record. Since 2001, economic conditions have alternated between so-so and outright bad: a recession, followed by one of the weakest expansions since World War II, and then by a renewed job slump that isn’t officially a recession yet, but certainly feels like one.

Over all, Mr. Bush will be lucky to leave office with a net gain of five million jobs, far short of the number needed to keep up with population growth. For comparison, Bill Clinton presided over an economy that added 22 million jobs.

And what does Mr. Bush have to say about this dismal record? “I think when people take a look back at this moment in our economic history, they’ll recognize tax cuts work.” Clueless to the end.

Yet even liberal economists have a hard time arguing that Mr. Bush’s cluelessness actually caused the poor economic performance on his watch. Tax cuts didn’t work, but they didn’t create the Bush bust. So what did?

At the top of my list of causes for the lousy economy are three factors: the housing bubble and its aftermath, rising health care costs and soaring raw materials prices. I’ve written a lot about housing, so today let’s talk about the others.

Most public discussion of health care focuses on the problems of the uninsured and underinsured. But insurance premiums are also a major business expense: auto makers famously spend more on health care than they do on steel.

One of the underemphasized keys to the Clinton boom, I’d argue, was the way the cost disease of health care went into remission between 1993 and 2000. For a while, the spread of managed care put a lid on premiums, encouraging companies to expand their work forces.

But premiums surged again after 2000, imposing huge new burdens on business. It’s a good bet that this played an important role in weak job creation.

What about raw materials prices? During the Clinton years basic commodities stayed cheap by historical standards. Since then, however, food and energy prices have exploded, directly lopping about 5 percent off the typical American family’s real income, and raising business costs throughout the economy.

Much of this pain could have been avoided.

If Bill Clinton’s attempt to reform health care had succeeded, the U.S. economy would be in much better shape today. But the attempt failed — and let’s remember why. Yes, the Clinton administration botched the politics. But it was Republicans in Congress who blocked reform, as Newt Gingrich pursued a strategy of “coagulation” designed to “clot everyone away” from Mr. Clinton.

As for high food and fuel prices, they’re mainly the result of growing demand from China and other emerging economies. But oil prices wouldn’t be as high as they are, and the United States would have been much less vulnerable to the current price spike, if we had taken steps in the past to limit our oil consumption.

Mr. Bush certainly deserves some blame here, and not just for his destructive embrace of ethanol as the answer to our energy problems. After 9/11 he could easily have called for higher gas taxes and fuel efficiency standards as a national security measure, but the thought never seems to have crossed his mind.

Still, in energy as in health care the biggest missed opportunities came 15 or more years ago, when Mr. Gingrich and other conservative Republicans in Congress, aided by Democrats with ties to energy-intensive industries, blocked conservation measures.

So here’s the bottom line: Mr. Bush deserves some blame for the poor performance of the economy on his watch, but much of the blame lies with other, earlier political figures, who squandered chances for reform. As it happens, however, most though not all of the politicians responsible for our current economic difficulties were Republicans.

And bear in mind that John McCain has gone to great lengths to affirm his support for Republican economic orthodoxy. So he’ll have no reason to complain if, as seems likely, the economy costs him the election.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Truthout roundup 7/6

Afghanistan president orders inquiry into US attack after claims of civilian casualties surface; McCain campaign fighting to find money, message, and strategy; one woman's "crusade" against a chemical plant; outlook grim for GOP senatorial candidates; Dana Milbank writes about the challenge of finding words to describe the floundering economy; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Afghanistan Orders Investigation Into US Attack Rahim Faiez of The Associated Press reports: "Afghanistan's president has ordered an investigation into allegations that missiles from US helicopters struck civilians, though the Ministry of Defense said Sunday that the attack killed or wounded 20 militants."

McCain Struggles to Regain Footing Liz Sidoti, The Associated Press, writes: "John McCain calls himself an underdog. That may be an understatement. The GOP presidential candidate trails Democrat Barack Obama in polls, organization and money while trying to succeed a deeply unpopular fellow Republican in a year that favors Democrats."

The Next Erin Brockovich? The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Sward says, "It was the dead birds that set Rita Smith off. Her husband, Steve, had been ill for years, with oozing sores on his skin, shortness of breath and mental confusion. She suspected that it all was tied to a Mojave Desert chemical plant where they both had worked. The company, now named Searles Valley Minerals, fiercely denied that working there made Steve Smith gravely ill, and by 2000, Rita Smith's hunt for answers had turned up little."

For Republicans, the Senate Outlook Is Bad Janet Hook of The Los Angeles Times reports: "Mississippi, one of the nation's most conservative states, has not elected a Democratic senator in a quarter-century. It has voted for Republican presidential candidates in the last seven elections. But this year, there is a real chance that the state will send a Democrat to the Senate."

Dana Milbank The Economy? Words Fail Me In The Washington Post, Dana Milbank says, "Think you're worried about the economy? Phillip Swagel is a wreck. The assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, Swagel came out for his monthly economic briefing yesterday, 90 minutes after the Labor Department reported that the country had shed jobs in June for the sixth straight month."

New, and not improved

by, The Editors
The New York Times

Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics.

Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt.

Even his own chief money collector, Penny Pritzker, suggests that the magic of $20 donations from the Web was less a matter of principle than of scheduling. “We have not been able to have much of the senator’s time during the primaries, so we have had to rely more on the Internet,” she explained as she and her team busily scheduled more than a dozen big-ticket events over the next few weeks at which the target price for quality time with the candidate is more than $30,000 per person.

The new Barack Obama has abandoned his vow to filibuster an electronic wiretapping bill if it includes an immunity clause for telecommunications companies that amounts to a sanctioned cover-up of Mr. Bush’s unlawful eavesdropping after 9/11.

In January, when he was battling for Super Tuesday votes, Mr. Obama said that the 1978 law requiring warrants for wiretapping, and the special court it created, worked. “We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend,” he declared.

Now, he supports the immunity clause as part of what he calls a compromise but actually is a classic, cynical Washington deal that erodes the power of the special court, virtually eliminates “vigorous oversight” and allows more warrantless eavesdropping than ever.

The Barack Obama of the primary season used to brag that he would stand before interest groups and tell them tough truths. The new Mr. Obama tells evangelical Christians that he wants to expand President Bush’s policy of funneling public money for social spending to religious-based organizations — a policy that violates the separation of church and state and turns a government function into a charitable donation.

He says he would not allow those groups to discriminate in employment, as Mr. Bush did, which is nice. But the Constitution exists to protect democracy, no matter who is president and how good his intentions may be.

On top of these perplexing shifts in position, we find ourselves disagreeing powerfully with Mr. Obama on two other issues: the death penalty and gun control.

Mr. Obama endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the District of Columbia’s gun-control law. We knew he ascribed to the anti-gun-control groups’ misreading of the Constitution as implying an individual right to bear arms. But it was distressing to see him declare that the court provided a guide to “reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe.”

What could be more reasonable than a city restricting handguns, or requiring that firearms be stored in ways that do not present a mortal threat to children?

We were equally distressed by Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s barring the death penalty for crimes that do not involve murder.

We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games.

There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Truthout roundup 7/5

Former US Senator Jesse Helms dead; Bob Herbert writes about the proper place for patriotism; Obama spends 4th of July in Montana working to bring the state into the Democratic column for the first time in 50 years; Paul Krugman says "the Clark affair may have strengthened the Obama campaign"; female troop deaths more frequent in Iraq War; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 07.05

Jesse Helms, Isolationist Who Targeted Tehran, Dies
Leonard Doyle, reporting for The Independent UK, writes: "The former US Senator Jesse Helms, a legendary isolationist and defender of 'Southern values' who spent much of his life goading liberals, died yesterday."

Bob Herbert Cause for Alarm
Bob Herbert of The New York Times says, "The symbols of patriotism - bumper stickers and those flags the size of baseball fields - have taken the place of the hard work and sacrifice required to keep a great nation great. You know that matters have gotten out of hand when, as we learned this week, American instructors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave classes on torture techniques used by the Communists to extract false testimony from American prisoners during the Korean War."

Obama Celebrates Fourth in Montana
Sridhar Pappu, reporting for The Washington Independent, writes: "Nearly 50 years have passed since John F. Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to give back - then created the Peace Corps as a new way to serve one's country and the world. While much has been made of the comparisons to Kennedy, because of Obama's age and eloquence and ability to move the young, one truly understands Obama as a Kennedy disciple because of what he chose to do and how he chose to serve."

Female US Casualties More Common in Iraq War
Kevin Mooney,, reports: "More American servicewomen have been killed serving in Iraq than were killed serving in either Operation Desert Storm or in the Vietnam War ... So far, 97 American women, including seven single mothers, have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Another sashay to the right

Many Edwards supporters feared that this would be result of an Obama nomination. The continuing trend is looked at by Rachael Madow, sitting in for Keith OIbermann:

Rove's third term

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

Al Gore never claimed that he invented the Internet. Howard Dean didn’t scream. Hillary Clinton didn’t say she was staying in the race because Barack Obama might be assassinated. And Wesley Clark didn’t impugn John McCain’s military service.

Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, titled his tell-all memoir “What Happened.” But a true account of modern American politics should be titled “What Didn’t Happen.” Again and again we’ve had media firestorms over supposedly revealing incidents that never actually took place.

The latest fake scandal fit the usual pattern as an awkwardly phrased remark, lifted out of context and willfully misinterpreted, exploded across the airwaves.

What General Clark actually said was that Mr. McCain’s war service, though heroic, didn’t necessarily constitute a qualification for the presidency. It was a blunt but truthful remark, and not at all outrageous — especially given the fact that General Clark is himself a bona fide war hero.

Yet the Clark affair did reveal something important — not about General Clark, but about Mr. McCain. Now we know what a McCain administration would represent: namely, a third term for Karl Rove.

It was predictable that the McCain campaign would go wild over the Clark remarks. Mr. McCain’s run for the White House has always been based on persona rather than policy: he doesn’t have ideas that voters agree with, but he does have an inspiring life story — which, contrary to the myth of the modest maverick, he talks about all the time. The suggestion that this life story isn’t relevant to his quest for office was bound to provoke a violent reaction.

But the McCain campaign went beyond condemning General Clark’s remarks; it went out of its way to distort them. “This backhanded slap against John as not being a worthy warrior because he just got shot down is one of the more surprising insults in my military history,” said retired Col. Bud Day, who participated in a conference call organized by the campaign. In fact, General Clark had said no such thing.

The irony, not lost on Democrats, is that Col. Day himself has done what he falsely accused Wesley Clark of doing: he appeared in the 2004 Swift boat ads that impugned John Kerry’s wartime service.

The willingness of the McCain campaign to engage in these tactics, employing such tainted spokesmen, tells us that the campaign has decided to go negative — specifically, to apply the strategy Karl Rove used so effectively in 2002 and 2004 (but not so effectively in 2006), that of portraying Democrats as unpatriotic.

And sure enough, Adam Nagourney of The New York Times reports signs of the “increasing influence of veterans of Mr. Rove’s shop in the McCain operation.”

Will Rovian tactics work this year?

In 2002 and 2004, Republicans were so successful at playing the patriotism card thanks to a combination of compliant media and cowering Democrats. At first, the Clark affair suggested that nothing has changed. News organizations reported as fact the false assertion that General Clark criticized Mr. McCain’s military service, and the Obama campaign rushed to “reject” his remarks.

“Two days into the Wesley Clark fallout,” wrote the Columbia Journalism Review on Tuesday morning, “the press, the G.O.P., and the Obama campaign all seem to have agreed that Clark’s recent remarks on John McCain’s service record were at best impolitic and at worst despicable.”

Since then, however, both the press and the Obama campaign seem to have recovered some of their balance. Opinion pieces have started to appear pointing out that General Clark didn’t say what he’s accused of saying. Mr. Obama has also declared that General Clark doesn’t owe Mr. McCain an apology for his “inartful” remarks and denies that his own condemnation, in a speech given on Monday, of those who “devalue” military service was aimed at the general.

In the end, the Clark affair may have strengthened the Obama campaign. Last week, with his cave-in on wiretapping, Mr. Obama was showing disturbing signs of falling into the usual Democratic cringe on national security. This may have been the week he rediscovered the virtues of standing tall.

Furthermore, my sense, though it’s hard to prove, is that the press is feeling a bit ashamed about the way it piled on General Clark. If so, news organizations may think twice before buying into the next fake scandal.

If so, the campaign has just taken a major turn in Mr. Obama’s favor. After all, if this campaign isn’t dominated by faux outrage over fake scandals, it will have to be about things that really did happen, like a failed economic policy and a disastrous war — both of which Mr. McCain promises will continue if he wins.

On Looking Back, Or, A Jerry Springer Administration--Why Not?

I bring to you today a story that is eight years old and as recent as today’s headlines.

A foolish tale of mirth and merriment it is indeed--and for those who want a real all-American Fourth of July story, well...this one fits better than a glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot.

The story, as you might have guessed from the headline, starts with a simple premise and ends by paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s famous question:

Had we elected Jerry Springer in 2000 instead of George Bush the Younger, would we be better off today than we were eight years ago?

Come along for the ride, Esteemed Reader, and we shall see...

I am going to make the case that Jerry Springer would, in fact, have been the better choice by addressing four areas of Administration policy: foreign relations, legislative management, press relations, and fiscal policy.

In each of these areas I believe I can demonstrate with powerful evidence that a President Springer would have made better choices...and to show you what I mean, let’s begin with foreign relations.

“"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?"
--President Bush, Florence, South Carolina, January 11th, 2000

There is no question that this Administration has been working both sides of the fence over negotiation versus confrontation and threats of combat as a foreign policy strategy—sometimes with the same country. Examples include North Korea and the second leg of the Axis of Evil’s milking stool, Iran.

Would a Springer Administration have been different?
You know it would.

Picture the Sunni and the Shi’a, right next to each other on stage, each in their own chair...and Secretary of State Steve right next to them to make sure things don’t get out of hand.

Steve might have to keep someone from throwing a chair or two, and Kenny might sneak up next to Shi’a’s chair when he’s not looking and startle him...but eventually, with Reverend's Schnorr's help, they’d get it all worked out...and then Jerry would give his Final Thought and everything would be resolved just in time to run a few JG Wentworth and Everest College ads.

"And I, unfortunately, have been to too many disasters as President."
President Bush, Washington, D.C., June 17, 2008

Now let’s move on to legislative management—another area where Springer would be a huge improvement over the status quo.

Today’s Congress is often a place that is filled with inane speeches followed by the sound of something akin to the “harrumphs” you would hear if you belonged to the administration of Governor LePetomane...but imagine a Springer-influenced legislature.

If Todd was the presiding officer of the Senate, particularly odious speeches would be followed by the sound of the other Senators, following Todd’s lead, shouting “whore, whore, whore...” in response—and be honest, wouldn’t that be a better Senate than today’s?

The state of press relations has gone so far down the rabbit hole recently that one of Mr. Bush’s own Press Secretaries has written a book about how bad things became.

Could a Springer Administration do better?
I’ll put it this way: “I don’t have a question, Mr. President. I just wanted to get my beads...”

Need I say more?

“...fool me once...shame on...shame on fool me you can’t get fooled again...”
-- President Bush, Nashville, Tennessee, September 17, 2002

And finally, a few words regarding financial management.

Compare and contrast, my friends: on the one hand, an Administration that turned a fiscal surplus into a deficit so amazing that mathematicians are probably arguing at this very moment over whether “gazillion” should make a Pinocchio-like transition and become a real number...

...or, on the other hand, an Administration that could make a fortune for the taxpayer selling “Jerry Springer: Too Hot for C-Span!” DVDs and pay-per-view events based on just the press conference footage they would generate.

So there you have it, folks: a master of “Gonzo Television” faces down a master evader--and while one of them may have screwed a prostitute...the other spent the past eight years screwing 300 million Americans.

I’ve reported, you decide.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Truthout roundup 7/3

Bill Gates Steps Down, as Tech Users Reflect
Christopher Kuttruff, of Truthout: "Microsoft's influence on the computer market is pervasive. It commands a dominant percentage of the OS market, and the company's success has made its chairman one of the richest individuals in the world. This success, however, has prompted significant resistance and opposition. Critics have accused Microsoft of anti-competitive activities, resulting in the formation of a monopoly. Such individuals point to what they consider improper promotion of proprietary software, as well as deals made with manufacturers to automatically bundle their OS with computers being distributed to customers and resellers."

Conservative Evangelicals Discuss Backing McCain
The Associated Press: "Conservative evangelical leaders met privately this week to discuss putting aside their misgivings about John McCain and coalescing around the Republican's presidential bid while urging him to consider social conservative favorite Mike Huckabee as a running mate. About 90 of the movement's leading activists gathered Tuesday night in Denver for a meeting convened by Mathew Staver, who heads the Florida-based legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel."

In Colombia, a Bloodless Rescue
William Branigin, of The Washington Post: "The Colombian military today rescued 15 hostages from a leftist guerrilla group, including three American defense contractors and former Colombia presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Betancourt, the three Americans and 11 members of the Colombian army and police were later flown to an air base near the capital, Bogota. The Americans -- Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes -- were expected to arrive tonight at a US military base in Texas."

Committee Questions State Department Role in Iraq Oil Deal
James Glanz and Richard A. Oppel Jr., of The New York Times: "Bush administration officials knew that a Texas oil company with close ties to President Bush was planning to sign an oil deal with the regional Kurdistan government that ran counter to American policy and undercut Iraq’s central government, a Congressional committee has concluded. The conclusions were based on e-mail messages and other documents that the committee released Wednesday."

Michael Winship What Patriotism Is, and Is Not
Michael Winship, for Truthout: "Details of Obama's speech got buried in the wake of General Wesley Clark's politically lunkheaded comment about John McCain that, 'I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.' But over the Fourth of July weekend, it might be appropriate and enlightening to take a few minutes to read or watch the whole thing. It's a good speech."

Carolyn Eisenberg A Devil's Bargain
For Truthout, Carolyn Eisenberg writes: "With the president's signature now affixed to the bill, the clever deal is done. In exchange for another 'blank check' for a year of war, the Democrats have wrested from their Republican colleagues and the White House a host of domestic benefits ... Depending on their source of news, few Americans may be aware that Congress has now allocated another $162 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until next summer. In many media outlets, the only coverage pertained to the new educational benefits for soldiers. But even when the war funding received nominal attention, one would be hard-pressed to find in the mainstream media, or for that matter in the halls of Congress, any critical discussion of this political deal."

Dean Baker Employment Rate Drops as Economy Sheds 62,000
Dean Baker writes for Truthout: "Private sector job gains in the Bush years may fall below 3 million by November. The employment to population ratio (EPOP) fell to 62.4 percent in June, its lowest level in more than three years, as the economy lost another 62,000 jobs in June. This was the sixth consecutive month in which the economy lost jobs. The private sector lost 91,000 jobs in June. With the April and May numbers revised down by 76,000, the job loss in the private sector over the last three months has been 273,000, an average of 91,000 a month. The private sector has now shed 578,000 jobs since employment peaked in November."

Wm. Scott Harrop and R.K. Ramazani "A Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind ..."
For Truthout, Wm. Scott Harrop and R.K. Ramazani write: "Irony abounds in President George W. Bush's decision to speak at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, on the last July 4th that he will occupy the Oval Office. For it was Jefferson who wrote in America's Declaration of Independence that 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires' the colonies to set forth the reasons for their rebellion before a 'candid world.' America's founders agreed - international legitimacy mattered. Two hundred and thirty-two years later, the conscious disregard for the 'opinions of mankind' has come to define the Bush presidency."

Federal Terror Watch Program Uses Local Law Enforcement Eyes
Bruce Finley reports for The Denver Post: "Hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as 'Terrorism Liaison Officers' in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for 'suspicious activity' - and are reporting their findings into secret government databases."

Le Monde Obama the Realist
From across the Atlantic, Le Monde's editorialist ponders Senator Obama's meteoric rise and most recent sail-trimming.

from DFA

Don -

Senator Feingold needs our help to stop the FISA "compromise" bill. Russ sent me this message to pass on to you. Please read it and then sign our Senate Petition to Stop Telecom Immunity. We will deliver the petitions to every Senator on Tuesday morning, right before the expected vote. Let's make sure they get our message loud and clear.


Senator Feingold's message directly to you:

Dear Friend,

In recent days, people across the country have voiced the opinion that the so-called "compromise" FISA bill working its way through the Senate must be stopped. As you already know, I am working hard to strip retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated with the President's illegal warrantless wiretapping program from the bill. But that is not the only problem. This FISA legislation gives enormous powers to the government: including the ability to read emails and text messages and listen to phone conversations of anyone communicating with their family members, friends, associates, reporters, ANYBODY who may be overseas -- all with zero court review.

Nobody should be supporting this legislation. We can defend our country from terrorists while at the same time protecting the rights and freedoms outlined in the Constitution. It's time for our elected officials to stand up for the values on which our country was founded. We should celebrate our Constitution this Fourth of July -- and do everything we can to prevent it from being torn up when the Senate returns to Washington next week.

Progressives everywhere have already had a tremendous impact -- with phone calls, emails, and letters pouring into offices by the hundreds (in some cases thousands), but the pressure on my colleagues to give in to this so-called "compromise" and President Bush is strong.

I'm going to continue to do everything I can to stand up for the rights and freedoms we all share. Thanks again for doing your part.

Sincerely, Russ Feingold
Honorary Chair
Progressive Patriots Fund

Russ also shot a video last Friday night to thank you and all progressives fighting against this bill. You can watch it while signing our Senate Petition to Stop Telecom Immunity.


Working together, we will stop this bill.
- Jim

Jim Dean, Chair
Democracy for America

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Truthout roundup 7/2

Parts of military interrogation manual copied from China; Obama under fire from within for FISA vote; whistle-blower lawsuits languish at Justice Department; US company training Mexican police on torture techniques; Swedes protesting new Internet snooping law; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

China Inspired Interrogations at Guantanamo Scott Shane, of The New York Times: "The military trainers who came to Guantanamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of 'coercive management techniques' for possible use on prisoners, including 'sleep deprivation,' 'prolonged constraint,' and 'exposure.' What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity James Risen, of The New York Times: "Senator Barack Obama's decision to support legislation granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration's program of wiretapping without warrants has led to an intense backlash among some of his most ardent supporters. Thousands of them are now using the same grass-roots organizing tools previously mastered by the Obama campaign to organize a protest against his decision. In recent days, more than 7,000 Obama supporters have organized on a social networking site on Mr. Obama's own campaign Web site."

Whistle-Blower Suits Languish at Justice By Carrie Johnson, of The Washington Post: "More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes. The issue is drawing renewed interest among lawmakers and nonprofit groups because many of the cases involve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions -- all of which offer rich new opportunities to swindle taxpayers."

Mexico in Uproar Over "Torture" Videos The Associated Press: "Videos showing Leon police practicing torture techniques on a fellow officer and dragging another through vomit at the instruction of a U.S. adviser created an uproar Tuesday in Mexico, which has struggled to eliminate torture in law enforcement. One of the videos, first obtained by the newspaper El Heraldo de Leon, shows police appearing to squirt water up a man's nose -- a technique once notorious among Mexican police. Then they dunk his head in a hole said to be full of excrement and rats. The man gasps for air and moans repeatedly."

Swedes Outraged Over New Email Spying Law The Associated Press: "Swedes may cherish openness and transparency, but not enough to accept a new law giving the government the right to snoop on all e-mails and phone calls crossing the country's borders. Outrage over the statute has led to 2 million protests - filed by e-mail. The online petition drive comes as other European Union countries consider granting authorities unprecedented spying powers over their own citizens amid fears of a mounting terror threat."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More truthout 7/1

Midwest Floods Spotlight Decrepit Infrastructure Andrew Stern of Reuters reports: "The latest US natural disaster is triggering fresh rounds of concern and debate about how to repair America's aging infrastructure."

Lawmakers Break for July Fourth With Few Accomplishments The Washington Independent's Mike Lillis says, "A week ago, Senate leaders approached a calendar full of pressing legislation with heads full of optimism that they could wrap it up before the July 4 recess. Then reality hit."

Obama to Rename Bush's Faith Office Mike Allen, The Politico, writes: "Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) plans to slam President Bush's program as 'a photo op' and a failure on Tuesday, and says he would scrap the office and create a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that would be a 'critical' part of his administration."

Dr. Reese Halter Global Warming's Twin Evil: Wildfires and Drought Writing for AlterNet, Dr. Reese Halter says, "The hundreds of fires hitting California right now are a wake-up call to both government and California residents: we're unprepared for a rapid climate change crackling at our doorstep."

For First Time, Congress Addresses Transgender Workers Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers, reports: "After getting hired as a national security analyst with the Library of Congress, David Schroer took his new boss out to lunch to share some news: On his first day of work, he planned to show up as Diane. The next day the job offer was withdrawn, and Schroer says it was a clear case of discrimination."

Federal Court Upholds Restrictive Abortion Law Melanie Brandert of The Argus Leader writes: "A federal appeals court decided Friday that a state law requiring abortion doctors to get written consent from women who want an abortion should be enforced."

US Leads World in Substance Abuse According to Reuters, "The United States leads the world in rates of experimenting with marijuana and cocaine despite strict drug laws, World Health Organization researchers said on Tuesday."

Critics Rip Elections Supervisor After Miscount in West Palm Beach Race The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Mark Hollis writes, "Palm Beach County elections officials said Friday they are investigating why they failed to quickly count more than 700 votes in a special election that marked the county's first experience with optical scanners."

Ex-Agent Seeks Declassified CIA Documents on Iran
Joby Warrick, for The Washington Post, reports: "A former CIA operative who says he tried to warn the agency about faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs now contends that CIA officials also ignored evidence that Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb."

Milt Bearden The Truth Is Out on CIA and Torture
Milt Bearden, for The Washington Independent, writes: "But whatever the solution for getting US intelligence collection abroad back on track, it should begin with the formal denunciation by the next administration of the use of torture by any US agency -- including the CIA. It might also encompass a balanced investigation into past abuses, but this time with a top-down targeting rather than just throwing a few low-level suspects to the wolves."

Human Toll Yet to Be Counted in Zimbabwe
Shashank Bengali reports for McClatchy Newspapers: "Zimbabwe's election may be over - President Robert Mugabe claimed victory Sunday and was immediately sworn in for another five-year term - but the human toll of one of the most brutal political campaigns in recent memory is still being calculated. Opposition leaders and pro-democracy activists think that government militias killed scores of people and abducted perhaps hundreds of others as Mugabe decimated a popular opposition party and extended his 28-year rule over this crumbling southern African nation."

Andre Gorz Theorizing Deliverance From the Labor- and Commodity-Centered Society
In one of the last texts to appear before his death, French "Philosopher of Freedom" Andre Gorz returns to the dynamic of financial capitalism and the reasons we may see guaranteed social income as an opportunity to exit capitalism. The French original first appeared in Mouvements; this translation is a Truthout exclusive.

Olbermann's advice to Obama re:FISA

NW Indiana Progressives are blogging too

I just discovered the South Shore Progressive blog. From the site's homepage:

South Shore Progressive exists to:

1) Help elect left leaning candidates that will bring responsible representation to the citizens of Northwest Indiana.

2) Bring a progressive voice to the issues facing our communities.

3) Help everyday people get involved in the political process.

4) Provide a forum for civil discussion of the issues facing our communities.


Worth checking out-- perhaps Don can arrange some sort of collaboration/relationship with these folks?

On Turkish Politics, Or, Are Headscarves A Constitutional Threat?

When you live in the place where Europe and Asia meet, you are just bound to be strategically important, and so it is for Turkey, so it was for Turkey’s antecedents Anatolia and Ionia in times past, and so it will be long into the future.

When you’re that strategically important and your Supreme Court is going to hear a case that could result in your President and Prime Minister—and the Nation’s majority political party—being banned from politics, it’s big news.

For some reason that news is not in the headlines in the United States—and it absolutely should be. Lucky for you, your friendly fake consultant has been on the case, and you will get a story today that touches on the confluence of Islam and secularism, military coups, and the desire of one of our allies to become a member of the European Union…and the European’s fear of what might happen if they do.

We cannot tell this story, however, without understanding the nature of Turkish secularism. I’m going to abbreviate the story here, but I strongly encourage those seeking a deeper history to review Thomas Patrick Carroll’s Middle East Intelligence Bulletin article “Turkey's Justice and Development Party: A Model for Democratic Islam?”.

The continuum of Islamic influence began before the Ottoman Empire, and was supposed to be ended by the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Sharia Law was replaced by a secular legal Code, and the concept of laiklik (national secularism) was introduced. Carroll describes laiklik this way:

“...This term is often translated into English as 'laicism' or, more commonly, 'secularism,' which implies the separation of religion and state into two distinct and autonomous realms. But laiklik, as practiced in Turkey, is not so much the separation of religion and the state, as it is the subordination of religion to the state. As one prominent expert notes,

“This is a crucial difference in the Turkish context. The state controls the education of religious professionals and their assignment to mosques and approves the content of their sermons. It also controls religious schools and the content of religious education and enforces laws about the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in public spaces and institutions.””

In the 30 years between 1950 and 1980 governments came and went—and when the military establishment determined some of the political parties involved strayed a bit too far from accepted secular norms a coup would follow (there were three coups during that time); along the way political parties were banned and reformed under new guises. The military actually banned all political parties in 1980 and supervised the writing of a new Constitution which includes these provisions:

ARTICLE 2. The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law; bearing in mind the concepts of public peace, national solidarity and justice; respecting human rights; loyal to the nationalism of Atatürk, and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the Preamble.

ARTICLE 4. The provision of Article 1 of the Constitution establishing the form of the state as a Republic, the provisions in Article 2 on the characteristics of the Republic, and the provision of Article 3 shall not be amended, nor shall their amendment be proposed.

“ARTICLE 14. (As amended on October 17, 2001) None of the rights and freedoms embodied in the Constitution shall be exercised with the aim of violating the indivisible integrity of the state with its territory and nation, and endangering the existence of the democratic and secular order of the Turkish Republic based upon human rights.

No provision of this Constitution shall be interpreted in a manner that enables the State or individuals to destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms embodied in the Constitution or to stage an activity with the aim of restricting them more extensively than stated in the Constitution.

The sanctions to be applied against those who perpetrate these activities in conflict with these provisions shall be determined by law.

ARTICLE 24. Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religious belief and conviction.

Acts of worship, religious services, and ceremonies shall be conducted freely, provided that they do not violate the provisions of Article 14.

No one shall be compelled to worship, or to participate in religious ceremonies and rites, to reveal religious beliefs and convictions, or be blamed or accused because of his religious beliefs and convictions.

Education and instruction in religion and ethics shall be conducted under state supervision and control. Instruction in religious culture and moral education shall be compulsory in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. Other religious education and instruction shall be subject to the individual’s own desire, and in the case of minors, to the request of their legal representatives.

No one shall be allowed to exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings, or things held sacred by religion, in any manner whatsoever, for the purpose of personal or political influence, or for even partially basing the fundamental, social, economic, political, and legal order of the state on religious tenets.”

What’s all that mean? It means Turkey shall be secular, that this cannot be changed, that no group may seek to restrict secularism, that the State shall determine the manner of religious instruction (and by extension, control the instructors), and that no one may use religion as a means of creating a change in the secular structure—or for advancing their own personal influence.

And now we get to the part where headscarves have come to be a Constitutional problem. The hijab is worn, Canadian Government officials tell us, by at least 2/3 of Turkish women—but it may not be worn “in public institutions...including schools, universities, and the civil service...”

As you can imagine, those restrictions have profound impacts on Turkish women particularly, and the entire population generally. Add into the mix the efforts on the part of the Turkish “secularist establishment” to encourage the use of Islam as a stabilizing force upon the population and you have the need to resolve some serious societal conflicts. (This is hardly a uniquely Turkish problem, by the way—-several European nations are struggling with this issue.) Ataturk’s old Party, the CHP, has seen its influence wane as a new secularist Islamic political movement has emerged—most recently in the form of the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials AKP).

Since 2002, the Party has been quite successful in expanding its reach and influence; and today Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül, and the largest group of representatives in Turkey’s Parliament are all members of the AKP. (That success has been so complete that Mr. Erdoğan is today Prime Minister--despite having been banned from politics for life in 1998.)

The Party also had great electoral success in Turkey’s local elections of 2004, and they today control the entire country’s local political landscape—except for a region of Kurdish influence near the Iraqi and Iranian borders to the southwest, a few spots near Georgia and Armenia to the northeast, a region of the central interior, and, ironically, the regions of Turkey that were the first areas of Greek colonization so long ago, where the CHP still holds sway.

It has been suggested that the AKP’s ability to incorporate Kurdish political aspirations toward a more pro-Turkish orientation, ands away from Kurdish nationalism contributed considerably to that success.

The AKP, upon assuming power, had sought to moderate some of the secularism restrictions (which they perceive as not just secularist, but anti-Islamic, and prohibited by the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom), and to that end they introduced a Constitutional amendment that would allow everyone equal access to government services. The effect of the amendment would have been to permit the wearing of the hijab in universities. The CHP filed suit seeking redress, and the Constitutional Court ruled on June 5th that Article 2 of the Constitution had indeed been violated, relying in part on precedent from a 1989 ruling:

"The basis of the democratic structure is national sovereignty. The democratic order also opposes the supremacy of religious values, the Sharia. A ruling giving particular prevalence to religious values cannot be democratic. A democratic state can only be secular. Regulations contingent upon religion are accompanied by religious zeal and constraints, which cause religious conflicts. This eventually leads to a loss of quality in the freedom, majority control, and tolerance of the democracy."

In March charges were filed against the AKP itself alleging that the Party has a secret agenda to promote Islam to the detriment of secularism, again in violation of Article 2. Today Turkey’s Constitutional Court will hear the arguments of Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, to be followed Thursday by the AKP’s defense presentation.

Should the Prosecution prevail, the court would ban the Party from further activity, and 71 current elected officials—including the President and Prime Minister—would find themselves similarly banished from political life.

And that’s where Europe gets involved. The AKP has been highly successful in leading Turkey into a period of economic liberalization—and prosperity. All this success has given Turkey a shot at being invited to join the European Union...and banning the AKP may “throw a spanner” in those chances.

So that’s the story: a secularist country with a population that is majority Islamic may ban a political party that has sought to resolve some of the tensions inherent in this contradictory situation...and that ban might be important to protect the Turkish nation, or a political ploy designed to return a minority Party to power.

As we said at the top, this is a huge story with profound implications for an important strategic ally...and just as has happened so many times in the past, what happens on the Bosporus has the potential to be felt all the way from Gaul to Persia.

Truthout roundup 7/1

Abu Ghraib inmates sue contractors in federal court for torture; more US and NATO troops were killed last month in Afghanistan than Iraq; federal appeals court delivers another blow to military over detainees; McCain inconsistent on energy policy; wounded Iraqi soldiers cite neglect; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

Abu Ghraib Inmates Sue Contractors, Claim Torture David Dishneau, of The Associated Press: "Three Iraqis and a Jordanian filed federal lawsuits Monday alleging they were tortured by US defense contractors while detained at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The lawsuits allege that those arrested and taken to the prison were subjected to forced nudity, electrical shocks, mock executions and other inhumane treatment. They seek unspecified payments high enough to compensate the detainees for their injuries, and to deter contractors from such conduct in the future."

US, NATO Deaths in Afghanistan Pass Iraq Toll Jason Straziuso, of The Associated Press: "Militants killed more US and NATO troops in Afghanistan in June than in Iraq for the second straight month, a grim milestone capping a run of headline-grabbing insurgent attacks that analysts say underscore the Taliban's growing strength. The fundamentalist militia in June staged a sophisticated jailbreak that freed 886 prisoners, then briefly infiltrated a strategic valley outside Kandahar."

Judges Cite Need for Reliable Evidence to Hold Detainees Del Quentin Wilber and Josh White, of The Washington Post: "In reversing a military tribunal's determination that a Chinese detainee was an 'enemy combatant,' a federal appeals court criticized the government's evidence and compared its legal theories to a nonsensical 19th-century poem. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote in a 39-page opinion released yesterday that tribunals and courts must be able to assess whether evidence is reliable before determining the fate of detainees."

McCain's Energy Record Is On/Off Noam N. Levey, of The Los Angeles Times: "McCain's record of tackling energy policy on Capitol Hill shows little of the clear direction he says would come from a McCain White House. Instead, the Arizona senator has swerved from one position to another over the years, taking often contradictory stances on the federal government's role in energy policy."

Wounded Iraqi Forces Say They've Been Abandoned Michael Kamber, of The New York Times: "Dawoud Ameen, a former Iraqi soldier, lay in bed, his shattered legs splayed before him, worrying about the rent for his family of five. Mr. Ameen's legs were shredded by shrapnel from a roadside bomb in September 2006 and now, like many wounded members of the Iraqi security forces, he is deeply in debt and struggling to survive. For now, he gets by on $125 a month brought to him by members of his old army unit, charity and whatever his wife, Jinan, can beg from her relatives. But he worries that he could lose even that meager monthly stipend."