Sunday, August 31, 2008

We really blew it: A conversation with Dr. Robert Zimmerman

by Don Wheeler

Recently, Maureen McFadden, news anchor of WNDU television, conducted a forty-five minute interview with former South Bend School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Robert Zimmerman.

Ms. McFadden did a very nice job of drawing Dr. Zimmerman out. In early part of the interview, Dr. Zimmerman was quite reserved and diplomatic in his responses to questions about how he and the SBSC Board got along. Later on, he was much more animated when asked about his accomplishments and the challenges we still face.
If you look at the 20 months we were here, we implemented an awful lot of initiatives, we did our study and brought the community involved in the Career and Technical Education and created a five year plan for that," he explains.

Last year saw some improvement in South Bend's graduation rate and ISTEP, but Zimmerman says the biggest issue facing South Bend Schools is not the teachers, the board, or the superintendent.

When Ms. McFadden asked this question, we got a pretty clear view of opportunity lost for our children.

McFadden: "Now that you've distanced yourself, what do you think is needed for South Bend schools to

Zimmerman: "I continue to think that it's got to be an initiative of the entire community. We really have got to get our hands around how we deal with children of poverty. Generational poverty continues to be the number one difficult issue that any large urban district is dealing with. Most of the kids that struggled in our system were kids who came out of generational poverty."

He says a lack of education affects the whole community, and we can all make a difference."You can do your part by stepping in there and being a mentor and reading to a child and helping to make a difference in that one child's life," he says.

And he's proud of what he did in 18 short months on the job.

"I feel that I can walk away, in the short time that I was here, and not second-guess my reasons for making the decisions I did. My decisions were always around what was best for the kids."

Dr. Zimmerman described in great detail the challenges of engaging students from multi-generation poverty households, and what it takes to turn them around. The link above with take you to the site where you can watch the entire interview. It's well worth your time.

As I watched the interview, I saw someone who probably knows as much about the impact of generational poverty on childrens' futures as anyone I've come across. His recounting of conversations with students in this trap was revealing and amplified that his awareness comes not just from study - but from practical experience as well.

It was also helpful to me as a School Board candidate, that an expert identified the single biggest challenge to our success, as what I've always felt it was. That, and the fact he was positive that steady progress was attainable, energizes me as I try to make my case to my fellow citizens.

Truthout roundup 8/31

William Rivers Pitt The Hollow Man
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "The facts reveal that Mr. McCain has thrown his support behind just about every asinine and idiotic decision made by the single most unpopular and unsuccessful American president there ever was and, God willing, ever will be. The facts reveal that he has boomeranged away from so many policy positions he once espoused, going so far as to denounce a whole sheaf of legislation he had personally authored, because the Republican base despised those issues, but since he needed their support if he ever wanted to have a chance of winning, it was whiplash be damned and the Devil take the hindmost."

Five Arrested, Dozens Detained in Pre-RNC Raids
Joe Garofoli, The San Francisco Chronicle: "Activists planning protests around the Republican National Convention say they are being targeted in a heavy-handed attempt to chill dissent after police arrested five people, detained dozens of others, and seized computers and protest guides in raids Friday night and Saturday on private homes and the major meeting center."

How Obama and Biden Forged a Friendship in the Senate
Maura Reynolds and Janet Hook, The Los Angeles Times: "Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who also sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama and Biden "developed a good working relationship in part because Obama respected the expertise of senior members. 'He's a good learner,' said Chafee, who has endorsed Obama. 'He keeps his ears open.'"

Long-Standing Feud in Alaska Embroils Palin
James V. Grimaldi and Kimberly Kindy, The Washington Post: "For the past several years, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, has been embroiled in a bitter family feud that has drawn in the state police, the attorney general, the governor's office and the state legislature."

China Quake Kills 27, Destroys 180, 000 Homes
The Associated Press: "Chinese rescue teams carrying tents, quilts and sacks of rice rushed Sunday to reach survivors of an earthquake that killed at least 27 people, turned tens of thousands of homes into rubble and cracked reservoirs."

FOCUS Mayor Orders the Evacuation of New Orleans
Adam Nossiter and Shaila Dewan, The New York Times: "City officials ordered everyone to leave New Orleans beginning Sunday morning - the first mandatory evacuation since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city three years ago - as Hurricane Gustav grew into what the city's mayor called 'the storm of the century' on Saturday and moved toward the Louisiana coast."

FOCUS Frank Rich: Obama Outwits the Bloviators
Frank Rich, The New York Times: "After a weeklong orgy of inane manufactured melodrama labeled 'convention coverage' on television, Barack Obama descended in classic deus ex machina fashion - yes, that's Greek too - to set the record straight. America is in too much trouble, he said, to indulge in 'a big election about small things.'"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I meet with TAP

by Don Wheeler

Yesterday, I had privilege of meeting with representatives of TAP (Transforming Action through Power). They have invited all candidates for the South Bend School Board to meet with them, and have sponsored a forum at Little Flower Catholic Church for the at-large candidates at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

This meeting was very helpful for me. TAP is highly focused on issues about improving educational opportunity, addressing poverty housing issues, mitigating youth violence and preserving the dignity and rights of our immigrant community members. As my wife Paddy commented when I showed her the invitation: "I can see why you like these guys".

There were two elements I was not expecting.

The first had to do with a situation where the SBSC mandated daily school schedule prevents (in practical terms) the ability to achieve the objectives of the High School magnet curriculum AND satisfy state required course completion. They pointed in particular to Adams - which has a pretty high-powered college prep./college credit magnet program. Apparently, it is the case that you can't physically satisfy the State requirements AND fulfill the magnet program goals. I was told neighboring districts operate similar programs without this problem

I found it a bit disheartening that these folks had to present this problem to a potential School Board member. Seems like this problem should have already been solved.

The other element that became clear as I listened to their questions, was how left out of the process they felt. Question after question had to do with "Would you welcome community involvement in (fill in the blank)?" At some point I felt compelled to ask, "Is there an opposing view?"

There isn't, really, I suspect - yet the current Board has made citizen input seem unwelcome. At least that's TAP's view.

If people this reasonable and dedicated feel this way, they can't be too wrong. I look forward to discussions with more groups and individuals. It seems clear we must change the way we do things.

Truthout roundup 8/30

Energized, Obama and Biden Take Their Show on the Road
Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, International Herald Tribune: "Obama left Denver to campaign for the first time with his running mate, Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware, starting late Friday in Beaver, Pennsylvania."

Why CIA Veterans Are Scared of McCain
Laura Rozen, MotherJones: "Four years ago, the candidate called the CIA a 'rogue organization'; now he's advised by a former Chalabi promoter and Agency basher. No wonder the spooks are spooked."

Senator Barack Obama and the Paradox of Dr. King
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the greatest speeches ever - what has now become known as the 'I Have a Dream' speech. Forty-five years later to the very day, Senator Barack Hussein Obama became the first African-American to accept the presidential nomination of a major political party in America."

Storm Is Called Gustav, but New Orleans Hears "Katrina"
Howard Witt, The Chicago Tribune: "Precisely three years to the hour after Hurricane Katrina slammed into metropolitan New Orleans, flooding the city, killing more than 1,800 people and displacing at least a million others, city officials interred the last unidentified bodies of Katrina victims inside austere granite crypts at a new memorial cemetery."

Study: Bankruptcies Soar for Senior Citizens
The Associated Press: "First came the health problems. Then, unable to work, Ada Noda watched the bills pile up. And then, suffocating in debt, the 80-year-old did something she never thought she'd be forced to do. She declared bankruptcy."

FOCUS: Robert Parry How the Republicans Win
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "Barack Obama made it across the tightrope of the Democratic National Convention, gaining solid endorsements from Bill and Hillary Clinton and giving a rousing speech before some 80,000 supporters at Invesco Field in Denver. But now comes the time when the Republicans win elections."

FOCUS Risky Palin Pick Raises Questions About McCain
Peter Wallsten, The Los Angeles Times: "For a candidate known to possess a quick temper and an unpredictable political streak, the decision raises questions about how McCain would lead -- whether his decisions would flow from careful deliberations or gut checks in which short-term considerations or feelings outweigh the long view."

A Fake Consultant News Flash: Sarah Palin...What's The Dirt?

The Media will be abuzz today with the surprise of John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice Cheney candidate.

But there’s some dirt hiding under the rug...

What is the history...who does she support...and when she talks about “open and transparent” government, what does that mean?

Put your snow boots on, people...and let’s have a look...

Let’s start with the milk business. Matanuska Maid, the State’s largest dairy, was owned and operated by the State from 1985 to 2007, basically to provide an outlet for the State’s eight dairies and to provide a local source of milk.

Unfortunately, the Dairy has been losing money, requiring the State to basically subsidize the industry by operating a money-losing buyer for the locally-produced product....and providing loans to the local dairies.

In a radio conversation, Governor Palin stressed the importance of the dairy to the State’s citizens, reminding them that “a local food supply is very important”. She wanted the public to know that they had nothing to fear about the future of the Dairy. She was excited, at the time, and was looking forward to the prospects for the Dairy in private hands, as it was at the time being readied for auction.

As it turns out, the “local” supply is anything but local. For years the dairy has been buying the majority of its milk from out of state (60% of milk processed by Matanuska was imported in 2006)...and as it turns out, there was something to least there was if you were one of the State’s eight “Class A” dairy farmers...or one of the Dairy’s two senior managers, who were racking up about $50,000 a year—each--in travel and entertainment costs (including multiple “working lunches” on the same day...), based on this unusual business standard for what are, more or less, State employees:

“Long standing practice is that we are allowed to use our judgment when determining whether an activity has merit for travel purposes. We do not have limits established for these costs.”

Nobody was interested in buying the money-losing operation.

The State has signed a lease agreement for the dairy’s equipment that seems to have foreclosed any chance that the facility would ever return to that business; and in the summer of 2008 they tried again to sell the asset, lowering the price from $3.5 million to $1.5 million...and there was success...and as a result the State of Alaska’s citizens can patronize a new heated storage facility that, obviously, cannot process the local food supply that is apparently no longer so important. (By the way, that imported milk the Governor worries about: $3.99 a gallon in Anchorage...the average price in Seattle--in 2003? $3.52).

So that’s let’s talk about gas.

Alaskans are anxious to develop resources in the State, and to that end there have been various proposals to build a gas pipeline that would link the extremely remote North Slope to the rest of the world.

You would think in a time of historically high petroleum prices that this sort of project would be a self-supporting business...but the Republican, theoretically free-market supporting, Governor Palin (and the majority Republican Alaska Legislature) convinced Alaskans to pay $500 million in subsidies to TransCanada Corporation, not for an actual pipeline, but to allow TransCanada to find partners and additional financing...and beyond that, there’s tax relief for those who use the pipeline. (Just a guess...but you wanna bet this will not be the last subsidy to Big Gas/Big Oil before this Big Deal is done?)

Subsidies to the builders, subsidies for the customers...and a commitment to the Free Market that “Uncle” Ted Stevens would love...that seems to be energy plan Vice Cheney nominee Palin endorses.

John McCain is famous for his pledge to eschew “pork-barrel” spending in Arizona...and in what seems to be an effort to get back to “average” he has chosen as a running mate the Governor of the State that’s Number One in earmarks...and as much Federal spending within its borders annually as it has private payroll.

Palin ran on a platform of “open and transparent government”...but those days are now, apparently, over.

Palin’s husband, Todd, seems to be unusually involved with State personnel decisions...and conversations about “blogger management”...despite not having any formal role in State government.

Which brings us to “Troopergate”.

You’re probably already hearing that Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan was fired by Palin for refusing to fire an Alaska State Trooper (the equivalent of a State Police Officer).

If Andrew Halcro, the former Republican State Legislator who ran as an Independent for Governor against Palin in 2006 is to be believed, the backstory is full of dirt (and budget intrigue)...and now we know there’s at least one thing the Governor and her running mate have in common—nasty divorces.

The story, as Halcro tells it, goes something like this:

First, according to Halcro, Moneghan would not agree to cutting the budget for the Troopers, despite the Governor’s insistence. Moneghan, it’s reported, felt that the Troopers had been shortchanged for several budgets in a row—and he felt that it would be imprudent to cut the budget, again, in a time that calls for service were increasing...and the price of fuel is increasing...and the Troopers often have to respond to calls in airplanes because of the size of the State.

He reminded the Governor that social trends—like the price of heating oil in cash-starved communities—had the potential to increase the demand for service on the Troopers...and he felt that if the budget was cut further the Troopers might not be able to respond to every citizen call.

(“Reforming” a budget by cutting essential services. Sound familiar?)

The other issue: Governor Palin’s sister and her very nasty divorce.

She married an Alaska Trooper, Mike Wooten, and after they split up she and the family filed 25 separate complaints against him over a 10 month period. According to Halcro, 24 of the 25 were dismissed.

The 25th?

Wooten has acknowledged illegally killing a moose in 2003...which the Governor’s father butchered...after which the meat was shared with the rest of the family...including the not-yet-Governor and her husband.

In 2005 this became an issue after Wooten sought equal custody of his children...and that’s when the complaints began. Quoting Halcro:

But every time they filed a spurious complaint, the Troopers would bring in an Administrative Investigator who after seeing more than two dozen of these ridiculous and time consuming complaints stated that in all his years he had never seen such a shotgun pattern against one officer.

The custody battle began anew in 2008, and it is alleged that the Gov herself is involved in trying to get him fired...and somehow, information from Wooten’s personnel file seems to have found its way into the hands of the ex-wife—and her attorney. A more compliant Commissioner of Public Safety, Chuck Kopp, has been appointed, possibly protecting the Governor from any further internal investigations, such as the one Former Commissioner Moneghan was planning.

So that’s the story for today...Vice Cheney Nominee Palin, the fresh face with executive experience that McCain has brought to the table, is giving away half a billion dollars in taxpayer money to the Big Gas/Big Oil (for openers), has overseen the end of a “dairy industry subsidy” she couldn’t save, pulled the blinds down on “open and transparent government”, kind of “hired” her husband to be an unofficial “Personnel Director”, has apparently decided that the mantra of “anti-spending” is much more important than public safety—even while her State is the recipient of more than $11,000 in Federal spending per Alaska citizen--and she’s going after her sister’s ex-husband, and of course, there’s also that bipartisan “abuse of power” investigation she’s now dealing with...

Not bad for two years in office, eh?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Feeling no pain

New York Times

My first reaction to Bill Clinton’s convention speech was sheer professional jealousy: nobody, but nobody, has his ability to translate economic wonkery into plain, forceful English. In effect, Mr. Clinton provided an executive summary of the new Census report on income, poverty and health insurance — but he did it so eloquently, so seamlessly, that there was no sense that he was giving his audience a lecture.

My second reaction was that in Mr. Clinton’s speech — as in the speeches by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (this column was filed before Barack Obama spoke on Thursday night) — one heard the fundamental difference between the two parties. Democrats say and, as far as I can tell, really believe that working Americans are getting a raw deal; Republicans, despite occasional attempts to sound sympathetic, basically believe that people have nothing to complain about.

As it happens, the numbers support the Democrats.

That Census report gives a snapshot of the economic status of American families in 2007 — that is, before the financial crisis started dragging the economy down and the unemployment rate up. It’s a given that 2008 will look much worse, so last year was as good as it will get in the Bush years. Yet working-age Americans had significantly lower median income in 2007 than they did in 2000. (The elderly, whose income is supported by Social Security — the program the Bush administration tried to kill — saw modest gains.) Meanwhile, poverty was up, and health insurance — especially the employment-based insurance on which most middle-class Americans depend — was down.

But Republicans, very much including John McCain and his advisers, don’t believe there’s a problem.

Former Senator Phil Gramm made headlines, and stepped down as co-chairman of the McCain campaign, after he described America as a “nation of whiners.” But how different was that remark, really, from Mr. McCain’s own declaration that “there’s been great progress economically” — progress that’s mysteriously invisible in the actual data — during the Bush years? And Mr. Gramm, by all accounts, remains a key economic adviser to Mr. McCain.

Last week John Goodman, an influential figure in Republican health care circles, explained that we shouldn’t worry about the growing number of Americans without health insurance, because there’s no such thing as being uninsured. After all, you can always get treatment at an emergency room. And Mr. Goodman — he’s the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, an important conservative think tank, and is often described as the “father of health savings accounts,” a central feature of the Bush administration’s health policy — wants the next president to issue an executive order prohibiting the Census Bureau from classifying anyone as uninsured. “Voilà!” he says. “Problem solved.”

The truth, of course, is that visiting the emergency room in a medical crisis is no substitute for regular care. Furthermore, while a hospital will treat you whether or not you can pay, it will also bill you — and the bill won’t be waived unless you’re destitute. As a result, uninsured working Americans avoid visiting emergency rooms if at all possible, because they’re terrified by the potential cost: medical expenses are one of the prime causes of personal bankruptcy.

Mr. Goodman has in the past, including in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, described himself as an adviser to the McCain campaign on health policy. The campaign now claims that he is not, in fact, an adviser. But it’s a good bet that Mr. McCain’s inner circle shares Mr. Goodman’s views.

You see, Mr. Goodman’s assertion that lack of health insurance is no problem precisely echoed what President Bush said a year ago: “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.” That’s because both men — like Mr. Gramm — were just saying in public what modern Republicans say when they talk to each other. Despite attempts to feign sympathy, the leaders of today’s G.O.P. fundamentally feel that Americans complaining about their economic and health care difficulties are, well, just a bunch of whiners.

And that, ultimately, even more than their policy proposals, is what defines the difference between the parties.

It’s true that elected Democrats are often too cautious — and too beholden to major donors — to be as progressive as the party’s activists would like. But even in the face of a Republican Congress, Mr. Clinton succeeded in pushing forward policies, like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, that did a lot to help working families.

And what one sees on the other side is a total lack of empathy for and understanding of the problems working Americans face. Mr. Clinton, famously, felt our pain. Republicans, manifestly, don’t. And it’s hard to fix a problem if you don’t even think it exists.

Truthout roundup 8/29

Putin Asserts Link Between US Election and Georgia War
Philip P. Pan and Jonathan Finer, The Washington Post: "Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he had reason to think U.S. personnel were in the combat zone during the recent war in Georgia, adding that if confirmed, their presence suggested 'someone in the United States' provoked the conflict to help one of the candidates in the American presidential race. In Putin's first extended remarks defending Russia's military intervention in Georgia, which has drawn international condemnation, he blamed the Bush administration for failing to stop Georgian leaders from launching the Aug. 7 attack on the breakaway province of South Ossetia that sparked the war."

Chalabi Aide Arrested on Suspicion of Baghdad Bombings
Nicholas Spangler and Hussein Kadhim, McClatchy Newspapers: "US forces have arrested a deputy of Ahmad Chalabi, who was once the Bush administration's favorite Iraqi politician, and implicated him in bombings that killed Americans and Iraqis, Chalabi and Iraqi government officials said Thursday. The US military alleged that the arrested official was working with the 'highest echelons' of the Iranian 'special groups' criminals, referring to what the US military says are Iranian-backed militias operating in Iraq."

As Reagan Era Closes, Republicans Lack Shared Identity
Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers: "They'll praise him, invoke his legacy and summon his blessing on their quest to hold the White House. But as Republicans gather at their national convention in St. Paul, Minn., to nominate Sen. John McCain, they face the prospect that the era of Ronald Reagan is ending after dominating their party and American politics for nearly three decades. The winning coalition that Reagan built of economic, foreign policy and social conservatives is splintered."

VIDEO: Barack Obama The American Promise
"It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it. For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own. Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America."

VIDEO: Al Gore Seize the Opportunity
Al Gore: "With John McCain's support, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have led our nation into one calamity after another because of their indifference to fact; their readiness to sacrifice the long-term to the short-term, subordinate the general good to the benefit of the few, and short-circuit the rule of law."

McCain Chooses Palin, Alaska Governor, as Running Mate
Michael Cooper and Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times: "In a surprise move, Senator John McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate on Friday, shaking up the political world at a time when his campaign has been trying to attract women, especially disaffected supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, McCain officials confirmed."

US Marine Acquitted of War Crimes by Civilian Jury
Catherine Elsworth, Telegraph UK: "The Californian jury took six hours to find Jose Luis Nazario Jr. not guilty of fatally shooting or causing others to shoot dead four Iraqi detainees during fierce fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, on November 9, 2004."

Eugene Robinson So Many Miles From Selma
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post: "'I cried on Monday when Michelle spoke,' Rep. John Lewis told me Wednesday at the Pepsi Center, 'and I know that on Thursday night at the stadium I'll cry again.'"

Comcast to Make Monthly Internet Use Cap Official
The Associated Press: "Comcast Corp., the nation's second-largest Internet service provider, Thursday said it would set an official limit on the amount of data subscribers can download and upload each month."

Luc Bronner "We Are All White Mice!"
Luc Bronner, Le Monde, evokes the great social experiment humanity is embarked upon as new constraints on human behavior obtain a planetary level.

VIDEO: Barack Obama The American Promise
"It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it. For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own. Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America."

VIDEO: Al Gore Seize the Opportunity
Al Gore: "With John McCain's support, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have led our nation into one calamity after another because of their indifference to fact; their readiness to sacrifice the long-term to the short-term, subordinate the general good to the benefit of the few, and short-circuit the rule of law."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Economic woes in northern Indiana

from Hoosiers for Jill

In July, Indiana ranked second among all 50 states in the decline in employment, with 17,800 fewer Hoosiers with jobs. At the same time, Indiana continues to be among the leading states for home foreclosures, health care costs and just today a new study ranked Indiana fifth in the nation for bankruptcies.

The economic climate in northern Indiana is also troubling. Elkhart County, in the midst of a series of layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry, posted a 9.3 percent unemployment rate for July, the state's fifth highest net rate. Surrounding counties also reported unemployment rates higher than the state average: St. Joseph County's rate was 7.2 percent, LaGrange County's rate was 10.3 percent, Kosciusko County reported a 7.8 percent rate and Marshall County had an 8.6 percent rate.

"Indiana is not living up to its economic potential, because our current leadership is not living up to its responsibility - and working families are suffering because of it," observed Democratic Gubenatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson, whose own mother lost her factory job several years ago when it was shipped to Mexico. "We can't continue to sit back and allow our jobs to leave and opportunities to pass us by. We must take steps immediately to make Indiana competitive again - and that's what I will do as Governor."

Earlier this year, Long Thompson and her running mate, Lieutenant Governor candidate State Representative Dennie Oxley, announced their plan for rebuilding Indiana's economy.

Specifically, they will work to restructure the state's tax code to make Indiana more competitive and able to retain good-paying jobs. Their proposals center on adopting broad policy that benefit all 92 counties. In addition, their plan calls for placing specific, performance-based incentives into the tax structure to help grow jobs and change state laws to allow all individuals and businesses who choose to pool together to buy health insurance in bulk.

The Democratic ticket has also proposed an innovative program to grow good-paying jobs in the state's struggling communities. Modeled after structures in several other states, Long Thompson's "Economic Tiers" program would categorize the state's 92 counties into three different categories and then allocate the state's economic development dollars 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.

With the "Economic Tiers" plan, targeted business sectors that build or expand in the state's most economically distressed areas ("Tier 1" and "Tier 2" counties) would be eligible for additional tax incentives and credits. Sectors eligible include manufacturing, telecommunications, information technology, research and development, warehouse distribution, life sciences and tourism.

Under each tier designation, potential benefits, which would be determined following consultation with state and local elected officials, economic development officials and education and business leaders, could include:

Tier 1 - $3,500 tax credit per new job with a requirement to create at least five jobs, and a 7 percent tax credit for eligible business property expenditures.

Tier 2 - $2,500 tax credit per new job with a requirement to create at least 10 jobs, and a 5 percent tax credit for eligible business property expenditures of more than $1 million.

Tier 3 - $1,000 tax credit per new job with a requirement to create at least 15 jobs, and a 3.5 percent tax credit for eligible business property expenditures of more than $2 million.

To be eligible, companies must offer employees health insurance and pay at least 50 percent of the premiums, pay above the county average wage, cannot owe back taxes or have received a significant environmental violation notice from the state within the last five years. Retail businesses or companies that move from one county to another would not be eligible for the tier incentives.

As a part of this strategy, Long Thompson will also create a "Green Boost" incentive to provide an additional one-time $500 tax credit for any new green job created. Businesses that purchase equipment to lessen their environmental impact or energy usage would also be provided with an additional 3 percent tax credit.

Moving to economic tiers would not cost Indiana taxpayers any additional money. Information necessary to determine eligibility is already collected by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the U.S. Census Bureau and Indiana University's Bureau of Business Research, and would be repurposed to the tiers program. Additional incentives used in the various tiers tie directly to business investment and job creation, thus offsetting any costs.

"With new leadership and new priorities, I am confident that we can rebuild our economy and create long term opportunities for citizens across the state," concluded Long Thompson.

4 spots to go

from Hoosiers for Jill

State ranks 8th in personal bankruptcies and 2nd in business bankruptcies

INDIANAPOLIS - In another sign of the state's souring economy, a newly released report ranked Indiana fifth in the nation for bankruptcies.

According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Indiana ranked fifth nationally for overall bankruptcies, second for business bankruptcy filings and eighth for individual filings.

"These new bankruptcy numbers are just further proof that Governor Daniels' economic policies are not working," said Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson. "Not only are they hurting our businesses and our families, they are stifling our economic potential."

In addition to today's troubling news, Indiana continues to rank among the leading states for home foreclosures, health care costs and declining wages. And, from June to July, 17,800 more Hoosiers lost their jobs, the second largest decrease in employment in the nation.

"While the Governor likes to tell us that Indiana is an "island of growth," the numbers continue to tell a much different story," added Long Thompson. "Many of our families and small businesses are in real trouble, and ignoring them or the problems we face isn't helping anyone."

"We desperately need new leadership that will acknowledge the challenges we face, and put in place a strategy for solving them," added Long Thompson. "That's what I will do as Indiana's next Governor."

Long Thompson is in Elkhart County today meeting with unemployed Hoosiers in Goshen. She was in Richmond yesterday talking with some of the 275 workers who lost their jobs on Tuesday when Masterbrand Cabinets shut down its operations there.

To our leaders: give us 100% clean electricity in ten years

Truthout roundup 8/28

For up-to-the-minute coverage of the Democratic National Convention, please go directly to TO's Denver '08 page at Convention-related videos, articles, transcripts and commentaries will be posted throughout the week.

t r u t h o u t 08.28

Obama Wins Nomination; Biden and Clinton Rally Party
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times: "Barack Hussein Obama, a freshman senator who defeated the first family of Democratic Party politics with a call for a fundamentally new course in politics, was nominated by his party on Wednesday to be the 44th president of the United States. The unanimous vote made Mr. Obama the first African-American to become a major party nominee for president. It brought to an end an often-bitter two-year political struggle for the nomination with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who, standing on a packed convention floor electric with anticipation, moved to halt the roll call in progress so that the convention could nominate Mr. Obama by acclamation. That it did with a succession of loud roars, followed by a swirl of dancing, embracing, high-fiving and chants of 'Yes, we can.'"

Obama Moves to Confront Swift Boaters
Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post: "Sen. Barack Obama's campaign and its allies, mindful of the lessons of the Swift boat attacks of 2004, have begun an aggressive, multi-pronged attack on an advertisement running in swing states that seeks to link the Democratic presidential candidate to former domestic terrorist William Ayers. With threats of legal action, boycotts and a response ad launched quietly to avoid publicity, the Obama campaign has put conservative donors and television stations on notice that 2008 will not be 2004, when Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, waited weeks to respond to attacks on his Vietnam War record and ultimately did so ineffectively."

Bush Steps Up Fight Over Balance of Power
Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press: "The Bush administration is raising the stakes in a court fight that could change the balance of power between the White House and Congress. Justice Department lawyers said Wednesday that they will soon ask a federal appeals court not to force the president's top advisers to comply with congressional subpoenas next month. President Bush argues that Congress doesn't have the authority to demand information from his aides."

Nepalese Man Sues KBR on Human Trafficking Charges
Agence France-Presse: "A Nepalese man and relatives of 12 of his slain comrades filed a lawsuit in federal court against the construction and services giant KBR on charges of human trafficking, for allegedly tricking the men into working in Iraq. The men, between the ages of 18 and 27, 'were recruited in Nepal to work as kitchen staff in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan,' read a statement from Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, one of the law firms handling the case."

McCain Has Selected His Vice President
Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin, "Sen. McCain has chosen his running mate and the person will be notified on Thursday, a senior campaign official said. A friend said McCain had pretty much settled on his selection early this week, and it crystallized in the past few days. Campaign manager Rick Davis flew to McCain's cabin in Sedona, Ariz., a few days ago to confer, and another meeting about the choice was held with top aides Wednesday."

VIDEO Joe Biden: John McCain Is More of the Same
Joe Biden: "Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up. Our people are too good, our debt to our parents and grandparents too great, our obligation to our children is too sacred. These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. I'm ready. Barack Obama is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time."

VIDEO Bill Clinton: Barack Obama Is Ready to Be President of the United States
Bill Clinton: "Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world. Ready to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States."

Poverty is the real scandal

by Amy Goodman

DENVER—Former Sen. John Edwards was supposed to speak in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, was to speak also. Poverty was their focus. But they are not here because John Edwards had an affair. Will the Democrats now forget about poverty?

Chris Chafe is a former senior adviser to the Edwards campaign. He is now the executive director of the Change to Win coalition, the group of unions well known for their early endorsement of Obama. They split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. I asked Chafe about the absence of Edwards and his message at the convention:

“We miss him being here. He is an important voice in our party. ... It is certainly a loss. ... We have to look within ourselves in a moment of crisis when we have somebody of symbolic and strong value and leadership who takes a fall ... we have to continue moving forward with all of the values, strengths, priorities and leadership that he brought to the race, we have to carry that forward ... far beyond this election season.”

Change to Win supports the unionization of workers at Wal-Mart. Last month, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Wal-Mart has been warning managers that a Barack Obama victory would lead to unionization. In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings discussing the downside of unionization and told that a vote for Obama is tantamount to inviting unions in. Chafe said: “The company had been holding what we would consider captive-audience meetings where they are on company time, they are paid but they are required to go to meetings. ... This is going beyond the normal routine of intimidation. Now they are trying to deny workers rights at the ballot box, and that is something we felt we could not allow to take place and had to let the world know this is happening in the country’s largest employer. ... You are not allowed to tell your employees how they are supposed to vote. It is the most sacred right in our democracy.” Change to Win and others have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, challenging Wal-Mart’s actions.

During the primaries in the blue-collar battleground states, Obama effectively pointed out that Hillary Clinton served on the Wal-Mart board for six years, implying an anti-worker, anti-union association. Shortly after she dropped out of the race, however, the Obama campaign appointed Jason Furman as a senior economics adviser. Furman has rankled labor activists, writing that the benefits of Wal-Mart’s low prices outweigh its low wages. On that appointment, Chafe said, “We’ve met privately with [Obama] about it, and we’ve met privately with Jason. The senator brought Jason on to manage the day-to-day war-room operations of their message to illustrate contrast with [John] McCain. ... We made it clear, as did the senator, that there were certainly differences of viewpoint between he and Jason on a series of issues. We believe that Barack Obama has stood firm and clear on our agenda and the [Wal-Mart] workers’ agenda.”

On low prices trumping low wages, Chafe chafed: “Absolute hogwash ... Wal-Mart gets a pass because they pass along savings, they are passing along poverty. Poverty to workers across the world who are producing their goods. Poverty to the people that are working in their stores representing them who are trying to make a living, many of whom probably have multiple jobs to afford to raise their families. ... You name it, they find every way to cut corners and cut their workers out of their success.”

The U.S. Census Bureau released a poverty report on Aug. 26. More than 37 million people are in poverty in the U.S. With Edwards iced out of the discussion, and free-trade economists advising the Obama campaign, the question remains: What of poverty?

Obama’s nomination acceptance speech comes on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address. King related poverty and justice: “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. ... Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/27

Hillary Rodham Clinton "Were You in It Just for Me?"
Hillary Clinton, Democratic National Convention: "I am honored to be here tonight. A proud mother. A proud Democrat. A proud American. And a proud supporter of Barack Obama. My friends, it is time to take back the country we love. Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines. This is a fight for the future. And it’s a fight we must win."

Threat to Kill Obama is Downplayed
Nicholas Riccardi, The Los Angeles Times: "Federal authorities today downplayed threats made by a pair of men arrested here over the weekend with rifles, sniper scopes and an alleged desire to kill Barack Obama.... . U.S. Atty. Troy Eid said the men, during a meth binge, had expressed strongly racist views and spoken about killing the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. The talk, Eid said, does not meet the legal standard for filing charges for threatening a presidential candidate. 'The law recognizes a difference between a true threat - that's one that can be carried out - and the reported racist rants of drug abusers,' Eid said at a packed afternoon news conference."

US Immigration Cops Nab 595 in Largest-Ever Raid
Reuters: "US immigration agents have arrested 595 people at a Mississippi factory in what was the largest workplace enforcement raid in the United States to date, an immigration official said on Tuesday. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said federal agents arrested the workers in a raid at the Howard Industries Inc. factory in Laurel, Miss, on Monday. 'This is the largest targeted workplace enforcement operation we have carried out in the United States to date,' Gonzalez told Reuters by telephone."

David Sirota Seeing Red, Feeling Blue in Purple America
David Sirota, YES! Magazine: "By all measures, those of us Americans not in the top 1 percent of income earners are under enormous economic pressure and most of us feel powerless to influence those who act in our name. Public attitudes toward Washington are reaching record levels of animosity. A Scripps Howard News Service poll in 2006 found a majority of Americans saying they 'personally are more angry' at the government than they used to be. And there’s a growing backlash against the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests. It’s the natural reaction from a country that is watching its pocket get picked."

Power Struggle Rages in Pakistan
Mian Ridge, The Christian Science Monitor: "Hopes for much-needed political stability in Pakistan have crumbled along with its ruling coalition. Following Nawaz Sharif's exit from the government Monday, the political stage looks set to be dominated by a power struggle, which will draw attention away from antimilitant efforts and a faltering economy."

VIDEO Hillary Rodham Clinton: "Were You in It Just for Me?"
"I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"

VIDEO Dennis Kucinich: "Wake up America"
Congressman Dennis Kucinich delivered a rousing wake up call to America on the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

On Economic Forecasting, Or, Notes From The Golf Tournament

Once a year the professional golf community comes to visit my neck of the woods, in the form of the PGA’s Champion’s Tour.

It’s an event that changes the character of the community in several ways: spectators swell the size of the town, there’s a media focus that usually doesn’t exist…and an actual, no kidding, traffic jam might develop—on a weekend.

It’s a great economic barometer, as well. Despite the efforts of the Professional Golfers Association (the PGA), there is a lot more of an upper-income demographic attending the tournament than there is a Happy Gilmore kind of crowd.

Which brings me to the point of today’s examination: what can we learn about the state of the economy from the perspective of the tricklers, as opposed to how it looks from the point of view of the trickled upon?

The PGA’s Senior Tour has become the Champion’s Tour, these past few years, and it makes two stops in the Pacific Northwest: the JELD-WEN Tradition, which is played at the Crosswater Club, Sunriver, Oregon; and the tournament I attend, the Boeing Classic, played at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie, Washington, under lovely weather…at least on the first two days of the event. For those with a 9:00 AM tee time Sunday, it was the same, but by the end of that day the weather was more like Scotland—in the 60’s, windy, and a spattering of rain.

Spectators enter the course and immediately pass through a gauntlet of exciting commercial opportunities presented from E-Z UP booths (the “Expo Village”)…but this year the Village was missing roughly half of the booths, leaving it looking, sadly, a bit more like the Expo Dorp.

The remaining Villagers seemed a bit dispirited—perhaps because they were not giving away tons of golf tchachkes this year. In years past I personally had picked up boxes of crayons, the ubiquitous rainbow (not) Slinky ©, mini first aid kits, and some very cool tool-box shaped mint tins. A couple of years ago The Girlfriend successfully putted the big golf ball and won a sleeve of Nike Ignite balls and a subscription to Golf Digest….but even the Golf Digest booth is missing this year.

The granola bar booth was still giving away their product…but other than General Mills, no other sponsor seemed to be doing the giveaway thing.

This was especially striking as one left the Expo Hamlet and entered the Cadillac exhibit. In years past the Cadillac presentation was impossible to ignore: first, because of the large number of comely women selected to divert potential customers to see the displayed wares (at least 8, maybe even 10 last year)…and secondly, because of the high quality of the tchachke.

If you were willing to spend roughly 10 minutes and fill out a “contact card” you could leave with a lovely fleece Cadillac blanket—and in the previous three years I think I grabbed two myself…and one of those is still floating around here somewhere.

But this year, it was a bit different.

I did not see any Cadillac giveaway items, and at 1:00 PM on Saturday there seemed to be no comely women…and barely any potential customers.

In fact, I’d estimate the crowd at roughly half that of last year, which, on Saturday of 2007, was estimated to be 18,000. There are a few places on the course where I was able to compare—for example, there was very little crowd density at the 14th green, as opposed to last year when it was difficult to walk the cart path there because of the crowding. There was moderate difficulty navigating the 9th green and 10th tee complex, but nothing like years past…and even the (incredibly close) 10th tee bleachers had available seats, even though many golfers had yet to pass that point.

The 18th green “Hospitality Village” seemed to be less crowded than years past as well, but I was not given enough access to the sponsor’s spaces to be fully certain of that comment. Call me 80% certain instead.

It was possible to easily “see through” the crowd that followed Tom Kite, and I’d be surprised if his “walking crowd” was larger than 300 people.

There were no lines for concessions or restrooms…and the racks in the “tour shop” tents seemed to be full of clothing hangers, and the racks of hats seemed nearly full as well. Less than 10% of those on the course seemed to be carrying bags of things they’re bringing home from the tournament. I did not see large numbers of guests wearing hats from the course or the event.

My ticket reads “Weekly” and “Complimentary”—and that might be the biggest problem for those seeking to make a buck on this enterprise. Virtually all the tickets I saw were either “Complimentary”, “Member-Complimentary”, or had a sponsor’s logo of some kind. I would be willing to bet that less than 25% of the tickets I saw were “sold” tickets…however, some “Complimentary” tickets might be tickets sold to corporate clients…and “Hospitality Village” tickets certainly are sold to corporate clients.

So what can we make of all this?

It could easily cost a family of four $400 for tickets, snacks…a few drinks for Mom and Dad, sodas for the kids…hats for the kids, a shirt or jacket for Mom and Dad…gas…you know, a weekend golf outing.

If my numbers are correct, on Saturday alone roughly 2,000 families that came last year chose to stay home this year—and I’m not the only one who sees Tour revenue as flat at best. In fact, it appears that revenue growth from 2006 to 2007 consisted almost exclusively of bringing in more corporate money, not growing the number of fans “passing through turnstiles” with paid admissions.

Put it all together, and it appears that even the predominantly high-income families that would normally pack up the kids and get out to the course for Tournament weekend…normally a “not to be missed” event…are not willing to make the trek this year—at least not unless the boss is buying the tickets.

I often buy gas at Costco; and waiting in the big line we still see a substantial number of large vehicles filling the tank—and I suspect that for many families the disposable income that would have paid for the golf outing is now buying gas.

Something to think about if you’re a Democrat running against the Bush economy.

Barry Commoner, a quarter of a century ago, famously explained that the environment, the economy, and energy policy are inextricably linked…and it now appears that the PGA Tour—and lots of local families--would likely agree.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/26

Kennedy Tugs at Hearts, as Michelle Praises Values
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times: "Senator Edward M. Kennedy, struggling with brain cancer, arrived on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in a triumphant appearance that evoked 50 years of party history as Democrats gathered to nominate Senator Barack Obama for president. Mr. Kennedy's appearance wiped away, at least for the evening, some of the tension that continued to plague the party in the wake of the primary fight between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. It also represented an effort by the Obama campaign to claim the Kennedy mantle, and it set the stage for the second part of what was designed to be an emotionally powerful two-act evening: an appearance later by Michelle Obama, who began a weeklong effort to present her husband - and his entire family - as embodiments of the American dream."

Maliki Demands "Specific Deadline" for US Troop Pullout
Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers: "Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said Monday there would be no security agreement between the United States and Iraq without an unconditional timetable for withdrawal - a direct challenge to the Bush administration, which insists that the timing for troop departure would be based on conditions on the ground."

North Korea to Suspend Nuclear Disablement
Reuters: "North Korea said on Tuesday it would suspend disablement of its nuclear facilities and consider restoring the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, accusing the United States of violating a disarmament deal. 'We have decided to immediately suspend disabling our nuclear facilities,' the North's KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying."

Veterans' Battle Within
Erin Emery and David Olinger, The Denver Post: "Five years into the war in Iraq and six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Army is sending soldiers with physical and mental injuries back to war, at times overruling physicians' classifications of soldiers as 'nondeployable.' Facing demands unprecedented in the history of the all-volunteer force, the Army has deployed soldiers with slings and crutches and some who need machines to help keep them alive through the night. Thousands are taking pain, sleep or antidepressant medication, with sometimes deadly consequences."

Alaska Scandal Underscores GOP Troubles
Matt Kelley, USA Today: "The Senate's longest-serving Republican, Alaska's Ted Stevens, heads into a primary election today at a time when he is fighting for his political life and his party is struggling to hold onto its Senate seats. Stevens, who was indicted last month on federal charges of failing to report gifts he got from a wealthy constituent, is likely to survive the GOP primary over six lesser-known challengers. But he's trailing by 13 percentage points in a recent statewide poll by Rasmussen Reports against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Stevens' likely fall opponent."

UN Finds Evidence 90 Civilians Dead in US-Led Strikes
Agence France-Presse: "A United Nations team has found 'convincing evidence' that 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in US-led air strikes last week, the body's representative in Afghanistan said Tuesday. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) human rights team was sent to the western province of Herat after local claims that scores of civilians were killed in Friday's strikes."

Suicide Bomber Kills 28 in Strike on Iraq Recruits
Reuters: "A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest blew himself up in a crowd of Iraqi police recruits on Tuesday, killing 28 people and wounding 45, police said. Initial reports had earlier described the attack, in the town of Jalawla in northern Diyala province, as a suicide car bomb attack at a security force checkpoint."

J. Sri Raman Children Die in an Outsourcing Boom
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "Stories of children's deaths do not shock India too much. Over 2.1 million kids die every year in the country before they reach the ripe age of five, according to a count by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in its State of the World's Children 2008 report. The fate of 49 babies, however, fell in a different category."

Clinton Urges Her Loyalists to Back Obama
Lisa Wangsness, The Boston Globe: "As Republicans tried to exacerbate tensions within the Democratic Party, appealing directly to Hillary Clinton's supporters with a barrage of ads and even a happy-hour event, she entreated her faithful yesterday to ignore them and unite behind Barack Obama."

Serge Truffaut Algeria After Iraq
Serge Truffaut, Le Devoir: Algerian terrorists are proving far more resilient than the Algerian government asserts. How has that happened?

VIDEO Caroline Kennedy Leads Tribute to "Uncle Teddy"
Following an introductory speech by Caroline Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy took the stage at the Denver convention and spoke about his support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

VIDEO Michelle Obama Addresses the Democratic Convention
Michelle Obama addressed the Democratic convention in Denver sharing her family's history and values.

Monday, August 25, 2008

On Touring The World, Or, Blogging-It’s A Collective Thing

For the past two weeks we have paid more attention to the rest of the world than usual, what with the Olympics drawing our attention to Asia, and the conflict in the Balkans forcing us to learn that Atlanta is not in danger…that indeed, there is another Georgia—and how events in that Georgia could affect life in our Georgia.

As it happens, I belong to an international blogging collective (the Blogpower community) with voices that happen to be especially well-placed and often powerful to boot…a combination that will be most helpful for today’s exercise.

We are going to take a journey, Gentle Reader, all the way from India to Australia. We’ll visit Canadian friends, then we have much to discuss in the UK…and we get to meet a friend in the Sudan—and just for fun, we’ll toss in a few discussion questions based on Russian history.

Finally, through the miracle of Facebook, we’ll meet an actual volunteer soldier from South Ossetia who will describe the Georgian attack on his city.

There’s a lot to cover, so put on your travel hat, grab your virtual passport, and let’s hit the road.

There are 61 bloggers currently associated with Blogpower, but we will only be visiting about 20 of those today. There’s a full list of the community members available, and I would encourage you to dive in to the list and visit all of them.

And speaking of visiting…

Kori Brus, publisher of “The Conscious Earth”, has been travelling India these past few weeks, from south to north, and now finds himself in Ladakh, an area of India that is primarily Buddhist…and covered by a far more extensive network of trekking routes than highways.

He tells us that despite the fact that India is a nation of more than 900 million people, it is quite solitary indeed for him on this trip…which has advantages he might not have anticipated as he visits a temple around the time of morning prayers.

We continue with the theme of culture and religion on a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we find jmb’s “Nobody Important” blog awaiting our arrival.

In May of 2008 the city’s Museum of Anthropology was robbed, the object of the theft being spectacular pieces created by Bill Reid, an artist of Haida descent who trained as a sculptor and a goldsmith. (His work can also be seen at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., should you get the chance to visit.)

Some of the objects had been recovered, but I am now happy to report (again, courtesy of jmb) that when it comes to art thievery, the Mounties get their brooch; with all the missing objects now recovered. (Well, to be exact, a fraction of one object is missing…so visit the link for details, he said, teasingly.)

Ruthie “Zaftig” offers us a tour of the morality questions present in the movie “The Dark Knight” that begins as a general discussion of good and evil, but then becomes an evaluation of how terror affects human judgment—and addresses the additional question of how much freedom should we be willing to sacrifice for security…which might be the freedom to live in fear.

For your consideration: would Peter the Great have made a good “Dark Knight” Batman? Try to include a few words regarding the “Tsar as Father Figure” mythology in your response…

Immorality also figures in a story from Khartoum: Kizzie explains how bribery is endemic in Sudan—and she tells us how a judge was apparently bribed in an eviction case that has cost her family three years of their time, thousands of dollars in legal fees…and had them wondering if hiring a few well-armed “friends” to resolve the problem “extrajudicially” might have been the better solution.

She also reminds us of the death of Levy Mwanawasa, President of Zambia—one of two notable recent deaths in the region; the other being the death of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Both are major events unreported in US media…so visit the links and follow these stories.

In Iran the level of repression applied to union activists is increasing…and as of now the crime of union organizing can get you 30 lashes…or 50…or 70…plus jail time. Or it could get you the death penalty.

All of this is reported to us by our man in Corkadorogha, Ireland (…”where the the torrential rains are more torrential, the squalor more squalid, the hopelessness more utterly hopeless than they are anywhere else”…), James “The Poor Mouth” O’Donnell. (By the way James: “rains more torrential”? Spend a year in the rainforest around Queets, Washington and you may reconsider that position…)

Everyone is blogging these days…including a former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, John Prescott (fired by Tony Blair, no less!). Mike Ion, himself a former Labour candidate for Parliament (from Shrewsbury…home of Darwin and the Cartoon Festival), discusses the impact of the growth in the medium on UK politics and beyond—and for those who don’t know, there is as much reaction to political bloggers over there as there is over here…and in the UK, that makes Mike Ion a bit of a “must read”.

All citizens of England have access to health care, unlike the US, but this is hardly a perfect situation. Should we hope to adopt a national health care model we might do well to learn from their experience, and some of that insight can be found in the following two stops on our tour:

An agency of the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) that tries to balance the costs and benefits of drugs and procedures that the NHS will pay for is the subject of a recent discussion at the “Letters From A Tory” blog.

CalumCarr has been telling us for years now about the troubles faced by those who seek help from the NHS for mental disorders (a problem that has touched his own family), and a new report from the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland describes grievous flaws in the system—including a case of “Not My Problem” culture that is so serious that the report itself is entitled "Not My Problem - The Care and Treatment of Mr. G".

Leadership is sometimes a matter of committee, and we are given the view from the other side of the table as Grendel recounts his experience on hiring and purchasing committees. We learn a bit of British slang (“…use the word “prat” in a sentence, please…”), we consider the absurdity of dreams, and we are offered a few words on unintentional non-disclosure disclosures.

Have you ever wanted to go to a job interview and tell the interviewer you’re looking for a new job because you hate your current job? You have a friend in Grendel.

The UK portion of the journey continues as we visit Sackerson’s “Bearwatch” blog. He reminds us that our desire to restrain Government through the vehicle of the Constitution is well-recognized—and well-respected—around the world…and he brings to the table a question raised in this election cycle by Ron Paul: what is legal tender?

For your consideration: what effect would a strict Constitutional reading of “legal tender” have on credit expansion? Would we, on balance, have been better off with such an interpretation? A few words on the impact of home ownership on personal wealth—good and bad—would add some “seasoning” to the rhetorical stew you could create…

Theo Spark’s friends (the “Last of the Few”) combine Conservative thought with the sorts of adult images (adult images is code for “maybe the younger kids shouldn’t be going there unsupervised…”—you have been officially warned) that one might see on Page 3 of a British newspaper; and the blog makes the point that Basra is on the road to reconstruction through the use of a striking image taken in the At Tannumah district of the city.

The great “what is mind versus what is matter?” debate, originally begun by Descartes and Hobbes (and later revisited by Homer Simpson), is one element of a conversation from Gracci at the “Westminster Wisdom” blog. Can security ever exist for the masses when the masses are ruled by anyone other than an autocrat? That question, also addressed by Hobbes, is an important second pillar of the sturdy philosophical structure presented in this piece.

For your consideration: is security worth the cost? Just how much cost might you be willing to accept for how much security? Can anything actually approaching total security be achieved, or does the effort to create total security inevitably create insecurity? Using the Russian word grozny correctly in your answer will get you extra points…

We need to take a step back from all of this deep thinking, and my friend Colin Campbell has just what we need. His “Adelaide Green Porridge Café” blog features an image of military maneuvers that make me wonder if the Australian commander might be smarter than ours. (I’d also be curious what the commander has to say about global warming…).

Is Wales a part of the UK? Or is it, like the Duchy of Cornwall, destined to be an independent nation? “Miss Wagstaff Presents” this issue, and others, in her ongoing quest to analyze the question of whether the political relationship with the UK is serving the Welsh people…or instead, serving only the political needs of the Labour Party. (For those unsure, Wales is located roughly 20 miles east of Dublin, just across the Irish Sea. It’s the same Wales that has a famous Prince.)

Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer (and fifth in the world in 2006), is the source of the next bit of humor, thanks to “Sally in Norfolk”…and I will consider this story every time I freeze a grill. (She also visits a lead mine…another fascinating story.)

“Hercules” notes the considerable resemblance between the current Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, and the only current resident of the Meadowlands end zone, Jimmy Hoffa.

Which brings us to the final stop on our tour.

Ellee Seymour wants us to visit the “ProActive PR” blog and meet Alan, a 26 year-old student who was in Tskhinvali, the largest city in Georgia’s disputed South Ossetia region when Georgian forces advanced on the city.

Power had been mostly cut off, as had water, but Alan was able to send messages by cell phone which Ellee’s friend Katarina was able to translate into English. The story begins August 4th, where he describes seeing three dead bodies, victims of either Georgian mortars or artillery fire.

The diary gives an hour-by-hour recap of the events of August 7th, including a street battle just a few blocks away—and a description of being so tired that grenade explosions up the block could not wake Alan up.

The diary includes pictures taken on scene…and no matter what you may think of the positions of either side, this is a soldier’s story in the end…and that makes it a very human story, indeed.

Well there you go: we’ve seen a bit of the world, we have some things to think about…and we had a few laughs to boot.

If you have nothing to declare, continue through Customs to catch your ride home…and thanks for flying Blogpower.

Accentuate the negative

The New York Times

So the Obama campaign has turned to the politics of personal destruction, attempting to make a campaign issue out of John McCain’s inability to remember how many houses he has. And the turn comes not a moment too soon.

Over the past month or so many Democrats have had the sick feeling that once again their candidate brought a knife to a gunfight. Barack Obama’s campaign, inexplicably, was unprepared for the inevitable Republican attack on the candidate’s character. By the middle of last week, Mr. Obama’s once formidable lead, both in national polls and in electoral college projections based on state-level polls, had virtually evaporated.

Mr. Obama’s waning advantage brought back bad memories of the 2004 campaign, whose key lesson was that there are no limits to the form G.O.P. character attacks can take.

You might think, for example, that a party claiming to support the troops would shy away from attacking a war hero’s military record — but back in 2004 the Swift-boat lies were enthusiastically embraced by Republican activists, and helped neutralize the advantage John Kerry was supposed to get from his biography.

And you might think that a party committed to tax cuts for the rich, a party that routinely castigates those who engage in “class warfare,” would shy away from attacking a Democrat for his wealth. But raw class envy played an important role in the attacks on Mr. Kerry, whom Rush Limbaugh described repeatedly as a “gigolo” with a “sugar daddy wife,” and G.O.P. supporters don’t seem to have experienced any cognitive dissonance.

It was predictable, then, that Mr. Obama would find himself on the receiving end of an all-out character attack, much of it nonsensical: he’s un-American because he vacations in Hawaii, where his grandmother lives? It was also predictable that responding by repeating what a great guy the candidate is, or denouncing the attacks as unfair, would be ineffective.

So now the Obama campaign has responded with its own character attack.

Is it fair to attack Mr. McCain for having too many houses?

In an ideal world, politicians would be judged by their actions, not by their wealth or lack thereof. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to wealth, but that didn’t stop him from doing more for working Americans than any president before or since. Conversely, Joseph Biden’s hardscrabble life story, though inspiring, didn’t stop him from supporting the odious 2005 bankruptcy bill.

But in the world we actually live in, pro-corporate, inequality-increasing Republicans argue that you should vote for them because they’re regular guys you’d like to have a beer with, while Democrats who want to raise taxes on top earners, expand health care and raise the minimum wage are snooty elitists.

And in that world, stripping away the regular-guy facade — pointing out that everything Rush Limbaugh said about Mr. Kerry applies equally to Mr. McCain, that Mr. McCain lives in a material world few Americans can imagine — is only fair. Yes, Mr. Obama vacations in Hawaii — and Cindy McCain says that “In Arizona, the only way to get around the state is by small private plane.”

The squealing from the usual suspects demonstrates how much the Obama counterattack has the G.O.P. worried. Back in 2004 Fox News described John Kerry as “one of the haves” with a “billionaire wife”; now it asks whether raising the issue of Mr. McCain’s houses is “bashing the American dream.”

And the McCain campaign, after initially mumbling something about how Mr. Obama eats arugula, quickly resorted to its all-purpose answer: you can’t criticize the candidate because he’s a former P.O.W. Maybe the campaign hopes that the Obama people will fall into a reflexive cringe, the same way they did when Wesley Clark made the entirely reasonable point that having been a P.O.W., while it makes you a hero, doesn’t necessarily qualify you to become president.

Assuming that the Obama campaign isn’t scared off by the P.O.W. thing, can it really win in an exchange of character attacks? Probably not — but it doesn’t have to.

The central fact of this year’s election is that voters are fed up with Republican rule. The only way Mr. McCain can win the presidential race is if it becomes a contest of personalities rather than parties — and if his campaign can instill in voters the perception that Mr. Obama is a suspicious character while Mr. McCain is a fine, upstanding gentleman.

The Obama campaign, on the other hand, doesn’t need to convince voters either that he’s the awesomest candidate ever or that Mr. McCain is a villain. All it has to do is tarnish Mr. McCain’s image enough so that voters see this as a race between a Democrat and a Republican. And that’s a race the Democrat will easily win.

Truthout roundup 8/25 - updated

Suicide Bomber Kills 25 West of Baghdad
Kim Gamel, The Associated Press: "A suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday in the midst of a celebration to welcome home an Iraqi detainee released from U.S. custody, killing at least 25 people, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military, meanwhile, announced the arrest of an al-Qaida in Iraq figure who allegedly planned the 2006 kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll - one of the highest-profile attacks against Westerners in Iraq. The suicide attack occurred inside one of several tents set up outside a house in the Abu Ghraib area on Baghdad's western outskirts, according to residents and police. It was unclear if the former detainee was among the casualties."

Warning on Voting Machines Reveals Oversight Failure
Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "Disclosure of an election computer glitch that could drop ballot totals for entire precincts is stirring new worries that an unofficial laboratory testing system failed for years to detect an array of flaws in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003. Texas-based Premier Elections Solutions last week alerted at least 1,750 jurisdictions across the country that special precautions are needed to address the problem in tabulation software affecting all 19 of its models dating back a decade. Voting experts reacted skeptically to the company's assertion that election workers' routine crosschecks of ballot totals would have spotted any instances where its servers failed to register some precinct vote totals when receiving data from multiple memory cards."

Full Votes Restored to Florida and Michigan
Rachel Kapochunas, Congressional Quarterly: "The credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention, on the eve of the event’s opening day in Denver, voted Sunday without dissent to restore full voting privileges to the delegations from Florida and Michigan. The actions, taken during a meeting at the host city’s Colorado Convention Center, put a final touch to a long-running and bruising dispute over the decisions by officials in both states to hold their presidential primaries in January, in violation of Democratic National Committee (DNC) scheduling rules. The DNC initially barred all of Michigan’s and Florida’s delegates from the convention, then in late May allowed all of the state’s delegates to attend, but with a half-vote apiece."

Pakistan Bans Taliban After Suicide Bombings
The Associated Press: "Pakistan banned the Taliban on Monday after they claimed responsibility for one of the country's worst-ever terrorist attacks, toughening its stance a week after U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf was ousted from power. The Interior Ministry announced the decision 24 hours after rejecting a Taliban cease-fire offer in Bajur, a rumored hiding place for Osama bin Laden, where an army offensive has reportedly killed hundreds in recent weeks. Another 200,000 people have fled their homes. 'This organization is a terrorist organization and created mayhem against public life,' ministry chief Rehman Malik said in announcing the ban on Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group for militants along the Afghan border created in December to strengthen their fight against the government."

The New York Times That Troubled Terrorism List
The New York Times: "A half-billion-dollar emergency program to repair the nation’s main and deeply flawed terrorist watch list is 'on the brink of collapse,' according to a Congressional investigation. That means that warning signs of a terrorist attack could again be lost in the chaos. The new program, known as Railhead, is intended to fix the problems with the current outmoded program. That database - begun as an urgent priority after the Sept. 11 attacks - has been bedeviled by an array of problems, including the inability to do basic searches to find suspects’ names."

Steve Weissman Russian Jerks Meet Western Knee-Jerks
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "The Russians can be real jerks, but they are not the only ones dragging us into a cold war redo. Blockheads on all sides are bringing back the risk of all-out nuclear conflict, along with a new arms race and the thrusting of American power from the Russian borderlands to wherever we see a Russian proxy. Even if Barack Obama and Joe Biden manage to win the election in November, the financial cost of a rush to yesteryear could cripple any real chance for a better tomorrow."

Israel Frees Prisoners in Gesture to Abbas
Dalia Nammari, The Associated Press: "Israel on Monday freed nearly 200 jailed Palestinians - including a militant mastermind from the 1970s - in a goodwill gesture just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to begin her latest peace mission to the region."

Chalmers Johnson The Smash of Civilizations
Chalmers Johnson, "There have been many dispiriting sights on TV since George Bush launched his ill-starred war on Iraq -- the pictures from Abu Ghraib, Fallujah laid waste, American soldiers kicking down the doors of private homes and pointing assault rifles at women and children. But few have reverberated historically like the looting of Baghdad's museum -- or been forgotten more quickly in this country."

Lieberman Frustrates Both Parties
J. Taylor Rushing, The Hill: "Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has had the unusual distinction of frustrating both Republicans and Democrats as they head into their conventions. Democrats are disappointed in their former colleague's high-profile role supporting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president and his decision to speak at the Republican National Convention. Republicans have welcomed the Democrat-turned-Independent's support. Yet many in the party's evangelical base are flabbergasted that Lieberman, who is pro-abortion rights, could be on McCain's speculative shortlist for vice president."

Les Echos In Ten Years, Russia Has Gone From Bankruptcy to Material Affluence
Les Echos, Yves Bourdillon: In default on its payments ten years ago, Russia has spectacularly rectified its financial situation thanks to shrewd economic and fiscal policies and the flare-up of oil prices. Six to nine percent growth, depending on the year, has allowed Russia to rank 13th globally in Gross Domestic Product.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

To David Bonior: I hope they washed the sheets

by Don Wheeler

I've sort of stewed about this for a while, but I think something needs to be said.

When I went to Fort Dodge, Iowa to work on the Edwards campaign, met the fabulous Karita Hummer and the also fabulous Doherty family, I was hosted by the McColloughs in their lovely home. At the time, they told me that the last guest they had hosted in their guest room was David Bonior.

In view of the shitty things David Bonior (John Edwards' National Campaign Chair) has said about John Edwards recently, I hope my gracious hosts thoroughly washed the sheets prior to my arrival.

Truthout roundup 8/24

FOCUS Rich: Last Call for Change We Can Believe In
Frank Rich, The New York Times: "As the real campaign at last begins in Denver this week, this much is certain: It's time for Barack Obama to dispatch 'Change We Can Believe In' to a dignified death. This isn't because - OMG! - Obama's narrow three- to four-percentage-point lead of recent weeks dropped to a statistically indistinguishable one- to three-point margin during his week of vacation. It's because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country's full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain."

FOCUS In His Home State, Biden is a Regular Joe
Noam N. Levey, The Los Angeles Times: "A hundred miles away from Capitol Hill, is another Joe Biden - more a character in Mister Rogers' neighborhood than a globe-trotting statesman or a pontificating fixture on the Sunday talk shows. He is a putterer who plants bushes in his backyard and designed his own house, including space for his elderly parents. He's a man quick to find a doctor for someone's sick grandmother or hold a fundraiser for a local firefighter battling cancer."

Michael Gould-Wartofsky Crashing the Party
Michael Gould-Wartofsky, The Nation: "At some point during the upcoming Republican National Convention, delegates will look out the windows of the Xcel Energy Center, or down from swank hotels and grand old after-parties, and there, past the security fences and the legions of taser-toting police and private security guards, they will see the other America spilling into the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota. At the frontlines will be America's young dissidents who will walk out of class, lock down intersections and dance in the streets to 'Funk the War.'"

McCain's Silence On A 'Terror Gap'
Mark Hosenball, Newsweek: "Senator John McCain portrays himself as a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. But does that extend to gun rights for suspected terrorists? His campaign won't say where he stands on a bill to eliminate a gun-control loophole that even the Bush administration wants closed: a gap in federal law that inhibits the government from stopping people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns."

US Probes Afghan Assertions That Raid Killed 70 Civilians
Candace Rondeaux and Javed Hamdard, The Washington Post: "US military officials said Saturday that they are investigating allegations by Afghan officials that a U.S.-led bombing raid killed at least 70 civilians in western Afghanistan in the past week. Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the US military, said 30 Taliban insurgents were killed in the operation, which targeted a compound occupied by a local Taliban commander."

US Cold-War Waste Irks Greenland
Colin Woodard, The Christian Science Monitor: "Greenland is dotted with former US military installations - and one active one - a reminder of its importance as a steppingstone in the fight against Nazi Germany and as a cold-war surveillance and missile-detection base. 'The US and Denmark together have a lot to clean up,' says Aleqa Hammond, foreign minister for Greenland's home rule government. 'It's not even halfway done. The East Coast and icecap areas have thousands of abandoned barrels, and the failure to clean up the [Thule] air base is something that is very heavy in our hearts.'"

A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash
Amy Harmon, The New York Times: "In February, the Florida Department of Education modified its standards to explicitly require, for the first time, the state's public schools to teach evolution, calling it "the organizing principle of life science." Spurred in part by legal rulings against school districts seeking to favor religious versions of natural history, over a dozen other states have also given more emphasis in recent years to what has long been the scientific consensus: that all of the diverse life forms on Earth descended from a common ancestor, through a process of mutation and natural selection, over billions of years."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/23

Liberal Positions Gaining Popularity
Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers: "As they meet for their national convention Monday through Thursday, Democrats are poised to shift their party's course - and the country's. They're turning to the left - deeply against the war in Iraq, ready to use tax policy to take from the rich and give to the poor and middle class, and growing hungry, after years of centrist politics, for big-government solutions, such as a health-care overhaul, to steer the nation through a time of sweeping economic change. They are, in short, more liberal than at any time in a generation and eager to end the Reagan era, which dominated not just the other party, but also their own, for nearly three decades."

John Nichols Biden Pick Gives Obama What He Needs
John Nichols, The Nation: "And the winner is: Joe Biden. It did not take a newfangled text message, just an old-fashioned leak, to identify Barack Obama's running mate. Word of the Biden selection spread late Friday night, barely twelve hours before the event in Springfield, Illinois, at which the presumptive Democratic nominee for president was set to introduce the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president. Ultimately, Obama went with the guy who suggested most pointedly during the race for the Democratic nomination that Obama was not quite experienced enough for the presidency."

Party Picks Bhutto Widower for Pakistan President
Salman Masood, The New York Times: "The senior party in Pakistan’s governing coalition on Friday nominated Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as its candidate in elections for president, now set for Sept. 6. The Election Commission on Friday set Sept. 6 as the date lawmakers will elect a new president, after the resignation earlier this week of President Pervez Musharraf. Hours later, members of the Pakistan Peoples Party said that Mr. Zardari, 53, who is a leader of the party, would be their candidate."

Karzai Denounces US Airstrike That Killed Civilians
M. Karim Faiez and Laura King, The Los Angeles Times: "President Hamid Karzai today denounced an airstrike by U.S.-led forces that his office said killed at least 70 civilians. Civilian deaths and injuries are an extremely sensitive subject in Afghanistan, where the government has repeatedly pleaded with Western troops to exercise greater care to avoid hurting and killing noncombatants. Karzai broke down in tears during one such appeal."

Food, Fuel and Water Crises Converging
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service: "A spectre is haunting the cities and villages of most developing nations, warns a senior official of a World Bank-affiliated organisation. 'It's the spectre of a food, fuel and water crisis,' says Lars Thunell, executive vice president of the Washington-based International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group. 'I believe we are at a tipping point,' he said, because the scarcity of water poses a threat to the food supply just when the agricultural sector is stepping up production in response to riots over food prices, growing hunger, and rising malnutrition."

FOCUS The New York Times: A New Rush to Spy
The New York Times: "There is apparently no limit to the Bush administration's desire to invade Americans' privacy in the name of national security. According to members of Congress, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is preparing to give the F.B.I. broad new authority to investigate Americans - without any clear basis for suspicion that they are committing a crime. Opening the door to sweeping investigations of this kind would be an invitation to the government to spy on people based on their race, religion or political activities. Before Mr. Mukasey goes any further, Congress should insist that the guidelines be fully vetted, and it should make certain that they do not pose a further threat to Americans' civil liberties."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hoping Biden's the one

The New York Times

Barack Obama has decided upon a vice-presidential running mate. And while I don’t know who it is as I write, for the good of the country, I hope he picked Joe Biden.

Biden’s weaknesses are on the surface. He has said a number of idiotic things over the years and, in the days following his selection, those snippets would be aired again and again.

But that won’t hurt all that much because voters are smart enough to forgive the genuine flaws of genuine people. And over the long haul, Biden provides what Obama needs:

Working-Class Roots. Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.

His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.

Even today, after serving for decades in the world’s most pompous workplace, Senator Biden retains an ostentatiously unpretentious manner. He campaigns with an army of Bidens who seem to emerge by the dozens from the old neighborhood in Scranton. He has disdain for privilege and for limousine liberals — the mark of an honest, working-class Democrat.

Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, have trouble connecting with working-class voters, especially Catholic ones. Biden would be the bridge.

Honesty. Biden’s most notorious feature is his mouth. But in his youth, he had a stutter. As a freshman in high school he was exempted from public speaking because of his disability, and was ridiculed by teachers and peers. His nickname was Dash, because of his inability to finish a sentence.

He developed an odd smile as a way to relax his facial muscles (it still shows up while he’s speaking today) and he’s spent his adulthood making up for any comments that may have gone unmade during his youth.

Today, Biden’s conversational style is tiresome to some, but it has one outstanding feature. He is direct. No matter who you are, he tells you exactly what he thinks, before he tells it to you a second, third and fourth time.

Presidents need someone who will be relentlessly direct. Obama, who attracts worshippers, not just staff members, needs that more than most.

Loyalty. Just after Biden was elected to the senate in 1972, his wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash. His career has also been marked by lesser crises. His first presidential run ended in a plagiarism scandal. He nearly died of a brain aneurism.

New administrations are dominated by the young and the arrogant, and benefit from the presence of those who have been through the worst and who have a tinge of perspective. Moreover, there are moments when a president has to go into the cabinet room and announce a decision that nearly everyone else on his team disagrees with. In those moments, he needs a vice president who will provide absolute support. That sort of loyalty comes easiest to people who have been down themselves, and who had to rely on others in their own moments of need.

Experience. When Obama talks about postpartisanship, he talks about a grass-roots movement that will arise and sweep away the old ways of Washington. When John McCain talks about it, he describes a meeting of wise old heads who get together to craft compromises. Obama’s vision is more romantic, but McCain’s is more realistic.

When Biden was a young senator, he was mentored by Hubert Humphrey, Mike Mansfield and the like. He was schooled in senatorial procedure in the days when the Senate was less gridlocked. If Obama hopes to pass energy and health care legislation, he’s going to need someone with that kind of legislative knowledge who can bring the battered old senators together, as in days of yore.

There are other veep choices. Tim Kaine seems like a solid man, but selecting him would be disastrous. It would underline all the anxieties voters have about youth and inexperience. Evan Bayh has impeccably centrist credentials, but the country is not in the mood for dispassionate caution.

Biden’s the one. The only question is whether Obama was wise and self-aware enough to know that.

Truthout roundup 8/22

US Pushes Troop Immunity, Flexible Deadline in Iraq Pact
Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert Burns, The Associated Press: "Iraq and the US pushed close to a deal Thursday setting a course for American combat troops to pull out of major Iraqi cities by next June, with a broader withdrawal from the long and costly war by 2011. Subject to final approval by the top Iraqi leadership, the exit date for U.S. troops would be December 2011, although the Americans insist on linking that target to additional security and political progress."

Now That's Rich’s-rich
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "Last weekend, Pastor Rick Warren asked both presidential candidates to define the income at which 'you move from middle class to rich.' The context of the question was, of course, the difference in the candidates' tax policies. Barack Obama wants to put tax rates on higher-income Americans more or less back to what they were under Bill Clinton; John McCain, who was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them, says that means raising taxes on the middle class."

Ohio Voting Machines Contained Programming Error That Dropped Votes
Mary Pat Flaherty, The Washington Post: "A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges. The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years, said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold."

The Reach of Redlining
Mary Kane, The Washington Independent: "The foreclosure scams that have found a foothold in Prince George's County, Md., these days have a long history. Despite the wealth here, the county has for years been underbanked for its market, with an inadequate number of traditional financial institutions. There has always been an opening for predatory lenders, within and without the community, who count on a long-held mistrust of lenders to seal deals made outside the traditional banking system, said Doyle Niemann, a state legislator who represents Prince George's County and who sponsored the state's recent anti-foreclosure fraud law. That's why people sign loan papers brought to their homes; or rely, as many did here, on an ex-police officer turned foreclosure specialist; or trust in recommendations from a friend alone for a mortgage deal."

Iraq Takes Aim at Leaders of US-Tied Sunni Groups
Richard A. Oppel Jr., The New York Times: "The Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is driving out many leaders of Sunni citizen patrols, the groups of former insurgents who joined the American payroll and have been a major pillar in the decline in violence around the nation. In restive Diyala Province, Unites States and Iraqi military officials say there were orders to arrest hundreds of members of what is known as the Awakening movement as part of large security operations by the Iraqi military. At least five senior members have been arrested there in recent weeks, leaders of the groups say."

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Rasmussen: Obama's projected Electoral College lead narrows

The latest wave of state-by-state polling, market data and national trends have pushed the Rasmussen Reports' Electoral College projections as close as our daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

The latest numbers from the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator show Obama leading in states with 193 Electoral College votes and McCain ahead in states with 183 Electoral College votes. Previously, Obama had enjoyed a 210–165 advantage.

Currently, states with 135 Electoral College votes are leaning slightly in one way or the other, and three states with a total of 27 votes -- Colorado, Nevada and Virginia -- are pure toss-ups.

State-by-state rankings are summarized and details are here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jill Long Thompson proposes committee to review Daniels' privatization contracts

from Hoosiers for Jill

As Indiana's families and economy continue to suffer as a result of the Daniels administration's numerous privatization schemes, today Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson called for a formal review of all state contracts that privatized or outsourced state assets or services.

In a Statehouse news conference today, Long Thompson said, as Governor, she would appoint a bi-partisan committee of Hoosiers from the business, education, social service and government sectors to examine every contract and to evaluate the effectiveness of every privatized function and cost savings claims. Chaired by her running mate, Lieutenant Governor Nominee Dennie Oxley, the committee would also be responsible for making recommendations to her on continuing or canceling existing agreements.

"In his campaign four years ago, Mitch Daniels promised to keep our Indiana tax dollars here to create jobs for Hoosiers. However, as Governor he has done exactly the opposite, privatizing and outsourcing billions of dollars worth of work to foreign and out-of-state companies," said Long Thompson. "Mitch Daniels has repeatedly entered into long-term contracts without thinking about the impact on our citizens or the state's economy - and the results have been disastrous."

"Mitch Daniels' policies have short-changed taxpayers and compromised the safety, security and welfare of our citizens while the private companies that were awarded these contacts make huge profits off of our tax dollars," added Long Thompson. "I believe that money should stay right here in Indiana, and, as Governor, I will fight to make sure that finally happens."

Since taking office in January of 2005, Daniels has privatized or outsourced numerous state government responsibilities including the determination of welfare benefits, food stamps and Medicaid; the operation of a state prison; as well as various functions of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Indiana Department of Administration.

Daniels has also privatized state assets like the Indiana Toll Road, which he leased to a foreign consortium for 75-years, sold state land and has most recently touted plans to privatize the Hoosier Lottery.

"The Governor likes to tell us that privatization saves money or creates efficiencies - but to date, we've never seen any proof of that," said Oxley. "What we have seen is dismal upkeep of state property, poor customer service, unnecessary denial of essential services, a riot at the New Castle Prison and the federal government stepping in to halt the rollout of a privatized program."

"Clearly its time that Hoosiers take a serious look at these contracts and the performance of each of these vendors and that's what this group will do," added Oxley. "We will examine all of the contracts the Daniels administration has gotten us into and look for ways in which we can better hold these vendors accountable for the service, or for ways to cancel agreements that just don't make sense for the State of Indiana."

Long Thompson and Oxley also reiterated their earlier commitment to ban businesses from donating to political campaigns that do work with, or solicit work from, state or local governments. Governor Daniels has accepted contributions for ACS, the firm handling the Family and Social Services Agency contract.

"Dennie and I are going to take a "Hoosiers First" approach to managing the state," said Long Thompson. "That means we are going to work to create a government that includes everyone and works for everyone. That means we are going to use the resources of state government to create economic opportunities right here in Indiana. We are going to build a government whose main objective will be improving the lives of our citizens, instead of making a profit off the backs of working families."

IDC announces dates and venues for 3 gubenatorial debates

The Indiana Debate Commission, a statewide group of like-minded citizens, journalists and access advocates who believe in the value of public debate. The public interest is our primary focus.

2008 Indiana Gubernatorial Debate Schedule

Tuesday, September 16, Star Plaza Theatre - Merrillville
Tuesday, September 23, Jasper Arts Center - Jasper
Tuesday, October 14, Indiana University Auditorium - Bloomington

Follow this link for details, and an opportunity to offer a question for use in the debate(s).

Truthout roundup 8/21

John Nichols Stephanie Tubbs Jones: Champion of Justice
John Nichols, The Nation: "Stephanie Tubbs Jones came on my radar in 1990 when, as a relatively young and little-known Cuyahoga County Judge, she mounted a progressive challenge to a conservative Republican justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. It was an uphill race, and a thankless one at a time when the Ohio Democratic Party was stumbling into a period of deep decline. But Jones kept the contest close, and she made an impression."

J. Sri Raman Post-Musharraf Challenge for Pakistan
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "Two days after Pervez Musharraf stepped down from the nation's presidency, the debate rages on in Pakistan on two questions: where the defeated military dictator will go now and where the country is headed. The third question - about the future of the system itself - has yet to become a dominant theme in Pakistani discourse."

Key US Iraq Strategy in Danger of Collapse
Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers: "A key pillar of the US strategy to pacify Iraq is in danger of collapsing because the Iraqi government is failing to absorb tens of thousands of former Sunni Muslim insurgents who'd joined U.S.-allied militia groups into the country's security forces."

Russia Blocks Georgia's Main Port City
Bela Szandelzsky, The Associated Press: "Russian forces blocked the only land entrance to Georgia's main port city on Thursday, a day before Russia promised to complete a troop pullout from its ex-Soviet neighbor. Armored personnel carriers and troop trucks blocked the bridge to the Black Sea port city of Poti, and Russian forces excavated trenches and set up mortars facing the city. Another group of APCs and trucks were positioned in a nearby wooded area."

Obama Looking to Reform Nominating Process
Dan Balz, The Washington Post: "Barack Obama's campaign will call next week for the creation of a new commission to revise the rules for selecting a presidential nominee in 2012 with a goal of reducing the power of superdelegates, whose role became a major point of contention during the long battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton. The commission also will be urged to redraw the calendar for 2012 to avoid starting the primaries and caucuses so early, and also to look specifically at assuring more uniform rules and standards for those caucuses."

We Love You, but We Need Money

Thursday 21 August 2008

Our readership - does - keep TO going, we know it and we are very proud of it. It's donation time once again. So let's throw something in the hat. And let's keep the direct pressure on the problem. Thanks In Advance (TIA).

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Timidity, and, the definition of insanity

by Don Wheeler

A few weeks back I was involved in a conversation with a relative of mine about the presidential contest. It should be noted that it is entirely possible the event was officiated by a smidge of Tullamore Dew.

At any rate, this relative (hearing my complaints) ventured the claim that both John Edwards AND Barack Obama periodically suffer from "feet of clay". I take the American English translation of that phrase as timidity, and after reflection, find the comparison ludicrous.

It's true we can't know exactly how Edwards would have behaved after securing the nomination, but there is little in his primary campaign that suggests timidity. Whatever one may think of his personal conduct, he advanced a bold, progressive set of policy proposals (which he never strayed from) and clear methods to pay for them. He also had spent two years of his own time in advance of the election studying these issues.

Contrast that with the conduct of the presumptive nominee. Mr. Obama started out with a much more cautious agenda, and has backwatered hard from a significant number of earlier commitments. The examples are numerous and growing, but the assurance that he would filibuster the FISA reauthorization bill if necessary - and instead voted in favor - pretty much sums it up.

This sort of behavior (I was assured by my relative) is SOP, is understandable and should be overlooked. (There is an inherent belief that he'll do better once in office). The extension of that claim was that it was what has to be done to be elected.

Really? I'd suggest the record indicates something else.

For starters, Mr. Obama is in a dead heat with a corpse (no pun intended). While the generic Democrat enjoys a ten point advantage over the generic Republican generally, Mr. Obama is within the margin of error of Mr. McCain in all polls I've seen. And Mr. McCain (as a candidate) is as lame as anyone the Republicans have offered in my memory.

And how have past timid Democratic Party Nominees done?

They could have done better. They all lost - or would have under typical circumstances. Jimmy Carter won after Watergate, because he wasn't a Republican. Bill Clinton won his first term only because Ross Perot siphoned off enough votes from JHW Bush. In fact, I'm not old enough to be sure I know of the last outright, clean Democratic victory. Johnson won because Kennedy was murdered. Kennedy's win might fit the bill, or maybe Truman. But Truman won as an incumbant, didn't he? Wow.

In any case, it was a long time ago.

A very popular definition of insanity characterizes it as continuing to do things that fail under the belief that it (they) will eventually succeed.

Even a cursory look at American History shows clearly that, when times are challenging, a progressive agenda with input from thoughtful conservatives has always served us well.

"We are at the point in our history when we have to leave behind half measures, broken promises, sweet rhetoric.."

Mr. Obama faces observations of his lack of executive and international experience. These are fair concerns, but not overriding. It seems to me the best way to counter these concerns is through the exhibition of strong leadership. Backpedaling on less than bold earlier proposals doesn't reflect strong leadership.

Hopefully, after the convention, the campaign can stake out some new, compelling vision of what can be - and match that vision with some concrete proposals to get us there. I believe the country is starving for true leadership.

Truthout roundup 8/20

Jack Cafferty Is McCain Another George W. Bush?
Jack Cafferty, CNN: "Russia invades Georgia and President Bush goes on vacation. Our president has spent one-third of his entire two terms in office either at Camp David, Maryland, or at Crawford, Texas, on vacation. His time away from the Oval Office included the month leading up to 9/11, when there were signs Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America, and the time Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans. Sen. John McCain takes weekends off and limits his campaign events to one a day. He made an exception for the religious forum on Saturday at Saddleback Church in Southern California. I think he made a big mistake. When he was invited last spring to attend a discussion of the role of faith in his life with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, McCain didn't bother to show up. Now I know why. It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president."

Obama's Ads in Key States Go on Attack
Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times: "Senator Barack Obama has started a sustained and hard-hitting advertising campaign against Senator John McCain in states that will be vital this fall, painting Mr. McCain in a series of commercials as disconnected from the economic struggles of the middle class. Mr. Obama has begun the drive with little fanfare, often eschewing the modern campaign technique of unveiling new spots for the news media before they run in an effort to win added (free) attention. Mr. Obama, whose candidacy has been built in part on a promise to transcend traditional politics, is running the negative commercials on local stations even as he runs generally positive spots nationally, during prime-time coverage of the Olympics. The negative spots reflect the sharper tone Mr. Obama has struck in recent days on the stump as he heads into his party's nominating convention in Denver next week, and seem to address the anxiety among some Democrats that Mr. Obama has not answered a volley of attacks by Mr. McCain with enough force."

Pentagon Plans to Send More Than 12,000 Additional Troops to Afghanistan
Anna Mulrine, US News & World Report: "The Pentagon will be sending 12,000 to 15,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, possibly as soon as the end of this year, with planning underway for a further force buildup in 2009. A request by Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, for three U.S. brigades with support staff has been approved. 'Now that means we just need to figure out a way to get them there,' adds a senior defense official. The troops are slated to arrive earlier than has been previously discussed, on the heels of the deadliest months for American forces in Afghanistan since the war began."

Citizens' US Border Crossings Tracked
Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post: "The federal government has been using its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations. Officials say the Border Crossing Information system, disclosed last month by the Department of Homeland Security in a Federal Register notice, is part of a broader effort to guard against terrorist threats. It also reflects the growing number of government systems containing personal information on Americans that can be shared for a broad range of law enforcement and intelligence purposes, some of which are exempt from some Privacy Act protections."

Two Longtime Alaska Politicians Face Ouster
Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times: "If there have been any immutable facts of life in a state chiseled by shifting glaciers, it is the state's two iconic politicians: Stevens, 84, the nation's longest-serving Republican senator; and Don Young, 75, the Republican who has held Alaska's only House seat for the last 35 years... But the two men who once were considered unbeatable now face bruising fights in Tuesday's primary election that could put their once solidly Republican congressional seats up for grabs. Both have been caught up in a long-running federal investigation that has already seen three GOP state lawmakers, the former governor's chief of staff and three others convicted on corruption charges."

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On Washington’s Primary, Or, It Might Be Time For Republicans To Worry

I’m supposed to be finishing another story tonight, but I’ve just come from Darcy Burner’s primary night party…and I have in front of me the results of the important races tonight in Washington’s newfangled “top two” primary.

It is unfair to extrapolate the results of elections in the “People’s Republic of Washington” directly onto a national map, but as I look as these results it seems fair to say that if any Republican strategists aren’t sweating bullets this morning it’s because they’ll be hustling for votes in towns like Maggie Valley, North Carolina (don’t forget to stop by Saratoga’s for the Wednesday night jazz…)…or, perhaps, Bessemer Bend, Wyoming.

For the rest of the Republican community, tonight’s events are not good news.

We have a fair amount to cover, so let’s get to it.

First, a few words on the unusual new primary system. The “top two” primary was brought to law through the initiative process after the United States Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the old system.

How does the new primary work? Simple. The two candidates with the most votes in any primary election move on to the general. (There is an exception: judges are elected in this State; and candidates with “50% + 1” votes in the primary automatically win the election. They do not appear on the general election ballot.)

Odd results could occur. For example, there can be occasions where two Democratic or two Republican candidates are the top two finishers in a primary (or two of another party, theoretically…), which could leave either no Democratic or no Republican candidate—or potentially no Democrat and no Republican--in the general as a candidate for that position.

This will in fact happen in Washington’s Legislative District 7, Position 1 race, as four Republicans square off against each other today, with the top two Republicans making it to the general election ballot.

There is also great controversy over who can be a Democrat or a Republican; the current law allows the candidate to self-identify party affiliation, much to the frustration of both the Democratic and Republican Party establishments, who see the potential for considerable mischief in the arrangement. They also cite First Amendment “free association” issues and “branding” concerns.

All that controversy notwithstanding, about 75 well-wishers have shown up on a rainy night to see Darcy Burner, who is running for the second time against former Sheriff Dave (“I investigated the Green River Killer”) Reichert; each hoping to serve as the Representative from Washington’s 8th Congressional District in the 111th Congress.

She lost by about 7,000 votes to Reichert two years ago (out of 250,000 cast), and this race has attracted national attention as Reichert, naturally, is perceived to be vulnerable…and she is no longer perceived as unknown.

And judging by the results as they came in, she was again close…but she could not crack the 3% difference that was keeping them apart (47%-44%). In the King County voting she was only 462 votes behind Reichert, and the remainder of the difference is Reichert’s 2,100 vote lead in Pierce County.

Here’s the bad news for Reichert:

He’s a two-term incumbent from a district that has sent Republicans to Congress the past 8 elections—and he’s only leading by just those 2,600 votes—with lots of media money yet to come to the fight on the Democratic side and a public apparently ready to vote for change.

For the rest of Republican America…well, have a look at the Governor’s race:

Chris Gregiore (recently shortened from Christine) has the distinction of winning the closest gubernatorial election in American history (her margin, after two recounts and a lawsuit: 133 votes out of 2.8 million votes cast). She faces Dino Rossi, her 2004 opponent, again in this election…and you might expect the race would be just as tough for her. Rossi, and many others, certainly felt that was the case on August 14th.

It wasn’t. At the moment, with more than 98% of the primary vote counted, she’s leading by a 49% to 45% margin…suggesting the Don’t Know Dino ads are hitting the mark…and that the “fact check” response from the Rossi campaign is not.

Rossi issued this statement:

“We had a strong showing in the primary tonight. Current returns show we have received over 45 percent of the vote. To put these results into perspective, during the 2004 campaign I received just 34 percent of the vote in the primary and the General Election turned out to be significantly closer.”

Rossi’s name recognition will not be growing in this campaign, as it did during the ’04 cycle, and as a result he may have trouble growing his vote. Let me tell you, if your friendly fake consultant was working for Rossi, there’s a good chance that Prilosec might become part of the daily armor.

This is not the worst news for Republican strategists.

The worst news is found in the statewide “State Executive” positions that are partisan elected offices. For example…

…consider the State Treasurer position. “Treasurer-For-Life” Mike Murphy is not running for re-election, pitting two “zero name recognition” candidates against each other…and right now the Democrat, Jim McIntire, is losing by 29,000 out of 772,000 votes (44% to 40%), with only 24% of the voters showing up.

To make things a bit worse, the State’s three largest counties, with nearly 50% of the electorate between them (and counties that are often fertile ground for Democrats) are voting at less than the statewide average, suggesting turnout in Democratic-trending counties will be higher in November than it was today…especially with Obama at the top of the ticket.

…more downticket trouble for the Rs can be found in the Commissioner of Public Lands election, where Peter Goldmark (who might have been director of the State’s Department of Agriculture but still has no Statewide name recognition…) is running pretty much neck-and-neck with longtime incumbent Doug Sutherland, 50% to 49%.

Just so you know, Eastern Washington is fire engine red, electorally…and Western Washington’s more rural counties often provide the swing vote…which makes Goldmark’s success more surprising, as he’s an Eastern Washington Democrat.

…Democrat Jason Osgood, who previously worked with Washington Citizens for Fair Elections, pulled 33% of the vote in a Secretary of State race against the Republican incumbent Sam Reed, despite having no Statewide presence of any kind…or any name recognition, for that matter.

Of the nine Congressional Districts, the primary results suggest two safe Republican seats (WA-04 and WA-05), one uncertain race (the aforementioned WA-08), and at least six Democrats (WA-All The Others).

If Obama can raise turnout by an extra 3,000 new voters in WA-08, the resulting Delegation would be 7-2 Democratic…which would represent raising turnout by only 1% of the currently registered voters in that District.

…Spokane has two zero name recognition State Legislative candidates running for an empty seat, and the Democrat and Republican are running nearly even in a part of the State that should offer natural advantages to the Republican.

John Ahern, a 4-term Republican State Representative, also from Spokane, is also running in a near dead heat (50%-49%) against John Driscoll, who would be the first Democrat elected to this position since 1938.

In a Benton County race with no incumbent running (Conan O’Brien in the sun red, demographically), Carol Moser is stomping the Republican 40% to 18% in her Legislative race.

Incumbent Republican Jim Dunn is losing badly to Democrat Tim Probst (49% to 18%) in a Vancouver Legislative race that also would seem to favor Republicans.

I could go on and on, but this gives us a few general trends to examine:

Without Obama at the top of the ticket, Democrats are either staying close in Statewide elections—with no “name recognition” candidates—or grabbing the apparent lead in previously reliable Republican Legislative strongholds. In my quick search of the State Legislative results I could not find an incumbent Democrat who has fewer votes than a Republican challenger.

If Obama can bring enough new voters to the polls to raise turnout 1% WA-08 likely goes to Darcy Burner.

And finally, a Governor’s race that should have been much closer…ain’t.

There are several states (North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado…maybe even Indiana) where this trend could be a harbinger of very good things to come--and as I said at the top, outside of Maggie Valley and Bessemer Bend, the Republicans—especially downticket Republicans--might just be in a lot more trouble than they ever imagined.

An open letter from a Knoxville UU

I am sending this email to my many friends in both the United States and abroad. For some of you, this will come as the first time you have gotten this news. For others, I hope that it will update you on how we are doing.

I assume all of you have heard about the tragic events that took place this past Sunday July 27th the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. Diane and I were both there, and were the east side of the sanctuary where the gunman entered and were only a few feet from the people who were shot. At this point two have died, including our good friend Greg McKendry. Others, several of whom are not members of our church, but were visiting that day are seriously injured. Fortunately the gunman was restrained by members of the after shooting three rounds. It could have been so much worse if not for the heroism of some of our friends who were in position to stop him before he reloaded the gun. Physically we are both fine, and in time with support from others, many of whom were also there, we will recover and be stronger from this experience.

Diane and I have been active members of the TVUUC since we joined in 1991. We initially went to find a place of non-dogmatic religious education for our son Ben in a part of the country where Christian fundamentalism is often the norm. It is a common motivation for many people who join TVUUC. Here we found a loving and progressive community, with a congregation involved in doing good works in the world and in caring for each other. Diane has chaired the annual church auction a few years and been active in the art gallery. She also organizes a monthly dinner and a movie night for women in the church called ¬?Women¬?s Table.¬? I have served on the board, chaired the annual canvass to raise pledges for the next years budget, taught Sunday School and have been involved a various design projects for the church, including the church logo and sign used as a backdrop for the international press covering the shootings.

Both of us are very proud of our church. In the 1906s TVUUC played a leadership role in the civil rights movement in Knoxville. We have been an anchor for KIN, an interfaith organization here as well. Unitarian Universalists were the first to ordain women ministers and to hold union ceremonies for same sex couples. In recent years we have strived to provide a church home for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in our community. We also have host a monthly coffee house for GBLT teenagers. Too often these youth are at risk for suicide, especially in a culture where they are openly persecuted. TVUUC has also been involved in efforts to improve reading skills at an inter-city elementary school and to prepare meals at a homeless shelter. Being associated with this church community has made both of us better people both in our outward deeds and inner lives. The website is:

The day following the shooting we have learned that the gunman left a four-page letter in which he wrote that he targeted TVUUC , "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 major media outlets." He also targeted gays and blacks in his letter. The FBI should certainly prosecute this as a hate crime.

The day following the shootings Diane and I attended a 2 hour counseling session for a group of people from our church - most of whom were there. It was healing - and a candlelight service followed, with the President of the UUA Reverend William Sinkford presiding. At the end, the children lead us in singing the song ¬?Tomorrow¬? from the musical ¬?Annie Jr.¬? - which was cut short by the gunman. Some of the recent blogs about the event have been critical of us for presenting a musical as part of a church service. One of the things we love about Unitarian Universalism is that we allow people to find religious truth in many places ¬? including Broadway musicals. Being able to do so is essential religious freedom. The service, in which compassion was expressed for the gunman himself was a beautiful response to an act of hate.

Both Diane and I are so proud of our community but also aware that standing for what is right in the world comes at a cost. This experience has strengthened our resolve to affirm life and continue down this path, as part of this loving community.

We appreciate the phone calls and emails we have received from many of you.

Love, Beauvais

Beauvais Lyons, Professor of Art
and Director of the Hokes Archives
School of Art, 1715 Volunteer Blvd.
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-2410 USA
Hokes Archives:
UTK Printmaking:
IMPACT Conference:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/19 (updated)

Weissman McCain's War: Playing With Nuclear Fire
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "John McCain calls the conflict in Georgia 'the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War,' and he is doing everything he can to make it his own, even at the cost of upstaging the shrinking President Bush. But the tragedy in Georgia also reveals the most embarrassing foreign policy blunder since - well, since the Bush administration decided to wage a preemptive war in Iraq. If deep thinkers in Washington insist on setting up a string of client states to encircle Russia, they should never let the puppets pull their own strings, as [Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili appears to have done when he sent his army into rebellious South Ossetia."

Obama Ready to Announce Running Mate This Week
Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times: "Senator Barack Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning, aides said. Mr. Obama's deliberations remain remarkably closely held. Aides said perhaps a half-dozen advisers were involved in the final discussions in an effort to enforce a command that Mr. Obama issued to staff members: that his decision not leak out until supporters are notified. Mr. Obama had not notified his choice - or any of those not selected - of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Mr. Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware."

In Musharraf's Wake, US Faces Political Disarray
Jane Perlez, The International Herald Tribune: "Facing imminent impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday, after months of belated recognition by American officials that he had become a waning asset in the campaign against terrorism. The decision removes from Pakistan's political stage the leader who for nearly nine years served as one of the United States' most important - and ultimately unreliable - allies. And it now leaves American officials to deal with a new, elected coalition that has so far proven itself to be unwilling or incapable of confronting an expanding Taliban insurgency determined to topple the government."

James K. Galbraith How to Burn the Speculators
James K. Galbraith, Mother Jones: "Whenever economies sour, politicians blame speculators. But on occasion, they are right to do so. Speculators did wreak havoc in 1630s Holland, 1720s France, and in the American stock market in 1929. That crash led to the Great Depression and 60 years of tight controls on speculation. Now, thanks to our 30-year infatuation with free markets, the controls are off, and the mad gamblers are at it again. Yesterday's burst bubble was housing; today's expanding ones are energy and food. True, we have major long-term energy problems that cannot be laid at the feet of speculators.... But do supply and demand explain oil prices at $140 per barrel, with voices from Goldman Sachs projecting $200 for next year (a figure that would push gas prices above $5 per gallon) and Russia's Gazprom saying $250, despite a likely US recession? Do they explain the historic price hikes in rice, corn, and wheat, leading to hunger in the developing world? Do they explain the absolutely stratospheric price of copper? No they do not."

Water Progresses, Sanitation Regresses
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service: "The world's poorest nations are making halting progress in water, but little or no tangible improvement in sanitation -- two of the basic necessities of life. As far as the global state of sanitation is concerned, says Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), 'It's one of the world's greatest scandals.' Addressing the 18th international water conference in the Swedish capital Monday, Berntell said that 2.5 billion people still lack access to adequate sanitation, resulting in some 1.4 million preventable child deaths due to diarrhoeal diseases each year."

Keith Olbermann McCain: Senator, Grow Up!
Keith Olbermann, MSNBC: "Senator McCain - on the 22nd of May, 2003 ... you said, of Iraq, on the Senate floor, quote: 'We won a massive victory in a few weeks, and we did so with very limited loss of American and allied lives. We were able to end aggression with minimum overall loss of life, and we were even able to greatly reduce the civilian casualties of Afghani and Iraqi citizens.' Senator - you declared victory in Iraq, five years and nearly three months ago. Today you say: 'victory in Iraq is finally in sight?' The victory you already proclaimed five years ago?"

Dozens Killed in Algerian Police Bombing
Agence France-Presse: "A suicide attack Tuesday on a police school killed 43 people and wounded 38, authorities said as Algeria reeled from its worst militant assault this year. An Al-Qaeda group has claimed previous suicide attacks in Algeria but officials gave no indication who was behind the attack on candidates waiting to take an examination at Issers, 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Algiers."

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III Is Obama the End of Black Politics? A Ridiculous Question
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "On August 10, 2008, The New York Times published an article by Matt Bai entitled 'Is Obama the End of Black Politics?' The premise of the article is that in 2008, 60 years after Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party over the issue of integrating the armed forces and 45 years after Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, the Democratic Party is poised to deliver its nomination for the nation's highest office to an African-American, and this somehow signals the end of black politics. To equate Senator Obama's historic campaign for the highest office in the land and presumed nomination by the Democratic Party with the end of black politics demonstrates that the author does not understand either issue."

Anti-Regulation Aide to Cheney Is Up for Energy Post
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post: "A senior aide to Vice President Cheney is the leading contender to become a top official at the Energy Department, according to several current and former administration officials, a promotion that would put one of the administration's most ardent opponents of environmental regulation in charge of forming department policies on climate change."

Christopher Moraff Feeding the Beast: Federal Agencies in Shambles
Christopher Moraff, In These Times: "When President Bush exits the White House in January, he will leave behind a federal government in shambles. Since his first term, Bush has pressed forward with a radical view of the executive branch. Beyond adopting autocratic positions on foreign policy and taking broad liberties to subvert the Bill of Rights, Bush has waged a quieter - and perhaps more damaging - war at home against the very agencies under his charge."

Serge Truffaut The Great Accomplice
Serge Truffaut, Le Devoir: "Setting off a year ago, the financial crisis has forced banks to write off billions of dollars, on top of entrapping hundreds of thousands of people into bankruptcy. Not long ago, the three strokes of Act Two sounded. It's theme? Reregulation and the rat race it will give rise to."

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Wheeler launches bid for South Bend School Board

by Don Wheeler

Today I filed petitions to run in the November election for South Bend School Corporation Board of Trustees. I also launched a new campaign website to convey why I'm running and what I hope to accomplish if elected.

I want to make clear that I'm not running against anything or anyone; rather, I'm running for a better outcome for our children. I don't claim great expertise in the field of education, but I'm a quick learner. I also have a lot of experience working on or with governing boards and understand the proper relationship with chief administrators.

Our daughter entered Kindergarten this year, and I have reflected recently upon my experience in the Dream Team for Unity Mentoring Program. These experiences inform me, and certain things seem clear. I plan to discuss this and other things with you in the coming weeks.

The coporate free ride

The editors of The New York Times
Published: August 18, 2008

Here is a crazy idea to address the United States’ gaping fiscal deficit: persuade corporate America to start paying taxes. Study Tallies Corporations Not Paying Income Tax (August 13, 2008)

An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that almost two-thirds of companies in the United States usually pay no corporate income taxes. Big companies, those with more than $50 million in sales or $250 million in assets, are less likely to avoid Uncle Sam altogether. Still, about a quarter of them report no tax liability either.

The G.A.O., which looked at tax returns from 1998 through 2005, does not tell us exactly how so many corporations managed to avoid the taxman. It simply notes that they were able to record sufficient expenses — salaries, interest and “other deductions” — to cancel out their taxable income.

We find it hard to believe that some two-thirds of American companies fail to turn a profit. What we find easier to believe is that corporations have become increasingly skilled at tax-avoidance strategies, including transfer pricing — overcharging their American units for products and services provided by subsidiaries abroad to artificially reduce their profits here.

The first place to look for money to close the budget deficit should be among the high-income individuals who have been treated so generously by the Bush administration. But corporate America has been getting a free pass for far too long. And the seeming ease with which corporations escape the taxman altogether compounds a fundamental unfairness in the American economy.

Even as corporate profits have soared — reaching a record of 14.1 percent of the nation’s total income in 2006 — the percentage of these profits paid out in taxes is near its lowest level since the 1930s.

It is a uniquely American paradox. This country’s corporate tax rates are among the highest in the industrial world, yet the taxes that corporations pay are among the lowest. With an enormous budget deficit and pressing demands for better health care and other social programs, America can no longer afford free riders.

It's the economy stupor

New York Times

By rights, John McCain should be getting hammered on economics.

After all, Mr. McCain proposes continuing the policies of a president who’s had a truly dismal economic record — job growth under the current administration has been the slowest in 60 years, even slower than job growth under the first President Bush. And the public blames the White House, giving Mr. Bush spectacularly low ratings on his handling of the economy.

Meanwhile, The Times reports that, according to associates, Mr. McCain still “dials up” Phil Gramm, the former senator who resigned as co-chairman of the campaign after calling America a “nation of whiners” and dismissing the country’s economic woes as nothing more than a “mental recession.” And Mr. Gramm is still considered a top pick for Treasury secretary.

So Mr. McCain would seem to offer a target a mile wide: a die-hard supporter of failed economic policies who takes his advice from people completely out of touch with the lives of working Americans.

But while polls continue to show that the public, by a large margin, trusts Democrats more than Republicans to handle the economy, recent polling shows that Barack Obama has at best a small edge over Mr. McCain on the issue — four points in a recent Time magazine poll, and he is one point behind according to Rasmussen Reports, which does automated polling. And Mr. Obama’s failure to achieve a decisive edge on economic policy is central to his failure to open up a big lead in overall polling.

Why isn’t the Obama campaign getting more traction on economic issues?

It’s not the Republican offensive on offshore drilling. It’s true that many Americans have apparently been misled by bogus claims about gas price relief. But as I’ve already pointed out, Democrats in general retain a large edge on economic issues.

Nor is there any valid basis for the complaints, highlighted in Sunday’s Times, that Mr. Obama isn’t offering enough policy specifics. Delve into the Obama campaign Web site and you’ll find plenty of policy detail. And the campaign’s ads reel off lots of specific policy proposals — too many, if you ask me.

No, the problem isn’t lack of specifics — it’s lack of passion. When it comes to the economy, Mr. Obama’s campaign seems oddly lethargic.

I was astonished at the flatness of the big economy speech he gave in St. Petersburg at the beginning of this month — a speech that was billed as the start of a new campaign focus on economic issues. Mr. Obama is a great orator, yet he began that speech with a litany of statistics that were probably meaningless to most listeners.

Worse yet, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid scoring political points. “Back in the 1990s,” he declared, “your incomes grew by $6,000, and over the last several years, they’ve actually fallen by nearly $1,000.” Um, not quite: real median household income didn’t rise $6,000 during “the 1990s,” it did so during the Clinton years, after falling under the first Bush administration. Income hasn’t fallen $1,000 in “recent years,” it’s fallen under George Bush, with all of the decline taking place before 2005.

Obama surrogates have shown a similar inclination to go for the capillaries rather than the jugular. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by two Obama advisers offered another blizzard of statistics almost burying the key point — that most Americans would pay lower taxes under the Obama tax plan than under the McCain plan.

All this makes a stark contrast with the campaign of the last Democrat to make it to the White House, who had no trouble conveying passion over matters economic.

In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in 1992, a year in which economic conditions somewhat resembled those today, Bill Clinton denounced his opponent as someone “caught in the grip of a failed economic theory.” Where Mr. Obama spoke cryptically in St. Petersburg about a “reckless few” who “game the system, as we’ve seen in this housing crisis” — I know what he meant, I think, but how many voters got it? — Mr. Clinton declared that “those who play by the rules and keep the faith have gotten the shaft, and those who cut corners and cut deals have been rewarded.” That’s the kind of hard-hitting populism that’s been absent from the Obama campaign so far.

Of course, Mr. Obama hasn’t given his own acceptance speech yet. Al Gore found a new populist fervor in August 2000, and surged in the polls. A comparable surge by Mr. Obama would give him a landslide victory this year.

But it’s up to him. If Mr. Obama can’t find the passion on economic matters that has been lacking in his campaign so far, he may yet lose this election.

Truthout roundup 8/18

t r u t h o u t 08.18

Musharraf Announces His Resignation, Avoids Impeachment
Naween A. Mangi and Khalid Qayum, Bloomberg: "Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, the dictator who reinvented himself as a US ally against terrorism, resigned to avoid facing impeachment charges for illegally seizing power and mishandling the economy. 'This is not time for individual bravado. I lose or win in impeachment proceedings, the Pakistani nation will be the loser,' Musharraf, 65, said in a one-hour address to the nation. 'After taking advice from my supporters and friends, I have decided to resign in the best interests of the nation.' Musharraf's departure after a six-month standoff frees up the coalition government to tackle an economy growing at the slowest pace since 2003, leaving half the population short of food."

McCaskill Says McCain Undercut Bush on Georgia
Klaus Marre, The Hill: "Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Sunday accused Republican presidential candidate John McCain of undermining the Bush administration with his tough talk on Russia. 'I think John McCain's reaction to what happened in Russia did not reflect well on the position he should have taken, and that is one of understanding we have one president in this country, and that Secretary of State Rice and President Bush need the support of both presidential candidates in a very tricky time as it relates to Russia and the neighboring states that are trying to establish democracies,' McCaskill said of the Arizona senator's reaction to the conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia."

Ohio's Election Stolen Again?
Advancement Project and Project Vote: "Based on publicly available information nearly 600,000 eligible voters could be placed on a caging list and challenged on Election Day, which could then result in their removal from the voter rolls without due process, in accordance with Ohio law. Ohio counties with largest numbers of returned notices prior to March 2008 Presidential Primary are Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit. In 2005, Ohio's General Assembly introduced legislation, House Bill 3 (H.B.3) that overhauled Ohio's election system. H.B. 3, in part, requires voter information mailings and amends Ohio's challenge statute(s). In particular, it requires that 88 county boards of election mail all Ohio registered voters a non-forwardable notice 60 days before the election. Each board must compile into a list any notices that are returned as undeliverable. These lists, in turn, are available as public records to any individual or group seeking to use the list as a 'caging list' to challenge voters."

J. Sri Raman A Prachanda as a Prime Minister
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "No one quite knows what his official name will be as the prime minister of Nepal. Media reports have so far referred to him as 'Pushpa Kumar Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre of Prachanda.' Wikipedia calls him 'Pushpa Kumar Dahal (alias Prachanda).' The Nepal government's web site stays noncommittal. Click on 'The Prime Minister's Office,' and you are directed to a page that says: 'under construction.' Also under construction, we may say, is a new image of the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or the CPN (M), elected by an 80 percent majority in the country's interim parliament on August 15, 2008. Originally Pushpa Kumar Dahal, he adopted the name of Prachanda (the Fierce One) ...."

The American School Where Teachers Carry a Pen, a Ruler and ... a Gun
Andrew Clark, The Guardian UK: "When teachers return for a new school term in the tiny Texas farming town of Harrold, they can bring a extra tool of the trade alongside books, pens and worksheets. To defend pupils from any gun-toting maniacs, they can carry loaded pistols into the classroom. With barely 300 residents, the remote rural community in the state's northern dustbowl has appalled gun control advocates by becoming the first in the US to allow its teachers to bear concealed firearms."

Dean Baker Swift Boat Economics
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Tarred with the most dismal record of job creation and income growth of any president since the Great Depression, it would be reasonable to expect that Senator McCain would be defensive on the economy; but not in Swift boat America. Instead Senator McCain is filling the airwaves with commercials telling the public that Obama's tax increases will slow growth and cost the economy jobs. It's pretty scary stuff to anyone who takes it seriously."

US Watched as a Squabble Turned Into a Showdown
Helen Cooper, CJ Chivers and Clifford J. Levy, The New York Times: "The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity."

Top CEOs Give Ten Times More to McCain Than to Obama
Michael O'Brien, The Hill: "The top executives of America's biggest companies are more willing to open their wallets for John McCain than his Democratic rival, donating 10 times as much to the Arizona senator's campaign as to Barack Obama's."

Tour of Tskhinvali Undercuts Russian Claim of Genocide
Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers: "As Russian troops pounded through Georgia last week, the Kremlin and its allies repeatedly pointed to one justification above all others: The Georgian military had destroyed the city of Tskhinvali ... But a trip to the city on Sunday, without official escorts, revealed a very different picture. While it was clear there had been heavy fighting - missiles knocked holes in walls, and bombs tore away rooftops - almost all of the buildings seen in an afternoon driving around Tskhinvali were still standing."

Dan Bacher Bad News: Senate Votes Down Fisheries Rescue
Dan Bacher, Truthout: "Yesterday the California Senate failed to pass AB 1806, the landmark bill by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) that would have required the state and federal Delta export pumping operations to fully mitigate for the damage they have caused to fisheries."

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/17

Michael Dobbs looks at the Georgia-Russia conflict from a historical perspective; Frank Rich sheds light on the real McCain; Obama campaigning hard in North Carolina; Terrence McNally interviews Susan Jacoby on the dumbing down of America; Democrats expect to increase their majority in the Senate; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.17

Michael Dobbs "We Are All Georgians"? Not So Fast
Michael Dobbs, The Washington Post: "It is unclear how the simmering tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia came to the boil this month. The Georgians say that they were provoked by the shelling of Georgian villages from Ossetian-controlled territory. While this may well be the case, the Georgian response was disproportionate. On the night of August 7 and into August 8, Saakashvili ordered an artillery barrage against Tskhinvali and sent an armored column to occupy the town. He apparently hoped that Western support would protect Georgia from major Russian retaliation."

Frank Rich The Candidate We Still Don’t Know
Frank Rich, The New York Times: "What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president's response to Katrina; he fought the 'agents of intolerance' of the religious right; he crusaded against the GOP House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers. With the exception of McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct."

Obama Backers Mobilize in Bid to Wrest North Carolina From Republican Grip
Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times: "Despite the relentless heat, and midsummer lull, the Obama campaign is mobilizing in North Carolina. The state is one of half a dozen once-solid Republican bastions, including Georgia, Indiana and Virginia, where Democrats now sniff opportunity to expand the electoral map. They hope that North Carolina's growth, especially among high-tech workers in Research Triangle Park, will help change voting patterns that are decades old. But the Obama strategy relies on a surge among black voters and young people, two groups that have not turned out in great numbers in recent elections."

Terrence McNally How Anti-Intellectualism Is Destroying America
Terrence McNally, AlterNet: "'It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant.' Barack Obama finally said it. Though a successful political and electoral strategy, the Right's stand against intelligence has steered them far off course, leaving them - and us - unable to deal successfully with the complex and dynamic circumstances we face as a nation and a society."

Forces Align Against Republicans in Senate Races
Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The Associated Press: "With President Bush's ratings at rock-bottom, fewer Republicans signing up to vote, and voters nationally gravitating toward Democrats in public polls, the GOP is bracing for defeats in November that will expand Democrats' now razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate. Democrats have solid chances of winning five seats, according to strategists in both parties and public polls, and realistic shots at picking off another three to five Republican senators. Republicans have only one good opportunity for replacing a Democrat, in Louisiana."

My letter to Half In Ten

To whom it may concern,

A growing number of folks have been voicing their concern that you are in the process of disassociating yourself with former Senator John Edwards. After viewing your website this morning, I am unable to tell if these fears are justified. But I am writing you to weigh in as a precautionary measure.

Whatever one may think of Mr. Edwards' personal conduct, there is a body of work which demands and commands respect. No one (certainly since 1968) has been more vocal, energetic and resolute an advocate for the poor than John R. Edwards.

In fact, the Campaign To Change America changed this American. It is entirely due to John Edwards that I have jumped in with both feet into so many matters of social action and justice over the past year and a half. It is entirely due to John Edwards that I even know about your project.

You may find this odd, but because of my association I have come to regard John and Elizabeth as members of my extended family. I guess all families handle conflict differently, but in ours while we are free to register disappointment with a member's actions - once voiced, we move on. We don't forget what binds us together, we don't forget the joys and successes of the past...we learn and grow.

Your campaign will suffer without his strong leadership. I hope you will consider your options very carefully.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Don Wheeler
Progressives, South Bend

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/16

Russia and Georgia have signed a truce; Senator Stevens caught on tape promising to help oil contractor; Denver unveils warehouse for processing mass arrests during convention; Labor groups file elections complaint against Wal-Mart; NOW to air program on the border fence; and more... Browse our continually updating front page at

Russia Signs Georgia Truce, Uncertainty Remains
Christopher Torchia, The Associated Press: "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a truce with Georgia on Saturday, a definitive step toward ending the fighting there despite the uncertainty on the ground reflected by Russian soldiers digging in just 30 miles from the Georgian capital. The agreement was signed by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili the day before. It calls for both sides forces to pull back to positions they held before fighting erupted August 8 after Georgia launched a massive barrage to try to take control of the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia. The Russian army quickly overwhelmed the forces of its small US-backed neighbor and then drove deep into Georgia."

Prosecutors: Stevens Helped Oil Contractor
Del Quentin Wilber, The Washington Post: "Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) quickly turned a $5,000 Florida condo investment into a profit of more than $100,000 in a questionable transaction that federal prosecutors would like to introduce as evidence at his trial next month on charges that he lied on financial disclosure forms. The investment and other details of investigators' case were disclosed late Thursday in a flurry of court papers filed by prosecutors and defense lawyers gearing up for the first trial of a sitting US Senator in more than two decades. The trial is tentatively scheduled to start September 22."

Warehouse Set to Process Democratic Convention Arrests
P. Solomon Banda, The Associated Press: "Individuals arrested at the Democratic National Convention will be processed at an industrial warehouse with chain-link cells topped by razor wire, a facility some have compared to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. Groups planning marches, concerts and other events during the August 25-28 convention dub the center 'Gitmo on the Platte,' for the nearby South Platte River. Video footage of the north Denver warehouse on Denver's KCNC-TV showed coils of razor wire topping chain-link cells. A sign read: 'Electric stun devices used here.'"

Groups File Elections Complaint Against Wal-Mart
The Associated Press: "The AFL-CIO and three other labor-rights groups have asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unlawfully pressured employees to vote against Democrats in November because their party would help workers to unionize. The groups - which include Change to Win, American Rights at Work and - say in a complaint processed on Friday with the FEC that 'there is reason to believe' Wal-Mart broke federal election rules by advocating against Democratic candidate Barack Obama in meetings with employees."

NOW: The Border Fence
This week's NOW on PBS: "Is America's border fence working, or an utter waste? What's 'really' going on with the federal fence-building project along America's southern border? On the Left and on the Right, it's making people very angry. Are private contractors making billions on a project that won't work?"

FOCUS Six Blackwater Guards Near Indictment
Del Quentin Wilber and Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors have sent target letters to six Blackwater Worldwide security guards involved in a September shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, indicating a high likelihood the Justice Department will seek to indict at least some of the men, according to three sources close to the case. The guards, all former US military personnel, were working as security contractors for the State Department, assigned to protect US diplomats and other non-military officials in Iraq. The shooting occurred when their convoy arrived at a busy square in central Baghdad and guards tried to stop traffic."

The Georgia situation

from Joe Miller

The atrocities that have been committed in Georgia by all sides are truly horrendous. That said, and no doubt like many of you, I was skeptical of mainstream media (MSM) accounts that trumpeted the administration's line, placing most or all of the blame on Russia, and that echoed the administration's outrage and "humanitarian" concern about the assault on Georgian "democracy" (1, 2, 3). So I did a little reading.

Virtually none of the MSM accounts described the hypocrisy and total absence of moral authority in the administration's condemnation of the Russian actions (3, 4, 5), and virtually none provided any analysis of the reasons for which the administration and a compliant Congress has poured so much money and military training into Georgia (resulting, in part, in a significant Georgian troop presence in Iraq) (3, 8). Absent from virtually all the MSM accounts also was any mention of the strategic and financial importance that both the U.S. and Russia assign to their ability to control the flow of oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea through the BTC pipeline in Azerbaijan and Georgia, and the major contribution of this factor to the crisis (6, 3, 4).

Also absent from MSM accounts was any mention of how the Georgian crisis potentially benefits McCain's campaign, or of the "interesting" background of McCain's senior foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. The following is Robert Scheer's description [in brackets] of Scheunemann (7; see also 8 and 4).

[..."consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government who ended his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq."]

As Michael Winship asserts in a description of an upcoming Bill Moyers' interview, "the fighting between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia is an unnerving reminder ... of how quickly the balance of global power can be tilted from unexpected directions with barely a warning." (9). This tilt will become even more pronounced as a result of Poland's recent decision to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base (10).



1. FAIR: Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame 8/14/08

2. Dave Lindorff: This War Report Has Been Approved by Your Government 8/13/08

3. Stephen Zunes: US Role in Georgia Crisis 8/15/08

4. William D. Hartung - Georgia: Background to War 8/15/08

5. Juan Cole - Putin’s War Enablers: Bush and Cheney 8/14/08

6. Michael Klare - Russia and Georgia: All About Oil 8/13/08

7. Robert Scheer: Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy? 8/13/08

8. Steve Weissman: Big Bad Russkies and Nasty Neocons 8/14/08

9. Michael Winship: Andrew Bacevich, America and the World 8/15/08

10. Jim Heintz - Russia: Poland Risks Attack Because of US Missiles 8/15/08

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

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's past time for South Bend to amend human rights law

from The South Bend Tribune Viewpoint
published August 15, 2008

In the summer of 2006 an amendment to South Bend's Human Rights Ordinance was introduced in the South Bend Common Council. The concept of the original HRO was to protect citizens from discrimination in housing, the workplace, etc., but a clear gap in that protection had been identified. It was pointed out that there was no protection for citizens on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — real or perceived.

Like many people, I read about this with only passing interest. It seemed clear there was a problem, a clear solution had been proposed ... it seemed to be mostly just a housekeeping type of issue.

Imagine my astonishment when the amendment failed by one vote.

I had paid scant attention to the opposition's rhetoric. The claims were factually incorrect and the concerns seemed clearly based upon fear and dislike of people different than themselves. It seemed unnecessary to point out the irrationality.

I should have known better ... because these arguments have a familiar ring to them.

I grew up in Evanston, Ill., and in the late 1960s, it was a common practice that Realtors did not show homes in certain neighborhoods to people of color. By city ordinance (at any rate) this was not illegal. But it came to pass that many people in the community loathed the practice and dedicated themselves to ending it. My mother was one of those people.

She and I marched on several occasions, over many weeks, holding signs, chanting and singing for several miles each time. Each time we would rally at an African-American church at the beginning and another at the end. For a Caucasian boy approaching his teen years, it was quite an experience.

The rhetoric in opposition to our cause was typical of any case where certain people wish to retain institutionalized discrimination. Phrases like "we know what's best for these folks," and "it would be giving these folks special status, special rights" are merely code for a desire to dominate and oppress and — let's face it — they're inspired by hatred and fear.

So when I hear people say things such as, offering people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered equal protection under the law amounts to "special rights," I am not fooled. I've heard this stuff before.

And it's pretty frustrating that all that's asked for in the proposed amendment is a place to complain about ill treatment. That place doesn't even have to be created — the Human Rights Commission already exists.

And we don't have to guess whether there's ever cause to complain. The Chicago Tribune recently published two articles describing blatant job discrimination against transgendered people.

It recently came to light that a career justice department official was denied a position she was imminently qualified for, because the decision-makers thought she might be a lesbian. I have personally heard stories of employment and housing discrimination suffered by some of our GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered) citizens locally, as well.

I think, though, it's important to realize that this is not really about the GLBT community. What it is about is us as a community. We know that not all of our residents are protected equally. What matters is what we do about it. And, make no mistake, if we do nothing we are very much doing something. We are saying that in South Bend, Ind., if enough people are uncomfortable with some other people, it's OK to discriminate against those other people. We have the power to do that, and actually — as of now — we are doing that.

Well, I think we need to stop doing that and I hope you do, too. It's time for the South Bend Common Council to revisit this measure — and make it our law. It's time for citizens to make plain to their representatives as well, that it's time to do the responsible thing.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke many strong words, but the phrase I think of most often is: "There comes a time for all us, when silence is a betrayal."

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Don Wheeler lives in South Bend.

Truthout roundup 8/15

Truthout contributor Michael Winship writes on American imperialism, governmental solopsism and Andrew Bacevich's new book; a federal court grants Saudi Arabia immunity in lawsuit filed by 9/11 victims; Obama refutes "The Obama Nation"; Pakistani Prime Minister Musharraf will step down; new information against Sen. Ted Stevens comes to light; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.15

Michael Winship Andrew Bacevich, America and the World
Michael Winship, Truthout: "In a letter written in 1648, Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor to both King Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christina, counseled, 'Know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.' The fighting between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia is an unnerving reminder of that, and of how quickly the balance of global power can be tilted from unexpected directions with barely a warning."

Saudi Arabia Given Immunity in 9/11 Lawsuit
Reuters: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, four princes and other Saudi entities are immune from a lawsuit filed by victims of the September 11 attacks and their families alleging they gave material support to al Qaeda, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday. The ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey dismissing a claim against Saudi Arabia, a Saudi charity, four princes and a Saudi banker of providing material support to al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks."

Obama Campaign Rebuts Corsi's "Obama Nation"
Nedra Pickler, The Associated Press: "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hit back Thursday with a 40-page rebuttal to the best-selling book 'The Obama Nation,' arguing the author is a fringe bigot peddling rehashed lies. Jerome Corsi's anti-Obama book, 'The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,' claims the Illinois senator is a dangerous, radical candidate for president. The book is a compilation of all the innuendo and false rumors against Obama - that he was raised a Muslim, attended a radical, black church and secretly has a 'black rage' hidden beneath the surface."

Pakistan's Musharaff Expected to Resign
Candace Rondeaux and Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post: "Faced with mounting pressure from former political allies and dwindling support from his international backers, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, once a top U.S. ally, is expected to resign in the next few days, according to Pakistani officials."

Prosecutors Lay Out New Information Against GOP's Stevens
Erika Bolstad and Lisa Demer, The Anchorage Daily News: "New information filed late Thursday by federal prosecutors says Sen. Ted Stevens made more than $100,000 in profit off a Florida real estate deal after a friend secretly loaned him $31,000 interest-free to buy a condominium. The condo deal came to light in a motion describing what sort of evidence federal prosecutors plan to introduce in their case against him."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Daniels' government website manipulates warn notices

Posted by Charlotte A. Weybright on August 12, 2008
Berry Street Beacon

Indiana, as well as other states, requires that employers notify communities and the state of closings, transfers, and layoffs. Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notices are listed on the state’s Workforce Development website.

Lately, however, the notices seem to be disappearing and then reappearing in altered form. I frequently check the notices to see how many jobs have been lost. The WARN notices bely the governor’s rosy picture painted about Indiana’s economy.

The WARN notices disappeared earlier this year, and I had to contact the state to see where they went. I finally received a response with a link that took me to the proper site. Well, lo and behold, they disappeared again last week. I kept trying over a couple of days and finally gave up and contacted the state again. Again, I received a reply with a link sending me to a new website.

But this time, the government had removed the older WARN notices and listed only those beginning with February of this year. The website not only removed the older notices but also cut down the number of notices listed. Looking at the new list, one would think that we had lost very few jobs when, in fact, each month brings worse news for Hoosier workers.

The rest of the story...

Truthout roundup 8/14

US issues "strongest warning yet" to Russia, sending troops in as attempted cease-fire fails; missile strike attributed to US kills nine along Afghan-Pakistan border; US army deserter seeking refugee status in Canada is deported; Katrina vanden Heuvel writes on the home heating crisis; three female aid workers killed in Afghanistan; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.14

US Troops in Georgia; Russia Not Backing Down
Ellen Barry and C.J. Chivers, The New York Times: "President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia on Thursday said that Russia would act as an international guarantor of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two pro-Russian enclaves at the center of the crisis that have long desired separation from Georgia. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to the region for discussions on the crisis and to show support for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the Russian position seemed to be a direct challenge to President Bush who said a day earlier that he 'insists that the sovereign and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected'.... On Wednesday, the United States and Georgia called the Russian advances into Gori and another strategic Georgian city a violation of the cease-fire agreement struck only hours earlier. In response, Mr. Bush sent American troops to Georgia to oversee a 'vigorous and ongoing' humanitarian mission, in a direct challenge to Russia’s display of military dominance over the region. Mr. Bush demanded that Russia abide by the cease-fire and withdraw its forces or risk its place in 'the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the 21st century.' It was his strongest warning yet of potential retaliation against Russia over the conflict."

Suspected US Missile Strike Kills Nine in Pakistan
Laura King, The Los Angeles Times: "In what could herald an intensified U.S. campaign against Islamic insurgents in Pakistan's tribal areas, a suspected American missile attack killed at least nine people near the Afghan border, local officials said Wednesday. It was not immediately known whether any senior insurgent figures were among the dead, but officials in the South Waziristan tribal region said those killed included 'foreigners,' often used to mean Al Qaeda operatives and commanders from outside Pakistan."

US Army Deserter Ordered Deported From Canada
The Canadian Press: "One of the first U.S. army deserters to seek refugee status in Canada rather than serve in Iraq was ordered deported Wednesday. Jeremy Hinzman, along with his wife, son and a new baby, have been ordered by the Canada Border Services Agency to leave by Sept. 23."

Katrina vanden Heuvel A Frozen Katrina
Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation: "As John McCain and the Republicans trumpet their election year boldfaced lie-drill now so we can lower prices at the pump today-they continue to ignore a looming energy disaster with lives hanging in the balance. Currently, eight million homes rely on heating oil during the winter months, and last winter’s prices forced too many citizens to choose between heat, food, and medicine."

Three Western Female Aid Workers Shot Dead in Afghanistan
Agence France-Presse: "Three Western women aid workers and their Afghan driver were shot dead by gunmen who fired numerous times into their vehicle near the capital Kabul, Afghan police and their organisation said. The killings Wednesday, claimed by the insurgent Taliban, are the deadliest in years involving international aid workers and come amid warnings about deteriorating security, said to be at its worst since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Vetting McCain, Or, Even Satan Needs Contractors

For those who did not know, I’m a contract worker; and as a result I’m a direct beneficiary of the trend toward outsourcing.

And let me tell you, everyone’s doing it. At different times I’ve worked for school districts, a company that makes tax preparation software, agencies of State Government...even the Navy.

So it was no surprise when I found out from the agency that I was to be assigned to a Human Resources Department to help with the overflow of employee evaluations that needed to be completed—and it was no surprise when they told me the job was like working in Hell.

I was a bit surprised, however, when it turned out they were telling the literal truth...and that’s how I came to spend last week as a temp in Satan’s HR Department—vetting John McCain for his annual evaluation.

As surprising as it might seem, Satan’s actually not a bad boss. The dress code is casual—in fact, shorts are just fine: “on hot days”, as the joke went around the office.

Dirty jokes at the office? Oh, they were all over that...and I don’t mind telling you that having been in that environment, I understand how flinging around the “C-word” can bring a sudden end to the lunch conversation.

But the work criteria here are weird. On any other job, throwing around the C-bomb could get you fired (except in stand-up comedy, of course); but here I was told any evidence of such behavior actually gives the worker three preference points on his evaluation.

I logged onto Satan’s network (it’s slow, by the way...I must have waited three minutes for my roaming profile to load) to see if he qualified—and sure enough, in ’92 he laid a C-bomb on his wife in front of two members of his campaign staff. It turns out there’s an extra point to be awarded if the wife is involved—so I wrote him up for the full four preference points.

That’s enough for an “attaboy” letter, according to the manual—but I needed to see if there was more.

There was a time in the 80’s when he opposed the Martin Luther King holiday—a time when even Dick Cheney supported the holiday—and he actually had the juevos to show up at this year’s Anniversary of Dr. King’s death to make nice...while making a black man hold his umbrella during the speech. Three more points.

He even told the media he voted against MLK Day because he didn’t exactly know who Dr. King 1983...and 1987. The manual says that’s two more points “for enhanced dissembling”.

Nine points already...that’s the attaboy letter plus a pair of tickets in the company box for an Oakland Raiders game (oh, don’t act so surprised...who else would it be—the Jets?). This guy’s gonna do great if nothing bad turns up.

“My dad told me there is one thing McCain’s are good at and that is not giving into pressure, and honor – keeping our honor regardless of what happens...He then said, ‘Don’t lie, cheat or steal – anything else is fair game.’”

--Jack McCain, describing his father John McCain’s advice.

“Keeping our honor”? That’s gonna cost him big-time if I can’t find a way to get him off the hook...but wait...look at how he got into politics in the first place. Oh, this is going to get him a raise, it’s so good.

OK, so he managed to marry a swimsuit model...well, to be accurate, the files here suggest he snatched her away from another man in the ‘50’s...and during the entire time he was in a Vietnamese prison camp she did the Tammy Wynette thing...but get this—she managed to get in a car accident (it wasn’t my current boss...I asked around at lunch), so McCain decided to replace her because she wasn’t hot anymore.

Now that should get him back to where he was...but get this: he cheats on her numerous times, and then sues her for divorce—and then, a month later, marries the daughter of the largest beer distributor he can find.

And all that’s not the best part.
The best part is, he’s managed to keep the ex-wife from really unloading on him while he’s running for President; this being her description of what happened:

“...My marriage ended because John McCain didn't want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that just does...”

Imagine what you would have to say to your ex to get that kind of acceptance after dumping her for another young blonde...this guy might be SatanCorp management material! Maybe I’m getting too enthusiastic about this job...but I’m starting to love this McCain.

He's just so...evil.

Let’s add up the points for this one: three points for the first wife snatching, three more for the second—plus lots of “enhancement” points—including the big points for the “blame it on the war bride” move and two more for the new wife’s Daddy being a liquor distributor. That’s only takes twelve for an automatic raise—and according to the manual, twenty total points for the evaluation is an automatic nomination for Employee of the Month and lunch with the Big Boss in the Executive Pit of Fire.

And guess what: McCain has a total of 24!

And I didn’t even need to use the “McCain doesn’t speak for his own campaign” material to bump up his score.

I sent in the report and they were so impressed that on our last day they gave us pizzas, Cuban cigars, and Italian beer (it’s Hell, after all...) for the entire crew for lunch. They even sent over Simon Cowell’s caseworker to shake our hands to commemorate a job well done.

They told us they’re planning a big party for McCain in Minneapolis next month to present him with his award—and the Big Boss’ Number Two Guy, Dick Cheney, is scheduled to appear on Earth in his human guise to confuse children and celebrate the occasion.

So that was my week in Hell: great dirty jokes, decent parking, casual Friday everyday, the real inside dirt on McCain...and I even got to meet Simon Cowell’s “handler”.

And as long as the paycheck doesn’t bounce, it was a better work experience than the School District contract.

Plenty of room at the grown-ups table - Introduction

by Don Wheeler

This begins an intermittent series of discussions about the challenges faced by local governments - due to significant revenue loss. The hope is that we can discuss this situation calmly, and perhaps come up with some useful ideas to address a serious problem.

Let's face it, everywhere you turn Governor Daniels shows a clear strategy of enhancing State revenue in the short term, making himself look good, while creating challenges for the State in the longer term, and challenges to local governments almost immediately.

Leasing the toll road brought a windfall of cash - but the State lost all the future revenue from it for 75 years. The company who paid the fee wouldn't have done so unless it felt there was a tidy profit to be made. Which means that the citizens of Indiana could have enjoyed the benefits instead.

I noticed when I recently renewed my Driver's License that it is now a six year license, rather than a four year one. Naturally, the fee was increased. So the State got more money now, but will have longer to wait for my renewal fee. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Our starting point for this discussion is the anticipated 27% loss of revenue to the City of South Bend due to the passage of House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1001. This measure brought much needed property tax relief (making Daniels and the legislature look good), but it was not paid for. Increasing sales tax (arguably a more regressive tax than real estate taxes) by one percent sure doesn't cover it.

Much in the way the federal government passes unfunded mandates, burdening states, the State has passed on an unfunded mandate to local governmental units. Not to beat a dead horse, but think seriously what one's alternatives are when facing the loss of over one quarter of total income.

In fact, let's make it personal. Say you agreed to small pay cuts over the last few years to keep your position (despite increasing costs), but finally your company got into such trouble that they eliminate your job. Because of your tenure with the company you're able to bump the guy below you. But they guy below you was making a bit less than three quarters of your reduced salary. What would this scenario do to your family budget?

I must admit to some consternation with the reaction of many of my fellow citizens. Many advocate "tightening the belt", but scream when facilities and services they hold dear face resource reductions and/or elimination. I've noted some interesting strategies proposed, too. My favorite was from a writer who thought not spending money already spent would turn the trick. I guess he thinks we can unspend things. Others seem to think our Mayor is playing some sort of fiscal "Chicken" game with us. I normally don't get too bothered by this sort of nonsense, but this is a serious problem and we need serious people to deal with it.

I was a charter member of The Concord Coalition - a group founded by former Senator Warren Rudman and the late Senator Paul Tsongas. As most of you probably know, The Concord Coalition is dedicated to fiscal responsibility - advocating a federal balanced budget. What you may not know is that they also try to educate citizens about how hard that is to achieve. How many hard decisions have to be made to get to that point. You won't be surprised to learn that unfunded tax cuts don't fit in well with their suggested strategies.

Let's pause at this point. You have a homework assignment. Review (via the links below) the City's outline of a strategy to address the situation. You'll need that for the next session.

Truthout roundup 8/13

Truthout contributor Thomas D. Williams writes on the US's neglect to clean up hazardous depleted uranium; Georgia and Russia exchange accusations of violating peace deal; disaffected Republicans endorse Obama; Scott Horton writes on Mukasey's position on political appointees; government-owned underground fuel tanks could leak and poison water; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.13

Thomas D. Williams The Depleted Uranium Threat
Thomas D. Williams, for Truthout: "While attempting to act as the planet's nuclear watchdogs, the United States and Great Britain have become two of the world's largest, cancer-causing radiated dust and rusty depleted uranium projectile polluters. Using tanks and planes, the US and British military have fired hundreds of tons of radioactive depleted uranium munitions (DU) while fighting the first Gulf War, the Balkans War, and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For two decades, successive US and British government leadership has done little overall to clean up the hazardous war waste."

Georgia, Russia Claim Cease-Fire Violations
CNN: "Georgia and Russia have accused each other of violating a cease-fire only 24 hours after it was agreed. The six-point deal was meant to end the fighting over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but both sides traded accusations Wednesday."

Republicans Throw in With Obama
Margaret Talev, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama unveiled a group of disaffected high-profile Republicans on Tuesday who he hopes will help him win the support of Republican voters in swing states. 'This is simply not a time for politics as usual,' said Jim Leach, a former congressman from Iowa who endorsed Obama on Tuesday. Leach, one of 'Republicans for Obama' effort, said he thought that Obama would return the presidency to a less partisan style that looked to more international cooperation and was 'rooted in very old American values.'"

Scott Horton The Mukasey Doctrine
Scott Horton, for Harper's Magazine: "Prior to his confirmation, Michael Mukasey fessed up, in a written response to Senator Dick Durbin, to a meeting the White House arranged with a group of movement conservatives. The team he met with had a simple agenda: They wanted his assurance that he would not appoint special prosecutors to go after administration figures involved in serious scandals at the Justice Department, including the U.S. attorneys scandal and the introduction of torture with formal Justice Department cover, and they wanted his assurance that Justice would continue to provide legal cover to 'the Program.'"

Underground FEMA Fuel Tanks Could Leak
Eileen Sullivan, for The Associated Press: "The government owns hundreds of underground fuel tanks - many designed for emergencies back in the Cold War - that need to be inspected for leaks of hazardous substances that could be making local water undrinkable. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has known since at least the 1990s that tanks under its supervision around the country could be leaking fuel into soil and groundwater, according to Associated Press interviews and research."

BREAKING Bush Sends Army, Navy, Rice to Georgia on "Aid Mission"
Ellen Barry, The New York Times: "The United States, Mr. Bush said, 'stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia and insists that its sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected.' He said a transport plane was already on its way to Georgia, carrying medical supplies and a contingent of Army and Navy forces to carry out an aid mission."

Gunman Kills Democratic Chairman in Arkansas
Shaila Dewan, The New York Times: "Bill Gwatney, the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, was shot in his office in Little Rock Wednesday morning and died a few hours later, police officials said."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Other America - The first Americans

by Don Wheeler

In our neck of the woods, descendants of native peoples are nearly invisible to most of us. I suspect most folks have some awareness of the poverty on Indian Reservations. Some may think gaming establishments have alleviated much of that. Some may be aware of high rates of substance abuse. In reality, things are much worse than this.

I lived in Minnesota for around seven years, and a significant portion of the northern part of the state is set aside for Reservations (Chippewa mostly, I believe).

I found Minnesotans to be a generous people, mostly, but many exhibited notable bigotry towards their Indian neighbors. In fact, I observed less hostility towards African Americans than Native Americans. 'Course, there were far fewer African Americans.

Having spent some time on Minnesota reservations, I recall my impression was "What a beautiful place to be hungry". But at least in Minnesota, there are abundant fish and game to subsist on. Further west, this is often not the case.

When I lived in the Twin Cities area (Garrison Keillor's home town of Anoka, actually), I was doing some old debt collection work - which took me to an apartment complex which I think was called Ogema Place. It was scary. The elevators didn't work, quarry tile floors were busted up, walls and doors scarred and covered with graffiti. No great surprise, the target apartment showed no sign of occupancy.

I came to realize then, or shortly later, that Ogema Place was where poor Indians were concentrated in the Twin Cities.

Later on, in my early days of sled dog racing, we stayed with a family on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. Very nice folks. He ran a fur trapping line, while she kept their house and looked after their kids. Their lives didn't seem too bad, but they sure didn't have much.

Later still, when I moved up to the Walker area I came to know some folks from the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Most of the folks at these reservations lived in fairly new, quite modest homes. But as is often the case - when the occupants have few prospects, the properties often suffer from neglect and even abuse.

I remember one Leech Lake couple in particular. She was a warm, attractive, generous soul and he was mean to her and drank hard. I wanted to be the knight in shining armor, but thought better of it. And as sad as it made me, I know it was the right decision.

These people all lived in beautiful places, but there was pretty much no work. In the Leech Lake area there were three sawmills - making oriented strand board (OSB) and pressure treated wood, mostly. The waiting lists for those jobs were well over a year out. Otherwise, there were menial, seasonal jobs and a very few year-round small business employment opportunities. Leaving the reservation seemed to offer little advantage and would put one in a completely foreign environment.

These memories came back to me when I read a recent OpEd in The New York Times by N. Bruce Duthu: Broken Justice in Indian Country. Here's how the piece begins:

ONE in three American Indian women will be raped in their lifetimes, statistics gathered by the United States Department of Justice show. But the odds of the crimes against them ever being prosecuted are low, largely because of the complex jurisdictional rules that operate on Indian lands. Approximately 275 Indian tribes have their own court systems, but federal law forbids them to prosecute non-Indians. Cases involving non-Indian offenders must be referred to federal or state prosecutors, who often lack the time and resources to pursue them.

The situation is unfair to Indian victims of all crimes — burglary, arson, assault, etc. But the problem is greatest in the realm of sexual violence because rapes and other sexual assaults on American Indian women are overwhelmingly interracial. More than 80 percent of Indian victims identify their attacker as non-Indian. (Sexual violence against white and African-American women, in contrast, is primarily intraracial.) And American Indian women who live on tribal lands are more than twice as likely to be raped or sexually assaulted as other women in the United States, Justice Department statistics show.

I strongly recommend reading the entire commentary. It shows the obvious problem and the complications of an apartheid - like jurisdictional setup.

While I was nosing around, I found an earlier New York Times article about a problem I also had at least a limited awareness of. From EVELYN NIEVES in June 2007:

The young man, 19 years old, played varsity football and basketball at Todd County High School. He was admired across the reservation, in that way small towns follow and celebrate their teenage athletes. The girl, weeks shy of her 14th birthday, made straight A’s at Todd County Middle School,
played volleyball and basketball and led a traditional Lakota drum corps.

They hanged themselves. This happened at the end of a particularly brutal two and a half months, from Jan. 1 to March 13, when tribal authorities were called to three suicides and scores of attempts. The next day, with the reservation (population 13,000) reeling, tribal officials declared a state of

Since then, a woman in her early 20s killed herself with pills, and scores more young people have tried to kill themselves — a total of 144 so far this year, at doctors’ best count; the computer used for recordkeeping was down for six weeks. In May, seven youths who tried hanging, poisoning or slashing themselves to death were admitted to the reservation hospital in one 24-hour period.

What is happening at Rosebud is all too common throughout Indian Country. American Indian and Alaska Native youth 15 to 24 years old are committing suicide at a rate more than three times the national average for their age group of 13 per 100,000 people, according to the surgeon general. Often, one suicide leads to another. For these youths, suicide has become the second-leading cause of death(after accidents). In the Great Plains, the suicide rate among Indian youth is the worst: 10 times the national average.

For those of us who believe in One America, this is not acceptable. It doesn't have to be this way.

Tarnish on the Golden Boy

By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post
Sunday, August 10, 2008

There is some sincerity and some snake oil in every politician, but John Edwards exudes both in almost freakish measure. During the primaries, I saw him deeply move audiences with his up-from-nothing life story, his empathy for the working class and his clarion call for a national crusade to eliminate poverty. Afterward, though, I usually heard a few snarky comments about the golden perfection of his hair, the blazing whiteness of his smile and the opulence of his North Carolina mansion.

Maybe Slippery John somehow convinced Earnest John that this moment would never come. In fact, it was inevitable -- and if Edwards had somehow won the Democratic nomination, the party would be in the midst of a historic meltdown.

In terms of newsworthiness, it's supposedly not that a politician has an affair (none of our business, we tell ourselves) but that the politician lies when asked about it, thus violating the public's trust. And, indeed, Edwards lied when the National Enquirer confronted him about his affair nearly a year ago, and he continued to lie until his confession on Friday.

In this case, though, we should just admit that it's not the lie that makes the story compelling. It's the "How could he?" factor. We all know about Elizabeth Edwards's battle against breast cancer. We remember the news conference at which the couple announced that the cancer had returned and was incurable but that they intended to press ahead with the presidential campaign. We saw a strong, loving marriage that could teach us all lessons about living life to the fullest.

Edwards says his affair -- with Rielle Hunter, a onetime campaign aide -- was initiated and terminated at a time when Elizabeth's cancer was in remission. He acknowledges that this doesn't ameliorate his sins, but he apparently hopes that it makes him seem like less of a heel.

At least he was man enough to do his mea culpa interview with "Nightline" alone. Standard practice for adulterous politicians in such situations is to have the betrayed and humiliated spouse there, too, grimly demonstrating support if not forgiveness. But Edwards claimed, and Elizabeth later confirmed, that he insisted on facing the music alone.

To the extent that he has faced the music, that is. He was forthright and plainspoken with ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff about the central facts -- his relationship with Hunter, his having lied about it repeatedly, his betrayal of his marriage. But when pressed on certain details, Edwards retreated into lawyerly precision.

He maintained, for example, that he knew nothing about any hush money Hunter might have been paid. But it's clear that he desperately wanted her to hush. Edwards acknowledged that the whole point of his meeting with Hunter at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last month -- a rendezvous somehow sniffed out by reporters from the Enquirer -- was that "I wanted her not to tell the public what had happened."

Was she threatening to tell all? Given that Hunter was a struggling single mother with a sensational story to sell, wouldn't Edwards have been the least bit curious about her financial circumstances?

Fred Baron, a wealthy Dallas lawyer who was the national finance chairman of the Edwards presidential campaign, said Friday that he provided unspecified "assistance" to Hunter without telling Edwards or anyone else. But when I listen to Edwards's careful words and read Baron's careful statement, I have to wonder whether this is an exercise in compartmentalization and deniability.

Then there's the question of Hunter's baby, which Edwards adamantly denies fathering, to the point of announcing his eagerness to take a paternity test. (Hunter said in a statement yesterday that she would not seek a paternity test.) When Woodruff pressed him about an Enquirer photograph that purported to show Edwards holding the baby, Edwards parsed his words:

"I'm saying you asked me about that photograph. I don't know anything about that photograph, I don't know who that baby is. I don't know if the picture has been altered, manufactured, if it's a picture of me taken some other time, holding another baby . . . I have no idea. I was not at this meeting holding a child for my photograph to be taken, I can tell you that." Edwards finally told Woodruff that he didn't recall a baby being present. Uh, okay, glad we cleared that up.

I hope Edwards is finally leveling with us -- and with himself. I've always thought there was genuine substance beneath all that slickness.

Whenever I want to write him off as a total fraud, I tell myself that if Elizabeth Edwards loves and respects him, he can't be all bad.

Truthout roundup 8/12

Truthout contributor Steve Weissman writes on John McCain's perilous pre-emptive tendencies; Russia orders halt to military operations in Georgia; group calls for investigation into McCain campaign fundraising activities; Speaker Pelosi says she may be open to a vote on offshore drilling; Internet and broadband companies admit to tracking customer behavior; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.12

Weissman Warrior John McCain: More Dangerous Than Bush
Steve Weissman, Truthout: "During the hottest days of the Cold War, Gen. Thomas Power headed the Strategic Air Command, whose nuclear-armed B-52s were meant to deter the Soviet Union. General Power, like many of the Air Force brass at the time, believed that nuclear war with the Soviets was inevitable. He thought the United States would do better to fight that war sooner rather than later and believed we could emerge victorious. 'At the end of the war,' he argued in 1960, 'if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!' Listening to John McCain talk about Iraq and Iran, I keep thinking of Power. Counter-insurgency and nuclear obliteration are poles apart, I know. But McCain's insistence on 'winning in Iraq,' remaining there 'until Iraq is secure,' and 'bomb-bomb-bombing Iran' reveal the same mindset that made General Power so dangerous."

Russia's Medvedev Orders Halt to Military Action in Georgia
Megan K. Stack and Peter Spiegel, The Los Angeles Times: "The Russian president today ordered a halt to his country's ongoing military action against this Western-backed Caucasus region nation even as it continued to bomb sites in central Georgia and apparently continue its advance. Dmitri Medvedev, a close ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said the military operation against Georgia sparked by fighting over the disputed breakaway republic of South Ossetia had accomplished its goals. 'The security of our peacekeepers and civilians has been restored,' Medvedev said in a statement broadcast on television. 'The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized.'"

Watchdog Seeks Federal Investigation of McCain Donations
Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "A political watchdog group called for investigations Monday to determine whether fundraisers for John McCain's presidential campaign arranged illegal 'straw' donations - contributions from people who did not spend their own money. Campaign Money Watch urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to probe the activities of Florida defense contractor Harry Sargeant III, who is credited with raising more than $500,000 for the campaign. It also questioned $57,000 in donations from an office manager for the oil giant, the Hess Corp., and her husband, a railroad foreman."

Pelosi Indicates Openness to Offshore Drilling Vote
Mike Soraghan, The Hill: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday night dropped her staunch opposition to a vote on offshore oil drilling in the House. Republicans, reacting to high gas prices, have demanded a vote on additional oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf, where drilling is currently blocked by a moratorium. Until now, Pelosi (D-Calif.) has resisted the idea as a 'hoax.' But in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, she indicated that she was open to a vote."

Web Firms Tell Congress They Track Behavior Without Consent
Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post: "Several Internet and broadband companies have acknowledged using targeted-advertising technology without explicitly informing customers, according to letters released yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And Google, the leading online advertiser, stated that it has begun using Internet tracking technology that enables it to more precisely follow Web-surfing behavior across affiliated sites. The revelations came in response to a bipartisan inquiry of how more than 30 Internet companies might have gathered data to target customers."

Monday, August 11, 2008

On Outlining The Republican Future, Or, You Are The Company You Keep

Across my desk recently came the news that the Republicans have chosen the members of their Party’s Platform Committee.

The Party Platform being an aspirational document that represents the hopes and dreams of a Party; we should be able to look to the framers of that Platform for an idea of who the Republicans think are the hopers, the dreamers...the aspire-ers, if you will, of a Bright and Shiny Republican future.

So who are these leaders that RNC Chairman “Mike” Duncan says “will be integral to ensuring that our Party creates a forward-looking platform that is rooted in our core values and principles”?

Follow along and we’ll find out.

In what might best be described as an effort to provide some sort of ongoing subsidy to comedians, the Party is proud to announce that the “Expanding Opportunity to Promote Prosperity” Subcommittee, responsible for “...economic policy, including technology and innovation, taxes, trade, economic development, labor, and related issues...” (in the words of the RNC press release) will be headed by Haley Barbour, the former RNC Chairman and current Governor of Mississippi.

What would possess the RNC to make such a choice? We can only assume it’s because Mississippi presents the sort of economic success story that they hope to see replicated across America. Is the State that sort of dynamic, exciting, success story? Well, let’s have a look.

If you measure the amount of goods and services produced per citizen for each state, it turns out Mississippi is actually 51st among the 50 States (by excluding the District of Columbia, however, they jump right back up to 50th). The State is also 51st in median family income, 51st in the value of real estate owned per person, and 45th in the value of retail trade per person.

A few words from Entrepreneur Magazine on the Mississippi economic outlook:

“A total of 56,200 manufacturing jobs were lost between January 1997 and November 2007, almost 25.0 percent of total manufacturing employment. It now appears that the rate of job losses in this sector has moderated, although further consolidation in the nondurables sector is likely.”

Mississippi is an economic leader in one area—when it comes to the percentage of their population living below the poverty line, Mississippi is number one...and (no surprise here) they’re also 48th in the value of social services provided per person.

That’s some economic vision for the future...and when you need someone to lead the way in promoting this version of the Republican Party’s “core values and principles”, apparently Hayley Barbour is the one best qualified.

So that’s one for them, I guess.

There’s a “Defending the Nation, Securing the Peace” Subcommittee as well; responsible for “national security, including foreign policy, military personnel, defense policy, homeland security, border security/immigration, and related issues”, chaired by Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico, she of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Rush Limbaugh quotes the transcript of “Hardball” in describing how Wilson got it right when describing our relationship with NATO during the Bush Administration:

“RUSH: Matthews said, "Are you saying the United States has a good relationship with Europe in the last seven years?"

WILSON: Absolutely, yes. The U.S. relationship with NATO, with the U.K., our relationship with the United Kingdom has never been closer and that's been spurred by common mutual interests. I used to serve at NATO when there were 16 NATO countries and we were facing the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. We have very close relationships with our Western European allies and I think that continues, with Angela Merkel or with President Sarkozy or with the Brits, I think very close relationships.”

Judging by her votes, her vision of national security includes total support for the Iraq War, not adopting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission (she voted against increased funding for first responders, as just one example), and building a border fence despite the opposition to the idea from within her own State.

And a strange obsession with United States Attorneys.

Judging by her donors, it’s a vision Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Northup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Donald Rumsfeld share.

Having dealt with the economy and national security, we now turn to the “Advancing a Healthier and More Competitive America” Subcommittee, co-chaired by that noted health care expert, Steve King of Wisconsin and the Republican National Committee (and not the obviously demented Representative Steve King of Iowa).

According to his Republican biography, his health care expertise may have come from his time helping Richard Nixon with his Watergate problems (he’s an ex-FBI agent)—but probably not from his time at the Industrial Development Committee of Milton, Wisconsin, or his time at the rather mysterious King Capital, LLC (you try to find it on the Web...), or his more than 30-year association with the Boy Scouts.

How competitive is Milton, Wisconsin? The Census Bureau tells us the city’s largest employment category is retail trade, with 145 employees, 22 establishments, and a stunning $22 million in annual retail activity (and yes, there’s a Wal-Mart). The next largest business category? Health care and social assistance, with 93 employees and $5 million a year in business. United Ethanol is present at the Industrial Park as well—but only with millions in local subsidies...and without telling the residents what the city government was up to until after the deal was done.

The expertise of his co-chair, Mary Mertz of Ohio? She’s an attorney “who has served as a senior policy adviser to Gov. George Voinovich and Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine”, according to the GOP press release announcing the appointment.

So what “core values” can we expect from the “forward looking” Republican Platform in ’08?

Economic development that will catapult us to the lofty levels of economic success today enjoyed only by Mississippi...a national security policy that tells first responders to fend for themselves...and a health care and competitiveness policy that’s apparently based on secret ethanol deals, access to generic prescriptions at Wal-Mart for $4, and lots of connections through the FBI.

All that sounds pretty Bright and Shiny...if you live in Haiti.
America? Maybe not so much.

Can it happen here?

New York Times
Published: August 10, 2008

The draft Democratic Party platform that was sent out last week puts health care reform front and center. “If one thing came through in the platform hearings,” says the document, “it was that Democrats are united around a commitment to provide every American access to affordable, comprehensive health care.”

In principle, it should be easy. In practice, supporters of health care reform, myself included, will be hanging on by their fingernails until legislation is actually passed.

What’s easy about guaranteed health care for all? For one thing, we know that it’s economically feasible: every wealthy country except the United States already has some form of guaranteed health care. The hazards Americans treat as facts of life — the risk of losing your insurance, the risk that you won’t be able to afford necessary care, the chance that you’ll be financially ruined by medical costs — would be considered unthinkable in any other advanced nation.

The politics of guaranteed care are also easy, at least in one sense: if the Democrats do manage to establish a system of universal coverage, the nation will love it.

I know that’s not what everyone says; some pundits claim that the United States has a uniquely individualistic culture, and that Americans won’t accept any system that makes health care a collective responsibility. Those who say this, however, seem to forget that we already have a program — you may have heard of it — called Medicare. It’s a program that collects money from every worker’s paycheck and uses it to pay the medical bills of everyone 65 and older. And it’s immensely popular.

There’s every reason to believe that a program that extends universal coverage to the nonelderly would soon become equally popular. Consider the case of Massachusetts, which passed a state-level plan for universal coverage two years ago.

The Massachusetts plan has come in for a lot of criticism. It includes individual mandates — that is, people are required to buy coverage, even if they’d prefer to take their chances. And its costs are running much higher than expected, mainly because it turns out that there were more people without insurance than anyone realized.

Yet recent polls show overwhelming support for the plan — support that has grown stronger since it went into effect, despite the new system’s teething troubles. Once a system of universal health coverage exists, it seems, people want to keep it.

So why be nervous about the prospects for reform? Because it’s hard to get universal care established in the first place. There are, I’d argue, three big hurdles.

First, the Democrats have to win the election — and win it by enough to face down Republicans, who are still, 42 years after Medicare went into operation, denouncing “socialized medicine.”

Second, they have to overcome the public’s fear of change.

Some health care reformers wanted the Democrats to endorse a single-payer, Medicare-type system for all. On the sheer economic merits, they’re right: single-payer would be more efficient than a system that preserves a role for private insurance companies.

But it’s better to have an imperfect universal health care plan than none at all — and the only way to get a universal health care plan passed soon is to inoculate it against Harry-and-Louise-type claims that people will be forced into plans “designed by government bureaucrats.” So the Democratic platform emphasizes choice, declaring that Americans “should have the option of keeping the coverage they have or choosing from a wide array of health insurance plans, including many private health insurance options and a public plan.” We’ll see if that’s enough.

The final hurdle facing health care reform is the risk that the next president and Congress will lose focus. There will be many problems crying out for solutions, from a weak economy to foreign policy crises. It will be easy and tempting to put health care on the back burner for a bit — and then forget about it.

So I’m nervous. The history of the pursuit of universal health care in America is one of missed chances, of political opportunities frittered away. Let’s hope that this time is different.

One more thing: if we do get real health care reform, a lot of people will owe a debt of gratitude to none other than John Edwards. When Mr. Edwards dropped out of the presidential race, I credited him with making universal health care a “possible dream for the next administration.” Mr. Edwards’s political career is over — but perhaps he and his family can take some solace from the fact that his party is still trying to make that dream come true.

Truthout roundup 8/11

Iraq's foreign minister says any long-term security agreement with US must contain timeline for withdrawal; Russia rejects Georgia's ceasefire offers and continues invasion; at least 13 killed in Iraq bomb attacks Sunday; deadlock over offshore drilling may lead to government shutdown; veterans don't buy McCain's attacks on Obama; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.11

Iraq Demands "Clear Timeline" for US Withdrawal
The Associated Press's Robert H. Reid reports: "Iraq's foreign minister insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a 'very clear timeline' for the departure of U.S. troops. A suicide bomber struck north of Baghdad, killing at least five people including an American soldier. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that American and Iraqi negotiators were 'very close' to reaching a long-term security agreement that will set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year. Zebari said the Iraqis were insisting that the agreement include a 'very clear timeline' for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, but he refused to talk about specific dates."

Russia Pushes Deeper Into Georgia, Rejects Ceasefire
Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay report for McClatchy Newspapers: "Russia pressed its invasion of Georgia by land, sea and air for a third day Sunday, striking far beyond contested South Ossetia as the Kremlin brushed aside a cease-fire offer and disputed Georgia's claim to have pulled its forces out of the rebel enclave. Russian jets bombed near Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, including civilian housing, military bases, factories and the international airport, according to Georgian officials. Russian warships deployed off the Black Sea coast sank a Georgian missile boat that approached them, state-run Russian news media said."

Iraq Struck by Wave of Bomb Attacks
In The New York Times, Campbell Robertson and Suadad al-Salhy report: "At least 13 people were killed, including an American soldier, and scores were wounded in a wave of attacks across Iraq on Sunday, military and security officials said. The soldier died along with four Iraqis in a calculated, two-prong attack on Baghdad's outskirts, the deadliest of the day, the United States military said."

Oil Fight Could Trigger Federal Shutdown
Zachary Coile reports for The San Francisco Chronicle: "House Republicans, who've been hounding Speaker Nancy Pelosi for weeks over her refusal to allow a vote on new domestic oil drilling, are plotting a high-stakes confrontation this fall that could spark a shutdown of the federal government. Republicans see an opportunity when Congress returns Sept. 8 and will have to pass a temporary measure to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30. Democrats are likely to include in the measure an extension of the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling, which would otherwise expire at the end of September. GOP lawmakers warn they may try to block the measure - or pressure President Bush to veto it - if Democrats won't relent and allow the drilling ban to lapse. If neither side gives in, it would force at least a temporary shutdown of the government."

McCain's Attacks on Rival Fall Flat With Vets Group
In The Las Vegas Sun, J. Patrick Coolican and Michael Mishak report: "Sen. John McCain, speaking to disabled veterans Saturday in Las Vegas, attacked his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, for his foreign policy record, while also proposing a program that would allow veterans to acquire health care at private hospitals and not just through the Veterans Affairs Department. The veterans, at Bally's for their national convention, gave him a tepid reception, especially considering McCain's life story. The Arizona senator was a Navy pilot shot down over Vietnam, tortured and held as a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years. Just one of 14 veterans interviewed by the Sun after his speech said he is a certain McCain voter, and the nonpartisan group's legislative director expressed concerns about McCain's proposed 'Veterans' Care Access Card.'"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Since you're gonna ask

by Don Wheeler

When John Edwards withdrew from the presidential contest at the end of January, many people wrote or spoke to me - wondering how I felt about it. Some did so to gloat, but most were curious and/or sympathetic.

With a long alleged extramarital affair, now confirmed, much in the "news", some of these folks will probably have the same question for me, so I thought I'd share my reaction.

I'm very disappointed in John Edwards.

You may find that statement puzzling. I do need to put it into context.

From the time just prior to my teen years onward when my personal conduct was less than stellar, a quiet, private discussion (always in my room) with my father would occur. He would be remarkably calm, have a sad expression on his face and - after a moment or two of silence - look at me and say "I'm very disappointed in you, Don". He would proceed to explain what disappointed him, and he would express puzzlement at this transgression in light of the of the many, many times he had been so proud of me. At the end of what was generally a pretty brief conversation, he would outline what was needed to make amends.

Throughout this, my heart would sink. But my parents always taught me to recognize that people are not what they do. Since everyone makes mistakes, what was important was to do what ever was possible to make things right afterword. In addition to giving me the assurance of their continuing love, they were also teaching me not to judge others as people - while criticizing actions was completely appropriate.

(By the way, there weren't many of these episodes - I wouldn't have been able to stand it!)

On to my disappointment.

Cheating on one's spouse is a betrayal of trust. For me, a betrayal of trust is a significant offense. Beyond that, I am somewhat bothered by the denials, and a bit more bothered by Edwards' attempts to minimize the effects of his transgression when he finally acknowledged it.

Think of his statement about his Iraq War vote. "I was wrong. I take complete responsibility for it." No excuses, no elaboration.

That would have been the proper model.

So it seems perfectly reasonable for people to be very disappointed in John Edwards. But only Elizabeth can be the one to outline what was or is needed to make amends. Everyone needs to understand and accept that.

On the other hand, the "Coliseum" media is doing what it always has done to John Edwards. "SEE! SEE!, I told you he was a phony. Nyah, Nyah!"

It is a sad truth that my hero growing up, Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr., was also unfaithful to his wife, Coretta. My understanding is that that was an ongoing situation - further complicated by J. Edgar Hoover's awareness of it. I find myself wondering whether Dr. King was compromised in any way because of it. Mr. Hoover was not a nice guy.

I think few people discount Dr. King's accomplishments or revile him as person because he was less than perfect.

While I have always found John Edwards an interesting and intriguing person, my support for his candidacy had much more to due with his aggressive, progressive policy proposals and the fire with which they were offered. If the "Half In Ten" program succeeds (cutting poverty in half in ten years) John Edwards will figure significantly in our history.

Truthout roundup 8/10

At least 100 people have been killed along the Pakistan-Afghan border; warfare between Russia and Georgia challenges Western nations; mismanagement of US elections by the government means citizens must step in to ensure "the right to vote"; Imperial Sugar Company's "shocking" and disgraceful" tragedy; absent basic services for water, sewer, and electricity, renewable energy units offer hope to colonia residents in Texas; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.10

At Least 100 Killed in Pakistan Tribal Region
Habib Khan reports for The Associated Press from Khar, Pakistan: "Pakistani forces bombed dozens of houses in a tribal region near the Afghan border Sunday, officials and witnesses said, amid reports that days of clashes have killed at least 100 insurgents and nine paramilitary troops."

Taunting the Bear
James Traub reports for The New York Times in an analysis of the violent events unfolding between Russia and Georgia: "The hostilities between Russia and Georgia that erupted on Friday over the breakaway province of South Ossetia look, in retrospect, almost absurdly over-determined. For years, the Russians have claimed that Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has been preparing to retake the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and have warned that they would use force to block such a bid. Mr. Saakashvili, for his part, describes today's Russia as a belligerent power ruthlessly pressing at its borders, implacably hostile to democratic neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine. He has thrown in his lot with the West, and has campaigned ardently for membership in NATO. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia's former president and current prime minister, has said Russia could never accept a NATO presence in the Caucasus."

The New York Times The Right to Vote
The New York Times writes about protecting the right to vote: "Much about the presidential election is up in the air, but one thing is certain: voters will have trouble casting ballots on Election Day. In a perfect world, states and localities would handle voting so well that the public could relax and worry about other things. But elections are so mismanaged - and so many eligible voters are disenfranchised - that ordinary citizens have to get involved."

Phil Mattera The "Shocking" and "Disgraceful" Imperial Sugar Tragedy
Phil Mattera writes for Dirt Diggers Digest on the Imperial Sugar Company's deadly violation of workplace safety rules: "'Shocking' and 'disgraceful' are not the sort of words we expect to hear from a corporate executive when referring to his or her own company, but that's exactly what happened at a recent Senate hearing about the conditions at Imperial Sugar. Those descriptors made up part of the testimony of Graham H. Graham, vice president for operations at the company, which was recently hit with a proposed fine of $5 million by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in connection with conditions that caused a dust explosion earlier this year at its Port Wentworth, Georgia plant that killed 13 workers. Another fine of $3.7 million was proposed by OSHA in connection with similar problems at the company's operation in Gramercy, Louisiana."

Let There Be Light
Forrest Wilder reports for The Texas Observer: "For 36 years, the people of La Presa, a dusty neighborhood set among prickly pear cactus and squat huisache trees 10 miles south of Laredo, have lived without potable water, sewer connections, drainage, and properly maintained roads. Water for drinking and cooking is hauled in by truck and stored in large, plastic barrels. Septic systems often consist of little more than a cesspool behind the house. Most of the 350 residents in this colonia - shorthand for a substandard development built in an unincorporated area without basic services - aren't connected to the electric grid. Instead, they get by with portable gas generators, electricity shared among neighbors via a daisy chain of extension cords, power poached from the grid, or nothing at all."

FOCUS Russia Expands Bombing Blitz in Georgia

David Nowak reports for The Associated Press from Tbilisi, Georgia: "Russia expanded its bombing blitz Sunday against neighboring U.S.-allied Georgia, targeting the country's capital for the first time while Georgian troops pulled out of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, as Russia has demanded. Georgia's Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia says that Georgian troops have relocated to new positions outside South Ossetia."

Overflow Crowd Helps Re-Sanctify Knoxville Church Following Violence

from the Unitarian Universalist Association

August 4, 2008

The minister and congregation of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) rededicated their sanctuary in an emotional service Sunday morning, only a week after a man with a shotgun killed two people attending a service there.

Rev. Chris Buice, who serves as the congregation's minister, led the overflow crowd in resanctifying the space where TVUUC board member and usher Greg McKendry and a visitor from the Westside Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (WUUF), Linda Kraeger, died. Six other people were injured in the attack.

Sia Matthews lit the flaming chalice with Religious Education Director Brian Griffin, who has been lauded for his work on July 27 in helping get children out of the church when the attacks occurred. "We are safe," Griffin said at the beginning of the service. "We are together. We are loved. And so it will be."

The congregation sang "Spirit of Life," which has become a Unitarian Universalist (UU) musical statement of faith, and later, "May Nothing Evil Cross this Door," a hymn affirming the safety and love that should be part of all worship spaces. Rev. Bruce Southworth, Minister of Community Church of New York City, who grew up in TVUUC, led the congregation in a responsive reading adapted 1 Corinthians: 13.

Former ministers and officials of the national Unitarian Universalist Association joined the congregation at the service, including former UUA president Rev. Dr. John Buehrens, who was minister at TVUUC in the early 1980s. Buehrens reminded the congregation of its proud history in standing up for civil rights and social justice issues; Thomas Jefferson District Executive Annette Marquis remarked on the resilience of the congregation and reminded the congregation that they "are not alone."

Former minister Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss led the congregation in meditation, and, following the singing of the hymn, "Bring Many Names," current minister Rev. Chris Buice offered his observations on the rededication and the strength of the congregation.

"God of many names, known in the spoken word and most profoundly in unspoken silence, we say with you and in you and through these simple words, 'We reclaim our sanctuary,' " Buice said. "This sanctuary, which has been defiled by violence, we rededicate to peace. This holy place, which has been desecrated by an act of hatred, we reconsecrate for love. This sacred space, which has seen death, we recommit to life. The holy spiritual home, which has known fear, we rededicate to faith and freedom."

The service was interrupted several times by applause and standing ovations, and the congregation stood continuously during the final minutes of Buice’s homily.

At the end of his reflection, Buice stood on the spot where the violence began as the congregation once again sang, "Tomorrow" from "Annie, Jr.," the musical that was being performed when the shooting took place.

TVUUC member Bill Dockery contributed to this story.

Ugly Tennessee Democratic primary race comes to an end

A primary race, so ugly in its conduct it received national attention, has concluded. From TPM Cafe's Jim Sleeper:

August 8, 2008, 4:56PM

Last night, a 60%-black Memphis congressional district re-elected its one-term white liberal incumbent, Steve Cohen, despite TV ads by his black challenger Nikki Tinker that associated him falsely with the Klan and asked why Cohen would "pray in our churches" while voting against mandatory prayer in public schools. Cohen had won in 2006 with only 31% of the vote, probably because several black challengers split the remainder. But last night, given two years to prove himself an effective representative, he won 79 - 19%.

Does anyone realize how important, and beautiful, this is? Emily's List didn't, as M.J. showed here, until it finally shook off its identity politics and saw that not every female candidate is better than every male.

Barack Obama was cagey and quiet on this one, and thereby hangs a tale.

The title of Mr. Sleeper's piece: Is Obama as Brave as His Black Memphis Supporters?

A bit more.

More than a decade ago, in Liberal Racism and this article, among others, I tried to persuade liberals how important and valuable it was that white-majority electorates in several Southern congressional districts had just elected blacks, in the 1996 elections. The civil-rights establishment refused to believe that it had even happened.

Obama, teaching about racial districting then at the University of Chicago, read my arguments but never mentioned them in class. (Yesterday, belatedly, he did condemn Tinker's odious ads but didn't make an endorsement.)

The root of the problem of racial districting that recapitulates racism itself was the defensiveness of voting-rights activists, black and white. Having struggled so bravely to pass the Voting Rights Act in the teeth of the more racist, segregationist America of the 1960s, many still cling to the assumption that people will vote only in racial blocs and that, therefore, no black can go to Congress unless districts are drawn to ensure heavy black majorities.

This is interesting reading. He looks at one election contest and many broader issues intertwined.

Complete post

New York Times pre-election coverage

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Truthout foundup 8/9

Truthout's Christopher Kuttruff interviews Congressman John Sarbanes; Russian bombs fall on towns, Georgia declares "state of war"; Paul Krugman on how the Republican "party of ideas" has become the "party of stupid"; military commanders in matters of war and peace; sport as potential agent of change and bearer of the neo-liberal torch; and more... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.09

Kuttruff Interview With Congressman John Sarbanes
Truthout's Christopher Kuttruff interviews Congressman John Sarbanes on the presidential election, domestic policy and his experiences as a freshman member of Congress.

Georgia Declares "State of War" as Russian Bombs Fall
Agence France-Presse reports: "Russian warplanes on Saturday carried out bombing raids across Georgia, reportedly leaving scores dead, as a conflict over control of South Ossetia widened well beyond the breakaway region. Georgia's president declared 'a state of war' and the United States led international calls for Russia to halt its military assault. But Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said his country would 'force the Georgian side into peace' and accused Georgia of causing thousands of 'victims'."

Lawrence J. Korb Military Leaders Make Weak Advisers
Lawrence J. Korb writes for The Washington Independent: "Over the past 18 months, anyone proposing any policy for extricating the United States from the Iraqi quagmire has been told by critics that the proposal should be vetted by Gen. David Petraeus, who took command of the U.S. forces in Iraq in February 2007. For example, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate, criticized his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, for revealing his plan to end the war in Iraq before sitting down with Petraeus. The assumption behind this line of thought is that political leaders should defer to the military commanders when it comes to issues of war and peace, especially in the middle of a war."

Roger Levermore The Double-Edged Sword of Sport and Political
Roger Levermore writes for Foreign Policy in Focus: "The potential for sport to be used in an effective manner for political protest is growing as sport gains greater prominence on the international stage. Increased political and commercial interest in mega sporting events - like the Olympics - is testament to that, as is the dramatic rise in the attempt to use of sport to further social development initiatives, particularly in low-income countries."

FOCUS The New York Times Identifying the Anthrax Killer
The New York Times writes: "The F.B.I. seems convinced that it has finally solved the long-festering case of who mailed the anthrax letters that killed five people in 2001. Yet its description of the evidence pointing to a mentally disturbed Army bioweapons expert as the sole culprit leaves us uncertain about whether investigators have pulled off a brilliant coup after a bumbling start, or are prematurely declaring victory, despite a lack of hard, incontrovertible proof."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Unearthing the NRA Mole

David Corn

Mother Jones

So far the National Rifle Association's reaction to the Mother Jones investigation that revealed that a NRA-connected mole had penetrated the gun control community for 15 years has been nothing but silence. No matter which media outfit asks the gun lobby for a comment--ABC News, Associated Press, Mother Jones--the NRA declines to say anything. It just refuses to explain its connection to Mary Lou Sapone, the self-described "research consultant" who infiltrated various gun control groups under the name of Mary McFate. As we first reported, a onetime business associate of Sapone said during a deposition that the NRA was a client for Sapone.

Why won't the NRA speak? Can anyone compel it to respond to the Sapone story?
Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, is the first in Congress to give it a try. On Thursday, he sent a letter to John Sigler, the president of the NRA:

I write regarding Mother Jones' recent expose of a reported National Rifle Association (NRA) operative who infiltrated a number of gun violence prevention organizations. This story contains serious allegations and I urge you to address them quickly.

According to Mother Jones, Mary McFate spent more than a decade rising through the ranks at several gun violence prevention organizations, including CeaseFire PA, Freedom States Alliance and States United to Prevent Gun VIolence. At the same time, however, McFate--going by the name Mary Lou Sapone--reportedly was a paid "research consultant" for the NRA. As a result, McFate/Sapone was in a position to learn about, and to report back to the NRA on, the concerns, plans and strategies of various gun violence prevention groups.

In light of these serious charges, I call upon you to immediately:

* Admit whether these charges are true or false;

* If these charges are true, disclose the precise nature of the NRA's relationship with Mary McFate/Mary Lou Sapone, including how much she was paid, the time periods for which she received payment and the services she provided;

* Make public the names (including any aliases) of any other NRA employees, consultants, members, or volunteers who have joined gun violence prevention organizations in order to report to the NRA on their activities; and

* Denounce and discontinue the practice of asking or encouraging NRA employees, consultants, members and volunteers to infiltrate gun violence prevention groups.

Although the NRA and I certainly have had our disagreements over the years, I hope that we can agree that the gun violence prevention debate should be based upon an open and honest exchange of ideas, not on underhanded tactics.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Lautenberg also sent copies of this letter to Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA, and Chris Cox, who heads the NRA's political arm.

Will Lautenberg receive a prompt reply of any substance? As an advocate of gun control measures, Lautenberg is indeed not one of the NRA's favorite legislators. But can the gun lobby ignore his request for information about its involvement in the McFate/Sapone episode? And if it does tell him to get lost, what might happen next? But whatever occurs, the NRA's silence up to now hardly allays suspicions about its role in the McFate operation.

Know-Nothing Politics

New York Times

So the G.O.P. has found its issue for the 2008 election. For the next three months the party plans to keep chanting: “Drill here! Drill now! Drill here! Drill now! Four legs good, two legs bad!” O.K., I added that last part.

And the debate on energy policy has helped me find the words for something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Republicans, once hailed as the “party of ideas,” have become the party of stupid.

Now, I don’t mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts. And I certainly don’t mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives.

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

In the case of oil, this takes the form of pretending that more drilling would produce fast relief at the gas pump. In fact, earlier this week Republicans in Congress actually claimed credit for the recent fall in oil prices: “The market is responding to the fact that we are here talking,” said Representative John Shadegg.

What about the experts at the Department of Energy who say that it would take years before offshore drilling would yield any oil at all, and that even then the effect on prices at the pump would be “insignificant”? Presumably they’re just a bunch of wimps, probably Democrats. And the Democrats, as Representative Michele Bachmann assures us, “want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, take light rail to their government jobs.”

Is this political pitch too dumb to succeed? Don’t count on it.

Remember how the Iraq war was sold. The stuff about aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds was just window dressing. The main political argument was, “They attacked us, and we’re going to strike back” — and anyone who tried to point out that Saddam and Osama weren’t the same person was an effete snob who hated America, and probably looked French.

Let’s also not forget that for years President Bush was the center of a cult of personality that lionized him as a real-world Forrest Gump, a simple man who prevails through his gut instincts and moral superiority. “Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man,” declared Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2004. “He’s not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world.”

It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina — when the heckuva job done by the man of whom Ms. Noonan said, “if there’s a fire on the block, he’ll run out and help” revealed the true costs of obliviousness — that the cult began to fade.

What’s more, the politics of stupidity didn’t just appeal to the poorly informed. Bear in mind that members of the political and media elites were more pro-war than the public at large in the fall of 2002, even though the flimsiness of the case for invading Iraq should have been even more obvious to those paying close attention to the issue than it was to the average voter.

Why were the elite so hawkish? Well, I heard a number of people express privately the argument that some influential commentators made publicly — that the war was a good idea, not because Iraq posed a real threat, but because beating up someone in the Middle East, never mind who, would show Muslims that we mean business. In other words, even alleged wise men bought into the idea of macho posturing as policy.

All this is in the past. But the state of the energy debate shows that Republicans, despite Mr. Bush’s plunge into record unpopularity and their defeat in 2006, still think that know-nothing politics works. And they may be right.

Sad to say, the current drill-and-burn campaign is getting some political traction. According to one recent poll, 69 percent of Americans now favor expanded offshore drilling — and 51 percent of them believe that removing restrictions on drilling would reduce gas prices within a year.

The headway Republicans are making on this issue won’t prevent Democrats from expanding their majority in Congress, but it might limit their gains — and could conceivably swing the presidential election, where the polls show a much closer race.

In any case, remember this the next time someone calls for an end to partisanship, for working together to solve the country’s problems. It’s not going to happen — not as long as one of America’s two great parties believes that when it comes to politics, stupidity is the best policy.

Truthout roundup 8/8

Georgia and Russia on the brink of war over separatist region; Justice Department extends attorney firings investigation to encompass senior White House officials; Ohio files lawsuit against Diebold for missing votes; US commander accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of complicity with Afghan militant groups; in 2008, Florida remains an election battleground; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.08

Russia, Georgia on Brink of War
The Associated Press reports: "Russian troops moved into South Ossetia hours after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned Georgia that its attack on the breakaway region would draw retaliation, Russian television reported Friday. The Russian move comes after Georgian troops launched a major military offensive earlier Friday to regain control over South Ossetia and the president accused Russia, which has close ties to the separatists, of bombing Georgian territory."

US Attorney Scandal Probe Enters White House Circle
Murray Waas reports for The Huffington Post: "The Justice Department investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys has been extended to encompass allegations that senior White House officials played a role in providing false and misleading information to Congress, according to numerous sources involved in the inquiry. The widened scope raises the possibility that investigators will pursue criminal charges against some administration officials, and recommend appointment of a special prosecutor if there is evidence of criminal misconduct."

Missing Ohio Votes Spark Lawsuit
In The Columbus Dispatch, Mark Niquette writes: "The touch-screen voting setup used in half of Ohio's 88 counties doesn't work properly, and the former Diebold Election Systems should pay as a result, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said in a court filing yesterday. The move comes fewer than 90 days before Ohio voters go to the polls in an election that could decide the presidential race, but Brunner says safeguards will be in place by then in the affected counties to mitigate any risks. 'We will make the equipment work, but this is not something that Ohio should be satisfied with for the long term,' Brunner said. 'Our goal is to have Ohio taxpayers compensated for this equipment that doesn't function properly.'"

US General: Pakistan Intelligence Complicit in Afghan Violence
According to Agence France-Presse: "The top US commander in Afghanistan Thursday publicly accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of 'some complicity' over time with militant groups fomenting violence in Afghanistan. Lieutenant General David McKiernan's comment in an interview with CNN was the most unambiguous statement yet on the matter by a senior US military officer, reflecting growing US frustration over the insurgent violence in Afghanistan."

2008 Election Forecast: All Eyes on Florida, Again
Rachel Kapochunas writes for Congressional Quarterly: "Florida has been hotly contested in each of the past four elections. Bill Clinton finished 100,000 votes behind President George Bush in 1992, but four years later he carried the state by 303,000 votes. George W. Bush , after his virtual tie - just 537 votes - with Al Gore in 2000, won the most decisive victory of the four in 2004 - by 381,000 votes over John Kerry. John McCain got off to something of a head start this year in Florida as a result of the asymmetrical ways in which the parties handled the state’s decision to hold a Jan. 29 presidential primary that violated both national parties’ scheduling rules. The Democratic National Committee prevailed upon its candidates to not campaign for primary votes and initially stripped the state of all its Democratic convention delegates (waiting until nearly the end of the nominating process to restore half of the delegate votes). The Republican National Committee, by contrast, took just half the state’s convention delegates away at the start and did not dissuade GOP candidates from campaigning for Florida primary votes. As a result, McCain had a high profile en route to his pivotal primary victory by 5 percentage points over Mitt Romney. 'Under normal circumstances John McCain - with his background, with his persona, his high level of public and generally positive awareness - would carry Florida,' Bob Graham, the former Democratic senator and 2004 presidential hopeful, says. 'But 2008 is not going to be an average year.'"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Truthout rooundup 8/7

Matt Renner reports for Truthout on the relationship between Iraqi oil revenues and reconstruction; roadside bombs in Afghanistan hit highest level in four years for US troops; major world powers move toward more sanctions on Iran; a year after Jena, David A. Love advocates a "zero tolerance" policy for noose incidents; Ron Suskind defends his allegation that the Bush administration forged a letter showing a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.07

Matt Renner Playing Politics With Iraqi Oil Money
Truthout's Matt Renner reports: "Republicans and Democrats have been in an uproar over a new report that examines the amount of money the government of Iraq has been taking in and where they have been spending it. However, according to a leading Iraq economy scholar, the report is being misinterpreted and the political fall-out could be extremely harmful. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released on Tuesday, shows that the government of Iraq has spent less money than the United States in reconstructing vital infrastructure despite a growing surplus in Iraq's treasury.... Antonia Juhasz, a fellow with Oil Change International and author of the forthcoming book 'The Tyranny of Oil,' takes issue with many conclusions being drawn from the GAO report. 'Pinning the failure of reconstruction and the poor functioning of the Iraqi government on the Iraqi government is obscene,' Juhasz told Truthout."

Afghan Roadside Bomb Incidents Hit Four-Year Peak
David Morgan reports for Reuters: "Roadside bomb incidents involving U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan hit their highest level in at least four years between April and June, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. There was a peak of about 200 such incidents in Afghanistan in the three-month period, data released by a Defense Department office that oversees efforts to thwart attacks by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq and Afghanistan showed.... The spring peak coincided with an intensifying Taliban insurgency that has pushed U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan above those in Iraq in recent months."

US Presses World Powers for More Iran Sanctions
For Reuters, Sue Pleming reports: "The United States and Britain said major powers agreed on Wednesday to consider more U.N. sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to freeze its nuclear activities, but Russia said there was no firm deal.... U.S. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said after the conference call: 'The P5+1 (major powers) are discussing next steps in the U.N. Security Council and beginning to consider possible outlines of another sanctions resolution.'"

David A. Love One Year After the Jena Tree Was Cut, Little Progress Has Been Made
David A. Love writes for The Progressive Media Project: "We have made some progress since the ugly incidents in Jena, La. But we still have a long way to go to make the noose a thing of the past. On August 31, 2006, a black student at Jena High School asked the principal if he could have permission to sit under the 'white tree,' the tree where white students typically congregated. The principal told the student to sit wherever he liked. The student and his friends decided to sit under the white tree. The next day, three nooses - a potent symbol of racial hate - were found hanging from the tree, the act of three white students at the high school."

Suskind Stands by White House WMD Forgery Claim
According to "Despite adamant denials by both the White House and the CIA, journalist Ron Suskind Wednesday stood by his allegation that the Bush administration concocted a fake letter purporting to show a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida as a justification for the Iraq war. 'It's all on the record,' Suskind told Meredith Vieira on TODAY. Two former CIA officers denied that they or the spy agency faked an Iraqi intelligence document, as they are quoted as saying in Suskind's book 'The Way of the World,' published Tuesday. 'I never received direction from George Tenet (CIA director at the time) or anyone else in my chain of command to fabricate a document as outlined in Mr. Suskind's book,' said Robert Richer, the CIA's former deputy director of clandestine operations."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

To urban beekeeping

Here's a nice story about beekeeping in New York City, from Good Magazine:

It doesn't have to be that way

by Don Wheeler

I suspect I'm not alone in my growing dismay that the presumptive nominee is becoming more and more timid in the face of conditions that require more and more courage. He has a fiercely loyal following, but many, many more folks are in the early stages of sizing the guy up.

Many people have worries about his lack of experience. The campaign has countered that he is a visionary - and point to his opposition of the Iraq war while a State Senator. That strikes some as quite thin evidence.

The best way to counter the experience complaint is to exhibit strong leadership. But Mr. Obama has instead reversed positions several times during the campaign. This tends to make some wonder about a person's core convictions and tenacity. It raises the suspicion that political calculation is driving things - despite the campaign's assurance that their candidate never considers such things.

If one takes even a passing look at Mr. Obama's Illinois history, it seems clear he was a pretty typical politician. That's nothing to apologize for, but denying it is likely to lead to trouble.

John Edwards admonished his party at the 2007 Winter meeting - explaining what the times called for.

...we are Democrats, the party of action – not reaction. We are Democrats, the party of principle – not appeasement.

The time for half-measures, empty promises, and sweet rhetoric is gone. Now is the time for courage, decisiveness and moral leadership.


They (the Republicans) don’t think we have it in us. They’re counting on their opponents to be weak, and political, and careful.

This is not the time for political calculation. This is the time for political courage.

Stand up.


We know one thing for sure: it is time to be patriotic about something other than war. It is time to do what you know is right and to speak out against what you know is wrong.

Not tomorrow. Now. Speak out now, take action now.

Tomorrow begins today.

Spending a bunch of money on campaign ads in Indiana, before even formally being the nominee, seems arrogant and implies a certainty that the campaign money will never end.

Some have suggested that it's a ploy to trick John McCain into spending resources here - depleting his campaign funds. But McCain's general election money clock doesn't start ticking until after his convention - so it's hard to see how that works.

And I'll make a bold prediction. Barack Obama will not win Indiana. And it will not be close.

What Mr Obama needs to do to demonstrate that he is a different kind of leader is to actually be a different kind of leader. The fact that the race looks like a dead heat (at this point) should be of great concern to the campaign. His opponent is pretty weak, and his opponent's campaign is borderline dysfunctional.

Money won't do it by itself - and the money could slow.

A change in direction is clearly indicated.

Edwards' remarks as prepared

John Dean tells us what's at stake

Truthout roundup 8/6

Japan marks the 63rd anniversary of "Little Boy" with call for nuclear abolition; FBI used questionable methods in tracking down Ivins; Muslim girl thrown in jail with her parents; Texas executes Mexican, defying UN; Enron debacle hobbles Justice Department's efforts to pursue future corporate fraud cases; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.06

Hiroshima Marks Bomb Anniversary With Hope for US Change
Agence France-Presse reports: "The mayor of Hiroshima on Wednesday urged the next US president to work to abolish atomic weapons as the city marked the 63rd anniversary of the world's first nuclear attack. Some 45,000 people, including Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, gathered at a memorial to the dead within sight of the A-bomb dome, a former exhibition hall burned to a skeleton by the bomb's incinerating heat. They stood up and offered silent prayers at 8:15 am, the exact moment in 1945 when a single US bomb instantly killed more than 140,000 people and fatally injured tens of thousands of others with radiation or horrific burns. Delivering a speech at the memorial, Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba noted the United States was one of only three countries which oppose a UN resolution submitted by Japan calling for the abolition of nuclear arms."

FBI Used Aggressive Tactics in Anthrax Probe
Pete Yost, of The Associated Press, reports: "Before killing himself last week, Army scientist Bruce Ivins told friends that government agents had stalked him and his family for months, offered his son $2.5 million to rat him out and tried to turn his hospitalized daughter against him with photographs of dead anthrax victims. The pressure on Ivins was extreme, a high-risk strategy that has failed the FBI before. The government was determined to find the villain in the 2001 anthrax attacks; it was too many years without a solution to the case that shocked and terrified a post-9/11 nation. The last thing the FBI needed was another embarrassment."

American Girl
Moustafa Bayoumi reports for New York Magazine: "Rasha is a petite five foot four. She walks with a feather step and looks at you with penetrating obsidian eyes. Her lips are often lightly glossed in pink, and her serious brown hair is commonly tied in a librarian's bun. She's fine-boned, with features as brittle and hard as porcelain: If you drop her, she'll break, but she'll cut you, too. She's tough and tender, enraged and exhausted, withdrawn and outgoing, a pessimist brimming with hope."

Texas Executes Mexican Amid International Protests
Reed Johnson writes for The Los Angeles Times: "Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national convicted of the 1993 rape and murder of two Texas girls, was executed Tuesday night in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a reprieve. 'I'm sorry my actions caused you pain. I hope this brings you the closure that you seek. Never harbor hate,' Medellin, 33, told those gathered to watch him die. He was pronounced dead at 9:57 p.m. local time. Demonstrations had been held in Mexico in anticipation of the execution. The controversy surrounding his execution, as well as concern here over the fate of 50 other Mexican citizens on U.S. death rows, appears likely to continue."

Enron Setbacks Could Hurt Other White-Collar Prosecutions
Marisa Taylor, for McClatchy Newspapers, reports: "Almost seven years after the energy giant Enron collapsed, a series of court decisions has opened the door to new trials for some of the convicted corporate executives and threatened to hobble the Justice Department's efforts to pursue future corporate-fraud cases. In the wake of the scandal, prosecutors pursued executives for covering up the company's financial bleeding and unloading millions of dollars in stock. The Bush administration was under pressure to hold the company's executives accountable for what at the time represented the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. More than 4,000 Enron employees lost their jobs, and investors lost billions."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Truthout roundup 8/5

Truthout contributor Steve Weissman writes on Robert Rubin, Barack Obama and the dangers of Wall Street "realism"; Obama stands a chance in long-red Virginia; land conflict in Brazil could escalate to civil war; China still falls short of pre-Olympics promises; Paul Krugman writes on the potential damage of slow economic decline; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.05

Weissman How Much Change Does Robert Rubin Believe In?
Steve Weissman writes for Truthout: "'Foreclosure Phil' Gramm and nice guy Robert Rubin put two different faces on the power players who move so easily between Wall Street and Washington. The personification of old-fashioned, dog-eat-dog capitalism, Gramm appears to find moral virtue in the survival of the fittest and policy guidance in Marie Antoinette's 'Let them eat cake.' In his long tenure as the Senate's top Republican on economic policy, he led the fight to roll back state and federal regulation of the economy, encouraging both the Enron scandal and the sub-prime lending frenzy. Gramm then left the Senate to find his reward as vice chairman of the Swiss-based UBS Investment Bank, for whom he continued to lobby Congress on housing and mortgage legislation. He also joined John McCain's presidential campaign as co-chair and senior economic adviser, until he was forced to resign last month for dismissing the chaos he did so much to create as merely 'a mental recession' and the victims he left behind as 'whiners.' Robert Rubin would never talk like that. The very model of a modern corporate liberal, he moved with ease from the top of Goldman Sachs to become President Bill Clinton's chief economic adviser and then secretary of the Treasury. Clinton had run as a populist on an economic platform created principally by Robert Reich, who became his labor secretary. But Rubin's Wall Street 'realism' quickly trumped Reich's academic populism, and Clinton made the North American Free Trade Agreement his top priority over universal health care. He also eliminated the budget deficit left to him by the first Bush rather than rebuilding the nation's already crumbling infrastructure, and went along with the economic deregulation that Phil Gramm was pushing in the Republican-led Congress."

Virginia Goes From Red State to Swing State
Alec MacGillis and Tim Craig report for The Washington Post: "This year's Fredericksburg Fair had the usual attractions: Hercula the Giant Horse and Black Jack the Giant Steer, the carnival rides and the four-wheeler races. But added to the mix was something Virginians had not seen for decades -- the earnest campaigning of a competitive presidential race. As the Friday-night crowds entered the fairgrounds in a part of the state on the dividing line between its liberal north and conservative south, volunteers for Sen. Barack Obama's campaign set up post to register voters. 'It's time for a change,' said one volunteer, Josef Jazvic, 39, an information technology worker helping on a campaign for the first time. 'The fact that [Virginia] is even up for grabs tells you a lot.'"

Court: Brazil on the Brink of Civil War
The Associated Press reports: "Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - Deep in the northernmost reaches of the Amazon jungle, a land conflict between rice farmers and a handful of Indian tribes has turned so violent that the country's Supreme Court warns it could escalate into civil war. The court is expected to decide in August if the government can keep evicting rice farmers from a 4.2 million acre Indian reservation decreed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2005. The evictions were stopped in April when rice farmers started burning bridges and blockading roads, and justices said they feared a 'veritable civil war.' The court's decision could help determine the future of the Amazon, whose remaining jungles provide a critical cushion against global warming. It could also redefine Brazil's policy toward its Indians at a time of frequent confrontations, as the country spends billions of dollars opening roads, building dams and promoting agribusiness across the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness."

China Fails to Keep Promises It Made to Win Olympic Games
Jack Chang and Tim Johnson report for McClatchy Newspapers: "With four days left before the start of the 2008 Summer Games, Chinese officials have not lived up to key promises they made to win the right to host the Olympics, including widening press freedoms, cleaning up their capital city's polluted air and respecting human rights."

Paul Krugman A Slow-Mo Meltdown
For The New York Times, Paul Krugman writes: "A year ago, as the outlines of the current financial crisis were just becoming clear, I suggested that this crisis, unlike a superficially similar crisis in 1998, wouldn't end quickly. It hasn't. The good news, I guess, is that we've been experiencing a sort of slow-motion meltdown, lacking in dramatic Black Fridays and such. The gradual way the crisis has unfolded has led to an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin debate among economists about whether what we're suffering really deserves to be called a recession. Yet even a slo-mo crisis can do a lot of damage if it goes on for a year and counting."

The FSSA fizzle

from the JLT field team

Last week, the team visited Kokomo, IN for the meeting of the Select Joint Commission on Medicaid.

Last Thursday, we attended the Select Joint Commission on Medicaid in Kokomo, Indiana, one of the first sites for the rollout of the modernization and privatization effort. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the shortcomings of this new system and the resulting failures of the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Technology, including telephone call centers, the internet, and fax services, are part of this effort and instead of streamlining the process, have made it more difficult for Hoosiers to access the resources they desperately need. Modernization sounds like a great concept, but high-tech solutions are often inconvenient for people who are disabled and for older generations - those most often in need of FSSA's assistance. Instead, Indiana needs practical solutions to solve the problems we face.

FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, who was representing the governor's office, seemed to display an attitude becoming characteristic of Mitch Daniels' administration - he was simply out of touch. While making his abbreviated presentation at the beginning of the meeting, Roob continuously blamed the floods that plagued parts of Indiana as the reason for the unfavorable statistics regarding the Daniels administration's recent performance. He also left the room during much of the public testimony that took place later in the meeting, showing his lack of consideration for Hoosiers' concerns.

Public testimony made it clear that the problems caused by modernization and privatization are being felt in major ways. Those most affected are not receiving the necessary services - some residents even broke down during testimony. The stories included a laundry list of mishaps from ailing family members and incredible self-sacrifice to extremely long waiting periods and unconscionable denials of services. They told stories of having to spend entire retirement savings accounts to pay the medical bills of sick family members. They told stories of waiting months to receive services and during that time having to repeatedly go through the application process. Above all, lack of accountability by the government was a recurring theme in every story.

Instead of continuing this cycle of mismanagement and failure, Jill Long Thompson sees another direction for our state. Jill opposes privatization of the FSSA and other government services. As Governor, she would review all contracts to see what legal recourses the state may have and what would be the best options for all Hoosiers. Privatization is bad for FSSA and bad for Indiana.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Rep. Jackie Speier in Congress: real change cause for gratitude, real hope and celebration!

Rep. Jackie Speier in Congress: real change cause for gratitude, real hope and celebration!

Brave new Congressswoman shows how Congress could change, if they only would, if they only dare!

This is the story that describes the change we have been waitng for in Congress, in lo these many years!
Run to it, and it will gladden your progressive heart as it did mine.

Rush to see it now:

The San Jose Mercury News tells a grand story this Monday morning about Congresswoman Jackie Speier, the story of a fearless Woman now in congresss!. Reading it is a great way to get the week started right for any progressive wanting change in Congress for so long. Much better than a cup of coffee, this story woke me up with a bang!

The other amazing part of the story is that MSM is actually telling it.San Jose Mercury News is a McClatchy newspaper. LO and behold!

Tuthout roundup 8/4

The historic Harvard commencement speech of recently deceased writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Florida delegates will be seated at Democratic National Convention; Senator McCain draws opposition from veterans for voting against their benefits; Kirkuk dispute puts Iraqi elections in jeopardy; bureaucratic obstacles continue to put a wrench in plans and dreams at FEMA trailer parks; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at

t r u t h o u t 08.04

Alexander Solzhenitsyn A World Split Apart
Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who chronicled Soviet repression and exposed Stalin's labor camp system to the world, died Sunday at the age of 89. In June 1978, during a Harvard address, he said: "The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of entirely destroying the other. However, understanding of the split often is limited to this political conception, to the illusion that danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is a much profounder and a more alienating one, that the rifts are more than one can see at first glance. This deep manifold split bears the danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a Kingdom -- in this case, our Earth -- divided against itself cannot stand."

Obama Asks DNC to Let Florida Delegates Cast Full Votes at Denver Convention
Beth Reinhard, of The Miami Herald, reports: "Seeking closure of the bitter dispute that rocked Florida's Democratic primary, presumptive nominee Barack Obama asked the national party Sunday to let the state's delegates cast full votes at the convention in Denver. Practically speaking, whether Florida delegates have full or half votes won't matter because Obama won enough delegates in the primaries to claim the nomination. Still, Democratic leaders welcomed the gesture."

Dan Moffett Not All Veterans Salute McCain
Dan Moffett writes for the Palm Beach Post: "The growing ranks of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will have a lot to say about who becomes president. And what they are saying isn't what you might expect. In theory, John McCain, with his long record of service as a Navy pilot and prisoner of war story from Vietnam, should have the market cornered on the military vote. Instead, he has drawn opposition from many veterans because of his voting record in the Senate. Sen. McCain has voted against bills that would have improved veterans' benefits, particularly health care, or measures to ease the strain on active-duty troops and their families."

Battle Over Oil-Rich City Threatens to Derail Iraqi Elections
For McClatchy Newspapers, Leila Fadel and Sahar Issa report: "Despite intense U.S. pressure, Iraqi legislators Sunday failed to reach an agreement to solve an increasingly bitter dispute over the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk. Kirkuk sits on Iraq's northern oil fields and also on a fault line between the Sunni Muslim Kurds who dominate most of northern Iraq and the Sunni Arabs who occupy the center of the country. Saddam Hussein forced thousands of Kurds out of the city to make way for more Arabs, but since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Kurds and their militia, the peshmerga, have driven many Sunni Arabs out of Kirkuk. The parliament's inability to resolve the dispute over the city mirrors Iraqi political leaders' inability to make progress on other fronts, including constitutional amendments and the passage of a law governing the distribution of the country's oil revenues, despite the recent improvements in security."

Out of FEMA Park, Clinging to a Fraying Lifeline
Shaila Dewan, of The New York Times, reports: "Two months ago, as he left the trailer park he called home after Hurricane Katrina, Alton Love, 41, just knew he was on the brink of getting a working car, an apartment and a good job to support the 9-year-old daughter he is raising on his own. Doris Fountain was in a comfortable hotel, waiting on a water heater and an air-conditioner for her once-flooded house in New Orleans. Matthew Bailey had just received his first check - $48 - for selling diet products via the Internet, a source of income he insisted would ultimately pull in $5,000 to $20,000 a month. Their plans, the fragile products of battered optimism, have been derailed by bureaucratic obstacles and the evacuees’ own tenuous abilities to cope."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A new low for Wal-Mart

Today marks a new low for Wal-Mart. No, not low prices; low and dirty anti-worker tactics. We’ve known for years that Wal-Mart has violated labor and anti-discrimination laws and ruthlessly fought efforts by its workers to form unions. And now, according to The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart is so intimidated by the very possibility of a unionized workforce that its supervisors have been holding mandatory meetings essentially telling employees to vote against Democrats and Sen. Barack Obama this November.

Wal-Mart is taking this outrageous step because the Democrats and Barack Obama have committed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for fair wages, health care, decent working conditions and a real voice on the job. All of America’s workers have the right to freely decide whom to vote for independent of employer pressure and intimidation.

Tell Wal-Mart to stop intimidating workers TODAY!

Wal-Mart’s reported actions are just one piece of a large and well-organized effort by corporate America to continue exploiting America’s workers by preventing them from forming unions. With our economy struggling and workers’ wages stagnant, it is critical that we fight workplace intimidation and other heavy-handed corporate tactics. CEOs and Big Business already have too much influence in our political system and telling their employees whom to vote for is simply unacceptable.

Corporate giants like Wal-Mart have been suppressing workers’ wages and passing along health care costs to hardworking taxpayers like you for years. Wal-Mart executives are getting rich, while we’re being left behind. They understand what is at stake in this election, and so do we—a real voice at work for:

Fair pay;
Health care for all;
Equal treatment;
Safe workplaces; and

A secure retirement.

And Wal-Mart is ready to use its incredible corporate power as America’s largest private employer to corrupt the political system to safeguard its profits.

Tell Wal-Mart you reject its unfair and immoral workplace intimidation.

Thanks for your support.

In solidarity,
Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

P.S. Once you’ve signed our petition, please forward this e-mail wide and far to all your co-workers, family and friends who may be interested. For more on Wal-Mart’s workplace intimidation, check out the AFL-CIO Now blog and our friends at Americans Rights At Work.

Donnelly Watch editorial: Donnelly should return Wal-Mart $

[from the Donnelly Watch blog]

You may have heard or read about the accusations that Wal-Mart has
been lobbying its employees to vote Republican, in part because of
their opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would
make it easier for workers to organize and is co-sponsored by Sen.
Barack Obama.
the article here.

What you may not have heard is that our 2nd District Representative to
Congress, Joe Donnelly, has taken $5K from Wal-Mart towards his
re-election campaign. A column by Jack Colwell in today's South Bend
Tribune entitled "Donors put their bets on perceived winners" reports
that Donnelly is ahead of his Republican opponent, Luke Puckett in
total campaign receipts -- $1,580,631 to $203,850 a gap of more than
*7 times.* Colwell also reports that "Neither party at the national
level is likely to regard the district as a battleground this fall."
the article here.

Now, why does Donnelly feel the need to take money from Wal-Mart, a
blatantly anti-union retailer that refuses to offer its employees
decent health care, has had numerous charges of discrimination, and
continues to act against the strengthening of labor laws and standards
in other countries?

Donnelly doesn't need this money. He should give it back and stand up
for "working families" here and abroad.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The liberals made him do it

by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
The Miami Herald

Had it not been liberals, it would have been something else. Let's grant that from the beginning.

Broken people, after all, can always find some equally broken rationale for the carnage they cause. And the brokenness of 58-year-old Jim Adkisson can hardly be doubted after he walked into a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday and, according to police, shot eight people, killing two.

He might as well have said he did it because he didn't like the color of the building, a black cat crossed his path or the voices in his head thought it a good idea. Except, he didn't. Police say that, according to the four-page note he left, he went on the rampage because he couldn't find a job -- and because he hates gay people and liberals.

Even through the brokenness of the man, that reasoning resonates.

From the days the first President Bush branded it ''the L word'' -- i.e., the ideology that dare not speak its name -- conservative politicians and media figures have been relentlessly effective in selling the idea that ''liberal'' is the brand name for every wrong thing they see, every opinion they disagree with, every change they fear. They have not been hampered by excessive devotion to nuance.

As in the pundit who claims ''liberal'' is a mental disorder. And the politician who says liberals are in league with Satan. And the preacher who said Sept. 11 was caused by liberals. And the other preacher who says liberals cause natural disasters.

It has reached the point where I no longer have the faintest idea what liberal -- or, for that matter, conservative -- even means.

Oh, I know what they used to mean. To be conservative was to be suspicious of change and federal oversight, to embrace minimalist government, fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense. To be liberal was to be welcoming of change, suspicious of militarism and committed to activist government that worked to protect and uplift those who are shoved to the margins of American life.

That's what they meant then. What they mean now seems to depend on the needs of a given moment.

Your humble correspondent has never been much for ideology. I find it hard to believe liberals have a monopoly on truth. Same for conservatives. And frankly, as far as I'm concerned, any worldview that can be summed up in a word probably isn't much of a worldview.

But it is increasingly the case that what we are being presented isn't a debate between competing worldviews so much as it is a morality play: righteous good versus unholy evil. Conservatives have cast themselves in the former role, leaving liberals the latter. It's a libel to which liberals have responded as the bug does to the windshield: splat.

Unable to say what they believe or to frame it any compelling way, they have allowed themselves to be defined instead from without, standing ineffectual in a mudstorm of invective. They are, the propaganda goes, effete, unpatriotic, unstable, un-American, anti-God, evil, and the source of a voter's every problem, down to and including the death of his goldfish and the breakup of his marriage.

It is so over the top, so patently ridiculous, it's almost funny. Until you remember that dehumanizing people inevitably has consequences.

That's what Knoxville is, a consequence.

No, conservatives did not cause this bloodbath. Jim Adkisson allegedly did. But in telling him ''liberals'' were the source of his every disaffection and woe, conservatives certainly validated the hatred and madness that drove him.

It would be a fitting tribute to those who were lost in Knoxville if this tragedy gave the authors of the ongoing morality play cause for pause -- and reflection. Or is accountability yet another lost conservative value?

Truthout roundup 8/1

Jeremy Scahill refutes Blackwater's "whining" about negative media attention; the Bush White House has prioritized "loyalists" throughout its administration; solar power may soon become widely accessible and practical; Paul Krugman writes on the conflict between Speaker Pelosi and Republicans on environmental issues; Wal-Mart worries that a Democratic win will fuel unionization; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at
t r u t h o u t 08.01

Jeremy Scahill Blackwater's Not Going Anywhere
Jeremy Scahill, The Nation: "It seems that executives from Blackwater Worldwide, the Bush Administration's favorite hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan, are threatening to pack up their M4 assault rifles, CS gas and Little Bird helicopters and go back to the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina whence they came. Or at least that's how it is being portrayed in the media."

For White House, Hiring Is Political
Charlie Savage, The New York Times: "On May 17, 2005, the White House's political affairs office sent an e-mail message to agencies throughout the executive branch directing them to find jobs for 108 people on a list of 'priority candidates' who had 'loyally served the president.' 'We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible,' the White House emphasized in a follow-up message, according to a little-noticed passage of a Justice Department report released Monday about politicization in the department's hiring of civil-service prosecutors and immigration officials."

"Major Discovery" From MIT Primed to Unleash Solar Revolution
Anne Trafton, MIT News: "In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine. Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy."

Paul Krugman Can This Planet Be Saved?
Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "Recently the Web site The Politico asked Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, why she was blocking attempts to tack offshore drilling amendments onto appropriations bills. 'I'm trying to save the planet; I'm trying to save the planet,' she replied. I'm glad to hear it. But I'm still worried about the planet's prospects."

Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win
Ann Zimmerman and Kris Maher, The Wall Street Journal: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart. In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized."

Suspect in 2001 Anthrax Attacks Kills Himself
Matt Apuzzo and Lara Jakes Jordan report for The Associated Press: "Federal prosecutors investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks were planning to indict and seek the death penalty against a top Army microbiologist in connection with anthrax mailings that killed five people. The scientist, who was developing a vaccine against the deadly toxin, committed suicide this week."

Guantanamo Military Trials: Hamdan Defense Session Held in Secret
William Glaberson reports for The New York Times from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: "After military prosecutors rested their case against Osama bin Ladenís former driver, the military judge on Thursday closed the courtroom to the news media and other observers for the first time so the tribunal could hear defense testimony in secret."

Nuclear Watchdog Boosts US-India Atomic Deal, Despite Concerns
Reuters reports: "Governors of the UN nuclear watchdog approved an inspections plan for India by consensus on Friday, a key step towards finalizing a US-Indian nuclear cooperation deal, diplomats in the closed meeting said. The accord would open up to India the world market in atomic materials and technology for civilian use, but is controversial since New Delhi has conducted nuclear test explosions and never joined the global Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."

Cass R. Sunstein Judicial Partisanship Awards
Cass R. Sunstein writes for The Washington Independent: "Who are the real activists on the US Supreme Court? Do Republican appointees differ from Democratic appointees? How much? Are federal judges political? I have been studying these issues with several colleagues, including Thomas Miles, an economist and lawyer at the University of Chicago Law School, for a number of years now. One big question: Do judges show a political bias? We also wanted to see what any bias might tell us about how judges might rule in the future - under, for example, an Obama or McCain administration."

Serge Truffaut Neither Fish Nor Fowl
Le Devoir's Serge Truffaut examines the longer term implications of Turkey's recent Constitutional Court ruling, which will not force the ruling government party, the AKP, to disband, in spite of its perceived failures to honor the secularism enshrined in Turkey's Constitution.

Donnelly takes $5K from Wal-Mart

Original source is here.

Where does a politician, or a political party, draw the line in the willingness to sacrifice principles for a few bucks? When we talk about the need to "change" the political environment and the culture of money and politics, isn't there some place where you can say, "right here, this is the perfect example and we aren't going to let this go on anymore"? I would argue that the place to draw the line is the relationship between the Democratic Party and Wal-Mart. And the time to draw the line is now.

I outline the facts in a moment. But, the premise for the need to draw the line now is this: There may be no corporation in American today that has been a more persistent, regular violator of the law than Wal-Mart. There may be no corporation in America that has been as virulently anti-union as Wal-Mart, firing workers repeatedly for trying to organize. There may be no corporation in America that has attacked the rights of workers and undercut the living standards of Americans more than Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has at least 80 class-action lawsuitsin 41 states pending against it.

Wal-Mart illegally denied full rest or meal breaks in violation of state wage and hour laws--a violation that may cost the company $2 billion.

Wal-Mart abuses women, and is the defendants in the biggest sex discrimination case in history.

Wal-Mart is a habitual tax-dodger.

Wal-Mart's heirs buy expensive paintings but won't give their workers decent health care.

Wal-Mart sued a disabled women, demanding she give back money she won in a settlement.

Wal-Mart exploits children in Mexico.

Wal-Mart lead a global corporate lobbying campaign to block a very modest improvement in Chinese labor laws--because Wal-Mart's business model depends on exploiting cheap labor, here and abroad.

And that's just a sample. Why would any political leader, who represents him or herself to be a defender of the working person, want to be affiliated with such a company?

The answer is clear: money. The Democratic Party is almost even with the Republican Party in the money it receives from Wal-Mart, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Center's data, published in an article in today's Wall Street Journal , shows that 12 years ago, Wal-Mart's PAC gave 98 percent of its money to Republicans. In the current cycle, Democrats have received 48 percent of Wal-Mart's PAC expenditures.

Donnelly, Joe (D-IN) $5,000