Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Terror on the loose...with Bushco blessings?

I could have made this a lot easier on myself, and every week, as Wednesday approaches, I start to wish I had. There was nothing to stop me from labeling every idiotic remark or outrageous policy the Republicans come up with as 'scandalous,' but early on, I set a higher standard, deciding to list only those scandals that inspired some kind of official action - investigations, indictments, convictions, etc.

It always seems to work out, though. Every week turns up something, and this week is no exception.

Update addition #1 comes from the Justice Department, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee target John Ashcroft for letting Nabil al-Marabh, once No. 27 on the FBI list of Most Wanted Terrorists, slip through the hands of the American justice system. According to the AP, "FBI and Customs agents gathered evidence al-Marabh had trained in Afghanistan's militant camps, sent money to a roommate convicted in a foiled plot to bomb a hotel and was tied to overseas financial transactions that raised red flags even before Sept. 11."

So, we tracked him down, locked him up and entrusted the Ashcroft Justice Department with bringing him to justice.

Their idea of doing that? Releasing him to Syria without a trial.


The other new entry also comes from the anti-terrorism beat, as the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security opens an investigation into Faisal Gill, who managed to secure a top-secret security clearance despite hiding his relationship to Abdurahman Alamoudi, who, according to Salon, "was indicted last October on terrorism-related money laundering charges and now claims to have been part of a plot by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to assassinate Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia."

It's no small thing. As the Salon story points out, "Terrorism suspects, meanwhile, are increasingly being prosecuted for failing to fill out government forms truthfully. "We aggressively prosecute people who fail to disclose their terrorist associations on visa and naturalization documents," one prosecutor said..."

But Gill's not just anybody. He's got a powerful sponsor in the person of Republican lobbyist/strategist Grover Norquist. Could Grover take a tumble as this investigation moves forward? One can only hope, but either way, it's a scandal.

That brings the Scorecard total to 46, and, as always, you can find the whole sordid mess at the Scandal Scorecard home page.

A note for the Don't Panic file...

...from The Note
Nearly every political reporter in America is having the same experience — they keep finding Republicans who say they will never vote again for President Bush (over the the war and the deficit, usually) but they have a heck of a time finding anyone who voted for Gore in 2000 who are now certain that they will vote for Bush (and Gore apparently won the popular vote).

Did Bushco® sell New Iraq® a

Well, take a look at some of the product specs on Way New™ brand sovereignty...

There's this...
More than a year into an aid effort that American officials likened to the Marshall Plan, occupation authorities acknowledge that fewer than 140 of 2,300 promised construction projects are under way. Only three months after L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator who departed Monday, pledged that 50,000 Iraqis would find jobs at construction sites before the formal transfer of sovereignty, fewer than 20,000 local workers are employed.
and this...
"The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation. Among its findings:

-In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.

-Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with another $10 billion about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.

-The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.

-The new Iraqi civil defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.

-The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.
and the maintenance records don't look too good...

Military Fatalities since March 19, 2003

US 857
UK 60
Poland 6
Denmark 1
Spain 11
Italy 18
Ukraine 6
Bulgaria 6
Thailand 2
Estonia 1
El Salvador 1
Netherlands 1
Slovakia 3
Latvia 1
Hungary 1

So, would you buy a used war from these men?

Shorter Kristof

via Roger Ailes
Bush is an illegal drug-using, dimwitted, dishonest, self-deluded zealot who got us into "a mess," that is, an unnecessary war which has caused thousands of deaths. Therefore, liberals are bad.

Arianna sez...

The post-9/11 age calls for a candidate who can turn the focus onto the people he wants to lead — on their struggles and their dreams and their desire for unity and a better life for their children.

It calls for a candidate like John Kerry, who this week told those gathered at a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference, “The stories of your lives have become the work of my life. I am running for president to be part of making your dreams real again. To fight with you in your struggles.”

...the Democratic Party actually has a candidate with the biography, the intellect, the heart, the chutzpah and the courage to offer voters a stirring view of where we should be headed as a country.
...and a lot more. Go read the whole thing.

And bookmark her blog while you're at it.

At the finish line...

It's the last day of another FEC filing period, and John Kerry has a chance beat BC04 in fundraising for the fourth consecutive month. That would be an incredible achievement, and generate not only the resources for a big pre-convention finish, but another round of positive press. It's a big deal.

I'm pleased to have played a small part, both through my individual contributions and the over $1000 we've raised together through the Upper Left Kerry Core account. If you're thinking about throwing a few bucks JK's way today, I'd sure think it was special if you used this link as a conduit for your contribution.

If there's another channel you prefer, great. However, wherever, just remember that the time is now. This is the last reporting date before the convention, and once the convention comes, no more Kerry begging at all!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

So, how's that working for you?

Now that New Iraq® has had a day to adjust the seats and mirrors, review the manual and take a test drive, how's that Way New™ sovereignty working out?

Well, not so good, it seems, if you're an American Marine who thought the insurgents might lighten up...
A roadside bomb rocked a military convoy in southeast Baghdad on Tuesday, killing three U.S. Marines and wounding two others in the first fatal attack on American forcessince they transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.
or a hostage who thought your captors might be impressed...
Meanwhile, Iraqi militants shot dead an American soldier they had held hostage for three months, saying the killing was because of U.S. policy in the Mideast nation, Al-Jazeera television said Tuesday.
or an Iraqi cop who thought your new status would rate new respect...
Early Tuesday, gunmen attacked a police station in Mahmudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing one officer and one civilian, said policeman Satar al-Ghareri. Some eyewitnesses said the gunmen recited Quranic verses before peppering the police station withbullets and rocket-propelled grenade-fire.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb exploded as a senior Kurdish police official was heading to work, killing one of this guards and wounding him, police said.
or an Iraqi prisoner who thought aquittal would mean release or an Iraqi judge who thought your orders could be enforced...
Iyad Akmush Kanum, 23, learnt the limits of sovereignty on Monday when US prosecutors refused to uphold an Iraqi judges' order acquitting him of attempted murder of coalition troops.

US prosecutors said that he was being returned to the controversial Abu Ghraib prison because under the Geneva Conventions they were not bound by Iraqi law.
or an American President who thought it might spruce up your "War Prez" image.
By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans say the handover of political sovereignty to Iraqis now is not a sign of success but a sign of failure, because the country's stability remains in question, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll.
Watch your mailbox for the recall notice...

Crossing the line

"In the executive responsibility, you put first the people and not the pickets."
That's what Massacheusetts' Republican Governor Mitt Romney had to say about crossing an informational picket line of police officers and fire fighters in order to fill in for John Kerry at the the National Conference of Mayors meeting in Boston yesterday.

Perhaps you didn't notice, Gov. Romney, but those pickets are people. Very special people. The people you and I and every American counts on to risk their lives every day in order to make our lives more secure. Political grandstanding is nothing out of the ordinary, but political grandstanding at the expense of first responders who have been working without a contract for two years?

Well, I guess that's nothing out of the ordinary, either, for a Republican pol. But it's still reprehensible.

Oh. I repeat myself.

Anyway, with his actions, Romney enrolled in the ranks of the lying liars that infest every layer of his party, as this clip from the New York Times coverage reveals.
Mr. Romney insisted Monday he was "not here to make any comment or statement on Senator Kerry."

So, to whom might he have been referring when he said:

"A mayor, a governor and a president have a responsibility to make tough decisions and balance budgets. A senator doesn't, and that's a big difference. Senators don't have to balance budgets. Senators don't have to make those kinds of trade-offs. That's what the mayor has to do, and that's why I want to be here for him."
I'm not a psychic, and I don't play one on the blog, so I don't really know why Mitt Romney does anything. I know what he did in Boston, though.

He showed contempt for police and fire fighters everywhere - and particularly the men and women in Boston who keep working without a contract beccause they really understand what responsibility means, and just hope for honest bargaining and a little respect from people, including Senators, mayors and yes, even governors. Last night they got that respect from John Kerry, and disdain from Mitt Romney.

Again, nothing out of the ordinary for a Republican pol.

Quote of the day

Honors go to Paul Krugman.
What the figures don't describe is the toxic mix of ideological obsession and cronyism that lie behind that dismal performance.
He's talking about the occupation of Iraq, but can you think of any part of the Bush administration his words can't be applied to?

Didn't think so.

Storm warning

Appreciation extended to The Stakeholder for a pointer to today's E.J. Dionne piece that takes a look at Democratic Congressional prospects through the eyes of a couple Upper Lefters - Representatives Jay Inslee and Brian Baird. It's always nice to get noticed by the other Washington.

Dionne points out that Inslee, who was swept out of the House in the Republican tidal wave of '94 "...came back to the House in 1998, and now what he's seeing "is the same tidal wave moving in the opposite direction. . . . There's a passion out there." And the passion, Inslee says, is running against George W. Bush."

Baird, who represents a sprawling district in southwest Washington, reports that ""I've never seen a time with so many Republicans expressing consternation about their party and a willingness to support the other party."

Bear in mind, these guys don't come from the kind of deep blue environment that produces my Congressman, Jim McDermott. They represent small towns and suburbs and farm country - Baird's district, in fact, went to Bush in 2000 even as Gore was carrying the state. Where they're from isn't very different at all than the places where we have challengers like Don Barbieri and Alex Alben battling to take our Congressional delegation from 6 to 3 D to an overwhelming 8 to 1 advantage.

There's a big blue storm brewing off the Pacific coast, folks, and by November it may build up enough force to sweep across the country. Hang on to your hats, there's a wild ride coming.

The clowns convene...

With Arnie, McCain and Rudy tapped for prime time appearances at the Republican National Convention, it looks like the real right-wing whacko wing of the Party has been reduced to being represented by a putative Democrat, Zell Miller.

It sounds like a pretty ho-hum lineup to me. I liked the original agenda better...

New York, NY
6:00 PM Opening Prayer led by the Reverend Jerry Fallwell
6:30 PM Pledge of Allegiance
6:35 PM Burning of Bill of Rights (excluding 2nd amendment)
6:45 PM Salute to the Coalition of the Willing
6:46 PM Seminar #1 Getting your kid a military deferment
7:30 PM First Presidential Beer Bong
7:35 PM Serve Freedom Fries
7:40 PM EPA Address #1: Mercury, it's what's for dinner.
8:00 PM Vote on which country to invade next
8:10 PM Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh
8:15 PM John Ashcroft Lecture: The Homos are after your children
8:30 PM Round table discussion on reproductive rights (MEN only)
8:50 PM Seminar #2 Corporations: The government of the future
9:00 PM Condi Rice sings "Can't Help Lovin'Dat Man"
9:05 PM Second Presidential Beer Bong
9:10 PM EPA Address #2 Trees: The real cause of forest fires
9:30 PM Break for secret meetings
10:00 PM Second prayer led by Cal Thomas
10:15 PM Lecture by Carl Rove: Doublespeak made easy
10:30 PM Rumsfeld demonstration of how to squint and talk macho
10:35 PM Bush demonstration of trademark "deer in headlights" stare.
10:40 PM John Ashcroft demonstrates new mandatory kevlar chastity belt
10:45 PM Clarence Thomas reads list of black Republicans
10:46 PM Third Presidential Beer Bong
10:50 PM Seminar #3 Education: a drain on our nation's economy.
11:10 PM Hillary Clinton Pinata
11:20 PM Second Lecture by John Ashcroft: Evolutionists: The dangerous new cult
11:30 PM Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh again.
11:35 PM Blame Clinton
11:40 PM Laura serves milk and cookies
11:50 PM Closing Prayer led by Jesus Himself
12: 00PM Nomination of George W. Bush as Holy Supreme Planetary Overlord
(via Antiblog)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Credit where credit is due...

The folks at Get Your War On are almost as fast as Bremer hisself...

...though it took me a bit of time to track it down at Norbizness.

Everybody has something to offer... just have to be patient and look for it.

For instance, many of us had just about given up on the Vice President as a complete waste of DNA, but Joe Klein finds a use for him in Time Magazine...
"Bob Woodward reported that (General Tommy) Franks once called Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, who was charged with postwar planning, "the [Cheney expletive] stupidest guy on the face of the earth..."
...and if we wait long enough, we might figure out what Feith is good for, too.


I notice there's still a lot of new traffic today. Glad you dropped by. Look around, and if you like the place, perhaps you'll join the folks who've voted for Upper Left as the best local website on the Seattle Weekly's 'Best of Seattle' ballot.

If you really like the place, or just feel particularly generous or charitable today, your financial support for the site is always appreciated!

Or drop a comment.

Or add UL to your bookmarks.

Or just accept my thanks for being here.

Union Yes!

BOSTON, June 27 - Caught in a labor dispute between his hometown mayor and the city's police and firefighters' unions, Senator John Kerry sided Sunday with the unions.


Later Sunday night, after attending Mass and receiving communion at St. Vincent's Waterfront Chapel overlooking Boston Harbor, Mr. Kerry was asked how he would respond to the mayor. "I don't cross picket lines," he said. "I never have."
Solidarity forever!

(and an aside to Amy Sullivan - maybe JK doesn't have to talk about his religion all that much because nobody else will shut up about it...)

Mixed reviews...

No, not another F911 item. Once the wingers got though bashing Michael Moore sight unseen, the news for his new film has been pretty good. Iraqis are starting to weigh in on Way New™ sovereignty, though, and so far they seem to range from unimpressed to disdainful.

The AP hit the streets and found some discouraging words.
"I feel I'm still occupied. You can't find anywhere in the world people who would accept occupation. America these days is like death. Nobody can escape from it." - Qassim al-Sabti, artist in Baghdad.


"When we regain our security, safety and jobs, we will celebrate then. When I can go out for dinner with my friends after 9 p.m, we will celebrate." - Ahmed Karim, 31, of Baghdad.


"The new government will abide by the orders of the occupation. There could never be sovereignty or independence in Iraq while there's one occupation soldier in my country." - retired Iraqi government employee Adnan Hamad, 75, in Jordan.
And the New York Times reporters didn't fare much better.
"I hope it's good," said Mr. Ansary, 28, the store owner. "If the Americans stay here, nothing will change. They need to pull out of the cities. We don't want to see their Humvees around."


"Bremer has left, but the strings attached to the new government are very long," (Ms. Akuli) said, referring to L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator in Iraq, who flew out of the country to Kuwait around noon. "They can be pulled from Washington."

"Our leaders are just toys," she added. "They have independent thought, but they don't have independent action, which is the most important thing."


"State employees are benefiting under the new government," said Ali Khadhum, 38, a salesman in a furniture store in the Jamaa neighborhood. "They have good jobs and better pay. But what about ordinary citizens? What about all the people with no jobs? Will the new government provide more jobs? What will happen to them in the future Iraq?"


"Everybody is backing Sistani and Sadr," Mr. Abdul-Wahid said, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq. "They are our marjaiyah, our high clerics, and we follow them 100 percent. The Americans and the new government will be like Saddam. They won't give a big role to the clerics. They won't be allowed to have a big influence on the people."
The bottom line?

At a nearby bookstore, the owner, Harith Anvar, 23, pointed out the obvious: No one's life had actually changed yet. Nor were there any immediate signs that that would happen.

Speaking of health care...

...if you haven't developed the Bob Herbert habit lately, you're missing one of the issue's most forthright and important voices.

Here's a tease from his latest piece to tempt you.
The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet, but millions of Americans without access to care die from illnesses that could have been successfully treated if diagnosed in time. Poor people line up at emergency rooms for care that should be provided in a doctor's office or clinic. Each year tens of thousands of men, women and children die from medical errors and many more are maimed.

But when you look for leadership on these issues, you find yourself staring into the void. If you want to get physicians' representatives excited, ask them about tort reform, not patient care. Elected officials give lip service to health care issues, but at the end of the campaign day their allegiance goes to the highest bidders, and they are never the people who put patients first.

And here, again, is a link to the DCCC's Patient's Bill of Rights petition.

Help 'em out. It's our issue if we take it. Nobody else seems to want it.

More bad news for Bushco boosters

With health care shaping up as a bigger issue all the time, as Kerry runs ads highlighting the problem and the Congressional D's hyping a new petition for a Patient's Bill of Rights, Bush has stuck with his pals in the insurance industry, figuring, apparently, that their checks will buy more votes than he loses by ignoring those in need.

Pandering to the insurers legislative desirese, though, may not be enough if his economic policies keep cutting into their customer base in the way this weekend post from Nathan Newman indicates.
It's fair to say that a lot of jobs that are being created may not be the jobs that come with benefits," Ron Williams, president of Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET - news), one of the biggest U.S. health insurers with 13 million members, told investors in early June.

That echoes recent comments by others in the industry including William McGuire, chief executive of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH - news), the biggest U.S. health plan with 18 million members...
Analysts who follow the big publicly-traded health plans in general have even more grim enrollment forecasts than the companies themselves.

The stark reality is that employer-paid health care is now a privilege, not something a majority of employees can aspire to: In 2003, 45 percent of employees had medical coverage through employers, down from 63 percent a decade earlier, according to government figures.
Let's face it, you can't get rich gouging customers you don't have. Folks who do math for a living are bound to figure that out.

It's Here! Way New™ brand sovereignty by Bushco®

Now with FUBAR™!

Yep, Paul Bremer, manager of Bushco's Baghdad dealership, worked overtime for an early delivery of this beauty, loaded with special features. Before sweeping out all the bothersome autonomy and collecting his commission on his way out of town, he packed the New Iraq® model with
Mandatory five year terms for his hand picked brand managers, including Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief.

A shiny new inspector-general for every ministry, specially selected and endowed with a five year jurisdiction.

Bushco® brand commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets.

A 15 percent cap on tax rates.

An elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

A ban on former members of the Iraqi army from holding public office for 18 months after their retirement or resignation.

A new law requiring banks to collect detailed personal information from customers seeking to make transactions greater than $3,500.

A campaign quota, requiring that one of every three candidates on a party's slate must be a woman.

And, proving that no detail is too small when it comes to fully implementing Way New™ brand sovereignty, there's even a spanking new traffic code, that insists that car horns can be used in "emergency conditions only" and requires a driver to "hold the steering wheel with both hands."
We're just scratching the surface of the options included, folks. Yep, all that's missing is the twenty billion bucks that got misplaced during delivery.

But that's just a small detail in a big product rollout like this. Bremer seems confident his customers will get years of reliable service from Way New™ sovereignty, saying that "You set up these things and they begin to develop a certain life and momentum on their own -- and it's harder to reverse course."

What a deal!

Better late...

I may be one of the last bloggers to post words to this effect, so I may as well use the words of the first one I noticed. (with, as usual, my emphasis.)

Ezra Klein, via Pandagon
Not only did the Bush Administration sacrifice the political benefit of the transfer, they did themselves harm. Pushing it up two days and conducting it in a tiny room with few watching leaves the media with no relevant spin save "they were afraid of insurgent attacks". Stunningly, they essentially admitted that they can't protect the country and they've no control over the events.

Bremer to Baghdad:

"You're free now, bye bye!"

Or something like that. More later, but despite the headlines, this bears repeating.
For a government to have sovereignty, it needs three things: a monopoly on the legitimate means of coercion; the material capacity to sustain a country's social and economic infrastructure; and an administrative apparatus capable of overseeing and administering policy. By these measures, the U.S. will retain sovereignty as long as the U.S. maintains its military, monetary, and administrative domination of the country.

Michael Schwartz

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Well, now we've done it...

...we've gone and made Amy feel bad, and she's lashing out a bit over at the Gadflyer.

Apparently my humble efforts, and a generous assist from Atrios, have led to a flood of email to Miss Sullivan, and some of you have not been very nice at all. I think "vitriolic" is the exact language she uses.

Of course, she isn't real nice in response. "Use Small Words" is a kind of snarky title for a post, isn't it? Especially if she really thinks its just a matter of misunderstanding, as she seems to say.
Judging by the amount -- and type -- of mail I've received over the past few days, some people are still a bit confused about what exactly I'm advocating liberals do about religion.
Of course, in her view, the misunderstanding is all on our side. She, of course, has been abundantly clear. Her "basic point," she contends, is simply that "You cannot dismiss the 87% of the population who say that religion is an important part of their lives."

I'm not sure who "you" is in that sentence, but it certainly isn't me. After all, religion is an important part of my life. But that didn't seem to be the basic point of her article at all. OK, maybe she is just too sophisticated for a rube like me to understand, but I would expect the basic point of a piece titled "Preach It, Brother - Why did Kerry stop talking about faith?" to involve John Kerry, his neglect of religious consideration in his public addresses and his need to, well, preach it. And basically, that's what she wrote, although she did stop along the way to paint Democrats generally with the same broad brush and drop a kind word for no less a progressive authority than David Brooks.

"The Democrats," she begins, apparently now counting herself outside the group she has such highly vaunted (and continually cited) credentials within, "have a religion problem." And she details her diagnoses of that problem, including
...many Democratic operatives still think of religion mostly as a constituency problem... and have yet to be convinced that religious Americans are "their" voters.


Another reason Democrats avoid the topic of religion is that they believe it will offend what they see as their secular base.


Finally, John Kerry has a special discomfort with religion that comes simply from his specific religious tradition.
concluding that
Because Kerry is uncomfortable talking about his own faith (a perfectly reasonable thing), they have steered clear of all mention of religion (a potentially fatal political move).
The problem, of course, is that she provides virtually no evidence for her assertions regarding Kerry, and I had no trouble finding plenty of evidence to the contrary. I'm sure she thinks she's spouting conventional wisdom, based on things she's heard, and therefore is absolved of actually supporting her argument, but whatever she's heard she should bear in mind the wisdom of E.J. Dionne, who says ""The plural of anecdote is not data." Data, Amy. Evidence.

So, what does she add to her original argument? First, she claims that
I'm not suggesting liberals do what conservatives have and use religion as a political tool. That merely weakens political discourse and undermines the prophetic power of religion.
Well, nonsense. "Tool" might seem to be a disagreeable word to her, but she's clearly advocating the use of religious language and imagery in the speech of John Kerry in order to appeal to voters with religious sentiments. Of course, I agree that he should, and as I have documented, he does. Not in a cynical or hypocritical fashion, but because religious faith is part of his life and a source of his core values. To not know that is to ignore his personal history and his contemporary utterances. In other words, to be ignorant of John Kerry as a man and a candidate to a degree that renders any judgement offered irrelevant.

Then she claims that a candidate's religion doesn't really matter much at all to that "87% of the population who say that religion is an important part of their lives." No, they don't care about a politician's faith, she says.
What they care about is inequality (whether issues of poverty or corporate greed or globalization), about stewardship (using our economic and environmental resources wisely), about the morality of war and treatment of prisoners. Their concern for these issues often springs from their religious beliefs. And yet when they go to the polls, their choice is between a party that tells them that it's okay to be religious and a party that says they need to divorce their faith from their political decisions.
Really? That's a pretty bold claim, isn't it? Who is it that tells them they need to divorce their faith from their politics? It can't be the Party officers who labor to include clergy of diverse faiths to invoke the blessings of diety on party conventions, or the conventioneers who invariably bow their heads in silence, whether out of personal conviction or respect for the convictions of their fellow Democrats. It can't be the Democratic politicians who almost universally include citations of religious faith and congregational membership in their personal and political biographies. It can't be the Democratic members of Congress who joined their Republican colleagues on the the Capitol steps for a stirring rendition of "God Bless America" in defense of a God-enhanced Pledge. It certainly can't be John Kerry, the former alter boy who once contemplated the priesthood and now (as the record shows) regularly makes religious references in his public appearances.

Who then? I don't know, and Amy isn't saying, but it's somebody she knows, apparently, and in the end, that's what matters, because in the end, it's all about her.
I use myself as an example only to say that if I (a former Daschle and Bonior staffer with a half dozen Democratic campaigns under my belt) sometimes feel alienated by the way that liberals and Democrats talk about religion, then countless people slightly to the right of me on the political spectrum feel that way as well.
Maybe, Amy. Or maybe people are just so put off by your one-note "what about God" rap and your inference that you know something about Him and His people that they can't grasp that they don't feel at all bad about making you feel as alienated as the way you make them feel.

After all, you admit that
No matter how resistant some old-school party operatives are to the idea, liberals are moving toward an understanding and acknowledgement of the importance of religion, not away from it.
If that's the fact, then maybe what you don't understand is that for some of us "old-school party operatives" (and I think that almost four decades of activism as a Democratic party officer, candidate, campaign manager and consultant qualifies me for that title), people moving "toward an understanding and acknowlegement of the importance of religion" can mean they're moving toward us, not away from us.

Godwin, Bowers and me.


Chris Bowers at MyDD suggests that we need a new Godwin's Law. I think the old one is still useful, so changes should be in the form of amendment or extension, not replacement, but I generally agree with Bowers' sentiments, and the grounds for his new rules.

When in an argument, using any variation of the following will cause the user to lose the argument and end that line of discussion:

9/11 changed everything

9/11 You don't want another 9/11 to happen, do you?

This could be prevent another 9/11

A comparison involving terrorists or 9/11
Call it Bowers' Correlary to Godwin's Law.

And may I modestly add Dale's Addendum?
The use of any of the above by the executive, legislative or judicial branch of government at any level shall be grounds for immediate impeachment or resignation. In the case of pundits, public flogging shall suffice.
It may, from time to time, be permissable to suggest that 9/11 changed something, perhaps many things, but they need to be specified and the changes documented.


A case for cable

The cable bill is a periodic source of discussion around our house. The computer is on a modem, we have VCRs and a DVD player and I listen to music a lot more than I watch TV, and when the TV is on, it's more background than the focus of attention around here.

The arguement in favor always seems to win out, though, and got a little stronger today when I read the NY Times Magazine interview with Ron Reagan and learned he's been hired as a political commentator by MSNBC. I do want to hear more from the guy who says stuff like this...
How do you account for all the glowing obituaries of (RR Sr.)?

I think it was a relief for Americans to look at pictures of something besides men on leashes. If you are going to call yourself a Christian -- and I don't -- then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog's leash? How can Christians tolerate it?


I have to say that flying on Air Force One sort of spoils you for coach on a regular airline. They did all sorts of little things that were very nice for my mother. They put towels with my father's monogram in the bathroom.

Paper towels?

No, cloth! Burgundy terry towels.

Wow. Why can't they run the United States with that kind of efficiency?

That's a good question. One thing that Buddhism teaches you is that every moment is an opportunity to change. And we will have a moment in November to make a big change.

We have nothing to fear...

I mean nothing. Really.

It wasn't long ago that one of the measures of prospective Democratic nominees was how they might stand up in the face of the seemingly invincible talents of the mad genius Karl Rove and the mighty forces of BC04.

That, of course, was before we had an apparent nominee who was setting all time fundriaing records for a challenger campaign while BC04 invested 80-some million dollars in the earliest, nastiest run of negative advertising by any incumbent President in history, to virtually no effect.

Suddenly, Rove & company seemed a great deal more vinicible.

Of course, they still had their web shop, the home to the sinister masterminds behind brilliant ideas like the late, great Bush-o-Matic sign machine, the handy tool that allowed people like me to make things like this...

at Bushco expense. Now they've graduated to running images of Hitler interspersed with pictures of prominent Democratic spokesmen, which has engendered widespread condemnation and a frantic response from BC04 Campaign Manager Ken Mehlmen. Steve Gilliard got Mehlman's emailed rejoinder to the criticism of the Bush campaign's violation of Godwin's Law, which he has reprinted, with appropriately acidic commentary.

OK, so the TV stuff didn't work so well, and there are problems with the internet thing, too. But hey, they've got an incumbent President on the road, with all the trappings of the office. That's it, they'll win on the road, right?

Turns out that they have an advance operation unworthy of a high school student council presidential campaign.

First there was Dr. Compton Girdharry, who Bush rolled out as an example of the need to protect MDs from the predations of patients who were driving malpractice costs through the roof. According to the New York Times, "The president praised Dr. Girdharry and thanked him for his "compassion." And then the rest of the story...
If Mr. Bush was looking for an example of a doctor who was victimized by frivolous lawsuits, Dr. Girdharry was not a great choice. Since the early 1990's, he has settled lawsuits and agreed to the payment of damages in a number of malpractice cases in which patients suffered horrible injuries.


Yesterday a White House spokesman said the president had not been aware of the problems in Dr. Girdharry's background. "Had this doctor provided that information," the spokesman said, "he would not have been at that event."
Moving the campaign to Cincinatti, Bush made an appearance at Talbert House, one of the 'faith based' social service agencies he's channeled federal funding to, and highlighted their success in the rehabilitation of Tami Jordan, a bookkeeper who ran afoul of the law when she embezzled over $300,000 from her employer in 2000. Bush applauded Jordan as "a "good soul" and an "inspirational person" who was making the best of her second chance."

He might have checked with Jordan's victim, Susan Morin, owner of Gorman's Supply Inc.

According to the AP, Morin
"...said she was stunned to see Tami Jordan appear with Bush on television Monday. Morin's company had employed Jordan, 35, as a bookkeeper before she was convicted of theft and forgery in 2000. She was sentenced to three years in prison for having embezzled more than $300,000 from the company, according to court and prison records.
Morin's company obtained a civil court judgment in 2000 against Tami Jordan and her husband, Bruce - also convicted in the case - for a total of $308,765.

Morin said Thursday that she received about $1,000 in restitution while Tami Jordan was in a work-release program and her wages were garnished. She said Jordan has paid nothing since finishing her sentence.


After her story appeared in newspapers Thursday, Morin said she received an e-mailed apology from the White House and a telephoned apology from the Talbert House.

White House spokesman Jim Morrell said people who meet Bush on such visits are screened, but he declined to explain the process. Morrell said he didn't know if Bush aides knew of Jordan's debt in advance.
I'm not saying we don't have to work hard, but they seemed determined to make it easier, providing plenty of ammo to fight back with.

I am saying Don't Panic.

This post is rated PG-13

It's hard to cover current events and maintain a family friendly atmosphere these days. Upper Left appreciation extended to the folks at for this Vice Presidential vocabulary adjustment...

Been there, seen that...

...loved every minute of it.

Well, "loved" may not be the right word. Although Farenheit 9/11 is a wonderful entertainment in part, there are also some deeply disturbing images and ideas portrayed. Since even the disturbing parts reinforce my biases, it might be more accurate to say that I appreciated every minute of it. But there's big fun to be had, too, so, yeah, I loved a lot of it.

Having been pretty thoroughly immersed in left wing analyses of post 9/11 America, there wasn't anything particularly new to me in the film. I already knew about the Bush/Saudi relationships, the impromptu export of Bin Ladens during the flight ban, the rush to action that produced a seriously flawed US PATRIOT act, etc., etc. There will be some eyes opened, though, even among those who are already skeptical of the Bush administration. The Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left, for instance, who generally shares my ideological slant and who is far better informed about current events than the average citizen, as a consumer of a couple daily papers a day and, of course, this blog and many of its sources, was just the same driven to ask several times "Is that true?" And, in fact, on every occasion the material she wondered about was documentably true.

Some have objected to the presentation of those true facts, claiming that they've been edited and emphasized in ways that obscure "the truth" in a larger sense, and there's some merit to that argument, I suppose. Because the film is, ultimately, an entertainment, Moore does take some liberty in his editing and emphasis, but almost invariably for comic effect. Humor, after all, is often grounded in exaggeration, but it works best if there's a recognizably factual ground behind the exaggeration. Moore knows that, and uses that knowledge effectively. The audience I was part of was laughing out loud, though, because we knew that the subjects of Moore's riducule are, in fact, ridiculous.

There's more serious stuff, too, that's presented without much exaggeration at all, because it's pointless to exaggerate the depth of suffering that inevitably accompanies war. It's also rare to see it so graphically presented on a big screen. However ghastly a bombing mission might look on your TV, it's nothing compared to the same event depicted on a screen that fills your range of vision, with a sound system that vibrates your bones with the sounds of the blasts. I've seen the real thing. TV is, maybe, 5% of the real thing. This film gets closer to 50%. The difference is meaningful.

In the end, I have to agree with the 'R' rating that Farenheit 9/11 recieved. I think younger teenagers should see the movie, but I think they should see it with a parent or another responsible person that can help them process what they've seen. In fact, it's a film probably best seen in the company of friends, because it's bound to inspire conversation.

At the suburban multiplex where I saw the film, the conversation actually started among strangers in the men's room after the film (those 32 ounce sodas really do challenge the plumbing). Guys will know how strange that is. We don't typically talk in the men's room. I've never heard spontaneous political debate (well, debate may not be the right word. There was little dissent, unless it was on the degree of outrage against Bushco, expressed) errupt among strangers in a public toilet in my life, which is an indication of the power of this film.

And it wasn't a downtown, lefty Seattle audience. The people who were wrapped around the block in order to sit in a darkened auditorium on one of the most beautiful summer days of the year (and for those of us who live under grey skies 11 months a year, that's a significant sacrifice) appeared to be a real cross section of middle American, northwest suburban varian. They were rewarded with a film that was puncuated by their open laughter and spontaneous applause, and closed to the kind of ovation usually reserved for live performances.

In other words, for whatever reason, this film is reaching a far wider audience than I think anyone expected, and it's ultimate affect on the American body politic may outstrip expectations as well.

The wingers have drawn some big guns against Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11. So far they seem to be shooting blanks, but they're bound to keep shooting. They're scared. Having seen the movie, I can only say they should be.

How about Pat Leahy...

...for Veep. At least for one night.

I mean, isn't that the debate we'd really like to see?

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Ireland united...

"The Irish - devotees of Kennedy, skeptical admirers of Reagan, rapturous cheerleaders for Clinton - have fallen out of love with the American presidency," Stefanie Marsh wrote in a commentary in The Times of London. "In Ireland, an American president has for the first time become an overwhelming figure of hate."

Images via Mahablog

Text via The Left Coaster

Outrage courtesy of my Irish heritage...


Part of me says I should hang around and pump out new material for all the new folks dropping by the blog, but I really need to get some domestic chores taken care of before the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left and I take off for a matinee performance of Fahrenheit 9/11 (it's a belated Dad's day treat from Kiddo the Younger and her charming hubby - I proudly note that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree).

I don't take in many first run films - there's an excellent second run theater right around the corner from Upper Left World Headquarters - but I can hardly wait for this one.

An informed review later, I promise. Meanwhile, all you new folks feel free to poke around. I think there's plenty of good stuff tucked around here.

Empty Words, Dangerous Deeds

The lede seemed promising.
PHILADELPHIA, June 23 - President Bush said on Wednesday for the first time that the United States should "learn from the experience" of countries like Uganda in fighting AIDS and embraced the use of condoms to prevent its spread...
Granted, we don't have to look to countries like Uganda to learn that condoms are an effective preventative against the spread of AIDS. We could look, for instance, to cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York or, well, anywhere people approach medical issues from a practical, scientific standpoint.

But the lede was deceptive, too, because Bush wasn't really advocating condom use, except as a last resort for people who lack his moral insight and resolve. Fleshing out the quotation leads to a different story altogether.
"We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda," Mr. Bush said. "They've started what they call the A.B.C. approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for: Abstain, be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use condoms."
and we still don't have to learn from the experience of Uganda.
Uganda has used the A.B.C. approach for years, but it did not originate there, as it is a mnemonic used by AIDS educators in many English-speaking countries.
What's really galling, though, is that while Bush was saying one thing, however weakly, his administration is doing something very different, and very dangerous.

An LA Weekly article on proposed new CDC regulations points out that they

"...require the censoring of any “content” — including “pamphlets, brochures, fliers, curricula,” “audiovisual materials” and “pictorials (for example, posters and similar educational materials using photographs, slides, drawings or paintings),” as well as “advertising” and Web-based info. They require all such “content” to eliminate anything even vaguely “sexually suggestive” or “obscene” — like teaching how to use a condom correctly by putting it on a dildo, or even a cucumber. And they demand that all such materials include information on the “lack of effectiveness of condom use” in preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs..."
It's literally lethal hypocrisy.

via Body And Soul, where Jeanne points out that you can register your opposition to the new regs (they're not slated to go into effect until August) by emailing the CDC at or via fax at 404-639-3125.

The lives you save may be many...

The patients aren't the problem.

While George Bush pretends that "junk and frivolous lawsuits discourage good docs from even practicing medicine in the first place," as though that provides some kind of excuse for his complete failure to address the real crisis of health care availability in America, the real facts are out there. Right now, nobody's doing a better job of bringing those facts to light than Bob Herbert, who had yet another informative column in yesterday's New York Times, reporting that several states specifically characterized by the A.M.A. as in "crisis," the evidence is rolling in that malpractice claims and awards are not appreciably increasing, and in some instances are declining.

The A.M.A. has its crisis states marked in red on a map of the U.S. on its Web site. One of the red states is Missouri. But a press release in April from the Missouri Department of Insurance said, "Missouri medical malpractice claims, filed and paid, fell to all-time lows in 2003 while insurers enjoyed a cash-flow windfall."

Another red state on the A.M.A. map is New Jersey. Earlier this month, over the furious objections of physicians' representatives, a judge ordered the release of data showing how much was being paid out to satisfy malpractice claims. The judge's order was in response to a suit by The Bergen Record.

The newspaper reported that an analysis of the data showed that malpractice payments in New Jersey had declined by 21 percent from 2001 to 2003. But malpractice insurance premiums surged over the same period. A.M.A. officials told me yesterday that they thought the New Jersey data was "incomplete," but they did not dispute the 21 percent figure.
There are a lot of problems with health care delivery in this country, but those problems aren't caused by the patients, and they're not caused by the attorneys who, working purely on spec, try to help injured patients get redress from avaricious insurance companies. The Administration blame game, played out in service to those same insurers (whose lawyers, by the way, bill by the hour, win or lose), only compounds the problem.

Now the Supreme Court has made things even worse, stripping state courts of jurisdiction in medical malpractice when performed under the shield of an HMO.

One solution is for Congress to pass a Patient's Bill of Rights with real teeth. The House Democrats have an terrific proposal on the table, and the DCCC has a petition to support it. You can learn more and sign the petition here.

Ground Control to Speaker Tom

We're going to win your seat back!

In 1994, then Speaker of the U.S. House Tom Foley put his career on the line in defense of his fellow Washington Democratic Members of Congress, when an initiative resulted in an unconstitutional term limits bill. He won the court case, getting the law overturned, but made himself a target for George Nethercutt, a Spokane attorney turned term limits demagogue, who smeared Speaker Tom for defending the Constitution and pledged to serve no more than three terms in the House, if elected.

Well, elected he was, but three terms came and went, and four, and five, before he decided to give up the seat in order to challenge Senator Patty Murray this year. Patty's going to take George Nethercutt out of politics, and Democratic candidate Don Barbieri is going to take back Speaker Tom's seat by building a campaign from the ground up.

Granted, Don Barbieri is probably never going to chair the Progressive Caucus in DC. He's a moderate, business oriented Democrat. The fact is, though, that Jim McDermott, my Congressman and one of my political heroes since his days in the State Senate, couldn't get elected in the 5th District, nor could Barney Frank, or Dennis Kucinich, or any of our other progressive champions in the Congress.

Don Barbieri can win in the 5th District.

All that is by way of introducing these excerpts from a Barbieri campaign email I recieved last night. If you're looking for a key race to throw a few bucks at as the reporting quarter winds down in the next few days, Barbieri's campaign in the 5th is worth your consideration. But I'll let him say it...
You may be asking yourself – who is Don Barbieri...? Let me tell you – I am the Democratic candidate who is going to win back Washington’s 5th district! That’s right – this year we are going to take back Speaker Foley’s seat for our communities and for our state.

I am a businessman who has lived in Spokane all my life, and I’ve long been involved in making our communities strong. Like you, I’ve spent my life working in my community – from growing a company from 5 to 5,000 employees, to chairing the board of Sacred Heart Medical Center, to serving as a trustee at Gonzaga University (go Zags!). Just a couple of years ago I chaired the Spokane regional Chamber of Commerce, and I’ve served three governors on the state Economic Development Board. I’ve spent years gathering experience – tools in my toolbox – that I will use in Congress to make every community in Washington stronger and safer.

I can win in the 5th district.

This is the first time in 62 years that the 5th district seat is "open" and has no incumbent running, which gives us the best chance we’ve had to win in 10 years.

June 30th is an important FEC filing deadline and we need to raise $10,000 on the web in the next week to keep our momentum going strong! Your contribution is a huge boost and will be saved for a strong, smart campaign in the fall. I need your help, and I need it today.
You can learn more here, or make your contribution here. Tell 'em Upper Left sent you.

We can win this one, and we owe one to Speaker Tom.

What goes around...

While it's true that the Republicans didn't succeed in capturing both houses of Congress during Ronald Reagan's Presidency, I think it's inarguably true that Reagan was instrumental in putting the wheels in motion that eventually rolled the Democrats out of their Congressional dominance.

Wouldn't it be perfect if his passing became the turning point in Democrats recapturing the Congress? Yep, I'm talking about the Ronald Reagan Medical Research Act of 2004 again.

Much has been made of Ron, Jr.'s 'endorsement' of John Kerry (he seems resolved not to say that name, though), and his criticism of the Bush war policy. That's fine as far as it goes, but the most sympathetic figure in the Reagan family right now - and I never imagined I would write these words - is Nancy Reagan. While Ron's sometimes pungent criticism of Bush get a lot of play in lefty circles, Nancy Reagan testifying on behalf of embryonic stem cell reseach in front of Congressional committees with appropriate legislation on the table would sell to Americans of all but the most extreme ideological stripe. Republican congresscritters who would vote that legislation down, or a Republican President who would veto it, would be exposed as heartless, anti-scientific tools of that extreme ideology.

Nancy Reagan is a zealot on the issue, and is convinced, according to her son, that her position would have been her husband's as well. Nothing Ron Reagan has said in any of his recent interviews has struck me as holding more opportunity than this exchange with CNN's Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: What -- what do you think -- I mean, have you talked to your mother about this? Does she -- what does she say about it?

REAGAN: Well, we don't talk about politics all that much, particularly electoral politics. We talk about stem cell research, for instance, embryonic stem cell research, which she's very involved in and I think will continue to be very involved in.

This is something she takes very seriously
, something I take very seriously, too. And it's shameful this administration has played politics with an issue that ... could be the biggest medical breakthrough in history. This could be bigger than antibiotics. This administration is pandering to the most ignorant segment of our society for votes and throwing up roadblocks to this sort of research. It's absolutely shameful.


WOODRUFF: Recently Reagan administration national security adviser William Clark wrote in The New York Times that there is no doubt Ronald Reagan would be urging the country not to move ahead with this kind of research because he said the former president felt so strongly about the sanctity of life.

REAGAN: No, he's wrong. William Clark has no right to speak for my father. My father is not here to speak for himself. I'm not going it speak for him. I can speak for my mother, who knew his mind pretty well.

I showed my mother that article when it came out and I asked her what she thought about it. She thought that William Clark was absolutely wrong. She thought that her husband, my father, would be all behind embryonic stem cell research.
Are you listening, Democratic Congress? (Or the staffers I know read this thing, anyway.}

The Ronald Reagan Medical Research Act of 2004.

Write the bill. Hold the hearings. Conduct the vote.

Or force the R's to refuse.

And make Nancy Reagan the centerpiece of the effort. She'll help you help her on the issue, and it can only help at the polls.

I don't read Slate...

...for a variety of reasons, most of which involve the danger of stumbling across the spew of Mickey Kaus. Every time I think I might give him another chance, Roger Ailes straightens me out...

"Pathetic. Even Karl Rove thinks Kaus is a tool."

So sad, so true...

Hello Atrios!

Thanks for the link!

And, hey, ya'll come back now, hear?

Friday, June 25, 2004

Pelosi: Enron Lied, Cheated, and Stole...

I've been singing the praises of Maria Cantwell, the junior Senator from the Upper Left, in the fight to bring Enron to heel. A major obstacle has been the reluctance of the Federal Enerergy Regulatory Commission to, well, regulate. I almost said 'curious reluctance,' but it's not curious at all when you consider these facts from a recent Joel Connelly column in the Seattle P.I.
Enron Chairman Ken Lay and wife, Linda, gave more than $1 million to the president's political coffers in years before the Houston-based energy trading company went bankrupt late in 2001.

The Lays are No. 10 on a recently compiled list of big-money Bush donors known as "Pioneers."

Lay was part of the Energy Department transition team. He met with Vice President Dick Cheney to make inputs on energy policy.

He commended the name of Patrick Wood III to the White House personnel office for appointment as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Now should-be Speaker - check that - will be Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the floor to take Enron and the FERC to task.
"We knew all along that Enron and the energy companies were gaming the system. The now notorious tapes, which every member of this body has an obligation to observe, of Enron traders confirm what we knew all along – Enron and the other energy companies were laughing all the way to the bank us as they stole from families and businesses of California.

"Enron and its kind lied, cheated, and stole, and it is long past time for Enron to pay consumers and the states back...


"Today, the House is unanimously agreeing that FERC release its evidence of corporate misconduct to the public. That's what the Rules Committee should have allowed us to do in a broader way last night, but they rejected it. I call on the Republicans to join us in ensuring that FERC live up to this bipartisan decision, and that it release this information."
It's important to remember that the Snohomish County, WA PUD, a smallish public utility serving a largely rural county, didn't get the infamous Enron tapes because they were going after the energy giant. That would take bigger guns than the PUD could ordinarily afford. They got them as a result of discovery in a suit Enron filed against them. That's right, despite Enron's trail of unethical and criminal conduct, they're still suing the customers they defrauded.

It's the kind of outrage that led Joel to write
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs resignations, reform and results in the form of refunds to West Coast ratepayers. The power rip-off cost the average household a lot more than those ballyhooed $300 tax refund checks the Bush administration sent us.
and it's the kind of battle in which west coast consumers need all the help we can get. With Maria Cantwell and Nancy Pelosi fighting side by side, we're getting some of the very best.

Let's have some fun!

Via Lean Left:

Your "Al Gore Craziness Quotient" at Norbizness

The Upper Left AGCQ? 47.

25-50: Enemy Combatant. Consider yourself detained

See ya at Gitmo!

Speaking of personal economies...

...a nice note from my ISP reminds me that free speech isn't free of charge, which prompts me to remind you that Upper Left can always use your financial support.

If you're willing and able, a click on the Paypal link to your right, or this one right here, will result in a better love life, more lustrous hair, a clear complexion and/or my personal gratitude.

If you can't do that (heck, even if you can - and do), you might consider popping Upper Left into the "best local website" spot on the Seattle Weekly's annual 'Best of Seattle' ballot.

Or leave a comment or two.

Or just keep reading. I'm glad you're here, regardless.

Prove me wrong. Please!

Given the real need for improvement in my personal economy, there's cold comfort in continually being proven right about how wrong Bush is about the national economy, but here we go again.
1st-Quarter Growth Slashed, Inflation Up

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy grew much more slowly than previously thought in the first quarter while inflation was higher, a government report showed on Friday.

The surprise downward revision to gross domestic product -- which measures total output within the nation's borders -- cut growth to a 3.9 percent annual rate in the first three months of 2004 from the 4.4 percent reported a month ago and below the 4.1 percent pace in the final quarter of last year.

The government also ratcheted up a key gauge of inflation, confirming an acceleration in price rises that has fueled expectations the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates from 1958 lows next week to head off inflation.

The core price index for consumer spending -- a favorite of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that cuts out volatile food and energy prices -- gained at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the quarter, a bump up from the 1.7 percent reported a month ago.
Really, have they ever been right about anything?

Oldies but goodies

OK, so the DCCC has a new petition, and it's a good one, but there's still some life in the old one, as Ms. Streisand reminds us with this stanza of an updated classic, G.O.People
Now Rumsfeld
We must get rid of Rumsfeld
He's the spookiest person in the world...
So before we're completely distracted by the shiny new thing, do your bit to dump Rummy and sign the petition! Heck, sign 'em both!

(The full lyric that Barbra introduced at a Kerry fundraiser last night can be found here. It's big fun.)

It's Friday, so Alterman has Pierce...

...who observes
For all the talk about how Clinton's book would take the air out of the Kerry campaign, it also provided us all with another look at the vengeful idiot death's head of movement conservatism. The book's made them all crazy all over again, and the Supreme Court has now reminded us all that it's been open for political business since the polls closed in Florida four years ago this fall.
and wonders
Is there anybody at OpinionJournal who ISN'T on mushrooms?
Go see.

It's a hit!

Yep, the early reviews are in, and Way New™ brand sovereignty by Bushco® is drawing raves from the people of New Iraq®!

That's the verdict of a new poll released by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Four out of every five Iraqis expected that the new government will "make things better" for Iraq after the handover, with 10 percent expecting the situation to remain the same and 7 percent anticipating a decline, the poll shows.
"That's huge penetration -- and it happened quickly," said the coalition official, who asked for anonymity because of the rules on naming officials in Baghdad. "It's partly because Allawi is on all the Arab media every day talking about security. He's visiting sites, and there are constantly images of the prime minister tackling security, which is what Iraqis care most about right now. It resonates, and it comes across in these figures."
Despite the growing number of attacks on Iraqi security forces, including several yesterday, public confidence in the new police and army has reached new highs, the poll shows. Seventy percent of Iraqis polled supported the new army, and 82 percent supported the police.

The poll was based on more than 1,000 face-to-face interviews conducted June 9-19
Of course, things change, and some of the respondents may not have seen the news from Falluja on the 19th...

Fallujah Residents: U.S. Warplane Kills 20

and it didn't get better on the 20th.

Iraqis Deny Zarqawi Men Used House Hit in U.S. Raid

Iraq Group Threatens to Kill S.Korean Hostage -TV

Mistakes Loom Large as Handover Nears

or the 21st

UK troops accused of mutilating Iraqi bodies

Four Marines killed in Iraqi city of Ramadi

Mujahedin Set the Rules in Fallujah

and the 22nd wasn't so hot

Al-Jazeera reports South Korean has been beheaded by his Iraqi militant kidnappers

The U.S. military has carried out an air strike against an alleged militant safe house in Al Fallujah

Iraqi guerrillas attacked a U.S. convoy in Ballad, killing two American soldiers and wounding another

nor was the 23rd

Militants threaten Iraq PM after beheading hostage

Foreign fighters increase presence in Iraq

Iraq force may grow by 25,000

And the 24th was a real capper.
The death toll rose to more than 75 and at least 200 people were wounded in insurgent attacks in several Iraqi cities June 24. The attackers used car bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and weapons fire mostly against government and security infrastructure. At least 44 people were killed in Mosul and 22 died in Baquba, Ramadi and Al Fallujah. Four Iraqi national guardsmen were killed in a car-bomb attack in Baghdad. U.S. military officials said three American soldiers also died in the attacks and a Cobra helicopter was shot down over Al Fallujah. According to a statement posted on a jihadist Website, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Monotheism and Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Baquba, scene of the fiercest attacks.
Maybe they should have commissioned a tracking poll...

Which side are you on?

Here in the Upper Left, the UFCW contract with Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Albertsons is about to expire, and the chains are already advertising for scabs. Given the dismal employment picture that has plagued the northwest for the last couple years, they'll no doubt get a lot of takers. Before you fill out that application, though, or think about crossing the picket lines that may be in our future, think a bit about what's at stake.

According to the Seattle Weekly,
At issue is the companies’ move to aggressively cut costs in both wages and health benefits. For example, the top wage for grocery clerks, which currently stands at the far-from-princely rate of $16.85 an hour, would be reduced to $14.20 an hour for new hires. All employees would pay new health insurance premiums of approximately $13 to $77 a month per individual, and as much as 30 percent of medical expenses.
Lower wages and reduced benefits. In the world's richest country, with an exceptionally productive workforce. Finding a non-striking grocer may be inconvenient, but what the employer's consortium is asking for is inexcusable.

You can't scare me, I'm sticking with the union.

Oh for God's Sake!


Not content with pissing away a blog entry in her Political Aims space at the Gadflyer on cheerleading for David Brooks specious claim that the Kerry campaign has abandoned references to religious faith, today she devotes a full column to the same prattle.

Aping the SCLM punditocracy, she makes a series of unsourced and non-specific claims about Democrats and religion, claiming, for instance, that "...too many national Democrats still run the other way when the topic of religion comes up."

That begs the question how many are, in fact, too many, but "many" is about as precise as you'll get from Ms. Sullivan, as in "...many Democratic operatives still think of religion mostly as a constituency problem." Really? Many? Or some? How about naming a single one.

Her advice to Kerry isn't bad, really. Under the heading "Why Did Kerry Stop Talking About Faith?" she writes
"A candidate doesn't have to hit people over the head with "Jesus talk" to do this. He doesn't have to use exclusive language and he doesn't have to parade his piety. What he can do is frame his message in moral terms. Even better, Kerry already did this early in his campaign as the presumptive nominee, drawing a clear distinction between those who talk the talk (an indirect but pointed jab at Bush) and those who walk the walk. Yet that kind of language has all but disappeared from his speeches."
Fair enough, except she's wrong. If she hasn't heard "that kind of language" in Kerry's speeches, she's simply not listening. Beyond framing his message in moral terms, which has been virtually a constant theme throughout the campaign, he regularly uses 'God,' if not 'Jesus' talk in his speeches, not just the obligatory "God bless Americas" in conclusion, but specific allusions to God and prayer in the body of his remarks.

He did it at the end of March
But even more, time to build up the things of the spirit that lift us up-the sense that no matter where we come from, what we have or what we lack-- we are all God’s children, linked together by the dignity of each and the shared destiny of all.
and in early April
...I want to honor the sacrifice made by the brave American soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq over these last difficult days. Our prayers and our thoughts are with their families...
through the end of April
Under the heat of fire and the fog of battle, our mission became crystal clear - and color, religion, and background melted away to an understanding that we were all simply “Americans.” All of us fighting under the same flag, praying to the same God.
Instead of leaving millions of children behind, we can make our schools stronger so that every child has a chance to reach their God-given talents.
and into May, again
I am running for President to renew that idea and spirit again. With God's blessing, America will stand as strong and reach as high as we're willing to ask of ourselves and hold ourselves accountable.
and again
Brown summoned our country to make real the ideal of one nation and one people. A nation where one day all of God’s children would live in the light of equality whether we are new immigrants or our descendents came here on the Mayflower or were brought here on a slave ship in shackles … when we fight side by side in places like Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re all Americans sacrificing for the same country and praying to the same God.
and didn't stop in June
They, like all veterans of wars past, deserve our prayers and then, when they come home, they deserve the respect and support of a grateful nation.
although I haven't found an example more recent than Monday.
We were just a band of brothers who all fought under the same flag, and all prayed to the same God. Today, we’re a little bit older, we’re a little bit greyer. But we still know how to fight for our country. And what we’re fighting for is an America where all of us are truly in the same boat.
Sullivan asks "Why did Kerry stop talking about faith?" I wonder when that's supposed to have happened.

Of course, she concedes that
"None of that means that Kerry is insincere when it comes to faith. Nor should it matter. Because voters don't need to know how often their political candidates read the Bible or pray or attend church.

What they do need to know is that their candidate understands that religion is an important part of many Americans' lives."
Of course, they'll never know if they don't listen, and neither will she. But for those who have ears to hear, the message is pretty clear.

(by the way, welcome Eschaton readers! Please poke around, kick the tires and consider a bookmark for a struggling blogger - and thanks Atrios, I thought you'd never notice!)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Rights side is the right side.

As I suggested a few days ago, the effort to protect the rights of injured persons to be seek redress in the courts and be compensated for their injuries should be a central focus of the health care reform debate, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision that throws all suits involving HMOs into federal jurisdiction. Properly framed, it's a winning issue for Democrats (and probably the best argument the Edwards for Veep camp has on its side).

Speaking to an SEIU convention, Kerry took the opportunity to put the issue front and center.
“It is time we passed a Patients’ Bill of Rights,” Kerry said. “The Supreme Court’s decision was not a good day for more than 140 million Americans who count on HMOs for their medical care. Three years ago, we passed a bipartisan, enforceable Patients’ Bill of Rights. It is time for us to pass it again, for the House to pass it and for the President to sign it. We can do this together.”
Of course, Bush would have you believe that he's in favor of protecting patient's rights, too. After all, in 2000 he made much of a Texas law that was passed while he was governor (although it did pass without his signature) designed to do exactly that. Of course, when the issue came before the Supremes, the Bush administration argued in favor of repealing that very law.

Now the DCCC has picked up the torch, declaring that
"The Republicans' double-talk on patients' rights has reached a new low. A right that cannot be enforced is not a right at all, it is just a request. We need a strong bill that protects all Americans and all plans, so that doctors, not insurance companies, can make medical decisions. The more than 190 million Americans who use managed care or other insurance plans are still waiting for the protections they were promised."
and offering up a brand new online Petition for the Patients' Bill of Rights which urges

· Guaranteed access to needed health care specialists;
· Continuity of care protections so that patients will not have an abrupt transition in care if their providers are dropped from their health plan;
· Access to a fair, unbiased and timely internal and independent external appeals process to address health plan grievances;
· Assurance that doctors and patients can openly discuss treatment options; and
· An enforcement mechanism that ensures legal recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan’s actions.
Once again, Democrats are on the right side of an issue, and happily, the right side is the winning side.

Sign the petition!

If they want to be irrelevant...

...just let them be irrelevant.

That's pretty much been my attitude toward the Naderites this time around, and Digby reinforces my sentiments with a good post on just what business Ralph Nader has introducing his opinions into the Democratic Veep question. He's picked his own loser to join him in losing, so why doesn't he just leave serious people alone?

Anyway, I recommend reading the whole thing, and memorizing Digby's conclusion...
At this point, the Democrats will have better luck persuading the growing numbers of aghast moderate Republicans to vote with us this time than getting the Nader vote to switch. The aghast moderate Republicans, after all, are people who after seeing the havoc that's been wrought by the boy king are motivated to replace him for the good of the country. The Naderites, apparently, aren't. That's just the way it is. We've gotta go where the votes are.

Wonder where the money went?

Some people still seem to be confused about why so many seem to think the economy is doing so poorly when the markets seem to be doing so well. Surprise! Turns out there is a class war, after all, and that the corporate class is kicking butt.

Susan at Suburban Guerrilla, who does a generally great job on the economic beat, came up with this nugget.
"Despite the well-advertised pick-up of job growth, recent trends in real wage income remain very disappointing," lamented Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, in a June 7 memo to clients. "This, in my view, underscores one of the most serious shortcomings of this recovery -- an unprecedented shortfall of the most important piece of personal income growth," wages and salaries.

Over the first 29 months of the economic recovery, total wages and salaries have risen less than 3 percent after adjusting for inflation -- a fraction of the 9 percent gains of the previous six upturns, Roach said. That works out to a $280 billion income gap between where workers are and where they should be, he concluded.
And Kevin Drum chimes in on the "picture worth 1000 words" front with a graphic depiction of the disparity between personal and corporate incomes.

See, math isn't so hard after all...

New! Improved! In The Freedom Proof Package!

Given the chaotic state of affairs in their country, it's understandable that the folks we're supposed to be turning Iraq over to in a week or so would advocate a 'lawnorder' policy. Still, when words like 'martial law' started cropping up, there was a lot of handwringing among American worry-warts.

Be not dismayed. Nothing like that is going to happen. Not under Iraqi supervision, anyway.
The US-led occupation authority in Baghdad has warned Iraq's interim government not to carry out its threat of declaring martial law, insisting that only the US-led coalition has the right to adopt emergency powers after the June 30 handover of sovereignty.

Senior American officials say Iraq's authorities are bound by human rights clauses in the interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, prohibiting administrative detention.

But they say the recent United Nations Security Council resolution 1546 sanctions the use by foreign forces in Iraq of "all necessary measures" to provide security.

A senior coalition official in Baghdad said: "Under the UN resolution, the multinational force will have the power to take all actions traditionally associated with martial law."
In other words, if there's going to be martial law, we're going to provide the marshalls. We may be sending a new ambassador to Baghdad, but it'll be the same old sheriff in town.

Of course, all that concern was just a matter of confusion. It seems some people thought that the full 'full sovereignty' we've promised the Iraqis had something to do with the kind of antiquated sovereignty pioneered in places like Old Europe® - you know, the kind where governments write their own laws, pass their own budgets and defend their own borders. But that would be wrong. Instead, we're offering them the very latest model, Way New™ brand sovereignty by Bushco®.

Custom tailored to the needs of New Iraq®, Way New™ sovereignty solves all kinds of thorny problems for the budding Iraqi government. National defense? Not their problem!
US advisers are concerned about the security powers sought by Mr Allawi, a one-time Baath party member, and are struggling to check the ambitions of his ministers to rebuild and re-arm Iraq's forces.

"Iraq will have a lightly-armed standing army and no heavy field artillery," says Jacinta Caroll, director of defence policy for the Coalition Provisional Authority. If tanks and attack aircraft were needed, Iraq would have to rely on US-led forces, she said.
Struggles with budget priorities and a confusing array of vendors? No sweat!
To curb Iraq's access to heavy weapons, observers say the occupation authorities have signed a $259m contract with US company Anham Joint Venture to be sole supplier of arms to Iraq's armed forces for the next two years.


All but 20 per cent of the defence ministry's 2004 $1.5bn budget stems from US funds, say coalition officials, and Iraq's share is earmarked for the payment of salaries, not equipment.
Need a hand keeping the foreign occupiers and merecenary armies in line? Hey, it's handled!
The Bush administration has decided to take the unusual step of bestowing on its own troops and personnel immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for killing Iraqis or destroying local property after the occupation ends and political power is transferred to an interim Iraqi government, U.S. officials said
And you don't even need to trouble your own citizens with the details!
Bush's top foreign policy advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, are still debating the scope of immunity to be granted
Yep, if you've got problems, Way New™ brand sovereignty by Bushco® has the answers!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

&%$#@ Chickenhawks

"Frankly, part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors."

Paul Wolfowitz

Journalists dead in Iraq as of June 4th : 32

Signatories of the Project for a New American Century dead in Iraq: 0

(via The Stakeholder)

There sure are a lot more good questions...

...than good answers lately.

This one comes via Maureen Dowd, whose inquiry was inspired by Paul Wolfowitz' recent Congressional testimony.
"What's he talking about, and why are we still paying him?"
As is true of so many good questions, I can only reply that I have no idea.

Heh ™

Like I said, there's a time for snark, and few are better at recognizing that time than Matt Yglesias, as in this response to a particularly idiotic offering from Glenn Reynolds. I'll just steal enough to hopefully inspire you to go look at the whole thing.
How silly we all were to think Moqtada would lead an uprising against the US, when really we "won" against him by agreeing to drop the criminal charges against him that started the conflict in the first place and let him set up a political party....Now needless to say, Muqtada still might lose in elections to either of the two major anti-American, pro-Iranian alternative political parties out there, so there's still a lot up in the air.
While you're there, you might leave a word of comfort for Matt, who lost his mom a couple days ago. She was my age, which is far, far too young to go, and he's displayed maturity far beyond his years in dealing with the loss. Condolences from here...

Another good question...

...this time from Jeanne at Body & Soul, who asks this
Why is it on the front page of the paper when our horrible enemies do something like this, but not when our horrible friends do it?
about this
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 22 (Reuters) — Afghan soldiers have beheaded four Taliban fighters in retaliation for the Taliban's beheading of an Afghan soldier and an Afghan interpreter for American-led forces, a government commander said Tuesday.
I can think of several answers, none of them adequate, but there's a time for snark and a time for, well, I just can't think of an appropriate response to barbarism at this point.