Monday, July 05, 2004

Damn them.

A lot of the commentary on the report of the Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group at Ft. Leavenworth has focused on the revealation that the famous scenes of the falling statue of Saddam were a psy-ops operation ordered by a Marine Corps Colonel. Atrios offers a typical view.
Everyone knew this was a totally staged event. God I hate our media for playing along.
While there's nothing especially commendable about that particular bit of military street theater, I can't summon a lot of outrage about it, either. Psy-ops, both for enemy and domestic consumption, are part of warfare and the Colonel was just doing what we pay him for. As for the media complicity, well, they were good pictures. They were designed to be, and they were bound to be shown.

No, my outrage is mainly reserved for some of the report's details outlined in the LA Times' lede.
FT. LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — American soldiers who defeated the Iraqi regime 15 months ago received virtually none of the critical spare parts they needed to keep their tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles running. They ran chronically short of food, water and ammunition. Their radios often failed them. Their medics had to forage for medical supplies, artillery gunners had to cannibalize parts from captured Iraqi guns and intelligence units provided little useful information about the enemy.
That's what they reduced our soldiers to. Short of food, water and ammunition. American medics scrounging supplies to treat American injured. Lives lost, I'm certain, because of the idealogical blindness of a President and the stubborn adherence of an incompetent Secretary of Defense to a philosophical approach to military strategy that was opposed by competent military commanders, which led to the decimation of our General officer corps until a compliant batch of toadies were assembled.

"Their medics had to forage for medical supplies..."

Damn. I'll reserve my hatred for the men that made that sentence true.

Damn them.

This administration deserves its own circle of Hell.

Good for the world

Another military memory.

Before going to Vietnam, I spent a year and a half in Germany. One of the favorite pastimes of young troopers was seeking out American tourists of a similar age as we tried to stay in touch with the kinds of changes at home that didn't get covered in Stars & Stripes. It was harder than it might seem, though, because many young tourists from the States disguised themselves with Canadian flag patches as they discovered that the welcome wasn't always so warm for folks from Nixon's America.

That was a sometimes effective fix for them, but it's harder for American expatriates to keep friends, neighbors and co-workers from knowing just where they're from, and a good many of those folks are taking steps to distinguish themselves from Bush's America.

They used the occasion of the 4th of July to draw the distinctions in Europe.
BERLIN (Reuters) - Dozens of American and German supporters of U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry rallied in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Sunday to mark the U.S. Fourth of July holiday.

They carried banners in the center of the German capital criticizing President Bush and handed out leaflets urging U.S. expatriates in Berlin to register to vote in November. "More than 10,000 live in Berlin," read a leaflet, printed in German and English. "They can vote but most don't. Do you want a new American president? Then tell an American to vote."
And on the other side of the world, John L. McCreery, International Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad, wrote for the ex-pat journal Tokyo Weekender.
What will John Kerry’s election mean to Americans living in Japan?

The obvious answer is straightforward, a feeling of immense relief. It will be simply and truly wonderful not having to cringe every time a Japanese or European friend mentions the Bush administration and asks about its arbitrarily walking away from international treaties, the missing weapons of mass destruction, the missing link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the pictures from Abu Ghraib, the memos from administration lawyers claiming that the President may authorize torture and decide arbitrarily who is or is not an “enemy combatant,” or—from the business minded—the fiscal insanity that is putting the whole global economy at risk.
And maybe tourists can start wearing American flag patches with pride instead of trepidation.


They're shameless.

They've got the votes...
WASHINGTON - Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican supporter of embryonic stem cell research, said Sunday there is wide support in the Senate to ease the Bush administration’s restrictive policy. Hatch said supporters have more than the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster
...but...
...he’s unsure whether Congress would act “in this hot political atmosphere.”
It's called 'playing politics with people's lives.' It's a disgrace.

Call 'em out. It's time to write, sponsor and introduce the Ronald Reagan Medical Research Act of 2004. Force the vote, and either celebrate the victory for medical science or beat them at the polls over their petty obstructions.

What's new...

...and why.

A few changes to the sidebar lately. I've added a search function that will let you dig out whatever I've posted on a particular subject. It's as much for my convenience as anything. With going on 1400 posts here now, trying to remember what I said where when I want to refer back was becoming a usually fruitless review of the archives, but you might find it handy, too.

I've highlighted the two candidates that I've endorsed in contested primaries this year, John Kerry and Alex Alben, and added a new feed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which right now addresses the Sudan crisis, but will probably change as the DCCC sees fit. It's their's to use as they will, because what they're doing is vital to our future.

It's easy to lose track of what's happening down the ballot during a Presidential year, but races for Congress, state legislatures and other offices can make a huge difference in our lives, as The Stranger's Josh Feit points out in reviewing the performance of the 93rd Congress elected in 1972.

Things didn't go our way on the Presidential ballot in '72, but the Democratic Congress was strengthened just the same...
...And so, one of the most progressive congresses in U.S. history took power and went on to pass landmark liberal shit: the Privacy Act (a comprehensive lefty swat at the creepy COINTELPRO-era FBI), which Bush is now trying to undo with the PATRIOT Act, the Endangered Species Act, the original Americans with Disabilities Act, the Housing and Community Development Act (banning discrimination in housing), and the War Powers Act, which forces the president to get congressional sign-off on military actions. The flaming 93rd Congress also went on to force Nixon's resignation, by threatening to impeach his ass.
It all makes a difference. Check out Alex Alben. Sign the Sudan petition. Read The Stakeholder.

Work hard on every level of the ballot.

Fight back every day.

And don't panic.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Ready for Moore?

Michael's blogging.

Couldn't have said it better myself...

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America


When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. --And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

I'm going marching. Don't blow off any fingers before I get back.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

I was a soldier once...

...and one of the lasting effects has been to make Independence Day a bit more meaningful to me. 33 years ago today I was on a plane bound for the air base in Bien Hoa, Vietnam. We took off on July 3 and about 24 hours later, landed on July 5. That year, there was no Independence Day for me. The international date line swallowed the 4th of July whole.

A year later, I celebrated the 4th as a civilian for the first time in three years, and every year since, it's given me pause as I've reflected on that trans-Pacific voyage and the events that followed. I served at a time when the war was over for a lot of people - people who accepted Nixon's strategy of slow withdrawal. Thousands were coming home, after all. Still, many of us were still going over. We were the 'left overs,' the 'clean up crew.' We were the men John Kerry was speaking for in his famous Senate testimony, the ones who risked being among the last to die for a war that had by then been widely recognized as a mistake.

Today, the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left and I journeyed across the county to visit the traveling reproduction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, commonly known as The Wall. As I walked along the panels carrying the 58,228 names of those who died in Vietnam, the black tablets grew larger, and at the very apex, filling three of the tallest panels, I found the names of those who died while I was in country. (They're on the left in the picture below, behind the 'field cross'.) Hundreds and hundreds of names. Among them the name of one of my basic training sergeants. A case, I prayed, of mistaken identity, hoping, but not at all certain, that there must have been another Sgt. Luis Campos, and the gruff bear of a man that taught me to use a rifle with confidence and a bayonet with ferocity retired comfortably without facing another tour in Vietnam.

Whether he was my Sgt. Campos or not isn't so important, really. I was lucky. My battalion took losses, but my company came through unscathed. I saw bodies, but not of those I knew best, those I called friends. Still, each of the names on that wall, and especially on those three tall, silent panels, was more than a stranger. They were, they are, my brothers, every one.

I missed a 4th of July in 1971. They've missed every one since. Tomorrow, I'll put on a uniform and travel north to parade with a veteran's drill team in a small town celebration, and come home to burn some meat and drink some beer with my family. It's bound to be a good day. I have 58,228 reasons to celebrate, because they can't, and I owe them.

Happy 4th.


Bloggered

If you got this far, congratulations. If you're trying to follow a link to another Blogspot site, good luck (the refresh button usually works after a try or two).

Don't get me wrong. I love the service. This site would be impossible without it, really (though your generous assistance could affect that), but they seem to have problems this morning.

Skinned, stuffed and mounted.

Chris Bowers nails the pathetic hack to the rec room wall at MyDD

Two weeks ago I wrote an article nearly 6,000 words long in order to provide a brief overview of why all twenty-seven arguments in favor of invading Iraq were invalid. Today, Colin Powell accomplished the same task in one sentence:

Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Friday former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should be assumed to be innocent in his trial..."Assume he's innocent if you will, and let's assume that, and let the Iraqi people through their courts decide," Powell said in an interview with Indonesian television channel RCTI on the sidelines of an Asian security meeting in Jakarta.

Of course, assuming someone is innocent instantly debunks every single rationale for pre-emptive invasion...
Damn straight.

Baptist backlash

Speaking of 'religion problems'...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative denomination closely aligned with President Bush, said it was offended by the Bush-Cheney campaign's effort to use church rosters for campaign purposes.

"I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
When I saw the list of 'coordinator duties' BC04 distributed to its church supporters, I thought the solicitation of church rosters was the most dubious of the lot. Good on the SBC for calling them on it, and reflecting a glimmer, however dim, of the once proud Southern Baptist commitment to the separation of church and state.


OK, now I'm really confused

A quick recap.

The recent brouhaha over Kerry and religion started with a David Brooks piece for the New York Times (now tucked behind their archives shield) in which he offered that a candidate "...doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged...in a personal voyage toward God."

Of course, anyone passing familiar with John Kerry's biography would know that he is, in his own words, "a believing and practicing Catholic," which would seem to satisfy the pilgrim test.

Then Amy Sullivan chimed in at The Gadflyer, confirming Brooks' essential points, but assuring us that "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."

Hard on her heels was Steven Waldman, writing for Slate, with a similar endorsement of Brooks (his "favorite conservative") and an admonishment that "...he needs to talk about his faith because it would strengthen him on the most important issue of the campaign-terrorism." (I admit to being impressed by the, dare I say, moral certainty Waldman has about which issue reigns supreme in the coming election.)

OK then, in order to reach out to religious voters, doubtless an important constituency for either party, Kerry needs to talk about his faith, which he has and does, and needs to do so by speaking out in "moral terms." I get it. Or I thought I did. And I found several examples that assured me that Kerry gets it, too.

Now Jody Wilgoren offers a twist that's got me scratching my head again. Conceding that Kerry "occasionally invokes God" (and the occasions are quite regular, as I've documented here and here), she offers that
"Senator Kerry is increasingly adopting a traditionally Republican refrain to give his campaign - and himself - grounding and context in broad moral terms."
Whether Republicans have a partisan claim on morality is a point worthy of considerable debate, but Wilgoren seems quite clear on the point of all this talk about values and morality. Kerry's "focus on values," she asserts, is evidence of "...outreach to what Democratic strategists call 'secular values voters' - people concerned about balancing work and family, opportunities for their children, and America's leadership in the world." She documents his invocation of values pretty thoroughly, including eight instances in a recent 36 minute speech.

So if I've got this straight, John Kerry needs to make a greater effort to reach out to voters who value religion by including a moral emphasis in his message, which he has already done in an effort to appeal to voters with secular values.

OK, then.

Tell you what, let's let Kerry be Kerry (he's better at it than any of us, really), and focus our attention on constructive ways we can help him let America be America again.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Brand new numbers...

...same old story, as the national unemployment rate holds tough at 5.6%.

There were 112,000 new jobs reported, though, but that's kind of slim compared to the 250,000 that financial analysts expected.

Slim, too, compared to the 140,000 jobs it takes every month just to keep up with population growth, as Atrios reminds us.

And even slimmer compared to the numbers reported in April and May, but then again, the numbers reported in April and May are somewhat slimmer now, having been revised down by a total of 35,000 positions.

We're left to wonder how bad it might have been if the new jobs were actually full time jobs. Reuters reports that
...there were some signs of broader weakness, including a decrease in the average workweek to 33.6 hours from 33.8 in May, the shortest since a matching level in December. The manufacturing sector lost 11,000 jobs, a reversal after four straight months in which factories added jobs after years of decline.
Nathan Newman offers an instructive graph and notes that
More or less jobs can be a deceptive measure of the strength of the economy-- more jobs could mean more part-time jobs and less hours for existing workers, while stagnant job growth can conceal increased overtime as production ramps up...however you cut it, the economy is generating far fewer hours of work today than it did in early 2001 when Bush was inaugurated.
But don't worry, Bush is full of confidence, which is a good thing. Confidence is an important quality for job applicants, and if we work hard enough, employed or not, in a few months he'll be brushing up the resume in search of his next gig.

Emerging Democracy, Inc.

A subsidiary of Bushco®

While all eyes have been focused on the big product roll-out in New Iraq®, it seems like a good time to take a peek at the fate of the Way New™ sovereignty prototype.
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan will miss the deadline to set a date for already-delayed elections because of wrangling among officials and political parties, a senior official said Thursday.

Farooq Wardak, a senior member of the country's election management body, said the group would not reach a decision by Friday, the last day to call the historic vote in September under new election laws. Afghan law says the polling day must be set at least 90 days in advance, making Friday the last chance to announce a Sept. 30 election.

****

Presidential and parliamentary elections already were delayed from June, and October is seen as the last chance to hold a vote before snow closes high passes in the Hindu Kush mountain range in dangerous eastern Afghanistan until the spring of 2005.
Hmmmm...so, the election thing isn't working out quite as advertised. But at least they've handled the security thing, right? I mean, they must have got something right in the Bushco® nation building shop while the product was still in beta stages, mustn't they?

Well...
In March, Karzai used a promise to disarm 40,000 irregular fighters by June 30 to win international pledges of billions of dollars in aid to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan. But only 9,700 soldiers have given up their guns so far.
Enough with the drawing board, already. Time to call in a new team of designers.

Paging Senator Kerry...

The good guys win one.

via Kos
It's official -- Nader's Arizona organization, faced with an unwinnable legal challenge to the validity of its petition signatures, has withdrawn itself from ballot consideration "in the face of overwhelming evidence" collected by the AZ Democratic Party.
Like I've said, if you want to get in the game, you've got to play by the rules.

Add the Arizona Dems to the Texas legislators in the ranks of the Killer D's.

Whoa!

Some of ya'll really are testy, aren't you?

Our pal Amy writes
...after straggling in the door, I checked my email and found in my inbox a charming little missive from a reader who thought to take the time to tell me that he/she thinks my writing is "a stinking pile of detrius."
Now, I stand by everything I've said about Amy Sullivan's recent work on politics and religion. She is actually, factually, demonstrably wrong about John Kerry's approach to the issue.

She's right, too, that outreach to faith communities is an important part of conducting a successful campaign for office, on the national or most any other level.

Knowing that I myself may, on exceeding rare occasion, let my arguments extend beyond the range of my information, I must say that simply being wrong doesn't reduce all of one's efforts to "a stinking pile of detrius." I sure hope not, anyway.

By the way, before hitting send on your next missive to Amy, note that her father has apparently suffered a serious heart attack. Yes, Amy, I do, in fact pray, and your dad is included in mine, as are you.

It was 40 years ago today...


7/2/64 - LBJ prepares to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964


The Kerry campaign has released an eloquent statement on the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, correctly observing that...
...as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood, in truth, it ‘was … written in the streets’ of America. It was written by foot soldiers in the sweltering heat of cities and towns all across the South. It was written by freedom fighters, who climbed aboard buses and marched into the blast of fire hoses and the bark of dogs, without ever resorting to violence. It was written by men and women like John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, Ella Baker and Julian Bond who put their minds and their bodies into the crucible of hatred, so we would all see a better day. And it was written by three brave young men, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner who wanted to give their time and energy to help African-Americans exercise their right to vote but ended up tragically giving their lives.
That's all true, but in fact, all of their efforts might have been for naught if Lyndon Johnson had not brought his formidable powers to bear in securing passage of the Act, and if he had not had the personal integrity and political courage to sign it.

Yeah, I know. The war. It was terrible, and the distortions he used to justify escalation (no, he didn't start it) were awful. The fact that I ended up getting caught up in it might justify a different judgment on my part, but I grew up in a country where Jim Crow and lynchings and fire hoses and police dogs were part of our daily news, not our tragic history. My kids didn't have to grow up in that country, and LBJ deserves a lot of the credit. That's one reason he is, and always will be, one of my Democratic heroes.

Our long march to liberty isn't over, but we took a giant step 40 years ago today.

It seems like everyone...

...had their own Marlon Brando, depending on their age, and his. This was always mine.



1924-2004
R.I.P.


I'll miss him.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Boom!

...or bust?

Maybe George oughta have Laura back off that whole literacy thing, because people reading news like this...
...the Labor Department found a slight rise in the number of people who signed up for jobless benefits last week; economists had forecast a decrease in claims.

...the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index declined to 61.1 in June, down from 62.8 in May. The new reading was somewhat lower than the 61.5 forecast by analysts.

...August crude oil futures surged $1.67, or 3 percent, to $38.72 a barrel.

...the Federal Reserve's move to raise rates by 0.25 percentage point — the first hike in four years
keep producing stories like this...
His other approval ratings are unimpressive...43 percent/54 percent on the economy (as the LA Times notes, essentially unchanged since their last poll in late March, despite the past several months of pretty good job growth).
...no matter how 'optimistic' he is.

This time it's personal.

I've tried to stay in the "Ignore Nader" camp for the most part, but that's become a less tenable posture now that he's taken steps to get on the ballot here in Washington, and in our neighbor to the south. Here in the northwest our political structure is strongly influenced by our roots in progressive populism, leading to low barriers to entry for things like initiatives and referendums, and to ballot access for fringe candidacies.

Still, we do have rules, and in Oregon, at least, Nader seems to have overstepped them in his zeal for personal aggrandizement. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has filed an FEC complaint charging that the costs of phone banks operated by a right wing 'tax revolt' group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, amounted to illegal in-kind contributions by corporations prohibited by law from doing so, and that Bush volunteers used campaign phones to encourage their supporters to show up for Nader's nominating rally in Portland.

Nader, who claims to be the only candidate not beholden to corporate interests, dismisses the charges that it's improper for his campaign to benefit from illegal campaign activity by corporations. Because, after all, Ralph is special. The rules shouldn't, apparently, apply. He similarly waves away efforts in Arizona to insure that the signatures on his petitions were legally collected and are legally eligible. Any criticism of his efforts is met with attacks like the one he made during an appearance in Seattle this week.
"You're seeing the authoritarian tendencies of the Democratic Party and people who call themselves civil libertarians," said Nader, referring to attempts to keep him off the ballot in key states, as well as exhortations to leave the race for the good of what some call the "anybody but Bush" campaign.
No, Ralph, you're seeing the tendency of people who work within the rules to expect other people to work within the rules, as well. You don't like the rules? In the words of a great Democrat, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Nader's endorsement by the Reform Party, political home of stalwart progressives like Pat Buchanan, gets him ballot access in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Colorado, Kansas and Montana. Even if he ends up facing an FEC sanction for his illegal support, he'll probably (pending certification of the signatures) end up on the ballot in Oregon as well, and with only 1000 signatures required in Washington, that's pretty much a sure bet. Arizona is still in dispute, but it's likely that Nader will prevail. In fact, despite his moaning, many states have relatively easy access for someone with the noteriety and resources of Ralph Nader. When the going gets tough, he can turn to his Republican pals. As in Oregon and Arizona, Wisconsin Republicans are turning up in force to put him on their ballot.

One place he can't seem to get an assist is from the ranks of the progressive movement he claims to represent. From the national Green Party to the Mountain Party of West Virginia, he's been rebuffed by progressives.

Of course, his support isn't as retrograde as you might imagine. Shawn O'Hara, national Chair of the Reform Party, offers an encouraging note. He no longer supports the execution of doctors and nurses who perform abortions. I'm sure that makes Ralph feel better.

But Ralph doesn't make me feel better. About anything. Where it's possible, I still think he should be ignored. When necessary, he should be challenged and held to the letter of the ballot access laws.

Where he's on the ballot, though, responsible liberals and progressives, formally Democrats or not, are obliged to Take. Him. Down.

$1186.00

OK, so it's no where near a quarter of a million, but thanks to some help yesterday, the Upper Left Kerry Core account grew a bit, and I think it's a fairly respectable figure for a little blog in the hinterlands.

Of course, if you're so disposed, there's still time to make it bigger.

And David begat Amy, and Amy...



...oh, please, make it stop. Steven Waldman is the latest David Brooks disciple (he actually calls him "my favorite conservative") to spout off about Kerry's so-called "religon problem" in a piece for Slate called "John Kerry's dubious approach to religion." (Yes, I loaded Slate to read it. Blame Atrios. Find the link there. Some things I just won't do.)

"...if Kerry's uncomfortable with religion then he's uncomfortable with Americans," he writes, declaring that "If Kerry's really secular, he's abnormal." The problem is that there's no evidence offered, perhaps because there's none existing, that Kerry is "uncomfortable with religion," or "really secular."

Indeed, as Hendrik Hertzberg has written in The New Yorker,
"Kerry’s biography contains hints that his Catholicism is somewhat more devout than was that of his political hero and role model. Kerry was an altar boy, and as a youth he considered the seminary and a career in the priesthood. There is no evidence that any such thoughts ever crossed the mind of the first J.F.K."
And as Kerry himself has written in this excerpt from his book "A Call To Service" which I found at Beliefnet, where Walman is the editor-in-chief,
I am a believing and practicing Catholic, married to another believing and practicing Catholic. And being an American Catholic at this particular moment in history has three particular implications for my own point of view as a candidate for presidency.

The first two follow directly from the two great commandments set forth in the Scriptures: our obligations to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first commandment means we must believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. They may not always be that clear, but they exist, and it is our duty to honor them as best we can.

The second commandment means that our commitment to equal rights and social justice, here and around the world, is not simply a matter of political fashion or economic and social theory but a direct command from God. Christian bigotry and intolerance are nothing less than a direct affront to God's law and a rejection of God's love.

There is a third facet of being an American Catholic. To a larger extent than Catholics elsewhere, we have supported and relied upon the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state to guarantee our right to worship and our liberty of conscience...
That sounds like a man confident of and comfortable with his faith, if clearer than some about the risks of extending private devotion into the public sphere. So does this.
"My entire person is affected by my belief structure, by the values given to me both through my parents and through religion," he said. "But I don't make decisions in public life based on religious belief, nor do I think we should. I think there is a separation of church and state."
and this
"...if you're a person of faith, as I am, it's your guidepost, your sort of moral compass, your sustaining force if you will, in everything that you do. But I think that even as that is true, I've always -- maybe it's a little bit the New Englander in me or something -- you wear it in your heart and in your soul, not necessarily on your sleeve."
Based on the ease with which I found those passages, it seems to me that if he doesn't wear his faith on his sleeve, John Kerry has no trouble addressing the issue clearly and resolutely.

The other end of the argument put forth by Waldman and Sullivan is that while Kerry may be a man of personal faith, he's under the influence of the 'abnormally' secular forces in the Democratic Party that have silenced him on the subject. It's easy enough to demonstrate that he hasn't been silenced, and, thankfully, Digby has done some heavy lifting in setting the rest of the story to rest, noting that
All this infighting is, once again, playing into established Republican talking points to our own detriment. It simply is not true. Democrats are as religiously observant as Republicans and with the exception of the fundamentalists and extreme Christian conservatives, religious people vote with the Democrats as much as with the Republicans. (If we are going for Christian Right votes then might I suggest that we also adopt some racist rhetoric and promise to cut taxes for the rich. Those votes are ours for the taking.)
At least Waldman's spew issues from a demonstrably regressive outlet, as opposed to Amy Sullivan's avowedly progressive perch at The Gadflyer. In either event, citing David Brooks as an authority does little to advance the validiity of their arguments or the credibility of their progressive credentials.

And in the end, they're just wrong.

Enough.

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.

Scandalous

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...

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CONVENTION SCHEDULE
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...

...you 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.

Howdy!

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.

Lawmen.

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.

Deal?

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 busybusybusy.com 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...

Anticipation...

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 HIVComments@cdc.gov or via fax at 404-639-3125.

The lives you save may be many...