Monday, July 12, 2004

Oh so pure...

...oh so senseless.

Over at Open Source Politics, Natalie Davis offers soothing words "...if your conscience won't allow you to support a Kerry/Edwards ticket."

Which in turn prompts me to suggest that if your 'conscience' won't allow you to do the only thing that has any chance of relieving your fellow citizens of the worst Presidency in our nation's history, if your 'conscience' will allow you to watch the accelerated erosion of our civil liberties, the mindless abandonment of sound science, the perpetuation of a foreign policy guided by the madness of liars and thieves, etc., etc., etc., well, you should seriously consider the possibility that you don't have a 'conscience' in any conventional sense at all.

You have a malignant ideological self absorption that is doing real harm to millions of people around you.

When will the so-called 'progressives' grow up and get over themselves.

You lost. The choices are defined. What you do next matters.

/rant...

Late again...

...with this one, but hey, the guy lives in Seattle. I've got to say something.

As most sentient beings in the blogosphere now know, Ron Reagan will make a prime-time appearance at the Democratic National Convention. It's interesting on a number of counts, extending beyond the obvious appeal of having his familial name attached to our partisan festivities.

Ron Reagan's not a Democrat, nor has he endorsed John Kerry. That's how he's voting, but he's explicitly framed it as an anti-Bush vote. He's not blindly ABB, though. He's Anybody Viable But Bush, and his participation in the DNC may up Kerry's 'V' quotient among Reagan's fellow independents considerably.

The real news in his appearance is that Ron Reagan will do something highly unusual, and perhaps totally unprecedented, in the annals of political conventions. He will offer neither unbridled praise for our side, nor unrelenting criticism of theirs. He's actually going to use his time in the podium to talk constructively about a real issue that really affects the lives of real people.

Freaking revolutionary, that's what he is!
"If they had asked me to say a few words about throwing George Bush out of office, I wouldn't do it," Reagan told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "This gives me a platform to educate people about stem cell research."
Having been a national delegate in the past, I'm pretty cynical about the goings on at the conventions. I've come to accept that the delegates are props, the platforms are propaganda and the whole shebang is essentially a political infomercial that just goes on and on and on.

This really is news, though. Kudos to the Convention committee and the Kerry campaign for making it possible.

I may have been a posting slacker...

...over the weekend, but I've been taking notes. More on this one Wednesday when we update the Scandal Scorecard, but there's a regional hook to this story that caught my eye at Eschaton
Of the five Republicans investigating an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, four have received campaign contributions from DeLay's political action committee, splitting $28,504 over the past seven years, records show....

* $1,410 for Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington...
If all goes according to plan, Doc will be the last surviving R in the state come next year...unless I'm missing a strong challenger out there? Anybody in a position to educate me?

Tomorrow belongs to....

...these folks.



Yep, July 13 is Nationwide "Computer Ate My Vote" Day of Action. Click the graphic and find out what folks are doing to protect the integrity of the franchise in your neck of the woods...

Half a loaf...

...may not be what we ordered, but compared to nothing, it can be mighty tasty. As I observe below, I'm a single-payer kinda guy, and as such, somewhat underwhelmed with John Kerry's health care proposals, but I'm also a political realist, and the Kerry plan is at least realistic.

Paul Krugman addressed the subject last week, and I agree, in the main, with his judgement...
What are the objections to the Kerry plan? One is that it falls far short of the comprehensive overhaul our health care system really needs. Another is that by devoting the proceeds of a tax-cut rollback to health care, Mr. Kerry fails to offer a plan to reduce the budget deficit. But on both counts Mr. Bush is equally, if not more, vulnerable. And Mr. Kerry's plan would help far more people than it would hurt.
...and with this conclusion.
If we ever get a clear national debate about health care and taxes, I don't see how President Bush will win it.
Of course, I don't see how Bush wins a clear national debate on any subject whatsoever...

Just suck it up.

Democrats got through a major stumbling block in the platform process, crafting a statement that neither supports Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, nor condemns every Democrat who voted in favor of the resolution that Bush distorted into an excuse for his subsequent actions. Given that both members of the Democratic ticket voted for that resolution, that shouldn't really be a surprise, but from the tone and volume of email that flooded my box, primarily from the Kucinich forces, you'd think that some other result might have been expected.

Get over it, folks. The platform is the product of a democratic process, and in the Democratic Party, the Kerry forces hold a clear upper hand. If the language about the war, and especially the timing and conditions for the withdrawal of troops seems to be closer to the Kerry postition than the Kucinich position, well, Kerry has the votes. What in the world did you expect?

Kucinich himself has been admirable in his acknowledgement that his proposals were fairly debated and is able to make the claim that his supporters did move the language to a degree. Good for him, whether you accept his claims of influence or not (and I'm happy to grant him whatever bragging rights he needs). That's how democracy works in the Democratic Party. Every side gets a hearing, and the side with the most votes wins.

There will be more soft soap to come in the platform, and some of will be happier than others. I, for instance, am a dyed in the wool single-payer health care guy. It will not be a feature of the Democratic Platform. The platform will address access to healthcare, though, and offer more to me and others who share my view than the opposition will be able to muster. And we'll keep on pushing our views until they're dominant. It takes work, it takes time, but our process makes it possible.

Speaking of the platform process, John McCreery, Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad and a member of the Best of the Blogs team, has a fine post on the subject up. As you watch the news and the convention, and find the platform more to your liking on some issues and less on others, remember why we do it in the first place.
The fact of the matter is that the Democratic Party Platform for 2004 is a 35-page compilation of resolutions that few of us will ever read. Why, then, do we bother? The answer is simple: The process by which the platform is created is an opportunity for all of the diverse interest groups that gather under the big tent to have their say and know that they are heard. It is one of the mechanisms by which the troops are rallied and given particular, personal or pocketbook stakes in the party's success or failure.
Your ideal language may not make the final cut, but we all had a chance. And we'll all have another. And that's what Democratic Party democracy is all about.

...and the prisoners were ghosts.

Philip Robertson has a fine piece of battlefield journalism at Salon today, following some 1st Cav troopers on their rounds through Sadr City. Well worth waiting throught the day pass ad for, and yet another strong argument in favor of popping for the sub.

It's all good, but this line popped out as perhaps the definitive statement on Bushco foreign policy...
It was a gun battle on an empty street against invisible men.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

A Sunday reading assignment

While you're waiting for more of my penetrating commentary, or malicious snark, or whatever it is I do that you might like, you'd do well to hustle over the The Seattle Times and read the op-ed by August Wilson, drawn from the commencement address he delivered to the graduating students at the University of Washington recently.

It's all about one of my favorite subjects, the Constitution of the United States. We sometimes overlook how revolutionary that document was at the time of its creation, and how critical it is in our own time. There's good reason that every federal employee that takes an oath, from a buck private in the Army to the President of the United States, swears to uphold and defend the Constitution. Not a king or queen. Not the President, Congress or Courts. Not a flag, church or a piece of property.

The Constitution of the United States.

But let's let the Pulitzer prize winning playwrite himself say it.
Wise and revolutionary in its principles, the Constitution not only guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens, it charges the citizens with maintaining it. Sovereignty does not rest with the government. In the United States, it rests with the people. What kind of country are you going to have? Are you going to have rule of law or rule of men? It's your choice. It's your country.

****

It takes great courage to struggle on the moral high ground that our forefathers claimed and conquered. We cannot allow the values that were developed by generations of Americans — values that were tested and proven on the battlefield — to be scattered like so much cotton in the wind.

You are either going to have civil liberties as defined and guaranteed by the Constitution, or you're not. You can't have some and not others. You cannot be ambiguous about the Constitution. You cannot assault its articles in the name of patriotism. No matter how dire the circumstances.

****

It is in the darkest of circumstance that the Constitution is the pillar of strength, the unshakable rock upon which this country stands. Brave and courageous men have given their lives that it not be torn asunder. Because of them you sit here today secure in the freedoms that are its backbone. You cannot sully the Constitution in the name of patriotism. It is un-American.
Go. Now. Read the whole thing.


Don't panic on my account...

Just want to assure my loyal Upper Lefties to have no fear. I'm not suffering from the dreaded Blogger Burnout. Things are just a bit slow this weekend because I'm trying to fit blogging between other writing assignments - some actually renumerative!

There are a few stories popping up I want to take quick note of, though, such as this update on a story that first hit the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard back in March. You'll remember that National Parks Service Police Chief Teresa Chambers was suspended after granting an interview with the Washington Post in which she stated, quite accurately, that the ability of her department to provide adequate protection to the public was being injured by budget constraints. She's been fighting the Interior Department's retaliatory action since December, and last Friday was a watershed date in her struggle. Chambers filed a request filed a request with an administrative judge under Merit System Protection Board regulations, expecting a ruling on her petition within ten working days.

While the courts work through their process, the Administration' trigger finger is a lot faster.
She was fired Friday, just two and half hours after her attorneys filed a demand for immediate reinstatement through the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent agency that ensures federal employees are protected from management abuses.

"It wasn't the reaction we expected," she said. "But we weren't surprised.

"But it's not about me," she added. "I'm a player in it. It's got far-reaching implications.

"The American people should be afraid of this kind of silencing of professionals in any field," she said. "We should be very concerned as American citizens that people who are experts in their field either can't speak up, or, as we're seeing now in the parks service, won't speak up."
Kicking Ass, the DNC blog, compares her case to the fate of Paul O'Neill, Larry Lindsey and anyone else that tries to tell the truth from within the Bush administration. Adam Moredecai at Change for America has picked up the story, too.

Everybody should be all over this one.

You can get the full story, blow by blow, at Chamber's website, HonestChief.com.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Now, just hold on there...

I don't want to devote too much space and attention to the Nader question, but since he seems likely to have a presence on Upper Left ballots this year, I've given some notice to his efforts lately. One reason that he can't be ignored completely is the effectiveness of his own propaganda effort. While he gained his public repute as an advocate for victims, he's become more devoted in recent years to painting himself as a victim.

It's taking with some folks, I'm afraid. Pessimist at The Left Coaster assures us that "I do not support Nader, and I do wish that he saw fit to drop out of this race..." but, he emphasizes, "I do believe he has the right to run."

Well, sure. Every native born American over 35 entitled to the franchise has the right to run. He even has the right to recieve help from Republicans, as in Michigan, where the GOP is running an active petition campaign on his behalf, so long as his activities and theirs are legal under the various state election statutes. While Pessimist seems to disagree on that point, disapproving of the apparently legal activities of the Rs. My only issue is Nader's persistent lying about what he's up to and who's helping him.

Pessismist is way off base with this notion, though.
In Arizona, where Nader seems to have enough support, the Democrats are attempting to use the courts to block his ballot placement.
Nader doesn't seem to have enough support in Arizona at all. What's apparent is that he has a collection of signatures gathered under a variety of illegal circumstances. It seems that the paid signature gatherers that the Nader camp hired (contrary to an earlier pledge to conduct a volunteer effort) were less than scrupulous in their efforts. The petitions were so far outside the regulations, in fact, that the Naderites didn't even try to defend them in court.

That's not an example of Democrats stomping on the rights of poor Ralph Nader. That's Democrats standing up for the rights of each of us to face a ballot assembled within the constraints of the law, barring candidacies from going forward through illegal or unethical means.

Sure, he has a right to play, but he has to play by the rules. If he wants to change the rules, there are ways to do that, too. Cheating isn't one of them.

Maybe counselling would help...

Watching the Republican attack on the Edwards' pick this week, it seems that the playing the experience card isn't going to be enough to diminish the appeal of the Senator from North Carolina. In fact, Bush's surly quip about Cheney being "able to be President" has only highlighted Bush's own inadequancies and the dominant role of the vice presidency in the current administration. Kerry was quick on the draw, noting that Cheney has been the President from day one, and that that's a big part of our problem. Philip James hits a similar note in The Guardian.
Kerry and Edwards have an unusual opportunity to turn the old political slogan "experience you can trust" on its head, which brings us back to the president's "Dick Cheney can be president" one-liner.

I wonder if Bush is beginning to regret his chosen form of words, given that the public has witnessed how Cheney can indeed be president - whenever the mood takes him, and especially when his overwhelmed boss is not up to the task.
In fact, John Edwards made a considerable fortune for himself and people he represented convincing folks that he could be trusted, and he uses similar skills to his great advantage on the stump. Moreover, in a year when the campaigns seem to be in an ongoing battle to claim the mantle of 'optimism,' Edwards is Mr. Optimistic. Good evidence can be found in his national radio address today, in which he set the contrast plainly.
Between now and November, the American people are going to reject the tired, old, hateful negative politics of the past and they’re going to embrace the politics of hope, the politics of what’s possible, because this is America, where everything is possible.
Bush seemed resolved to make the contrast even more plain with his own weekly radio address. At a time when the nation is divided over war and an economy that seems to yield greater benefits for a few while leaving many out, at a time when every American, regardless of partisanship, is looking for the comfort of sure leadership in a period of national tempest, the President of the United States, 'leader' of the free world, chose to focus on a narrow issue without a future, a piece of legislation certain to fail and designed merely to drive a wedge between one national minority, religious fundamentalists, and another, gay and lesbian Americans seeking to ratify their relationships in civil marriage.

"A great deal is at stake in this matter," he intoned.
"For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that traditional marriage is critical to the well-being of families. ... And changing the definition of traditional marriage will undermine the family structure."
That, of course, would include the cultures, past and present, where the traditions of marriage include polygamy (Hello Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. Saud), arranged childhood marriages, impoverishing dowery payments, etc., etc., etc.

There have been, and are, many cultures with many traditions, including more than a few within our national borders. Beyond the issue he addresses, Bush's speech is remarkable only in the willingness of his staff to let him go ahead and display such remarkable chauvanistic ignorance of human culture and history.

I'll stick with my traditions, thanks, let others have theirs, and keep the government's nose out of the voluntary arrangements of two adults. I'm satisfied that my marriage will survive the stress, and if Bush has doubts about his, well, even I can extend sympathy to a fellow in such dire marital distress.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Stop whining, Ralph...

...and stop lying.
"They're hiring lawyers to go up to technicalities in places like Arizona, they infiltrated our political convention," Nader, an independent candidate for president, told FOX News on Thursday. "I spoke to John Kerry and said 'you'd better look into it because it could be a mini-Watergate, possibly."

****

When asked if Republicans are working behind the scenes to get him on the ballot, Nader said he doesn't know much about that but "we've seen lots of examples of Democrats trying to obstruct us … this is a fight for all third parties and independent candidates."
A fight for who, Ralph? You say you haven't heard about this?
From: "MIGOP Activist Alert"
Subject: Mich. GOP Alert: Help get Ralph Nader on the ballot!
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 2004 18:01:17 -0400

***ALERT***ALERT***

TO: Republican Leaders
FR: Greg McNeilly
Executive Director

...Michigan Republicans are...seeking volunteer help to ensure Nader's ballot access.

Right now, today, we need to assist efforts to provide Ralph Nader access to Michigan's ballot. Please contact your local Victory Center to help, our Lansing headquarters or click here for a link to obtain a petition from the Nader campaign: http://www.migop.org/nader.asp

(Nader volunteers will collect the petitions from there)

(16 distribution sites, including Michigan State Republican Headquarters, are listed)
There's something scandalous happening, but it's not coming from Democrats insuring that Nader follows established election laws that every campaign has to deal with. Nope, it's double dealing the independent voters you claim to champion through back door deals with the GOP.

Michigan Democratic Chair Mark Brewer says,
"It's another example of state Republicans willing to try every unethical trick in the book to hold power, This clearly shows that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote to re-elect George Bush. The Republicans know that, and that's why they are desperate to have Nader on the Michigan ballot."
But Brewer's got that fight back spirit we need this year. He'll be holding Nader to the letter of the law.
"If the Republicans refuse to stop their efforts and Nader accepts their help, we will have no choice but to oppose his petition effort, review every signature and challenge his petitions if they are insufficient in any way."
That's only fair, Ralph. Stop whining. Tell the truth.

And oh yeah, go away.

You meet the nicest people...

...in the Upper Left visitor logs.

Jul/09 12:47 PM United States Washington U.S. senate sergeant at arms

hmmm. Whataya think they want?

It's Friday...

...so Alterman's got Pierce, and Pierce has McCain dead to rights...
If there ever was a politician who had a better right to leave an administration of his party on hold until December, it's McCain, against whom the Bushies ran an unspeakably sleazy campaign. Yet, there he is, seriously on board with people who'd sell him back to the Vietnamese if they thought it meant 10 points in Ohio this fall.
John McCain may be a fine guy personally. John Kerry seems to think so, and I'll trust his judgement. Politically, though, he's way off on the other side. As political enemies go, McCain may (or may not) be fairly benign, but he's not our friend.

Thoroughly Un-American

Tom DeLay may be known as 'The Hammer,' but Nancy Pelosi nails his latest outrage.
"Today on the House floor, Republican leaders once again undermined democracy, this time so that the Bush Administration can threaten our civil liberties. How thoroughly un-American."
In a move reminiscient of the Medicare vote that has led to charges that the Republican leadership in the US House bribed Rep. Nick Smith to secure his vote, just one of the scandals surrounding that particular piece of legislation, DeLay and his minions once again held a vote open beyond the customary limits, this time to kill an amendment offered by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have removed the PATRIOT Act provisions that allow federal investigators to examine library and bookstore records without going through normal warrant procedures.

As the time for the vote neared an end, the Sanders Amendment was passing by 18 votes when the Rs stopped the game clock and started 'Hammer time,' as Democratic members chanted "Shame, shame, shame." The variety of threats and bribes that were employed in the effort to "educate" House members can only be imagined, but once they secured a 210-210 tie, the vote was finally concluded, some 20 minutes after the normal limits.

You have to give DeLay some credit, though. At least when he uses extraordinary procedures to kill legislation, at least it's legislation he wants to kill, unlike his hapless counterpart in the Senate. They're unified, though, in their hostility to the rights of the American people.

"How thoroughly un-American."

Indeed.


1000

Yesterday's death toll brought the number of US fatalities in the 'post-occupation' period to 26, and the total number of coalition fatalites to 1000.

1000.

To secure Iraq's new government the freedom to declare martial law.

We've got to win every race this year. Each and every one.

We've got to.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Come to think of it...

...I would tweak the ad Amy Sullivan describes in the post below just a little bit. I'd take the word "owned" off her label for the Capitol building. The Republicans may operate the place, but they don't own it.

The people own it, and the R's are just the managers. Damn poor ones at that.

For example, the department head on the Senate side, Majority "Leader" Bill Frist, not only can't get a budget passed, he's so incompetent that he can actually kill a bill that has 60 co-sponsors.

Yep, while critical funding measures for national security go unattended, while Americans continue to suffer long term unemployment without the lifeline of a benefits extension, while schools decay and millions go without health care, the erstwhile Mr. Frist pushed his pet project - diminishing the rights of injured Americans access to relief in the courts - to the top of the Senate agenda and then blew the deal.

He must have done his management studies at the Ken Lay School of Business.

That's right. After months of negotiations and several failed attempts at passage, a class action 'reform' (deform would be more accurate) bill was finally crafted that drew enough Democratic support to secure filibuster-proof sponsorship. Part of the deal involved providing the Democratic minority the opportunity to propose a limited number of amendments. Then Frist went to work.
Seeking to bar unrelated additions to the bill which could complicate its future in negotiations with the House of Representatives, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist on Wednesday evening moved to limit the debate to germane amendments. A vote on this motion was set for Friday.

In the meantime, Frist said, he welcomed senators to propose relevant changes to the bill, which has supporters in both parties, on Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, Frist used a different procedural maneuver, which effectively blocked other senators from making any amendments at all while debate continued.
At that point, he started to lose sponsors.
"One sure way to kill this bill is to close off debate," said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat and one of the co-sponsors of the class action bill.
He even started to lose Republicans.
Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, who backed the class action bill but wanted to offer an amendment to make undocumented farm workers legal residents, said he "does not appreciate" Frist's action.
Now, I'm perfectly happy to see the legislation die, and one reason is as good as another in my book. If it takes incompetent leadership to kill it, that's fine. The fact is, though, that there's important business to do in the Senate, and it will take a competent manager to get it done. Luckily, we've got the application of a terrific manager on file, and Tom Daschle is just waiting for the call.

Frist treats the US Senate like a personal fiefdom, but he's just a hired hand.

Fire him.

Preach it, sister.

When I thought Amy Sullivan was wrong I wasn't the least bit shy about saying so in fairly forceful terms, so when she's absolutely right, I owe her the same level of attention.

In her blog space at the Gadflyer today, she writes about the Republican tradition of campaigning against the Beltway, claiming some special connection with heartland interests that is untainted by experience in Washington, DC. She suspects they'll try it again, despite the contradiction of that argument with their complaints about John Edwards' lack of Beltway experience. She also suspects the argument will, or at least can be made to, fail this time around.

I agree on both counts.

First, there's the hypocrisy problem. As Sullivan notes...
Between Bush and Cheney, we have one guy whose dad used to be director of the CIA, Ambassador to the United Nations, and, oh yeah, President and another who has served in four different administrations as well as Congress. Washington doesn't represent your values? Well, whose fault is that? Republicans control the House, the Senate, the White House, and, arguably, the Supreme Court. Tired of special interests? Take a look at K Street, where a staggering number of lobbying groups are seeded with Republicans hand-picked by Tom DeLay for their posts.
This year, the Republicans aren't just working inside the Beltway. They hold the mortgage.

There is a problem with public awareness, though. If we want people to know that Democrats are locked out of the process, we have to tell people that Democrats are locked out of the process. I might tweak the presentation a bit, but I'd be willing to settle for Sullivan's suggestion.
Democrats should embrace their powerlessness and flaunt the fact that they are not in control. I'm picturing a very simple ad: A photo of the Capitol Dome, flag waving in the breeze, with the words "Owned and Operated by the Republican Party" stamped underneath. Simple, to the point, voter education.
In fact, I might not tweak it at all. I like it. Let's try it, and as she says
Go ahead, Bush/Cheney, Inc. -- try to run against Washington. I'm betting that dog don't hunt.
Damn straight.

Signs of G.O.Panic

Ronald Kienhuis wanted to incite his Great Neck neighbors and passersby when he placed a sign in his front lawn about a week ago.

"BUSH MUST GO!" proclaimed the sign...
First, one neighbor told Kienhuis that someone complained about his sign to the Village of Great Neck. A code inspector showed up. Shortly after, a "notice of violation" arrived from the village ordering him to take the sign down - although the village backed out of its warning yesterday.

Someone also left Kienhuis an anonymous letter asking him to put the sign away. Finally, the sign disappeared over the Fourth of July weekend.

Kienhuis got some cardboard and a marker and made another sign. It's on his lawn again.
The "notice of violation," signed by village Inspector Joseph D. Kelly, told Kienhuis' parents, who own the property and live nearby, that the house "is in violation" while ordering them "TO REMEDY THE SITUATION NOTED IMMEDIATELY," or risk a summons.

...a suited man who identified himself as a village employee showed up at Kienhuis' home late yesterday to deliver a cancellation of the warning. The same letter Kienhuis had previously gotten from the village was now stamped in large letters "ISSUED IN ERROR."

Kienhuis had called the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union in Mineola, which was ready to fight for his First Amendment rights.

"This is absolutely basic free speech. There is nothing more basic," said Barbara Bernstein, the chapter's director. "The only thing that's restricted in public speech is libel, obscenity, threats and fraud, but pure political expression is carved in stone in our history."
Perhaps Ms. Bernstein could drop a note to the Charleston, WV, PD...

Paging the ACLU

I've laid off the story about the couple ejected from a Bush appearance in West Virginia on the 4th of July for wearing "anti-Bush" t-shirts because, well, I've seen a few anti-Bush t-shirts that might be considered less than 'family friendly' and possibly inappropriate for a public gathering. Today, Holden, subbing for Atrios over at Eschaton, provides a pointer to a Charleston Gazette article that points out exactly how outrageous the harassment of two American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights was.
A worker with the Federal Emergency Management Agency who wore an anti-Bush T-shirt at the president’s July Fourth rally in Charleston has been sent home to Texas.

Nicole Rank, who was working for FEMA in West Virginia, and her husband, Jeff, were removed from the Capitol grounds in handcuffs shortly before Bush’s speech. The pair wore T-shirts with the message “Love America, Hate Bush.”

The Ranks were ticketed for trespassing and released. They have been given summonses to appear in court, Charleston Police Lt. C.A. Vincent said Wednesday.
That's right, not only were they shackled and removed from public property, but Nicole Rank's employer, a federal agency, followed up the outrage with punitive retaliation. I'm sure the flood victims she had traveled half way across the country to assist will feel better about being protected from her dangerous ideas.

A few more relevant facts:
This was an official 'Presidential visit,' not a Bush campaign event (in other words, you and I helped pay for it).

In order to enter the so-called 'no-trespassing area', the Ranks had aquired tickets authorizing their presence.

"Dozens" of attendees wore pro-Bush apparel, some of which was sold on the Capitol grounds.
I wonder if the supervisor that sent her out of town will be paying her passage back for her court appearance...


Smackdown!

House Republicans are getting bolder as they bail out on the Bush agenda during an election year.
WASHINGTON - The House dealt an election-season setback to President Bush on Wednesday by voting to overturn restrictions his administration has issued on the gift parcels that Americans can send to family members in Cuba.

The 221-194 vote was won by a coalition in which Democrats were joined by nearly four dozen farm-state and free-trade Republicans to rebuff the president.
And they're not shy about slamming his plans in the press.
"It's hard to think of an economic sanction that does more harm to the welfare of families in Cuba, or does more to make the U.S. seem mean-spirited toward families who already have the misfortune to live under communism," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz...
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a Cuban-American, said the proposal was "dishonest" and "condescending."
"Mean-spirited." "Dishonest." "Condescending."

Yep, they're starting to figure him out.

You can run, George, but you can't win.

Another reason I like the Edwards pick...

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - President Bush will launch his first major campaign advertising effort in nearly three weeks on Friday, including his first foray onto North Carolina’s airwaves to defend traditionally GOP turf.
Smirk all you want, Georgie, as long as you keep spending money where we force you to instead of where you wanted to.

There's no way that North Carolina TV was in Rove's budget a week ago. Maybe that means I'll see a little less of the Bush mug on my set for awhile, which would be an immeasurable blessing.

The good guys win again

via Kos
A group named Nevada Independents -- on their own initiative -- in May collected about 4,800 signatures on petitions to place Ralph Nader on the state's Presidential ballot. As Nader had yet to name a runningmate when they began their efforts, they didn't list any runningmate. That voided all those petitions under Nevada law.

****

Nader apparently thought he would get on the Nevada ballot as the Green nominee -- so he figured he didn't need Vaughan's group -- but then Nader failed to win the Green nomination. In the interim, Nader also picked financial executive Peter Camejo (Green-CA) as his official VP runningmate last month. That move angered the Nevada Independents, who explicitly reject Camejo as "unacceptable" and "a commie."


Give it up, Ralph.

Gimme a head with hair...



...better yet, gimme two of 'em!
"I want you to know we think this is a dream ticket. We've got better vision. We've got better ideas. We've got real plans. We've got a better sense of what's happening to America."

"And we've got better hair. I'll tell you, that goes a long way."
Eyebrows, too. Sorry Gep.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

More fun with the visitor logs...

Jul/07 12:47 PM United States Washington Depthomelandsecurity

hmmm. Whataya think they want?

It's back, bigger and badder!



It's kind of amazing that the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard has grown to 46 entries going into this week. "Why's that?" you might ask. I mean, haven't the Republicans filled every nook and cranny of the government with crooks?

Well, yeah, but...

The Stakeholder, quoting a WaPo op-ed by Congressman Henry Waxman, points out the problem with a pithy quotation from Republican congresscritter Ray LaHood.
"Our party controls the levers of government. We're not about to go out and look beneath a bunch of rocks to try to cause heartburn."
Yep, it's the same old coverup that always seems to come along with Republican power. A prime example is this factoid from the Waxman article.
Compare the following: Republicans in the House took more than 140 hours of testimony to investigate whether the Clinton White House misused its holiday card database but less than five hours of testimony regarding how the Bush administration treated Iraqi detainees.
Imagine how long my list might be if they actually cared about enforcing the legal and ethical standards that they're supposed to supervise and operate under.

That being said, it's update time again and I won't leave you disappointed. I'm kind of delighted today, in fact, because we've got another Republican Congressman on the hook this week, and it's not Tom DeLay (not that I would object to having another item or two on The Hammer, but I hate to let him get all the, ahem, glory).

It is, though, a Texan. Rep. Joe Barton has been caught using his franking privelege to contact voters outside the District he represents, appealing to voters in new areas that he's running in as a result of the DeLay (there's that name again) inspired Congressional redistricting scheme.

Atrios reports
Barton’s present district includes parts of Tarrant, Ellis, Hill, and Johnson counties. However, his newsletter was also sent to voters in the new district who now are represented by Martin Frost, Jim Turner, and Chet Edwards.

The mailing was sent through Barton’s franking privilege available to him as a member of Congress. There is no stamp on the mailpiece, just his signature. Federal law specifically states that "members of Congress may not make any mass mailings outside of the district from which they are elected."
His Democratic opponent in the new District, Morris Meyer, says
"This is a continuing pattern of illegal and unethical behavior on the part of Joe Barton, whether it concerns campaign contributions or the proper conduct of a public official."
We say it's a scandal.

If you're afraid that the crooks in Congress will catch up to the bandits in Bushco, though, relax. The administration didn't let you down this week, either. Unsuprisingly, the most recent malefactor comes from Don Rumsfeld's DoD.

John A. Shaw, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security, has been busted for conducting "...unauthorized investigations of Iraq reconstruction efforts," and using the results "...to push for lucrative contracts for friends and their business clients."

In order to make investigative findings that allowed him to push no-bid contracts and other plush deals to his pals, Shaw has misrepresented himself as variously a Pentagon inspector general or a Halliburton employee (which leads one to wonder why a Halliburton employee can go where a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense can't) to gain admission to secure sites and programs to conduct his fraudulent 'investigation.'

It's, you got it, scandalous.

And that's not all! An alert reader notes that I've failed to include the August, 2003 Inspector General's report that revealed a scandal regarding the EPA report on New York City's Post 9/11 air quality.

The report said that, in editing EPA press releases, the White House "added reassuring statements and deleted cautionary statements."

Yep. It's a scandal. Thanks, Lee!

You can find these, and the other 46 entries, on the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard homepage, today, and every day.

Free is a very good price...



...and Kerry/Edwards is a very good ticket! The campaign is giving away shiny new bumper stickers, and you can get yours by clicking here.

First one's free, but they encourage some appreciative renumeration. If you want to toss 'em a couple bucks, you might consider the Upper Left Kerry Core account as an appropriate vehicle.

But get your sticker and stick it up where it will be seen!

Speaking of New Iraq® ...

...I notice that in the eight days since the end of the 'occupation,' twenty occupiers (eighteen US, an Italian and a Ukrainian)have died, fifteen as a result of hostile fire.

July is now in line to register the sixth highest rate of fatalities in the seventeen months since our 'pre-emptive' invasion.

Total coalition casualties are now 992.

Damn.

Another must read...

...can be found at The Nation, where John Nichols explodes the Kerry/McCain myth and asks a question that's worth pondering...
There is, however, one Kerry-McCain mystery that remains unresolved: Does anyone believe that John McCain will actually vote for George w. Bush?

Oh, now I feel better.

The Iraqis are customizing Way New™ brand sovereignty by Bushco®, adding the National Safety Law option.

"The lives of the Iraqi people are in danger, they are in danger from evil forces, from gangs of terrorists," said Human Rights Minister Bakhityar Amin, who compared the new law to the U.S. Patriot Act.

Let's see, among other things, the new law gives Allawi
The right to impose curfews

The right to conduct search operations

The right to detain individuals with weapons (roughly the entire adult population)

The right to assign governors in specific areas (including military overseers)

The right to freeze the assets of 'suspects'

The right to monitor communications of 'suspects'
So, has anyone ever seen Allawi and Ashcroft in the same place?

Justice Minister Malek al-Hassan told a news conference that "We are aware that it could curb some freedoms."

Ummm, I thought the other guys were the enemies of freedom...

Roger's on a roll.

I'm glad you're here, but when you're ready to go, do not pass go, go straight to Roger Ailes. He's in rare form today, making a media shish-ka-bob with Kaus, Morris and the Moonie Times Wes Pruden on the skewer (with a pinch of Russert for seasoning) and offering this fine rejoinder to the effort to smear John Edwards' professional achievments.
Tonight, in honor of John Edwards' selection as John Kerry's running mate, CNN played a clip of Dubya at his most profound: "Frivolous lawsuits never healed anyone."

Yes, and medical malpractice never compensated for a lifetime of pain and suffering
.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

An American hero to all...



...and a personal hero to me.


This has been a campaign year full of highlights - visiting with John, Teresa and Vanessa Kerry, conference calls with JK and Mary Beth Cahill, meeting up with the S4K crew and many more - but none shine brighter than the chance to meet Max Cleland and thank him personally for what he's done for our country, our candidate and for every veteran.

And something tells me his best is yet to come...

In case there was still any doubt...

...it turns out that Senator Edwards' opponent is a shameless liar...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Sept. 11 commission, which reported no evidence of collaborative links between Iraq and al Qaeda, said on Tuesday that Vice President Dick Cheney had no more information than commission investigators to support his later assertions to the contrary.
...but if you're reading this, you probably knew that.


Time to bundle up?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is expressing steadfast opposition to reviving the military draft despite the stress placed on America's all-volunteer force by large-scale operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I just can't imagine it," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week when asked under what circumstances it might be necessary to resume the draft.
Hmmm...

It may be instructive to examine some of Secretary Rumsfeld's previous failures of imagination.

On whether politics influences DoD policy...
At a Pentagon news conference in January, a reporter even wondered whether a "political agenda" might lurk behind a medal lumping Operation Iraqi Freedom with the battle against al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists worldwide.

"Not that I can even imagine, no," Rumsfeld said. "This department is not involved with politics."
...or our conduct of the war in Iraq...
"I can't imagine there's been a conflict in history where there has been less collateral damage, less unintended consequences."
...or torture at Abu Ghraib...
Rumsfeld said that he "could not imagine" that any officer would approve of the abuse.
...or al Qaeda activity in Iraq...
"There are al-Qaeda in a number of locations in Iraq...it's very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what's taking place in the country.”

...or perhaps stretching the truth just a wee bit...
QUESTION:Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up. Will there be any circumstances, as you prosecute this campaign, in which anyone in the Department of Defense will be authorized to lie to the news media in order to increase the chances of success of a military operation or gain some other advantage over your adversaries?

The answer to your question is no. I cannot imagine a situation. I don't recall that I've ever lied to the press. I don't intend to...
Yep, I think I may feel a draft.

You young folks may want to grab a jacket...

I really don't know...

...who Kerry's 'first choice' for veep was. Only John Kerry knows that. I'm pretty sure, though, that I know who got the first offer. I'm positive that, contrary to Bushco propagandists, it wasn't John McCain. I'm not a big fan of the Senator from Arizona, but lacking any opposing evidence, I'll take him at his word.
"Senator McCain categorically states that he has not been offered the vice presidency by anyone."

Mark Salter, Chief of Staff to John McCain
Maybe CNN needs to invest in an AP feed.


Update: Speaking of Senator McCain, The Stakeholder takes a timely look at Presidential politics today...

The "Anti-Cheney"



Juan Cole makes an excellent point about how Edwards' background strengthens his hand that I'd overlooked myself...
One thing that hadn't been clear to me before was Edwards' antipathy to Halliburton and his critique of "unbid contracts." Edwards as a trial lawyer who helped consumers get their due from rich corporations that had harmed them would be ideally placed to take on the whole issue of Halliburton and the ways in which the Bush administration has mishandled Iraq by funneling huge amounts of money into expensive contracts that did not even employ many Iraqis. That is to say, Edwards may be the Anti-Cheney in ways that could be important to the campaign.
He has more, too, all of which makes a good day seem even better.

That Kerry sure can pick 'em.

Well, I'm happy...

Wonkette nails the short form - Obvious Choices Rock! - and the Carpetbagger Report digs a little deeper, offering ten good reasons that Edwards is a good choice. I agree with all of them.

Of course, I'm such a staunch Kerry partisan that the bottom of the ticket has never been likely to affect my enthusiasm for the top of the ticket much one way or another, but I think Edwards will help energize some the folks who were in other camps over the winter, and that's a good thing.

It also helps push health care, and especially the Patient's Bill of Rights, higher on the agenda. Democrats should own the health care issue collectively, and John Edwards does own the PBR issue in his own right. It doesn't just strengthen our Presidential ticket, but can have a big impact on House and Senate races all over the country.

Yep, it's a good thing, altogether. I'm happy.

Great Moments In Journalism


Happy now?



Dear Friend,

In just a few minutes, I will announce that Senator John Edwards will join me as my running-mate on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for vice president of the United States. Teresa and I could not be more excited that John and Elizabeth Edwards will be our partners in our journey to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.

You are the heart and soul of our campaign. You've shattered records and expectations every step of the way. Every time someone said you couldn't do it, you proved them wrong. Because of your incredible grassroots energy and commitment, I wanted to make the first official announcement of my decision to you -- more than one million online supporters at johnkerry.com.

I want you to know why I'm excited about running for president with John Edwards by my side. John understands and defends the values of America. He has shown courage and conviction as a champion for middle class Americans and those struggling to reach the middle class. In the Senate, he worked to reform our intelligence, to combat bioterrorism, and keep our military strong. John reaches across party lines and speaks to the heart of America -- hope and optimism. Throughout his own campaign for President, John spoke about the great divide in this country -- the "Two Americas" -- that exist between those who are doing well today and those that are struggling to make it from day to day. And I am so proud that we're going to build one America together.

In the next 120 days and in the administration that follows, John Edwards and I will be fighting for the America we love. We'll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We'll be fighting to make America energy independent. We'll be fighting to build a strong military and lead strong alliances, so young Americans are never put in harm's way because we insisted on going it alone.

I can't tell you how proud I am to have John Edwards on my team, or how eager I am for the day this fall when he stands up for our vision and goes toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney.

This is the most important election of our lifetime, and a defining moment in our history. With you by our side every day of this campaign, John and I will lead the most spirited presidential campaign America has ever seen and fight to lead our nation in a new and better direction.

Thank you,


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.