Friday, November 07, 2003

NCMR Webcast info. 

The National Conference on Media Reform
Nov 7, 2003 / Madison Wisconsin.

We're webcasting live from the Opening Remarks - We're set up here at the Union Great Hall with a live webfeed, courtesy of the fine folks at CAN-TV in Chicago who graciously allowed us to take an output off their audio board.

Listen in here:
Live Audio Webfeed

and/or here:
Streaming Audio - mp3 and Real

Also: Be the Media blogging live from the Conference: (blog comment threads available)
See: Be the Media Blog

additional Conference Information

More stuff aWol can't find 

The anthrax guy.


OBL, Saddam, the felon in the Plame Affair ... His ass with both hands....

He sure is good at finding other people's money and losing it for them, though. Why is that?

Absolutely I want to trust my retirement to the financial industry! Sign me up! 


About 10 percent of mutual fund employees supposedly knew their customers were illegally trading. ... The Securities and Exchange Commission got tipped off but took no action. "It's beginning to appear that the entire crate is rotten," [New Yoirk Attorney General Eliot Spitzer] said. "The problems are structural, they are systemic."

No shit, Sherlock... And we would be trying to privatize Social Security why, again? Why, to transfer money from your pocket to corporations in the form of commissions, of course! Yet Another Republican Con ...

After lying, looting is what Republicans do best!

The winger line on the Philly election 

The winger line on the Philly election—already showing up in the Letters section of our own Inky—is that it showed how Philly is divided by race, and (whether in code or stated outright) that blacks will only vote for blacks, which is why the (black, Democrat) Street won. (This, of course, is part of the larger Republican Big Lie that the Democratic party is not the party of minorities, but the party of only minorities. And I wish the Democrats wouldn't play into this.)

Not so: the numbers tell the tale.

Street stomped (Republican-lite) Katz, 60% to 40%. That means that a significant number of whites voted for Street, since Philadelphia is evenly divided by race. And while the race was close until the end, Street pulled away when the cover of a clumsy FBI bugging operation in Street's office was blown. When it turned out that Street was not a target of the operation, Katz was toast.

Philadelphians in large numbers voted the straight Democratic ticket, which had the additional benefit of electing some Democratic judges. So the story is not black/white division. The story is that the Philadelphia mayoral election was, for some Democrats, a referendum on Bush and his department of justice, and that Bush did badly.

So there's good news for Democrats here: nationalizing local elections can work for them too; the yellow dog Democrat is alive and well; and that Bush is vulnerable among swing Democrats.

Republican Strategy 101: Anatomy of the Confidence Trick 

One of the nice things about using a library terminal is that you can read library books. Here is the definition of confidence tricks from Sharon Beder's Power Play:

A confidence trick has three elements. First, it involves deception (the trick); second, it involves gaining the trust or confidence of the victim; and third, if successful, it results in the transfer of assets or property from the victim to the con artist.

Of course, the Iraqi War is a good example: the trick was all the lies about WMDs; the trust was winning over the public and the vote for war (the "blank check"); the transfer is to Halliburton, Brown and Root, military and reconstruction contractors generally, and the coffers of the Republican regime. (Not to mention the oil...)

We can also see the same "TTT" pattern at work in the Republican efforts to "reform" Medicare ("reform" is generally a euphemism for the transfer phase of the con) and Social Security.

In general, the goal of the think-tank and MW components of the VWRC is to provide an arsenal of tricks that the Republicans can use in the trust phase. That is why one-liners like Dean's "The Republicans can't handle money" are not only true, but important strategically: they innoculate citizens against trick memes when the con artists try to move to the trust phrase, thus preventing more bad ideas from infecting the body politic.

What does Krugman Hate Black People? 

Since the wingnuts branded Krugman an antisemite for discussing the semiotics of Mahathir's antisemitic rhetoric, I'm sure they will brand him a racist for weighing in on the semiotics of Republican race rhetoric. See also the Pee-Wee Herman Defense.

Meanwhile, he has typically sensible things to say about Dean and the confederate flag pseudo-controversy.

Memo to dipshit Democrats: Forming a circular firing squad isn't making me more likely to vote for you.

"BE the MEDIA" 

The National Conference on Media Reform
November 7-9, 2003
Madison, Wisconsin
Conference Information

Americans recognize that their media are experiencing digital Wal-Martization. Like the chain that earns billions but cannot be bothered to pay employee health benefits, major media concerns in the United States brag about their profits to Wall Street but still cry poor when it comes to covering the news that matters to Main Street.


There is real work to be done. For a media reform movement that is sustainable enough, broad-based enough and powerful enough to forge real changes in media ownership patterns, and in the character of American media, it is essential to build upon the passionate base of activists who did so much to make media an issue in 2003. We have to make media policy part of the 2004 presidential debate and all the campaigns that will follow it. And we have to make it a part of the kitchen-table debates where the real course of America can, and should, be plotted. To do that, the media reform movement that captured the imagination of antiwar activists and others in 2003 must burrow just as deeply into labor, church, farm and community groups, which are only beginning to recognize how their ideals and ambitions are being damaged. If the initial challenge was one of perception?making media an issue?the next challenge is one of organization. "Media reform has become an issue for millions of Americans," says Bernie Sanders. "Now, we've got to make media reform more than an issue. We have to make it a reality for all Americans." ~ Up in Flames By Robert McChesney (Free Press Founder) and John Nichols

Conference Schedule
Live Coverage

Be the Media has organized a weblog which will feature observations, reports and other commentary from several people throughout the conference, including organizers and attendees. To view the blog, please click here.

Keynote Speaker: Bill Moyers
US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI)
US Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
US Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
US Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)
US Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
US Congressman Bernie Sanders (I- VT)
US Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
Ralph Nader
Al Franken
Naomi Klein, author of No Logo
Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW!
John Nichols
Robert McChesney
Charles Lewis, Center for Public Integrity
Juan Gonzalez, National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Linda Foley, President, Newspaper Guild
Musician Billy Bragg
[and more...see links provided.]

Be the Media weblog: http://www.bethemediablog.net/ or click HERE

FREE PRESS/media reform home page

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Deep Fried Gall 

Never had it? It's delicious. Especially with a heaping serving of that spicy Tex-Mex salsa de toro. Of course, what isn't delicious, deep fried? Just don't pay attention to that slightly acrid aftertaste. Instead, reach for a glass of cold Tex-Mex beer, and it'll all go down, real smooth like.

I'm about to talk about Bush environmental policy, so go put at least a case of Dos Equis on ice.

Recently, the Bush administration announced the first retrenchment in the Clean Air Act since it's passage - a new set of rules that will allow the companies that operate the oldest, most polluting plants through-out the country to make major investments in upgrades, without, at the same time, having to meet current standards of pollution control.

The old rules were already a sop to the utilities companies, allowing them to continue to pollute and stay in business and make operational repairs, meanwhile the companies could decide when they were ready to upgrade the operation of these old plants, at which point, the plants would have to meet the same pollution standards as new plants. It's been a long enough time now, that these old plants require upgrades big time, for the sake of the bottom line, but cost-effectiveness doesn't include the health care money spent on a kid's asthma, for instance. No, you and I pay for that.

The new rules turn this original compromise inside out. After years of making money off these old polluting stinkpots, the utilities industry will now be able to operate them as shiny new polluting stinkpots.

And just in case you spent a single second thinking that maybe, just maybe, this Bush decision wasn't only about servicing campaign contributors and might make some environmental sense, check out this brazen annoucement that came down from the EPA yesterday.

A change in enforcement policy will lead the Environmental Protection Agency to drop investigations into 50 power plants for past violations of the Clean Air Act, lawyers at the agency who were briefed on the decision this week said.

The lawyers said in interviews on Wednesday that the decision meant the cases would be judged under new, less stringent rules set to take effect next month, rather than the stricter rules in effect at the time the investigations began.

The lawyers said the new rules include exemptions that would make it almost impossible to sustain the investigations into the plants, which are scattered around the country and owned by 10 utilities.

The lawyers said the change grew out of a recommendation by Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, which urged the government two years ago to study industry complaints about its enforcement actions. The Bush administration has said its goal is to ensure cost-effective improvements to air quality.

Makes sense to me, now that I remember what President Reagan tried to teach us; trees pollute, too. At the time, I'd scoffed at his ignorance, but after being inundated all week long with endless tales of his greatness, especially on MSNBC, which as much as Fox became the "all-Reagan-all-the-time" network, I have to reconsider if I'm the one who might be wrong.

Nah. It's coal plants that pollute.

The greed as well as the gall of this administration and the money patrons who put it in office is unquenchable.

That master debunker of liberal cant, Greg Easterbrook, has come in for quite a lot of debunking himself recently, about such self-selected subjects as men vs women's understanding of the word "no," as in "no, I don't want to have intercourse with you," or words to that effect, an openess to spirituality, (his) vs. the souless secularism of your average theoretical physicist, and the theory of "intelligent design" vs. modern biological evolutionary theory. Notice the structure of Easterbrook's argument seems always to require an other, whose arguments are made in bad faith, or carelessly, at the very least.

It was less than a month ago, (Oct. 14) that Easterbrook wrote a Time editorial, also published in the LATimes, (now disappeared behind the green door of pay-for archives,) that cruelly berated environmentalists and Democrats for beating up on Bush for his environmental policies. Here's as much as I can present to you from the Time abstract:

As President George W. Bush stood in a Michigan power plant last week defending his record on air pollution, critics cranked up the amperage. Bush is " gutting" clean-air protection, Senator James Jeffords pronounced. Environmental lobbyists asserted that air pollution is rising at runaway levels. Things are so far gone, asserted Senator and presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, that Bush has " the worst environmental record in history." Worse than Genghis Khan! Yet nothing you hear about worsening air pollution is true. Air pollution is declining under Bush, just as it declined under...

Clinton is the next word, followed by a list of Presidents; you get the picture. Something Easterbrook doesn't tell you, that Michigan plant Bush spoke at turned out to be one of those old stinkpots that was then under investigation for Clean Air Act violations. But that was before the Bush Clear Skies policy. Easterbrook doesn't discuss that policy in any sort of detail. Nor, please note, does he offer any quote wherein any specific person claims that "air pollution is rising at runaway levels." But the sneering complaints about environmentalists is the core of the piece. Bad faith, he implies, again and again.

Here's a bracing answer to Easterbrook's assertions, (which Alternet is still making available free of charge), by Amanda Griscom of "Grist," an environmental, humor magazine.

"Deep-Fried Baloney" is how she characterizes Easterbrook's environmentalism, quite appropriately, on the evidence she provides. From Ms. Griscom we learn, for instance, that the arguments in Easterbrook's op ed...

...come from "Everything You Know About the Bush Environmental Record Is Wrong," a report he wrote for the Brookings Institution and the right-wing American Enterprise Institute's Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. The crux of both the op-ed and the report is that the environment, and in particular air quality, has been getting dramatically better over the years -- so what's the harm in weakening a few regulations?

When are we going to stop referring to the Brookings Institution as a "liberal think-tank?" I'll even settle for "the SCLTT," or perhaps "the SCL think-tank."

Griscom questions Easterbrook's air pollution numbers, but she puts her finger on the more important structural dishonesty in his argument, one that occurs again and again.

More intolerable, however, is the way he ignores the primary reason these improvements came about in the first place: the very "command and control" regulations that President Bush is trying to eliminate, and that Easterbrook claims are unnecessary.

The op-ed has too many transparently preposterous statements to eviscerate them all here (take "logging is one of the few endlessly sustainable industries," for example). But the ones that deserve perhaps the most scrutiny are those that applaud Bush for his supposed environmental accomplishments.

Turns out the two "accomplishments" he credits to Bush were actually the work of Carol Browner and the rest of the Clinton EPA, and one of them was "reviewed" by the Bush EPA, doubtless with an eye to non-enforcement. The third accomplishment is a proposal, not yet acted upon.

Read the whole thing. Then check out "Grist" the Magazine. Griscom is terrific.

When it comes to Easterbrook, chronicler of the success of the environmental movement vs. the several generations of actual environmentalists who are responsible for that success, it's always an issue of bad faith.

On whose part, judge for yourselves, in light of yesterday's EPA annoucement.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Cowardly Broadcasting System 


Yep, the Tiffany network backed off a Reagan miniseries because the wingers gave them orders not to.

What next? CBS tries to cover the dubious legacy of the McKinley administration, and Karl Rove picks up the phone and tells them not to?

CBS Executive: "Yes sir, Mr. Rove! A little more tongue?"


Street didn't just beat Katz (the one who didn't put the word "Republican" on his red, white, and blue signs). He stomped him—sixty to forty.


And now it would be nice if Philly could move from doing 95% of what it takes to be the world class city it should be, to 98%. Starting with my neighborhood, of course!

The French and the Second Amendment 

Great headline: "Dog shoots Frenchman".

Wonder if the Frenchman had a Confederate decal on his back window...

Cheaper drugs 

Not you, Rush!

The Associated Press surveyed comparable U.S. and Canadian prices for 10 popular drugs and found the Canadian prices were 33 percent to 80 percent cheaper.

Could it be... That the Canadian single payer system gives the consumer some leverage against the giant drug monopolies? Naahh...

There She Goes Again 

Conduct yourself accordingly.
Please, have a seat in the anteroom, your fath'eh will be with you momentarily.

"I'll admit that there are some crazy and wild things that go on in our family.

"Nancy, for example, believes that before you visit you should call and make an appointment, as if you were going to the dentist or the doctor.

"It's crazy, but that's what she does. That's the way she is. Do I think it's nuts? Sure. But it's nothing to get all riled up about. I still see my dad. I just have to do it by appointment. So what?"

- Michael Reagan (Ronald Reagan's son) describing the House of Gipper's old timey conservative family value visitation protocol.... Via: thescotsman.co.uk

The Irresponsibility Era 

Atrios draws attention to the craven, unrecorded vote on the $87B for Iraq, which, we will recall, is opposed by roughly 2/3 of the public. Of Democrats, who mostly shared Republican strategy of abdicating responsibility, Harold Meyerson observes:

[I]t's not hard to understand why. The administration's handling of both the war and occupation has been so deeply flawed that it has created a situation to which not only its own policy but all the existing alternatives are clearly inadequate. Bush and his neos have given us a kind of Gothic horror version of Goldilocks, in which the policy alternatives are either too big or too small, while their own is just wrong.

This is the talent for failure that the Bush Family in general, and Shirk in particular, have raised to an art form. Not only do you and your cronies make the public bear the financial costs of your own incompetence and greed, you make your enemies bear the political costs of the fallout as well. (As did Clinton, the next Democratic President will again face the thankless task of fixing our looted fiscal and public infrastructure.)

Of course this wouldn't work if the press would stop pretending that any policy statement too nuanced for a brain-damaged bonobo to grasp is evidence of waffling or shiftiness (ask Wesley Clark). Instead, Democrats can now expect to be pilloried no matter that they do.

Homer Simpson [having bankrupted the family by buying a pony for Lisa over Marge's objections]: Jeesh Marge! First you didn't want me to get the pony, now you want me to take it back. Make up your mind!"

Not funny:
SEELYE: Right after [Clark’s] health care speech, the general introduced some new confusion into his stance on the administration's request for $87 billion in emergency spending on Iraq and Afghanistan. He has said that he opposes the request, and he repeated that position on Tuesday. But he told one woman who asked him what he would do about Iraq, "We broke the dishes, we’re going to pay for them."

Say hello to Aristotle Alberto, Who Will 25 In The Year 2028 

We'd like to add our congratulations to the "Kos" family, and a welcome to the world to their truly beautiful new baby boy. Mother "Kos" produced this little treasure after a heroic twenty-odd hours in labor; talk about labor-intensive. Don't miss the pictures - this is one gorgeous baby. (Sorry, can't provide a link that seems to work; go to Daily Kos, scroll down, click to go to next 13 posts.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Tripping Over Another Impeachment Outrage 

You've no doubt heard that Linda Tripp, the well-known audiologist, has settled for a cool half a mil, give or take a hundred thou, in her suit against the Federal government, for having violated her privacy. Yes, you heard that right. Here's CNN's verklempt version of the story that gets every fact wrong. Not a surprise.

Everything you will hear about this settlement, what provoked the lawsuit, and what the issues were is going to be wrong or a deliberate lie. I know because having happened to hear the actual story explained in an NPR interview with Jane Mayer, who wrote the New Yorker story that started the whole thing, I then spent the last years of the twentieth century listening to winger propogandist after winger propogandist repeat a mangled version of the story based, quite simply on lies, which our old friend, the SCLM, parroted with religious devotion.

Appropriately, the man who introduced us to the SCLM, Eric Alterman, sets the record straight, based on his own personal reporting. That he took the time and the trouble is what makes Eric so terrific. Don't miss it. And don't forget the facts, and everytime you hear those same lies trotted out by friends or family who don't know better, let them in on the truth.

One other lie, completely accepted by the SCLM, that Tripp herself, and her supporters, like Lucianne, trotted out continually - that Linda only started her historical recordings at the point that she was being pressured by Monica, on behalf on the President, to commit perjury - deserves a thorough debunking.

Here's the problem with that version of events. Tripp started recording those phone conversations in October, which was a full six weeks before Tripp contacted the lawyers for Paula Jones to clue them into who Monica was, the fact of Tripp's recordings, and to make arrangements, to which they immediately agreed, for them to subpeona her, and to pretend that she was an unwilling witness. How do I know? It's all there on the recordings of her phone conversations. When the recordings were released in August of 1998 and C-Span broadcast them all, I thought I'd take a listen for maybe half an hour, and then couldn't stop listening for all twenty hours or so.

Only hearing the actual recordings Tripp herself made can give you a true idea of Tripp's betrayal of Monica Lewinsky, and of President Clinton, and of many others in the Clinton administration who had treated Tripp with extraordinary decency, even kindness.
Neither Monica nor President Clinton could have known there was any issue about which to commit perjury in October; Monica had no idea that she would be called as a witness by the Jones legal team, the President had no idea that Linda Tripp had become Monica's confidante.

Hatred is a transformative emotion, and though I'm sure that to those who know her, friends and family, Linda Tripp has her delightful qualities, what her consumming hatred of the Clintons turned her into is surely a cautionary tale.

Has MoveOn Got A Deal For You 

UPDATE: So sorry, listed wrong MoveOn link; here's the correct one, I hope. Also just corrected it in the body of the post. Again, my apologies, especially to any of you that were interested; you could still be one of the first 10,000.

You've probably heard about a new documentary, Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War, by Robert Greenwald, whom I can assure you, is a genuine Hollywood heavyweight, at one time the king of quality TV movies and mini-series, in fact the kind of mini-series that The Reagans probably was, before its recent demise as a CBS offering.

The documentary sets out to show how "the Bush administration distorted evidence and lied to the American public to make the case for military action." Joe Wilson, Rand Beers, John Dean and David Albright are among the interviewed. The documentary has it's own website.

What does this have to do with MoveOn? Though they don't generally sponsor documentary films, this is their kind of movie To quote Eli Pariser:

True to the MoveOn ethic, director Robert Greenwald lets the facts speak for themselves. And the results are pretty shocking.

Therefore, MoveOn is offering a free copy of Uncovered for the first 10,000 people who donate $30 or more to their $10 million MoveOn.org Voter Fund ad campaign by midnight. Not sure whether that's midnight today or tomorrow.

To get a copy of the documentary and help the cause; just click here.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Maher Arar's Story 

In followup to the post below, here's Maher Arar's account of his treatment at the hands of the US INS and Syrian intelligence. I can't tell if he's being sarcastic when he writes, "Of course I thank all of the journalists for covering my story."

Then again, Arar comes from a country with a functioning press, so maybe it's not gallows humor after all.

It Looks Like A Joke But It Ain't Funny 

Headline spied this morning in a news roundup from NYTimes.

Ex-chief of HealthSouth Scrushy Indicted on 85 Counts of Fraud

CEO Scrushy; tell me that's not straight out of the Simpsons. Maybe Krusty's more successful cousin? Except it's all too real. Thank-God that private enterprise finally entered into the health care field to save us from creeping socialism, the logical outcome of the triumph of the New Deal, as I've only recently learned, as a result of the nomination of Justice Janice Brown by President Bush. Thank-God for President Bush. And President Reagan. Remember Humana Inc, anybody? Of course Humana is no longer with us, while Medicare is, which only shows you how corrupted we've all been by that early triumph of socialism, Social Security.

Here are a few prize moments from the AP story.

Former HealthSouth Corp. head Richard Scrushy was indicted on 85 counts, accused of juggling the corporate books in a huge federal fraud case in which 15 former executives of the rehabilitation services giant already have pleaded guilty.

The indictment, dated Oct. 29 and released Tuesday at the federal courthouse, accuses Scrushy of a range of criminal violations including securities fraud and false certification of corporate statements.

Scrushy attorney Donald Watkins said the HealthSouth co-founder and former chief executive officer will plead innocent. (edit)

Watkins declined to comment on the 85-count indictment except to say, ``There's a whole group of lawyers studying it.''

I'll bet there are. Add to that discussion of the "framing" of issues being carried on by Digby and others, how we on the left have managed to let the right vilify trial and defense lawyers, who are the only ones who occasionally represent people like you and me, while the overwhelming percentage of legal resources in this country are used up by corporate law firms.

On the brighter side, what a hard working Justice Dept. we have, that they can catch a Scrushy and still have the time to go after Martha Stewart for a questionable, ill-defined charge of insider trading. I guess a certain amount of time is being freed up by not having to bother with so many tiresome requests for wire taps, and being able to hold bad people without actually indicting them.

Who exactly is HealthSouth?

"Birmingham-based HealthSouth, founded by Scrushy in 1984, is the largest U.S. provider of outpatient surgery, diagnostic imaging and rehabilitation services. The company has some 50,000 employees and about 1,700 sites in all 50 states and overseas.

And George W. Bush has the gaul to continually speak of the need to "modernize" Medicare. But most Americans won't feel the outlandishness of that claim, because of yet another example of brilliant rightwing, Republican "framing." Medicare has problems with rising health costs, let's modernize. He'd get a very different reaction if he said privatize, but that's what he's talking about.

We've had twenty-five years now of experience with the failures of corporatized private health care, and it's clear as clear can be that market forces do not have a major impact on rising health costs. The amount of fraud that's been uncovered over the years commited by these giant "health" conglomerates is actually quite astonishing, but it shouldn't be surprising. Corporations are legally bound to put the good of their stockholders above all else, including their customers. Marketeers will tell us customers are protected by the laws of the market; if a corporation doesn't produce what the customer wants, the customer goes elsewhere, according to the sacred law of competition. Sorry, guys, ain't working in health care.

It's interesting to look back at the arguments used against the Clinton health plan in 93. Every one of the projected horror stories perpetrated by Sen Graham et al about what the Clinton plan would do if it were allowed to see the light of day has come true - health care is being rationed, patients no longer choose their own doctors, the sacred relationship between patient and physician is constantly compromised by the intrusion of bureaucrats, even the insured have to worry about cutbacks in benefits, the uninsured have increased - but none of this has happened at the hands of government, all of it is the work of these giant "health" conglomerates. And how are the Republicans and the President going to lead us out of this untenable wilderness of contradictions, you should be asking yourself. Why, by giving the very people who have brought you the current health care crises a bigger piece of the action, i.e., exactly more of the same snake-oil that has gotten us here.

And yet in every discussion of national health care, what is brought up again and again as an example of disastrous health care policy? Yeah, that's right, the Clinton health care initiative. This is, in part, because the Clintons tried to find a middle course between rampant, unchecked corporatism and a single payer system and managed to satisfy no one. But people talk about it as if it had become policy. It may have been a political disaster for the Clinton administration, but the real disaster for health policy was the failure of congress and we, the people, to address the very real problems that the Clintons, at least, were trying to.

I understand why both Clintons continue to apologize for having had the temerity to try and do something about a failing health care system; they were beaten to a bloody pulp for it, and not only by rightwingers, but I sure wish they could find a way to stop their standard, sheepish, good-humored, "wow, were we ever wrong" response whenever the issue of health care is brought up.

In fact, they were right. Without governmental intervention, the American system of health care provided primarily through employment by private health plans was bound to prove untenable within the next decade, which is where we are today. We no longer have a failing health care system, we have one on the verge of collapse. Funding is lacking for the few emergency rooms that are left. Those without the means to buy either health insurance or medical care wait until a crises and then seek care in emergency rooms, the most expensive and least effective way to provide health care. And don't think the care is free; it is not uncommon for hospitalized patients at public hospitals without insurance to find themselves with severly garnished wages, and even to end up jobless and homeless. Ever increasing costs are forcing large industry-wide health care plans to continually cut back benefits, while raising co-payments. Large, private HMO's are increasingly finding they can't make money and provide the same level of benefits most Americans take for granted any health plan should include. Smaller employers are increasingly unable to provide any kind of benefits to their workers. Cost of prescription drugs is through the roof and spiraling up into the stratosphere. The ranks of the unsured continues to swell.

And the President wants to "modernize" Medicare by making it as similar to what the rest of our health care system looked like in the early nineties. A person could start to develop a cold; a bad, bad cold. A person could start to get angry, really angry. Let's not do either. Let's start to get smart. Starting with the Medicare bill that is coming out of conference and probably to be voted on soon, and which is totally unworthy of Democratic support.

As this is a complicated subject, and this post is longer than it should be, but what's the point of having a blog if you can't rant, I'll address the issue of what we need to do to help Democrats defeat the Medicare bill in another post later today.


Maher Arar, Canadian citizen, was released October 5 from 10 months in a Syrian jail where he was tortured by Syrian intelligence. Today he spoke out for the first time. The story he told of confinement should make the hardest heart shudder:

Speaking publicly Tuesday for the first time about his experiences, Mr. Arar described a nightmarish series of beatings, threats and said that he had spent more than 10 months in a cell the size of "a grave."

"The past year has been a nightmare," he said. "What I went through is beyond human imagination."...

He said that he was beaten on every part of his body with a frayed electrical cable and repeatedly threatened with electric-shock torture. "At the end of the [first] day, they told me tomorrow would be worse."

Ready to invade Syria yet? Not so fast.

Turns out the U.S. put Arar there.

Maher Arar, a successful businessman, was one of two Canadian citizens arrested in the U.S. during flight layovers in the wake of 9/11. Syrian by birth, he was interrogated by U.S. officials and then deported. Procedures in effect up to that time called for deporation to the last stopover, which would have been Zurich. Instead, he was deported to Syria, from which he had fled to avoid military service as a teenager, where he was accused of involvement with al-Queda and subjected to the tender mercies of the Syrian police.

If this recap doesn't jog your memory, don't feel bad. Although Googling "Maher Arar" turns up 5,500+ hits, with entire sites devoted to his cause and ample controversy at the time of his arrest in the blogosphere and international human rights groups, you will get exactly one hit on CNN, one hit on Fox (which no longer works), zero hits on MSNBC, and zero hits on The New York Times. WaPo had a whopping two stories, one of them only in the last month. In the other article, from this June, Anne Applebaum of Slate sneered:

In Canada, meanwhile, a great fuss was raised when a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, was deported by U.S. immigration officials to Syria. News reports said the man had been "disappeared" -- as if the United States were a Latin American dictatorship. It then turned out that the Canadian Mounties had been investigating the man for a year and had quietly asked the U.S. government to pick him up.

As we can see, such a characterization is absurd on its face. He wasn't "disappeared" at all; we knew exactly where he was at all times. And no one cared. As for Canadian complicity:

John Harvard, a member of Parliament, asked [Solicitor General Wayne] Easter: "Aren't you as mad as a wet hen over the behavior of the Americans? They took a Canadian citizen . . . and they sent him to a Syrian gulag." He called on the Canadian government to lodge an official protest with U.S. officials.

Easter, who apologized for Arar's ordeal, said the police assured him they were not involved in the decision to deport him. He said the United States "indicated that had happened on the United States' soil and it was their decision."

Recall the intellectual climate in the wake of 9/11, when pundits in High Places placidly contemplated the benefits of outsourcing interrogation of suspected terrorists to countries like Egypt, Malaysia, and other countries where the fine points of human rights were not always punctiliously observed. Such lamentable decisions would be justified, we were told, in pursuit of the great good.

While these cretins forgot all about their enthusiasm for U.S.-sanctioned torture, Osama Bin Laden spent the last 10 months living in cave, and this man spent them living in a box.

Yet another success story in the War on Terror.

[Update: With thanks to alert reader pablodiablo, I corrected the date of Arar's release.]


A. Bullied by the VWRC. Synonyms: wussy, winger-whipped.

Example: CBS brought a new level of civility to American political discourse by cancelling a mini-series on Reagan that wingers deemed insufficiently hagiographical.

Cowardly Broadcasting Network 

Yep, CBS caved on the Reagan miniseries.

SCLM ...

Monday, November 03, 2003

Spread The Pain? 


Via David Lindroff writing at Salon, we are told that the Bush administration has quietly begun a campaign to bring the community draft boards back to life by filling the 16 % of vacancies on them.

I don't know about you, but I had no idea such boards still existed, and to the extant they do, would have thought the vacancy rate to be more like 90%. Shows you how much it's possible not to know about your own damn country, even when you're trying to pay attention.

Lindroff gets a lot of his information off an "obscure" governmental, (actually, DoD) website DefendAmerica, "the U.S. Department Of Defense News About The War On Terrorism." that features a prominently placed call "To Serve Your Community And The Nation," by becoming a local Selective Service Board member. Placed unobstrusively within the annoucement of how to apply is this unexploded bomb:

If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines.

Lindroff includes the "not to worry" comments by the administration.

Not since the early days of the Reagan administration in 1981 has the Defense Department made a push to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots. Recognizing that even the mention of a draft in the months before an election might be politically explosive, the Pentagon last week was adamant that the drive to staff up the draft boards is not a portent of things to come. There is "no contingency plan" to ask Congress to reinstate the draft, John Winkler, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs, told Salon last week.

Rep. Rangel isn't so sure. Experts quoted come down on both sides, not gonna happen, and the logic of the current policy points in the direction of a draft. Here's Ned Lebow, a military manpower expert and professor of government at Dartmouth College:

The government is in a bit of a box," Lebow says. "They can hold reservists on active duty longer, and risk antagonizing that whole section of America that has family members who join the Reserves. They can try to pay soldiers more, but it's not clear that works -- and besides, there's already an enormous budget deficit. They can try to bribe other countries to contribute more troops, which they're trying to do now, but not with much success. Or they can try Iraqization of the war -- though we saw what happened to Vietnamization, and Afghanization of the war in Afghanistan isn't working, so Iraqization doesn't seem likely to work either.

"So," Lebow concludes, "that leaves the draft."

Lindroff points to the roadblocks in instituting another draft, starting with congress, where authorizing legislation would have to be passed. I rather think it won't happen, for all kinds of reasons, although I'm waiting for those columns by Tom Friedman and Richard Cohen praising the Bush administration for providing for the possibility, despite the political liability.

What this secretative preparation actually illustrates is the total lack of transparency in everything this administration does; in a crises, the draft can be instituted, without prior discussion, without input from congress, and most certainly without input from the American citizenery, but with plenty of bluster and fear-mongering and cries of un-American for anyone who dares to question, how did it come to this?

The other, broader issue it raises is the on-going assumption of this administration, mirrored in Secretary Rumsfeld's much discussed and carefully choreographed leaked memo, that the locus for all aspects of our response to terrorism, and in particular that eminating from the Islamic world, should, quite naturally, be centered in the Department of Defense, an astonishing assumption on the basis of the record so far.

Clifford May - Knight of the Golden Arches 

National Review Online chucklehead Clifford D. May's recent scurryings in The Corner offered up the following sound-bite of stretched historical musings. For a fuller context (and link) see Leah's earlier post here. And as I write this, Digby's take here. (I especially enjoyed the part about "Joan Crawford in a coat hanger factory.")

Otherwise, consider the following tid-bit of fanciful prattle from Clifford D.

That includes you, Ms. Doumani. You too, represent the hated Judeo-Christian West and it won't help for you to say you never eat at McDonald's and that you think George W. Bush is a unilateralist and uncultured cowboy. The fact is you're working for the Red Cross and people who remember the Crusades and the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols remember what that cross used to stand for. - Cliford D. May

"Huh?" you might be askin' yourself "did I read that right?" Well, you read right.
Does Cliff think that medieval European Crusaders in the role of International Red Cross workers were passing out leeches in Baghdad in 1258? Ok, forget the Red Cross. Does Cliff May perhaps believe that European Christian Crusaders were vacationing in Baghdad in 1258? Maybe taking calligraphy classes from Al-Mustasim Billah?

Does Clifford think that the international emblem of the Red Cross is derived from the St. George's cross? The same English St. George recalled by legend for his assistance of the Christian Crusaders at Antioch? The same St. George popularized in Edmund Spencer's allegorical tales The Faerie Queen and The Legend of the Red Cross Knight? I'll bet he does. It is not. The Red Cross symbol is an inversion of the modern Swiss federal flag. And its no more a Christian symbol than our own modern day Santa Claus is a Chrsitian symbol. (*more on this later) By the way Cliff, that story about St. George and the dragon....you know, the big dragon in the pond and the pretty girl and all that... thats a poem Cliff. Its not a like a Bible story or anything. Its an allegorical poem that was written in the late 1500's. In case you were wondering.

And whats with the "fact is" time travel thing? Golly Cliff, as if perhaps there are still people wandering around out there today, alive, working for the International Red Cross, who are old enough to personally "remember" the Crusades and the sack of Baghdad by Hulagu's Mongol army? What in the name of gurgling baby-blue Jesus are you talking about Cliff-erd?

I mean really, is this the kind of sophomoric twaddle that passes for journalism over at NRO these days? Wasn't the National Review at one time, say 30 or 40 years ago, at least considered a mildly serious publication? Well maybe not, but in any event, see what all that inbreeding will buy ya. And to think that Clifford gets paid actual real money to scratch that kind of bull-doodle in a corner. Gosh, they'll let anyone into that NRO place these days.

And whats with the "hated Judeo-Christian West" reference as it relates to the Crusades and Ms Doumani? Uh, Cliff....do you have any idea what those happy Crusader doods, swimming in visions and voices of angels, contributed to the legacy of "Judeo-Christian" hatreds. And long before anyone erected a golden archway to fast forage injection mold hamburgerland. Lets revisit the first Crusade (1095-1099) to get a little better feel for the erstwhile era. [italic emphasis below are mine]

After spending six months in refreshing and reorganizing their weakened forces, they led their armies toward Jerusalem. At last, on June 7, 1099, after a campaign of three years, the Crusaders, reduced to 12,000 combatants, stood in exaltation and fatigue before the walls of Jerusalem. [...] On July 15 Godfrey and Tancred led their followers over the walls, and the Crusaders knew the ecstasy of a high purpose accomplished after heroic suffering. Then, reports the priestly eyewitness Raymond of Angiles, "wonderful things were to be seen. Numbers of the Saracens were beheaded...others were shot with arrows, or forced to jump from the towers; others were tortured for several days and then burned in flames. In the streets were seen piles of heads and hands and feet. One rode about everywhere amid the corpses of men and horses."

Other contemporaries contribute details: women were stabbed to death, suckling babes were snatched by the leg from their mothers' breasts and flung over the walls, or had their necks broken by being dashed against posts; and 70,000 Moslems remaining in the city were slaughtered. The surviving Jews were herded into a synagogue and burned alive. The victors flocked to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, whose grotto, they believed, had once held the crucified Christ. There, embracing one another, they wept with joy and release, and thanked the God of Mercies for their victory. ~1~

Can't you just feel the "Judeo-Christian" Crusader love - Clifford? What do you suppose those 11th century Red Cross workers thought of that holy smokin' cakewalk?

Due to the length of this post, and to save space, I've posted the remainder at the following overflow page: CONTINUE HERE if you want to.

Read This And Weep. And Weep. And Weep... 

Weep Xs 16; Xs20.

This article was written before the shoot down of that Chinook, but read it with these new losses in mind.

It's a fine, honest piece of reporting, and writing.

In the last two weeks, 22 American soldiers have given their lives to the occupation of Iraq, a platoon of 21 men and 1 woman cut down to a stack of photographs by accidents, illness and the rising insurgency.

There is Lt. David Bernstein, a soldier's soldier who was killed two weeks ago and buried on Friday at the United States Military Academy here. As his mother sat with a folded flag in her lap and his father accepted a Bronze Star, even the Green Berets cried.

And there is Sgt. Aubrey Bell, the 280-pound Alabama National Guardsman, who drove a forklift and ate mayonnaise sandwiches, and who was shot to death in front of a police station.

And Pvt. Rachel Bosveld, the 19-year-old military policewoman who loved to draw forest scenes and was silenced by mortars.

And Sgt. Paul J. Johnson, a paratrooper who could imagine no fate better than leaping into the night sky, who died after being burned by a bomb.

And Pvt. Jamie L. Huggins, Pvt. Jason Ward, Pfc. John Hart, Lt. Col. Charles H. Buehring and 14 others.

The details of the impact of these deaths on the people left here at home are devastating, even just to read about.

Read it anyway. Not to sharpen your anger about what's going on in Iraq, though. The magnitude of the painful loses described here demand to be felt on their own, for their own sake. I would hope that one thing left and right, supporters and critics of our Iraqi policy could agree upon is the sacred nature of the sacrifice of life and limb in service to one's country.

Honest reporting, it presents a mixed reality.

Sergeant Huggins, a 26-year-old paratrooper, was killed during a patrol in Baghdad on Oct. 26, after his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb, the insurgency's weapon of choice.

Danielle Huggins had just heard from her husband the day before. She said she asked him: "Why are you still needing to be there? You should be at home."

His answer, she remembered, was, "We are doing good, Danielle; we are doing good."

Fort Hood, Tex.

Andrea Brassfield's husband painted a different picture.

"He told me: `They don't want us here. They throw rocks at us. They shoot at us. I don't know what we're doing here,' " she said.

Specialist Artimus D. Brassfield, 22, a tank driver for the 66th Armored Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, was killed in a mortar attack in Samarra, north of Baghdad, on Oct. 24. His death has not changed his wife's opinion of the war. Ms. Brassfield was against it when it began. She is against it now.

Read the whole article. Those American families doing the actual sacrificing deserve our undivided attention.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Let This Excellent Senator Know We Still Need Him 

I'm speaking of Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who according to the St. Petersburg Times isn't sure to run again for his senate seat.

Apparently, he hasn't yet decided not to; he's pondering, options. It's not about getting out to make a "killing" financially.

He says he might teach or write a civics textbook. He would also like to spend more time with his 10 grandchildren and "continue the wonderful romance with my wife."

Well, you can read the article yourselves.

My point is that we still need people like Sen. Graham, now more than ever. So, why not let him know. Doesn't matter whether you're in his state or not, though if you know any Floridians, by all means, email them to let them know it's time to put their two cents in.

It's not just a question of keeping his seat a Democratic one, although that's a real problem if he decides not to run. Sen. Graham has stood for all the right things for a long time now, including having appointed most of the Justices on the Florida Supreme Court. We've never needed voices like his more than at the present moment.

Here's his Senate webpage; you can read some of what he has to say there, to remind yourself how good he can be.

His Washington office telephone number is 202-224-3041; his fax # is 202-224-2237.
The address is 524 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Call and let him know he's still needed; you can reference the stptimes story. Tell the receptionist why you're calling and ask to talk to a staff member. Or leave the message with whomever answers the phone. Follow up with a Fax. And then write a letter.

This Senator is worth it.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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