Index of Posts for April 2008

Mr. McCain goes to Inez (KY) and tells women what we need
Guerrillas in the Garden
Bush Accuses Dems in Congress of Economic Inaction
New York Political Leaders on Sean Ben Murder Acquittal
Making a Killing from Hunger
Food Aid in Gaza Suspended Due to Fuel Shortage
Report: 60% of EPA's staff scientists say they have suffered political interference
The Pennsylvania Primary: Polls, Exit Polls, Live Blogging and What's Next
Artivist Film Festival: Merging Art and Activism
Fact Check: Clinton & Obama TV ads mislead about lobbyists and PAC contributions
NYT: "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand"
Green Gadgets
States to Resume Death Penalty: Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection
Comcast and AT&T et.al. snub FCC broadband hearing
Anne Enright
Senate Commerce to hold mark up on Dorgan's Cross Ownership Bill April 24
World Bank on the Food Price Crisis
Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet, Ashcroft approved torture
KBR medic complicit in rape of colleague by soldier
Claudia Emerson
US Consultants help bust UK labor unions
Check out The Belmont Club: History and Hisotry in the Making
Zimbabwe tumult continues as Barry Bearak of the NYT freed
Speculation on Drugs and Torture
California Health Care Workers Press SEIU
Seton Hall's Center for Social Justice Sues
WHO concerned about Gaza patients dying while awaiting
McCain's economic advisors
On the Road Again

Mr. McCain goes to Inez (KY) and tells us what women need

Bruce Dill's photograph of Lilly Ledbetter for Robert Barnes's 2/20/07 WaPo story, "A Hearing Without Being Heard: As Justices Take Case, Plaintiff Finds It Has Little to Do With Her Anymore."
As economists and pollsters talked about a recession and as consumers, facing increased gas and food prices, worried about the security of their jobs, April was a good month to remember the wage gap. Women are averaging 77 cents for every dollar men earn for comparable work.

April 22, in addition to being Earth Day, was Equal Pay Day, calling attention to when women’s wages catch up to men’s wages from the previous year. If you doubt the pay gap still exists, just ask Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s plant in Gadsden, Ala., who found out that after a 19-year career she was making $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor.

Ledbetter's case gained prominence April 23, when the press covered Senator John McCain's stop in Inez, KY on his "It's Time for Action" tour, as he sought to emphasize his attention to the powerless in our country. In this rural eastern Kentucky town, where poverty is worse among women than men, McCain addressed Ms. Ledbetter's case and George Miller's (D-CA) H.R. 2831, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, which had passed the House by a vote of 225-199 July 31, 2007, along almost entirely partisan lines. McCain suggested what women need is not more legal redress for discrimination, that education and training will suffice.


I know about Inez, KY from covering the largest environmental disaster in the southeast--Massey Energy's Martin County Coal Sludge Spill--and from covering the work of federal mine inspector, Jack Spadaro, who refused to sign onto a Bush administration whitewash and got locked out of his own office on the orders of Secretary of Labor Elaine Cho.

What I had not remembered about Inez was Lyndon Johnson's visit to launch the War on Poverty which McCain reminded us of on his stop there. McCain had launched the tour April 21 in Selma Alabama, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge site of "Bloody Sunday, March 6, 1965. That 1965 assault on marchers contributed to the federal Voting Rights Act's passage, following upon the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Bill Moyers, who was Johnson's press secretary, reports that on the evening of signing the 1964 measure, Johnson said, "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come."

Steve Holland of Reuters UK reported,
McCain was driven through the mountains to that wood frame house Johnson visited but now it was padlocked with the front porch fenced off, a "No Trespassing" sign posted and car parked in a driveway with a blanket covering a broken window.
John McCain had come to Inez not to praise Johnson, but to (re)bury him in this the centennial year of his birth. At a news conference at the old Martin County Court House, McCain told reporters, according to AP writer Libby Quaid,

I wouldn't be back here today if government had fulfilled the promise that Lyndon Johnson made 44 years ago.

The main thrust of Quaid's story was not Inez at all (her dateline was New Orleans). Instead, she emphasized McCain's failure to return to the Senate to cast his vote on H.R. 2831. The measure would have reverted suits against employers to the prior clock, which allowed court consideration not just within six months of the original discrimination, but at the time of any discriminatory paycheck.

After threatened presidential veto, on the evening of Wednesday, April 23, there were 56 votes in the Senate to move the measure forward, 4 short of the 60 votes are needed to stop a filibuster. (Actually there may have been 57, as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke in favor of cloture but voted against it--I'm thinking for some kind of procedural reason which would allow him to bring the matter up again.

Republicans voting to stop a possible filibuster were were Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Specter (R), Sununu (NH) . Coleman had been targeted by People for the American Way in web and radio ads.

For years, Lilly Ledbetter was paid far less than the men in her factory for doing the same work — and she proved it in court. But when the company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a new justice nominated by George W. Bush and supported by Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman wrote the opinion that denied her equal pay.

Tell Norm Coleman we need judges who will protect workers — not take our rights away.
Reid had delayed the vote to give McCain's Democratic rivals, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama time to return to Washington to support the measure. As a result, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued,

A vote to proceed to the Ledbetter bill is a vote to proceed away from the veterans bill. This is really highly ironic because my side was taking a pounding Monday and Tuesday for allegedly holding up, if you will, the veterans bill. Of course, that was not the case. We have ended up, in order to accommodate the schedules of those who are frequently not here--and understandably not here because they are running for President--we had the Senate, in effect, not in session until 5 o'clock this afternoon. While Americans are waiting for Congress to do something about the economy, jobs, and gas prices, our friends on the other side decided to close shop in order to accommodate the uncertainties of the campaign trail. Finding solutions for the concerns of all our constituents should be our top priority, not just accommodating the travel schedules of two of our Members.
Reid responded,
Their schedules were very difficult recently. They could be here at 6 o'clock. So I made the suggestion, which I thought was reasonable--we haven't been able to legislate on the veterans bill since last Thursday; how about doing it on Wednesday, until 5 o'clock. That would be 6 hours more than we have done since last Thursday. There was a refusal to allow us to do that. To have my friend, the Republican leader, come here and say we haven't done anything today because we had a vote scheduled at their convenience--he didn't use the names, but Senators CLINTON and OBAMA--that is absolutely without any foundation. I have trouble understanding how my friend would have the gall to stand on the floor and make the comment he did, but he did.

Opponents said there needs to a restraint on law suits. Proponents said that discrimination laws need to be enforceable and that the Supreme Court had erred in its 5-4 decision May 29, 2007 giving workers only 180 days to file a discrimination suit.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote,
The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differentials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasons for those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.

Ledbetter told the House in her House testimony in a hearing June 12, 2007 before Miller's Committee on Education and Labor,

according to the Court, if you don’t figure things out right away, the company can treat you like a second-class citizen for the rest of your career. That isn’t right. The truth is, Goodyear continues to treat me like a second-class worker to this day because my pension and social security is based on the amount I earned while working there. Goodyear gets to keep my extra pension as a reward for breaking the law.
When Ledbetter sued she maintained that earlier decisions by supervisors kept her from making more. She told the House,

The plant manager flat out said that women shouldn’t be working in a tire factory because women just made trouble. One of my supervisors asked me to go down to a local hotel with him and promised if I did, I would get good evaluations. He said if I didn’t, I would get put at the bottom of the list. I didn’t say anything at first because I wanted to try to work it out and fit in without making waves. But it got so bad that I finally complained to the company. The manager I complained to refused to do anything to protect me and instead told me I was just being a troublemaker. So I complained to the EEOC. The company worked out a deal with the EEOC so that supervisor would no longer manage me. But after that, the company treated me badly. They tried to isolate me. People refused to talk to me. They left me out of important management meetings so I sometimes didn’t know what was going on, which made it harder to do my job. So I got a taste of what happens when you try to complain about discrimination.
On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, Neal D. Mollen argued against Ledbetter, in supporting the Supreme Court, saying that the new law, in restoring the paycheck provision would have

frustrated Congress’ design for attempting to resolve such matters, at least in the first instance, without litigation.

Senate Republicans did not need McCain's vote to kill the bill. But although McCain left no legislative footprints, Quaid quotes him:

I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what's being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems.....This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.
So what's a woman to do? I'd have liked to have known Mr. McCain's suggestion for Ledbetter and the rest of us. He told folks in Inez, women
need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else...And it's hard for them to leave their families when they don't have somebody to take care of them....It's a vicious cycle that's affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least.
Actually, women do mine coal.

Between 1974 and 1980, almost 2,400 women were hired as underground coal workers in the East. ...In the mid 1980's when the underground coal mining industry started to decline, many women lost their mining jobs because of the rule, “last hired, first fired.”
Actually mining employment continues to decline, as mountaintop removal uses far fewer miners as conventional methods. Jack Spadaro, who I mentioned ast the outset of this article has told me that the ratio is one MTR job for 200 conventional jobs and the coal companies would still make tremendous profits hiring the 200.

Actually the higher education rate for women already exceeds that for men. Jonathan Rauch wrote in the January 15, 2008 libertarian Reason magazine,
According to projections by the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017 half again as many women as men will earn bachelor's degrees. In the early 1990s, six women graduated from college for every five men who did so; today, the ratio is about 4-to-3. A decade from now, it will be 3-to-2—and rising, on current trends.
But those are as they say, "inconvenient truths."

Or, as Gail Collins pointed out in Sunday's New York Times,
Was McCain saying that it’s less important to give working women the right to sue for equal pay than to give them help taking care of their families? There have been many attempts to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to protect more workers who need to stay home to take care of a sick kid or an ailing parent. “We’ve never gotten his support on any of that agenda,” said Debra Ness, the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

We also have yet to hear a McCain policy address on how working mothers are supposed to find quality child care. If it comes, I suspect the women trying to support their kids on $20,000 a year are going to learn they’re in line for some whopping big income-tax deductions.

Let them eat dinner mints.


Guerillas in the Garden

My friend Jason pointed out a book by Richard Reynolds. There's a nice article by stringer Alexandra Topping in the 6/22/06 WaPo, "Guerrillas in the Garden: Neglected London Plots Beautified on the Sly."

The library is closing. I'll finish tomorrow.


Bush Accuses Dems in Congress for Economic Inaction

This is a tough time for our economy. Across our country many Americans are understandably anxious about issues affecting their pocketbook, from gas and food prices to mortgage and tuition bills. They're looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action. Unfortunately, on many of these issues all they're getting is delay.

Americans are concerned about energy prices, and I can understand why. I think the last time I visited with you it was like -- I said it was like a tax increase on the working people. The past 18 months, gas prices have gone up by $1.40 per gallon. Electricity prices for small business and families are rising, as well.

I've repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems. Yet time after time, Congress chose to block them. One of the main reasons for high gas prices is that global oil production is not keeping up with growing demand. Members of Congress have been vocal about foreign governments increasing their oil production; yet Congress has been just as vocal in opposition to efforts to expand our production here at home.

They repeatedly blocked environmentally safe exploration in ANWR. The Department of Energy estimates that ANWR could allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel every day. That would be about a 20-percent increase of oil -- crude oil production over U.S. levels, and it would likely mean lower gas prices. And yet such efforts to explore in ANWR have been consistently blocked.

Another reason for high gas prices is the lack of refining capacity. It's been more than 30 years since America built its last new refinery. Yet in this area, too, Congress has repeatedly blocked efforts to expand capacity and build more refineries.
As electricity prices rise, Congress continues to block provisions needed to increase domestic electricity production by expanding the use of clean, safe nuclear power. Instead, many of the same people in Congress who complain about high energy costs support legislation that would make energy even more expensive for our consumers and small businesses.
Congress is considering bills to raise taxes on domestic energy production, impose new and costly mandates on producers, and demand dramatic emissions cuts that would shut down coal plants, and increase reliance on expensive natural gas. That would drive up prices even further. The cost of these actions would be passed on to consumers in the form of even higher prices at the pump and even bigger electric bills.

Instead of increasing costs and increasing new roadblocks to domestic energy production, Congress needs to clear away obstacles to more affordable, more reliable energy here at home.
Americans are concerned about rising food prices. Unfortunately, Congress is considering a massive, bloated farm bill that would do little to solve the problem. The bill Congress is now considering would fail to eliminate subsidy payments to multi-millionaire farmers. America's farm economy is thriving, the value of farmland is skyrocketing, and this is the right time to reform our nation's farm policies by reducing unnecessary subsidies. It's not the time to ask American families who are already paying more in the check-out line to pay more in subsidies for wealthy farmers. Congress can reform our farm programs, and should, by passing a fiscally responsible bill that treats our farmers fairly, and does not impose new burdens on American taxpayers.

Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes, and I don't blame them. Last year I called on Congress to pass legislation that would help address problems in the housing market. This includes critical legislation that would modernize the Federal Housing Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance sub-prime loans. Yet they failed to send a single one of these proposals to my desk. Americans should not have to wait any longer for their elected officials to pass legislation to help more families stay in their homes.
Americans are concerned about the availability of student loans. The recent credit crunch makes it uncertain that some students will be able to get the loans they need. My administration is taking action through the Department of Education's "lender of last resort" program, which works to arrange loans for students who are unable to secure one from a lender on their own. In other words, we're helping. Congress needs to do more by passing a bill that would temporarily give the federal government greater authority to buy federal student loans. This authority would safeguard student loans without permanently expanding the government's role in their financing.
In all these issues, the American people are looking to their leaders to come together and act responsibly. I don't think this is too much to ask even in an election year. My administration will reach out to Congress. We will work to find areas of agreement so that we can deal with the economic pressures that our American taxpayers and American families are feeling. I ask Congress to do its part by sending me sensible and effective bills that I can sign, instead of issuing or sending bills that simply look like political statements. We can work together. We can help Americans weather this difficult period. We can keep our country moving forward.


New York Political Leaders on Sean Bell Murder Acquittal

Sean Bell, died at the age of 23 in a hail of 50 police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November 2006. He and two of his friends who were also shot, but survived, all were unarmed. On Friday a judge acquitted three undercover police detectives of all charges in the shooting death.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Charles Rangel, Towns, Clarke And Cheeks Kilpatrick,
New York State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith And Southeast Queens Elected Officials Joint Statement On The Sean Bell Verdict on April 25

A year and a half ago, three police officers fired a total of 50 bullets at three unarmed and innocent young men, killing Sean Bell and severely wounding Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. This incident occurred in the morning of what was supposed to be Sean Bell's wedding day. The past seventeen months have been extremely difficult for Nicole Paultre Bell, Sean Bell's fiancee, his daughters, and his parents, William and Valerie Bell.

It appeared that the evidence presented by the prosecution during a six week trial was compelling and conclusive. Yet, the verdict rendered by Judge Arthur Cooperman this morning acquitted all three officers of all charges.

We do not accept that this is the end of this case. We have joined with the families and their attorneys in filing a compliant with the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation of violations of the civil rights of Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield. Indeed, this afternoon the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it's Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York Field Division will conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Sean Bell and two of his friends.

Although we understand and share the frustration that many New Yorkers are feeling at this moment, we caution against giving into that frustration. Instead, we urge all who are disappointed with the decision to channel their energy into monitoring this review and utilizing their right to peaceful assembly to seek a redress of their grievances over today's decision.

In the near future the Tri-Level Legislative Taskforce, formed in the wake of the Bell shooting and which held city-wide public hearings on the excessive use of police force, will release its final recommendation.

We must all remain committed to creating a justice system that is fair to all and building police-community relations that respect the lives and well-being of all.


Making a Killing from Hunger



Food Aid in Gaza Suspended Due to Fuel Shortage

Ironically, a check of Google news shows only two sources reprinted with a byline AP Writer Ibrahim Barzak's April 24 Story, "UN stops distributing food aid in Gaza Strip; cites fuel cutoff by Israel." One was the Canadian Broadcasting system, the other Fox News. Democracy Now published a summary without a byline.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The United Nations has stopped distributing food to Palestinian refugees in Gaza because of the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

Adnan Abu Hasna of the UN Relief Works Agency says the UN is taking the action because there is no fuel for its vehicles. He says all regular food operations have stopped and 700,000 Palestinians won't be getting basic food packets as a result.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory last summer in a battle with Fatah, it's western-backed rival.

Israeli authorities have shipped fuel for Gaza's power plant, but continues a ban on gasoline and diesel fuel....

There is some fuel stored in Gaza but a local strike by distributors means it is not reaching the public.

Palestinian distributors have been refusing to pick up about one million litres of fuel that Israel pumped earlier this month into the Palestinian side of a border fuel depot. They say the quantity is insufficient.

On Wednesday, UNRWA director John Ging acknowledged the "complicated fuel situation," but said Israel "must provide enough fuel for daily needs."

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the UN has been forced to suspend aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency says it’s run out of fuel because of Israel’s blockade. The UN delivers aid to two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.4 million people. The top UN official in Gaza, John Ging, said Israel had ignored the agency’s warnings.
While the Canadian version, posted at 1:55 says that
There was no immediate Israeli comment about the UNRWA move.

The Fox version, which has not time stamp includes this information:

Col. Nir Press of the Israeli military liaison unit with Gaza said Israel agreed to allow fuel shipments for the U.N. agency to keep its vehicles on the road, but Hamas stopped the delivery.

"We don't control the internal situation in Gaza between Hamas and UNWRA," he said. "I hope the Hamas will allow UNWRA access to the fuel we have supplied."

Press said Hamas is creating an artificial crisis. "It serves their propaganda purposes and creates a false pretense of a humanitarian crisis that doesn't exist," he told reporters in a group telephone interview.

The reporter has been excoriated by CAMERA since 2003 and by Palestine Media Watch in 2003 and by Omri Ceren, in 2007. The failure of the CBC to update the story makes me wonder how much of this criticism is fair and how much to blame on the MSM's failure to print the whole story. But I would have to do more research to be able to answer that question.


Report:: 60% of EPA's staff scientistssay they have suffered political interference

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released http://ucsusa.org/news/press_release/hundreds-of-epa-scientists-0112.htmlApril 23, an investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency which found that 889 of nearly 1,600 staff scientists reported they had experienced political interference over the last five years. The UCS had already published invesatigations of the Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and climate scientists at seven federal agencies, which also had revealed significant administration manipulation of federal science.

Francesca Grifo, director of UCS's Scientific Integrity Program, said
Our investigation found an agency in crisis...Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That's 900 too many. Distorting science to accommodate a narrow political agenda threatens our environment, our health, and our democracy itself.
Congress is currently investigating administration interference in a new chemical toxicity review process as well as California's request to regulate tailpipe emissions. And in early May, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is expected to hold a hearing on political interference in the new EPA ground-level ozone pollution standard.

The investigation included dozens of interviews with current and former EPA staff members, analysis of government documents, and a questionnaire sent to 5,419 EPA scientists by Iowa State University's Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology. The questionnaire generated responses from 1,586 scientists, but not all of the respondents answered every question.

Additional findings:
  • 394 scientists (31 percent) personally experienced frequent or occasional "statements by EPA officials that misrepresent scientists' findings."
  • 285 scientists (22 percent) said they frequently or occasionally personally experienced "selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome.
  • 224 scientists (17 percent) said they had been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from an EPA scientific document."
  • Of the 969 agency veterans with more than 10 years of EPA experience, 409 scientists (43 percent) said interference has occurred more often in the past five years than in the previous five-year period. Only 43 scientists (4 percent) said interference occurred less often.
  • Hundreds of scientists reported being unable to openly express concerns about the EPA's work without fear of retaliation; 492 (31 percent) felt they could not speak candidly within the agency and 382 (24 percent) felt they could not do so outside the agency.P
  • political interference is most pronounced in offices where scientists write regulations and at the National Center for Environmental Assessment, where scientists conduct risk assessments that could lead to strengthened regulations.
  • Nearly 100 scientists identified the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the primary culprit. ... "Currently, OMB is allowed to force or make changes as they want, and rules are held hostage until this happens...OMB's power needs to be checked as time after time they weaken rulemakings and policy decisions to favor industry....OMB and the White House have, in some cases, compromised the integrity of EPA rules and policies; their influence, largely hidden from the public and driven by industry lobbying, has decreased the stringency of proposed regulations for non-scientific, political reasons... real reasons can't be stated, the regulations contain a scientific rationale with little or no merit....."They … have inappropriately stopped agency work that has been in progress for years due to their lack of scientific understanding."


The Pennsylvania Presidential Primary: Polls, Exit Polls, Live Blogging and What's Next

Chart from Gallup.

It had been six weeks since the last Democratic primary between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Pennsylvania has 158 pledged delegates to be awarded proportionally and while AP had called the race for Clinton shortly after 10 p.m. last night , th eexact split remains to be seen. In any case, the race will now continue.

Gallup Daily released four polls April 22:
According to Gallup,
Neither Democrat can claim stronger positioning against John McCain at this point. Among registered voters nationwide, McCain and Obama are even at 45%, while McCain outpolls Clinton by a single point, 46% to 45%.
Voting locales opened at 7 a.m. Eastern time in PA and closed at 8 p.m. At about 6:00 p.m., the Associated Press released its preliminary exit poll information.
[f]rom a partial sample of 1,421 Democratic primary voters conducted in 40 precincts across Pennsylvania by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and television networks.

That's the National Election Pool, folks, started in 2003, a consortium of ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. AP actually

collects voter returns from all counties in the United States and from cities/towns in the New England states. They provide tabulations...
The first information was demographic in nature. Divulged votes in past races had led to criticism that the exit polls could affect the outcome if revealed while the voting was still going on. Since 2003

Edison/Mitofsky does not provide its information to the public. Each of the members has its own analysts who review the Exit Poll results and the tabulated data as it is collected. Each news organization makes its own decision about what to report to the public.

Projections of a winning candidate are based on models that use votes from...Exit Poll interviews with voters, vote returns as reported by election officials from the sample precincts, and tabulations of votes by county. ...Projections of a winning candidate are only made after all the polls in a state are closed and when the best model estimates show a clear winner.
So here's what AP told us at 6:00:
  • one in 10 changed their party registration since the start of 2008 in a race open only to registered Democrats. Those switching were split about evenly between registered Republicans and the unaffiliated. About 3 percent were voting for the first time in Pennsylvania.
  • voters were "overwhelmingly" white and there were more women than men. About 30% were age 65 or over. Almost 50% were from families that earned less than $50,000 last year, while about 25% had household income exceedomg $100,000. About 25% reported having a postgraduate degree. 30% were union members or had one in their household. About 40% reported having a gun owner in the household.
  • About 20% said the race of the candidates was among the top factors in their vote and about the same number named gender.
  • About 20% said they chose their candidate within the past week, about half of those today.
  • About 40% said the country is in a serious recession and an equal number called it a moderate recession. 10% said the economy is not in recession. At least 50% said the economy was the most important issue facing the country.
  • About 25% said Iraq was the top issue. Health care came next.
Brendan Loy posted yesterday morning on the predictive power of early election results--(hint: not much, unless Clinton pulled ahead from the start.) For the real political junkies among my readers, Mark Blumentahl live blogged the results over at Polster.com, as did the thread at Real Clear Politics.

With a close race, things had deteriorated in negative campaign ads, and a game of gotcha about Obama's ties to Reverend Wright and his statement to supporters in San Francisco that blue collar voters are "bitter" and Hillary's refuted tale of coming under fire in Bosnia. Both those speak to character, but in the policy arena Clinton was also saber rattling about Iran.

Yesterday, McCain senior adviser Mark McKinnon told USA Today reporter David Jackson,

We're for anything that keeps it going.

Jackson added that Senior McCain adviser Mark Salter smiled while saying,

we don't want to intrude on their process. We want them to carefully deliberate their choices.

The next stop will be North Carolina and Indiana on May 6. Montana and South Dakota hold the last Democratic primaries stateside June 3. Then there's the Puerto Rican and a Guam caucus to be finished by June 7. To date, Clinton is still maintaining that Michigan and Florida, which she won, should count. She stayed on the ballot after the party leadership disqualified those states for jumping ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire.

All this probably leaves the Republicans hopeful that either Democrat will emerge as damaged goods come the Convention. And, meanwhile, it also leaves many of us tired. But for those of you who still have the energy to study up for your dcivic engagement, you can find dossiers compiled by the bi-partisan Project Vote-Smart on Obama, Clinton and their Republican rival, Senator John McCain. All three have refused to fill out the group's "political courage" survey, although McCain at one time sat on the Board. And don't forget "OntheIsssues.org, although the material there is a bit dated.


Artivist Film Festival: Merging Art and Activism

DVD cover art for for the British environmental film Anthropology 101.

From the Beyond Trident Group, the film portrays "the dangers of a civilisation unwilling to heed the warning signs of climate change, the widening ‘Rich/Poor Gap’ and nuclear proliferation." Directed by Wayne Brittenden (whom I know from his Political Compass) , with music by Bian Eno, the project won the 2007 Artivist Award for an an environmental film.

October 2-5, 2008, the fifth annual Artivist Film Festivawill open at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Cal before touring. The festival was founded by Diaky Diaz and concentrates on films addressing Human Rights, Children's Advocacy, Animal Rights and Environmental Preservation through film and music. Winning Filmmakers have the opportunity to distribute their films through the Artivist Film Network.

Past premieres screened at the festival have included "Super Size Me", "Fast Food Nation", "Born Into Brothels", "Trudell", and "Emmanuel's Gift".Both "Super Size Me" and "Born Into Brothels" went on to recieve Oscar nominations. In the past 4 years, Artivist has screened more than 250 international activist films from 35 countries.

The festival screens shorts, feature length films, documentaries, narratives, music videos, animated works, experimental and animated film and videos directed by international filmmakers. Submissions information is available at the website.


FAct Check: Clinton & Obama TV ads mislead about lobbyists and PAC contributions

"PAC-ing Heat" says that
In their most recent TV ads Clinton and Obama attempt to convince Pennsylvania voters that the other is financed by lobbyists and special interests. Both ads miss the mark.
For instance Clinton criticized Obama for promising not to take money from PAC's and lobbyists in this campaign when he has done so. However, Fact Check notes that
Obama did in fact raise $1.2 million from PACs for his 2004 U.S. Senate race. Obama did not pledge to refuse money from lobbyists or PACs during his previous campaigns. In addition, the Boston Globe reports that Obama raised about $296,000 from corporations, labor unions, lobbyists and PACs during his 1996, 1998 and 2002 Illinois state Senate races. (We've pointed out before that it is illegal for federal candidates to accept funds from corporations. Illinois, however, does allow candidates for state office to accept money from labor unions and corporations.)
But, Obama may be splitting hairs, since while he does not take money from registered lobbyists he
does accept money from spouses of lobbyists, non-lobbying partners who work for lobbying firms or for law firms that do lobbying, ex-lobbyists, and state lobbyists.
Nevertheless, Fact Check concludes,
Clinton is within her rights to point to Obama's past acceptance of money from lobbyists and special interests. But viewers shouldn't take that as evidence that he has broken his promise. We've seen no evidence that Obama is not adhering to the letter of his pledge.
Clinton seems to be spinning in herad that
In Indiana, an energy lobbyist. A casino lobbyist in Nevada." Could it really be that Obama won't take money from lobbyists, but is happy to put them to work on his campaign?

Fact check points out that

None of these men is a federal lobbyist. All are exclusively state-level lobbyists working far from Washington...what Obama promised was not to take money from "Washington lobbyists," and it's misleading for Clinton to imply otherwise.
Meanwhile, Fact Check says Obama's counterstrike is also misleading. Here's the total report, whereas the above represents a summary.
Obama pushed back with a misleading ad of his own accusing Clinton of launching "the most misleading and negative ad of the campaign." It says Obama takes "not one dime" from Washington lobbyists and says newspapers called Clinton's attacks "the old politics." It is true that one newspaper did call Clinton's attacks "the old politics." But it's also true that Obama has taken $115,163 from former federal lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That's a lot of dimes. More misleading, though, is Obama's charge that Clinton's ads are being paid for with lobbyist money. While it is true, as we've said before, that Clinton has collected more money from PACs and lobbyists than any other candidate, the numbers aren't really all that big in relation to her overall fundraising. Clinton's donations from both individual lobbyists (past and present) and from PACs account for just 1.1 percent of all the funds she has raised. That makes Obama's claim that lobbyists are funding Clinton's attacks about 98.9 percent false.
So, mud is flying in both directions. But in looking at the column inches devoted to each candidate, it would appear that either Clinton is a tad dirtier or that Fact Check is disingenuous in its summary which implies that both candidates are conduction equally smearing ads and then weights its coverage otherwise.

Whether we are talking about false claims or about accentuatimg an opponent's negative over accentuating one own's positives, the public claims to dislike hardball politics. I suspect that the thing that annoys folks about Obama may be that he has his fingers crossed behind his back when he promises a "new politics."

One reads that research shows that smears and negative campaigning work. I can't in the small time remaining to me cite you a reference, so I'm not sure whether this is perceived or real wisdom. What I do know is that until the candidates are convinced otherwise, it may be naive to assume the practice will end anytime soon. If only someone would be candid. But that probably wouldn't win elections.


NYT: "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand"

David Barstow of The New York Times published a piece sure to gain attention: "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand", in which he writes

In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.
The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.


Green Gadgets

Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning student Jill Fehrenbacher started the blog Inhabitat.com in 2005 to track innovations in sustainable technology, practices and materials in architecture and home design.

February 1, the blog teamed up to sponsor the Green Gadgets Conference in New York City, along with with Marc Alt + Partners, a design, research and brand strategy agency "dedicated to sustainable innovation."

I found out about the conference today when I read tomorrow's New York Times Magazine online (its first "green issue") and ran across Rob Walker's article "Dreaming in Green" which devoted a great deal of attention to a design competition which yielded the idea for interchangeable electronic batteries and chargers for various electronic gadgets.

I guess this struck a chord because Verizon wouldn't offer me a replacement Nokia cell phone this month and I had to migrate--the sturdiest simplest alternative being a Motorola. Besides the time wasted in learning a differen interface (think Mac v.s. Microsoft) I now own several useless--to me--chargers and a spare battery. And I will have to beg, borrow or steal (just kidding on that last) a new car charger.

But then, isn't that the point. Compete, don't cooperate. Itparallels the way the providers don't unlock their phones. And more significantly, the way they don't share towers. Which means that Virgin (Sprint) claims good service at my house, but has a less useful plan nationally.

It's like Walker pinted out about the universal batteries:

if something similar had originated in the skunk works of a big company, or even at a start-up angling for venture capital, it most likely wouldn't get far. But that, in fact, is the point: the nonmarketplace context of hypothetical products frees the designer to leapfrog practical-minded meetings about market share and profit margins and the like.
But Walker's article did not provide a lot of informaiton, so I looked up the conference website which described a gathering of

industry leaders, entrepreneurs, journalists, and designers...to discuss the business case for the greening of the consumer electronics industry...[K]ey representatives from some of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world, innovators from academic thinktanks, members of startups focused on renewable energy, and some of the leading minds in the word of sustainable design and business.
Some of the firms presenting included HP, Nokia, Sony, Philips, Intel, EPEAT, the Green Electronics Council, IDEO, Engadget, Earth2Tech/GigaOm, Solio and Hymini. The topics included:

design for sustainability, product life cycle management, take-back and recycling programs, energy efficiency, greener materials, and green lifestyle and product marketing.
So, I wondered, given the pr firm c0-sponsor, what at the conference was greenwash and what actually holds potential for reducing our negative impact on the natural environment.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure, because the promised videos of the sessions aren't posted yet, only photos. I know that Solio is an $80 solar batter charger for cell phones and other small devices--more expensive than many of its competitors. But more later--the library is closing.


States to Resume Death Penalty Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection

Several states have announced plans to resume carrying out executions by lethal injection after a major Supreme Court ruling in Baze v. Rees April 16. In a seven-to-two decision, the court upheld Kentucky’s method of execution by lethal injection. The decision came one day after Amnesty International named the United States one of the top five executioners in the world, along with China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Justice John Paul Stevens voted with the majority saying there was no evidence that the Kentucky law was badly flawed, despite having said that his thirty years on the Court has convinced him that

the imposition of the death penalty represents the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the State is patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment.
He suggested that the current decisions to retain the death penalty taken by state legislatures, US Congress, and the Supreme Court itself
are the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process that weighs the costs and risks of administering that penalty against its identifiable benefits, and rest in part on a faulty assumption about the retributive force of the death penalty....despite 30 years of empirical research in the area, there remains no reliable statistical evidence that capital punishment in fact deters potential offenders. [The process for obtaining a jury have ] purpose and effect of obtaining a jury that is biased in favour of conviction...[the risk of executing the innocent] can be entirely eliminated [by abolishing the death penalty.]

Justice Stephen G. Breyer while agreeeign with the majority noted
The death penalty itself, of course, brings with it serious risks, for example, risks of executing the wrong person, risks that unwarranted animus (in respect, e.g., to the race of victims), may play a role, risks that those convicted will find themselves on death row for many years, perhaps decades, to come... But the lawfulness of the death penalty is not before us.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter stood alone in dissent. They said they would maintain the hold on executions because Kentucky "lacks the basic safeguards" to ensure that an inmate dies a painless death.

"I would not dispose of this case so swiftly, given the character of the risk," Ginsburg said.

In 2005, Leonidas G Koniaris MD, Teresa A Zimmers PhD, David A Lubarsky MD, and Jonathan P Sheldon MD, published an article in the British medical journal, the Lancet, "Inadequate anaesthesia in lethal injection for execution." In 43 of 49 executed inmates (88%) studied, the anesthetic administered during lethal injections was lower than that required for surgery. Toxicology reports from Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina revealed that post-mortem concentrations of thiopental in the blood were below typical surgery levels, and in 21 inmates (43%) the concentrations of thiopental in the blood were consistent with awareness. In an accompanying editorial, "Medical collusion in the death penalty: an American atrocity,"

Clearly, for a substantial number of physicians, the putting to death of condemned people is not considered contrary to the precept “first, do no harm”. What justification can there be for capital punishment at all? The two main arguments for the death penalty are deterrence and retribution. Few experts believe that the threat of capital punishment is an effective deterrent. That leaves retribution. But to justify capital punishment, the retribution must be meted out fairly, and that is clearly not the case. In only 1% of murders do prosecutors seek the death penalty. Whether you receive the death penalty depends not on what you have done, but where you committed your crime, what colour your skin is, and how much money you have. The use of the death penalty not only varies from state to state (12 US states have no death penalty) but from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state. Repeated studies have shown a pattern of racial discrimination in the administration of the death penalty. Of the 205 people executed for inter-racial murders in the USA, for example, 193 were black defendants charged with killing a white person, while only 12 were white defendants charged with killing a black individual. 90% of defendants are too poor to hire their own lawyer—most rely on overworked courtappointed

Capital punishment is not only an atrocity, but also a stain on the record of the world’s most powerful democracy. Doctors should not be in the job of killing. Those who do participate in this barbaric act are shameful examples of how a profession has allowed its values to be corrupted by state violence.


Comcast and AT&T et. al. snub FCC broadband hearing

Free Press, Public Knowledge and The Media Access Project all filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) November 1, 2007, as well as a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, saying Comcast and other service providers had degraded the BitTorrent file sharing application without informing Internet users--constituting a deceptive trade practice.

As I wrote back in January, it took until the 9th of that month for FCC Chairman, Kenneth Martin to promise an investigating. He told an audience at the Consumer Electronics Show in Reno, Nevada,
Sure, we're going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked.
Of course, after hearing from Comcast and Verizon at a February 25 at Harvard, Martin told reporters he still hadn't decided whether Comcast had done anything more than "reasonable" network management. Public interest groups complained that Comcast had packed the hearing making it impossible for many members of the public to attend.

Perhaps the six hours of questioning proved unpleasant for the companies, because CNET's Stefanie Olsen reports today that Comcast Internet service providers AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner refused to attend a second FCC hearing--this time at Stanford University-- on the subject of their broadband network management practices.

But PC World reports tht Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice complained that that the FCC invited its Chief Technology Officer Tony Werner less than 48 hours in advance. I'm inclined to credit that, recalling my post of last October, "FCC Holds 'Public' Hearing on Localism Today. Why the Short Notice?"

March 27, Comcast announced that it will work on reconfiguring its networks the end of the year to manage data in a "protocol agnostic" way.


Anne Enright

Tonight at the book group we discussed Anne Enright's Booker Prize winning novel. More later, as I'm researching a blog post on journalistic disclosure for NewsTrust.


Senate Commerce to hold mark up on Dorgan's Cross-Ownership Bill April 24

April 2, the Senate Committee postponed its Executive Session (which is open to the public) until April 24. The agenda sent out in a March 27 news release includes, among other items, consideration of Senator Dorgan's (D-ND)
S.J. Res 28, A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to broadcast media ownership

That day, John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable published a story, "Senate Commerce Committee Postpones Hearing on FCC-Blocking Bill: Blames Inoyue's Health, Not Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez's Letter, for Delay."

Like many, I'm working on taxes today, and so will have to write more later--this will probably be my story for LLRX. For more information until then, you can look at Stop Big Media, which has an action alert in support of the bill, saying,

Senator Dorgan just introduced a bill (SJ Res. 28) to veto the FCC’s big handout to Big Media, but Congress must act within 60 legislative days. In 2003, nearly 3 million citizens just like you demanded that the Senate overturn the FCC's last attempt to let Big Media get even bigger. We can do it again -- but we need your help.

Last December, the FCC approved new rules that could unleash a flood of media consolidation across America. The new rules could mean less diverse voices, local news and investigative journalism. Congress has the power to throw out these rules -- and if hundreds of thousands of people demand it, they'll have to listen.
Since I'm in a rush, I'll provide the organization's information here. There is a catch to the resolution introduced March 5: the bill will expire unless it is passed in 60 legislative days.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

In the days and weeks before the FCC dismantled the 30-year-old rule that prevented one company from owning the major newspaper and a radio or TV station in one town, Commissioner Michael Copps noted that it felt like “Déjà vu all over again.”

In 2003, when the FCC tried to do away with all media ownership rules, nearly 3 million people took action, writing their members of Congress, telling their friends and organizing their communities to speak out on this important issue. With that kind of momentum, lawmakers had no choice but to listen. The Senate voted to overturn the FCC decision, before the courts tossed them out altogether.

“The situation isn’t going to repair itself,” proclaimed Commissioner Copps on the day of the FCC vote last December. “Big media is not going to repair it. This Commission is not going to repair it. But the people, their elected representatives, and attentive courts can repair it. Last time the Commission went down this road, the majority heard and felt the outrage of millions of citizens and Congress and then the court. … Last time a lot of insiders were surprised by the country’s reaction. This time they should be forewarned.”

Time for Action

In just one week after the FCC vote more than 200,000 people signed on to an open letter to Congress calling on them to overturn the FCC’s holiday handout to Big Media. Now with a bill in the Senate, we need to build the momentum and turn up the heat on our policy makers.
Stop Big Media

A bipartisan group of 26 senators wrote a letter to the FCC in December vowing to “immediately move legislation that will revoke and nullify the proposed rule” and now is their chance to follow through on that promise.

Here’s what we need to do:

1. We need every person who signed on to the open letter in 2007 to write their Senators again asking them to support to Senator Dorgan’s “resolution of disapproval.”
2. Spread the word. We need all of you to talk with five of your friends or neighbors and get them to take action as well. If all 200,000 people can get just five other people to take action, we’ll get a million letters into the Senate.

There has never been a more important time to take a stand for quality journalism, strong local news, and diverse and independent voices. Can you help us fight for a better media in America?

Take Action Online Here:

Send a Message to a Friend Here:

Then join others from around the country at the Free Press Action Network to talk about other ideas to make your voice heard and get the word out in your community. The discussion is going on now at www.freepress.net/action.


World Bank on the Food Price Crisis

This weekend, finance ministers gathered at the biannual World Bank-IMF meetings and endorsed a series of measures, including a $10 million grant to Haiti. World Bank President Robert Zoellick said more than 100 million people are at risk of further impoverishment by the rising costs. On On April 10, he had saidthat prices of rice have risen 75 percent over the last two years, hitting poor people the hardest. He urged additional help from the wealthiest countries:

This is about recognizing a growing emergency, acting and seizing opportunity, too. The world can do this. We can do this. We can have a new deal on global food policy. First, for the immediate crisis, the international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the UN’s World Food Program to meet emergency needs.


Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet, Ashcroft approved torture

ABC News reports a Principals Committee on the National Security Council agreed on interrogation techniques including physical assault, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

The officials included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

A former senior US intelligence official told AP that the group met in the White House Situation Room and deliberately insulated President Bush from their discussions. The American Civil Liberties Union has called for a congressional investigation. Said the group's legislative director Caroline Fredrickson,
With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House. This is what we suspected all along.


KBR medic complicit in rape of colleague by soldier

In January 2008, as a soldier anally penetrated 42-year-old Dawn Leamon, a paramedic for a defense contractor KBR in southern Iraq, her colleague held her hand

but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth. Over the next few weeks Leamon would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp's military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says.
So reported Karen Houppet April 3, in The Nation.

But Leamon not only talked to Houppet, who also writes for the WaPo, she also testified only April 9 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was only after that testimony that the reporter updated her story to include Leamon's name.

With Congress questioning why no reports have resulted in arrests and trials, KBR released a statement prior to the hearing to ABC News:
First and foremost, KBR in no way condones or tolerates sexual harassment. Each employee is expected to adhere to the Company's Code of Business Conduct, and when violations occur, appropriate action is taken. Any reported allegation of sexual harassment or sexual assault is taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. KBR's top priority is the safety and security of all employees, and our commitment in that regard is unwavering.
Houppert, however, convincingly argues that the "problem is not a lack of legal tools but a lack of will." It appears that KBRhas tried to stifle complaints with non-disclosure agreements and private arbitration, so as to protect its huge military contracts.


Claudia Emerson

Although she lives in Virginia and I had written a blog post and worked on her page at Wikipedia after she won the 2006 Pulitizer Prize, I had never gotten to hear Claudia Emerson read until her session at the Virginia Festival of the Book, which also featured the 2007 winner Natasha Trethaway.

Floyd poet and activist Colleen Redman, over at Looseleaf Notes was reading Emerson yesterday out on her porch and writing about her brothers after coming across "The Driving Glove." Also check out her earlier entrees starting here on Emerson at the VMI poetry symposium.


US Consultants help bust UK Labor Unions

In "Alarm over tactics of 'union-busting' firm: US consultants imported by UK firms are reprimanded for their hard line" Nick Kochan writes for the April 6 Observer,

An American consultancy accused of bringing 'union-busting' tactics to Britain has been condemned for its 'unfortunate track record' by a government committee, but allowed to continue operating in this country.
According to Kochan, the Malibu-based Burke Group has

worked in the UK for eight years and been responsible for the exclusion of unions from a number of companies including Kettle Chips and T-Mobile. It is currently working for Cable & Wireless, the telecommunications company, which is seeking to thwart the efforts of the Communications Workers Union to win recognition for 370 field engineers.

Last week the government's Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), a statutory body which fulfills the function of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board said in its report that "it shares the concern" of the Communication Workers Unioin concern that that the Burke Group has "an unfortunate track record," but ruled that a Cable & Wireless employees' ballot will determine union recognition. The union had requested recognition without a ballot.

George Rankin, an organising officer for the Communications Workers Union said, 'We will be watching the Burke Group very carefully. We have seen their tactics in the past.'

The union told the CAC, in its evidence, that the 'presence of the Burke Group made it difficult to establish an honest, high-trust relationship with the employer which was a prerequisite for the successful conduct of a ballot'.

Simon Broome, Cable & Wireless human resources director for operations, said: 'The unfortunate track record is the CAC's view, and relates to activity elsewhere. I don't see how it relates to Cable & Wireless.'

The consultants' presence came to employees' attention as early as last summer, shortly after the union made its bid for recognition at Cable & Wireless. A meeting to dissuade employees from voting for recognition was attended by two individuals who were not introduced to the employees or named. The same people subsequently conducted one-to-one interviews with staff, where they asked them about their views on unions and collective bargaining.

Paul Nowak of the TUC believes that 'there are many of these firms operating behind the scenes in disputes where we have no idea of their presence'. He said they regard the UK as a relatively untapped market. 'The more successes they obtain, the more employers will bring them in.'

The Burke Group was approached for comment but did not return calls.

More later on the Trade Union Congress's report on Burke and others.


Check out The Belmont Club: History and History in the Making

Through a process too complicated to warrant description, I discovered a new blog today, written by Richard Fernandez, who disclosed his identity back in 2005

The Belmont Club, or Wretchard rather, was cited in the Times of London in connection with "Downed US Seals may have got too close to Bin Laden". It's pretty strange since I've neither met Bin Laden nor ever been in Afghanistan, and makes me feel something of a fraud at being cited in connection with something I have no direct knowledge of. (Though the analysis is probably correct). It also reopens the question of whether Wretchard should continue to blog anonymously. Anonymous blogging has proved a good buffer against the petty vanities of authorship. The deal is you don't do radio interviews, signed articles etc. The upside is that you have no ego to protect. The ideas you articulate are separated from your own personality.

This model is only partially functional now. People who knew me in the past, as well as my colleagues at Pajamas Media, know perfectly well "who" I am, although I think that information is totally irrelevant. Since the model of anonymity is failing, I'll disclose the boring details. My name is Richard Fernandez, of Filipino birth and Australian citizenship. My interest in history probably began at Harvard, from which I graduated with a Masters in Public Policy. Wretchard is the name of an imaginary cat, the symbol of that entire race of stoic, yet somewhat foolish creatures. Belmont is the name of a suburb I roomed in while at Cambridge, Mass.

For those of you who would like to read something from the reasonable right, especially on issues having to do with the military, this would be one of my top picks.

Recent entries include one on charts used by General Petraeus and his take on attempts by Democrats to discredit the surge.


Where Congress stands on science

The Scientists and Engineers for America have a new wiki based Science, Health and Related Policies (SHARP) Network

that tracks where elected officials and candidates stand on science. Click on your state or enter your zip code to find the SHARP profile for your representatives. On their page, you can find their views on critical science and health issues and even add more information about their positions.

I hope they'll want to figure out how to link to and work with the folks at Congresspedia. Also, I'm wondering how much sharing of information is going on with the sites they link to? It seems like they are asking volunteers to be redundant in their efforts rather than coordinating things to provide the public with the greatest amount of information.

And speaking of Congresspedia, the parent site has a new coal portal. I've only got a minute, so I'll add it later.


Zimbabwe tumult continues as Barry Bearak of the NYT freed

The opposition says its candidate received a clear majority and the courts should order the release of the results, rather than let a recount proceed. Tendai Uchena of the high court agrees and promises a hearing tomorrow reports Blessing Chapwati in ZimEye.

Barry Bearak, a reporter covering the Zimbabwe elections for The New York Times was arraigned and released on bail today, according to Harrison Nkomo, one of his lawyers. He had been arrested during a raid on a small hotel frequented by foreign journalists in the suburbs of Harare, the capital, on Thursday afternoon. The Times reports on the accrediation requirements of the country as a backdoor type of censorship here.

The Guardian has a special section which includes a lot of background informaiton. One interesting piece there is today's opinion piece by the opposition leader,Morgan Tsvangirai.

The BBC's section can be found here.


Speculations on Drugs and Torture

Jeff Stein (email), the National Security editor for Congressional Quarterly wrote on April 4 in "Evidence Grows of Drug Use on Detainees," about the declassification of John Yoo’s "instantly infamous" 2003 memo approving harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects.

There can be little doubt now that the government has used drugs on terrorist suspects that are designed to weaken their resistance to interrogation. All that’s missing is the syringes and videotapes.

Both the title and the lead seem to overstate the case. A better title would have been "Speculation Grows..." As I said in my review at NewsTrust, this
well-written, sourced article needs something from the administration and deserves a better title

Is a headline writer at fault? Stein ends, "We may never know the truth." He quotes bioethicist Stephen Miles,

The new Yoo memo, along with other White House legal memoranda, shows clearly that the policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs was being laid…I suspect that most of the use of interrogational drugs was by CIA and Special Ops interrogators, and thus still remains classified.
Jeffrey Kaye, a clinical psychologist for torture victims, says “I came across some evidence that they were using mind-altering drugs, to regress the prisoners, to ascertain if they were using deception techniques, to break them down,” but never explains.

Stein writes,

hard evidence that U.S. interrogators today are employing hallucinogens, like the LSD the CIA tested on unwitting subjects for at least 20 years beginning in the 1940s, has yet to surface [although] there is tantalizing evidence that the use of such drugs since 9/11 has been, at a minimum, seriously contemplated, if not implemented.
He cites a July 17-18, 2003, workshop hosted by the CIA, RAND Corp. APA, “Science of Deception: Integration of Practice and Theory,” and a "a December 2006 study by the Intelligence Science Board, a wing of the National Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C." See link. He alerts readers to an interesting piece, "The Green Light" forthcoming in Vanity Fair, which I also reviewed.

My one suggestion, while Stein cites a book on MKULTRA, more compelling to me would have been a link to the 1977 testimony of Admiral Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence, reporting

recent discovery of seven boxes of documents related to Project MKULTRA, a closely held CIA project conducted from 1953-1964. As you may recall, MKULTRA was an "umbrella project" under which certain sensitive subprojects were funded, involving among other things research on drugs and behavioral modification. During the Rockefeller Commission and Church Committee investigations in 1975, the cryptonym became publicly known when details of the drug-related death of Dr. Frank Olsen were publicized.


California Health Care Workers Press SEIU for Union Democracy

Logo from the 2008 Conference for Labor Notes, a a non-profit magazine and organization established in 1979 by union activists to "put the movement back in the labor movement."

"Somewhere in California there's a woman alone in a nursing home with bedsores that grow more painful and life-threatening by the day. And down the hall there's an orderly who would like to do something about her but can't, because during some shifts he's one of just two care-givers on a ward with dozens of patients."
--Matt Smith, "Local Union Leader Rosselli Blasts SEIU Boss Andy Stern," Sf Weekly, February 20, 2008.
The Chamber of Commerce, employers and the "union avoidance" industry complain that organized labor is undemocratic and not in workers' interest. Those of us familiar with the coalfields know that workers worried about their jobs can be convinced to accept unsafe working conditions, especially in non-union mines when a majority in Congress and the Mine Safety Health Administration enforcement has buy into companies' lobbying to protect profits and not inhibit economic growth. And many within organized labor, while vouching for collective action, confront a leadership which they charge is too cozy with big employers.

For one example look at United Health Care Workers-West (UHW)'s conflict with Andy Stern, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), reported in the Wall Street Journal on February 29 and the New York Times on the same date.

Bradford Plumer in "Labor's Love Lost:Will Andy Stern save unions, or destroy them?" in the April 28, 2008 The New Republic describes UHW President Sol Roselli as
a lifelong progressive who heads SEIU's most powerful health care local in California, the 150,000 member.... Rosselli has launched a war against Stern that has spilled out into the open in recent months. His complaints--that Stern has made the union too undemocratic, that he has cut secret deals with employers, that he cares more about enlarging the union than serving its existing members--are resonating with at least some of SEIU's rank and file.

In the past UHW had clashed with the International over the renewal of a partnership agreement between SEIU and a consortium of California nursing home operators which had prohibited the union from reporting problems with the homes , such as short staffing, to state regulators or the media, except in cases mandated by law.

Template agreements, according to the UHW

allowed for very little power on the shop floor with no right to strike and no clear path towards full collective bargaining rights.

The local also complained that top union officials in Washington, D.C., had excluded locally elected leaders in negotiations with the private hospital chain Tenet.

On February 9, Roselli resigned from his position on SEIU’s executive committee, Stern's top-level advisory board (letter and response from the International executive committee). Roselli told Labor Notes in a February interview what had precipitated his resignation:

First, the International is set to do a hearing, which we believe will be scheduled very soon, to force our 65,000 long-term care members into a separate union, away from hospital workers....Second,

...I’ve heard the quote in meetings at the International that increasing numbers always trumps improving standards. We’re arguing for a balance.

People join unions because they want to change their lives. Workers in struggle create a real moral authority, and other people see it and it makes them want to join unions, too. The same is just not true with these top-down deals to gain neutrality where the union agrees to pre-negotiated contracts that severely limit workers’ bargaining rights and voice.

More recently, UHW posted a document March 27 accusing Stern of laying the ground to illegally put the local into trusteeship and thus

silence the voices of UHW members and to prevent UHW from being able to propose significant changes at the SEIU Constitutional Convention in June.

In January 4, UHW's Executive Committee had ratified a "Platform for Change" espousing the philosophy of "one member, one vote" to:

  • Guarantee members’ rights to vote on contract proposals and collective bargaining agreements as well as election agreements with our employers that set the terms for unorganized workers to join our union.
  • Ensure members’ rights to participate in and elect representatives to bargaining committees that negotiate on our behalf.
  • Utilize membership voting rules based on a per capita basis to ensure one member, one vote.
  • Elect all International union officers through a direct election by members.
The platform also included in tenets on how to recruit new members, improve benefits and working conditions that detract from patient care, and unite organized labor nationally to work for a political agenda which includes a union card check, as well as healthcare and immigration reform.


All of this came to my attention, albeit circuitously, when I read PR Watch's April 3 Spin of the Day and learned Stern is also facing complaints that he is spinning about a member of the leadership selling doctors on a product from big endorsing big pharma. Although attributed to Alternet, I'll give to the original source, Maggie Mahar's (bio, email) March 19 post for her Century Foundation blog, Health Beat entitled, "Pfizer Enlists a Labor Union (SEIU) to Promote the 'Cholesterol Con.'”

Pfizer, of course is drug company and Lipitor, its popular statin drug, whose efficacy Business Week questioned in a January 19 article and whose celebrity advertising the House Energy and Commerce Committee criticized.

Maher writes that Dr. Alicia Fernandez, an associate professor of clinical medicine at UC San Francisco, received a letter from The International Association of EMTS and Paramedics, an affiliate of The National Association of Government Employees (IAEP) which is part of SEIU.

The letter began by noting that Fernandez is part of the union’s approved physician network, and then launched into what can only be described as a shameless sales pitch for Lipitor, Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug.

“Lipitor is available to our members through their prescription plan. IAEP leadership stands behind LIPITOR as the lipid-lowering agent of choice when it is prescribed by a physician. [my emphasis] This confidence in LIPITOR is based on its proven efficacy and is supported by its vast clinical experience of more than 15 years…"

...A few days ago, Fernandez received a second, identical letter. Never before in her professional experience had she received a drug ad from a union....

In this case, the Lipitor letter is signed by “Matthew Levy,” the director of IAEP. “But this is clearly a joint production between the drug company and the union,” Fernandez notes. “Much of the letter is written in medical language—looks like it is written by Pfizer folks. And at the bottom of the second page of the letter there is a Pfizer copyright: ‘2007 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved. Filed in USA/December 2007.’ Yet it is written on the IAEP/SEIU letterhead.”

That the SEIU might be flacking for Pfizer was passing strange until I learned of Roselli's charges. It became even more so after reading Mahar's March 28 update, which quoted SEIU President Andy Stern disavowing

a Local Union staff member unfamiliar with SEIU's clear policies against product endorsement.
According to Mahar,
Matthew Levy, the director of IAEP who signed the letter to the doctors... [was confirmed by] IAEP’s national communications director... [as a] “director” of the organization—and that’s how he signed his name on the Lipitor letter, which was written on IAEP/SEIU letterhead.
Mahar cites Rick Berman's secretly funded anti-union pr effort Center for Union Facts for salary information on Levy, rather than the publicly available filing disclosures at the Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards. (see Colbert interview Berman October 27, 2007, here.)

If Mahar had gone to the Department of Labor and entered a query, she would have seen that Levy's salary for 2007 was $109,746. Too bad Berman doesn't have to disclose his funding and salary. Still, Mahar's point remains valid, that Stern is spinning.

Thanks to the odd magic of google ads, Mahar was alerted to Stern's adversary within organized labor, which in turn alert me and, thus, you.


UPDATE (editing notes)

You will notice if you read this in the original version that I have corrected the magazine attribution for Plumer's article, thanks to an email he shot me on April 8,

Hi Beth--Many thanks for the link to my TNR piece on Andy Stern and Sal Rosselli in your post on SEIU. I liked your post, as well. But I just wanted to correct one thing: I wrote that piece for The New Republic, not the National Review. (The latter's a right-wing magazine, the former's, well, it tries to be liberal...)
My reply,

Oops, my bad. I knew where you published and can only plead that I was subliminally wishing that the other NR would have printed it. I'll change it. Makes me wonder similar monograms. Maybe that's where the aclj et. al. got the idea?
Kaizar posted this at NewsTrust April 9, suggesting that while well-sourced and on an important issue:
Because I had no background going into the post, it was hard for me to understand the narrative of the story. A better explanation up front about who the players are and what the controversy is would have been helpful.
Another reviewer found it the most confusing thing ever posted at NewsTrust. Her comment verified in my mind that I needed to rearrange the information, giving prominence to the topic of the title, rather than how I came to discover it...despite Brad's kind comment on the earlier version.