Index of Posts for August 2008

WaPo's Fall Books Preview

For today's Washington Post, Marie Arana has put together a list in all genres and there's a lot to which we can look forward. And don't just look at what's new. The June 3, 2007 NYT surveyed prominant writers on what they were reading and there was a lot they recommended.

UPDATE: You can cross check it with USA Today's list from September 3.


Walter White Witness to Lynchings

Am looking forward to reading a new biography of civil rights leader Walter White from Thomas Dyja, who also wrote a novel based on White's early career,The Moon in Our Hands.
Because White was light skinned and could "pass," he went undercover to invetigate lynchings.
For a photo exhibit on those macabre public events, see the site for the book Without Sanctuary.


Ann Patchett and Run

Photograph Ann Patchett taken in her home in Nashville by Heather Culp from an interesting piece, "Intimate Portraits," by Kate Summerscale in the August 11, 2007 Telegraph Magazine.


Ann Patchett's Run would have been a perfect novel, by my lights, if she hadn't tried to tie up everything in the last chapter. It's still a worthwhile meditation on politics, race and family. I'm a great admirer of her novels, including her first, Patron Saint of Liars. She's most famous, of course, for Bel Canto, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award.

Wendy Fry had an interview in the August 3 San Diego Union-Tribune, "For Ann Patchett, the best part of the process is not the writing" in which Patchett says,

The only thing interesting about my process is I write the whole book in my head before I ever pick up a pen. While I'm emptying the dishwasher, or making the bed, I've got these complicated storylines and characters developing in my head....It's a very happy time, like staring into a fog. I do not write my way through it. I really work it out in my head...“That part [the writing it down], for me, is really unpleasant... I'm so happy making it up and I'm so unhappy writing it down.
For those of you who might want to check out her occasional writing in newspapers, see

  • "Nashville's Band of Outsiders" about the alt-music scene in her hometown in the September 23, 2007 NYT; and

  • "The Wall" about taking the test to get into the LA Police Academy in the June 19, 2007 WaPo.


The Big Tent in Denver: What the Democratic Convention Could Learn

Logo from The National Journal

Jon Stewart says it's up to the print journalists. In "Comic rips media's false sense of urgency," Joe Garofoli, in today's SF Chronicle (hat tip to Steve Pizzo) who quotes The Daily Show host, who gathered a couple of dozen national political print reporters for a breakfast at the University of Denver:
It's about earning your authority back. That gravitas. It's showing an expertise. It's the whole reason you guys are in the business. You're not on anyone's team. You're on our team. And that's what's stopped.
It seems the more serious conversation on the future of the Democratic party in Denver this week--at least the progressive wing--might be taking place, not at the Convention or its associated events, but over at the Big Tent and at Progressive Democratic Central.

At The Big Tent--a "new media center created by local organizations, national blogs, Digg, Google and YouTube "-- folks lacking Pepsi Center credentials can ante up a hundred bucks in exchange for 4 days of food and drink, wi-fi access, the televised Convention and programs featuring a variety of speakers, some of whom I've highlighted in the next to last section of this post.

At Progressive Democratic Central, sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and The Nation magazine, anyone in Denver can take in The Nation Conversations Series for free. It's moderated by John Nichols each morning Monday through Thursday. After lunch ($12.50, sold at cost), the PDA panels (at a suggested donation each afternoon of $10.00 for two panels) include topics such as Healthcare NOT Warfare; Media Reform; Clean, Fair, Transparent Elections; Economic Justice/Ending Poverty; Global Warming and Constitutional Law and Congress.

And for the more corporate types, there's the Rocky Mountain Roundtable.

Coverage of the Democratic Convention to Date

The actual Democratic convention, once the platform was announced, seemed, at least according to the MSM, to be more about scheduled speeches by Michelle Obama, Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton, with speeches by Bill Clinton and Joe Biden tonight and Barack Obama on Thursday.

And despite Jon Stewart's advice, the Washington Post has added six hours of live video daily to augment its live print coverage. Poynter interviewed the Post's Jim Brady on the rationale. My guess is the paper is attempting to compete in an erroding market.

And then there's the official convention blog, whose vacuous first day's post touted "behind the scenes action" including a description of the "great performance from the Colorado Children’s Chorale" and "enthusiastic delegates and supporters" in "some great outfits." And the silliest of Monday's coverage included "news" headlines such as, "Get over it: Heartthrob Clooney not coming to Denver" and "Obama look-alike causes stir at Pepsi Center."

Craig Crawford over at Congressional Quarterly credits an orchestrated convention without much substance with spawning extended coverage of the continuing psychodrama of the Clinton camp. ABC's piece by Jake Tapper August 26 reflected that trend, as did at Sam Youngman's coverage of Bill Clinton at The Hill and Michael Barone's at U.S. News & World Report (Barone also parsed speeches by Michele Obama and Ted Kennedy.) Over the weekend a lot of column inches had been devoted to speculation on what Biden did or did not add to the horse race.

So, if you're going to watch the convention and you have access to cable, I'd recommend C-SPAN, which includes the "minor speeches" such as that by Republican Jim Leach, (Word version) who, as Michael Tomasky noted, "was wedged in between Teddy and Michelle -- that is, when everyone was going to the bathroom."

In case you missed the speech, Leach, after running through his theory of the major milestones in American progressivism, outlined, although without solutions, what he sees as the major problems facing our country:
America has seldom faced more critical choices: whether we should maintain an occupational force for decades in a country and region that resents western intervention or elect a leader who, in a carefully structured way, will bring our troops home from Iraq as the heroes they are. Whether it is wise to continue to project power largely alone with flickering support around the world or elect a leader who will follow the model of General Eisenhower and this president's father and lead in concert with allies.

Whether it is prudent to borrow from future generations to pay for today's reckless fiscal policies or elect a leader who will shore up our budgets and return to a strong dollar. Whether it is preferable to continue the policies that have weakened our position in the world, deepened our debt and widened social divisions or elect a leader who will emulate John F. Kennedy and relight a lamp of fairness at home and reassert an energizing mix of realism and idealism abroad.
The Red Carpet: Denver and the Donors

In its efforts to roll out the red carpet, Denver City Council had passed an ordinance August 4 against carrying urine or feces. Mayor John Hickenlooper's office had sent a news release August 13 on "community outreach" efforts regarding its "temporary arrestee processing center" which its intended targets--political protesters--dubbed "Gitmo on the Platte."

The NYT Times noted that corporations, trade unions, lobbying firms and some wealthy individuals have anted up an estimated $112 million to underwrite the Democrats and the Republicans' convention in St. Paul the next week. That according to an analysis released August 20 by George Washington University's Campaign Finance Institute and The Center for Responsive Politics. And since there are no rules or limits, some donations have been in the million-dollar range. Compare that to the $16.8 million each party receives for its convention from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF) derived from the $3 check off on federal income tax forms.

And then there are the 400 parties and receptions the Sunlight Foundation is tracking through its project Party Time. Unlike donations to the convention committees, "reform" rules apply. According to Financial Week, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (S. 1) passed in 2007 had groups like the Financial Services Roundtable wondering whether to offer the 50 Democratic members of Congress French toast on toothpicks as they schmoozed with 100 Wall Street CEOs at a $30,000 brunch. says members of Congress can attend without making a speeches, only at a reception, not a meal, hence French toast as finger food. Apparently slices of toast were okayed by the House Ethics Committee. For an analysis, see Financial Industry Lobbyists Keep Bankers’ Hours" who found the event to be one of

dozens of mundane corporate events during the day that resemble what goes on in Washington nearly every other day of the year. While the setting is different -- more Western-style décor, for one, and microbrews you won’t find on Capitol Hill -- the sponsors, the guest list and the format are the same....

Billed as a “financial literacy” event, this was not an opportunity for average consumers to learn how to manage their money, despite Citigroup’s handouts asserting that “knowledge is your greatest asset” (a phrase the banking giant has registered to keep it as their own asset).

Instead, the gathering at a saloon-style restaurant was an opportunity for the financial services industry to show members of Congress that it’s being responsible by looking out for consumers and educating them about personal finance.
Interestingly, according to report, attendance wasn't what planners had predicted. Interesting, too, is Paul Keil, writing for Pro-Publica on how lobbyists feel put upon by the new law, while watchdogs say it needs more teeth.

The Big Tent Lineup

So amid speeches and partying over at the convention, what's being discussed at The Big Tent? Curiously, education seems to be given short shrift, other than a mention at the opening forum. Some of the other topics include:
  • what real, sustainable change would look like in the areas of Environmental Justice, Health Care, Climate Change/Clean Energy/Global Warming, International Affairs, Technology and Democracy, Race/Diversity, Womens' Issues
  • “The Shifting Faith Vote: What It Means For This Election”
  • The ColorofChange.org, the DNC Voting Rights Institute, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, the National Campaign for Fair Elections and Louisiana ACORN on the failure to provide an effective recovery program in the Gulf Coast after Katrina and a remedy for voter supression
  • The Earth Institute's plan to cut carbon emissions
  • FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and Common Cause President
    Bob Edgar on media and democracy
Some of the bloggers participating in The Big Tent are giving a different read on the doings at the official convention. For instance, consider Ian Welsh, in his post at Firedoglake, "Hillary Quietly Calls Out Obama On Universal Health Care." And Big Tent authors are also covering the issues raised ast the progressive events. For instance, David O. Williams writes for the Independent Media Project in his post, Palast uses DNC to tout ‘Steal Back Your Vote’ project." Victor Navasky at The Nation, another Big Tent participant, writes about one of the PD Central events in "Making History,"

Here in Denver, the main action outside of the arena is not in the streets but indoors. Most of it has to do with progressive possibility. Yesterday, for example, I attended a half-day series of panels... about a "new" New Deal. (The old one, designed to overcome the Great Depression, gave birth to Social Security, public works and such; the new one, designed to overcome "the great devaluation," requires social investment in human capital-- healthcare and a college education for all, and other elements of "a new dream" ). The talk was about:

• Conyers' single-payer bill, HR 676

• A minimum wage indexed to inflation

• The right to organize (but also the need for unions to invest more of their assets into organizing)

• Retirement (don't move the age up, said US Action President Bill McNair, "snap the cap" on Social Security)

Beyond the Manufacture of Consent, Puleeze

Would that we were hearing more about issues in the time leading up to the November elections. Walter Lippmann participated in the Committee on Public Information and believed that
that ordinary people needed to be managed by enlightened experts. Later, though, he coined the term "manufacture of consent" and in the first chapter of Liberty and the News, he wrote,
When those who control...[the news columns] arrogate to themselves the right to determine by their own consciences what shall be reported and for what purpose, democracy is unworkable. Public opinion is blockaded. For when a people can no longer confidently repair ‘to the best fountains for their information,’ then anyone’s guess and anyone’s rumor, each man’s hope and each man’s whim becomes the basis of government.
What we need, per Stewart, is a media which works at uncovering the stories needed for informed dissent.

We may not see much of such coverage of the conventions this week or next. As Ann Patchett has her character Bernard Doyle observe in her newest novel, Run, which I started reading this week,
politicians when they weren't running for anything, when they were out of the game altogether. That was when they were willing to take the kinds of impossible moral stands that would get a man [or woman I would add] thrown out of Iowa in the first week.
Or, as my 89-year old mother volunteered on the telephone last night,

There are so many important problems right now and I'd like to hear what each side proposes as the solution.
With an acknowledgment to Patchett's point, Ma, even civil discussion from both parties on how to progress towards partial solutions would be nice.


Phthalate Ban in Consumer Product Safety Overhaul signed by Bush

Photo from Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine's body of evidence report: Phthalates-- Beauty Products and Beastly Vinyl.

The president signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (H. R. 4040) on August 14, 2008. Section 108 will prohibit sale of some products containing six specified phthalates starting in 2009.

Now it will be interesting to see how the chemical industry lobbies against the Kids' Safe Chemical Act (H.R. 6100 and S. 3040) to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act. Both bills designed to reduce exposure of children, workers, and consumers to toxic chemical substances were introduced May2o. The Senate bill will receive a hearing September 16 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but won't come to a vote until the next session of Congress. The bill would require that chemicals used in tens of thousands of products be proved safe before they are allowed to be sold, rather that requiring regulators to show that a product is dangerous before they can force its removal. According to the bills sponsors, of the 80,000 chemcals used in household products, the EPA has required toxicity testing of only 200.

The European Union banned the use of phthalates in some products, including baby toys, in 1999, but here there had been only a voluntarily removal of phthalates from objects intended to go into an infant's mouth such as infant bottle nipples and teethers.

If the plastic softeners, phthalates, which can be endoctrine disruptors, the Environmental Working Group writes that
Studies of suggest exposure to phthalates increases the risk of reproductive system birth defects and hormonal alteration in baby boys, and reproductive problems and hormonal changes in men. Though phthalates are considered hazardous waste and are regulated as air and water pollutants, they are unregulated in food, cosmetics, and consumer and medical products.
Opponents had tried to derail any further measures. For instance, the American Chemistry Council would have you believe that those who worry about the health effects of phthalate have "cherry picked" negative results and that the chemicals
have established a very strong safety profile over the 50 years in which they have been in general use. There is no reliable evidence that any phthalate has ever caused a health problem for a human from its intended use.
And the Center for Individual Freedom ( a pro-conservative project of Townhall.com) complained in February 2008 that one of the doctors authoring a journal article that month on infant exposure to pthalates, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana (bio), should have disclosed that she was a member of Physicians for Social Responsibiity, charging that her findings were more political than scientific.

The article had been prompted by a June 2003 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Environmental Health which found that
no studies have been performed to evaluate human toxicity from exposure to these compounds.
The Committee was in turn reacting to the January 2003 Exposure Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found that some people have very high levels of phthalates in their blood.

For more information, you can watch clips or read the transcript of an interview with Dr. Michael Shannon (email), a pharmacologist/toxicologist and chair of Children's Division of Emergency Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, who serves on the Committee.


The Arrest of the Free Tibet Videobloggers

Photo of a LED protest banner from Students for a Free Tibet Flickr site.

During the Olympics, the Chinese put an end to a cadre of bloggers, videographers and artists acting as an independent media center for dozens of activists in Beijing seeking to draw attention to that government’s occupation of Tibet. Arrestees include light artist James Powderly and Alive in Iraq videoblogger Brian Conley. For more, see BoingBoing's entry of August 19.
Videographers Jay Dedman and Ryanne Hodson eluded police and provide a video interview on August 25 for Free Tibet.

UPDATE: Follow up post on August 31 from Dedman and Hodson on their blog, RyanIsHungry.


ATT&T Throws Party to Celebrate Telecom Immunity?

David Horsey
's cartoon which appeared in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on July 2, 2006, is just as true today.

On August 25, 2008, Democracy Now covers one the first of over 1,200 parties scheduled for the Democratic National Convention—thrown by AT&T to support Democrats who voted to grant the company retroactive immunity for warrentless surviellance of Americans. Included is analysis from Glenn Greenwald of Salon.


Premier Election Solutions (aka Diebold) Acknowledges its Voting Machines Can Drop Votes

What good is a presidential election, if the votes are miscounted? This question arose in 2000 results for Florida and 2004 results for Ohio. And it's arising again is the 2008 election nears.

August 21, the Washington Post's blog feature "The Hidden Campaign" included aMary Pat Flaherty's post, "Ohio Voting Machines Contained Programming Error That Dropped Votes." Gordon seemed to take at face value a claim by Premier Election Solutions (formerly known as Diebold) when its spokesman, Chris Riggall, said
I can't provide odds on whether droppe votes were not recognized...but based on what we know about how our customers run their elections and reconcile counts we believe any results not uploaded on election night would have been caught when elections were being certified.
McClatchey's investigative reporter Greg Gordon (email, bio and article archive,) however, noted in his August 31 story, "Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure,"
Voting experts reacted skeptically to the company's assertion that election workers' routine crosschecks of ballot totals would have spotted any instances where its servers failed to register some precinct vote totals when receiving data from multiple memory cards.

Gordon also details the lack of oversight in the machine's integrity.
Premier's products were declared "qualified" under a voluntary testing process overseen from the mid 1990s until 2005 by the National Association of State Election Directors.

Computer scientists, some state officials and election watchdog groups allege that the NASED-sponsored testing system was a recipe for disaster, shrouded in secrecy, and allowing equipment makers to help design the tests.

Premiere/Diebold had acknowledged in letter August 19 to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, that a 10-year-old error in logic for the Global Election Management System(GEMS) can cause votes to disappear while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point. The system, used in its touch screen and optical scan machines, is supposed to save information from one card at a time to be counted in order as the cards are read by a database. Instead, incoming votes, within milliseconds, can displace earlier votes waiting in the electronic line before they are counted. Company president Dave Byrd wrote,
We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error.
Election officials in Ohio, one of 34 states to use the machines, complained following the March primary. As recently as May, the company had said the problem stemmed from anti-virus software. It also briefly said the mistakes could be attributed to human error. Brunner has said no Ohio votes were lost because the nine Ohio counties that found the problem caught it before primary results were finalized. Premier and Brunner are in an ongoing court battle over the voting machines and whether Premier violated its contract with the state and warranties. Half of the Ohio's 88 counties use the GEMS system. Brunner has been a vocal critic of electronic voting machines.

August 19, the company also issued a nationwide alert with recommended actions to the approximately 1,750 jurisdictions which use the flawed system The problem is most likely to affect larger jurisdictions that feed many memory cards to a central counting database rapidly. While both Virginia and Maryland use the GEMS system, Virginia does not relay its votes to a central counting point, while Maryland does. The mistake is not immediately apparent and would have to be caught when elections officials went to match how many memory cards they fed into a central database against how many show as being read by that database. Each card carries a unique marker.

The Post dutifully reported that Primiers' problem cannot be fixed by sending out a coding fix to its customers because changes to systems must go through the Election Assistance Commission and take two years on average for certification and approval. But, as Gordon wrote,
The federal Election Assistance Administration, created in 2002, took over the testing responsibility in 2005, but has yet to certify a single voting machine. (My emphasis added.)
The help America Vote Act has resulted in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003. But, John Washburn, a software tester in the Milwaukee suburb of Germantown, told Gordon, that he predicts most all of the machines will have to be replaced in a process he likened to the early 20th Century Teapot Dome scandal.
as just the epitome of how government money goes down a rat hole.


Ali al-Mashhadani: US Frees frees IraqiJournalist...Again

Photo by Thaier al-Sudani of Reuters.

Ali al-Mashhadani must think this is getting old. Arrested by U.S. military forces for the third time without being charged, he was in the Green Zone in Baghdad on July 26 to renew his press card so that he could continue his work for Reuters, the BBC and NPR.

The U.S. released the 39-year-old journalist without charges August 21. A spokeswoman for the Multi-National Forces-Iraq had told the Committee to Protect Journalists that al-Mashhadani security risk and that his case would be reviewed within a seven-day period that began on July 29.

And this is not an isolated case, as documented by the Committee.


Bush moves to shield anti-abortion health care workers

As the Bush Administration counts down its last days, it announced 8/21/08 the beginning of a thirty-day comment period on a new rule that would empower federal health officials to stop funding more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not accommodate health-care workers who object to abortion. The regulation would cover
participating in any activity with a reasonable connection to the objectionable procedure, including referrals, training, and other arrangements for offending procedures.
The WaPo's Rob Stein reports August 22 in "Protections Set for Antiabortion Health Workers: Opponents Denounce Proposed Regulation Allowing Federal Officials to Pull Funding" that the the regulation would cost more than $44 million to implement and that Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt justified the rule, saying,
People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong...Health-care workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their own conscience.

When asked whhether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Leavitt said:
This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians' conscience in relation to that.
Conservative groups welcomed the rule. David Stevens of the Christian Medical and Dental Association said,

I think this provides broad application not just to abortion and sterilization but any other type of morally objectionable procedure and research activity....We think it's badly needed. Our members are facing discrimination every day, and as we get into human cloning and all sorts of possibilities, it's going to become even more important.
Women's health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion rights activists and others, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research. Said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin,
It's breathtaking....The impact could be enormous.


Health Insurance, Not

"I don’t stand a chance. He won’t need any health insurance."

Cartoon at the blog for the Center for Law and Social Policy (artist not listed; caption by Victor Elias, a Senior Associate at the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines, IA.)


August 20, the Commonwealth Fund released its new report, Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance Is Burdening Working Families. Using data from four years of the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey (2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007), the report looks at the health insurance status of U.S. adults under age 65 and the implications for family finances and health care access.
A perfect storm of negative economic trends is battering working families across the United States. The federal minimum wage is now three dollars an hour lower, in real terms, than it was 40 years ago; gas and food prices are soaring; home values are declining; growth in health care costs is far outstripping income growth; and people are increasingly going without the protection of health coverage—nearly 9 million have lost their health insurance since 2000. Families are facing financial crises and are forced to make hard choices among life's necessities, often sacrificing health care and health insurance along the way.

...Insurance coverage deteriorated over the past six years, with declines in coverage most severe for moderate-income families. The share of insured adults who spend more than 5 percent or 10 percent of income on health care and insurance rose across all income groups between 2001 and 2007. As a result, the number of underinsured adults (i.e., those with health coverage that does not adequately protect them from high medical expenses) climbed to 25 million people in 2007, up from 16 million in 2003.


Stephen Payne: Influence for Sale

Texas Watchdog is a news Web site and training center reporting on the actions of government agencies, bureaucracies and politicians in Texas. Today, Trent Siebert posted an interesting piece about Stephen Payne, who, according to the London Times, has been promising access to biggies in the White House, in return for contributions to Bush's presidential library--a practice not regulated by the FEC.


Environmental Groups Split on Kaine's SCC Appointment of Dominion Attorney Dimitri

Photo of James C. Dimitri from his listing on the webpage of his law firm McGuire Woods.


August 15, Governor Tim Kaine announced his interim appointment as State Corporation Commissioner of James C. Dimitri, who as a partner at the McGuire Woods law firm served as Dominion co-counsel for applications for the Frederick to Loudoun County transmission line in Northern Virginia and the Wise County coal plant.

Evidentally, key Wise County coal plant opponents think Dimitri is okay. The AP states that Cale Jaffe, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, noted that Dimitri represented
a wide array of constituencies...He is widely respected among all stakeholders for his intelligence, expertise, and fair-mindedness.
The Washington Post adds that Chesapeake Climate Action Network supports Dimitri, as does the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, whose chairman Charles Price wrote,

Mr. Dimitri is widely respected among environmental organizations and other stakeholders committed to reducing greenhouse gas pollution and making smart investments in energy efficiency.

On the other hand, transmission line opponents criticized the appointment, including the Piedmont Environmental Council and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA.), who said August 18 that he was

shocked and angered...It's a conflict of interest, and [his name] ought to be withdrawn. . . . Couldn't they find an objective person?

Dimitri, 57, was a SCC staff attorney from 1994 to 2000. Before that, he represented industry for the Christian & Barton law firm and consumers and ratepayers, first as a staff attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center and later as assistant attorney general 1983 to 1987.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that the General Assembly's failure to agree on a candidate afforded Kaine the opportunity for Dimitri's appointment which will go before the General Assembly session next January, for consideration for a full six-year term.

Dimitri, 57, was an earlier prospect for the corporation commission, but Republicans balked because...[t]he Somerville, N.J., native donated more than $5,000 to Kaine's gubernatorial campaign and inaugural committee.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project Dimitri gave $375 on 12/27/2005 for the inaugeration and $120 on 10/07/2001 for Kaine's Lt. Governor campaign. His contributions to Kaine for Governor were (cash, unless otherwise indicated):
  • $1,000--10/13/2005
  • $ 250--08/29/2005
  • $ 281 --05/31/2005 (In-Kind: Event Expenses)
  • $1,000--05/09/2005
  • $1,000--01/11/2005
  • $ 300--06/24/2004 (In-Kind: Fundraiser Expenses)
  • $ 500--06/16/2004
  • $ 500--03/17/2003
Dimitri also gave $1,111 during the period 2005 - 8 to his law firm's political committee, which in turn disbursed $550,723 to Republicans and Democrats alike.


Pervez Musharraf to step down as President of Pakistan

Ken Fallin's charactature accompanied the 8/11/08 for the WSJ opinion piece "It's Curtains for Musharraf" by Najam Seth.

Matt Yglesias reminds us today that McCain's condemnation of Musharraf is late in coming. For other coverage, check out Memeorandum.

So, impeachment is off the table in the U.S., but in Pakistan?


McCain's Corporate Welfare

Cartoon by Mark Hurwitt (website, email) from the September 13, 2007 Black Commentator.

June 26, 2008m the Center for American Progress detailed how Senator John McCain’s proposed $45 billion in tax cuts to the 200 largest U.S. companies would double the Bush cuts. And of those, eight would each receive over $1 billion a year: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Bank ƒƒof America Corp., AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Microsoft Corp.

So, I wasn't surprised to read Michael O'Brien's August 15 piece in The Hill, "Top CEOs give 10 times more to McCain than to Obama."
The presumptive GOP nominee has received $208,200 from the chief executive officers of the 100 biggest Fortune 500 corporations, according to a review of campaign finance reports. Obama has taken in $20,400 from the same group of people.
Of the top eight, only Berkshire Hathaway's CEO Warren Buffet has given exclusively to Obama. And what's interesting is how much the giving gap between the parties has grown.

In 2004, the difference between the Republican and the Democratic candidates was much less pronounced in terms of Fortune 100 donations. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) nearly kept pace with President Bush.

Among the same 100 individuals, the vast majority of whom were in their current positions in 2004, Kerry raised nearly three-quarters of what Bush did. Kerry brought in $74,500 from the business leaders, while Bush raised $103,200.
Also interesting is that while
42 of the CEOs donated to ..[the 2004 Bush] campaign; only 29 have donated to McCain — the president’s would-be Republican successor has managed to bring in more than twice as much than Bush did.
That uptick has been largely due to the fact that several donors have contributed large additional sums to McCain’s Victory 2008 political action committee (PAC).


Russia Threatens Poland over U.S. Missile Installation

Was it timed to in reaction to the Georgia occupation? Poland inked a preliminary agreement on Thursday night allowing the US to install 10 interceptor missiles at a base in northern Poland linked to a radar station in the Czech Republic, to go online in 2011 to intercept missiles fired at the US and Europe.

The Irish Times reports that Russian General Anatoly Nogovitsin told the nterfax news agency that
By hosting these [missiles], Poland is making itself a target. This is 100 per cent [certain]. It has become a target for attack. Such targets are destroyed as a first priority.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has cancelled a September trip to Warsaw that was, ironically, part of a strategy to improve traditionally difficult relations between the two countries.

Polish radio claims that the Kremlin has frozen all contacts with Polish institutions, including a bilateral committee investigating the 1940 Katyn massacre, when the Red Army killed almost 22,000 Polish soldiers.


British reporter arrested for covering Tibet Protest in Beijing Olympics

Photo and video John Ray, a British journalist covering China since 2006, who now works for ITV.

Ray was arrested and released August 13, for covering eight individuals attempting to unfurl a banner about Tibet protest in Beijing during the Olympic games. Reporters without Borders released report the same day about the recent pattern of arrests and said,

It is the duty of the Olympic movement in its entirety to ensure respect for the spirit of the Olympic truce. Since the origins of the Olympics, tradition has required that peace should prevail during the games.

The group referred to the IOC's explaination of the Olympic truce in ancient Greece:

During the truce period, the athletes, artists and their families, as well as ordinary pilgrims, could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries. (...) The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to revive the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce with the view (...) to encourage searching for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world.

I'm not holding my breath. The report out of China is chilling.


Unions Challenge Wal-Mart Practices to the Federal Election Commission

Back on August 1, 2008, the WSJ reported of Wal-Mart's meetings with managers warning that an Obama win would be good for unions. Then on August 14, the paper covered a complaint to be filed with the Federal Election Commision byAmerican Rights at Work, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and WakeUpWalMart.com.

While the company denies that it has done anything wrong, the WSJ reports it has reviewed a digital recording of a Wal-Mart meeting made by a Wal-Mart employee of In the hour-and-a-half meeting, held for managers in a Southern state in which the leader tells employees that their wages may be reduced to minimum wage for up to three months before a contract is negotiated, that union authorization cards violate workers' right to privacy by including their Social Security numbers on them and that if a small unit within a store votes to unionize, the entire store will be unionized.

If you have 10 associates in a photo lab and six sign union authorization cars, now the store is unionized...Six people can make a decision for 350 people.

Jeffrey Hirsch, a labor lawyer in Boston told the WSJ,

The statements are not correct representations of what the law would require even under the current law...It would be a violation of the national labor relations act to say those things.


Gina Gray canned at Arlington Cemetary

Photograph by Ricky Carioti at 7/10/08 The Washington Post
See also an interview from the 7/23/08 Democracy Now.


Georgia on my mind

Cartoon from Nate Beeler (email, blog) from the August 11, 2008 Washington DC Examiner (not to be confused with the Washington Examiner of the SF chain.

Some suggested reading:
  • Background from Human Rights Watch
  • "Die Hard," John Feffer on Russia as empire, from Foreign Policy in Focus
  • CQ asks if McCain (or his speechwriter) lifted his speech from Wikpedia
  • The Georgian government switches to Blogger to stay online and so does Estonia
  • Aljazeera's take on the US part in the mess
  • Business Week on how this affects oil and gas
  • Info from the Pulitzer Center here
  • Fiction writers on Georgia here and here
  • Global Voices cited by CNN


Risen on the cost of Iraq contracting

Risen reports on a new report out by the Congressional Budget office which according to people with knowledge of its contents say will reveal that
one out of every five dollars spent on the war in Iraq has gone to contractors for the United States military and other government agencies, in a war zone where employees of private contractors now outnumber American troops.
That adds up to $100 billion on contractors in Iraq since the invasion in 2003.


Bin Laden's driver

Mike Keefe cartoon from August 6 and the Pittsburg Post's Rob Rogers cartoon from August 9 on the verdict in the Gitmo trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

For asn account, see "Bin Laden Driver Gets 5 1/2 Years; U.S. Sought 30" by Jerry Markon and Josh White in the August 8, 2008 Washington Post.


Mahmoud Darwish

If you had considered the face of your victim
And thought about it, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have freed yourself from the rifle's logic
And you would have changed your mind: this is not how
One reclaims an identity

from Mahmoud Darwish's, "State of Siege,," Ramallah, 2002

Sadly, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish died too young on August 9, 2008 at the age of 63, following surgery to correct a heart defect. And although he was proclaimed as the Palestinian national poet, he told Dalia Karpel of Haaretz in a 2007 interview concerning his return to Haifa for a poetry reading,
I would not want to appear as a patriot or as a hero or as a symbol. I will appear as a modest poet....The symbol does not exist either in my consciousness or in my imagination. I am making efforts to shatter the demands of the symbol and to be done with this iconic status; to habituate people to treat me as a person who wishes to develop his poetry and the taste of his readers.
He also said, of the role of poetry,
I believe in the power of poetry, which gives me reasons to look ahead and identify a glint of light. Poetry can be a real bastard. It distorts. It has the power to transform the unreal into the real, and the real into the imaginary. It has the power to build a world that is at odds with the world in which we live. I see poetry as spiritual medicine ... I have no other tool with which to find meaning for my life or for the life of my nation ... I built with words a homeland for my nation and for myself.
You can listen to Darwish read his poems here at his website. There, you can also read about him here and here. He has a section, along with other international poets at UniVerse. And here are links to poems from Poetry Connection:


Chinese Olympics

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are two thousand from August 8.

The cartoons at the top is from Robert Ariail (email, website), The State (Columbia, South Carolina). The one on the bottom is from Matt Davies (email, blog) of the Journal News (Lower Hudson Valley region of New York).


Coleman and Franken on Iraq



ACLU: Court should not issue a secret opinion after hearing secret arguments -- and from only one side.

August 5, the ACLU replied to the Justice Department arguments against its access to the FISA Court , noting that it does not seek access to classified information, rather to address the constitutionality questions that are before the Court.
Because the FISA Amendments Act has such sweeping implications for therights of U.S. citizens and residents, any consideration of these issuesshould be adversarial and as informed and transparent as possible.
This Court should not issue a secret opinion after hearing secret arguments -- and from only one side.
July 10, the same day that President Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 into law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court to participate in future proceedings regarding the constitutionality of government procedures under the act.

Justice Department attorneys filed a July 29 opposition motion that the relevant procedures are classified, thus
there is nothing that the ACLU could contribute to the Court's resolution....
As I noted earlier, a separate ACLU suit before the federal district court challenges the constitutionality of the FAA.


Suskind: "The White House had concocted a fake letter...to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001"

The Politico, may again have bought a book critical of the Bush administration which was supposed to be embargoed. At 11:51, on August 5, Mike Allen posted "Book says White House ordered forgery," about Ron Suskind's (email, website). The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, out from Doubleday Canada had an August 5 publication date. So, Allen is a fast reader or didn't finish the book prior to reporting.

Another book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong with Washington by Scott McClellan, which I posted about on May 29, raised a storm on the right blogosphere after Politico wrote about it while it definitely still was embargoed. Peter Osnos, the publisher talks about the reaction the book received on his blog for The Century Foundation, The Platform, here, here and here.

Discussion of Suskind's book has yet to catch on at the right-leaning blogs. There, it seems that the meme so far is on Obama is losing steam, at least as of 1:50 p.m., when I checked on Memorandum. Instead, here are the sources discussing Suskind's book:
There have been so many exposes about this administration that I sometimes wonder if we will ever have a repeat of Watergate, where a President resigns after revelations of alleged wrongdoing. Is this because the public is jaded about malfeasance or because most in Congress are loyalists and there are no members of the stature of a Barry Goldwater calling a President from their her own party out.


Britain: Effects of economic divide "at its widest since the Victorian era."

Cover art from the July 29 report, Uniting Britain's Divided Cities.

Britain today is a divided nation, where the poorest in our society are growing poorer while the fortunes of the richest are rising. Inequality is at an all time high, and is far higher in Britain than most of our European neighbours.

It may come as a surprise that Uniting Britain's Divided Cities, quoted above, is from the Tories. Conservatives here across the pond sometimes refer to efforts to address the economic divide as "class warfare," including a Boston Herald editorial, and Jeffrey T. Kuhner's August 3 column in the Washington Times, in which he writes,

Mr. Obama´s class-warfare policies would result in economic sclerosis, lower productivity and higher unemployment.

Hat tip to Too Much for alerting me to the report. Birmingham’s gulf between rich and poor is 'akin to Victorian times’" appeared in the July 28 2008, Birmingham Post, writen by its Public Affairs Editor, Paul Dale. The Guardian published a story based on wire reports on July 29. The Conservative's webpage for the report has other coverage, plus links to the report.


The Atlantic's 2008 Fiction (non-fiction and poetry) Issue

Illustration by Jonathan Barlett for "Nine" available online at The Atlantic.

There you can find all of the following (plus an archive of past issues for 2005-7 and more)

  • "Nine" by Aryn Kyle plus an interview where the author talks about her debut novel, The God of Animals.
  • "Stand By Me" by Wendell Berry
  • "Patient, Female" by Julie Schumacher
  • "The Second Coming of Gray Badger" by Carter Simms Benton (plus an audio of the author reading the story)
  • "Carmen Elcira: A (Love) Life" by Cristina Henríquez (plus audio)
  • "We Are All Businessmen" by Mark Fabiano (plus audio)
  • "Obituary" by Jessica Murphy Moo (plus audio)
  • "Amritsar" by Jess Row

"My Life in Sales" by by Ann Patchett
  • Interview with Mary Jo Salter about her new collection, Phone Call to the Future
  • "Bower Bird"by Caki Wilkinson
  • "Today's Meditation: The Sadness of the Subtropics" by Debora Greger
  • "Event Horizon"by Rachel Hadas
  • "Hammer" by Lucas Howell
  • "Russet"by Dick Allen
  • "Sketchbook"by Linda Bierds
  • "Music Is Time" by Jill Bialosky
  • "Summertime" by D. Nurkse
  • "The Piano tuner" by James Reiss


Follow the (coal) money

That's the Ninth District's very own Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), featured in a the cover illustration for the website Follow the Coal Money, a project of Oil Change International, a non-profit conducting research on money in politics and other topics in order to promote renewable energy.

You won't find Boucher's name on the Clean Water Protection Act, which now has 145 co-sponsors, one of whom is Bobby Scott, whose office I visited to press for the bill in 2007. You can read my take on the measure from that time at LLRX.com.

Currently, there's a letter writing campaign up at the site. Here's the draft:

I am deeply concerned about the extent of the coal industry's influence on Washington.

Coal is not the solution to our mounting energy and climate crisis. We need to be encouraging the development and deployment of truly clean, diverse, and sustainable energy sources. Instead, our increasing reliance on coal is exacerbating many of the issues that I care most deeply about -- issues like global warming, and the health of our communities and our environment.

Yet politicians of both parties continue to use our tax money to subsidize the development of the coal industry to the tune of billions of dollars every year -- at a time when our nation should be getting serious about reducing our carbon emissions.

Perhaps it's partly because coal companies donated over 8 million dollars ($8,711,107) in the 2006 elections -- and have already spent $6,330,168 in lobbying expenditures this year.

I urge you to immediately stop taking money from the coal industry, and to start the transition to clean, secure sources of energy now. Our nation's prosperity and environmental security depends upon you declaring your independence from the dirty influence of coal.


Obama capitulates on FISA

Cartoon by Jack Ohman in the 7/16/08 Oregonian in Portland.

See my article on telecom immunity published 7/30/08 on LLRX.com.