Index of Posts for November 2008

NYT McCaffrey Expose: No Credit to Other Journalists

Photo illustration by the NYT.

November 29, New York Times reporter David Barstow's front page expose, "One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex" about retired four-star General Barry R. McCaffrey, continues the coverage started in his April 20, 2008 article, "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand." That first piece resulted in over 1400 reader comments and Congressional demands that the DoD stop its propaganda program.

Barstow starts his article,
In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.

General McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now counting on for help — “He’s got the heart of a lion” — or when he told Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.
As I noted in my review over at NewsTrust, this article is not as enterprising as it would appear. What disturbs me is that Barstow, like other reporters at the NYT often pretend to a scoop that builds on uncredited info from previous articles in supposedly "lesser" sources. For instance, in "Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process," Elisabeth Bumiller, on 9/2/08, fails to acknowledge that Anchorage Daily News reporters Sean Cockerham and Wesley Loy published interviews with many of the same folks on August 29 in "Choice stuns state politicians." (For details and links, see my blog post of September 1, Sarah, Who?. In the current case, as Glenn Greenwald notes in "The ongoing disgrace of NBC News and Brian Williams" (see link), "Some of the key facts which Barstow reports concerning the improper behavior of McCaffrey and NBC News were documented all the way back in April, 2003, in this excellent article from The Nation, which Barstow probably should have credited today. " I've linked to the Nation article, "TV's Conflicted Experts" by Daniel Benaim, Priyanka Motaparthy and Vishesh Kumar (two former interns and a free-lancer.) Although Greenwald doesn't say so, Barstow also failed to credit Grennwald's own April 2008 coverage, "Brian Williams' 'response' to the military analyst story". (see link)

The corporate ownership of news media is rife with potential conflicts of interest, which in turn, affects the quality of our democracy. NBC News, of course, is owned by GE, which has been awarded $8,761,071,362 in defense contracts during the period 2000 to 2007, according to informatioin pulled from ublic records by Governmentcontracts.com. (see link) This, despite, GE being fined for fraud in such contracts during the previous decade, according to the corporate entry at Crocodyl, a collaboration between nonprofit organizations such as Center for Corporate Policy, CorpWatch, Corporate Research Project and others (see link.) Although NBC News is not alone in its hiring of supposedly unbiased military commentators, as Matt Iglesias notes in his post, "war Machine," "again, we now have NBC News caught flat-out in the midst of corruption, deceiving their viewers. And NBC News isn’t sorry. They’re not apologizing. They’re not ashamed. Because they’re beyond shame. They never had a reputation for honor, so they don’t even see this sort of thing as damaging." (see link)

BTW, Check out http://open.salon.com/


Eleventh Hour Regs on Toxins

The NYT's Robert Pear today, "Bush Aides Rush to Enact a Rule Obama Opposes,"

The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health. Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses. With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Mr. Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations. The Labor Department proposal is one of about 20 highly contentious rules the Bush administration is planning to issue in its final weeks. The rules deal with issues as diverse as abortion, auto safety and the environment. One rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. Another would reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in deciding whether dams, highways and other projects pose a threat to endangered species. Mr. Obama and his advisers have already signaled their wariness of last-minute efforts by the Bush administration to embed its policies into the Code of Federal Regulations, a collection of rules having the force of law. The advisers have also said that Mr. Obama plans to look at a number of executive orders issued by Mr. Bush. A new president can unilaterally reverse executive orders issued by his predecessors, as Mr. Bush and President Bill Clinton did in selected cases. But it is much more difficult for a new president to revoke or alter final regulations put in place by a predecessor. A new administration must solicit public comment and supply “a reasoned analysis” for such changes, as if it were issuing a new rule, the Supreme Court has said.


Sydney Schanberg: John McCain Blocked Info on Fellow POW's

Photo from Google Earth from Ocean Park, CA.

"Americans...whose earthly resting place is known only to God."

So says the dedication stone of the MIA/POW gardens in the National Cemetary of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The remains of four marines who disappeared in Vietnam when their helicopter was shot down have now been located, according to the POW/Missing Personnel Office of the DOD on November 5. Lance Cpl. Kurt E. La Plant, of Lenexa, KS, and Lance Cpl. Luis F. Palacios, of Los Angeles, CA were individually identified. Two others, were recovered only as "group remains"--Lance Cpl. Ralph L. Harper, of Indianapolis, IN and Pfc. Jose R. Sanchez, of Brooklyn, NY. That means, according to the National Leage of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, that there have been
837 US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. 90+% of the 1,746 still missing from the Vietnam War were lost in Vietnam itself or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.
Democracy Now interviewed journalist Sydney Schanberg today about his October 6 article in The Nation, "Why Has John McCain Blocked Info on MIAs?" (longer version here at The Nation Institute.

Schanberg wrote,
John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero people would logically imagine to be a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.
The Nation, in an editor's note, lets us know it has published pieces with a conflicting vision by H. Bruce Franklin, a Rutgers American studies prof (email, web page) and author of MIA or Mythmaking in America. His article, "Who's Behind the M.I.A. Scam - & Why" ($ archive) in the December 7, 1992 issue, argued that the "devastating economic and political warfare" on Vietnam has been justified from 1969 through 1992 by the

The POW/MIA myth...kept alive by politicians such as Richard Nixon, Ross Perot and Jesse Helms since 1969. However, there has never been any credible evidence that US prisoners are being held in Vietnam, and Vietnam has taken unprecedented steps to account for all missing in action.

Then in "M.I.A.sama" ($ archive) in the May 10, 1993 issue, he adds that
Pres George Bush made two attempts to normalize relations with Vietnam, and each time sudden new 'evidence' of American prisoners was released to the media. The same thing has now happened to the Clinton administration, although the media release is filled with obvious flaws.

Whenever normalization of relations with Vietnam seems imminent, a media blitz suddenly features brand-new "evidence" about P.O.W.s in Indochina. Eventually the evidence turns out to be fraudulent, but few Americans ever learn about the expose.

I wish that some donor to The Nation would have made these articles available free of charge for comparison. And Goodman could have done us a solid by having both gentlemen on her program to discuss their alternative views. Readers here know I'm a fan of Goodman, but, as is often the case with advocacy journalism, I'm not sure her point is solely light, but also heat, in the time leading up to the election.

As it is, we're left to read Franklin's October 15 letter to the editor and Schanberg's response . Both are exhibits in name-calling. Franklin describes Schanberg's article as a

recycled and thoroughly discredited right-wing fantasy about Vietnam holding US POWs after the war...
and decries

Schanberg's disgraceful role in promulgating [the POW myth] for decades?
Schanberg, in turn, calls Franklin a "desperate" " ideologue" whose has in the past made "fact-starved claims" and now write a "pompous letter" which is a "foolish way" to deal with their disagreements. He ends,

It's obvious that the best way to get to the bottom of the POW story is to press our government to release all the POW files that have been suppressed for thirty-five years.
That statement appeals to me, even despite another insult he hurls to the effect that his critics have not campaigned for such because they are afraid to find out what's in the records. What's most interesting to me, however, is another piece I discoverd by Schanberg, when I was looking for his emaill address. In a commentary for Neiman Watchdog on October 15, "The silent treatment regarding Vietnam POWs," he writes,

Before The Nation accepted it, I tested the mainstream waters to see if the boycott had possibly been eased. The piece was rejected by everyone from The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times magazine to prominent Web sites like Salon and Talking Points Memo. One magazine editor said that because I had written on the subject before, it was “a retelling”and thus unsuitable. Others said they were too stacked up with McCain stories for the campaign season. None of the brush-offs were any more convincing than that. I appealed to them to tackle the story with their own reporters to set the historical record straight. Silence again.

Once the piece appeared, Schanberg writes that one the piece appeared, he began e-mailing again.
I wrote personal notes to the editors of The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. No response. I did the same with other editors and reporters and columnists and ombudsmen at those papers and many more. Also to television news and commentator shows and to press-beat reporters like Howard Kurtz. The list has grown now to more than 100.

He only got four responses that he can recall, one of which was from a reporter at a major paper who

was seized by the story, immersed himself in the issue and pitched it to his editors, who blew him off saying there wasn’t enough time to research the story and, besides, they said, they had questions about its credibility.

He offers any "any reader – editor, reporter, layman" "links to my earlier writings on this issue" and "guidance on where to go for more information." For, as he notes,
Election Day isn’t the cutoff point. Even if John McCain doesn’t make the White House, he’ll still be in the Senate, suppressing POW files.

The public information is available through the Library of Congress at its Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database. The information at the National Archives can be found through its Finding Aid to Records Relating to American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action from the Vietnam War Era, 1960-1994. See also the resolution to esetablish a Congressional committee, H. Res. 111 (2007)


Studs, We Miss You

Photograph from the archive of interviews, "Talking to Myself" at his website.

The oral historian Studs Terkel, born in 1912, died last month, but today Democracy Now spent the whole hour in a tribute." You can also watch the documentary, Studs on a Soapbox, at YouTube.


Paula Sinclair set Stafford to Songs

If you're interested in hearing the music of Paula Sinclair who has set the words of some of her favorite writers (including Bill Stafford, , Joseph Millar, Dorianne Laux, Debbie West, and Jarold Ramsey) to music, you can check out the album, The Good Horse at CD Baby.

She says her next project is A Story That Could Be True based on 11 Stafford poems and that she also has plans to turn the poem/song "The Animal Who Drank Up Sound" into an animated film.


West Virginia: Wind or MTR Coal?

Photo of Coal River Wind organizers Loreli Scarbro and Rory McIlmoil making a presentation which accompanied an August post on the project at WVBlue.

Just received this news release from Rory McIlmoil over at Coal River Wind. The West Virginia DEP has approved Massey's MTR permit revision. Could you circulate this action alert and press release widely. They need our help from all over the country to once again ask Governor Manchin to do the right thing for the state and for local residents by preventing the wind potential and the opportunity to stabilize and diversify the local economy from being permanently destroyed by Massey's Mountaintop Removal operation on Coal River Mountain.

Call the Governor's office at 1-888-438-2731 and letting him know that you support Clean Wind Power, not Mountaintop Removal coal mining for Coal River Mountain. Visit visit www.coalriverwind.org to learn more and sign the petition, and when you're done, get your friends to do the same. And if, like my friend Denise Clendening in California, you can't get through on the toll-free number, you can also call Governor Manchin's regular number:

(304) 558-2000

After you've called, why not follow up with an email to governor@wvgov.org
or for more weight, you can fax a letter to (304) 342-7025.

for more information, contact Rory McIlmoil at the Coal River Mountain Wind Project
(w): (304) 854-2182
(h): (304) 854-1937

By the way, Denise also sent me a link to Devilstower's blog over at Kos. He writes eloquently:

Feeling a post election letdown? Looking for another dragon to slay? Buddy, have I got a mean, scaly, ugly one for you.

Coal River Mountain in West Virginia is a beautiful forested area surrounded by communities with long experience with coal mining as been practiced for decades. How long have these folks been settled around the mountain? Many are descendants of those who moved to the area on land grants given soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Now the mountain itself is threatened by coal mining as it's been practiced under the Bush administration -- mountaintop removal.

Just yesterday, a permit to start blasting the top off the mountain was awarded to Massey Energy, headed by Don Blankenship. Who is Don Blankenship? He's the guy who spent millions putting his own man on the West Virginia Supreme Court so he could get out of a lawsuit. Then, when he was caught vacationing in Monaco with that judge, he bought himself another. And another. He spent millions on smear campaigns so he could get his own brand of justice. He's the guy who was named the scariest person in America when it comes to the environment. This is the guy behind the death of miners in the Aracoma mine after hundreds of safety violations.

This is a guy who makes $15 million a year, and spends as much as $9 million of it reshaping West Virginia into a deep red state that supports his strong arm tactics. You think West Virginia has an "Appalachian problem?" No. It has a Don Blankenship problem.

Now Blankenship has Coal River Mountain in his grip, and if he has his way, it will soon join more than a million acres of ancient mountains, towering forests, and free-flowing streams that are turned into the acidic rubble left behind after mountaintop removal mining. And perhaps worst of all, Coal River Mountain has already been studied as a site for a wind farm. This wind farm would produce more energy than the coal that Blankenship will get from blasting down the mountain. It will employ more people. And it will do it cleanly, preserving both the mountain and the surrounding communities.

You can sign the petition in support of the Coal River Wind project, but today that's not enough.

There's only one man that can put the brakes on Blankenship before he starts knocking down Coal River Mountain forever. That man is West Virginia Governor, Joe Manchin. Manchin is a Democrat, and he has good reason to dislike Blankenship. The Massey CEO sued the governor after for violation of his first amendment rights when Manchin said he was going to look more closely at serial-violator Blankenship's operations. Apparently Don Blankenship believes that the first amendment includes not just speech and religion, but also bribery and evasion.

Despite all that, it's not expected that Manchin will step in to stop Massey from taking down Coal River Mountain. Not unless you help. Call Governor Manchin at 1-888-438-2731 and ask him to put a hold on this permit. Now. Like pronto.

The fight didn't end on election day. Get on the phone and let people know that change is coming to West Virginia, and it starts at Coal River Mountain.

Okay, here's the news release:
Governor Manchin sides with Massey Energy Coal Company to allow blasting on Coal River Mountain

Skirting their responsibilities to the public, the West Virginia state government has approved the Bee Tree surface mining permit revision on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia, thereby authorizing the destruction of a portion of the available wind resource that local residents would like to see developed as an alternative. Coal River Mountain Watch and community residents learned yesterday that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had approved Massey Energy's revision of the Bee Tree mining permit for Coal River Mountain, meaning that Massey may begin blasting whenever they are prepared to move forward. Repeated attempts at obtaining public hearings related to the proposed mining have been denied by the DEP, and so community members are again asking Governor Joe Manchin to halt the mountaintop removal operation and act on his commitment to renewable energy and to the citizens of West Virginia. Extensive research has shown that Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to provide electricity for between 100,000 and 150,000 homes, forever, while creating approximately 50 well-paying, permanent jobs in an area long dependent upon sparse, temporary coal mining jobs. The wind farm would also generate as over ten times more county revenue than the Mountaintop Removal operations would, and in a county with a poverty rate of 18.5%, this additional income would help to stimulate new economic development projects and the creation of new and lasting jobs for the county. Overall, a wind farm stands as a more beneficial land use for Coal River Mountain, but this opportunity depends upon the mountain being left intact. Despite the fact that both the Governor and the DEP have been presented with solid evidence supporting the wind farm option, neither have acted to place a hold on the proposed mining. While Governor Manchin has ignored public opinion in support of a Coal River Mountain wind farm, the DEP has continued to exclude public comment on the mining permits, and now Massey Energy is now set to begin blasting.


Philip Levine: Our Valley

Still from PBS Video of poet Philip Levin, one of my favorites, reading "Belle Isle 1949" for the PBS project, Poetry Everywhere.

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow. I remember going under
hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl
I'd never seen before, and the cries
our breath made caught at the same time
on the cold, and rising through the layers
of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere
that was this world, the girl breaking
the surface after me and swimming out
on the starless waters towards the lights
of Jefferson Ave. and the stacks
of the old stove factory unwinking.
Turning at last to see no island at all
but a perfect calm dark as far
as there was sight, and then a light
and another riding low out ahead
to bring us home, ore boats maybe, or smokers
walking alone. Back panting
to the gray coarse beach we didn't dare
fall on, the damp piles of clothes,
and dressing side by side in silence
to go back where we came from.
Here's Levine's page from the Academy of American Poets and a poem from the November 2008 Poetry:

Our Valley

We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I'm nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you're thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn't your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

Philip Levine



Photo by Loney Sebastion at Warner Bros. accompanied A. O. Scott's NYT review of Appaloosa, directed (and written in part) by Ed Harris.

Based on Robert Parker's 2005 novel of the same name, this film is at it's heart a sly (offscreen) sex farce with the real love between Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) and Virgil Cole (Ed Harris.) Also starring Jeremy Irons as the villian Bragg and Rene Zellweger as the Widow French.
Peter Travers's review and Roger Ebert's are worth reading.


Was Terry Gross Playing Gotcha with William Ayers

Lest anyone doubt the Williams Ayers has a respected place in the field of education despite the right's reckoning him an "unrepentent terrorist," this photo is from his 2006 keynoting of staid Roanoke College's Covenhaven Insitute for teachers.

Dave Winer has a thoughtful piece at his site on Terry Gross. He writes,
In the end she asked Ayers if he wanted to apologize for what he did, if he would be willing to take the "unrepentent" part off the label "unrepentent terrorist," and he refused, and I'm glad he did.

These are complicated issues, and to deal with it in a balanced way would require probably a few books, written from different perspectives. We don't today have a balanced view of the struggle in the US over Vietnam. Not when one person is singled out this way, when so many others are responsible for so much more death and destruction.

Since the Ayers interview she's returned to her original style....But I can't help but wonder if each of these people has something to answer for too, and she's not asking about any of that.

I definitely sympathize with Ayers, I probably wouldn't have minded if she probed John McCain this way about his involvement in Vietnam. I'm sure he killed a lot more people than Ayers did. And that led me to the other, larger reason I'm unhappy with the interview -- she might not want someday to have someone say she "palled around" with an unrepentent terrorist who attacked his own country. In other words, she may be using us to protect herself. If that's the reason she drove Ayers so hard, I would much rather she had skipped the interview altogether.

.... Either she adopts the gotcha style and goes after everyone, from clowns to reporters, and I'll tune out for the same reasons I don't listen to other reporters who use that style; or she stays with the softball style I like, but I'll never be able to stop thinking of her as a hypocrite for being so gutless with Ayers.
Unlike Winer, I've tripped over Gross's clay feet before. Although it was a fluff, do you remember Gene Simmons? (Audio from Erim Foster.) Or in the political realm, Bill O'Reilly?


Lannan Literary Awards

Photograph of poet Mark Doty from the LA Times whi won the National book award for Fire to Fire, his new and selected poems from Harper Collins (2008.)

Mountain Advocates Meet in Charleston, WV

Representatives from twenty-five groups from Appalachia and beyond met south of Charleston, WV to discuss how to garner national support to end mountaintop removal.

Below are the contacts who attended the meeting:

  1. 1 Sky Liz Butler --Field and Outreach Director liz@1Sky.org 301-270-4550x 226
  2. 350.org Phil Aroneanu -- Co-coordinator x , phil@350.org
  3. Alliance for Climate Protection Maisha Everhart-- Partnerships Manager Office: 650.543.7351Maisha.Everhart@ClimateProtect.org
  4. Appalachian Voices, 828 262 1500 Sandra Diaz, Outreach Coordinator, Sandra@appvoices.org, Lenny Kohm, lenny@appvoices.org
  5. Black Mesa Water Coalition Enei Begaye Executive Director eneibegaye@mac.com, (928) 213-5909
  6. Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) Ted Glick-- Policy Director indpol@igc.org 240-396-2155/ 973-460-1458
  7. Citizen's Coal Council (CCC) Aimee Erickson 724-222-5602 ccc@citizenscoalcouncil.org
  8. CLEAN Carrie Traud-- Southern Coordinator carrie@theCLEAN.org 859-801-2871
  9. Coal River Mountain Watch Matt Noerpel-- Environmental Specialist matt@crmw.net Vernon Haltom, co-Director, Vernon@crmw.net 304 854-2182
  10. Dakota Resource Council Mark Trechok, Staff Director 701-483-2851 mark@drcinfo.com
  11. Energy Action Coalition-- Madeline Gardner, madeline@energyaction.net (612) 807-0981
  12. GreenPeace Matt Leonard, Actions Campaigner 619-246-0325 matt.leonard@greenpeace.org
  13. Heartwood Andy Mahler – Network Coordinator www.heartwood.org andy@blueriver.net 812.723.2430
  14. Indigenous Environmental Network Jihan Gearon Native Energy Organizer (928) 214-8301 ienenergy@igc.org
  15. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) www.kftc.org Burt Lauderdale—burt@kftc.org, 606 878 2161, Kevin Pentz-- Organizer kevin@kftc.org 606-335-0764 Teri Blanton teri@kftc.org, 859 986 1277
  16. Middlebury VT Sierra Murdoch sierra.murdoch@gmail.com 518.817.3222 Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
  17. Mountain Justice Eric Blevins ericblev@hotmail.com,
  18. Blue Ridge Earth First! Kim Kirkbride kkirkbride17@gmail.com 571 262 1843
  19. Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition(OHVEC) vivian@ohvec.org 304-360-1979 janet.ovec@gmail.com
  20. Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Scott Parkin -- Grassroots campaign sparkin@ran.org 415-235-0596
  21. Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) Kathy Selvage 276-565-1083 samsva@gmail.comx
  22. Sierra Club Environmental Justice organizers Bill Price--Bill.Price@sierraclub.org
  23. Southern Energy Network Liz Veazey-Executive Director – liz@climateaction.net 865.637.6055 x17
  24. Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) Ann League-Vice President Alex Moir alex@socm.org 865.426.9455 XT 16
  25. SouthWings Meredith Dowling , Operations Assistant meredith@southwings.org Office: 828-225-5949


Waxman lands Chairmanship

Cartoon by Dr. Zaius at his June 27, 2006 blog post.

"Dingell’s Defeat Part of a Pattern of Growing California Clout" by CQ's Jonathan Allen, provides an interesting background on the shift of power to Henry Waxman. See memorandum.

New story recommendation of the day:
Five detainees ordered released "forthwith" after seven years at Guantanamo (Glenn Greenwald)

Site recommendations of the day:

What I did today in addition to blogging:

thankspotgivingluck (week before Thanksgiving potluck at Jason and Kim's.) The instructions:

please come over Thursday night at 7PM with a smile and your favorite thanksgiving dish. we'd like to request no turkeys though, unless they are alive and don't mind the company of cats.
I made an apple/cranberry/peach compote. There were several apple pies, an onion tart, several sweet potato dishes, mashed potatoes, stuffed squash, chili, a kidney bean stir fry, several homemade breads, Liam's almond ice cream and more. Yum. There was another light dusting of snow as I left, but no accumulation.

Who is reading my blog today:


Edward Sorel's illustration for "President Tom’s Cabin: Jefferson, Hemings, and a disclaimed lineage," Jill Lepore's review of Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008) a biography of three generations of a slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Gordon-Reed, , won the National Book Award for nonfiction this evening for her book. A professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University, she is alos the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.

Cover art for Gordon-Reed's book.

Update: Read UMD Law school prof Sherrilyn Ifill's (yes, Gwen's cousin) comments on the book from November 21 here.


Holder looks to support civil liberties

Photo of Eric Holder Jr., Obama's choice for AG and an assistant AG under Clinton, web page of the Homeland Security Institute.

No matter your critique, Holder looks like a refreshing change from Mukasey and Gonzalez before him. While Gonzalez was lining up taxpayer underwriting for his defense in the AG firing trial, Holder has been addressing (video) the The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) National Convention attendees Friday evening, saying the US must reverse “the disastrous course” set by the Bush administration and
  • close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay
  • declare without qualification that the U.S. does not torture people
  • end extaordinary renditions and
  • stop warrantless domestic surveillance.

He said,
Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘War on Terror' have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe...For the sake of our safety and security, and because it is the right thing to do, the next president must move immediately to reclaim America's standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights.

ACS, founded in 2001, defines itself as

a network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. Our mission is to ensure that fundamental principles of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice enjoy their rightful, central place in American law.



Photo by Damon Winter accompanied Carl Hulse's September 9, 2008 NYT story, "Democrats Give Lieberman Cool Reception as Senate Returns."

In German, "Lieber means "dear" or as they say in French, "cher" or in Italian "caro" or in Spanish "querido." One wondered which Democrat could call this man "lieber" after he displaced the duly nominated candidate from his former party with the help of Republicans, told a talk radio host that Obama was far to the left of the country and then then spoke against Obama at this summer's Repub convention, saying

eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times


In the Senate, he has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party.

And there's more here.

So, will he lose his Chairmanship? I predict no. No matter that Leahy told Vermont Public radio he should be kicked to the curb

I’m one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did. … I felt that some of the attacks that he was involved in against Sen. Obama, whom I did support — I was one of the first in the Congress to support him — I thought they went way beyond the pale. I thought that they were not fair. I thought they were not legitimate. I thought that they perpetuated some of these horrible myths that were being run about Sen. Obama.

I would feel that, had I done something similar, I would not be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress.
No matter that Dorgan told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that

As a chairman of one of our significant committees in the Senate, not just going off and supporting a presidential candidate of the other side but also criticizing the candidate on our side, and also involving himself in a couple of senate races on the other side. The question is, is that acceptable? The answer is no.

The Dems have shown there invertebrate tendencies and now there's the implication that Obama has signaled his support.

Update: November 18, 2008 1:58 PM Jim Oliphant in The Swamp, writes,

Move over James Bond. There's a new indestructible action hero: Joe Lieberman.


Bread and Spread

Photograph by Pete Ryan (email) of his Deli-style rye bread, from a recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books (2007, ISBN 978-0312362911)

Jason, Sally and I shared three loaves of bread and took samples home. Jason and Sally had both made a rye bread (Jason made Pete's) and I made a wheat-oat molasses loaf. Toppings included butter and a garlic spread.

BTW, Hertzberg and François have a site with recipes and tips. They held a contest on how one came to bake bread and my entry is here. The prize is a copy of the book. Hope I win.


Toss the Possum

Photo from Amanda's post on the Possums from her Virgin Island blog. Like the Zisettes, she's a member of the LDS church. She says that Jane told her that Greensboro contra dancing was

square dancing with lots of twirls and smelly mountain hippie people.

Tonight the Possums will be at the CEC in Blacksburg. That's
  • Robbie Zisette on fiddle
  • Janse Zisette on flute and whistle
  • Chas Zisette on bass
  • mom Laura Zisette on piano
  • dad Charlie doing sound and dancing (with me, hopefully on his card.)

They play a hot combination of southern tunes, old time, Celtic, jazz and folk. According to the Birthplace of Country music, where they played in May,
The name Toss the Possum was inspired by a possum who found itself trapped under a spare dresser drawer in the family’s garage. Chas, upon seeing the upside down drawer moving mysteriously of its own volition around the garage floor, yelled for everyone to come and see.

Here's what was written about the background of the band members:

Rob Zisette, age 15, is the fiddler for Toss the Possum. After playing violin for a year and a half, he entered the fiddle contest sponsored by the Festival of the American West at age 10. He won first prize and has been fiddling ever since. Rob also likes to compose and is a percussionist in the Radford High School Band. Occasionally he’ll pick up the drumsticks at a dance. Chas, age 17, taught himself to play bass as soon as he realized the family band was forming without him. Sometimes he plays his sax with the band. Chas’ claim to fame is that he can play ‘Ode to Joy’ on 16 different instruments. Jane, age 19, began playing flute when she was 12. Soon after, she heard Joannie Madsen play her whistles with Cherish the Ladies and decided to add the Irish whistle to her repertoire. Jane plays on Patrick Riordan whistles. Jane also sings with the band. She has been accepted as a flute performance major at BYU Idaho. Laura (mom) taught Piano at Utah State University until she moved to Virginia. In Utah she played with Barnstorm and Leaping Lulu. Now she’s hanging on for the ride with Toss the Possum. Charlie, (dad) of course, is the most important member of the band. Not only has he picked up sound engineering and springs for food after the gigs, but the kids have dubbed him the ‘instrument Sherpa".

Hm-m-m. Smelly mountain hippie people? Wonder if that includes us?


Good Vibrations

Cover to the Beach Boys 1966 Capitol Records single, "Good Vibrations." (lyrics)

Good good good good vibrations
(oom bop bop)
Shes giving me excitations
(oom bop bop excitations)
Good good good good vibrations
(oom bop bop)
Shes giving me excitations
(oom bop bop excitations)
Joyful music and reduce stress, according to Science Friday, which opened today with strains from the Beach Boys hit (or by a trick of memory was it something else and I've just substituted?) Guests included Michael Miller,Director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

As I emailed Jill Card from the C'ville, "

we contra dancers should be most able to deal with stress--seeing as we're also getting cardio exercise as we listen. (Especially if we eat dark chocolate during the breaks.)
See also:

New story recommendation of the day

Site recommendation of the day


What I did today in addition to blogging

Volunteered over at NewsTrust. Sigh. This last because I wonder if they will hire me again if I'm working so much for free. NewsTrust and 34 sites are contending for the We Media Game Changers awards.

Who is reading my blog today

Among others, someone from Prince Georges County, MD, wanted to know about Bush's last minute regulations. And although the election was over 10 days ago, someone in Södertälje, Sweden(! native city of Bjorn Borg and journalist Jan Guillou) wants to know where the losing candidate, John McCain, stands on issues of war and peace. And someone from LA found my blog from a google image search that yielded Mark Fiori's terrific cartoon on the unitary executive.


Apollo Alliance on Obama and energy

Logo for the Apollo Alliance's monthly conference call series, which is only open to those who will ante up a thou. The next 45 minute conference call will take place December 8 with Jay Inslee (D-WA) at 11:00 a.m. PST, 2:00 p.m. EST on the $700 billion rescue plan which includes renewables and energy efficiency. Taking part in the national conversation doesn't come cheap.

The Alliance is a
coalition of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working to catalyze a clean energy revolution in America to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, cut the carbon emissions that are destabilizing our climate, and expand opportunities for American businesses and workers.
But if you don't have that kind of spare change, you can still check out two posts on suggestions from 100 members on what Obama should do first about energy. Both are by Keith Schneider, Communications Director (email) for the Alliance.


Congressional Review Act could reverse Bush's lame duck deregulation

It looks like I scooped MSNbc's Rachel Madow by months with" New FBI Guidelines: More COINTELPRO?"Although many of Bush's new regulations have to do with energy and the environment, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted (video) on Tuesday that there's also
one that'll kick opponents of the Patriot Act right in the teeth....would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to collect intelligence on individuals and organizations even if the information is unrelated to any criminal matter...Even if they weren't already watching you -- they soon could be.

According to Al Giordano, Obama-Biden Transition Co-Chair John Podesta told a "pad and pen only" press conference call that
Every Executive Order by Bush is Under Review: Those that Obama promised during the campaign to rescind, will be eliminated immediately.
I'm not sure exactly what the promised list included and Giordano doesn't seem to have asked. After all, after making promises to the contrary, our president-elect voted for retroactive telecom immunity.

Interestly, in "Dems eye midnight regulations reversal" by Erika Lovely and Ryan Grim (update by Grim) reports that the Bush administration plan to require that Obama take years to undo climate rules finalized more than 60 days before January 20 failed to take into account the Congressional Review Act of 1996:
Any regulation finalized within 60 legislative days of congressional adjournment is considered to have been legally finalized on the 15th legislative day of the new Congress, likely sometime in February. Congress then has 60 days to review it and reverse it with a joint resolution that can’t be filibustered in the Senate.
In other words, any regulation finalized in the last half-year of the Bush administration could be wiped out with a simple party-line vote in the Democrat-controlled Congress.
An unnamed senior aide on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), acknowledged to Politico that her committee is considering the option. Eben Burnham-Snyder, spokesman for House Global Warming Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), went on record:
On egregious rule-makings that would have a detrimental effect on energy and environmental policy, [the CRA] speeds up the process for rescinding the bad rule...It’s something Markey is seriously looking into.
According Politico, Congress last used the CRA in 2001 to overturn a Clinton administration rule that set new requirements for ergonomic work spaces. CRA targets may include:
  • a rule to allow federal agencies to determine on their own whether their policies will threaten endangered species, rather than requiring them to go through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval
  • regulations opening land in the West to oil shale development

and best of all,
  • elimination of the stream barrier rule that eases mountaintop removal
In case you're wondering where to find the law, it passed as part of H.R.3136, the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 passed on March 28, 1996. This act amended Title 5, United States Code, by adding an eighth chapter, "Congressional Review of Agency Rulemaking." Here's the explanation of the bill from the Congressional record of April 16, 1996 from Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), and former Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Don Nickles (R-OK)
In the 104th Congress, four slightly different versions of this legislation passed
the Senate and two different versions passed the House. Yet, no formal legislative history document was prepared to explain the legislation or the reasons for changes in the final language negotiated between the House and
Senate. This joint statement of the authors on the congressional review subtitle is intended to cure this deficiency....

As more and more of Congress’ legislative functions have been delegated to federal regulatory agencies, many have complained that Congress has effectively abdicated its constitutional
role as the national legislature in allowing federal agencies so much latitude in implementing and interpreting congressional enactments. In many cases, this criticism is well founded.
Readers of this blog know about Stevens. Nickles retired in 2005 and now runs a pr firm, The Nickles Group.)

Want more information. Read Disapproval of Regulations by Congress: Procedure Under the Congressional Review Act issued October 10, 2001 by Richard S. Beth, Specialist in the Legislative Process for the Government and Finance Division of the Congressional Research Service. See also the CRS Congressional Oversight Manual Updated May 1, 2007.

In other interesting news, see the AP story: "Obama team expected to broker subpoena deal: President-elect seen as getting at least some information from Bush aides."

UPDATE: November 24, the CRS issued a new report, Midnight Rulemaking: Considerations for Congress and a New Administration by Curtis W. Copeland, Specialist in American National Government of the Government and Finance Division.


Drezner: Public Intellectuals 2.0

Photo of Dan Drezner from the BBC.

Daniel W. Drezner (web site, email) associate professor of International Politics at Tufts University, has an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the effect of the internet on intellectuals in public life, positing that

...critics fail to recognize how the growth of blogs and other forms of online writing has partially reversed a trend that many cultural critics have decried — what Russell Jacoby called the "professionalization and academization" of public intellectuals. In fact, the growth of the blogosphere breaks down — or at least erodes — the barriers erected by a professionalized academy.

In checking his blog, he actually gave this as a paper back in May and has some dialogue there with those who interacted with him at the time. His blog makes interesting reading. I'll be adding him to my list.


Thank you Doctor Dean

Photo by Flickr's "Zanti Misfit" of Dean on campus in NH on October 13.

The WaPo's Chris Cillizza reports in "Dean to Step Down as DNC Chair,"
Grassroots -- and netroots -- activists, who propelled Dean's presidential bid and then helped get him elected as chair of the party in early 2004, love the former Vermont governor and credit his chairmanship of the DNC with the rebirth of the Democrats as a national party. (Dean's pioneering accomplishment during his four years in office is the 50-state strategy, a plan that put Democratic staff and organizations on the ground in every state...

This is breaking news on a reporter's blog and as such demands a further story in greater depth. See Memorandum's record of other coverage.

What I like, though, is that Cillizza credits the reporter at a new media source, The HuffPo, with breaking the story and provides links to other sources on background, such as the 50 state strategy, the strategic disagreements between Dean and Rahm Emanual, Bill Clinton's eventual acceptance of Dean's stategy, etc. I would have liked a bit on what's happening on the Republican side, and have thus linked to the Atlantic piece which covers both parties, but without much depth. I also have a link below to the Huff Po piece which broke the story, but is too unsupported in its speculations to win my recommendation and reads somewhat like a tribute to Governor Dean, rather than straight news. I also linked to the WaPo's earlier story on the Emanuel-Dean rift and to a Nat'l Journal piece on Clinton's support. The horse race stuff for Dean's replacement is too brief to be of much value, as more than a list, and I'm wondering why David Plouffe is not even there among those considered. There's no mention in this story of other possible roles for Dean in the party. Maybe that will come later. Curiously, only Fox news cites a source for an interview on Dean's resignation, DNC Secretary Alice Germond.

Dean has been willing to stand up to the party insiders. Obama would be well served to appoint someone who will continue to do likewise. The contest for his position, of course, was made possible by the fact that the Dems lost the 2004 presidential race. With a win, it will be interesting to see who Obama recommends for this position. If the Dems were taking advice from an independent, I'd recommend someone not eligible to run as a governor and not already in Congress/with a good shot to win a position. By the way, for those to whom Alice Germond's last name seems familiar, here's a piece of journalism history: her husband Jack is a retired political reporter for the defunct-since-1981 Washington Evening Star, at one time, the WaPo's competitor. Haynes Johnson, who won a Pulitzer for his reporting on the civil rights movement there, is now a journo prof at U of MD. )


Republican Meltdown?

Cartoon from 11/07 by Mike Keefe, The Denver Post (web site, email)

In "Party Building," News For Real's Steve Pizzo writes,
We should all be well versed by now on the does and don’t of nation building. You help the moderates in the country, even if you don’t like them, in order to empower them and isolate the radical elements. Easily said. Hard to do. Democrats are now faced with the need for some serious party-building – isolating the radicals in the party by embracing the more levelheaded moderates in the party.
He's talking about reacing out to Republicans. Some at NewsTrust read this as advice the R's and found fault with the taxonomy errors.

I, on the other hand, took it as advice to the D's and while the family tree may be mislabeled, I think Pizzo makes a valid point that more and more of the moderating forces in the Republican party have been thrown out by voters and this will make it harder for Democrats. ( To this, I would add that many have retired voluntarily--while Lincoln Chaffee was voted out, Tom Davis and John Warner of VA retired.)

James Joyner points to a George Will column (both linked below)

After the 1936 election, when the Republican nominee against FDR, Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, carried only two states, both in New England (hence the jest, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont”), there were 29 congressional seats in New England and Republicans still held 15. With Tuesday’s defeat of Connecticut Republican Chris Shays, Democrats hold all 22 New England seats. As recently as 1996, when New York had 31 House seats, Republicans held 14; after Tuesday, they have just three of 29. With the loss of the seat on Staten Island, Republicans will hold at most one urban seat.
Both Joyner and Will are conservative Republicans and thus qualified to offer advice to their party, except according to the judgment of those who want to exile anyone who expressed doubt about McCain/Palin--see Douthat in The Atlantic). That meltdown makes me
wonder what happened to Reagan's Eleventh Commandment:

Thou shall speak no evil of a fellow Republican?
It harkens back to the time here in Virginia when I observed whippersnappers being rude to mountain Valley Republican and former cabinent member Rod Layman for refusing to support Ollie North.

And of course, even some New England R's think they need an even firmer message. See Peyser.

  • Palin Last Nail in Republican Coffin? Outside the Beltway - by James Joyner - Nov. 6, 2008
  • What Would Goldwater Do? Washington Post - by George Will -Nov. 5, 2008
  • Why The Grassroots Needs Elites - Ross Douthat Atlantic Monthly - Nov. 10, 2008
  • Republicans rebrandedBoston Globe - by James Peyser - Nov. 9, 2008
  • 11/8/08

    The Recount in MN

    Cartoon by Steve Sack (email), The Minneapolis Star Tribune. Hat tip to Blatherwatch.

    Franken or Coleman for the Senator from MN? We still don't know and won't for some time. The race ended November 4 in a virtual tie:

    • Republican NORM COLEMAN--1,211,590 (41.99%)
    • Democratic-Farmer-Labor AL FRANKEN--1,211,375 (41.98)

    Substantial votes went to Indpendent Dean Barkley (437,404--15.16%) who served as temporary appointment to fill Wellstone's seat after his death. It was a crowded field with other contenders failing to gain much support:

    • Libertarian CHARLES ALDRICH 13916 0.48
    • Constitution JAMES NIEMACKL 8905 0.31
    • Write-Ins 2340 0.08

    The WaPo's Mary Pat Flaherty reports in "Minn. Senate Race Far From Over: Incumbent Coleman Is Just 239 Votes Ahead of Al Franken" on November 8:

    The recount in that election will not be completed until mid-December, and even then, a candidate or voter can challenge the outcome, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. Sen. Norm Coleman (R) held a 239-vote lead over Democrat Al Franken as of late yesterday. That margin of less than 0.5 percentage points triggers an automatic recount under Minnesota law.

    Ritchie said he would hope to finish the recount by Dec. 19. But that process cannot begin until the election results are certified Tuesday.

    Franken said on Minnesota Public Radio that he will not waive the recount.
    This is the closest race in Minnesota history, the closest Senate race and the closest race anywhere in the country. This is just part of the process to make sure every vote is counted," he said, adding: "Candidates don't get to decide when an election's over -- voters do.

    Minnesota voters use paper ballots. They will be reviewed first at the local level, with an elections official and an observer for each candidate on hand, if the candidate chooses. Any ballot challenged by an observer will be sealed and sent to the state canvassing board consisting of two state Supreme Court justices, two district court judges and chaired by the secretary of state. The board certifies the general-election results some time after Decenber 16.

    According to MN Public Radio, Coleman is already in court challenging the canvassing.

    To keep up with the recount, I recommend Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com.

    Things are up in the air in two additional races. Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss will have a run-off against Democrat Jim Martin, since Chambliss fell a bit shy the 50 percent he needed to win election in Georgia. We also are waiting to find out the results of the Alaska race between incumbent Ted Stevens (R), against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D). Stevens ran despite his felony conviction last month for his failure to report gifts.

    And BTW, Silver had an interesting post November 5, What In The Hell Happened in Alaska? about the oddly shrinking electorate there.