Progressive Politics, Indian Issues, and Autism Advocacy

Friday, February 28  

Is it Flashback Friday already?


John E. Yang, Washington Post Staff Writer
February 28, 1991

The Bush administration may have overstated cost estimates for the Persian Gulf War in its $15 billion supplemental spending request, Congressional Budget Office Director Robert D. Reischauer said yesterday. In documents supporting the request, the administration projected that the monthly price tag of U.S. operations in the region -- not including combat -- would be the same as for the most intense fighting in Vietnam, when measured in inflation-adjusted dollars, Reischauer told the House...

Published on February 28, 1991
Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe Staff

The country I walk through these last days of war is fully outfitted in its civilian uniform. Yellow ribbons hang like badges of belonging on everything from trees to storm doors to lapels. American flags line streets and mark homes as if on permanent dress parade.

Ambivalence has gone underground for the duration, and we are expected to respond with the unanimity of a trained troop. Those who doubt, those who cannot join the regimental cheering, have felt the chill wind of exclusion, a...


Kenneth J. Cooper, Washington Post Staff Writer
February 28, 1991

Last December, Michael L. Williams went from being an obscure official in the Education Department to a controversial national figure, thanks to a two-page letter that he signed as assistant secretary for civil rights. Suddenly, he became the black man who declared that college scholarships reserved for minority students violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This rare foray into policy-making by an assistant secretary brought unusual prominence to Williams, whose name was invoked among White House...

February 28, 1991
Diane E. Lewis, Boston Globe Staff

Employment figures released yesterday show that New England last year lost roughly a quarter of a million jobs -- the region's greatest drop since at least 1947.

In Massachusetts, the numbers were just as stunning: The state lost 125,700 jobs, or 4.1 percent. It was its greatest job loss for a single year, in both absolute and percentage terms, since state record-keeping began in the 1930s, according to the Department of Employment and Training...

February 28, 1991.
Associated Press

The US economy, lacking consumer appetite, shrank at an annual rate of 2 percent in the final quarter of 1990, the government said in a new -- and slightly upgraded -- post-mortem on the start of the first recession in eight years. The Commerce Department revised upward a notch its initial estimate of the gross national product from October through December. It reported last month that the GNP -- the nation's total output of goods and services and its broadest measure of economic health...

Boston Globe
February 28, 1991

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said yesterday he will try to stop a Bush administration plan to take $23.7 million away from community health centers to fund a new infant mortality program.

In a "dear colleague" letter sent to other lawmakers yesterday, Kennedy said if the administration proceeds with its plan, he will file an amendment to the appropriations bill to restore the funding to health centers.

Funds to combat infant mortality are urgently needed, Kennedy wrote, but they...

Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post Staff Writer
February 28, 1991

The Bush administration wants to abolish the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and assign its duties to the Energy Department.Vice President Quayle, head of the President's Council on Competitiveness, said in a White House statement to be released today that the move would "streamline regulation of natural gas and electricity generation. In particular, it will make it easier to develop natural gas as an important alternative to imported oil.

February 28, 1991
Boston Globe Staff

Boston-area civil rights and civil liberties organizations yesterday announced formation of the Emergency Civil Rights Coalition in response to a rise in discrimination against Arab-Americans triggered by the war. The coalition will attempt to monitor reported harassment of Arabs and Arab- Americans by agencies such as the FBI and the...

Washington Post
Hobart Rowen
February 28, 1991

George Bush successfully shucked the "wimp" tag by aggressively going after Saddam Hussein. But Bush chickened out when presented with a golden opportunity to get the nation started on a meaningful energy policy. The philosphical underpinning of Bush's energy plan is all wrong. Speaker Tom Foley put it neatly: "It's much too much production and not nearly enough conservation." Having made that mistake, it's not surprising that Bush accepts the inevitability...

Chicago Tribune, Rob Karwath
Feb 28, 1991

Eleven percent of Illinoisans received some form of financial assistance from the state last month, and the number of welfare recipients was the largest since the Great Depression, officials said Wednesday.

The figures, included in a monthly report from the state Department of Public Aid, also show that the number of Illinois residents receiving welfare aid increased 12.7 percent in the last year...

February 28, 1991
Associated Press

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Burning oilfields in Kuwait and Iraq spewed out dense, black clouds yesterday, blocking the sun over hundreds of miles of desert and dumping a greasy toxic rain on civilians, water supplies and crops.

Experts with oil firefighting firms in the United States have said it could take more than a year to extinguish all the fires. A report last month by the British Meteorological Office said fires burning that long would produce hundreds of thousands of tons of sulfur and...

Dan Balz, Washington Post Staff Writer
February 28, 1991

President Bush took a brief respite from Persian Gulf matters yesterday to promote a postwar domestic policy agenda with a pre-war flavor. Bush said his proposals emphasize "opportunity and choice," but he left the fine print -- and a likely controversy over civil rights legislation -- for later. Bush's speech yesterday morning contained no new proposals. But the attempt to package them under the banner of opportunity and choice cheered some conservatives who have fastened onto...

Chicago Tribune, Timothy J. McNulty and George de Lama
Feb 28, 1991

The Bush administration Wednesday stepped up its postwar planning for the Middle East, drafting a blueprint to prevent Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or any successor from ever threatening the Persian Gulf region again.

President Bush's announcement that Secretary of State James A. Baker III would travel to the Middle East next week signaled the start of an intensified U.S. effort to reshape the region...

And just to prove BushPere stroked the economic propaganda machine as well...

Chicago Tribune
Feb 28, 1991

The economy's slide into a mild recession in the fourth quarter was cushioned by big trade gains and lean inventories, according to government figures released Wednesday, indicating that the economic downturn may prove short-lived.

The fresh figures in the revised gross national product report led the Commerce Department to estimate a 2 percent annual rate of decline in the fourth quarter, down from the...

Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel...

posted by MB | link | 7:56 AM |

Thursday, February 27  

Dear Holy Father...Hope you don't mind if I forgo the Friday fish...

I am the first to admit cultural ignorance when it comes to fundamentalist Christianity. Like most Wabenaki Confederacy tribes, my family was overtly Catholic, a relic of early missionization by French Jesuits. Of course, the catechism of the "man-boy-bird" religion was also greatly "improved" by our own traditional values and beliefs. But the two sides seemed happy to accommodate the other's "quirks", and the marriage for us, like many other indigenous Catholicized peoples, has been a generally successful one.

While I don't agree with Rome's position on a number of feminist issues, I try not to confuse that stance with the Church's stance on human rights, including what it sees as life before birth. I don't happen to buy its view, but I believe it to be consistent. I also see various other positions the Church as taken since Vatican II which attempt to place the bettering of the human condition, not just the soul, as the crux of the Church's mission. Thus, the often progressive stands the Church takes regarding politics, education and the environment. And it was this Church in which my own mother (my non-Indian father was non-evangelical Protestant) raised me.

Thus, I don't comprehend the rationale behind fundamentalist Christian organizations promoting policies which may harm their own children as well as mine and every other on Earth. Case and point, here are excerpts from a recent article in Crosswalk:

Mercury Health Threat Called 'Politically Motivated Junk Science'
Marc Morano
Senior Staff Writer

Washington (CNSNews.com) - A coalition of environmental and public health groups Tuesday demanded that the Bush administration tighten regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The demand follows a draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency warning that mercury emissions from industry are becoming a danger to children's health. However, the author of a book debunking many environmental and public health worries called the mercury health threat "alarmism" and "politically motivated junk science."

Steven Milloy, editor of a website devoted to battling "junk science" and author of several books including Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams, said there is no scientific evidence to back up any health threat claims concerning mercury levels in the U.S.

"No one should be concerned about mercury. Typical exposures are not a problem. There is absolutely no data that shows mercury is a public health threat," Milloy told CNSNews.com....

But environmental activists, led by former Clinton administration EPA Administrator Carol Browner, held a press conference in Washington Tuesday demanding that the Bush administration strengthen mercury emission regulations on the coal-fired industry.

"Mercury is a serious problem, particularly with respect to the health of our children," Browner said at the press conference sponsored by the public health group Clean Air Trust.

The draft report from the current EPA, called "America's Children and the Environment," indicates there is growing evidence that mercury levels are reaching unsafe levels in the blood of women of childbearing age...

Milloy believes "eco-activist staffers" at the current EPA, which is administered by Republican Christine Whitman, are trying "to force back-breaking regulations on coal-fired electric power plants."

Mercury is naturally occurring in the environment, Milloy said. He challenged the EPA and the activists to show any proof of the danger.

"Show me the person in the U.S. who has gotten sick from eating fish because of mercury. Where are the bodies? Where are the illnesses?" Milloy asked.

Milloy also believes Bush's Clear Skies Initiative is adequate to deal with mercury emissions in the U.S...

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC), said targeting power plant emissions was not going to have a significant impact on mercury levels in the environment. The ERCC is a coalition of electric utilities and public power companies.

"Mercury is a widely occurring natural element, coming from sources as diverse as volcanoes and minerals," Segal said.

"Power plant emissions represent only a tiny fraction of manmade mercury emissions, and the amount has declined over the last several decades," he added.

When I first noticed the article while Googling the Children's Health Report yesterday, I saw it was picked up by other "Christian" news organizations. So what's the deal here? I recall a recent ad campaign entitled "What would Jesus drive?" Will these same groups start asking, "What kind of fish would Jesus eat?"

posted by MB | link | 12:13 PM |

Priorities? What priorities?

Last week, Mr. Bush finally 'fessed up, and threw out a "ballpark" figure for his proposed war on Iraq:

Ousting Saddam Hussein could cost the United States $40 billion or much more if the war drags on, analysts say. And the aftermath could be even more expensive, with the price tag for rebuilding and securing Iraq potentially exceeding $100 billion.

For an analysis as to why this number is absurdly low, and what's left out of the equation, Kos shares his excellent insight.

But let's concede the $100 billion number. This week at the National Governors Association meetings, they also focused on money - the lack of it in state coffers, that is:

Most states are entering their third year of increasingly dire deficits. And the combined $30 billion deficits for fiscal 2003 are projected to hit a combined $80 billion next year, according to the NGA.

So this Administration is willing to spend $100 billion on a war, including bribes for a dozen countries, but cannot spare a dime of that for the states.

I just returned from the pediatrician's office. A wonderful doctor, but previously rather apolitical. She's not anymore, and can you guess the target of her newfound wrath? Thank you, Mr. Bush, for a new Democratic convert.

posted by MB | link | 10:38 AM |

Wednesday, February 26  

A leak-leak here, and a leak-leak there...

Alert the palace! The peasants are revolting!

Well, maybe not the peasants. But a couple of scientists over at the Environmental Protection Agency seem to be.

The agency, it appears, has developed a severe case of leaky tip syndrome. Information the Administration has done its damndest to delay, alter and perhaps even suppress in toto, has suddenly fallen into enemy hands. No, not Saddam or Al Qaeda's. Worse, from the Administration's point of view. Into California Senator Barbara Boxer's. And she's not happy with what she's learned.

Boxer Blasts Bush Administration For Withholding Report Detailing Environmental Risks To Children's Health.
February 25, 2003

Washington, DC: U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today expressed her outrage that the Bush Administration took so long to release a report on children's environmental health and called for swift action to protect children from environmental pollution. "I believe the only reason we are seeing this report today is that the report was leaked to a newspaper last week," said Senator Boxer. Published reports indicate that EPA was in the final stages of reviewing the study last June, but it was not released until today.

Actually, the story was leaked to two newspapers, the New York Times, and that bastion of leftist sympathy, the Wall Street Journal, which opened its piece,

Mercury Threat to Kids Rising, Unreleased EPA Report Warns

WASHINGTON -- A report warning that emissions of mercury by coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources poses an increasing health danger to young children has been delayed for nine months, while the Bush administration struggles with how to handle an increasingly contentious environmental problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency report is to be released soon, officials said, after being subjected to an unusual level of scrutiny by a half-dozen other federal agencies -- including the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. But it isn't likely to settle the mercury question. Among pollutants the report studied, mercury is the only one for which levels aren't dropping.

The Times reporting, while generally more obsequious favorable to the Administration, did allow a curious tidbit to be slipped in by its unnamed EPA sources; the report, they stated, "does not have any policy, regulation or financing recommendations."

Typically, you don't hear government agencies announce that their reports are somewhat without teeth. But cut back to Senator Boxer for a moment. Yesterday's press release were not the first words on the subject from the Senator. Back in October, she requested EPA release the report, but was told it was tied up elsewhere. Boxer reproached the Administration in a press release,

"OMB requested the document from EPA in June even though it contains no policy, regulatory, or spending recommendations, and it has yet to be released."

Sound familiar? According to its mission statement,

OMB's predominant mission is to assist the President in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and to supervise its administration in Executive Branch agencies. In helping to formulate the President's spending plans, OMB evaluates the effectiveness of agency programs, policies, and procedures, assesses competing funding demands among agencies, and sets funding priorities.

Sounds like OMB oversight is policy and funding. Which both Senator Boxer and the NYTimes' EPA source claimed were not covered by the Children's Health Report.

Senator Boxer asked that the report be made available to the public by November 15th. It never was. In letters to OMB Director Mitch Daniels and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Boxer expressed further concern, "I question whether it is appropriate for a scientific document on children's health to be singled out by OMB for review by non-scientists. If the review results in major changes to the scientific findings, it will set a dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on legitimate scientific inquiries and policy analyses not just at EPA, but across all federal agencies."

EPA, playing the Administration's lapdog, continued to sit on the report for a total nine months. Then, last week, "sources" started leaking info. But it wasn't to just the media and politicians.

An autism advocacy group, SafeMinds, claims insider information regarding the release of the report. But they assert additional foul-play; "sources" claim the report released yesterday by the EPA is actually a revised second draft.

And while the Wall Street Journal implied that the Administration's questionable actions emanated from a desire to protect the utilities industry from criticism while Congress considered new changes to the Clean Air Act and its own Clear Skies initiatives, SafeMinds also saw former Eli Lilly executive Mitch Daniels' motives in play. In a press release published in the Boston Globe yesterday, SafeMinds openly questioned the Administration regarding data their "sources" say was removed from the report:

One of the obvious irregularities is the report's failure to mention thimerosal, a mercury based preservative developed by Eli Lilly decades ago and the subject of heated debate for its role in the current epidemic of learning disabilities and autism.

In July 2000, the National Academy of Sciences published an exhaustive review on the toxic effects of mercury that identified thimerosal as a source of mercury exposure in the U.S. But the new EPA report, referred to as the benchmark for government agencies to address the hazards of mercury, is dead silent on the issue. Parents are questioning how such a purportedly comprehensive report that clearly acknowledges concerns about mercury damage to the neurological development of fetuses, infants and children, can fail to mention the largest source of exposure to these vulnerable groups....

Sources say it was the mercury portion of the report that caused the most dispute and subsequent delay, and that the OMB, headed up by former Eli Lilly executive Mitch Daniels, and the OSTP made "numerous changes" to the already-edited second draft of the report. Just this month Congress repealed a provision quietly slipped into the Homeland Security Bill that granted legal protection to Lilly and vaccine-makers from thimerosal litigation. Late last year, the Department of Justice attempted to seal all documents related to thimerosal-autism claims in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. After ensuing controversy, the DOJ withdrew the motion.

The battle over thimerosal is far from over, even with the repeal of the provision in the Homeland Security Bill. Senator Frist, when acquiescing to the demands of moderate Senators to abide by promises made by former Majority Leader Trent Lott, negotiated a counter-agreement that the issue would be revisiting by the Senate within six months. In addition, there has been considerable noise by Republicans in Indiana regarding a return of favorite son Mitch Daniels to vie for the governor's office in 2004. That campaign would of course be much easier with the financial backing of Indiana-based Eli Lilly. That is, an Eli Lilly not facing potentially billions in lawsuits from the 30 million children injected with its mercury-based vaccine preservative.

posted by MB | link | 10:29 AM |

I've been having problems posting all morning, so this is yet another test.

[update: everything except comments seem to be working...for now]

posted by MB | link | 7:46 AM |

Caveat Emptor

Lawyers, consumer advocates and even our own mothers used to warn us to "read the fine print" before signing any contract. In America today, all you have to do is read the original report to know you're being sold down the increasingly-polluted river.

From the Administration's February 24th press release on "EPA Issues Second Report on Trends in Protecting Children's Health":

EPA remains concerned about children potentially exposed to mercury in the womb. About 8 percent of women of childbearing age in the United States have concentrations of mercury in their body at levels of potential concern. This is the first time that CDC reported information about mercury in women of child-bearing age, thus providing a snapshot of information about blood mercury levels for this report. As a result, it is not known if the levels have gone up or down from the past and the Agency plans to report trends in future reports. To reduce mercury releases, EPA has adopted a multi-media integrated approach. This includes reducing air emissions, limiting discharges to water, removing mercury from batteries and paint, and developing mercury emission control technologies. These efforts also include, under the Clean Air Act, cutting emissions by over 90 percent from two of the three largest categories of sources, municipal waste combustion and medical waste incineration.

Two out of three, eh? And what's the third?

But on page 62 of the actual EPA report, "America's Children and the Environment: Measures of Contaminants, Body Burdens, and Illnesses", we find the source of this soundbite:

People are exposed to methylmercury mainly through eating fish contaminated with methylmercury. Mercury that ends up in fish may originate as emissions to the air. Mercury released into the atmosphere can travel long distances on global air currents
and be deposited in areas far from its original source. The largest human-generated source of mercury emissions in the United States is the burning of coal. Other sources include the combustion of waste and industrial processes that use mercury.

According to a February 20th report in the Wall Street Journal, the latest available EPA figures on mercury emissions indicate that 33% come from coal-fired power plants; "municipal waste combustion and medical waste incineration" together account for less than 29% of the total.

Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Throughout the day today, I'll be discussing this report, and a whole series of events surrounding its release, or should I say, quasi-much-delayed-once-or-twice-edited release. But its much too much to report in one post, so I'll break it up (throwing in some time to say, actually parent my seven-month old.) For a teaser, I'll drop the name Mitch Daniels. That should get the Lilly people back for a second day in a row.

posted by MB | link | 6:49 AM |

Tuesday, February 25  

Businessmen in Speedos?

This letter from my partner went out in the post this morning:

Eric Brunner-Williams
[address removed]

Secretary Norm Mineta
Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St.
S.W. Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Norm,

With members of the Republican Caucuses in the House and Senate being beyond obtuse on the subject of the Internment, you have my sympathies. I went to high school in Pacific Grove, California and grew up with the [names of families removed] who survived the experience firsthand.

This letter is a hard one for me to write. By way of background, I work in the area generally associated with the IETF, ICANN, and the W3C. I operate an ISP in Maine, contribute to the specification of protocols used to provision the top-level domain name registries, operate an ICANN accredited registrar, and work on the technical standards that relate to personal privacy on the net. I wrote the X/Open standards for the Unix operating system, worked and lived in Europe and Mountain View.

In twelve months, working on what became the .BIZ and .US registries, I flew to San Diego, Stockholm, Minneapolis, London, San Francisco, Beijing, Montevideo, Beijing a second time, and Marina del Rey, along with about two dozen trips to Washington. I got a lot out of the travel, the experience of working with the Network Information Center in Beijing on a complex and difficult issue in particular.

That said, I've decided not to enter again areas under the control of the TSA.

The TSA staffing at the gate area of the Portland airport on February 20th was approximately 15. I spent about two hours watching them after receiving "special processing." I wanted to understand TSA operations, and one of my co-worker's sons just started working for the TSA. At Boston I again received "special processing."

On my return flight on the 22nd once again I received "special processing", and during my four hour lay-over at La Guardia I remained confined to one gate area, because if I exited a TSA checkpoint, I was sure I would go to the ticket area, cash out, and continue home by rail. More or less, the same events occurred the last time I flew the PWM/NYC/WDC route too.

In effect, this means that the technical and regulatory venues I can attend are limited to the North East, Quebec and the Maritimes, and as an air traveler, I'll be using Canadian carriers, via Quebec.

A friend who co-chairs an IETF working group on domain registry protocols, who works for the American Internet Registry (ARIN), and who has a similar travel load, wrote me that he too is tired of the gate rape, and is considering going Speedo-only at the airport, to "speed up the public proctological exams''.

To my mind, the bad guys have clearly won. They've made the Administration, which was predisposed to secrecy, violence, and intolerence, adopt poorly executed internal security programs that are little more than systemic hazing.

Incidently, Jim Roux was my attorney and family friend; he visited my home, drank my coffee, played with my children, and died on 9/11. I'm not a piqued innocent. What I see in US airports today is thuggery attempting to pass for security, and I've lived in or traveled through areas of Europe and Asia with elevated levels of security.

Best Regards,

cc: Senator Olympia Snowe
Senator Susan Collins
Representative Tom Allen

posted by MB | link | 9:13 AM |

The Gas Man Cometh

Yesterday morning, our local jack-of-all-trades Northern Utilities guy dropped by to check on a meter problem. Taking the opportunity to hand him a check (always willing to forgo the hunt for stamps), we also chatted about the recent jump in prices. He's also the collection agent for the region, a job I hate seeing foisted upon such a decent fellow, but perhaps its a blessing for the consumer, as he's more of an advocate for our rights than the state PUC (Public Utilities Commission.) He lamented how the economy in Maine is definitely not retreating from recession, but in fact, as far as he can see, getting worse. And in such a climate (no pun intended), the skyrocketing cost of energy was sending residents over the brink. On his way back out into the cold, he noted that natural gas prices had increased again in Maine, 37% was the figure I think he used. It didn't surprise me at the time, as of course I've been tracking energy prices here for over a month now and that sounded right, maybe even a little lower than I remembered.

The shock came last evening as I was making dinner (on my gas-hungry Viking range) and listening to Marketplace. Of course my ear perked up when they opened a story with "natural gas prices jumped 39%". Steven Brancaccio then informed me and millions of other listeners that the staggering event took place over the course of one day.

Off went the stove; okay, so the pasta was a little extra al dente.

I looked for the story in print this morning, and it was even worse:

Natural Gas Prices to Top $10 Per Million BTU, a Special 63-Page Energy Report Indicates
Tuesday February 25, 9:15 am ET

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Natural gas prices are expected to top $10 per million BTUs as record high reserves are withdrawn from underground storage during this winter heating season, Energy Business Watch announced this morning. The record high gas price is one of the startling conclusions of a new report on the emerging natural gas crisis, entitled "A Cold Blast in Winter - A Special Report on the Impact of Winter Weather on Natural Gas Consumption, Storage and the Price for Natural Gas."

"Monday's 50% increase in the price of natural gas futures is just the tip of the iceberg," said Andrew Weissman, the principal author of the 63-page report issued in Washington, D.C. this morning. "We believe natural gas prices will break the $10 barrier before the end of this winter's heating season and remain at record high levels for several years."

The report on the emerging natural gas crisis was prepared jointly by Energy Ventures Group, L.L.C., Energy Business Watch's parent company based in Washington, D.C., and Foresight Weather, a weather forecasting service based in Boulder, Colorado, that uses its own proprietary, state-of-the art model to prepare detailed short-term, 30-day and 90-day weather forecasts....

The news was no better for oil prices (okay, so the news wasn't good for consumers - we know it was great for producers.)

NYMEX crude oil futures played near $37 a barrel at the opening Tuesday, fueled by soaring heating oil and natural gas amid more Arctic weather in the United States and as saber-rattling on Iraq continued.

And just minutes ago, this bucket of sunshine hit the news wires:

UPDATE - US Feb consumer confidence dives to near 10-yr low
Tuesday February 25, 10:43 am ET
By Andrea Ricci

NEW YORK, Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence fell sharply and unexpectedly in February to its lowest level since October 1993 as Americans fretted about the increasing threat of war with Iraq, weak stock markets and rising oil prices.

The Consumer Confidence Index fell to 64.0 in February from a downwardly revised 78.8 in January, the Conference Board, a private business research group, said in a release on Tuesday.

It was the third consecutive monthly decline.

While standing in my soon-to-be-not-so-warm kitchen, the nice gas man remarked that he now sits in his car for a few minutes so that customers with overdue balances can either gain their composure or head out the back door. Or rethink taking out the shotgun. The latter he's beginning to fear a little more each passing day under the Bush Recession Redux.

posted by MB | link | 8:20 AM |

Passing the buck, not the bucks

When Harry Truman placed the now-famous placard on his desk in the Oval Office, "The Buck Stops Here", he meant more than just money. He was taking responsibility for the actions of his government. If there was some quibble any American had with any of his policies, he was the one to answer for them. As in the poker game from which the term derives its meaning, Truman was not about to "pass the buck"; not to Congress, not to another Administration, not to his allies or enemies. In his farewell speech in 1953, President Truman couldn't have made that point any clearer:

"The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job."

Every president since Truman has at one time or another appealed to the imagery of that desk placard. As recently as January, 2003, Mr. Bush, in his State of the Union Address:

This country has many challenges. We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations. We will confront them with focus, and clarity, and courage.

Its quite possible that Mr. Bush might haggle over the pronoun "we". Did he mean in fact mean he, himself, or his Administration? The federal government? The states or even the people of "this country"? The answer may in fact have become a tad more clear at the semi-annual meeting of the National Governors Association last weekend.

On a chilly early February morning (a Saturday, of course) the newspapers first carried, and I blogged, the story of yet another Bush "initiative" to further trample the most vulnerable in our society. This time, the Administration called for sweeping changes in Medicaid which would give states the ability reduce or eliminate benefits for millions of low-income elderly or disable individuals, including my own two autistic children.

Current federal law requires the states, with federal reimbursement, to provide medical coverage to all individuals whose incomes fall at or below the federal poverty level. It also allows states to use additional federal monies to provide medical care or other services to individuals whose incomes are above the poverty line, but who do not or cannot get coverage from private health insurance. Nearly two-thirds of Medicaid payments are attributed to these programs. Since most of the programs are tailored to state needs, they fall outside of the original intent of Medicaid, and therefore the states must request a "waiver" from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement them. Historically, most such waivers have been granted. A possible downside for the states is that in order to retract the programs, an addition decision to have the waiver withdrawn must be approved by HHS as well.

Mr. Bush, under the guise of providing state's "flexibility" and cutting through all that bureaucratic red tape, has offered the governors the option of doing away with those pesky waivers. Instead, the states will each get a set amount of money, supposedly each according to its need, and after paying for mandated Medicaid benefits, can decide how to spend the remainder of the money, whether it be provide medical coverage for all children (as many states now attempt to do), early intervention services for developmentally delayed children, long-term nursing home care for the elderly or respite care for overwhelmed families. Or states could put the money instead to increasing payments to Medicaid providers. Whatever the states deem necessary, according to Mr. Bush. No strings attached.

No additional funds either. Unless you back the Administration's plan. Even then, its a "kinda, sorta" approach.

According an article in the Washington Post this morning:

In essence, the president is offering states an approach that would temporarily help them with their financial predicament without actually providing additional money. States that chose to take part would gain an extra $12.7 billion for the next seven years, but their subsidies would be cut by the same amount for the three years after that.

So just in time for Mr. Bush to finish up his hoped-for-planned-for second term, the states would once again feel the wrath of federal spending cuts. In double, actually, seeing that they have to repay the borrowed amount in half as much time.

The Administration is currently ramping up its re-election campaign, and has found that its not-so-compassionate policies on nearly everything which touches disadvantaged Americans may come back to bite it. So, rather than face up to such critical scrutiny, which it is rumored Mr. Bush petulantly abhors, its time to pass the buck. By forcing the states to make the tough choices regarding cutting vital medical and social services programs, he can absolve himself of the responsibility of their ultimate demise in the face of looming state budget deficits. Instead, the governors, including former-governor Bush's Republican peers, would be forced to run their own campaigns under the shroud of uncompassionate conservatism. But a noble sacrifice, right, for the standard-bearer of your party?

Fortunately, the governors seem skeptical and have asked for more details and input. Lets hope they get it.

posted by MB | link | 7:15 AM |

The Return of the Native

Today I'm returning to my own little safe corner of normalcy. Of course, I'm not completely impervious to critique, as I do allow "comments", but with recent Haloscan hiccups, even those aren't much of a threat any longer. In case anyone missed me, I've spent much of the last two days over at the highly principled DailyKos, attempting to explain within the constrainment of commentary, the quibble certain Northeastern tribal entities have with a certain Democratic presidential candidate. No, don't bother heading over there, it really isn't worth continuously rehashing. Suffice it to say, though, its just one of the things in the lefty blogosphere which leaves me mentally exhausted and eventually disheartened.

I know it could provide me with the opportunity to provide a bit of a protocol manual for ethical lefties who may honestly not be familiar with American Indian hot-buttons, since it is still possible to live in the US and Canada (and obviously outside both countries) and have never met an Indian. Maybe tomorrow. Today, there's lots to blog about which is painful to all Americans, even all humanity.

posted by MB | link | 5:57 AM |

Sunday, February 23  

Sunday Shorts

If you haven't done so yet, head on over to Ruminate This to get the scoop on Win Without War's Virtual March on Washington (February 26, 2003). Win Without War is headed up by my own former US Congressman (and Portland native) Tom Andrews. I keep arguing Maine's ahead of the curve.

I love Jim Capozzola. Really. If it weren't for the fact that I'm married with four kids...oh, and he lives 500 miles away...and, well, I've actually never "met" him...and so there are other "issues" which may impede any relationship...fine, details, details. Well, okay, I love Jim Capozzola's writing. Happy?

But lately I've been wondering if his longstanding feud with that measly-mouthed Ben Shapiro hadn't left him a little tired. Or maybe it was that eye-infection and losing his spectacles. Or perhaps his Muse had booked a well-deserved cruise to Grenada.

Well, she's back. With all her sisters. Maybe even a few cousins thrown in.

What, you're still here? Go. Now.

posted by MB | link | 10:17 AM |

Friday, February 21  

Just to prove I'm an equal-opportunity chider...

To whom it may concern (and you'll soon know who you are....well, that is, if you even read my little blog, which is a big "if" I concede.) Anyway, if you're intent on trying to woo the blogging universe with your accomplishments and political savvy, please take the time to make sure you have your facts straight. Now, I don't mean you need to have memorized the US Constitution or even know all the names of the US presidents and the dates of their terms. Well, maybe you should know the ones within your lifetime, particularly if you thought you were working for them. Case and point (all names and places changed to protect the...whatever...)

I was young and passionate about politics once, too. So, upon graduation I worked for the [strike] Democratic Party during the 1994 Primary Season as a "Staff" member. It was awful, full of long hours and insufferably arrogant, petty and stupid people. I thought I was going to help Clinton get elected and instead we ran the Democratic primary, communicated with all the precinct chairs, and coordinated with election judges. Sounds glamorous, eh?

Now, as a current Dem City Committee exec and former state level campaign staff for top of the ticket (twice), I could remind the party faithful that there is no such thing as glamour in a democracy - its like making sausage, not at all pretty, but the results are generally more appalling appealing than the process. But there is nothing more noble and appreciated than the GOTV staff, including the little old lady who sits in the polling place crossing out registered Dems as they vote, or the college student waving a sign, doing "visibility" on a busy corner on Election Day. In my first "senior staff" position, I spent every Wednesday through Friday for two months calling 152 registrars in the state to get new voter registration tallies. I spent three days a week rounding up as many staff to stand out on an overpass on I-84 on cold October mornings with our 10'x14' sign. The result? We were initially a "swing" state, but come election day, we cleaned up by 5pm. That's what grassroots campaigning is all about.

Oops, went off on a little tangent there.

Back to the original issue. I thought at first that the faux pas regarding the election season was just a typo. But the blogger in question graduated in 1993. My advice, unwelcome though it may be - get your basic stuff right, because if you don't, the Right will just flog you with it and question your credibility and every smart and right-on thing you have to say. Even if you're a Nobel Prize economist. Even if you're James Carville.

[edited typo, although it was pretty funny the other way.]

posted by MB | link | 3:13 PM |

Did I miss something?

When did Glenn Reynolds start linking to self-proclaimed prostitutes regarding the integrity of anti-war feminists? Its a joke, right? Some kind of Jon Stewart-esque spoof?

posted by MB | link | 1:19 PM |

Uh...guess my list was too restrictive

In my piece on wholesale prices below, I listed Saddam Hussein, El Nino, OPEC, Venezuela and Nigeria as factors which could get in the way of Bush keeping some semblance of control over skyrocketing oil prices.

I forgot to mention exploding barges carrying lots and lots of gasoline:

NEW YORK, Feb. 21 — An explosion that occurred while a barge was unloading barrels of gasoline sparked a massive blaze Friday at an Exxon-Mobil petroleum storage facility on Staten Island, a company spokesman said. One employee was injured, and two people associated with the barge were missing, said the spokesman.

Huge fireballs sent black smoke hundreds of feet into the air.

The barge contained 100,000 barrels of unleaded gasoline. It wasn’t immediately clear whether any of the dozens of oil tanks at the ExxonMobil storage facility were burning.

“We have a preliminary report that a tanker was transferring a product or was being fueled and somehow ignited,” Fire Department Chief William Van Wart said.

First and foremost, here's hoping the injured are okay.

The gods of the economy are definitely not smiling on Bush these days. I'd gloat if I wasn't feeling so sorry for the rest of us.

posted by MB | link | 9:26 AM |

Yes, folks, its Flashback Friday for February 21, 1991

February 21, 1991.
Michael Kranish and Mary Curtius, Globe Staff

WASHINGTON -- As a half-million allied soldiers made final preparations for a ground war, the fate of a Soviet peace proposal remained agonizingly unclear last night. Iraq said in a cryptic statement only that it would respond "soon" to Moscow's proposal, while the Bush administration said it would accept nothing less than unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait.

Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d said the coalition would not negotiate with Iraq, and he warned that the..

February 21, 1991, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Three reporters told senators yesterday that the Pentagon is denying the public news about the gulf war in ways never thought necessary in previous major US conflicts.

The journalists, recently back from the Persian Gulf, were joined by former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite in complaining about the Defense Department's refusal to allow reporters to go freely among US forces and report what they see.

Published on February 21, 1991.

Stocks posted double-digit losses on fears that a ground war is imminent in the Persian Gulf and on disturbing reports that US inflation jumped in January. Washington also reported that new home construction plunged 12.8 percent in December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a loss of 33.17 points at 2899.01. Volume was active at 185.7 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Declining issues outpaced gainers 1,086 to 507. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for

February 21, 1991, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush unveiled his long-awaited national energy plan yesterday, saying it "strikes a sound and reasonable balance" without burdening the economy, but critics quickly criticized it for focusing on production over energy conservation.

One member of Congress called the blueprint "a back to the '50s" strategy to promote oil drilling, while another said it "falls far short" of what is needed to cut America's dependence on foreign

John M. Berry, Washington Post Staff Writer
February 21, 1991

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday that the U.S. economy is still declining but that he believes falling interest rates, lower oil prices and improving consumer confidence mean the recession "will bottom out reasonably soon. Nevertheless, Greenspan cautioned the Senate Banking Committee that because of the war in the Persian Gulf and serious strains on the U.S. banking system, there is an "unusually high degree of uncertainty" about how the economy will ...

February 21, 1991, Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff

WASHINGTON -- The nation's mayors, led by Boston Mayor Flynn and New York City Mayor David Dinkins, yesterday launched an attack on President Bush's proposal to transfer control of billions of dollars in federal funds from cities to states, saying the plan would further erode the ability of cities to care for poor people.

February 21, 1991

WHILE THE BUSH administration's new energy strategy contains many useful ideas, it adds up to considerably less than a coherent and reliable policy. Published yesterday after a year and a half of work, it reflects the political handicaps under which it was written. A government has, basically, two effective ways to induce people to use energy more efficiently: there's taxation, and there's regulation. Since the administration opposes both as a matter of principle, it is reduced...

Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
February 21, 1991

France and Britain today said an allied land battle to free Kuwait was imminent in spite of the still-secret Soviet proposal for an Iraqi withdrawal, while an Italian official broke ranks with other members of the allied coalition by saying that the Soviet plan appeared to be "in line" with U.N. resolutions. French officials said Iraq had only until Thursday night to begin pulling out its troops, suggesting that the allied ground offensive might start then.


Tom Kenworthy, Washington Post Staff Writer
February 21, 1991
Democratic congressional leaders who five weeks ago led the opposition to going to war with Iraq have largely chosen to sit on the sidelines as President Bush dismissed a Soviet peace plan and moved toward a ground warThe almost total silence from Capitol Hill, as the Persian Gulf War reaches a pivotal juncture militarily and diplomatically, is the result of a number of political and historical factors, according to congressional sources...

posted by MB | link | 8:26 AM |

Something to keep an eye on

Virginia Officials Investigating Deaths of 5 Children
By Maria Glod and R.H. Melton
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 21, 2003

Five young children have died of unknown causes in southeastern Virginia since Sunday, and the state has launched an investigation, Virginia Health Department officials said yesterday.

Four of the deaths occurred in the Tidewater area and one in Richmond, officials said. The children ranged in age from 2 to 7.

Officials said they have not found anything to indicate the deaths are linked. They said health professionals are interviewing the children's families and other people who came into contact with the children to determine whether there is any connection.

State health officials yesterday provided few details about the deaths but said several physicians and epidemiologists, as well as Virginia medical examiners, were assisting in the investigation. The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also was notified yesterday.

"At a time when the nation is at a heightened state of alert, the Virginia Department of Health will take even more seriously our normal monitoring of illness and fatality," said Lisa Kaplowitz, the state's deputy commissioner for emergency preparedness and response.

Trina Lee, a health department spokeswoman, said the children all were experiencing respiratory problems. None had been hospitalized, but some were under a physician's care and some had been taking antibiotics. All the deaths were unexpected.

Lee said influenza and several other illnesses that affect respiratory functioning are being considered as possible causes.

In a statement, State Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube said that preliminary investigation suggests "it is very unlikely that this is due to bioterrorism." Lee said that there was no indication that there is a link to terrorism but said that because many military personnel live in the area, health officials decided to broach the issue.

Now personally, I think there are many more possibilities other than bio-terrorism. But the deaths of five children, four of them in the same general vicinity, from some form of viral respiratory infection, should send huge red flags to epidemiologists. To put this event in context, there were a total of 15 deaths from pneumonia and influenza in the first 8 weeks of 2002 in Norfolk, Virginia. Mortality for both conditions overwhelmingly falls upon the elderly, at a rate of 80% of total pneumonia and influenza-related deaths. In fact, the total number of deaths from all causes in Norfolk for the 1-24 year old age group for the similar time period was also 15 cases.

Scientists for decades have been worried about an outbreak of influenza similar to the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919. It is estimated that 675,000 Americans died, while worldwide, the mortality figure for the full pandemic is believed to stand somewhere between 30 to 40 million. I lost three great-grandparents to the outbreak, all in their 20s or 30s, which wasn't surprising, as the Spanish Flu overwhelmingly struck young people, not the usual elderly or immune-compromised.

I think that my point to all this is that in our BeReady (www.ready.gov) paranoia, we need to all remember Occam's Razor; "when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better." The story of the untimely deaths of five children from some form of respiratory ailment should be investigated and reported based upon its own merits, not one wrapped in plastic and duct-tape.

posted by MB | link | 6:09 AM |

Thursday, February 20  

More bait and switch on the vaccine research front

MMR Vaccine Doesn't Cause 'Immune Overload': Study
Thu Feb 20,10:43 AM ET
By Merritt McKinney

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research may help ease the minds of parents concerned that a single vaccine that protects against the measles, mumps and rubella may be too much for a child's immune system to handle.

In a new study, children who received the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine were not at increased risk of developing serious bacterial infections. In fact, there was some evidence that children given the triple vaccine had a lower-than-normal risk of serious bacterial infections.

"Parents who are seeking to have single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines for their children because of fears that the combined vaccine is putting too much stress on the immune system should be very reassured by this new evidence," the study's lead author, Dr. Elizabeth Miller, told Reuters Health.

Miller explained that some parents have been concerned that giving three vaccines in a single shot "may be too much for the immune system to cope with." Some parents prefer to have their children receive the three vaccines separately to protect against "immune overload," according to Miller, who is with the Public Health Laboratory Service in London.

Do you also know that the combined MMR vaccine doesn't increase the risk of cavities? Ingrown toenails? Mad cow disease?

While there may be a small subset of anti-MMR parents who are concerned about the possibilities of "immune system overload" (and this is not to cast aside their concerns), the most immediate issue regarding the MMR is the development of bowel disease with associated pervasive developmental disorders, also described as autistic entercolitis. According to Reuters:

All children in the study had developed a serious bacterial infection, such as bacterial meningitis and septicemia, within three months of receiving the MMR vaccine.

Now its been pretty well documented that meningitis is a rare side effect of the measles vaccine, whether in combination with the mumps and rubella vaccines or not. In fact, the study found no difference in the rates of children who received single dose or combined vaccines. But these infections are very, very rare.

Autism, on the other hand, has become much less rare (around 1:150 in some areas) and a not insignificant percent of autistics (<20%) have symptoms of bowel disease. A few researchers, including Drs. Wakefield and Bradstreet, have claimed to have found vaccine-strain measles virus in bowel biopsies and spinal fluid. They surmise that it may have something to do with the mumps portion of the vaccine interfering with the measles portion. It is this hypothesis which concerns the vast majority of parents clamoring for separate vaccines, not theories of "immune overload." Why not spend the research money on trying to replicate Wakefield et al.'s results?

Perhaps the last sentence in the article holds the key:

Wyeth Lederle, GlaxoSmithKline, Chiron and Baxter provided funding for the study.

[Update]: Ross over at the excellent med-saavy Bloviator links to a similar NYTimes article in which study critics cited the same concerns I did:

Dr. Marcel Kinsbroune, a pediatric neurologist who advises the National Vaccine Information Center, which considers some vaccines unsafe, conceded that the study showed that vaccinated children's immune systems do not collapse, but argued that "the serious allegations against M.M.R. have nothing to do with bacterial infections — they have to do with intestinal inflammation and autism."

"The smoking gun," he said, "is that measles vaccine is in the lining of your gut years later."

posted by MB | link | 5:19 PM |

Indefinite just became definite. The econoholic drive is just too strong.

I'm still feeling kinda punky, but I couldn't let this one pass. Its really just too damn important.

First off: Iknewit, iknewit, iknewit! No, that is not an old Abenaki battle cry. That is the sound emanating from under the yard or so of snow (none of which has melted since it first fell in December) covering my home. It is in response to January's wholesale prices increase, just released this morning.

Iknewit, iknewit, iknewit! Translation: I knew it.

So what did I know and how did I know it? (Other than channeling Cassandra of Troy?) I knew wholesale prices had to jump this month, and I figured it would be a whopper. It was - 1-point-freaking-six percent (1.6%) Screw the BLS.gov website which only a week ago predicted an inflation increase of a 10th of a percent - maybe even deflation. There's no way that's going to happen now.

The answer to how did I know prices would jump is simple. That small fixation I have with energy prices.

As anyone who has followed my site for the past month must know, I've become interested (read: obsessed) with energy costs, and have actually convinced myself that the demise of this current Administration may come not from political malfeasance or military bungling, but higher gas and oil prices, particularly if El Nino and Saddam Hussein don't fully cooperate. (Okay, throw in the Saudis, Nigeria and white collar labor "leaders" in Venezuela.)

Why wouldn't American drivers just buck-up and do their patriotic duty, shovelling over a little more at the pump? Recent reports have shown that consumers are doing that, and blaming Shell and Mobil for pre-war price gouging and not the Administration for creating the market jitters. But its not only at the pump where a revolt might incubate. Heating oil and natural gas prices are up 50% or more over last year (and DOE October predictions, upon which economic growth models are predicated.) And SUV-gas guzzlers are not the only vehicles feeling the sting of higher pump prices; the vast majority of food and freight are "shipped" around this country in good ol' 18-wheelers. Up to 40% of the cost of fuel and consumer goods is distribution - if those costs increase dramatically, so do the prices in Target and Shop-and-Save. I honestly had a sense of foreboding as I did the weekly grocery shopping last week - there were almost no sales in my generally sale-happy market. I remember thinking as I wheeled my cart through the kid lunch snacks that some ominous economic shoe was about to drop.

So what? A quarter more per gallon at the pump, an extra hundred bucks to put heating oil in the tank, a dime more for Oreos. Won't Bush just finally ask us if we're not willing to sacrifice to defeat one of those evil axis guys? Yeah, maybe.

Problem is, Bush is also putting all his chips on the table of consumer spending. Even his so-called economic stimulus package argues that Americans will somehow spend their way out of recession. Today, he went as far as to use the only Democrat who supports his deficit-busting plan, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia. In Georgia, Miller "introduced the president to a suburban Atlanta audience as "our chief of common sense, who knows that the best and the fairest way to grow an economy is to simply not take the hard-earned money from the taxpayer in the first place.""

While Bush's tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy (lower and middle-class taxpayers will see little difference in their paychecks), inflation is a defacto tax on all. The extra money consumers are spending on energy prices, whether it be at the pump or grocery store, is money they won't be spending in the mall. The same goes for businesses. I reported a few weeks ago that Dow Chemical just cut a large chunk of jobs and lowered earnings expectations, primarily due to higher energy costs.

The uncertainty over when (and even at times "if") the war would begin has wreaked havoc on the economy - even the tarnished Chairman Greenspan concedes. Bush Sr. saw his rebounding economy slip back into recession during the summer of 1991, and even though it began to recover in months before the election, it certainly cost him his second term. A number of people have attributed Bush's small upsurge in poll numbers about ten days ago to Powell's speech. I personally think it had as much to do with the rosy unemployment numbers (fixed though they were) which came out around the same time. If Americans started feeling glum about a possible economic recovery, on top of the belt-tightening the increase in inflation is causing, how long before before the Administration decides to wag the war dog, hoping to both distract his penny-pinching constituents, and undermine intractable OPEC with oodles of freeflowing Iraq oil?

[note: I should also add that according to the afforemented article, "the number of U.S. workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week surged to a seven-week high, suggesting the ailing labor market relapsed after several weeks of improvement." Let's see how the Administration fudges the numbers to account for this one.]

[Update: Edited for typos wildly - guess I hit publish a bit too soon.]

posted by MB | link | 1:35 PM |

Wednesday, February 19  

Wampum is now on indefinite hiatus.

[Update: Okay, so I have a short attention span (SAS), or pissed-off capacity (POC). Thank you all for caring about me and the blog.]

posted by MB | link | 1:49 PM |

Tuesday, February 18  

Happy, happy, joy, joy

Okay, I can't contain myself. I found another American Indian blogger. I don't think they've gone very public about it, so I won't say who it is. But I'm just soooo excited.

Okay, back to regularly scheduled Progressive, generally white-bread, disability-advocacy blogging.

posted by MB | link | 4:01 PM |

You have to give them credit for being original

This really came to my partner's mailbox this morning. Honest.



As widely and correctly reported in most celebrated International mass media notably the Cable News Network (CNN), British Broadcasting Service (BBC) and other local stations, events in Cote D'Ivoire a hitherto serene country in Africa is turning for the worst. Recently, mutinous forces loyal to the opposition party attacked government soldiers that resulted to the wanton destruction of lives and properties. All efforts by the United Nations Secetary General, Mr Kofi Anan, western powers led by United States and Britian and African Leaders to bring sanity to this country has failed.

During this melee however, the wife of the President, Her Excellency, Mrs Gbagbo was able to airfreight to Europe the sum of Fifty Million United States Dollars ($50m) because of her fears of not knowing the outcome of this conflict. She was assisted by one of the friendly countries who came to evacuate her citizens from this troubled spot. It was airfreighted in luggages labelled as "diplomatic valuables". It is currently with a courier security firm in Europe. Those who airfreighted it and the security firm now in position of it are not aware of the contents.

Sequel to this development, I, JAMES MUDA an attorney by proffession have been mandated by the first lady to look for an honest and a reliable foreign partner who will claim the fund deposited with the security company, lodge it in his name in his designated bank and if the need arises, he can also help invest the fund in real estate or any other business/s that yields high returns.

All the necessary legal documents: Certificate of Deposit, Airwaybill and a Power of Attorney will be prapared for you that will enable you claim this money without any risk will be sent to you. You will also be introduced to the security firm officially.

If this proposal appeals to you, please let me have your telephone and fax numbers and contact address so that I can call you to discuss this issue further. for all your efforts, you will be compensated with 30% of the total fund.

Waiting for your urgent response.


James Muda

Should I forward it to Professor Reynolds? He's expressed some support for Gbagbo's interests in Ivory Coast in the past. Might be a suitable investment for his blogging dividends.

posted by MB | link | 6:35 AM |

Outrage...Is that on today's agenda?

This morning, David Neiwert of Ornicus asks his readers, "Where's the outrage?"

Even though I list "Indian Issues" as one of the subjects this blog is supposed to address, I find I don't write on the subject half as much as I should. I think that fairly early on, I realized that most of my non-Indian readership probably doesn't have a clue as to how seeped in racism American culture truly is, and that fewer yet realize its more than a black-white issue. That's probably one reason I find myself drawn to reading Charlie Chan's Revenge (although I wish they'd post more - hey, who cares if you're in law school - I need my fix!)

Thus, I am not at all surprised that there is so little outrage over Congressman Coble's remarks on Japanese-American internment. Or Sue Myrick's portraying Arab-American convenience store entrepreneurs as Homeland Security risks. Or Shaquille O’Neal's anti-Chinese slurs (although there could be endless discourse on whether his remarks were in fact "racist", as race is a construct grounded in power relationships, and yadda, yadda, lots of anthropological babble on the subject....) Or the Indian Trust Fund case; can you imagine if billions of dollars of union money held in trust by the US government suddenly disappeared due to "poor accounting methods"? There would be rioting in the streets. Yet, how many of my readers actually know what I'm talking about, even though various Bush Administration officials, including the Secretary of the Interior and the #3 man at Justice, have been held in contempt, or otherwise sanctioned in regards to the case?

In fact, I was kinda-sorta shocked (though pleased) to read this passage by Neiwart,

For Asians, this scenario is all too familiar. It is common for slurs against them to go unremarked or to be merely shrugged off as unimportant. (Mind you, they’re not alone in this. Didn’t anyone else find it strangely hypocritical when, back in 1999, a white aide to Washington, D.C., Mayor David Howard was forced to resign for using the word “niggardly” -- this, in a city that steadfastly roots for a football team that uses an overt racial slur for its nickname?)

I voiced similar criticism of the double standard most recently in December:

But why is it that the media (and many Americans) view the hypocrisy of white children dressing up in feather headdresses and whooping around a campfire in the same terms as the Majority Senate Leader-elect's statements condoning segregation, and yet fail to see the problem with our political leaders attending Redskin, Chiefs or Indians ball games, cheering while the crowd does the "Tomahawk Chop" and "Chief Wahoo" prances around?

(I'll try and refrain from somewhat bitterly remarking that such criticisms only seem to get attention when they're voiced by the dominant culture...oops, too late.)

I'm more than thrilled that various lefty bloggers, such as Neiwart, IsThatLegal, TalkLeft and Atrios (among others), are refusing to let this issue die. And now it appears AP's continuing to press the story of Rep. Mike Honda's calls for GOP condemnation of Coble has led to various other outlets, even CNN, to finally decide the story may in fact have legs. Cynic that I am, however, I tend to think that unless Democrats and other minority groups, particularly African-Americans, get behind this, its going nowhere fast. Somehow I don't really see either group expending much energy or political capital for a "marginal" constituency. Of course, I see the Republicans spending even less.

I hope I'm wrong. And if I am, I guess its time to really sit down and start blogging the Trust Fund case.

{edit: determined that McCallum was in fact confirmed already}

posted by MB | link | 5:52 AM |

Monday, February 17  

Surfin' despite the weather

Visited weblogs.com for the first time (seems most of my regular blogrollees are snowed in or still asleep.) Found these bits and pieces:

From Lactose Incompetent:

Colin Powell, age 8, speaking to his mother:

Can I have a cookie?


Can I have a cookie?


Can I have a cookie?

You can keep asking, but the answer's still going to be no. If you think I'm going to eventually say yes just to make you shut up and go away, you're wrong. Your friend George put you up to this, didn't he? I think he's a bad influence on you.

Wanna know the follow-up nearly fifty-years later? Click here.

On a more serious note, Deanna over at Brains Over Bombs tells us about her experience at Saturday's march in New York, and its not particularly pretty.

And here's a resource no good democrat (little "d") should be without: Votelaw -- Law and Politics: At the intersection of law and politics: Campaign finance, redistricting, election law and administration, and politicians in legal trouble. Doesn't hurt either that the website's host and I are in the same quadrant on the Political Compass.

posted by MB | link | 8:45 AM |

And you thought warbloggers didn't support anti-interventionist protests...

If one placed their ear to the right side of the blogosphere this weekend, one could not but come away with the perception that the cherished American tradition of political protest, dating back beyond a few dozen Bostonians tossing tea into the harbor, was now an anathema to the Right, professed libertarians included. The sight of millions of men, women and children of all ages, from all walks of life, participating in loosely organized marches did nothing to relieve the warmongers of the notion that voicing opposition to war was akin to offering comfort to the enemy.

Strangely enough, only a few weeks earlier, warbloggers, in an obvious attempt to undermine the French position on Iraq, pointed to "spontaneous" protests against the French in Ivory Coast as evidence that the French were the epitome of hypocrisy. Their actions in Ivory Coast were "unilateralist" (they weren't), the protests were a legitimate reaction to French "meddling" in Ivoirian affairs, to the extent of forcing a peace plan on a the beloved, but besieged, president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Well, it turns out that the protests were not so "spontaneous" after all.

Ivory Coast Leader Said to Be Behind Anti-French Protests
By Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 16, 2003

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Crouched in the steamy noon heat, the fish women sell their meaty snapper out of yellow buckets and whisper about how it all went down. Sitting on puffy armchairs deep inside their high-rise offices, the diplomats recount the same chain of events in the same hushed voices.

Everybody, it seems, knows why Ivorians poured into the streets to protest against a French-brokered deal to end this country's five-month civil war. According to foreign diplomats, intelligence sources, Ivorian analysts and people on the street, President Laurent Gbagbo, desperate to derail an agreement that would force him to share power with rebels and rivals, swung into action even before the deal was finalized on Jan. 24.

Telephone calls were made. Deals were struck. Pro-government student leaders handed out beer, cash and rice to thousands of out-of-work young men and gave them free bus rides to the city, according to participants. The result was a series of dramatic and violent anti-French demonstrations that raged through downtown Abidjan -- beginning the day after Gbagbo signed the accord and ending two weeks later, when he called on his countrymen to accept "the medicine" that the agreement prescribed.

As a result, Ivory Coast dangles between war and peace. Armed rebels still control half of the country, and representatives of the warring factions are engaged in fresh negotiations aimed at moving the peace process forward.

Gbagbo's actions, diplomats and analysts say, reflect not only his desire to maintain control, but a long practice of publicly endorsing agreements while privately ensuring that they are undermined. The cunning president has found a way to resist the peace pact and stay in power without actually saying no, artfully flicking a switch on when he wants a protest and off when it is time to appear cooperative, the sources say.

This is not the first time Gbagbo has manipulated members of his Bete tribe for purely political purposes. According to the WP,

"He's not sincere, and he's a very complex character who will do anything to stay in power," said Joachim Beugre, editor of 24 Hours, an independent newspaper in Abidjan, the commercial capital. "He says yes, and then does no. He does not care about the people he sent to the streets. He just uses them to keep his power."

Gbagbo has also been implicated in government-sponsored atrocities, including the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Human rights groups said yesterday they believed that government troops were responsible for most of the thousands of killings since September in the western Ivorian city of Man, where several mass graves have been found. Civilians have supported the claims of rebels from the Movement for Justice and Peace and the Ivorian Patriotic Movement for the Great West that most of the dead were targeted because they had foreign-sounding names.

The Ivoirian president is beginning to sound remarkably similar to another leader a few thousand miles away along the Euphrates.

The French have placed 3000 troops in Ivory Coast, initially to protect French and other foreign nationals, including 2000 American citizens. They have recently announced that they are also intervening to prevent government-sponsored attacks on civilians in areas where it is deemed sentiment for rebel forces runs high.

The warbloggers will start clamoring for American troops to join the French in preventing further massacres in Ivory Coast, right?

posted by MB | link | 4:59 AM |

Sunday, February 16  

Thank you, Mr. Ridge!

Somehow, I expect this is the cry which can be heard from many a household from St. Louis to New York, as many residents in these cities, and all the states in between, get hammered by what we heah in Maine call simply...."weathah".

"A-yup...I he-ah there's some weathah a comin'."

"A-yup...bettah bring in some wood."

Of course, here in the Arctic, I mean, Northern New England, we are always prepared for the fictitious, I mean, serious warning which went out last week from the Department of Homeland Security. Stock three days food and water, flashlight and batteries, radio.... Now about the duct tape and plastic - they're always in the barn, the former for any emergency you can think of, the latter, for when your 200 year old maple comes down through the roof in the ice storm.

But you all didn't know that Mr. Ridge, the FBI and CIA were in fact warning you that Al Qaeda had discovered how to manipulate the weather. Seriously, would a dirty bomb shut down DC better than a foot (or two!) of snow? Lucky that 2 inches didn't fall on Atlanta - they'd be out of action for a week.

Of course, heah in Maine blizzard warnings are up for Tuesday - ho hum.

posted by MB | link | 4:37 PM |

Just what are your goals again in Iraq, Mr. Bush?

Last night, as I was gloating at the measurable increase on the shrill meter in the right-wing blogosphere, I noticed Glenn Reynolds' linking to a site which purportedly espoused a campaign to "Support Democracy in Iraq". Noble cause, I thought, and one which I would argue the vast majority of anti-war advocates support as well. As soon as I determined that the website's plans for promoting "Democracy in Iraq" included a few megatons of US firepower and nearly two hundred thousand US and British troops, I filed the campaign away under "warblogger propaganda".

This morning, however, I retrieved that file after reading Kanan Makiya's editorial in the UK Observer, entitled, "Our hopes betrayed: How a US blueprint for post-Saddam government quashed the hopes of democratic Iraqis." Makiya's arguments are logical and compelling, his anguish over the Bush Administration's perfidy palpable.

The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities.

The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government.

The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition, and is guaranteed to turn that opposition from the close ally it has always been during the 1990s into an opponent of the United States on the streets of Baghdad the day after liberation.

The bureaucrats responsible for this plan are drawn from those parts of the administration that have always been hostile to the idea of a US-assisted democratic transformation of Iraq, a transformation that necessarily includes such radical departures for the region as the de-Baathification of Iraq (along the lines of the de-Nazification of post-war Germany), and the redesign of the Iraqi state as a non-ethnically based federal and democratic entity. (more)

[Kanan Makiya's bio can be found here. A longer piece on his vision for Iraq is here.]

The White House was outwardly vexed by Makiya's recent denunciation, and urged him not to publish the op-ed, contending it would be 'counter-productive'.

Another Observer report, while critical of Europe's anti-war movement, directs the lion's share of its acrimony on Colin Powell, the State Department and CIA. Iraqi National Congress chairman, Ahmad Chalabi, expected by many to become Iraq's democratic successor to Hussein, also decried Washington's proposals: "The vision of having US military officers three deep in every ministry is not workable."

The report continues,

Chalabi said he was dismayed that the British government apparently endorsed a plan that would leave the minority Sunni elite, which has run Iraq for decades, in power, even though most of Iraq's 23 million inhabitants are Shiite.

The Iraqi opposition is also deeply suspicious of an agreement between Washington and Turkey that will see thousands of Turkish troops enter northern Iraq, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes. Turkey, with its own disaffected Kurdish population, wants its military to occupy northern Iraq to prevent Kurdish groups from seizing the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk and proclaiming an autonomous Kurdish homeland.

The two Kurdish parties which have controlled a mountainous enclave of northern Iraq since 1991 insist that they want only a regional government. It now seems that their militias will play virtually no role in liberating Iraq and that, following pressure from Washington, they will leave the job to the American military.

I have railed time and again against the Bush Administration's war on Iraq. Not because I am a pacifist, as I support the just use of force, particularly to avert travesties such as genocide. I disavow the Bush war because, unlike the Iraqi, who have only direct knowledge of Bush Sr.'s perfidy after the first Gulf War, I believe this current Administration to be far more self-serving and treacherous. In many ways I pity Tony Blair, who seems to actually believe that an "allied" force, UN-sponsored or not, would be "liberating Iraq". Perhaps he is deluded in thinking he will have some control over the Bush chickenhawks, that words like "democracy" have actual meaning, more than being mere sops to the exiled Iraqi opposition.

One irony in all this is the complete dearth of discussion by the warbloggers on the Ankara meeting and its ensuing plans for riding rough-shod over the post-Saddam democracy movement. Where is the outrage? You'll find no mention of Makiya, Chalabi or even the Iraqi opposition on recent pages of Instapundit or any of his 40 blogroll links I surveyed (I couldn't do more - my head was pounding after encountering that aforementioned shrill level, which has, defying all imagination, only increased since yesterday.) Reynold's most recent post laments the atrocities which have occurred under Hussein's Ba'athist Party regime. Funny how he never addresses the Administration's plans to maintain the Ba'ath Party structure, with its Sunni-centricism intact. He even has the gall to suggest (via a link, of course) that the lack of war support is inherently racist, since its Arabs (sic) being repressed, and somehow they just accept that as the natural order of things. And yet, wouldn't the logic then continue that its racist to deny Iraqis a democratic form of government, and instead install American military and civilian leaders, because they haven't somehow proven themselves able to handle the "responsibilities", e.g., protecting Western economic and security interests, of democracy?

Its now clear that the warmonger's assertions of unity with the Iraqi people are as credible as those we heard from Osama bin Laden last week.

My own suggestion, if any of the Progressive powers (Annan, Congressional Democrats, etc.) are listening, is that, if you haven't done it already, this is the time to make that long overdue phone call to the Iraqi Opposition and see how you can help achieve the goal of a democratic Iraq, without hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

posted by MB | link | 10:40 AM |

Saturday, February 15  

Lilly-gate Resolved (for now)

I was wondering why some folks from Lilly were lurking around my site yesterday.

Provision in bill shielding vaccine makers repealed

WASHINGTON -- Eli Lilly and Co. and other former or current vaccine makers lost protection from patient lawsuits in a congressional spending bill vote.

The repeal of the provision was part of the $397.4 billion bill Congress approved Thursday night that funds government operations through the rest of the fiscal year.

Families are suing drugmakers for compensation, claiming their children developed autism after receiving vaccines with a mercury-based additive called thimerosal, which for decades was made by Lilly. The barrier to patient lawsuits was approved as part of the law that created the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"This provision was added in the dark of night, clearly as a payback to powerful political supporters, and it had no place in legislation intended to protect American families," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in an e-mailed statement.

posted by MB | link | 9:20 AM |

What a pretty picture

Antiwar Rallies Raise a Chorus Across Europe

LONDON, Feb. 15 — From the parks of London to the piazzas of Rome and the avenues of Berlin, hundreds of thousands of Europeans marched today to register opposition to war in Iraq in what was termed the Continent's biggest coordinated demonstration in a generation's memory.

With similar protests taking place in scores of cities around the world including New York, demonstrators streamed along London's Piccadilly past the statue of Eros, and along Whitehall close to 10 Downing Street, the residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's most committed ally in the effort to force President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to disarm.

My husband and eldest daughter leave soon to join the peace march here in Portland. Its only 6 degrees outside, so Kezzie, the boys and I are staying bundled up inside and cheering you all on from a distance.

posted by MB | link | 8:37 AM |

Friday, February 14  

From the Ministry of Economic Propaganda...

New industrial production numbers were released from the Federal Reserve this morning. As with last week's unemployment numbers, the New York Times immediately heralded the original AP news:

Industrial Production Jumps by 0.7%

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Industrial production roared back to life in January, rising by 0.7 percent, while businesses boosted inventories the month before -- a pair of promising signs for an ailing economy.

The latest snapshot of activity at the nation's factories, mines and utilities -- the sector of the economy hardest hit by the 2001 recession -- showed an impressive rebound.

Wow! Sounds like such great news, right? Further down, the story goes into a little more detail:

At factories, which account for most industrial output tracked by the Fed, production rose by a solid 0.5 percent in January, largely reflecting a boost in automobile production. That marked a big improvement over the 0.4 percent drop in factory output registered in December.

Production at gas and electric utilities jumped by 4 percent last month, compared with a 1.4 percent drop in December, as demand was stoked by colder weather.

At mines, however, production fell by 1.2 percent, more than reversing a 1 percent gain posted in December.

Have warning bells begun to go off for you yet? Yes, its time to head on over to the Federal Reserve's website for the real numbers:

Industrial production rose 0.7 percent in January. The increase more than reversed December's revised decline of 0.4 percent. At 111.1 percent of the 1997 average, output was 2.0 percent above its level in January 2002. Manufacturing output and output at utilities moved up noticeably, while mining output fell. Much of the gain in manufacturing output in January reflected an increase in the production of motor vehicles. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing output ticked up 0.1 percent after having been unchanged in December. Capacity utilization for total industry increased to 75.7 percent, a rate 0.7 percentage point above that of January 2002 but 5.6 percentage points below its 1972-2002 average.

So take out all the automobiles (which we're not going to be able to afford to drive because of the skyrocketing price of gasoline) and manufacturing rose 0.1%. Oh, and those record cold temperatures - I'm sure we'll continue to see them in March and April, right? Yup, the economy is definitely "roaring" back. But wait, more small print.

The output of consumer goods rose 1.0 percent in January. Within consumer durables, most of the gain resulted from the higher output of automotive products. The production of nondurables, which moved up 0.5 percent, was led by a sharp increase in residential electricity and gas usage associated with a return to more normal temperatures in January from an unseasonably warm December. However, the output of automotive gasoline dropped after two months of sizable gains, and the production of nondurable non-energy consumer goods, which include food, chemicals, and clothing, remained sluggish.

The output of construction supplies was little changed in December and January. The production of business supplies climbed 0.9 percent in January, an increase that largely reflected a jump in energy output for commercial use. The index for defense and space equipment rose 1.6 percent last month and was 4.9 percent above its level in January 2002.

When did our press become the Administration's megaphone for this kind of propaganda?

posted by MB | link | 8:11 AM |

Flashback Friday

As I was searching through US newspaper archives in my weekly endeavor to document how history is eerily repeating itself in regards to the two Bush Administrations, I found this one article and decided, this week, to go no further. At this point in the first Gulf War the US and its UN-sanctioned allies were four weeks into the campaign to "free Kuwait". The purported Allied mission was to push Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. There was no intent to "liberate" Iraq, no plan to capture or kill Hussein. Despite those modest goals and the use of supposed "smart technology", large civilian casualties occurred.

February 14, 1991
Boston Globe Editorial

With the precision bombing of a roof in Baghdad that turned out to cover a bunker being used as a bomb shelter, the US-led war against Iraq has entered a new phase. What the Bush administration has contended was a "surgical" military operation to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait has become, inadvertently but irrevocably, political. This moves the war onto perilous terrain.

At 4 a.m. yesterday, two bombs pierced 15 feet of reinforced concrete and burned to death about 500 civilians, mainly women and children, who had taken shelter from the 12-hour bombing raid going on outside. They reportedly hid there every night. Coupled with the bombings of two buses -- which killed 30 Jordanian refugees fleeing Kuwait and 30 Sudanese on the Baghdad-Amman highway -- the tragedy serves as a wake-up call for any who have nodded off in reveries of Nintendo war.

The targeters surely did not know they were hitting a major bomb shelter. They must have been convinced the target was a command center (which perhaps it was, as well).

Considering the extent of the US-led attack -- 65,000 missions in less than four weeks -- the Iraqi estimates of 6,000 to 7,000 civilian casualties to date actually sound moderate. The "high technology" of which President Bush boasts is obviously remarkable. The conscientiousness of pilots and bombardiers and their leaders in uniform seems exemplary.

The issue is not military competence but the disproportionate intensity of the military response chosen by US civilian leaders.

The extent and pace of the bombing -- which contributed to the Baghdad tragedy -- is only partly driven by the aim of freeing Kuwait or saving US lives in an invasion. The administration hastened to war on Jan. 16 not because of an artificial deadline for freeing Kuwait but because of an unstated agenda: to destroy Iraq as a military power and to inflict sufficient pain on the Iraqi people that they blame Saddam Hussein and rise up against him, or even kill him.

These aims explain the dearth of patience in the White House and the accelerated pounding of every Iraqi military target that can be found, and of the civilian infrastructure too.

Some Americans will try to brush this off. Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "We do know that Saddam Hussein does not share our sanctity for human life." Yet even if US officials can displace responsibility in their own minds, the world will not. Opposition to the US-led policy will be galvanized, and it may be growing in the countries of the alliance.

Virtually the entire world rejected Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Many were prepared to stand against it. But what most expected was a proportionate response: economic siege, graduated and minimal violence. The more sweeping US aims were not widely shared.

It is urgent that the administration rethink its political as well as its military aims and look ahead.

Iraq's offensive and defensive capabilities have been enfeebled. Saddam Hussein has already lost his offensive capacity. Unless the attacks against him enshrine him as an Arab hero, he will be a much diminished tyrant in a much diminished country.

The extensive bombing that produced the horror in Baghdad should be curtailed. To the extent that Iraq still poses an offensive threat, launching Scud missiles and land attacks, those threats must be identified and destroyed. And since the objective of evicting Iraq from Kuwait has not yet been achieved, interdiction of supplies to troops in Kuwait should continue. But with a patient siege, the dreaded invasion of Kuwait, likely to be so costly to soldiers on both sides, need never take place.minimize human loss, military as well as civilian, on both sides.

I mentioned to my spouse last night that instead of Americans sending envelopes of rice to Bush, we should all send photos of our children. With any luck, seeing that half of the population disapproves of this war, we could get three million photos.

There are three million children in Baghdad. It was a 2000lb "smart bomb" which killed 17 Afghani civilians in a rural area this week. The Administration intends on lobbing 600-800 of these bombs at the capital city in the first two days.

This will be a massacre. Send photos, faxes, rice. Take to the streets. This is our country, our government. We will be held responsible.

posted by MB | link | 6:36 AM |
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