Progressive Politics, Indian Issues, and Autism Advocacy

Monday, March 31  

Deja vu vu vu...

Just in case anyone happened to miss this headline in the March 21st Flashback Friday:

Boston Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the Senate GOP whip, apologized yesterday for calling a Cable News Network reporter, Peter Arnett, a sympathizer to Baghdad and for repeating a rumor that his wife's family had ties to the Viet Cong while Arnett reported the war in Vietnam. Simpson's views were contained in a letter to The New York Times, printed in yesterday's editions. While Simpson said he regretted "any hurt, pain or anguish" he had caused the Arnett...

This is getting all too weird....

posted by MB | link | 5:18 PM |

An unexpected postmortem

It appears that only through her death did Rachel Corrie achieve what she sought in the last weeks of her life. Allison Kaplan Sommer of An Unsealed Room, a freelance journalist (and real life friend) blogging from Tel Aviv reports this breaking news,

The Hebrew-language website Ynet quotes a senior IDF official as saying that the army is officially abandoning the tactic of bulldozing houses in Gaza because the army "has come to the conclusion that the damage to Israel's image internationally is greater than its effectiveness" as a terror-fighting tool.

The Israeli Right is outraged, the Left hopeful. What a joy it would be to see the violence on all sides ratchet down a notch (or 3 or 4.)

posted by MB | link | 12:40 PM |

UAPOAs (Un-American Parents of Autistics) are in good company

In Maine news this morning:

Smallpox vaccinations postponed because of health concerns
Associated Press, 3/31/2003

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) The state's first smallpox vaccinations for hospital workers, which had been scheduled for Monday, were canceled because of concerns about possible fatal side effects of the immunization.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills said she suspended the vaccination program until authorities learn more about three deaths in other states, which appear to be heart attacks and may be related to the vaccine.

About a dozen vaccinated people have also developed inflammation in their hearts or heart lining, a relatively mild condition which experts believe is related to the vaccine.

''One naturally wonders whether the three people who died might have had inflammation of the coronary arteries and hence a heart attack, a fatal heart attack. We don't know ... but we'll have more information soon, based on autopsy results,'' Mills said.

Depending on what the autopsies determine and on how many people get the heart inflammation, more people could be excluded from receiving the vaccine or the entire program could be postponed, Mills said.

The Bush administration's smallpox vaccination program called for public health workers to be vaccinated first. Thirty-nine people in Maine, mostly Bureau of Health employees, have gotten the shots, Mills said. None developed any serious side effects.

But a much larger group of first responders is scheduled to get the vaccinations next.

''There are a lot of men in their 50s among the first responders,'' Mills said. ''And men in their 50s have risk for heart disease.''

All three people who died from heart attacks had risk factors for heart disease.

Initially, public health authorities expected that 10 to 15 people out of every million who got immunized would develop serious complications and that two out of every million would die.

Since about 375,000 Americans have been vaccinated since February, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, the three deaths might have been unrelated to the vaccine.

Mills noted that the last full risk studies of the vaccine were performed in 1968. ''The tests for diagnosing heart inflammation are much more sophisticated now,'' she said.

More than 30 hospital workers had been scheduled to receive the vaccine Monday at Maine Medical Center.

California, Illinois, New York and Vermont have also temporarily suspended their vaccination programs.

On a related note, its important to remember that the Bush Administration and Republican Congressional lackeys have left the families of those potentially killed by the smallpox vaccine high and dry: By Executive Order last fall, Bush exempted manufacturers of smallpox and anthrax vaccines from product liability lawsuits, but never established a program to compensate individuals and families of those injured or killed by the vaccines, such as the NVICP. The now infamous S15 was slated to address this issue, but the Administration drew up a bill which was stingy at best, and has attracted the wrath of such saintly-sounding organizations as the American Nurses Association and the Uniformed Firefighter's Association. I'm sure though, knowing this Administration, that it won't be long before nurses and firefighter's are on Ashcroft's list of un-American Americans.

posted by MB | link | 8:48 AM |

Whack one mole, up pops another

Last week it was the Senate; this week the House wants in on the action. Seriously, give Republicans on the Hill a good old fashion, media-hyped, populace-distracting war, and they'll gleefully take it as an opportunity to stomp all over the most vulnerable in our society, children with disabilities.

This week, IDEA 97 is up for re-authorization. IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a reworking of the 1975 federal legislation which, in response to a Supreme Court decision at the time, guaranteed disabled children a "free, appropriate public education" (FAPE). Prior to the law, states could determine their responsibilities to educate special needs children, and many decided that either "warehousing" children in overcrowded special education classrooms or not admitting the child to public schools if they were deemed too disruptive or even "troubling" to other children, were acceptable policies. IDEA mandated states provide special needs children with a real education, and retooling over the past 25 years required that it be in the least restrictive environment. For my autistic son, who enters kindergarten in the fall, that will mean he will be part of a regular classroom, but with the assistance of a specially-trained aide just for him (a "one-on-one").

Like most federal legislation, fitting policy to real life situations is never perfect, and so adjustments have been made to fine tune the original bill. Under IDEA 97, parents were made partners in determining their children's needs, versus previous incarnations where they essentially had little input and were merely presented the final plan for their children's education by the "professionals" (school administrators, teachers, school psychologists, etc.) There are still areas which need to be strengthened, and the mandates need to be fully funded to the levels targeted by the original law. Unfortunately, Federalist politicians, many of whom disliked IDEA's intrusion upon states' rights territory, will take any retooling of IDEA as an opportunity to weaken the protection afforded by the law.

Last week, H.R. 1350, "Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act", the key House bill for IDEA reauthorization, emerged from the Subcommittee on Education and Reform of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. According to the full Committee's press release,

[t]he Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act (H.R. 1350) calls for reforms to strengthen accountability and results for students, reduce the IDEA paperwork burden for teachers, provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve early intervention strategies, reduce the number of children who are wrongly placed in special education classes, reduce litigation and restore trust between parents and school districts, and align IDEA with the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act signed by President Bush in January 2002. NCLB requires federally-funded schools to be accountable for providing a quality education to all students, including students with special needs.

Parents groups and disability advocates tell a different story. An action alert by the highly respected Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) outlined a number of serious flaws in the legislation. They include:

1) The elimination of short-term objectives:

"Revisiting an issue lost in IDEA 1997, the school boards are resurrecting their desire to eliminate short-term objectives from the IEP process. The given rational is that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) makes short term objectives unnecessary. There is nothing in NCLB that provides for measurements of progress toward IEP annual goals. Short-term objectives provide parents with useful information about the student's progress on important academic and non-academic goals. Without them, there is no reporting mechanism concerning progress."

2) Moving to a three-year, versus annual, IEP schedule:

"In the name of "paperwork reduction," the bill proposes a three-year rather than an annual IEP. While this is an optional choice for parents, many parents will either be confused by it or feel coerced to accept this option. We believe that an annual IEP is necessary to review the child's progress and to make necessary modifications. If parents are pressured to accept a three-year IEP, parental participation and the school's accountability to parents will decrease. This proposal purports to "streamline" the annual review, but given the cursory nature of most IEP reviews currently, the proposal panders to "paperwork" complaints with no benefit, and a likely detriment to children."

3) Dilution of current funding:

"The bill establishes a system of pre-special education interventions to be paid for by the already woefully in adequate IDEA funds. And nothing in the bill precludes schools from keeping children in a pre-referral category indefinitely, whereas those with disabilities should receive the full protections of IDEA as soon as possible. So as it is presented in the bill, the pre-referral program diverts already scarce funds away from IDEA-eligible students."

4) Discipline provisions which can strip children of their right to an education:

After a bloody fight in 1997 and a long negotiated compromise, the school boards and their allies are resurrecting proposals that failed in 1997. Instead of the compromise that unilateral action and alternative placements can only occur in the most serious situations (weapons and drugs), the House proposal would allow school district personnel to remove a disabled child from his or her current placement for the violation of ANY school rule so long as the same duration of discipline would apply to non-disabled students. To add insult to injury, this removal could take place EVEN IF the behavior was a manifestation of the child's disability. So according to the House proposal, a child with Tourette Syndrome could be removed for swearing. The bill would punish children for behavior that they cannot control, a repudiation of everything that the IDEA and the ADA stand for. Any pretense of concern for the children is unmasked by the removal of the requirement to develop positive behavior support plans.

[Editorial note] This last provision is particularly troubling, and I believe is at the heart of what many of the bill's proponents are attempting to achieve. NCLB requires that 95% of a school's student body participate in the standardized testing to be used to measure improvement. The law allows for 5% to be excluded, whether due to severity of disability, language barriers, truancy, etc. Students with special needs may be tested through "alternative assessment", but those measurements much be laid out in advance and meet with bureaucratic approval. Nationwide, approximately 15% of the schoolage population is receiving special education services. Another smaller but still significant portion are enrolled in bilingual education. There are parents who are philosophically opposed to standardized tests. There are kids who are sick or on vacation on the day of the test. All of these groups generally add up to more than 5% of a school population, and its that "overflow" percentage that I'm sure must make school administrators faced with the consequences of NCLB terrified. Predicting any eight-year old's performance on a standardized on any given day is almost no better than rolling the dice: Add in factors such as ADD or autism or lack of language comprehension, and the uncertainty increases exponentially. Thus, as a school administrator, having the option of erasing that ambiguity by getting rid of the potential problem students, particularly if there are no messy repercussions to fear.

HR 1350 has been put on a fast track with inadequate time for parents and advocates to make their concerns heard. It was submitted to the House Education and Workforce Committee, with markup scheduled for this week, after which it will be voted on by the Committee and then sent to the House floor.

Call the committee members listed below using toll-free Congressional switchboard at 1-800-839-5276. Urge them to delay action on H.R. 1350. Ask them not to rush to action on the bill before obtaining the counsel and support of the families and advocates of the more than six million special needs children who rely on IDEA. Explain to them that provisions in the bill radically alter how IDEA works, and that the outcome of any IDEA action should strengthen the educational services and supports available to special needs children rather than weaken them, as does this bill. Help them to understand that the procedural safeguards currently in place under IDEA are there to help ensure that children get services and the due process protections: This bill undermines those protections under the guise of "streamlining" processes and eliminating paperwork.

John A. Boehner, Ohio, (Chairman)
Thomas E. Petri, Wisconsin (Vice Chairman)
Cass Ballenger, North Carolina
Peter Hoekstra, Michigan
Howard "Buck" McKeon, California
Michael N. Castle, Delaware
Sam Johnson, Texas
James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania
Charlie Norwood, Georgia
Fred Upton, Michigan
Vernon J. Ehlers, Michigan
Jim DeMint, South Carolina
Johnny Isakson,
Todd Russell Platts, Pennsylvania
Patrick J. Tiberi, Ohio
Ric Keller, Florida
Tom Osborne, Nebraska
Joe Wilson, South Carolina
Thomas Cole, Oklahoma
Jon C. Porter, Nevada
John R.Carter, Texas
Marilyn N. Musgrave, Colorado
Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee
Phil Gingrey, Georgia
Max Burns, Georgia

George Miller, California (Ranking Minority Member)
Dale E. Kildee, Michigan
Major R. Owens, New York
Donald M. Payne, New Jersey
Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey
Lynn C. Woolsey, California
Rubén Hinojosa, Texas
Carolyn McCarthy, New York
John F. Tierney, Massachusetts
Ron Kind, Wisconsin
Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio
Judy Biggert, Illinois
Georgia David Wu, Oregon
Rush D. Holt, New Jersey
Susan Davis, California
Betty McCollum, Minnesota
Danny Davis, Illinois
Ed Case, Hawaii
Raúl M. Grijalva, Arizona
Denise L. Majette, Georgia
John Kline, Minnesota
Chris Van Hollen, Maryland
Timothy J. Ryan, Ohio
Timothy H. Bishop, New York

In closing, I'd like to include a few especially poignant paragraphs from the appeal at PetitionsOnline on the subject of HR 1350:

As it stands, parents of special needs children struggle daily to raise their children. We are more hardworking than the average parent. We work with our children to get them to sit, stand, walk, sign, talk, point, read, write, jump, button a shirt, tie a shoe lace, even to say "mommy" or give a kiss. The simplest things to typical children are triumphs for ours and are sometimes only achieved after several years. We shed many tears for our children coping with large amounts of stress. Yet, we are expected to live typical lives too. We work, we have family obligations beyond our special children, we pay our bills, and we pay our taxes. In addition, we fight our school districts.

We fight for eligibility, we fight for classification, we fight for assessments, and we fight for placements. IDEA was a law meant to protect our children.

The ideaology of the HR 1350 was to reduce paperwork, increase accountability, and foster collaborative relationships between local school districts and parents of special needs students.

The results is converse. These changes reduce accountability and therefore will lead to greater tensions between districts and parents. We fight long and hard already based on the current IDEA and these changes won't alleviate our difficulties but rather will add to them.

posted by MB | link | 8:21 AM |

Sunday, March 30  

Old friends rediscovered

You know the 'Net is constantly metamorphosing when you re-establish relationships with friends from earlier manifestations of the medium. Back in the mid-'90s, Joel Gazis-Sax spent much of his time, along with my partner and I, on sci.anthropology, beating down the Bell-Curve lunacy and other similar twisting of logic. He's now got a poliblog, Pax Nortona where he continues to show us the importance of a beautiful, but critical, mind and other similarly useful discourses.

posted by MB | link | 5:25 AM |

Saturday, March 29  


[update: Saturday evening. After 2 days of non-working blog and non-responsive Blogger/Blogspot, things began to post again. Thank you, Jim C, for shaking up the gods, or Gluskabe at least.]

posted by MB | link | 2:27 AM |

Friday, March 28  

Flashback Friday for March 28th, 1991

Michael Kranish, Boston Globe
March 28, 1991

WASHINGTON -- The White House yesterday contradicted its commander in the Gulf War, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who told a television interviewer that he had recommended against a cease-fire with Iraq.

"I have full confidence in Gen. Schwarzkopf, but all I know is that there was total agreement in terms of when this war should end," Bush said yesterday.

Schwarzkopf, in an interview broadcast last night on public television, said he had recommended that the war continue but was...

Jonathan Peterson, Los Angeles Times
March 28, 1991

Consumer spending-for homes, cars, refrigerators and everything else-propels two-thirds of the U.S. economy. But consumers do not appear ready for much of a shopping spree, even if the recession ends soon. By some measures, personal income has been falling since late 1989 relative to inflation, reflecting meager wage gains, higher taxes and rising unemployment.

Sound grim? Economics hasn't been dubbed the dismal ...

Associated Press
March 28, 1991

ZAKHO, Iraq -- Kurdish rebels said yesterday that they had seized a government-held air base and camp in northern Iraq, but reported signs that Saddam Hussein's forces were preparing for an assault on a key city held by the insurgents.

A statement from the Kurdistan Democratic Party said the Iraqi army was massing forces in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit to launch an attack on the northern oil city of Kirkuk, which was seized by the insurgents.

Boston Globe
March 28, 1991

The House yesterday approved a measure that would allow the state to capture about $17 million more from the federal government to pay those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits but have not been able to find new work.

Because of the state's growing unemployment rate and the inability of those who are jobless to find work, the state and federal government are expected to extend from 30 to 39 the number of weeks for which unemployed Massachusetts residents will receive benefits...

Larry Tye, Boston Globe
March 28, 1991

Officials at the Department of Energy and in Congress warned yesterday that without decisive action, America's dangerous reliance on imported oil will jump another 20 points -- to 65 percent -- by the year 2010.

That ominous possibility, and oil's central role in the US decision to go to war in the Persian Gulf, ensure that the energy debate about to begin in Washington will be the most hotly contested and closely watched since Jimmy Carter was president. But there still is no...

Glenn Somerville, Reuters
March 28, 1991

Strong exports softened the slide into recession late last year, but the economy still shrank at a revised 1.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the government said yesterday.

The contraction was less than a previous estimate of 2.0 percent, the Commerce Department said in its final report on gross national product in the fourth quarter. GNP measures the nation's total output of goods and services. Economists said the latest revision suggested that exports could help the flagging...

The foreign minister says the conflict cannot be a precedent for settling international issues with force

David Holley, Los Angeles Times
March 28, 1991

When asked whether China would abide by missile-technology control rules, worked out at a recent meeting of 15 nations in Tokyo, [Qian Qichen] said that because China did not join the meeting or the agreement that came out of it, Beijing is not bound by the restrictions. Qian said that China is a relatively small weapons exporter, and he called on large ...

Michael Kranish, Boston Globe
March 28, 1991

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said yesterday that he does not expect to change his policy against aiding the Iraqi rebels, despite concerns that the policy was helping Saddam Hussein. He said he believed that the Iraqi leader's survival in power is "unlikely."

Bush came close to ruling out a policy change that would help the rebels: shooting down Iraqi helicopters used to quell the rebellion.

The president was asked if he would agree to a formal cease-fire resolution even if...

Robert Lenzner, Boston Globe
March 28, 1991

NEW YORK -- The cocky confidence that has pervaded Wall Street since the outbreak of the Gulf War has been taking some nasty jolts lately.

Yet, each time the market retreats from unexpected developments, sentiment bounces back with resilience, indicating that most investors believe the recession will be over sooner or later.

"There are early signs of a recovery falling into place," says Richard Hoey, chief economist at Barclays de Zoete Wedd, a global investment firm...

Cover-up rumors and bribery attempts are hampering the Glendale office's efforts to process inquiries.

Phil Sneiderman, Los Angeles Times
March 28, 1991

While seeking information on the whereabouts of more than 1,000 Persian Gulf War prisoners and civilians, staff members have had to fend off bribery attempts, dispel rumors that they are hiding a list of Iraqi POWs held by the allies and deny the authenticity of such a "prisoner list" stolen from the Glendale office...

R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post
March 28, 1991

One month after halting the war against Iraq, U.S. military personnel in southern Iraq and Kuwait find their daily routine increasingly dominated by the task of providing food, water and medicine for a surging population of refugees, with no clear end in sight, according to defense and military officials

The bitter fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has caused thousands of Iraqis from cities and towns north of the temporary cease-fire line at the...

Julia Lawlor, USA Today
March 28, 1991

Dan Lacey blames current job losses on the corporate restructuring that began in the early '80s, when companies began eliminating layers of management to cut costs. The recession simply increased the restructuring, which took off in late '89, he says. ``These companies are getting rid of people permanently. This is forever.''

Okay, so just change a few little words...

Finance Concern is growing on Capitol Hill that a costly Bush proposal to replenish the bank deposit insurance fund airline aid is really a bailout in disguise.

James Risen, Los Angeles Times
March 28, 1991

Bush Administration officials deny, however, that their plan for the insurance fund airlines represents a bailout. In fact, Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady said this week that the banking airline industry will not need such a government effort, because banks airlines have much greater capital reserves than the savings and loan industry ever had. Banking Airline executives also heatedly deny that there are any parallels between ...

posted by MB | link | 1:47 PM |

Thursday, March 27  

Alas, an Indian

With so much of my energy focused on the Frist/Gregg NVICP legislation, I seem to have put my advocacy for American Indian issues on the back burner. Fortunately, the always sensitive and insightful Barry, at the incomparable Alas, A Blog is on a roll of his own with these fine posts (here, here and here) and even today's cartoon.

[Note: It was yesterday's cartoon - I'm losing track of time again...]

posted by MB | link | 6:30 AM |

On the home front...

In case you were distracted, here's a reminder that on Tuesday, the Senate resumed "consideration of S. Con. Res. 23, setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2004 and including the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal year 2003 and for fiscal years 2005 through 2013." In the course of that debate, here are the amendments the Senate rejected:

By 46 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 81), Daschle (for Lincoln) Amendment No. 324, to allow full access to Tricare for National Guard and Reserve personnel and their families on a continual basis, offset with reductions to the tax cut.

By 46 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 82), Baucus Amendment No. 348, to ensure that a prescription drug benefit is available to all Medicare beneficiaries on an equal basis, including those who choose to remain in the current fee-for-service program.

By 43 yeas to 56 nays (Vote No. 83), Conrad Amendment 411, in the nature of a substitute.

By 46 yeas to 52 nays (Vote No. 84), Byrd Amendment No. 412, to foster greater debate in the Senate and to prevent further increases in the deficit by striking the reconciliation instructions to the Committee on Finance.

By 48 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 85), Kennedy Amendment No. 315, to ensure that the budget includes funds to extend temporary unemployment compensation benefits, provides benefits to the million long-term unemployed Americans, and provides benefits to part-time and low-wage workers.

By 48 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 86), Dodd Amendment No. 415, to increase funding for after-school programs to the levels promised by the No Child Left Behind Act to serve 1.6 million more children in FY 2004 and to increase funding for Head Start to serve 80 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds and increase the number of infants and toddlers served and for deficit reduction.

By 48 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 87), Daschle Amendment No. 361, to fulfill the U.S. commitment to provide health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

By 47 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 88), Leahy Amendment No. 318, to increase the level of funding in fiscal year 2004 for first responders by $3,000,000,000 (to a total of $6,500,000,000) to support their efforts to protect homeland security and prevent and respond to acts of terrorism, and to reduce tax reductions for taxpayers with annual incomes greater than $300,000, and provide an additional $3,000,000,000 for deficit reduction.

By 49 yeas to 49 nays (Vote No. 89), Harkin Amendment No. 396, to help rural health care providers and hospitals receive a fair reimbursement for services under Medicare by reducing tax cuts to the wealthiest income brackets.

By 49 yeas to 50 nays (Vote No. 90), Bingaman Amendment No. 417, to increase Mandatory Child Care Spending by $4.6 billion over five years and $9.1 billion over ten years by reducing the tax cut.

By 48 yeas to 50 nays (Vote No. 91), Dodd Amendment No. 419, to increase the budget authority for Federal ``FIRE Act'' grants and to express the sense of the Senate that from the total funding provided for Federal ``FIRE Act'' grants, not less than $1,000,000,000 per year will be used for grants to local governments to hire additional firefighters and not less than $750,000,000 per year for the purchase of firefighting equipment and training, and to provide for a reduction in the deficit.

By 49 yeas to 50 nays (Vote No. 92), Clinton Amendment No. 418, to raise the caps and provide direct first responder funding to localities and for high threat areas through the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness in 2003 and 2004, to restore funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Act (''Byrne Grant'' program) and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program, and to reduce the D293deficit, by reducing the size of newly proposed tax cuts.

Addendum: I was so shocked to see so many of these worthy amendments go down on obvious party-line votes, that I went back to Monday's details as well. More depressing votes. The defeat of the Mikulski Amendment is a particularly hard blow for the families of autistic children, as so many necessary expenses are not covered by private insurance.


By 45 yeas to 54 nays (Vote No. 65), Schumer Amendment No. 299, to provide immediate assistance to meet pressing homeland security needs by providing funding in 2003 for first responders, port security, bioterrorism preparedness and prevention, border security and transit security, the FBI; to restore the elimination of funding of the COPS program, firefighter equipment grants, Byrne Grants and Local Law enforcement grants; to provide a sustained commitment of resources for homeland security needs without reducing funding to other key domestic law enforcement and public safety priorities; and to reduce the deficit.

By 46 yeas to 53 nays (Vote No. 68), Lautenberg Amendment No. 300, to restore national security funding.

By 22 yeas to 77 nays (Vote No. 69), Hollings Amendment No. 265, to eliminate tax cuts.

By 47 yeas to 52 nays (Vote No. 70) Conrad Amendment No. 376, to provide full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) part B grants over ten years by reducing tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers.

By 45 yeas to 54 nays (Vote No. 72), Mikulski Amendment No. 349, to revise the resolution to accommodate in reconciliation legislation a partially refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for eligible expenses for individuals with long-term or chronic care needs or their family caregivers who pay these expenses; in which ``eligible expenses'' shall include prescription drugs, medical bills, durable medical equipment, home health care, custodial care, respite care, adult day care, transportation to chronic care or medical facilities, specialized therapy (including occupational therapy, physical therapy, or rehabilitational therapy), other specialized services for children (including day care for children with special needs), and other long term care related expenses as defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services; and in which ``individuals with long term or chronic care needs'' shall mean individuals with multiple chronic conditions, individuals unable to perform activities of daily living, individuals with severe cognitive impairment, individuals with complex medical conditions, and other individuals with similar levels of disability or need for care.

By 48 yeas to 52 nays (Vote No. 73), Clinton Amendment No. 381, to raise the 2003 caps by $3.5 billion for homeland security funding through a Domestic Defense Fund at the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness in FY 2003 and to reduce the size of newly proposed tax cuts in the amount of $7 billion to pay for this amendment and for the cost of previously passed homeland security funding.

By 49 yeas to 51 nays (Vote No. 74), Dorgan Amendment No. 385, to increase FY 2004 funding for the discretionary programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs by $1,019,000,000, so it matches the level proposed by a coalition of veterans groups in the Independent Budget; to decrease the deficit by a similar amount; and to use the unreconciled tax cut to pay for it.

Harkin Amendment No. 386 (to Amendment No. 339), to reduce the reconciliation instruction by $375 billion, reduce the size of tax cuts allowed by $980 billion and to reduce deficits by $1.1 Trillion. (By 58 yeas to 42 nays (Vote No. 75), Senate tabled the Amendment.)

By 38 yeas to 62 nays (Vote No. 76), Breaux Modified Amendment No. 339, to reduce tax cuts to $350 billion.

By 48 yeas to 52 nays (Vote No. 78), Biden Modified Amendment No. 278, to make available funds for the COPS program.

posted by MB | link | 5:57 AM |

Wednesday, March 26  

Update on IOLTA

Back in January, legal expert Dwight Meredith of PLA keyed us all in on the goings on with Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) and the outrageous Washington Legal Foundation.

The good new is that the Supremes upheld IOLTA programs today. I'm sure Dwight will have the whole scoop soon.

posted by MB | link | 1:35 PM |

Smokescreen or Sure Thing?

But during the Homeland Security debate last November, Republicans swore up and down that the real threat to drug research and development was lawsuits and trial lawyers. Now we're told a different "truth", right out of Lilly CEO Sidney Taurel's mouth:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co.'s chief executive Tuesday warned that weakening patent protections or imposing government price controls in the United States could lead to "a death spiral" in the pharmaceutical industry's ability to develop new medicines.

No where in the article does Taurel even mention drug liability lawsuits as inhibiting the company in its pursuit of new drugs. To be honest, I'm not really shocked. In a Senate HELP hearing on smallpox vaccination plans in January, Kim Bush, head of Baxter Healthcare's Vaccines Division, while giving a small nod to "predatory lawsuits", testified that "rising development costs, downward pricing pressure and high costs of regulatory approval and compliance" were the main reasons pharmaceutical companies were either closing down vaccine manufacturing, or avoiding getting into the business of even non-childhood (AIDS, smallpox, anthrax, etc.) vaccines altogether.

So if Taurel and other pharmaceuticals really don't really see drug lawsuits as a big concern, why is Senator Doctor Bill Frist so incredibly gung-ho about pushing his pet vaccine injury compensation legislation? Or is Taurel so sure that Frist is going to cover his back that he doesn't even lose sleep over it any more?

posted by MB | link | 11:51 AM |

Homo heidelbergensis rosa?

During my first couple of years as an archaeology graduate student, I worked on mostly Euro-American early industrial sites: Shipyards, grist mills, ironworks, and a brief stint at Harper's Ferry. Definitely male-centric stuff. But then again, like many archaeologists, I had been programmed to believed that all archaeology (and history for that matter) was not engendered at all, because didn't men actually do everything of note and worth anyway?

Then I read Joan M. Gero and Margaret W. Conkey's groundbreaking 1991 work, Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory and the focus of my research, and in turn, the path of life, changed considerably. Whole spheres of human work, play and interaction, which I had previously taken for granted were cast in a whole new shade of...pink.

This epiphany was only reinforced by the recent discovery in Spain of a 350,000-year-old pink stone axe:

Handaxes of this type are usually used for butchering animal carcasses for their meat. But the researchers claim the striking colour is crucial to its importance.

"It's a very special colour," said Juan Luis Arsuaga, director of the Atapuerca excavation. "They would have needed to search it out. I think this colour had some significance for [these humans]," he added.

Now, if you're familiar with the post-Processualist theoretical framework of engenderment, you'll think that, given the author's description of the tool being used for meat processing, a traditionally female engendered activity, the manufacturer of that tool, most likely the tools owner, would be a woman. And looking at the color, is there any doubt whatsoever? I'm mean, really.

In all seriousness, it still is a challenge, given the mainstream media attempts to water-down scientific discoveries for mass consumption, to look at such material through anything but antiquated theoretical glasses. But its so much more interesting to toss aside those shades, or to don rose-colored ones instead, when reading up on recent archaeological discoveries.

[Note: If you happen to be interested in engendered pre-Contact North American archaeology, here's the perfect volume: It even contains a chapter on women and wampum production.]

posted by MB | link | 8:33 AM |

Tuesday, March 25  

Cut to the chase

A blogging friend suggested I post a summary and instructions. If you want more background on the subject, read the post below.

Senator Bill Frist, with the help of Judd Gregg (R-NH), is resubmitting the Eli Lilly Thimerosal provison, with additional devastating changes to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Markup is scheduled for today. Frist thinks he may have the votes.

Call these committee members using toll-free Congressional switchboard at 1-800-839-5276:
Gregg, Judd (R - NH)
Frist, William (R - TN)
Enzi, Mike (R - WY)
Alexander, Lamar (R-TN)
Bond, Christopher (R - MO)
DeWine, Mike (R - OH)
Roberts, Pat (R - KS)
Sessions, Jeff (R - AL)
Ensign, John (R - NV)
Graham, Lindsey - (R - SC)
Warner, John (R - VA)

Ranking Members
Kennedy, Edward (D-MA)
Edwards, John (D - NC)
Dodd, Christopher (D - CT)
Harkin, Tom (D - IA)
Mikulski, Barbara (D - MD)
Jeffords, James (I - VT)
Bingaman, Jeff (D - NM)
Murray, Patty (D - WA)
Reed, Jack (D - RI)
Clinton, Hillary (D - NY)

posted by MB | link | 10:44 AM |

A plea for action...

As I suggested two weeks ago, the latest move by Senator Frist to push through legislation indemnifying Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical campaign contributors might in all actuality be worse than the provision tacked onto the Homeland Security Legislation last fall, but removed in January, at the behest of my own Maine Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Well, it is in fact worse. Much worse.

The language tacked onto the Homeland Security Bill originated from Senator Frist's earlier failed attempt to modify the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: That last-minute provision asserted that the mercury-based vaccine preservative Thimerosal, which had been concluded to be an adulterant by various courts, was instead a vaccine ingredient, and thus all potential injuries sustained by mercury in vaccines had to first go through the NVICP. The problem with this was that vaccine law crafted in the mid-1980s which established the NVICP was not clear as to whether claims which were no longer able to be submitted to the Vaccine Court, due to a three year statute of limitations, could then be addressed in civil court. This was particularly relevant, as the "lag-time" between first symptoms and diagnosis of many neurological disorders, including autism, PDD and ADD/ADHD is more than three years. So families were concerned, particularly as new studies might come out implicating mercury in neurological conditions, that they would be closed out of both the Vaccine as well as civil courts.

Some background on the NVICP is important here. The legislation originally crafted was a joint effort between families, legislators, health officials and vaccine manufacturers. The goal was to provide for compensation for injuries while attempting to provide liability insurance for producers. The original intent was to make redress as easy as possible, much easier than going through the regular court system. Since it has always been difficult to prove without doubt a correlation between any drug or chemical and a human reaction, the NVICP was set up thusly: If your child is healthy before the shot, and not healthy afterwards, unless a piano dropped upon your child at the time s/he was getting the shot, the assumption is that the injury was caused by the vaccine. Period. Please sign for your compensation on the dotted line. The program was funded by a 75 cent surcharge on every dose of inoculant sold, and by last year, had racked up billions in the "Trust Fund".

The problem was, the Vaccine Court was not acting as Congress had intended, and parents started complaining. And legislators, such as Dan Burton, whose grandson was purportedly vaccine-injured, began to listen. And act, drafting legislation which would address the concerns of families, including lengthening of the statute of limitations to 6 years (with an additional "grandfathering in" of earlier claims), paying for attorney fees on an ongoing basis, and expanding the Vaccine Injury Table. The legislation also continued to allow families who were not happy with their claim's outcome to pursue redress in state civil courts.

Then Senator Frist came along. In April 2002, the doctor-Senator submitted his own bill to "reform" the NVICP. This legislation first off further protected vaccine "component" producers, even those who did not make childhood vaccines themselves (remember, the NVICP was established to protect manufacturers of childhood immunizations and prevent them from stopping production.) The company which benefited the most from this provision was Eli Lilly, which had coincidentally contributed heavily to Frist's Senate campaigns.

But Frist obviously had another agenda: For one, rather than expand the Injury Table, Frist wanted to restrict it by excluding all claimants whose injury may be in any way also related to a genetic condition. For example, a child who has a cousin who is allergic to eggs, and then experiences an injurious reaction to an egg-based vaccine might be excluded, as allergies are often inherited. Arguably, this could be used to exclude just about anyone, as we come to learn more and more about genetics. Second, although Frist agreed to extend the statute of limitations to six years, he did not want to allow older children who, because of his Thimerosal provision, were now forced to file claims to the Vaccine Court. In addition, the legislation would clarify the earlier law, and prohibit families from suing in civil court if they had not filed a claim in a "timely fashion", meaning within the six years. The families who previously didn't qualify for the Vaccine Court due to Thimerosal not being a "vaccine" were now forced into that court, and shut out at the same time. In addition, they would no longer had access to civil court.

But what would motivate Frist to be so cruel? His cat-killing history aside, he is still a doctor, and supposedly sympathetic to the injured and ill. I suspect that his motivations on vaccine liability legislation correlate to those on medical malpractice tort reform. Its not the injured who are the targets: They are just collateral damage. The real target is Democratic campaign funding, and a big chunk of that comes from trial lawyers. Limit attorney fees, either by capping payouts or by restricting who can actually file. Thirty million children were injected with dangerous amounts of Thimerosal from 1990 onward alone. Even if only a small fraction of those children file claims, there are attorney fees to be paid by the NVICP. If those children's claims are accepted, but then later denied by the court, they can still be pursued in civil court, and may be deemed valid by a jury. More, and possibly larger, attorney fees.

But secondly, I think Senator Frist's final provision of his bill, now resurrected in its entirety in S15, tells of an additional motive.

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines shall report to the Secretary regarding the status of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund, and shall make recommendations to the Secretary regarding the allocation of funds from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund.

The Republicans want to raid the billions in the Trust Fund. But if you allow thousands of new claims, the fund will dry up.

Senator Frist submitted his legislation three times last year, and each time it failed. He then had the Eli Lilly provision tacked onto the HLS bill in the middle of the night. After it was revoked, and Republicans gained a slight majority in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Frist again, this time through the committee's chair, Judd Gregg, attempted to include it in unrelated Homeland Security legislation. As of last week, advocacy groups thought they had Frist's word to withdraw it.

However, it is back! Senator Gregg is purportedly submitting Frist's original legislation to the committee today for markup. Frist says he may have the votes, and the nation is distracted by war. Please, call and fax the following Senators and ask that they not agree to this horrible legislation which will essentially gut the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, not only for children with mercury-induced neurological disorders, but possibly for ANY vaccine-injured child (and there have in fact been thousands of claims previously settled.)

Kennedy, Edward
317 Russell Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4543
(202) 224-2417
Edwards, John
(D - NC)
225 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3154
(202) 228-1374

Dodd, Christopher (D - CT)
448 Russell Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-2823
(202) 228-1683
Harkin, Tom
(D - IA)
731 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-3254
 (202) 224-9369

Mikulski, Barbara
(D - MD
709 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-4654
(202) 224-8858
Jeffords, James
(I - VT)

728 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 228-0776

Bingaman, Jeff
(D - NM)

703 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-5521
(202) 224-2852
Murray, Patty
(D - WA)
173 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2621  
(202) 224-0238
Reed, Jack
(D - RI)

320 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-4642
(202) 224-4680

Clinton, Hillary
(D - NY)

476 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4451
(202) 228-0282

Gregg, Judd (R - NH)
393 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4952
Frist, William (R - TN)
416 Russell Senate Office BldgWashington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3344
(202) 228-1264
Enzi, Mike (R - WY)
290 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3424
(202) 228-0359
Alexander, Lamar (R-TN)
Dirksen 40, Suite 2
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4944
(202) 228-3398
Bond, Christopher (R - MO)
274 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-5721
(202) 224-8149
DeWine, Mike (R - OH)
140 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2315
(202) 224-6519
Roberts, Pat (R - KS)
302 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-3514
 Sessions, Jeff (R - AL)
493 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4124
(202) 224-3149
 Ensign,John (R - NV)
364 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-6244
(202) 228-2193
Graham, Lindsey - (R - SC)

(202) 224-5972

Warner, John (R - VA)
225 Russell Senate Office Bldg Washington, DC 20510
 (202) 224-2023
(202) 224-6295

If you think this doesn't affect you, even if you don't have a vaccine-injured child, you're mistaken. The Fund was established to help pay for the expense of caring for injured children: If the money doesn't come from the manufactures, either through the fund or civil lawsuits, it comes from other programs, such as schools, healthcare, or job training. And then Frist and the Republicans get to raid the Trust Fund for their pet projects, like marriage promotion, or private school vouchers.

Lisa English has a great suggestion: If your budget is tight, take advantage of the toll-free Congressional switchboard at 1-800-839-5276. You pay for the service with your tax dollars...you might as well take advantage.

posted by MB | link | 7:59 AM |

Monday, March 24  

Protecting the oil fields...

But from whom?

I really don't exactly what to make of these breaking events:

U.S. commanders now consider the Rumeila oil fields ''unsafe,'' cancel a press trip
By Patrick Mcdowell, Associated Press, 3/24/2003 04:20
KUWAIT CITY (AP) U.S. and British officials made an abrupt about-face Monday in their evaluation of Iraq's most productive oil field, saying that the region which had previously been secured by their troops was now considered ''unsafe.''

The U.S. military canceled a press trip to the south Rumeila oil fields, where journalists were to see the burning oil wells and learn about plans to extinguish the flames and restore production.

''The Rumeila oil fields are unsafe. The trip is canceled,'' Marine Capt. Danny Chung told reporters in Kuwait. He gave no details, but there have been media reports of Iraqi attacks on the field.

A press trip to the southern city of Umm Qasr, where there was sporadic fighting days after the allies took control, also was canceled.

On Friday, senior officers said U.S. and British troops had captured many key facilities in Iraq's southern oil fields. American units advancing west of the southern city of Basra had secured the Rumeila field, which has a daily output of 1.3 billion barrels.

Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the British defense staff, told a news conference on Friday that ''all the key components of the southern oil fields are now safe.''

Then when I pulled up the Washington Post this morning, I was greeted with a photo of soldiers guarding burning oil wells. And then later this morning, Reuters reported that Kuwaiti firefighters had extinguished the one of seven oil wells in Rumeila sabotaged by retreating Iraqis.

When I went to NOAA's Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI) website, I found updated images of the Rumeila fires. At least, NOAA seemed to indicate they were newly updated, as their upload date was today. When I pulled up the new pic in Photoshop to lighten it, it appeared to be identical to last Friday's satellite image. The smoke plumes from the fires appeared identical, even though Iraq has been experiencing severe weather, including gale force winds, for the past day. Then I zoomed in on the date, and yes, it was in fact a republishing of the earlier picture.

The only newly updated picture I could find which documented any change was dated March 22, and was in a slightly different format. It was captioned, "Strong northeast winds are blowing smoke from oil fields in southeast Iraq..." In the 48 hours since the previous photos, the fires appear either larger or more widespread.

On the news that the oil fields were not entirely secure, oil futures rose almost a full dollar today. One can only imagine what might happen to prices should more wells be sabotaged. But then, such an event would have to be reported. By journalists, escorted to the fields, one presumes.

posted by MB | link | 10:25 AM |

Aaron Brown, Rumsfeld's Press Secretary

I saw this last night, and have been waiting, rather impatiently, for the transcript. All I can say, once again, is "what liberal media?"

BROWN:..Hafez Al-Miraz is the Washington bureau -- Washington -- chief Washington correspondent for Al Jazeera. And he joins us now. Good to see you, good evening.


BROWN: Look, I'll play this as directly as I can. Explain to me the rationale that your network had for displaying what can only be described as the most gruesome of pictures across the Arab world?

AL-MIRAZ: Thank you for the opportunity. I would like just to explain, first of all, that Al Jazeera, as you know, an independent news media. We're not taking sides in that conflict or in any other conflict. We are reporting the news. And we are putting out footage that we feel it is newsworthy sometimes for our own audience. This is an Arabic language news network. We don't broadcast in English or at least not yet.

The Al Jazeera for the last three days have been putting out footages of bodies of Iraqi dead Iraqis. They were both armies or civilians. And today, the -- we found that there are footages, or we have a chance to put out footages, although it was shot by the Iraqi TV or part of it by Iraqi TV, of the other side of the war. Also the -- that the human suffering on the American level, on the American side.

Some of the footages for your case or my case may be -- would be controversial. Do you need to put that much of the footage or the close-up? And it is a debate, even in our newsroom for a while. People who feel that it is the reality of war. And you cannot have just war as video games and just the very sensitized image of the war. But the main point...

BROWN: Mr. Al-Miraz.

AL-MIRAZ: ...is the footage of people who are dead and bodies were put to Al Jazeera for the last two days of Iraqis. Today it was put on for American victims. It is very -- it's a tragedy. It is very painful and emotional issue.

BROWN: All right, sir...

AL-MIRAZ: ...on both sides.

BROWN: ...respectfully, I understand that. And I, believe me, would be the first to argue and have many times in my professional life, that we are not in the business of sanitizing war or anything else. But is not -- is there not a line between sanitizing the news and simply putting something on TV because it is gruesome. You can show the horror or war without zooming in on the most gruesome -- I mean, I don't -- I'm reluctant to even describe...


BROWN: ...what that 6.5 minutes looked like, because honestly, sir, it is vile.

AL-MIRAZ: And that's what happened. Al Jazeera, when we got the chance to edit these tapes, first it was rushed and put out as is or mostly as is. And I agree with you. Some of it is really terrible and horrible. Unfortunately, some European networks, including Sky News, that is also the owners of Sky News are the owners of other U.S. networks, put the pictures as is. And maybe they did not edit out, but Al Jazeera did edit out after that the pictures. And we made sure that it doesn't show a description of faces or anything like that. That happened on -- later on.

Also, we honor the request by the Pentagon to give them some time, not to play the footage -- not to play the video for the POWs until they identify them and notify the families. That happens around 12:00 noon today. And the -- my headquarters did really respond to that request for humanitarian consideration. And we honor this as of 12:00 noon, until like 8:00 p.m. today, Al Jazeera did not put any of these footages or the POWs, while other networks in Europe, including U.S. allies like Spain state TV, Portugal, Belgium, others. They did put it out.

[Brown and Al-Miraz prattle briefly]

AL-MIRAZ: To explain to you what happen. So 12:00 noon Al Jazeera did abide by that until the people in the Pentagon notified the families. And unfortunately, half an hour after that, 12:30, I was watching CNN and I found one of your reporters in the Pentagon reading names of three POWs. And this is CNN in English for American families, while Al Jazeera would not reach any American or English speaker audience in the U.S. And this is what we're talking about.

BROWN: Sir, are you saying that this happened on CNN...

AL-MIRAZ: Yes, sir.

BROWN: ...excuse me, let me finish the sentence. I wasn't quite done. On CNN International or CNN domestic.

AL-MIRAZ: CNN domestic, sir.

BROWN: Because as you know, excuse me, as you know, there's a very different audience and a very different issue there.

AL-MIRAZ: As -- we're talking about CNN domestic, CNN America. We're talking about 12:30. And the Pentagon did investigate that and talk to the reporter who did that. And to -- just to add to that also, look today at "The Washington Post" front page.

BROWN: Okay, that...

AL-MIRAZ: "The Washington Post" front page has an Iraqi POW. I don't think that this is -- two wrongs don't make a right. I agree with you.

BROWN: Stop.

[Update: I trimmed the rest of the interview, as it was just too long, and Kieran Healy has it in it's entirety as well.]

posted by MB | link | 7:11 AM |

Speaking of being online in Iraq...

Salam Pax is safe and blogging again.

Goggole and Blogger even set up a mirror for him.

posted by MB | link | 6:28 AM |

Re-wiring Iraq

My partner, who operates an ICANN-accredited registry (as well as having been intimately involved with the .biz set up and .us and .org reassignments), has started looking into getting the .iq CCTLD up and running again. He's set up a very basic page (no, he's not an html expert by any stretch of the imagination) documenting the current status. If you're a techie and interested in helping, you can visit the site here.

Also, feel free to remind him about his seventh wedding anniversary coming up later this week. He never seems to remember on his own.

posted by MB | link | 6:25 AM |

Landmark civil rights case before the Supremes

Yes, there is news, very important, even history-making news, outside of Bush's war.

This for one:

High Court Looking At Gay Rights Case: Privacy sought for same-sex couples
Los Angeles Times
March 24, 2003

Washington - The gay equal rights movement, which has been growing in strength, faces a crucial test in the Supreme Court this week.

The court has never said gays and lesbians are entitled to equal rights, and it has upheld laws branding them as criminals for having sex.

In a 1986 opinion, the court described abhorrence of homosexuality as time-honored and traditional. It would "cast aside millennia of moral teaching" to say sex between gay men "is somehow protected as a fundamental right," then-Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick.

Now the court is being asked to cast aside Burger's view as bigoted and archaic.

Gay civil rights leaders say public opinion regarding homosexuality has changed dramatically since 1986. These days the "real social and legal deviants" are not gay people but "homosexual sodomy laws" that remain on the books in 13 states, says the Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself America's largest gay and lesbian group.

On Wednesday, the court will hear a Texas case that asks the justices not just to throw out the prosecution of two men who were arrested for having sex in the Houston home of one of the men, but to declare that the Constitution gives same-sex couples the same rights to privacy and equality as heterosexuals.

Such a statement would be a milestone on the road to full equality, rights lawyers say.

"This is the most important gay rights case in a generation," said Ruth E. Harlow, legal director for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "We believe America has moved beyond these [antisodomy] laws. And we're hoping the court will say all adults have the same right to privacy, and you can't have a different rule for gay people."

In the 21st century, I can't even comprehend how this isn't a slam-dunk. But then, I never thought that we'd actually be once again concerned about the internment of American citizens based on national origin.

The Rehnquist Court has failed on so many things. Let's hope they break with that tradition in this case.

posted by MB | link | 3:34 AM |

'It's more than exciting, Christiane'

My friend in Israel, knowing me so well, sent me the link to this Ha'aretz piece this morning:

Most TV correspondents reporting from Iraq are attached to combat units and adopt the military viewpoint, so who is giving us the other side of the war?
By Orna Coussin

Gregg Gursky, a cameraman for the American Fox news network, was arrested last Friday and handcuffed. The security people forcibly took away his camera, and removed the videotape. It didn't happen in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, but in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States. The cameraman had only filmed members of the Virginia State Police arresting a man "of Iranian descent," as they put it, who was driving a commercial vehicle on the main highway.

The Pentagon military police, who wanted to prevent the broadcasting of the pictures - claiming that the United States is in a state of emergency - returned the videotape to the managers of the popular news network only the next day, after intense negotiations between the sides. "A worrisome development tonight," reported presenter Brit Hume, referring to the incident on his program Special Report. "A development that apparently reflects the restrictive information policies of the Defense Department."

Media critics in the American press point out, however, that restriction of information is in any case characteristic of television coverage of the attack on Iraq. Blatant government censorship, of the type exercised by the Pentagon, is only a small and marginal part of the story.

The article continues, shifting to the coverage coming out of Iraq from so-called "embedded" reporters, and the external and self-censorship which is now the norm for war coverage. The article, however, is a must-read for insight such as this:

In an article on the Poynter Web site by journalist Keith Woods, he points out that in recent days many correspondents have been using, with quotation marks and without any critical approach, the names and labels given by the army to attacks - "smart" bombs instead of laser- or computer-guided bombs, "marginal damage" instead of "wounded and dead civilians," and "decapitation" instead of "assassination" or "murder," and names of operations such as "Iraqi freedom." Chris Hedges suggests that American journalists get a copy of "Politics and the English Language," written by George Orwell in 1946 (it can be printed out in its entirety from the Internet), which describes the power of language to cause moral destruction, especially in time of war.

As suggested above, you can read Orwell's essay here. I humbly admit I am too often guilty of this:

Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate , are used to dress up a simple statement and give an aire of scientific impartiality to biased judgements.

But then, as a reluctant post-Modernist, I recognize that even science is never unbiased.

posted by MB | link | 3:17 AM |

Sunday, March 23  

First questions, now detentions

In Oklahoma

Oklahoman Born In Iraq Detained By INS
Saturday March 22, 2003

Stillwater (AP) - A Stillwater man who was born in Iraq and moved to the United States when he was six years old has been detained by federal agents.

The FBI says Saief Alobaidi was taken into custody on an immigration violation.

Thousands of FBI agents across the country have been diverted from their usual duties to interview Iraqi-born residents of America. There are about 50-thousand Iraqis living in the United States.

Knowing that such arrests are happening across the country is little comfort to Alobaidi's family.

He was picked up by agents while he was at work Wednesday evening. His mother, father, wife and two children live in Stillwater.

His father says he moved his family to America in 1985 to save their lives. Saief has not returned to Iraq since.

The family says Saief was detained because he is on probation for a 2001 felony drug charge. It's possible he could be sent back to Iraq, which terrifies his family.

In Pennsylvania

Two men detained near refinery, one later released
March 19, 2003

Two men of Middle Eastern ethnicity were detained by police after they drove past an oil refinery.

Marcus Hook Police Chief James Padgett said the men were stopped and taken into custody at 10:50 p.m. Tuesday after an officer saw them drive slowly past a Sun Oil refinery on U.S. Route 13.

One of the men had an Oklahoma driver's license and a passport from Jordan, Padgett said. An Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman said he was being held on immigration charges.

The second, a 17-year-old man born in Yemen, was released after he was identified as a U.S. citizen, Padgett said.

Neither man faces criminal charges. Authorities declined to release their names.

Padgett said the men were detained because they were uncooperative and the arresting officer was not immediately able to confirm their identities.

In Michigan

Detroit FBI: Iraqi arrests 'not our goal': Washington wants tough enforcement of asylum rules
By David Shepardson / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Metro Detroit's Iraqi-American community has a double worry: war in their homeland and increasing scrutiny here from the U.S. government.

Since the assault on Iraq began, federal officials have questioned more than 50 Iraqis in Metro Detroit who have problems with their immigration status. But none has been held in custody, though more than a dozen people were briefly detained.

On Saturday, teams of agents interviewed more than 20 Iraqi men, temporarily detaining at least two with criminal backgrounds, said Philip Wrona, who heads the Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration Enforcement in Detroit.

posted by MB | link | 12:23 PM |

A mutiny at Langley?

I can't even begin to list all the ways I find this divulgence troubling:

C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports

WASHINGTON, March 22 — The recent disclosure that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints among analysts at the C.I.A. about the way intelligence related to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.

Analysts at the agency said they had felt pressured to make their intelligence reports on Iraq conform to Bush administration policies.

For months, a few C.I.A. analysts have privately expressed concerns to colleagues and Congressional officials that they have faced pressure in writing intelligence reports to emphasize links between Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda.

I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis on CIA involvement in the early years of the Vietnam War, when there was similar pressure to fit the "evidence" to the desired policy outcome. When the intelligence gathering arms of government are manufacturing information, not obtaining it, one can only imagine the realm of possible negative outcomes. Hopefully, with the flares the traditionally reticent Agency is sending up, we can only hope for nothing worse than a few red faces.

posted by MB | link | 11:41 AM |

No retreat on peace

Visit Bring Them Home Now

posted by MB | link | 8:20 AM |

Saturday, March 22  

Media Losses

Six Journalists Among Iraq Casualties

(CBS) One French and two American journalists were killed after crossing the border with Iraq into Nasariyah, Central Command reported Saturday. No names and affiliations were given. A third American was injured.

Centcom in Doha says a total of six journalists have been killed.

Two British ITN reporters in Um Qasr were killed by Iraqis after passing a checkpoint.

An apparent car bomb killed an Australian cameraman and at least four other people Saturday at a checkpoint near a camp of a militant group linked to al Qaeda.

Also Saturday, ITN television news reported that three members of one of its news crews were missing after coming under fire en route to Basra in southern Iraq.

While I'm saddened by the deaths of these journalists, camerapersons and their assistants, the numbers are rather startling, particularly for less than two actual days of combat. One can only assume that with so many mortalities in diverse areas of Iraq amongst the media, that civilian losses might also be higher than reported. Its all so depressing.

posted by MB | link | 11:49 AM |

Is the media now condoning discriminatory profiling?

Anyone else find this headline (and the intro to the story itself) disquieting?

FBI looking for Iraqi-Americans

By DONNA TOMMELLEO, Associated Press Writer
March 22, 2003

HARTFORD -- Teams of federal agents and police are canvassing Connecticut residents of Iraqi descent as part of a nationwide anti-terrorism effort.

The citizens are asked if they know of any possible threats against Americans and whether they know of any Iraqis in this country who are victims of hate crimes, FBI spokeswoman Lisa Bull said Friday.

"It’s a very low-key thing," Bull told The Associated Press. "It’s not a roundup. Our No. 1 mission is to prevent any further terrorist attacks. It’s pretty much that broad. We’re concerned about the big picture here."

Questioning foreign nationals visiting or living in the US may be reasonable, but this story appears to indicate that American citizens are being singled out for interrogation, based upon national origin. According to the Department of Justice's own website, such actions

may be violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. They may also be violations of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. That law prohibits discrimination because of national origin, race, color, religion, or sex by a police department that gets federal funds through the U.S. Department of Justice. They may also violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by law enforcement agencies that receive any federal financial assistance, including asset forfeiture property.

The FBI doesn't seem to be able to make a coherent argument regarding just exactly their goal in this mission. Protecting "Americans" against terrorism? Protecting Americans against hate crimes? Insinuating that victims of hate-crimes are more likely to resort to terrorism?

At the very least, the New Britain Herald needs to understand its complicity in rationalizing such questionable law enforcement tactics. Its own caption writers set the standard; if we react with indifference, the terrorists have already won.

posted by MB | link | 5:26 AM |

Friday, March 21  

More oil wells on fire?

If you look at the maps frame by frame at Weather.com, it appears that, as of this afternoon, there may be more oil well fires in northern Iraq, near Kirkuk.

Sean-Paul at the Agonist has heard similar news from a source.

[Update: There's a whole slew of satellite photos over at NOAA, with more added all the time. Just started to work through them and a number definitely appear to indicate heavy black smoke in areas around oil fields.]

posted by MB | link | 6:04 PM |

Prices jump. What a surprise.

I'm sure the Bushistas are hoping no one will notice.

Consumer Prices Reach a Two-Year High: Consumer Prices Jump 0.6 Percent in February, the Biggest Rise in Two Years

The Associated Press

Consumer prices shot up by 0.6 percent in February, the largest rise in two years. The prices of gasoline and other energy products soared as the United States headed into a war with Iraq.

The latest reading on the Consumer Price Index, the government's most closely watched inflation measure, showed prices in February rising twice as fast as January's 0.3 percent advance, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Yes, I predicted it would happen. I'd much prefer I'd been wrong.

posted by MB | link | 10:37 AM |

Round II: A possible victory?

The Schafer Autism Report, an (almost) daily newsletter, announced this morning that Majority Leader Frist was requesting that Judd Gregg, the sponsor of S15, a recently submitted bill on the President's BioShield initiative and smallpox vaccine compensation, strip the bill of its unrelated provisions on changes to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). That provision as included the notorious "Eli Lilly" thimerosal-liability protection.

The news has not been formally announced by Senator Frist on his website. One can only hope he keeps to his word, even in the midst of the smokescreen war has provided legislators who push an otherwise unacceptable agenda.

posted by MB | link | 7:39 AM |

Flashback Friday

I started this morning's weekly trek into the archives believing that, most likely, I would have to abandon this week's installment. With war currently taking up most of the headlines, I couldn't imagine there'd be much to compare. Surprising, although I kept it shorter than usual and limited my scope to just the Globe and Post, I still found these vaguely familiar stories:

H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

KUWAIT CITY -- No memorial or monument to war's destruction could be more impressive than the burning Kuwaiti oil fields that still rage out of control in the desert south of here. Nothing in photographs or on television prepares one for the roar, the stink, the heat and the billowing flames that rise howling in ever-changing shapes a hundred feet in the air. It is as if the very fiends of hell have been let loose. The sky drizzles oil from clouds almost too thick to breathe...

Sharon LaFraniere, Washington Post Staff Writer
March 21, 1991

Federal appeals court nominee Kenneth L. Ryskamp faced intensified criticism yesterday over his handling of a suit alleging excessive use of force by police, while indications grew that the Senate Judiciary Committee is closely divided over whether to confirm him. Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said during a committee hearing that he was "dumbfounded" by Ryskamp's explanation of comments he made from the bench in a case alleging that the West Palm Beach, Fla....

Bruce D. Butterfield, Boston Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

Citing a worsening jobless rate, Massachusetts officials yesterday said they expect to begin paying extra unemployment benefits by April 1 to as many as 60,000 laid-off workers who have exhausted claims and still have no jobs.

Under the extended benefit plan, workers will be eligible for from nine to 13 weeks of additional checks after their normal unemployment insurance runs out, state officials said.

"This is certainly going to be a help to many people," Wallace Graham...

Jim Luther, Associated Press
March 21, 1991

WASHINGTON -- IRS Commissioner Fred T. Goldberg Jr. yesterday said he rejected as "no-good tax policy" a recent White House budget office proposal to step up audits of lower-income taxpayers and relax pressure on big corporations.

"I said we will not do it," Goldberg told the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. He said he made clear the Internal Revenue Service policy has been to "go after the big guys who are not paying their share...

John E. Yang, Washington Post Staff Writer
March 21, 1991

House Democrats plan to draft a fiscal 1992 spending plan that would boost funding for education, health and science research programs well over President Bush's requests, according to a House Budget Committee document. The lawmakers also plan to reject Bush's calls to turn over as much as $15 billion in programs to the states and to link federal school lunch and student aid benefits to recipients' incomes, the paper said. While the spending plan would not call for any new...

John W. Mashek, Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander yesterday announced a six-month study of policies on scholarships for minorities. He said the policy permitting the scholarships will remain in effect in the meantime.

Alexander, who has been in office for less than a week, said he and Michael Williams, an assistant secretary in charge of civil rights enforcement, would direct the survey. Alexander made the announcement shortly before he and Williams testified before a House Government...

Hobart Rowen
March 21, 1991

We fought a successful war with Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring all of Kuwait's oil -- and possibly Saudi Arabia's too -- and then dictating to the rest of the world what the price would be. Now with the war won, a new cottage industry has sprung up: trying to convince the public that there is a "right" price for oil, something substantially more than the market says it's worth. The oil supply/price facts are simple: The world is in the middle of an oil glut...

Steve Marantz, Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

WHEN MAYOR FLYNN asks Boston's business leaders to hire teen-agers this summer he had best not mention his abortive Youth Outreach Program.

The five-year-old $145,000-a-year program, which provided 80 jobs to teen-agers from 10 different neighborhoods, is being cut from the next budget. Under the program, teen-agers were trained as peer leaders in violence prevention and health education. The cut comes even as Flynn touts the youth-support components of his Safe Neighborhoods Plan to...

Rudolph A. Pyatt Jr.
Washington Post
March 21, 1991

With the relatively quick end to the Persian Gulf crisis, a good many optimists are counting on euphoria to boost consumer confidence and catapult the economy out of recession. It's going to take a lot more than flag-waving, however, to get the economy moving forward again. When it does, economic growth in the Washington area, at least, is unlikely to be as robust as in the booming 1980s. Most projections now point to moderate growth in the 1990s, but much slower than in the previous...

Michael Kranish, Boston Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's latest push for a capital gains tax cut, launched with fanfare during his State of the Union address, appears to be fizzling because Democrats opposed to the reduction have refused to name anyone to a bipartisan commission that was supposed to study the proposal.

The White House has blamed the Democrats, but some critics said the problem lies with the Bush administration for failing to push harder for the measure at a time when the president's...

Boston Globe Staff
March 21, 1991

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the Senate GOP whip, apologized yesterday for calling a Cable News Network reporter, Peter Arnett, a sympathizer to Baghdad and for repeating a rumor that his wife's family had ties to the Viet Cong while Arnett reported the war in Vietnam. Simpson's views were contained in a letter to The New York Times, printed in yesterday's editions. While Simpson said he regretted "any hurt, pain or anguish" he had caused the Arnett...

March 21, 1991

Blue-chip stocks rebounded today to post a slim gain after a rout the previous session, while gasoline prices soared amid concern that motorists may face a shortage going into the summer driving season. Bonds also rebounded, while the dollar closed mostly lower against leading currencies.The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 4.21 points at 2872.03. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange was heavy at 197 million shares...

Washington Post
March 21, 1991

Charles Krauthammer's encomium to President Bush's leadership in getting the United States into the Gulf war is based on the suggestion of historical analogies that are, to say the least, flat wrong. His thesis is that President Bush achieved "a remarkable feat of domestic diplomacy" by getting public support for his policy of war despite his well-known inability to rally an audience with a speech...

posted by MB | link | 7:26 AM |
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