Progressive Politics, Indian Issues, and Autism Advocacy

Wednesday, April 30  

Slow blogging ahead...

Posting will be light in the next day to two. I really need to spend some uninterrupted time on It's Still the Economy, Stupid, especially since it's no longer just mine to neglect. Also, Wampum will be migrating to a new home eventually, as soon as I get a better handle on Movable Type. For now, I've got my banner up, but nothing else. That needs to change if I ever want to get away from the hell Blogger/Blogspot has become.

Also, today is IEP day for my eldest son, Sam. Sort of fitting, seeing that the House is voting on IDEA re-authorization today.

I'll be around, but barely. In the meantime, check out any of the fine blogs on the right (as in little "R" - they're mostly all Lefties - maybe a centrist thrown in for good measure.)

posted by MB | link | 11:41 AM |

A Senator's job is what again?

Bush judicial pick approved, but barely
April 30, 2003

WASHINGTON--Defying a throng of blind, deaf and disabled activists, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed a controversial nominee for a court one step below the Supreme Court.

The 52-41 vote for Jeffrey Sutton came almost two years after the lawyer from Columbus, Ohio, was nominated by President Bush for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles appeals for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

The 52 votes Sutton got are the fewest for any confirmed federal judge since 1986. Opponents said a vote for Sutton was a vote against the Americans With Disabilities Act, which Congress passed in 1990 to deter bias.

In one of the 12 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, Sutton said Congress had gone too far when writing the act. He argued it should not apply to state governments. The court agreed.

It was expected that the nomination would pass, especially with the defection of DINOs Nelson (NE) and Feinstein. But I was surprised that seven Senators had not voted. A quick look at the roll call indicated that of the seven, three, John Kerry, Bob Graham and Joe Lieberman, were Democratic candidates.

So where were the Senators on a vote so important to the poor and disabled?

Senator Lieberman was in South Florida fundraising.

Senator Kerry was in Alabama fundraising.

Senator Graham was in Iowa campaigning for his yet undeclared run.

Only Senator John Edwards was where he was supposed to be, on the floor of the Senate. This parent of disabled children appreciates that type of action, versus empty rhetoric.

[Update: Drew, of So Far, So Left, lists the Senators who voted yea in the Sutton nomination and whose terms are up in 2004. Links are bloggered, but you can't miss it.]

posted by MB | link | 6:54 AM |

Tuesday, April 29  

Deja-Vu Syndrome is spreading in the media

It's now taken hold of at least one polling organizations.

The latest CBS poll was very interesting, mostly mirroring last week's USA TodayCNN/Gallup poll. But the fact that pollsters are now asking these questions indicates they too are increasingly aware of the similarities between 1991 and 2003. Here is the last segment reported by CBS.com:

The public’s priorities and views of the economy in this post-war poll are reminiscent of the public’s views twelve years ago, as the 1991 Gulf War was winding down, when the economy also dominated the public’s concerns.

In April 1991, 32 percent named the economy and jobs as the number one priority for the country, while 9 percent volunteered the Persian Gulf and foreign policy as the top concern. Today, the economy and jobs also far outdistance the public’s concerns about foreign policy issues or war.

In 1991, views of the economy were similar to those held now; 42 percent of the public thought the economy was in good shape, and 57 percent thought it was in bad shape.


Good - 44%
Bad - 54%

Good - 42%
Bad - 57%

Then, as now, negative views of the economy were paired with a bleak assessment of its direction, with only about one in five thinking that the economy was on the road to recovery.


Getting better - 19%
Getting worse - 28%
Staying same - 52%

Getting better - 18%
Getting worse - 33%
Staying same - 47%

The Persian Gulf War had an enormous impact on the public’s views of then-President George H.W. Bush, causing his job approval rating to soar, from 62 percent just before the war began to 83 percent during the war. But that success was short-lived; as the economy worsened, and the public focused on priorities at home, George H.W. Bush’s job approval rating dropped to 75 percent by June and was 51 percent by the end of that year. Economic conditions, and the president’s response to them, are widely viewed as the cause of his loss of public approval.

President George W. Bush experienced a similar surge in public approval after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reaching a job approval rating of 90 percent by October 2001. His job approval rating has steadily declined since then, and was 58 percent just before the war against Iraq. He experienced an upward bounce during the war, to 71 percent, but that has declined a bit in this poll.


George W. Bush
After war was over - 67%
During war - 71%
Before war began - 58%

George H.W. Bush
After war was over - 80%
During war - 83%
Before war began - 62%

Both presidents receive similar ratings on their handling of the economy, although George W. Bush is viewed slightly more positively than his father was. In April 1991, 38 percent approved of the way George H.W. Bush was handling the economy, and 48 percent disapproved. In this poll, 42 percent approve and 45 percent disapprove of the way his son is handling the economy.


George W. Bush, 4/2003
Approve - 42%
Disapprove - 45%

George H.W. Bush, 4/1991
Approve - 38%
Disapprove - 48%

[Nota bene: Here's a graph (.pdf format) which shows pretty clearly the direction George H.W. Bush's favorable ratings took in the year after the Persian Gulf War ended.]

I've been asserting for months that if Progressives, heck, any Bush critics, would continue to hammer the similarities between Bush I and II, despite Rove&Co. objections, it would begin to stick. This is not a Teflon presidency. Get out your glue sticks.

posted by MB | link | 9:54 AM |

Forget the So-called-liberal-media: It's the Pollyanna Press now

The irony of it all. In a rare occurrence, an Administration release actually offered an honest assessment of a negative economic report:

The Employment Cost Index for total compensation rose 1.3 percent from December 2002 to March 2003, following a 0.7 percent gain from September to December 2002, seasonally adjusted, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Benefit costs increased 2.2 percent and continued to substantially outpace the 1.0 percent gain in wages and salaries for civilian workers in March. The Employment Cost Index (ECI), a component of the National Compensation Survey, measures quarterly changes in compensation costs, which include wages, salaries, and employer costs for employee benefits, for nonfarm private and State and local government workers.

Employer costs for benefits account for nearly 30 percent of compensation costs and include such items as health and other insurance, retirement plans, paid leave, and legally-required benefits like Social Security. For the year ended March 2003, benefit costs increased 6.1 percent, greater than the 4.9 percent gain for the year ended March 2002. Much of the increase in benefit costs stemmed from the continuing rise in the costs for health insurance and the recent upturn in retirement costs, particularly for defined benefit pension plans.

But could the so-called-liberal New York Times report such a frank admission by the BLS? Obviously not:

Workers' Wages, Benefits Up 1.3 Percent
Filed at 8:35 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. workers' wages and benefits rose by a brisk 1.3 percent in the first three months of 2003, the biggest increase in nearly 13 years, even as businesses struggled with the lackluster economy.

The increase in the employment cost index for the January to March quarter was nearly twice as big as the 0.7 rise posted in the fourth quarter of 2002, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Although companies have been keeping work forces lean to deal with the uneven economy, they are providing workers who are still on the payrolls more generous compensation packages. That's goods news for the ranks of the employed but can be a potential strain on some profit-pressed companies.

Spin, spin, spin.

[also posted at It's Still the Economy Stupid]

posted by MB | link | 6:18 AM |

Nationwide Call-In Day: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Use the toll-free Congressional switchboard at 1-800-839-5276

Today is the day, a National Call-In Day for two issues critical to disabled individuals and special needs children: The Senate votes today on the nomination of Jeffrey Sutton, and the House votes tomorrow on the re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Senate to Vote on Sutton Nomination April 29

Please tell your Senator to vote NO on the nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals!

"Jeffrey Sutton, nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee), was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 13. The full Senate began consideration of the Sutton nomination on April 11, and will vote on April 29.

Over the last several years, Jeffrey Sutton has become a leading activist in the so-called “states’ rights” movement, personally arguing against Congress’ authority to enact laws protecting Americans against discrimination based on race, age, disability, and religion. Sutton’s record as a lawyer and advocate reveal him to be an extremely ideological and conservative activist with a particularly troubling record in many areas important to our communities. For example:

**Sutton has been involved in a targeted effort to challenge and weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), arguing that it was unconstitutional for the ADA to permit state employees to bring lawsuits to protect their rights against discrimination. In fact, Sutton went further and told the Supreme Court that the ADA was “not needed.”

**Sutton has argued against allowing individuals from suing on the basis of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, or national origin.

**-Sutton has also argued for severe limits on the ability of state employees who are victims of age discrimination to recover damages.

**Sutton argued that the civil rights remedy of the Violence Against Women Act was unconstitutional, barring women who are victims of gender-motivated violence from bringing a civil rights action before a federal court. Sutton also maintained that a violent act against a woman has no affect on her ability to earn a living wage, get an education, and travel, thereby invalidating Congress’ authority to remedy non-economic, violent activities.

Based on Jeffrey Sutton’s record as a lawyer and legal advocate, it is clear that his legal philosophy is focused on limiting Congress’ historic role in protecting the civil rights of all Americans. Sutton’s judicial activism targets the disadvantaged and could roll back years of progressive and protective legislation. [source: civilrights.org]

House to Vote on HR 1350, IDEA Re-authorization, April 30

Please call your Congressperson and voice your opposition to H.R. 1350. Ask them to oppose H.R. 1350.

Tell them that, "H.R. 1350 is a Bad IDEA !"

"The vote on H.R. 1350 is scheduled for April 30. It is critical that we voice our opposition.

Objections to H.R. 1350: "Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act":

** Change from annual to three-year IEPs.

** Elimination of short-term objectives and benchmarks.

** Limiting attorney fees for attorneys who represent parents.

** Changes in discipline provisions that punish kids for their disabilities: schools can remove a student unilaterally for infractions of any school rule even if the behavior is caused by the child's disability. The bill eliminates manifestation determinations, functional behavior assessments, and behavior intervention plans.

** A companion bill includes a voucher program for public schools to send children to private schools that are not accountable under IDEA.

** There is no full funding, and 15% of the inadequate funding there is can be diverted to programs for non-IDEA-eligible children.

** Procedural changes make it impossible for parents to participate in or monitor the process: voluntary binding arbitration, a one-month waiting period, a one-year statute of limitations.

** 10 states will be given "paperwork reduction" incentives that allow them to change documentation requirements without public review. [source: DREDF]

Once again, use the Toll-Free Congressional Switchboard (it's paid by your tax dollars - use it) at 1-800-839-5276.

Need to know your Senator or Congressperson?

Here are previous writings by Wampum on Jeffrey Sutton and IDEA.

posted by MB | link | 3:25 AM |

Monday, April 28  

More on the missing CNN poll

Yesterday, I wrote about last week's USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll which mysteriously was never reported by CNN on its website. Leah A., in comments, reminded me that Howard Kurtz was a CNN employee as the host of Reliable Sources. I was intrigued because Kurtz, in the Post, was one of the handful of journalists who discussed the poll in print last week. However, when I checked the April 27th transcript for Reliable Sources, no mention of the poll.

But since I was already mucking through the transcripts, I looked into last week's Inside Politics, and, lo and behold, found this highly "interpreted" report by Bill Schneider and Judy Woodruff:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk a little more now about the president's tax cut plan and how the American people see it. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is in Washington. First of all, Bill, new poll numbers out today. How much support is there out for the president's tax cut plan?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Limited. Especially when you consider how popular President Bush is after the war. We asked Americans nationwide, do you think the tax cuts President Bush is proposing are a good idea or a bad idea? And just 42 percent say they're a good idea. Slightly more, 47 percent, call the tax cuts a bad idea. That is a remarkable lack of public enthusiasm for what ought to be an easy sell.

WOODRUFF: Well, what explains the lack of enthusiasm?

SCHNEIDER: One word: recession. The view of the economy has become markedly more negative since the beginning of the war with Iraq. Just after the war started, 41 percent of Americans thought the economy was in recession. Now, it's up 15 points to a solid majority. Fifty six percent now believe the U.S. is in a recession. Now, wait a minute. President Bush is calling his tax cuts a jobs and growth package. People concerned about recession ought to be enthusiastic about the tax cuts.

Not so. Americans who believe the country is in recession solidly oppose the tax cuts, 57 percent. The tax cuts are more popular among people who believe we're not in a recession. That holds true even among Republicans, Republicans who think the country is in recession are split over the tax cuts. Republicans who say we're not in recession overwhelmingly favor them. So, the bad economy is undermining President Bush's argument for tax cuts. In bad times, people think the country can't afford tax cuts, particularly when they see government services like education being cut.

WOODRUFF: But Bill, does all this mean the lack of enthusiasm for tax cuts, does that in any way mean the president is in trouble for reelection next year.

SCHNEIDER: Not yet. When we asked registered voters whether they'd vote for Bush or the Democrats in 2004, Bush leads 49 to 36 percent. That's not quite a majority.

Now, how can Bush even be ahead if Americans believe the economy is in recession and if, as you reported earlier, the economy outweighs national security in importance? President Bush has a solid lead among national security voters, nearly 50 points ahead. He trails by about 15 points among voters who say their top issue is the economy. The economy does not pay off for Democrats nearly as much as national security pays off for President Bush.

[end of report]

It's rather interesting, besides the final spin Schneider puts on the "results", that no other source, including USA Today, which provided a least a dozen of the questions and answers, mentions the Bush vs. Democrat figure. What's with that?

Anyway, that was the extent of the reporting on a poll which must have cost CNN a bucket of money.

posted by MB | link | 12:16 PM |

Quote of the day

Who said this during Sunday's line-up?

"What I'm trying to figure (is) why these conservatives are pushing the bigger and bigger tax cuts when, traditionally, conservatives have been opposed to deficits."

"If we get these big deficits, then the pressure will be on to strangle the spending, to strangle what is called the 'wasteful social spending,' whether it's Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security ... Head Start programs or Pell Grants. I think that's the tactic."

[Answer in Comments]

posted by MB | link | 9:33 AM |

Always read the fine print

So when I took my morning jaunt over to the Yahoo! Economic Calendar to get a quick update on this morning latest releases, I saw that the Commerce Department had put out March's "Personal Spending" numbers, and although they were up 0.4%, they were lower than the 0.6% that "the Market" was expecting. I moused on over to the Times, where I was somewhat surprised to see this:

Consumer Spending and Personal Incomes Rise in March
Filed at 8:39 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans flocked to the shopping malls in March, boosting spending by 0.4 percent, the best gain this year, as consumers started to shake off their worries about the Iraq war.

The Commerce Department said the March increase in spending followed a lackluster 0.1 percent gain in February and a decline of 0.1 percent in January. It marked the strongest monthly increase since a 1.1 percent surge last December."

Anyone reading that would expect that the US might just be on the edge of economic recovery. And I wonder how many busy New York Times readers stop there, and go onto the next article. I suggest reading a little bit further down. Well, actually, almost to end of the article in fact:

The Commerce Department report on incomes and spending showed that the 0.4 percent jump in spending in March came from strength in spending on nondurable goods, such as clothing and food, and on services such as rent payments. Spending on big-ticket durable goods such as cars was actually down for the month.

The 0.4 percent rise in consumer spending was much more subdued once the impact of rising prices on the purchases of gasoline and other items was removed. Adjusting for inflation, the March increase was a tiny 0.1 percent, while February was transformed from a gain of 0.1 percent to a decline of 0.4 percent.

Sounds like a real rebound in consumer spending. Not.

posted by MB | link | 7:59 AM |

Eat your veggies? Maybe not...

I have to admit that the headline, "Advocacy group finds contaminant in lettuce", caught my eye this morning due to the fact that, after four bedrest pregnancies in six years and subsequent added baby weight, I'm eating a lot of lettuce these days. But I really wasn't prepared for the implications when I opened the Boston Globe to read:

State and federal environmental officials believe that perchlorate, a salt used to help power missiles and the space shuttle, may cause health problems, even in trace amounts. Because it is known to affect thyroid hormone production, which is critical to early brain development, perchlorate exposure may be especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children.

Of course, I Googled the contaminant, recently found in four of twenty-two samples of California-grown lettuce (including organic brands), and became even more alarmed:

Thyroid hormones are crucial to proper development of many organ systems, including the nervous and reproductive systems. (Porterfield 1994, Jannini 1995.) The possible developmental effects of hypothyroidism include mental retardation, vision, speech and hearing impairment, deaf-mutism, spasticity, abnormal gait, delayed reflex development, impaired fine motor skills, and abnormal testicular development in males. (EPA 1998; Brechner 2000.) In older children, depressed thyroid levels have been associated with lower motivation to learn and attention deficit disorder. (Porter et al. 1999.)

The Globe and other related articles offered rocket fuel as the cause of the contamination of Southern California and Arizona's main irrigation resource, the Colorado River, and though there are other sources, this is correct (also from ewg.org):

Perchlorate salts are used in a variety of products as diverse as electronic tubes, car air bags, leather tanning and fireworks. Perchlorate was once used as a medical treatment for patients with severe hyperthyroidism, before serious side effects all but discontinued its use in the 1960s. (EPA 1998.) It is still used on a very limited scale in medicine for diagnosis and imaging. But perchlorate's main use is as an explosive propellant: Ninety percent of the perchlorate produced goes into solid rocket fuel for Air Force missiles and the NASA space shuttle. (EPA 1998.)

It turns out that perchlorate is also found to collect in high concentrations in breastmilk. Gee, like I need one more thing to worry about regarding my children's neurological development.

So much for salad, at least until this story further develops.

posted by MB | link | 6:28 AM |

Sunday, April 27  

Don't blink now! A new not-so-favorable poll!

This morning, while I was Googling news to get a sense of where American sentiment currently stands on Bush's tax cut plan, I ran across this bit in Deb Price's informational piece in this morning's Detroit News:

[A]s a USA Today/CNN poll released Friday shows, Americans' No. 1 concern is the economy. The poll's findings are cause for alarm for the Bush White House:

53 percent said the state of the economy will determine their vote in November 2004, while only 36 percent said national security -- Bush's strength in polls -- would dictate their choice.

54 percent of Americans think Bush isn't devoting enough attention to the economy.

36 percent said proposed tax cuts will "mostly help" the economy, while 57 percent said the cuts would either do nothing or undermine the economy further.

Needless to say, I thought, wow, with all the focus on Bush's trekking around the country, pushing his purported stimulus package, such numbers from CNN and the Gallup Organization would have sparked a bit more coverage.

I wanted to see more on this poll, so naturally, I moused over to the CNN website. What did I find?

Nothing. Nada. Not a mention of the poll or its findings.

So next, I clicked over to Gallup's site. Nothing in print, but I did find a video clip which unveiled some of the polls results.

Finally, I visited the USA Today website, where I found an article from last Friday entitled, "Bush says $550B tax cut will boost economy; Poll: Few say cuts will help" in the archives. Of course, I had to pay $2.50 to access it. But it at least provided some more data on the mysterious poll, including the following questions and responses of 1,001 adults April 22-23 (with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points):

How much attention do you think President Bush is paying to the economy?

Too much: 1%
Right amount: 43%
Not enough: 54%

Are President Bush's proposed tax cuts a good or bad idea at this time?

Good idea: 42%
Bad idea: 47%
No opinion: 11%

What effect will the proposed tax cuts have on the U.S. economy over the next year?

Mostly help: 36%
No effect: 31%
Mostly hurt: 26%

Has the was with Iraq made you more confident in Bush's ability to handle the country's other problems?

More confident: 43%
Less confident: 15%
No difference: 41%

Within the text of the article, a little more information was provided about American attitudes towards the importance of the economy:

53% say the economy will most sway their voting decision; 36% say national security will be most influential.

[T]he poll finds Americans split 50% to 48% over whether he is in touch with the problems of ordinary people.

Most Americans, 56%, believe the economy is in recession, although government statistics show that it is not.

Although the poll is merely that, a poll, I found it newsworthy for a couple of reasons. First, the poll was taken while much of the media is still focusing its attention on national security issues, namely Iraq, and to a lesser extent, North Korea. That Americans are resisting the not-so-subliminal media attempts to mold the public focus on international events is telling of the power of the economy. And second, the poll results contradict the strategy Bush's political handlers disclosed last week, an "election campaign that is being built around national security and Mr. Bush's role in combating terrorism."

So how well will that play with American voters? Surprise, surprise, the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll also addressed such issues:

How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of terrorism?

Very worried: 8%
Somewhat worried: 26%
Not too worried: 39%
Not worried at all: 26%

In fact, the poll now indicates that Americans may fear John Ashcroft more than Osama bin Laden:

Should the government take all steps necessary to prevent additional acts of terrorism in the USA even if it means your basic civil liberties would be violated?

Take steps even if civil liberties are violated: 33%
Take steps but not violate civil liberties: 64%

The Bush Administration can't even get a break on its role in Iraq's future:

Who do you think should be in charge of:

Overseeing the transition to a new government in Iraq?

United States: 41%
United Nations: 52%
Both equally: 4%
Neither: 2%

Providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians?

United States: 26%
United Nations: 65%
Both equally: 9%

Of course, I wasn't the only one who found this poll to be so newsworthy. Three others, besides the Detroit News, did as well.

Compare that with the 300+ news organizations which reported on the Pew Research Center's recent poll announcing Bush's 72% favorable rating.

The So-Called-Liberal-Media strikes again.

posted by MB | link | 7:25 AM |

Saturday, April 26  

Judges matter

This is one reason why appointments to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals are so important:

Appeals court halts work of trust fund master
Friday, April 25, 2003

A federal appeals court on Thursday temporarily suspended a court investigator whose work on the Indian trust fund led to the imposition of contempt sanctions on two Bush administration officials.

In a short order, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals took Joseph S. Kieffer III off the case pending further review. Although the Department of Interior has sought his removal, the three-judge panel didn't explain why they acted.

Since April 2001, Kieffer, a former military intelligence specialist, has functioned as a court monitor and, more recently, a special master-monitor in the long-running Cobell case. His suspension has little practical effect because he hasn't issued a major report in more than a year and his work has been held up by government lawyers who have challenged his every move.

But it came at a critical juncture in Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's appeal of her recent contempt citation. Last September, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth called Norton and former Indian affairs aide Neal McCaleb "unfit" to manage the trust assets of 300,000 American Indians. The challenge was heard yesterday by the the three-judge panel, one of whom questioned whether the mark on Norton's career was appropriate.

The three Judges on the panel which removed Kieffer were Douglas Ginsburg, A. Raymond Randolph, and Karen Lecraft Henderson, all Reagan or Bush I appointees. Ginsburg, some might recall, was the conservative nominated by Reagan to serve on the Supreme Court, after having been appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court the previous year, at age 40. An anti-regulatory ideologue, his nomination was only withdrawn when it was discovered he'd smoked pot as a professor at Harvard Law School.

This is the court to which Miguel Estrada, age 42, has been nominated by Bush Jr.

posted by MB | link | 12:43 PM |

Some thoughts on "Enlighten Me" Syndrome

Bean, now on "staff" over at Alas, A Blog, included these paragraphs in her latest post on feminism and pro-feminists:

When a man comes up to me and professes feminism, a lot of times, what it has meant is, "I want to be a better human being, and since you are a feminist woman, I'm going to dump it all at your feet and ask you to be responsible for my enlightenment while I pepper you with questions, demand that you explain all things feminist to me, and then when I fail to achieve the enlightenment I want, I can blame you for not enlightening me properly." It's a setup, the whole thing.

That's where part of the skepticism comes from, dude. A man who comes up to me and says that he is feminist is often trying to get me to take responsibility for his enlightenment. Not only is this a great way for him to wriggle out of any culpability when he fails to do so, but it also puts a tremendous burden on me for the enlightenment of another human beings, when all I'm trying to do is live my own damned life, which is more than enough for one human being to do.

This is why, when I hear of a man who calls himself a feminist, my reaction is generally, "That's nice, I wish you luck." What the hell else am I supposed to do? Teach him how to be a human being?

Although I believe without the slightest amount of doubt that not only am I a feminist, but I'm married to one as well, this quote struck me for other reasons.

I found the words to be even more fitting if I struck out the concept of feminism, and substituted colonialism, or white paternalism, instead. I won't say racism, although I don't know if most Americans understand the difference; American Indians do not view themselves merely in terms of racism, but even more so as victims of colonialism.

I want to be a better human being, and since you are a colonialized native, I'm going to dump it all at your feet and ask you to be responsible for my enlightenment while I pepper you with questions, demand that you explain all things native to me, and then when I fail to achieve the enlightenment I want, I can blame you for not enlightening me properly.

In my first semester in my doctoral program at a very, very, liberal university, all the new anthropology graduate students, regardless of their specialty, e.g., archaeology, cultural, medical, physical, had to participate in a group seminar. It was the first time I really noticed how white liberals could be even more annoying than conservatives. I've noticed some of the same behavior recently in the Lefty Blogosphere. I haven't been able to formulate a coherent explanation for it until this time. Thank you, Bean.

posted by MB | link | 5:40 AM |

Friday, April 25  

Flashback Friday yet once again

Rowland Evans, Robert Novak, Creators Syndicate Inc.
April 24, 1991

President Bush spent nearly an hour last week reassuring six uneasy conservative Republican members of Congress but in doing so also exposed fiscal fears that are immobilizing his economic strategy.

The lawmakers were reassured by the president's continued support for a capital gains tax cut. But that backing is compromised by twin demons that haunt the Oval Office: "fairness" and the budget deficit...

Hobart Rowen, Washington Post
April 25, 1991

The full extent of the global economic damage created over the past year by the Persian Gulf War, upheavals in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and wild gyrations in crude-oil prices is coming into view for the first time

In its World Economic Outlook released this week, the International Monetary Fund said that the combined effect of those events "was to further weaken the world economy at a time when growth was already slowing in a number of large industrial ...


E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post
April 26, 1991

President Bush, who relied heavily on moral arguments to make the case for going to war against Iraq, finds his postwar policies at the center of a debate over what moral obligations the United States has toward Saddam Hussein's opponents, notably the Kurds

The war's unexpected consequences -- uprisings by Shiites in Iraq's south and Kurds in the north that led to brutal crackdowns, thousands of dead and millions of refugees -- has raised new questions...

Boston Globe
April 25, 1991

The cost of health care seems to defy all efforts at restraint by the government or individuals. In 1989, according to the Health Care Financing Administration, spending exceeded $604 billion. Here are some details:

- Expenditures in 1990 rose to 12.2 percent of the gross national product.
- Government at all levels spent nearly 15 percent of revenue on health care in 1989. In 1965 the comparable figure was 5 percent.
- Spending by business in 1989 leaped to 8.3 percent of wages and...

John W. Mashek, Boston Globe
April 25, 1991

WASHINGTON -- Education Secretary Lamar Alexander yesterday defended the freedom-of-choice provision in the Bush administration's education plan, predicting that "in five years it won't even be an issue."

At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Alexander faced questions about allowing parents to request transfer of their children to schools of their choice, including private or parochial schools...

Kent Gibbons, USA Today
April 26, 1991

U.S. business failures in the first quarter of 1991 were 53.8% higher than last year: 20,881 vs. 13,577. Failures were up in every region and every sector except mining, says Dun & Bradstreet.

Jobless claims rose sharply the second week of April, after two weeks of declines, the Labor Department said Thursday. New applications for unemployment benefits rose to 498,000 ...

Washington Post
April 26, 1991

Blue-chip stocks fell sharply today after a report of higher jobless-benefits claims and after a dramatic plunge in Compaq Computer stock.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.46 points, or 1 percent, to end at 2921.04. New York Stock Exchange volume was a moderate 166.9 million shares.

The market was pounded early in the session by news that initial claims for unemployment benefits climbed by 47,000 to 498,000 in the week ended April 13, indicating no signs of relief from the...

John C. White, Washington Post
April 26, 1991

The Democratic doomsayers have been wringing their hands and beating their breasts for weeks now with great effect. In fact, it would sometimes appear that the thing the Democrats do best is hang crape at their own funerals. The columnists have had a field day mocking the Democratic candidates and possible candidates. The back-benchers at Duke's and Joe and Mo's have relegated the Democratic Party to the status of a cruel joke...

Boston Globe
April 23, 1991

The White House has apparently stuck a politically poisoned knife into the heart of negotiations between civil rights groups and major corporate leaders that were designed to produce a consensus on legislation to strengthen that bar against discrimination in employment. With its action, the White House and some in the Republican Party seem to have served notice that they intend again to make racial politics -- this time quotas -- a central issue in national politics...

Washington Post
April 23, 1991

On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will consider an urgent if delicately phrased call from the National Academy of Sciences for a national energy strategy to stem the ominous pace of global warming. The question overhanging the hearing will be whether the Bush administration is ready to face the implications of the NAS call.

A prestigious panel made up of scientists, economists, energy-industry representatives and environmental specialists reported two weeks ago that a significant...

USA Today
April 27, 1991

The extent of the slump in economic activity was revealed Friday when the Commerce Department reported that the gross national product shrank at a 2.8% annual rate. GNP is the value of all goods and services produced.

The first-quarter decline in GNP follows a 1.6% drop in the final quarter of 1990. It marked the first back-to-back fall in GNP - the ...

Jonathan Kaufman, Boston Globe
April 23, 1991

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey -- Having avoided a quagmire in the Gulf War, is the United States now entering a quagmire in its rescue of the Iraqi Kurds?

President Bush and officials in Washington say no. But the closer one gets to the Turkish-Iraqi border, the deeper and trickier the sands appear.

In the Middle East, changing national borders -- whether Israel's occupation of the West Bank or Iraq's seizure of Kuwait -- have often led to unexpected and unwanted consequences....

posted by MB | link | 7:00 AM |

Thursday, April 24  

Jobless claims up again

More bad unemployment news:

Jobless Claims Climb More Than Expected
April 24, 2003
Filed at 8:40 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans lining up for state unemployment benefits last week climbed more than expected to the highest level in over a year, the government said on Thursday, suggesting a deteriorating labor market.

First-time jobless claims rose by 8,000 to 455,000 for the week ended April 19, the Labor Department said. It was the highest level since the week ended March 30, 2002 and the tenth straight week that claims held above the key 400,000 level, regarded by economists as a sign of an unhealthy labor market. The gain far exceeded expectations. In a Reuters poll, economists forecast that jobless claims would fall to 425,000.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing specific behind the increase in claims.

Duh, they don't manipulate the numbers to make the claims go up, just to make them look like they've gone down.

posted by MB | link | 5:59 AM |

Wednesday, April 23  

Senator Snowe, proud RINO

While I was busy flouting the stupidity of the Club For Growth attacks on my senior Senator, Olympia Snowe, I missed an even bigger story regarding the moderate Republican from Maine. Fortunately, the ever vigilant Lisa English of Ruminate This caught the scoop on Ms. Snowe's efforts to delay the FCC decision on new media rules.

posted by MB | link | 11:00 AM |

Whose family values?

While I wholeheartedly agree that all civil-rights minded Americans should publicly flay Rick Santorum for his remarks against gays, there was a whole 'nother barrel of fish he opened up in his April 7th interview with the Washington Post's Lara Lakes Jordan which Democrats and Progressives should soundly address:

"The basic liberal philosophy is materialistic, is relativistic, to the point of, you've got candidates for president saying we should condone different types of marriage," Santorum said. "That is, to me, the death knell of the American family."

I've been working for a few weeks now on a long essay, perhaps even a short book, on the abdication of the American family to the Republicans. Once more we see Republicans wallow in that windfall, trumpeting a basic dichotomy between liberal and "family" values. We now even have the Republican leadership asserting the former will in fact lead to the demise of the latter.

We need to put an end to this partisan chicanery here and now. Since the mid-1990s, the Republicans have mounted a campaign to convince American parents that they are the party which embodies that nebulous term, “family values”. What are true family-oriented values? Ask most soccer-moms and dads and you will hear concerns about education, healthcare, public safety and the environment. Losing a job, not making the mortgage, crumbling schools and overcrowded classrooms, these are the nightmares of American families, not what John and Fred are or are not doing in the privacy of their home. Most parents, whether they be actual or de facto (as in guardians or foster parents), have basic dreams, for themselves and their children. They want a comfortable place to live, most likely a home (whether it be a house, apartment, mobile home or hogan); they're concerned about their own health and that of their children, and want to prevent illness or injury, as well as have access to care should they become sick or impaired. If their children are injured through corporate negligence or denied access to state sponsored programs such as education, parents want to trust that they can find recourse through the courts or government. American parents want their government and institutions to cherish and protect their children as much as they do.

The truth is that the Republicans have spent the last ten years waging outright war on these very dreams and values of American families. The No Child Left Behind Act has left thousands of schools behind, underfunded, its teachers and administrators on the brink of being "replaced" for not meeting impossible federally-imposed, standardized test "goals", all so that Republicans can finally win approval for private school vouchers. The Republican policy of tax cuts for the super-rich has left state governments, most all of which are constrained by balanced budget requirements, gasping for life, slashing funding for all but the most basic social, educational and public safety needs. Affordable quality daycare is scarce, respite care for families of special needs children revoked, afterschool and enrichment programs which keep children and teens engaged during the part of the day they're most vulnerable slashed under the weight of state and local budget shortfalls. This Administration's environmental policies have further threatened our children's health and wellbeing, from increasing pollutants in the air and water to suppressing information about the actual dangers these policies license.

Some would call these "needs", not "values". The American Heritage lists one definition of value, "[a] principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable." So what are the principles, standards or qualities Republican's see fit for American families? Kenneth Lay's principles which led him to squander the savings of tens of thousands of his employees? The standards of Phillip Morris, which included manipulating nicotine levels to increase addiction and marketing to children and teens? The qualities of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, such as defrauding federal courts and covering up government misdeeds in order to protect her position? The Bush Administration's behavior over Iraq offers a whole litany of "values"; bullying, deceit, profiteering, grandiosity, cronyism, parsimony, callousness, to name just a few.

Democrats need to re-examine what in essence we've relinquished to the Republicans. According to the 2000 Census, there are 71.8 million families, with an average family size of 3.14, and family-based households account for over two-thirds (68%) of all household units. Households with children under 18 account for over a third (38%) of all US households.

Average American parents don't have time for platitudes and dogma. On the whole, we're pragmatists; we prefer common-sense solutions to those goals of decent jobs, education, healthcare, public safety and a healthy environment. Democrats have long addressed these concerns, but recently have allowed the Republicans to derail getting this message across, with assaults on every front from foreign policy to affirmative action to civil liberties. In order to get back on track, Democrats need to state loudly and clearly their policies on economic recovery, healthcare and saving education from NCLB.

The Democratic plan should focus first and foremost on jobs; saving those still remaining and replacing the more than 2.3 million lost under the first two years of Bush II. States facing massive budget shortfalls have placed tens of thousands of jobs on the chopping block; teachers, firefighters, police, social workers, all tax paying citizens, most with families of their own. The Democrats should demand the federal government make up for the billions it denied the states in its 2001 tax give away to the wealthy. In order to create new jobs, governments should free up the current tight lending environment, providing small business loans and venture capital to entrepreneurs, rather than dividend tax cuts to the rich. Families who have to live on a budget expect the federal government to do the same. Massive deficits are a policy decision which directly effect low and middle income families in the form of higher interest rates and reduced home-ownership funding.

Second, Democrats should attack the Bush education plan head on. Even Senator Edward Kennedy, the original co-sponsor of NCLB, has withdrawn his support for the albatross it has become to school districts and students alike. Revisiting its dependence on standardized testing of all students, even those with special needs or English-language limitations, is forefront on many parents wish lists. In addition, increasing funding for school building construction and renovation, lowering class size and teacher training are no-nonsense approaches nearly every family can support. And finally, ending unfunded mandates by providing the level of support promised 25 years ago with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) would go a long way to stop the internecine fighting over music and art versus one-on-one classroom aides.

Third, Democrats need to respect parents enough to offer them sensible healthcare choices. I plan on writing in more detail on this subject soon, but the current employer-based health insurance system is seriously flawed and Democrats should respect parents enough to be willing to make a case for single-payer healthcare, without the specter of Hillarycare preventing them from doing such. Half of all Americans are self-employed or work for small business. A single-payer system is most friendly to small businesses, who are currently being smothered by the skyrocketing cost of healthcare premiums. Maine has led the country in its promotion of a consumer-small business cooperation in the development of a single-payer healthcare initiative which passed the House in 2000, and is currently once again making its way through the legislature.

Democrats must also appeal to American families on issues of corporate responsibility and environmental protection. These issues may have been crowded out in Bush's War on of Terror, but they are forefront in the minds of many concerned parents.

Republicans have leaked to the media that foreign policy will be the political battleground in the 2004 election. But the most savvy of the Right's strategists understand that their best chance for victory lies in the family rooms of America, not the streets of Baghdad. They have coopt traditional Democratic venues such as education and healthcare reform, and turned these institutions on their heads. Its time for Democrats to step up to the Little League plate and fill the bases with the real family values of compassion, respect and responsibility for our communities and the environment. We should expect any number of Santorum pitches to the head, but with this game plan, Democrats, on behalf of all families, are sure to drive in a winning run in 2004.

posted by MB | link | 5:28 AM |

Tuesday, April 22  

Singin' the Red State Unemployment Blues

I've been thinking a lot about the unemployment rate, but not only the big picture, but what it might mean in the nitty-gritty of election strategy next year. For that, I think one needs to look more intently at the state-by-state unemployment levels, particularly in relation to where they were when George Bush II took office in January 2001.

For the past three months I've been gathering the numbers and ruminating over them. After a number of different sorts and groupings, I decided to look first at those states which were essentially close races for Bush, that is, states where the margin of victory or loss to the combination of Gore and Nader votes was plus or minus seven percent. Within that group, I then sorted by the percentage change in the state's unemployment rate. The results are listed below:

Electoral Votes
(Bush vs Gore+Nader)
2001-03 Change in
Unemployment Rate
New Hampshire
New Mexico
West Virginia

Of the twenty states listed, 12 are Red, or Bush states. The remaining eight were Gore victories.

The question which comes to mind is, if these unemployment numbers do not turn around, particularly in states such as Colorado, Ohio and Arizona, where Bush's margin of victory was rather narrow, perhaps Democrats should be focusing their energy, and money, on these particular battleground states. I personally never thought of Colorado and Arizona being very competitive for the Democrats, but with the emerging Latino electorate, as well as the poor employment, they appear to be more than just that.

For what its worth, only three states out of the fifty and DC did not see their unemployment rates increase.

[Source: www.bls.gov]

posted by MB | link | 12:04 PM |

Pssst...Over here...A story on Norton's, er, Lott's criminal behavior

The Democrats have such an amazing issue with which to throttle the Administration, and yet time and again they pass up the opportunity to use it. I guess the American Indian community should tie John Lott to the story somehow, and perhaps then it would be fair game. Here's more fodder in case anyone might have the inclination:

Report says Interior hid computer-system troubles: Software was supposed to help track Indian trust royalties
By Robert Gehrke
The Associated Press

Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - WASHINGTON - A judge was kept in the dark about failures in a computer system created to help track royalty payments that were owed to American Indians, a court-appointed investigator reported Monday.

Last September, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said Interior Secretary Gale Norton had defrauded the court by making misleading statements about the department's efforts to fix management problems of oil, gas, mining, timber and other royalties from Indian lands. That included covering up failures of the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System.

On Monday, Alan Balaran, a court-appointed special master in the case, said the Interior Department made a concerted effort to sanitize its report on the computer system to make it appear to be working well. He said the department ignored advice from its own experts, who said the report as presented to the court was misleading and inaccurate.

Including the objections would have been an admission that the department had deceived the court by filing misleading reports about the status of the computer system since 2000, Balaran said.

The Interior report was filed a month before Norton took the stand in her defense.

The department's reports "were contrived to present a gilded portrait of the TAAMS system and avoid adverse consequences arising from contempt proceedings pending at the time," Balaran wrote.

Interior Department spokesman Dan DuBray said he had not read Balaran's report and could not comment.

"They wasted three months of a judge's time by putting on a false defense," said Dennis Gingold, attorney for a group of Indians suing the government. "It really is a disgusting finding."

The department has appealed Lamberth's contempt ruling, and oral arguments on the appeal are scheduled Thursday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The lawsuit, which is nearing its seventh year, stems from the department's management of a trust fund established by Congress in 1887 that today handles royalty payments from 11 million acres held by about 300,000 American Indians.

For more than a century, untold amounts of money meant for some of the nation's poorest residents was lost, stolen or never collected, according to a string of government reports.

In 1999, Lamberth ordered the department to provide an accounting of the Indian assets and demanded the department reform its management of the money.

The accounting system was to have been the centerpiece of efforts to improve records keeping and through 2001 the department had spent an estimated $40 million on the project.

Last September, Lamberth said the project was in a state of disrepair and its future was uncertain.

posted by MB | link | 8:07 AM |

Monday, April 21  

More on the lead thread

A number of blogs have picked up Kevin Drum of Calpundit's lead football and run with it. Both Dwight Meredith of PLA and JD over at the fledgling Silver Rights have posted their thoughts and recommendations on the subject of childhood lead poisoning.

It is a topic with which I am far too familiar. My youngest son, Jonah, was lead poisoned at 15 months. We own a lovely early 20th Century Four-Square which just happens to have lots of tall windows with sills 21" from the floor, just the height for a toddler to chew on while learning to walk. Even coats of non-lead paint over the toxic early layers make no difference; unless special encapsulating paint is used, lead seeps into the layers of new paint. In Jonah's case, one small chip lead to a blood lead level of 50µg.

Over 50% of the housing stock in Maine has lead paint; it's an old state with lots of old houses. Ironically, many of the new lead poisoning cases are coming from a demographic not traditionally associated with lead poisoning: The kids of middle-class do-it-yourselfers. Whereas there are a number of funding sources for landlords to tap to abate their low-income apartments (not that they all do it), moderate income homeowners have no such options. Many families purchase fixer-uppers as their first homes, without much equity to secure additional loans. I'm not exactly sure how the Times came up with a figure of $32 million, or $1000 per home - the estimate to abate our home professionally was over $15K. (Then, of course, you have to worry about unscrupulous contractors - the one who worked on our home was fined by the Maine DEP for the improper work done on our, and 13 other, homes.) Regardless, lead paint will continue to be a problem for generations until the government puts it resources where its soapbox has been.

[Note: The story behind lead paint marketing is unbelievably chilling. It makes tobacco companies and their conspiring over nicotine levels look like amateurs. Paint manufactures knew from the 1910's that lead was neurotoxic, but marketed it as safe, in fact preferable to other paints. Lead in paint was not banned in the US until the late 1970's.]

posted by MB | link | 2:42 PM |

Whence the War's Windfall?

Leading Economic Indicators Drop
Filed at 10:03 a.m. ET

New York (AP) -- A key indicator of future U.S. economic activity fell 0.2 percent in March, the Conference Board said Monday.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators measures where the overall U.S. economy is headed in the next three to six months. It stood at 100 in 1996, its base year.

Consumer spending has been the fuel for the struggling economy, but according to the Conference Board, their desire to spend appears to be tapering off.

"The combination of the slowing in consumption growth and the delayed start to more investment has effectively extended the soft spot that the economy has been in," Goldstein said.

He added that the end of the Iraq war has not boosted business capital investments or consumer spending, as some had predicted or wished.

"A decade ago, the end of fighting didn't deliver much impetus to the domestic economy," Goldstein said. "As was the case then, an end to the fighting may do little to change trends in the U.S. economy."

Yet this has not stopped every center-right to neocon economist, including Alan Greenspan, from asserting that everything would be just peachy once Bush got his war on and done with. This was also the sense, not surprisingly, from those same economists (including old Greenspan) twelve years ago.

AP closed this article with this ray of hope:

Although the index was down for a second consecutive month, the Conference Board said the information available so far in April suggests that the declines will not continue.

Did that information take into account this little tidbit, also just released this morning?

Oil Above $30 Ahead of OPEC Meeting
Filed at 10:14 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices held above $30 on Monday ahead of this week's OPEC producer cartel meeting which is expected to tighten crude supplies as fuel demand dips to the lowest point in the year.

U.S. light crude (CLc1) in New York stood 18 cents lower at $30.37 a barrel. Trade in Brent crude on London's International Petroleum Exchange was closed for the Easter holiday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet in Vienna on Thursday for an emergency meeting called after oil dropped about 30 percent in a month as Middle East oil flows escaped severe disruption from war in Iraq.

Oil prices rebounded late last week as Iran called on OPEC, which controls over half world oil exports, to cut official production quotas warning that failure to rein in supply could trigger a price collapse.

Other OPEC members have said tighter compliance to official output limits would probably be enough to avoid a supply glut.

OPEC pumped more than 1.5 million barrels per day over its self-imposed 24.5 million bpd production ceiling in March as it raised output to counter the loss of Iraqi supply and earlier disruption from a strike in Venezuela.

Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Monday said OPEC's quota busters should be the first to restrain output. ``All those that have increased their output in an unusual way, they should also be the first to decrease their production,'' the Aftab-e Yazd newspaper quoted Zanganeh as saying.

Oil prices have risen back above $30 -- the level that some economists warn can hurt economic growth -- on the month-long absence of Iraq's crude exports, halted since the start of the U.S.-led offensive.

U.S. inventories of crude and refined products are still below normal levels heading toward the U.S. summer vacation driving season when gasoline demand peaks.

Many economists (even the armchair kind, such as myself) argued that much of the sluggishness in the economy over the past few months, from manufacturing to consumer spending, was due to high energy costs. Neither businesses or individuals, after being gouged at the pump and electricity meter, had extra cash on hand to spend. Most analysts, however, argued that once the war was over, oil would flow like water, at $20 per barrel, and all would be saved.

It seems OPEC has other ideas. What would we expect. Wasn't like Bush was taking their concerns into account before waging his petty revenge on Saddam.

posted by MB | link | 8:04 AM |

And this is supposed to be a slur?

The neo-cons Club For Growth recently released to political ads, lambasting moderate Republican Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio for not supporting Bush's $726 billion tax cut. The Senators, heralded as "Franco-Republicans" by the CFG, are compared to French president Chirac in their willingness to stand in the way of the president's agenda.

'President Bush courageously led the forces of freedom. But some so-called 'allies' like France stood in the way.

'At home, President Bush has proposed bold job-cutting tax cuts to boost our economy.

'But so-called Republicans like Olympia Snowe stand in the way. America needs strong allies abroad. And President Bush needs strong supporters in the Senate.'

'Hey, Olympia Snowe. Join President Bush's fight to cut taxes and fix the economy,'

Obviously someone at the Club For Stupidity Growth didn't do their homework.

Maine has the largest Franco-American community in the US, with approximately a quarter of the population claiming French, Acadian or French Canadian descent. Maine is the only state where French is an official state language. Our tourism is heavily dependent on Quebequois visitors. What koolaid did the neocons drink to think that draping Olympia, the most successful politician in Maine history, with the French flag would be viewed in a negative light?

But, hey, if they want to throw their money away....

[Update: Tom, in comments, points out a Freudian-slip on the news editor's part. For my part, I did edit Snowe for Voinovich (as the CFG website has the media clip and so is true to content), but the substitution of "cutting" for "creating" was the Straits Times doing.]

[Update2: The Portland Press Herald editorial staff agrees with me.]

posted by MB | link | 5:43 AM |

Saturday, April 19  

Saturday...around the blogs...you'd think it was the 4th of...

Oops, got a little carried away there.

My favorite quote of the week. Teresa Nielsen Hayden of MakingLight on the recently discovered species, bleeding-heart freepers:

(There’s a new one: bleeding-heart freepers. They didn’t care about the Iraqi people last week and they won’t care about them next week. It’s just their football cheer of the moment. The advent of the internet has made so many things possible. Self-published recreational journalism has always been around; but back when you had to at least learn to run a mimeograph, and you had to pay postage to distribute your deathless prose, people who didn’t actually have much to say for themselves found other hobbies.)

Let's hope they're a highly endangered species.

Interested in making the 2004 Democratic race even more insane (and I mean that sincerely is a positive way), head on over to Kos and Jerome's DraftClark website and sign the petition. I did. Not because I'm committed to Clark (I'm still rather pleased with Edwards' domestic platform) but because good competition is healthy for a real big-tent party. Besides, if Clark can convert two Deanies, there must be something to him.

posted by MB | link | 9:38 AM |

No, this is not a post from 1991

But it is from one of my favorite "deja vu" sources, the Boston Globe:

Poll says economy is top US concern
By Diego Ibarguen, Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON -- For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the American people are more concerned about the nation's economic woes than about terrorism, war, or Iraq, a poll suggests.

The poll, released yesterday by the Pew Research Center, found that 41 percent of respondents cited the economy, unemployment, or the federal budget deficit as the nation's biggest problem, while 29 percent pointed to issues related to war and terrorism.

President Bush's approval rating remains high -- 72 percent -- but that apparently has not translated into solid political support. Nineteen months before the 2004 presidential election, 48 percent of registered voters polled said they would support his reelection, while 34 percent said they would prefer a Democratic candidate.

Bush's approval rating is up from a prewar rating of 55 percent, but is still well below the 89 percent approval mark his father, President George H.W. Bush, reached after the 1991 Gulf War.

And with that newsworthy tidbit, I guess it's time to unveil a side project I've been putting together in my limited free time, It's Still the Economy, Stupid, an attempt to collect weblog and traditional media articles in one place. I've just begun to put together the blogroll; any suggestions as to other center-to-left weblogs which regularly post on economic news would be welcome.

posted by MB | link | 4:58 AM |

Friday, April 18  

Bloglight Zone

So Blogger is screwing with my template: At least a half dozen or so of my links on my blogroll disappeared. Very Strange.

posted by MB | link | 6:34 PM |

Flashback Friday once again

April 17, 1991
Stephen Kurkjian, Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Millions of other Iraqis inside that bomb-shattered country will soon face suffering equal to, or perhaps greater than, that of the Kurdish refugees, two international relief organizations predicted yesterday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Physicians for Human Rights forecast widespread famine and disease within weeks unless significant international efforts are made to provide food and medical supplies and to help Iraq repair its electricity grid, water...

John M. Berry, Washington Post
April 19, 1991

Federal Reserve policy makers, fearful of fueling inflation, agreed unanimously at their last meeting March 26 that they may have pushed interest rates low enough to end the recession that began last summer, according to Fed officials

Many of them are convinced that the turnaround will come soon, the officials said. The key housing and automobile sectors have hit bottom and likely will begin to improve, if very slowly, during the current quarter, they believe...

April 16, 1991
Muriel Cohen, Boston Globe

For the first time since President Bush declared himself the "education president," his administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of American schools, but critics charge the proposal provides no new money.

The plan would give parents a choice of schools, provide children with broad social services, offer universal preschool programs, set up national tests and encourage new approaches to running schools...

April 16, 1991
David Nyhan, Boston Globe

The help the US government belatedly air-dropped to Kurds clinging to the muddy mountainside bordering Turkey epitomized what has gone so horribly awry since President Bush proclaimed victory over Iraq.

Pallets of food, medicine and blankets, hasty care packages assembled out of guilt for our forsaking the luckless Kurds, suddenly became lethal weapons. Some parachutes failed to open; others blossomed only half-way. The result was that the relief packages from US tranports wound up...

John Burgess, Washington Post
April 19, 1991

The U.S. trade deficit in February dropped to $5.3 billion, its lowest monthly level since 1983, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

Economists welcomed the decline. But many played down its significance, noting it was caused not by increased exports -- U.S. sales abroad actually declined slightly -- but by cheap oil and a recession-induced decline in U.S. demand for foreign goods...

April 19, 1991
Jonathan Kaufman, Boston Globe

SILOPI REFUGEE CAMP, Turkey -- They call themselves "peshmerga" or "we who face death."

They are Kurdish rebel soldiers, and at the height of their power a few weeks ago they were perhaps 100,000 strong and controlled scores of northern Iraqi cities and towns. Now defeated and forced to flee, many plot their return and the renewal of rebel fighting.

"We want to keep all of Kurdistan!" Ekrem Cihangir Ismail said excitedly as a crowd of refugees gathered around...

April 18, 1991
Anthony Flint, Boston Globe

Education Secretary Lamar Alexander has put the brakes on a regional college accrediting agency that uses an institution's cultural diversity as a criterion for evaluation, raising concern in higher education circles about government meddling.

In an April 11 letter, Alexander scolded the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools for delaying accreditation of Baruch College in New York because the institution had not done enough to hire minority faculty or retain minority...

April 19, 1991
Michael Kranish, Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Iraq and the United Nations tentatively agreed yesterday to establish dozens of "humanitarian centers" that could feed and shelter virtually any Iraqi citizen, a proposal that goes far beyond President Bush's plan for six temporary Kurdish refugee camps.

While US forces were surveying northern Iraq and preparing to meet Iraqi military commanders in the town of Zakhu, a "memorandum of understanding" was signed in Baghdad authorizing Saddam Hussein's...

April 18, 1991
Frank Perrotta, Boston Globe

Richard Syron, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said the New England economy should return to "moderate growth by the end of the year" . . . Peabody Construction Co. of Boston and Braintree won a $15.9 million contract from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to expand and renovate the MBTA Operations Center on High Street . . . Boston lawyers Bingham Dana & Gould has opened an office in Hartford . . . Campeau Corp. said it could not explain the sharp...

April 18, 1991
Michael Kranish, Globe Staff

WASHINGTON -- During the Gulf War, many Democrats praised President Bush reluctantly as a decisive leader who stuck to his principles. But as the Kurdish refugee crisis has grown, Democratic critics are becoming more outspoken in attacking Bush's postwar performance as marked by waffling, miscalculation and an abdication of leadership.

With Bush's acknowledgment on Tuesday that his 11-day-old airlift of relief supplies to the Kurds was not working, Democratic leaders have been...

April 17, 1991
Mariann Caprino, Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The stock market yesterday surged in a flurry of buying spurred by new confidence that the economy is on the verge of recovery.

The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials jumped 53.71 points to close at 2986.88, the third-highest finish ever for the key barometer.

Stock prices opened on a weak note following government reports showing that in March, housing starts declined 9.3 percent and industrial production fell 0.3 percent...

April 16, 1991
Michael Kranish, Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Civil rights leaders charged yesterday that the White House tried to halt a promising round of negotiations being led by business leaders on the civil rights bill, saying that the Bush administration does not want the bill to succeed and thus rob the administration of the politically powerful job quota issue before next year's election.

"It is increasingly obvious the White House does not want a good civil rights bill," said Ralph Neas, chairman of the...

April 19, 1991
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

"By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all." -- George Bush, March 1, 1991

"The United States is not going to intervene militarily in Iraq's internal affairs and risk being drawn into a Vietnam-style quagmire. -- George Bush, April 16, 1991

A month ago, George Bush triumphantly declared the Vietnam syndrome dead. Today, he is its chief purveyor. "Vietnam" is his preferred retort to those who fault him for not having used American air...

April 18, 1991
Mary McGrory, Washington Post

Two inconveniently charismatic foreign leaders came to town this week and, besides unsettling George Bush, reminded us of two strains in our foreign policy -- a short attention span and a tolerance of aggression against a country without oil

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the president of Nicaragua, wanted money, the Dalai Lama of Tibet wanted a change in our policy toward China, neither of which Bush could easily provide....

April 16, 1991
Mark Shields, Washington Post

Question What was the meanest, most hurtful trick Ronald Reagan ever played upon Democrats? No, it was not the two humiliating landslide defeats the Gipper administered in 1980 and 1984. Nor was it Reagan as rhetorical grave-robber baldly expropriating the words of revered liberal icons such as FDR and JFK and employing their heroic language in support of Reagan's own conservative program. No, Reagan's meanest vengeance upon the party of his birth can be found in today's acute shortage ofdeclared 1992 Democratic presidential candidates. By leaving office, the Gipper effectively left the Democrats without any plausible identification papers of their own -- with no ideological equivalent of a major credit card or a picture ID The major reason for the acute shortage of Democrats now running for the White House has far less to do with the recent, semi-daunting poll numbers of President Bush than with the fact that in spite of Reagan's dominance of the decade's politics, Democrats -- except at the presidential level -- managed to prosper politically during the '80s by simply assuming the role of compassionate, nurturing defenders of Social Security, school lunches and the environment against their portrait of Reagan as the uncaring tribune of the Deserving Rich. By 1989, the Democrats' basic slogan and organizing principle, "We're not Reagan" had become dated, irrelevant and vacuous...

And who would have imagined these two would be in the news again in the same week, though this time in the same story?

Sharon LaFraniere, Washington Post
April 19, 1991

The nation's top thrift regulator yesterday formally reprimanded President Bush's son Neil for engaging in conflicts of interest while serving as a director of the now-defunct Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association

Timothy Ryan, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), said Neil Bush "has engaged in unsafe or unsound practices and breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest." Ryan ordered him to "cease and...

April 18, 1991
Joseph P. Kahn, Boston Globe

Besides George Bush, the last newsmakers to appear on the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously were Norman Schwarzkopf and Saddam Hussein.

This week, to the surprise of almost no one, both covers belong to ballistic biographer Kitty Kelley, whose media image currently lies somewhere between war hero Stormin' Norman and the villainous Butcher of Baghdad. With attributes of each.

Kelley, author of "Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography" -- which tops the New York...

posted by MB | link | 6:02 AM |

Thursday, April 17  


For a couple of months now, I've been feeling almost silly, banging my "deja vu" drum all by my lonesome. But I figured, sooner or later, others would pick up the beat. That day has come.

(via Ruminate This)

posted by MB | link | 3:34 PM |

Cheese-eating Republicans surrender over "scalping" issue

More proof Republican "big tent" words only offer cover for an inherently bigoted core. Of course, it will mostly go unnoticed by the media et al.

Republicans remove cartoon from Web site tribe deemed offensive
The Associated Press
Published 04/16/2003

MADISON, Wis. - The state Republican Party dropped a cartoon from a Web site Wednesday that claimed taxpayers were "scalped" by the gaming compact the governor reached with the Forest County Potawatomi in response to complaints it was racist and derogatory.

The cartoon depicted a tomahawk flying through the air at a Wisconsin taxpayer. The voiceover said: "As taxpayers, we got scalped."

"We do not consider the cartoon to be offensive; it certainly wasn't our intent," Republican Party spokesman Chris Lato said. "If a few people were taken aback by that cartoon ... we want to address those concerns."

Potawatomi spokesman Tom Krajewski said Wednesday that the party should have removed the cartoon because it was wrong, not because officials were intimidated by the complaints from the tribe and others.

"What we've got is an image that comes from John Wayne movies which is not the whole story, and that is the definition of the stereotype," Krajewski said.

The decision to drop the cartoon was made after the GOP received complaints from the Potawatomi and Democratic legislators, Lato said.

Lato said the cartoon, which was posted online for one day, was intended to point out flaws in the agreement Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle reached with the tribe.

posted by MB | link | 7:29 AM |

Jobless claims increase markedly

This is not good news at all.

Jobless Claims Surge to 442, 000 Last Week
By Reuters
Filed at 8:55 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More Americans than expected signed up for state unemployment benefits last week, reflecting increased layoffs in the auto industry as the world's richest economy limped forward, a government report on Thursday showed.

First-time jobless claims rose by 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 442,000 for the week ended April 12, the Labor Department said. It was the ninth straight week that claims held above the key 400,000 level, regarded by economists as a sign of an unhealthy labor market.

Much of the rise reflects an increase in layoffs in the auto industry, a Labor Department official said.

The gain was well above expectations. Economists in a Reuters poll had forecast, on average, that jobless claims would edge up to 411,000.

The auto industry, as you can see just a few posts below, was the one shining start in retail sales last month. If producers are laying off workers, they obviously don't expect that trend to continue.

The Administration also revised last week's claims, from 405K to 412K. Isn't it funny how they keep losing jobs when the initial, closely watched, reports come out?

posted by MB | link | 6:14 AM |

The Administration discovers its artsy side...

A growing number of weblogs, especially Body and Soul, Making Light, and even Instapundit, have expressed their outrage, dismay and in some cases, exculpation over the pillaging of the Iraqi National Museum. Although I discussed it in passing a few days back, I suspect friends who know me as an archaeologist, not a parent of autistic children or a policy wonk, may be wondering why I haven't had more to say on the issue.

I have been thinking about it. A lot. In fact, I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that most of my free "thinking time", i.e., that not taking up mentally planning general life activities, has been consumed by the subject.

I started to write down my initial thoughts, and then moused on over to Jeanne D'Arc to locate an appropriate link. While there, I noted her mention of Bryan Pfaffenberger's piece on who might benefit from the looting. As I read it, I felt a bit of wind knocked out of my sails, as he'd written much of what I had composed in my head. In particular, he introduced his readers to a newly formed group of art dealers, lawyers and museum curators, with the innocuous sounding name, American Council for Cultural Policy (ACCP). This organization had been raising concerns within the archaeological community since its formation in the fall of 2001. Many believe it is not shear coincidence that its inception was marked just as the Administration's anti-Iraqi war-drums began to sound.

As Pfaffenberger's article noted, "the group is known to consist of a number of influential dealers who favour a relaxation of Iraq's tight restrictions on the ownership and export of antiquities. Its treasurer, William Pearlstein, has described Iraq's laws as 'retentionist' and has said he would support a post-war government that would make it easier to have antiquities dispersed to the US." The ACCP, however, is not alone in these goals: even the International Confederation of Art and Antiquities Dealer Associations (CINOA), lists as one of its stated aims, "[t]o promote the abolition of restrictions on the import and export of cultural goods." A few days ago, Koichiro Matsuura, the Director-general of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) urged CINOA, along with Interpol, the World Customs Organization, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to join a ”comprehensive mobilization so that stolen objects do not find their way to acquirers.”

But the ACCP, with its founder Ashton Hawkins, former executive vice-president and Counsel to the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had access to the Bush Administration's Department of State and Defense at level not typical most newcomers, and New York artsy folk at that. Prior to the war, the ACCP met with Defense and State officials, purportedly to offer "help in preserving Iraq's invaluable archaeological collections, but archaeologists fear there is a hidden agenda to ease the way for exports post-Saddam." A letter to the Guardian from prominent British archaeologists this week warned the ACCP was "already persuading the Pentagon to relax legislation that protects Iraq's heritage by prevention of sales abroad, arguing that antiquities will be safer in American museums and private collections than in Iraq."

Today, the ACCP appeared to join the chorus of scholarly voices calling for a moratorium on trade in Iraqi antiquities. One might then ask, doesn't this exculpate them?

A few things about the National Museum's collections raised a significant amount of concern in this archaeologist. Although not unusual in even prominent American museums, there was mention (and I wish I could find the source, but it made perfect sense under recent circumstances) that the Iraqi National museum had not catalogued a large number of its artifacts. Of the nearly 170 thousand artifacts missing, tens of thousands, maybe even half, had not been photographed and had their characteristics detailed in writing. So while customs agents around the world will be looking for highly publicized artifacts, those others, no less precious, but undocumented, may move about unnoticed.

But what if there is a moratorium on all pre-Gulf War II Iraqi artifacts?

How long would such a moratorium last? One year? Two? The ACCP was not interested in changing antiquities import/export law to allow for the trafficking of illegal goods. They are interested in the loosening of laws to allow for legally excavated and purchased materials.

This is where understanding a bit about the nuts and bolts of archaeology may be enlightening. Only a relatively small portion of archaeological excavation is done by universities and museum programs. Most, particularly in areas of high industrial, commercial and/or residential development, are done by professional archaeologists, or cultural resource management firms, who work with the company developing the site for modern use, to remove, with useful provenience information, endangered artifacts and other material (soil samples, carbon, etc.) Although not an inexpensive added cost to any project, one can be fairly confident that Hussein, who had a strong appreciation for Iraq's cultural heritage, would have required such work. If foreign companies were developing in an area of sensitive sites for their own use, he probably would have passed the cost on to them. Of course, Iraq got to keep the recovered materials, no matter who was footing the bill.

While most of the artifacts excavated from developed sites would be forwarded on to regional or national museums for study, further documentation, preservation, restoration and in some cases display to the public, project reports prepared by the CRM firm would also be prepared and sent to the site developer as well as the government entities overseeing such projects. In Iraq, I suspect that would generally be the ministries of the Interior and Oil.

Archaeologists often must try and think like our traditional antagonists, unscrupulous antiquities dealers and art collectors. Thus, if I were such, with the added benefit of backing from my government and its corporate financial supporters, I would not look towards the illegal market. Instead, I would consider loosening the regulations on legally exporting materials excavated after the war. With the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, the number of public projects will be countless, most contracted out to American firms. Many will be revisiting areas previously excavated as sensitive sites, possibly with significant archaeological material in situ (the goal of even rescue archaeology is to leave as much of the site intact for future, less time-critical, study.) Would anyone really notice if, on top of the thousands of new artifacts recovered from any such site, a few hundred others, with documentation only slightly altered for dates, were to end up in on the same cataloging table? Who would know, accept those in possession of the reports harbored in the former Ministries of the Interior and Oil? (Both incidentally protected from pillaging by US forces while the National Museum and Library suffered such a fate.) With Saddam's cultural protections restricting the export Iraqi treasures lifted, antiquities collectors, such as those represented by the ACCP, would argue that they were in fact helping Iraq, as even the most developed country could not be expected to catalog, restore and protect the thousands of priceless pieces swamping the heavily damaged museums during the Reconstruction Period.

But the ACCP wouldn't expect the Bush Administration would help in this little "arrangement", would they? How would they benefit? Well, for the truly intrigued, my suggestion would be, as always with this Administration, to follow the money. A good place to start might be those on 45-person ACCP Board of Advisers, such as Shelby White, who in the two years prior to the fall of 2002 had given tens of thousands in contributions to Democrats, suddenly started writing checks to the Republican Congressional candidates and the Republican Leadership Council.

A moratorium will not stop the ACCP from trafficking in the stolen loot from Iraqi archaeological collections. With the help of the Bush Administration and its Reconstruction cronies, they may even do it legally.

[note: edited to clean up typos]

posted by MB | link | 5:07 AM |
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