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Daily Topics & Commentary:
Thursday, June 8
The Progressive Trinity
Family, Business, and Public Service
Thursday, June 8 (Washington Monthly)It might have been the idea of eating frozen pizza, still frozen, that started me on this train of thought.

That's what my friend Rosemary ate late one night, she said, working harder than she ever had in her life, getting out the vote for Kerry in New Mexico in November 2004. The state went for Bush, by a greater margin than it went for Gore in 2000.

For those of us whose idealism has become attached, perhaps too closely, to the fortunes of the Democratic Party, another even-numbered year brings back an anxious blend of hope, exhortation, and honest despair.

The Republicans our country has elected take full advantage of the winner-take-all potential in American politics. They seem prepared to ignore the narrowness of their victories and interpret a slim majority as a mandate to disregard, when they can, the interests of the 48% who voted against them.

After the election, the Democrats seemed floundering, hapless passengers on a battered ferryboat, slipping and sliding from left to right, tossed by the wake of a Republican oil tanker. Beset by hurricanes, scandals, indictments, and weakened nerves, the Republicans may be in some trouble of their own now too, but neither party seems to have gained its ideological bearings from the travails of the other.

Democrats have gone to linguists like Berkeley professor George Lakoff for advice on framingtelling their story betterhoping for more than spinning. Many doubtless harbor the wish for a swing of the pendulum, for obvious incidents of Republican overreaching, for internal strife between the party's right and center, for fatal mistakes. Another natural disaster or military reversal on Bush's watch might finally expose what Democrats believe to be a series of bad decisions leaving America less, not more, secure. The cadre in exile have set up a myriad of policy groups, as they should, and set down pages and pages of vision and value statements that no sensible person could disagree with and which, therefore, provide no real direction.

What is going on? It all seems so shallow, so partisan. I want to ask: shouldn't we be talking about fundamental principles?

By that I mean a reasoned analysis of how our country works, what's wrong with it, how it can be made better, addressing the individual's relationship to society, who has power, who doesn't and who should, based on some awareness of history and the social and intellectual ground that has been plowed before by Plato and Madison, Locke and Jefferson, John Stuart Mill and Martin Luther King, and so many others.

I mean a guiding philosophical analysis of the most serious kind.

I'll get right to the point. I believe that the purpose of creating structures in society should be to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, as Jeremy Bentham, Mill, and Abraham Lincoln stated it 150 years ago. To which I would add, and someone no doubt has said it better, with dignity for all. Otherwise we could justify torturing POWs for information, killing dissidents and psychotics, even slavery, if the majority would receive a greater benefit.

To achieve the greatest good for the greatest number with dignity for all, humankind has successfully developed, with many hands over many centuries, three types of organized systems: the Family, Business, and Public Service. The third obviously includes governments, but also churches, universities, hospitals, and other institutions chartered not for profit but for some public purpose. Each of the systems has an internal logic that allows for growth, generation of value to society, the ability to surmount crises, and perpetual existence. More

Conflicted Safety Panel Let Vioxx Study Continue
 Thursday, June 8 (NPR)ROBERT SIEGEL, host: In 2004, Merck pulled its painkiller Vioxx from the market. The drug was causing heart problems, strokes and deaths among patients in a large study that was under way at the time. Merck stopped the study early when those results became clear. Thousands of former Vioxx patients and their families are suing the company.

Now, documents obtained by NPR show that five years earlier, in 1999, during another large Vioxx study, patients had similar heart problems. But that study was not stopped.

During those five years, millions of Americans took Vioxx. And a Food and Drug Administration scientist has estimated that some 38,000 people who took the drug died.

NPR's Snigdha Prakash reports on why the earlier study wasn't stopped and the public warned that Vioxx was unsafe.

SNIGDHA PRAKASH, reporter: The decision to stop a large study of a new medicine involves complex scientific and ethical issues.

To find out if Merck responded appropriately to the heart problems it saw back in 1999, NPR consulted with three scientists who are authorities on heart disease and clinical studies. We showed each of them charts and graphs from the large Vioxx study called VIGOR. The charts and graphs showing the study's early results have never been made public before. More

What Ashcroft Was Told
Thursday, June 8 (National Journal)Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft continued to oversee the Valerie Plame-CIA leak probe for more than two months in late 2003 after he learned in extensive briefings that FBI agents suspected White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of trying to mislead the FBI to conceal their roles in the leak, according to government records and interviews. Despite these briefings, which took place between October and December 2003, and despite the fact that senior White House aides might become central to the leak case, Ashcroft did not recuse himself from the matter until December 30, when he allowed the appointment of a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to take over the investigation. More

Iranian President Signals Readiness to Negotiate
Thursday, Jun 8 (Washington Post)Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday signaled Iran's readiness to renew negotiations "to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena."

The statement, while not specifically answering numerous outstanding questions about Iran's position, was the most straightforward indication so far of its willingness to engage six world powers, including Washington, in discussions aimed at backing off from confrontation over its nuclear program.

It followed the Bush administration's announcement last week that it would drop its historic refusal to participate in direct talks with Iran if that country agreed to stop enriching uranium, a process that could ultimately produce fuel for nuclear weapons as well as for nuclear power.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China then followed up by presenting Tehran with a series of "incentives" designed to jump-start the negotiating process.

"On behalf of the Iranian nation, I'm announcing that the Iranian nation will never hold negotiations about its definite rights with anybody," Ahmadinejad said in remarks at Qazvin, where the hard-line conservative traveled on the latest of his campaign-style trips outside of Iran's capital. "But we are for talks about mutual concerns to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena. . . .

"We don't negotiate on the way we should live, on how we should walk and the way we must handle our economy," he said, in remarks quoted by the state broadcasting service. More

Senate Rejects Effort to Cut Estate Tax
Thursday, June 8 (Washington Post)Senators voted Thursday to reject a Republican effort to abolish taxes on inherited estates during an election year with control of Congress at stake.

GOP leaders had pushed senators to permanently eliminate the estate tax, which disappears in 2010 under President Bush's first tax cut, but rears up again a year later.

A 57-41 vote fell three votes short of advancing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the Senate will vote again this year on a tax that opponents call the "death tax."

"Getting rid of the death tax is just too important an issue to give up so easily," he said.

A small group of senators, knowing Republicans lacked the votes to eliminate the tax, had hoped to keep the issue alive with an agreement to remove the tax from smaller estates and lessen the hit on larger ones.

Frist had given the negotiators a lift by agreeing to give such a compromise a vote. That didn't give the tax's strongest critics enough support to maneuver the issue around Democratic opponents, however. More

Insurgent Leader Al-Zarqawi Killed in Iraq
Thursday, June 8 (Washington Post)Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, was killed early Wednesday by an airstrike --north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born high-school dropout whose leadership of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq made him the most wanted man in Iraq, was killed along with several other people near the city of Baqubah, the officials said.
Terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Killed in Iraq
Iraqi and U.S. officials announced June 8 that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda's terror operations in Iraq, was killed by a U.S. airstrike. Zarqawi played a major role in escalating the Iraq insurgency and terror attacks on civilians.

U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house in which Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders. A U.S. military spokesman said coalition forces pinpointed Zarqawi's location after weeks of tracking the movements of his spiritual adviser, Sheik Abdul Rahman, who also was killed in the blast.

Following the attack, coalition forces raided 17 locations in and around Baghdad, seizing a "treasure trove" of information about terror operations in the country, U.S. Army Major Gen. William B. Caldwell IV told reporters at a military briefing here. Some of the raids focused on targets the United States had been using to monitor Zarqawi's location, Caldwell said.

The stated aim of Zarqawi, 39, in addition to ousting foreign forces from Iraq, was to foment bloody sectarian strife between his fellow Sunni Muslims and members of Iraq's Shiite majority, a prospect that has become a grim reality during the past several months.

His killing is the most significant public triumph for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq since the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, although analysts warned that Zarqawi's death may not stem the tide of insurgency and violence any more than Hussein's capture did. Copying Osama bin Laden's leadership strategy, Zarqawi set up numerous semi-autonomous terrorist cells across Iraq, many of which could continue operating after his death. More

Tuesday, June 6
5:54 pmLiberal Story Problem Number 1

I'm reading the debate about Peter Beinart's book, "The Good Fight." My takeaway is that my lefty friends aren't crazy about the idea of liberals and intelligence, security, and general armed conflict existing in the same sentence. So here's my story problem for everyone out there:

At 5:54 pm, Central Time, terrorists based in the United States implode a 300-yard underground section of the Chicago CTA. They do it by blowing up a portion of the tunnel that goes under the Chicago River. Early leads indicate that one of the attackers is worshiped at a local church. It is not clear whether or not it is a mosque or not. Within 20 minutes of that attack, Homeland Security at O'Hare airport arrests 2 men planting explosives-laden backpacks in the baggage claim area. The timers were set to go off within 15 minutes after activation. These men are from Afghanistan, and are linked to the Taliban. One of them had an encrpyted mini flash drive that, after decryption, indicated that there were plans for an attack involving a West Coast seaport. No additional information on the attack could be determined from the drive.

And just tomake it a really great day, satellite intelligence reports unidentified ships tailing 7 oil tankers, one per tanker.

It's 12 hours since the incidents. As a Democrat President, what are your next few moves?

There's no right or wrong answer. I'm more interested in what people believe should be done. In the blogosphere we like to talk about what other people should do. We decry ideas, and generally aren't held to the standard of proposing something to fill the void. Not very often do we really put ourselves in the shoes of those we criticizerightly or wrongly. I'll post whatever you send, unless you specifically ask me not to. Email your offering

Justices to Hear Cases of Race-Conscious School Placements
Tuesday, June 6 (Washington Post)The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will rule on the race-conscious assignment of students to public schools, in a pair of cases that could produce some of the most important decisions on school integration since the busing battles of the 1960s and '70s.

The court agreed to hear arguments in separate lawsuits by white parents in Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky., which encompasses Louisville, who say each public school system unconstitutionally discriminates based on skin color. The jurisdictions' programs differ, but each seeks to maintain racial balance with the help of numerical targets for minority enrollment.

Although the court has addressed race-conscious admissions for diversity in higher education, upholding them on a 5 to 4 vote in 2003, this would be the first time it has addressed the "diversity rationale" as it affects the country's 48 million public elementary and secondary school students. It will also be the first race-related constitutional case for President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The court's decision to take the cases was something of a surprise, since all three federal appeals courts to rule since 2003 sided with the school systems. The court usually intervenes to settle lower-court conflicts. More

Charges Against Canadian Terror Suspects Read
Men Accused of Plot to Storm Parliament and Behead Premier
Tuesday, June 6 (Washington Post)The men arrested in an alleged terrorism plot planned to storm the Canadian Parliament, take politicians hostage, and at least one wanted to behead the prime minister, according to a summary of allegations read into court Tuesday.

The summary from prosecutors, unexpectedly read into the court record in a procedural hearing by defense lawyer Gary Batasar, said the group planned to bomb hydro-electric plants in Ontario and targeted the CBC broadcast building in downtown Toronto.

The group planned to issue demands that Canadian troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan and that all Muslim prisoners held in Afghanistan be released.

The bizarre scenario offered the first details of the plot that police and intelligence agencies said they had disrupted in a series of raids overnight Friday. Twelve men and five teenaged boys were arrested. All are Canadian citizens or long-time residents of Canada.

The statement was put into the court record during a routine procedural hearing to set bond dates in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, as 10 of the 17 arrested appeared in court.

Batasar later told reporters that the prosecutors said his client, Steven Vikash Chand, 25, "personally indicated that he wanted to behead the prime minister of Canada." It was unclear if that was Stephen Harper, who took office in February, or his predecessor, Paul Martin.

Chand complained that prosecutors are "trying to instill fear in the public" through the allegations. More

Ed note: take heed, those that believe that there would be no terror without Bush. Terrorist acts existed before 9/11, and will exist afterwards. The trick is in trying to deal with it more responsibly than George W. Bush and today's GOP. Even if you take away the inflamatory rhetoric, you still have a small group of people determined to set off 3 tons of amonium nitrate. That would definitely leave a mark.

Monday, June 5
Democratic Response to President Bush's Speech on Banning Gay Marriage
Monday, June 5 (Senate Minority Leader's Office)In Nevada today, gas prices are over $3.00 a gallon. Fill-ups at the tank cause emptiness at the bank. This Administration, the most friendly-to-oil Presidency in our history, refuses to buck Big Oil or the auto manufacturers. Our citizens are literally choking on the lack of alternative fuel. Few incentives for energy created by the sun, the wind, or the Earths geothermal reserves has this Administration endorsed.

Raging in Iraq is an intractable war. Our soldiers are fighting valiantly, but we have Abu Ghraib and Hadithawhere 24 or more civilians were allegedly killed by our ownand no policy for winning the peace. However, Secretary Rumsfeld continues in his job with the full backing of the President. Not a reprimand, not a suggestion that his Defense Secretary is at fault.

We have a national debt that President Bush wont acknowledge, but our children, their children, and their childrens children will have to acknowledge the generations of debt created by President Bushs economic policies. Federal red ink as far as one can see. America is becoming continually more dependent on loans from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and England.

Our world is changing as we speak as a result of global warminga condition our President does not acknowledge, let alone attempt to reverse.

Today nearly 46 million Americans have absolutely no health insurance. Millions more of our countrymen have inadequate health insurance. This Administration has come forward with nothing of substance to address this national emergency.

Seniors in Nevada and each of the 50 states are struggling to survive. Some physicians refuse to take Medicare patients. The Presidents Medicare prescription drug plan has been a gift to HMOs, insurance companies, and drug companies and a nightmare for seniors.

Education for many of our graduating high school seniors has become a goal too far. Student loans and Pell grants are not a priority of the Bush Administration. The ability to obtain a college education is becoming more and more based on how much money your parents have instead of how much academic potential our youth have.

Crime remains a national worry, but money from the federal government to our states for crime fighting and crime prevention is being drastically cut. Successful anti-crime programs such as the COPS program are being eliminated by President Bush, much to the consternation of police officers across America.

A trade policy that is continually eroding Americas favorable balance of payments seems to be the watchword of the Bush Administration. This trade policy causes America to be less and less globally competitive.

The scientific community cries for help. They believe dread diseases such as Alzheimers, Lou Gehrigs, Parkinsons, and diabetes could be moderated and prevented, but President Bush emphatically says NO to allowing scientists to study and research the healing powers of stem cells. He refuses to keep hope alive for the suffering people of our great country.

In spite of the many serious problems we have just discussed, what is the United States Senate going to debate this week?

A new energy policy? NO.

Will we debate the raging war in Iraq? NO.

Will we address our staggering national debt? NO.

Will we address the seriousness of global warming NO

Will we address the aging of America? NO.

Will we address Americas education dilemma? NO.

Will we address rising crime statistics? NO.

Will we debate our countys trade imbalance? NO.

Will we debate Stem Cell Research? NO.

But what we will spend most of the week on is a constitutional amendment that will fail by a large margin, a constitutional amendment on Same Sex Marriagean effort that failed to pick up a simple majority, when we recently voted on it. Remember, an Amendment to our Constitution requires 67 votes.

I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I believe in our federal system of government, described to me in college as a central whole divided among self governing parts. Those self governing partsthe 50 stateshave already decided this on their own in state after state. For example, in Nevada the constitution was amended to prevent same sex marriage. Congress and President Clinton passed a law that gave the states the guarantee that their individual laws regarding marriage would be respected. The Defense of Marriage Act creates an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution so that no state can force its laws of marriage on another.

So why are we being directed by the President and this Republican majority to debate an Amendment to the Constitution, a document inspired more than two centuries ago? Why would we be asked to change this American masterpiece?

Will it next be to constitutionally dictate the cause of divorce, or military service, or even what Americas religion must be?

So for me it is clear the reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another. This is another one of the Presidents efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract, and to confuse America. It is this Administrations way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day:

High Gas Prices.

The War in Iraq.

The National Debt.

Health Care.

Senior Citizens.



Trade Policy.

Stem Cell Research.

Each issue begging the Presidents attention, each issue being ignoredvaluable time in the Senate spent on an issue that today is without hope of passing.

These issues are not Democratic issues. These issues are not Republican issues. There must be bipartisan efforts to address Americas ills.

I will vote no on the Motion to Proceed, as it is not a measure meant to bring America together. Rather, it is an effort to cover and conceal the issues necessary to make America more competitive, caring, considerate and stronger.

Together, America Can Do Better.

Friday, June 2
2:54 pmSo, What Should We Teach Our Children?

We laugh and snicker when we hear about parents who teach their children crazy things like women are subservient to men. We watch shows like "Big Love" if only to watch in wonder as to how grown people come up with such wiggy ideas like polygamy. We are a little sad when we read stories about kids like those in Prussian Blue, pre-teen girls who embrace Neo-Nazi ideals like other girls their age embrace teen idols. We say to ourselves, "who raises their kids to believe this stuff?"

Well, in today's NYT, here's a new one. Coming from no one but the President of the United States. I tell you, between this one and Clinton what the hell are parents supposed to do? I'm not naive enough to believe in role models, but is it too much to expect a president to disavow codifying hatred?

Bush Backs Amendment Banning Gay Marriage
President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers.

For the sake of short-term politics, a President of the United States will advocate constitutional discrimination against law abiding citizens. No matther how you feel about gay marriage, what Bush is proposing is legal discrimination. And if this bunch will do it to gays, what will the next bunch do? Those with the values of Bush and Rove will tell you that "it's just politics." Those with values know it's just plain wrong.

If I weren't crying, I'd be laughing.

Jobs Report Signals Cooling Economy
Friday, June 2 (New York Times)The net increase in nonfarm payrolls in May 75,000 is a significant falloff from April, when the Labor Department estimates that 126,000 jobs were added, a figure it revised downward today from the 138,000 it initially reported.

Anything below about 150,000 net new jobs a month is regarded as too slow to keep up with population growth, so in effect, workers are losing ground.

The Labor Department statistics were the latest in a series of recent reports pointing to a slowdown in the expansion of the economy.

The department also reported today that the national unemployment rate edged slightly lower in May to 4.6 percent, from 4.7 percent in April. This measure is regarded by many economists as a much less reliable gauge of job creation trends, because it is based on surveys of 60,000 households, while the payroll figure reflects employment data from hundreds of thousands of workplaces. The rate also excludes workers who have given up seeking jobs. More

Documents show issues with wives, child support
Friday, June 2 (San Diego Union Tribume)Republican Jim Galley, who is running for Congress as a pro-traditional family candidate, was married to two women at the same time, defaulted on his child support payments and has been accused of abuse by one of his ex-wives.

The San Diego Union-Tribune discovered the personal history in making public-records checks on Galley, who is making his fourth run for elective office in four years. These checks are part of the newspaper's election reporting process.

Galley married his second wife, Beth, in 1982 when, unbeknownst to her, he was still married to his first wife, Terry. Beth and Galley divorced in 1990 after she sought a restraining order alleging abuse.

The child support was owed to his first wife.

Galley said the contemporaneous marriages were a mistake because he thought his first divorce had been completed. He said the child support default was only for a few months and that the abuse allegation was made only to get him out of the house. More

At the Corner of Progress and Peril
Friday, June 2 (Washington Post)What does it mean to be a black man? Imagine three African American boys, kindergartners who are largely alike in intelligence, talent and character, whose potential seems limitless. According to a wealth of statistics and academic studies, in just over a decade one of the boys is likely to be locked up or headed to prison. The second boy -- if he hasn't already dropped out -- will seriously weigh leaving high school and be pointed toward an uncertain future. The third boy will be speeding toward success by most measures.

Being a black man in America can mean inhabiting a border area between possibility and peril, to feel connected to, defined by, even responsible for each of those boys -- and for other black men. In dozens of interviews, black men described their shared existence, of sometimes wondering whether their accomplishments will be treated as anomalies, their individuality obscured by the narrow images that linger in the minds of others.

This unique bond, which National Urban League President Marc Morial calls "the kinship of the species," is driving many black men to focus renewed attention on the portrait of achievement and failure that hangs over the next generation. A recent spate of scholarly studies have brought urgency to the introspection, as the studies show the condition of poor, young black men has worsened in the past decade despite the generally strong economic conditions of the 1990s.

Black men now number 18 million, and many are pondering their roles in a country that is undergoing significant social and demographic changes. More

Wednesday, May 31
Comments by Bill Moyers
2006 PBS Annual Meeting
Wednesday, May 31 (PBS/Bill Moyers)...So here we are, in the White House, in 1964. Radio - the first genie out of the electronic bottle - is 30 years old. Radio had been greeted as a potential force in the public interest, a stage for the best of the creative arts, a venue for courageous journalism, and a forum for robust debate. In the Radio Act of 1927, Congress plainly said that "in exchange for the use of public airways radio stations had to serve 'the public interest, convenience, or necessity.'"

Television had been around hardly a decade. Great expectations also greeted its arrival. And like radio it had enjoyed a brief "golden era" of innovation and creativity. But also like radio, television came with the potential to arouse the salesman's wildest dreams. With television came mass audiences of people who would open their purses and pocketbooks and their hearts and minds to anyone who could afford the commercials that paid for the programs. In just a matter of years, the promise of the new medium as a public forum had been hijacked by commerce with its raw ambition to deliver to advertisers the largest number of buyers for their products and dreams. Advertising became the gatekeeper of the airwaves.

What this meant to our national life was troubling. We didn't begrudge commerce its due. We were not fools - we recognized that societies structure their ways of communication to reflect their dominant values. And economic values - getting and spending in the pursuit of happiness - are among America's dominant values. Nor were there any Marxists among us; no one wanted broadcasting to be the hand-puppet of the state. But it was impossible to ignore the consequences of a purely market-driven media. Since advertising provided media companies their revenues and profits, the marketplace of ideas was usurped by the need of broadcasters to court and please large advertisers.

We thought democracy deserved better. It was one thing for information to be commercialized, privatized, and devoted exclusively to profit. But democracy doesn't live by bread alone; it lives on ideas, too, and occasionally it needs a full-course banquet of truth. Once television became the tool of commerce, only the price tag mattered. Contrary ideas, critical journalism, public debates, and programs that served the tastes, interests, and needs of significant but less than mass audiences were rare items in the inventory of the marketplace. In only a few years television had become, in the words of the FCC chairman "a vast wasteland," a phrase that quickly entered the lexicon of lost opportunities.

So we sat around in those meetings - and I emphasize the sitting. Unlike the White House geniuses of West Wing and Commander in Chief, we couldn't think fast and brilliantly on our feet; in fact, one of our best thinkers had hammertoes and could hardly move at all; all of us on the staff had to run just to keep up with the President as he walked, so there were no inspired, wittily-composed, totally spontaneous, and perfectly-parsed conversations on the run from the Oval Office to the Rose Garden or from the Situation Room to the bathroom. We sat around in meetings and talked about what television could do for democracy.

We talked about how television could be much more of an open marketplace of ideas, available to everyone.... More

10:05 amGood Lord, Someone Kill These People

If you can see the Reuters World News Update in "The Embassy" above, click on today's story on Dutch pedophiles. Their spokesman is a poster "boy" for why pedophiles need to be neutralized. By pretty much any means necessary. I know it's not a nice thought. It was never meant to be.

Where's the Petite Department? Going the Way of the Petticoat
Wednesday, May 31 (New York Times)Twenty-five years ago, America's department stores long obsessed with that Seventh Avenue archetype, the tall, thin, leggy lady discovered her shorter sibling, the petite woman. They gave her a special clothing size, her own department and, over time, access to top designers like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.

Small was suddenly sexy. Or at least sexier.

But the love affair with little women appears to be over. Three of the country's most influential fashion emporiums Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's have quietly eliminated or drastically scaled back their petite departments in the past several months, infuriating many longtime customers.

Given that manufacturers produce clothing in only a handful of standard sizes among them, juniors, misses and plus size the abandonment of petite sizes at the highest levels of American retailing represents a sea change in fashion, forcing some designers to either stop making special sizes for smaller women or re-evaluate how much to invest in the business. More

Ed note:
why this story? Well, my wife's a petite. She's not old and frumpy in any way. But after getting loaded at a wedding reception last week, I kidded her about the dress she was wearing. Bad move. I knew she'd gone to 5 different places looking for a dress that didn't look so....frumpy.

So the garment manufacturers need to pull their heads out of their collective asses and make clothing, especially dresses, that will offer my wife better choices. I can understand their obsession with thin and young. What I can't understand is that they apparently refuse to believe women get older and less thin (or even fat!). The other thing I don't get is that they clearly are ignoring a severely underserved market, and not making as much $$$ as they could.

Files Contradict Account of Raid in Iraq
Wednesday, May 31 (New York Times) A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in
Among the pieces of evidence that conflicted with the marines' story were death certificates that showed all the Iraqi victims had gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and chest, the official said.

The investigation, which was led by Col. Gregory Watt, an Army officer in Baghdad, also raised questions about whether the marines followed established rules for identifying hostile threats when they assaulted houses near the site of a bomb attack, which killed a fellow marine.

The three-week inquiry was the first official investigation into an episode that was first uncovered by Time magazine in January and that American military officials now say appears to have been an unprovoked attack by the marines that killed 24 Iraqi civilians. The results of Colonel Watt's investigation, which began on Feb. 14, have not previously been disclosed.

"There were enough inconsistencies that things didn't add up," said the senior official, who was briefed on the conclusions of Colonel Watt's preliminary investigation. More

Tuesday, May 30
4:55 pmAt the Intersection of Bravery, Stupidity, and Just Plain Dumb

Wounded CBS Reporter "Responsive"
CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier critically wounded Monday by a bomb that killed cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan arrived Tuesday at the Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, for treatment at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital.

Dozier is in critical, but stable condition and is being treated for multiple injuries with wounds to her head and legs, CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports.

At a press briefing in Germany on Tuesday, Col. W. Bryan Gamble said Dozier was moving her toes on the flight to Landstuhl and "was responsive, opening her eyes to commands."

"She was critically wounded from the ... blast, but right now she is doing as well as can be expected," he said, adding that Dozier was expected to stay in Landstuhl for several days and undergo several other routine operations.

Doctors and nurses at the combat support hospital handle on average between 10 and 15 trauma cases a day, so they knew what to expect when they heard Dozier and other military personnel had been wounded by a car bomb, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

"If this would've happened back in the States, she probably would have died," a doctor at the combat hospital told Palmer.

Building on the sacrifice of the journalists, lets go back to a few months ago and listen to the words of Laura Ingraham. Laura had just come back from Iraq. She spent a few days there, which gave her plenty of time to blather on in a moronic froth on how cowardly the press is helping to submarine the efforts in Iraq by their fear of covering it.

Just Plain Dumb:
Pulling up the rear are the words of Karl Zinsmeister. Karl is a member of the Bush administration (imagine that!), serving as the new chief domestic policy adviser. Karl said the following.

"many of the journalists observable in this war theater are bursting with knee-jerk suspicions and antagonisms for the warriors all around them. A significant number are whiny and appallingly soft."

Apparently, he said those words while writing a story on himself. For the Washington Post. But the Post didn't know he was writing an autobiographical piece. They thought he was reporting on the war in Iraq. After all, he said these words while embedded with the 82nd Airborne.

That's the thing with the war, this whole Republican sweep of Washington, and government in general. Too many have listened to too much dogma for too long. Instead of conservative commentators talking about the bravery of beind an unarmed journnalist in a war zone, they won't say anything; which itself is inhuman. Or they'll find a way (I guarantee you) to make Dozier's injuries a reason the press is helping to lose the war. The average GOP'er can't think, speak, worship, drive, eat, go see a movie or watch TV without reliance upon dogma. For you purists, there are lefties the same way. But the GOP is in power. They've won the last few elections, and are in firm control of the day-to-day management of the republic. The GOP is the party that swept the nation, and supposedly made conservatism popular again. It's way past clear that they didn't do it through superior ideas. They did it through pandering to base instincts and greed; upon which they sprinkled a little patriotism, and added a big dollop of repetition.

The Republican Party didn't used to be this way. At least since they threw out Joe McCarthy. Where did the real ones go?

Supreme Court Limits Whistleblower Lawsuits
Tuesday, May 30 (Washington Post)The Supreme Court today narrowed the First Amendment protections for public employees who reveal perceived wrongdoing they happen to observe in the course of doing their jobs.

The decision enhances the ability of governments at all levels to punish employees for speaking out, shielding officials in many instances from lawsuits for violating the right to free speech.

It does not interfere with federal or state laws that independently protect the actions of whistleblowers.

The case was closely watched by governments across the country as well as public employee unions, who feared today's outcome.

In a 5-4 opinion , Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the courts should not be displacing "managerial discretion" over the behavior of employees by intruding in decisions that are wholly related to the workplace. "Employers have heightened interests in controlling speech made by an employee in his or her professional capacity.

"Official communications," he said, "have official consequences. . . ." More

Thursday, May 25
10:22 amSo Let's Check out the Post Below

Later in her column Molly Ivins insists that Republicans are using the immigration issue to flex their racist and nativist muscle. She says that GOP politicians are publicly horrified to be referred as such, and implies they don't mind it privately or among themselves. She implores us to read their websites

So let do just that. Here are the links to two of their most popular, Little Green Footballs (LGF), and Michelle Malkin. I'll put up permanent links in an area that I'll call...The Collective Interest Reality Check. Go there, see what they're saying, draw your own conclusions. After all, I'm not here to tell you what to think. I just want to get you thinking.

Our national laboratory for bad government
Thursday, May 25 (Chicago Tribune)Last week, President Bush visited Yuma, Ariz., to tour a portion of the U.S.-Mexico Border by Border Patrol buggy. Maybe Jorge was doing a little measuring for the $3.2 million-a-mile fence the Senate approved, which I guarantee will be really helpful. Are they insane? As Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano observes, "Show me a 50-foot wall, and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder."

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate have constructively declared English the national language. That'll fix everything. Every foreigner at our borders will stop and say: "Good thing to know. I'll begin speaking it immediately."

Yes sir, you want a solution, call a Republican. More

Thursday, May 25 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)Real average weekly earnings rose by 0.2 percent from March to April after seasonal adjustment, according to preliminary data released today (May 17) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.  A 0.5 percent increase in average hourly earnings combined with a 0.3 percent increase in average weekly hours was partially offset by a 0.6 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

Data on average weekly earnings are collected from the payroll reports of private nonfarm establishments.  Earnings of both full-time and part-time workers holding production or nonsupervisory jobs are included.  Real average weekly earnings are calculated by adjusting earnings in current dollars for changes in the CPI-W.

Average weekly earnings rose by 4.1 percent, seasonally adjusted, from April 2005 to April 2006.  After deflation by the CPI-W, average weekly earnings increased by 0.4 percent.  Before adjustment for seasonal change and inflation, average weekly earnings were $565.45 in April 2006, compared with $537.94 a year earlier. More

 Thursday, May 25 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.9 percent in April, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today (May 17).  The April level of 201.5 (1982-84=100) was 3.5 percent higher than in April 2005.

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 1.0 percent in April, prior to seasonal adjustment.  The April level of 197.2 (1982-84=100) was 3.7 percent higher than in April 2005. More

This is not the way to regain the public trust
Thursday, May 25 (Concord Monitor)In a nationwide poll conducted last month, 75 percent of those surveyed said they had less trust in government than they did five years ago. Only 3 percent, according to Zogby International, indicated they generally trusted Congress to act properly.

And this was beforethe FBI spread the word that when agents looked in Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson's freezer, they found $90,000 in (ahem) cold cash.

In an age of scandal it can be difficult to remember which CEO, washed-up actor or member of Congress got caught doing what. A few years from now, the name William Jefferson will once again be more familiar as the first and middle name of a president (Clinton) than the first and last name of an eight-term Democratic congressman. But the detail - $90,000 in the freezer, wrapped in aluminum foil like a bunch of steaks -that will stick.

So what is Speaker of the House Denny Hastert thinking? It was strange enough to read yesterday morning that he had complained to President Bush about the FBI's court-approved search of Jefferson's congressional office last weekend. Then yesterday Hastert demanded that the FBI surrender whatever documents it had seized. He says the investigators, who work for the executive branch of the government, violated the separation of powers by conducting a raid on the legislative branch. More

Tuesday, May 23
Should a $300 Billion Deficit Be Considered a Victory?
Tuesday, May 23 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)On May 4, the Congressional Budget Office revised its estimate of the deficit for the current fiscal year (2006) to significantly less than $350 billion, perhaps as low as $300 billion, assuming enactment of the pending supplemental appropriations and tax reconciliation legislation.[1]  On May 9, Goldman Sachs reduced its comparable estimate to $300 billion.  Previous similar estimates by these organizations had been around $375 billion.

How should we view a $300 billion deficit?  To what extent should we rejoice?  We see five points.

" Rising inequality contributes to revenue growth.  To the extent that they reflect growing income inequality, extra revenues are good news for the budget but not good news for society.  CBO explains the greater-than-forecast growth in revenues in part by saying, growth in incomes in 2005 may have been concentrated more than expected among higher-income taxpayers, who face the highest tax rates.

" Revenue growth will likely slow.  There are good reasons to believe that the rate of revenue growth will slow.  Goldman Sachs, which expects slowing, explains, the fact that the bulk of the surprises have occurred in non-withheld personal taxes and in corporate taxes continues to suggest that the strength is largely transitory. & by far the largest component [of the unexpected growth in personal tax receipts] reflect[s] one-off events such as better than expected year-end bonuses, capital gains realizations, and the like. & While the strength in corporate taxes appears more genuinely rooted in profit growth, this is more vulnerable in a mature expansion. & [P]rospects for further strong growth in profits appear constrained. [2]

" A $300 billion deficit increases the burden on future generations.  A $300 billion deficit is a substantial deficit.  Specifically, it will cause the debt to grow faster than the economy; the debt-to-GDP ratio will surpass 37.4 percent this year.[3]  When debt rises faster than the economy, it becomes a growing burden future taxpayers will have to devote more of their taxes to paying off debt, or alternatively to paying interest on the debt.  Put simply, a rising debt-to-GDP ratio means that the nation is increasing the financial burden on future generations, while a falling debt-to-GDP ratio means that the nation is reducing the burden on future generations.  The debt cannot grow faster than the economy forever without eventually causing bankruptcy. More

Roti relatives fix potholes, pave streets
Tuesday, May 23 (Chicago Sun Times)Stolen asphalt and payoffs from trucking companies have long been rampant in Chicagos street-paving program.

And, for years, paving in Chicago has been under the control of one family the Rotis, who have held sway at City Hall and with the Chicago Outfit for generations.

Roti family members not only ran the city program, they also used trucks owned by other Roti relatives to haul asphalt and other paving materials.

One Roti relative, Charles Scalfaro, oversees the paving program, responsible for neighborhood streets and alleys, as a general foreman for the Department of Transportation, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

Over the years, Scalfaro has decided when streets would be repaved, assigned city workers to do the jobs and overseen the work, according to city documents and sources with knowledge of the operation. His duties also included supervising trucks hired to haul asphalt and other materials which the city no longer uses on paving jobs, a reform put in place in response to the Hired Truck scandal. More

Veterans' personal information stolen
26.5 million are now at risk for identity theft
Tuesday, May 23 (Concord Monitor)Personal information about tens of millions of veterans may have fallen into criminal hands when someone stole the electronic data stored at the Maryland home of a federal employee, officials announced yesterday.

The burglary earlier this month could mark one of the largest thefts of data that could be used to steal someone's identity, electronic privacy experts said.

The missing information contained names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for as many as 26.5 million veterans and some of their spouses. Those affected include all those discharged by the military after 1975 and those discharged before 1975 who later filed claims with the Department of Veteran Affairs.

VA officials released few details about the theft's time and location in suburban Maryland. They said they didn't want to tip off the burglars, who, they said, might not understand what they had taken.

Both the Veterans Affairs's inspector general and the FBI in Baltimore joined the effort to track down the purloined information, officials said. A law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation said the burglary probably happened in Montgomery County, because authorities there are working on the investigation.

Officials said that the VA employee who brought the data home violated department policy. Department spokesman Matt Burns declined to say who the employee was, but confirmed the employee was suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

So far, investigators say they believe it is unlikely the burglars know what they stole or how to access it, according to the VA. The employee's neighborhood had been subject to a rash of break-ins, officials said.

Still, the data is the sort regularly used by those who steal people's identities.

Privacy experts said the ripple effects from the burglary could be far and wide.

"There was one breach by a hacker of 40 million credit card accounts last year," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer privacy organization in San Diego. "But that's a finite problem, because you can cancel the accounts."

With stolen Social Security numbers, Givens said, identity theft problems could crop up "today, tomorrow or two years from now -or never. You never know."

Because of the enormous potential impact of the theft, Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson wrote a letter that officials said would be sent to all affected. His department opened a toll-free number - 800-333-4636 - to provide information for veterans. Additional information on the internet is available at http://www.firstgov.gov.

The top official at the Veterans of Foreign Wars called the theft disturbing, but pledged his help to inform his 2.4 million members. More

Ed note: did you know that if any of these vets file for bankruptcy due to debts caused by identity theft, they are not dischargable under the new Bankruptcy Law?

Monday, May 22
Hear Me Now
Monday, May 22 (The New Republic)Nancy Pelosi, dare we say, did something smart last week. She told her Democratic colleagues, several of whom have become enamored with the idea of impeaching the president, that, if their party gains control of Congress, impeachment is verboten. "We want oversight and checks and balances," Pelosi's flack told reporters. "Impeachment was never her interest." 

These are dismal times for Republicans, and now they are even worse. Pelosi has effectively banished the specter of crazed Democrats returning to power to impeach President Bush, a handy bogeyman for Republican fund-raisers. The truth is, it is not impeachment Republicans fear; it's simply oversight. Since 2001, Congress has sat idle as the executive branch gradually proclaimed new powers for itself, and it has aided and abetted Bush's every failure by refusing to operate as a check on his administration. So, while Democrats are wise to distance themselves from the I-word, they shouldn't be bullied into abandoning promises to aggressively investigate the Bush administration. In fact, they should be running on the issue, not away from it. 

GOP control of Congress deserves to end this year, not least because Republicans have abused--and then abandoned--government oversight. Six years of chasing every wild accusation leveled against the Clinton administration have been followed by almost six years of near-total deference to the executive branch. In the Clinton years, a single House committee, Government Reform, issued over 1,000 subpoenas and spent millions of dollars investigating the White House and the Democratic Party. More than two million pages of documents were handed over. In one inquiry alone--the grave matter of the politicization of the White House Christmas list--Republicans took 140 hours of testimony.  More

One family's rise, a century of power
Monday, May 22 (Chicago Sun-Times)When Bruno Roti Sr. died in 1957, 3,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects.

Fourteen cars overflowed with flowers.

The wail of a 12-piece marching band filled the streets of the neighborhood that Roti Sr. had called home for nearly five decades, since leaving his small village of Simbario in southern Italy in 1909.

Nearly 100 men wearing black sashes across their chests escorted the hearse through the neighborhood today known as Chinatown. They were members of an organization Roti founded -- the Society of St. Rocco di Simbario.

It was a funeral fit for a cardinal. Or a mayor.

According to his death certificate, Bruno Roti Sr., dead at 76, was a beer distributor.

To people in his tightly knit Italian neighborhood, Roti Sr. was their leader. Years after Roti's death, his godson, in a recorded interview he gave in 1980 for the "Italians in Chicago" project run by the history department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recalled him as a man who showed immigrants a "clean, decent, respectable way of life.''

To Chicago Police, though, Roti Sr. was "The Bomber," "The Mustache," "a big man in the Chicago crime setup." In the early part of the century, he was part of the Black Hand, police said -- the name given to loose-knit gangs of extortionists who preyed on fellow Italian immigrants for money. The Black Hand gangs would be taken over in the 1920s by Al Capone's gang.

"Roti was close to Al Capone and was visited by Capone on many occasions,'' according to an FBI report prepared nine years after his death.

The FBI identified Roti Sr. as the leader of what would become the Chicago Outfit's 26th Street/Chinatown crew, a key cog in organized crime here. His descendants would build upon his legacy, extending the family's influence over public office and organized labor.

A neighborhood grocer
Bruno Roti Sr. visited Chicago in 1901, then returned eight years later for good, according to the passenger manifest of the ship -- named La Bretagne -- that brought him to America when he was 28.

Roti passed through Ellis Island in the spring of 1909 on his way to Chicago to join his two brothers and his pregnant wife's siblings. Wife Marianna Bertucci Roti and the couple's two sons stayed behind in Simbario, joining Roti in Chicago seven months later, according to his petitions for citizenship.

Reputed mob boss Bruno Roti Sr.s mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside is flanked (left) by the grave of his son-in-law, Frank Skid Caruso, and (right) by that of his son, the late Ald. Fred B. Roti. (SUN-TIMES STAFF PHOTO)

Roti Sr. became a grocer, operating a store in the 2100 block of South Wentworth, according to a Chicago city directory from 1917.

Chicago -- booming with hundreds of thousands of immigrants -- was a brutal place, with gangland killings, immigrants preying upon each other, rampant vice.

Roti Sr. himself was arrested twice in murder investigations. More

Friday, May 19 (T.G.I.F)
Legal loophole emerges in NSA spy program
Friday, May 19 (CNET.com)An AT&T attorney indicated in federal court on Wednesday that the Bush administration may have provided legal authorization for the telecommunications company to open its network to the National Security Agency.
Federal law may "authorize and in some cases require telecommunications companies to furnish information" to the executive branch, said Bradford Berenson, who was associate White House counsel when President Bush authorized the NSA surveillance program in late 2001 and is now a partner at the Sidley Austin law firm in Washington, D.C.

Far from being complicit in an illegal spying scheme, Berenson said, "AT&T is essentially an innocent bystander."

AT&T may be referring to an obscure section of federal law, 18 U.S.C. 2511, which permits a telecommunications company to provide "information" and "facilities" to the federal government as long as the attorney general authorizes it. The authorization must come in the form of "certification in writing by...the Attorney General of the United States that no warrant or court order is required by law." More

Thursday, May 18 (Work is still a BITCH, but I'm finding a way to post)
5:05 pmLesson 6 in How Not to Govern

Building on Illinois Governor Rod Blagovevich's lessons in what not to do when elected governor is the following from today's Chicago Sun-Times:

Gov muzzles his clout-buster
At his first press conference as governor, Rod Blagojevich announced he was bringing in a clout-busting lawyer to help take politics out of state hiring. But now the governor doesn't want her talking about what she did. His lawyers are keeping attorney Mary Lee Leahy from answering questions about whether 17 state employees were bounced in 2004 because of their political ties.

Blagojevich insisted in federal court filings that politics "was not considered in any way" in the layoffs. Administration officials said they simply saved taxpayers money by eliminating 190 jobs in the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Gov. Blagojevich's office kept a clout list of hundreds of state employees recommended by lobbyists, lawmakers and major fund-raisers -- despite the governor's repeated statements that politics doesn't influence state hiring.

The transportation workers, however, claim they were booted because of their Republican connections and are trying to get their jobs back. They want to ask Leahy what she may have found out about their case when she was the governor's special investigator for employment and personnel. She was out of the office by the end of 2003.

Rod Blagovevich. He's and idiot. But he's our idiot.

Forever Pregnant
Guidelines: Treat Nearly All Women as Pre-Pregnant
Thursday, May 18 (Washington Post)New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.

Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.

While most of these recommendations are well known to women who are pregnant or seeking to get pregnant, experts say it's important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.

The recommendations aim to "increase public awareness of the importance of preconception health" and emphasize the "importance of managing risk factors prior to pregnancy," said Samuel Posner, co-author of the guidelines and associate director for science in the division of reproductive health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the report.

Other groups involved include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the March of Dimes, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention's Division of Reproductive Health and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

The idea of preconception care has been discussed for nearly 20 years, experts said, but it has drawn more attention recently. Progress toward further reducing the rate of unhealthy pregnancy results, including premature birth, low birthweight and infant mortality, has slowed in the United States since 1996 "in part because of inconsistent delivery and implementation of interventions before pregnancy to detect, treat and help women modify behaviors, health conditions and risk factors that contribute to adverse maternal and infant outcomes," according to the report. More

9:19 amThe DaVinci Code...

Is a work of FICTION, Mr. Catholic Church and various Catholic mouthpieces! It is alternate history, much like what Harry Turtledove writes. Are you so threatened by Charlotte's Web? Or the works of Jackie Collins? Good Lord! If only the Iraq War was just a good techno-thriller, we wouldn't be in so much of a mess....

Wednesday, May 17 (Sorry for not posting, work is a BITCH!)
1:04 pmLesson 5 in How Not to Govern

Illinois Governor Rod Blagovevich was elected in 2002 in a landslide. The Illinois GOP was humiliated in the wake corrption in the administration of now-covicted felon George Ryan. Blago had the table set for him. The first Democratic governor in more than a decade with a Dem House and Senate. All he had to do was govern.

But no. Blago is looking to be the biggest political idiot next to George W. Bush. If you're not up to speed, Blago's managed to get himself investigated by the Fed. He did this by feuding with his father-in-law, a Chicago alderman. How the feud got so poisoned, who knows. But with Blago, anything is possible. Now we have this revelation in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

Gov's clout list hundreds long
Gov. Blagojevich's office kept a clout list of hundreds of state employees recommended by lobbyists, lawmakers and major fund-raisers -- despite the governor's repeated statements that politics doesn't influence state hiring.

The computerized list obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times was created and stored off state property, a source said, and the administration used it to track favors it handed out if Blagojevich needed something in return from the employees' patrons -- a charge the governor's office vehemently denied.

The political sponsors on the 2003 list include top Blagojevich fund-raisers Antoin "Tony" Rezko and Christopher G. Kelly, identified as "TR," "CK10" and "CK."

Other patrons of those hired include Al Ronan ("AR"), a lobbyist whose former firm was convicted in a bid-rigging scheme; Blagojevich's now estranged father-in-law, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell ("RFM" and "Mell"), and a host of other insiders whose spouses and children wound up on the state payroll.

Spokeswoman: All within the law
\The jobs were handed out between January and July of 2003 in the early days of the Blagojevich administration. They ranged from powerful administrative and deputy director posts to more menial positions doing secretarial work and supervising a state park's gift shop. The newspaper used state records to confirm that at least 274 of the 292 people on the list have or had state jobs.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said she wasn't familiar with the list the Sun-Times obtained and insisted that all vacancies were filled "within the guidelines of the law." She also denied that jobs were doled out in hopes of reaping political favors later on.

However, the administration for the first time acknowledged it has been keeping track -- from the beginning -- of politicians and others who refer people for state jobs.

"When we started, there wasn't a formal mechanism yet because we didn't anticipate how many different recommendations would be coming in from all over the state and hadn't figured out a good system for keeping track of all of it," she said.

The existing system is now kept on computers in the personnel division. It isn't subject to public review because "it is considered part of a personnel file" and is therefore private.

"This was created to help us track the status of applications, not favors of the recommenders, unlike the previous administration's process," Ottenhoff said

A wave of subpoenas
The list's disclosure comes as a federal probe of the governor's hiring practices heats up. Last week, two former state employees said they were dismissed and made scapegoats for refusing to guide poorly qualified, politically sponsored job applicants through the hiring process. The FBI has recently contacted the two.

Last November, the Blagojevich administration was hit with a wave of federal subpoenas seeking hiring records. At the time, the governor insisted that qualifications always trump politics when it comes to handing out state jobs.

"Qualifications all the time," he said.

What the governor didn't say then was how extensively some of his political friends had infiltrated the state's hiring process.

In Ronan's case, the personnel list shows he recommended Lynda Mlinarich for a job as a legislative liaison with the Illinois Gaming Board at the same time his lobbying firm represented Argosy Gaming Co.

Less than a year later, Ronan's lobbying firm was at the center of a federal bid-rigging investigation at McPier that led to convictions of his firm and an employee, though Ronan himself has not been charged.

Ronan also was identified as the patron for former Illinois State Toll Highway Authority administrator Scott Okun, who resigned last month and is under investigation for allegedly forcing a tollway vendor to hire a firm that employed a cousin.

Attempts to reach Ronan, Mlinarich and Okun were unsuccessful.

Rezko and Kelly appear on the list seven times.

In one instance, Rezko sponsored Ahmed Almanaseer for a trade office intern post in the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the list shows. Almanaseer was working for the state at the time his father, Dr. Imad Almanaseer, was a member of a state board that oversees hospital construction. Rezko had recommended some members to the board.

Reached Tuesday and asked about Rezko, Ahmed Almanaseer said he no longer works for the state, owns his own business and "was not in a position to speak right now."

How does the saying go? "He's an idiot, but he's our idiot?"
Confidence In GOP Is At New Low in Poll
Democrats Favored To Address Issues
Wednesday, May 17 (Washington Post)Public confidence in GOP governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying by wide margins that they now trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and other issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that underscores the GOP's fragile grip on power six months before the midterm elections.

Dissatisfaction with the administration's policies in Iraq has overwhelmed other issues as the source of problems for President Bush and the Republicans. The survey suggests that pessimism about the direction of the country -- 69 percent said the nation is now off track -- and disaffection with Republicans have dramatically improved Democrats' chances to make gains in November.

Democrats are now favored to handle all 10 issues measured in the Post-ABC News poll. The survey shows a majority of the public, 56 percent, saying they would prefer to see Democrats in control of Congress after the elections.

The poll offers two cautions for the Democrats, however. One is a growing disaffection with incumbents generally. When asked whether they were inclined to reelect their current representative to Congress or look around for someone new, 55 percent said they were open to someone else, the highest since just before Republicans captured control of Congress in 1994. That suggests that some Democratic incumbents could feel the voters' wrath, although as the party in power Republicans have more at risk. More

Friday, May 12
4:06 pmImagine if a Black Man Got on TV and Said This

From our friends at Fox News, namely John Gibson. If a Black man said thisespecially Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan; Sean Hannity's head would explode. The entire wingnut blogosphere would erupt like an overripe zit.

10:53 amHigh-Speed Chases and Towing 30-ft Boats

I was reading this in today's Chicago Tribune:
Our strategy of letting free-market forces determine the most cost-effective sources of energy is seriously flawed. The oil market is not a free market. It's dominated by cartels that manipulate supply. They cleverly raise and lower supply to ensure maximum profits while at the same time taking care that the price of gasoline doesn't go so high that alternative energy sources would be an attractive investment for private enterprise.

Though we are not addicted to oil, there are two underlying national addictions that perpetuate the energy crisis. One is our addiction to living for today at the expense of economic health and security tomorrow. The other is an addiction to pandering that afflicts our elected officials. We are shortsighted pocketbook junkies, and our leaders keep passing us the needle loaded with another feel-good dose of flawed energy policy.

Bush and Congress need to stop pandering and start leading. This is an opportunity made-to-order for a president who wants to be remembered for taking on the big problems. Mr. President, it's time to stop bunting the runners along and start swinging for the fences--and the only fence within our home-run range is ethanol.

I agree we need to begin to use alternative fuels and different engine technologies. I like the idea of a hybrid. But I have a fundamental problem with them that I feel I share with a lot of Americans.

These new technologies and fuels don't guarantee us good looks, the ability to go fast, pull heavy loads, or even both. There's that Lexus hybrid SUV out there, but it is a WHOLE lot of money.

Today's hybrid cars aren't fast or sexy or manly. They're still largely rooted in the boring, slow, econoboxes of the 70's. They get great gas mileage, but they can't get you through the on ramp quickly. They can't pass a truck worth a damn. They're great for parking. But won't really help you "park" when you're on that blind date. They're ultra-practical, which is the kiss of death when it comes to changing buying habits. Make it sexy and fast, then after everyone's signed on the program, make it practical. Hybrids need to be fast. 0-60 in 8-8.5 seconds, if not less. Make them look and perform like something people would want. That's one key to overcoming our additction (or restriction) to oil.

Another way is in letting municipalities buy modified hybrid vehicles for their uses. So far the Bushies say no to this preferring to let "the market" decide what vehicles are purchased.

The day the cops use hybrid vehicles to catch a bad buy in a high-speed chase is the day attitudes will change about these cars forever.

Same with towing. Do you really trust your Ford Escape hybrid to pull at the maximum load? No, and I don't either. But, would your opinion change if you saw a hybrid truck pulling a 30-foot boat smoothly UP an incline? Using the municipalities example, what would you think of hybrids if they powered the garbage trucks in your city? Or the trucks used by your Parks & Recreation department, or the Sewer Department?

There are lots of ways to get to our goal of using less gas. One way is to design and build vehicles people will drive because it doesn't differ from their current driving experience. Or we can do it the boring, tree-hugging, granola-eating way. Prius or Porsche? You decide. The key to the future of hybrids is not sacrificing performance at the altar of economy.

Thursday, May 11
What is Christian nationalism?
Thursday, May 11 (Talk 2 Action)I've just published a book called "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism," and since it appeared, I've been asked several times what Christian nationalism is, and how it differs from Christian fundamentalism. It's an important concept to understand, because the threat to a pluralistic society does not come from those who simply believe in a very conservative interpretation of Christianity. It comes from those who adhere to a political ideology that posits a Christian right to rule.

Christian nationalists believe in a revisionist history, which holds that the founders were devout Christians who never intended to create a secular republic; separation of church and state, according to this history, is a fraud perpetrated by God-hating subversives. One of the foremost Christian revisionist historians is David Barton, who , in addition to running an organization called Wallbuilders that disseminates Christian nationalist books, tracts and videos, is also the vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party. The goal of Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book "The Changing of the Guard:"

"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
    But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
    It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
    It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
    It is dominion we are after.
    World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish." More

A Defining Moment From South Dakota
Abortion Ban Presents Opportunity to Reframe the Debate
Thursday, May 11 (Third Way)
The South Dakota ban provides a unique opportunity for progressives to redefine themselves and conservatives on abortion.

The South Dakota ban provides a unique opportunity for progressives to redefine themselves and conservatives on abortion in a way that wins the battle of reasonableness among the vast majority of Americans the so-called abortion grays. Abortion grays believe that abortion should neither always be legal nor always be illegal and make up 63% of the electorate.

We believe progressives must use this opportunity to define themselves as seeking to reduce the number of abortions in America while preserving individual liberties. Thus, progressives support the basic right to choose while also setting a goal of reducing the prevalence of abortion in America. We suggest progressives define conservatives as seeking to criminalize abortion and putting people in prison. Thus, conservatives support a goal of reducing abortion through criminalization and incarceration which is what the South Dakota bill accomplishes, and what bills in other states intend to do. More

Third Way Charts Economic Path Back for Progressives with Middle-Class
Thursday, May 11 (Third Way)In New Study, Group Calls for a Politics of Opportunity and Optimism

Washington: In a new paper released today, Third Way explains why Democrats handily win in public opinion polls on economic issues but are repeatedly trounced at the ballot box by middle class voters, and the group offers progressive leaders a new approach to issues relating to middle-class economics. In the study, entitled The Politics of Opportunity, Third Way argues that pessimistic progressive messaging is discordant for the overwhelmingly optimistic middle-class and that most signature progressive economic ideas do not benefit middle-class families. The group urges progressives to use a more optimistic message and to develop a new economic agenda that promotes economic aspiration as much as economic security. The paper also defines a sharper attack on conservatives for economic policies that damage Americas middle class. The new progressive message, the authors say, can be boiled down to: A new era of middle-class opportunity.

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), an honorary co-chair of Third Way and Chair of the Third Way Middle-Class Project, said of the study: This study lays out a path for Democrats to revamp our approach to the economy and recapture the middle-class. Under the leadership of Minority Leader Reid, our caucus has staked out a new direction on economic issues, one that I believe matches up well with the recommendations in this paper. I am going to make sure I get a copy of this study to all of my colleagues in the Senate, as well as all of our outstanding Senate candidates.

The Politics of Opportunity has five main sections: More

Snow Already Sparring With News Orgs.
Thursday, May 11 (Editor & Publisher)In his first week in the job, new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is already having issues with CBS News, and slamming The New York Times and USA Today.

Snow has fired off several emails to reporters. One rapped the Times for continuing to ignore Americas economic progress, while another hit USA Today for a misleading Medicare story. He also knocked CBS News on Wednesday for Jim Axelrods piece on seniors having problems with the Bush drug plan. Axelrod responded today.

White House sources say that Snow aims to counter criticism of the administration in an aggressive manner. He has yet to hold his first press briefing, however.

Among many charges leveled at Axelrod, Snow declared that CBS News misleadingly reports that only 8 million seniors have signed up for Medicare prescription drug coverage. But 37 million seniors have coverage.

But Axelord replied today: "Very simply, the White House is cutting and pasting to make a point, something they accuse their critics of doing constantly." More

Iran's Nuclear Program: The Way Out
Thursday, May 11 (Time.com)A nuclear weaponized Iran destabilizes the region, prompts a regional arms race, and wastes the scarce resources in the region. And taking account of U.S. nuclear arsenal and its policy of ensuring a strategic edge for Israel, an Iranian bomb will accord Iran no security dividends. There are also some Islamic and developmental reasons why Iran as an Islamic and developing state must not develop and use weapons of mass destruction.

Three years of robust inspection of Iranian nuclear and non-nuclear facilities by the IAEA inspectors led Dr. El-Baradi to conclude and certify that to date there are no indications of any diversion of nuclear material and activities toward making a bomb. At the same time, El-Baradi has pointed out that the IAEA cannot certify that Iran's program is exclusively peaceful. But the fact is that few among many states with a nuclear program have received such a clean bill of health from the IAEA. Such certification by the IAEA does and should take time and effort. Iran is prepared and willing to invest the time and effort necessary to receive the IAEA clean bill of health. The IAEA is also ready to pursue its investigation of Iran's nuclear activities. So should the states that have concern about it.

What is, then, the motive for the rush to heighten the situation and create a crisis? Could it be that the extremists all around see their interests however transient, domestic and short-sighted in heightened tension and crisis? This situation, if not contained with cool head and if miscalculations continue, can easily turn into a crisis with potentially global ramifications for the rule of law under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and for the economic and security interests of all concerned in the region and beyond. It is high time to cease sensationalism and war mongering, pause and think twice about where we are heading. More

3:10 pm"Freebird!" "Freebird!"

No, I don't all of a sudden think that iTunes is voice-activated, I'm thinking about the now decades-old way to coerce bands into doing an encore. What does this have to do with politics and current events? From today's MSNBC.com:

This falls election season is going to make the past three look like episodes of Barney.

The conventional notion here is that Democrats want to nationalize the 2006 elections dwelling on broad themes (that is, the failures of the Bush Administration) while the Republicans will try to localize them as individual contests that have nothing to do with, ahem, the goings on in the capital.

That was before the GOP situation got so desperate. The way I read the recent moves of Karl Rove & Co., they are preparing to wage war the only way open to them: not by touting George Bush, Lord knows, but by waging a national campaign to paint a nightmarish picture of what a Democratic Congress would look like, and to portray that possibility, in turn, as prelude to the even more nightmarish scenario: the return of a Democrat (Hillary) to the White House. Rather than defend Bush, Rove will seek to rally the Republicans conservative grassroots by painting Democrats as the party of tax increases, gay marriage, secularism and military weakness. Thats where the national message money is going to be spent.

So Karl is getting the band back together for one more encore. Again, are the Dems going to be dumb enough to let Rove (and Lee Atwater before him) stand there and let it happen, or will they fight?

Osama Needs More Mud Huts
Global Islamic terrorism is the product of scattered groups. It has much less support in the Muslim world than people think.
By Fareed Zakaria
Thursday, May 11 (Fareed Zakaria.com)Imagine if a few months after September 11 someone had said to you, "Five years from now, in the space of a single week, Osama bin Laden will issue a new call for worldwide jihad, the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq will threaten a brutal, endless war, and there will be two terror attacks in Egypt." Chances are you would have been quite unnerved. Yet the most striking aspect of last week's news was the reaction to itvery little.

Radical Islamic terror made big, violent and scary moves andwhether you judge it by media coverage, stock-market movements or international responsesthe world yawned.

Al Qaeda Central, by which I mean the dwindling band of brothers on the Afghan-Pakistani border, appears to have turned into a communications company. It's capable of producing the occasional jihadist cassette, but not actual jihad. I know it's risky to say this, as Qaeda leaders may be quietly planning some brilliant, large-scale attack. But the fact that they have not been able to do one of their trademark blasts for five years is significant in itself. More

Middle-Income Households to Receive Tax Cuts Averaging Only $20
Thursday, May 11 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement yesterday on a tax-cut reconciliation bill that would reduce revenues by $70 billion between 2006 and 2010, according to Joint Committee on Taxation estimates.  Although nearly half of this cost reflects a one-year extension of relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax, it is the two-year extension of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts that fundamentally shaped the final agreement.  Even though the capital gains and dividend tax cuts are not slated to expire until the end of 2008, the Administration and Congressional leaders went to great lengths to ensure that a two-year extension through 2010 is part of the final package.

The end result is a conference agreement that:

* circumvents the reconciliation cost limits by leaving out popular tax-cut provisions with the full intention of enacting them in a subsequent bill, thereby increasing the total budgetary cost and the amount by which the deficit will be increased;

* relies in large part on budget gimmicks and timing shifts to create the appearance that it is complying with a key Senate budget rule that bars the reconciliation bill from increasing the deficit in any year after 2010; and

* provides an overwhelming share of its tax-cut benefits to those at very high income levels.

Tax Cuts Left Out.  The conference agreement omits more than a dozen other tax-cut provisions that were in both the House- and Senate-passed reconciliation bills, such as the extension of the research and experimentation tax credit and the higher-education tuition deduction.  (See Table 2 on page 5 for a complete list of these omitted provisions.)  A one-year extension of these provisions costs about $20 billion. More

Thursday, May 11 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)House and Senate negotiators have reportedly reached final agreement on the $70 billion tax-cut reconciliation package.  Although no official description of the agreement has been released, press reports on the contents of the final package indicate that it will offer virtually no benefits to low- and moderate-income households, but shower high-income households with very large tax cuts.

The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center has examined the major provisions that are expected to be in the package, including a two-year extension of capital gains and dividend tax cuts, a one-year extension of relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax, and a proposal to lift the income limits that apply to converting retirement funds to Roth IRAs.  Preliminary estimates by the Tax Policy Center show that: [1]

* About 87 percent of the benefits of the reconciliation conference agreement would flow to the 14 percent of households with incomes above $100,000, and 55 percent of the benefits would go to the 3 percent with incomes above $200,000.  Households earning more than $1 million a year, which represent only 0.2 percent of all households, would receive 22 percent of the benefits of these tax cuts.


Bush, GOP Congress Losing Core Supporters
Conservatives Point to Spending, Immigration
Thursday, May 11 (Washington Post)Disaffection over spending and immigration have caused conservatives to take flight from President Bush and the Republican Congress at a rapid pace in recent weeks, sending Bush's approval ratings to record lows and presenting a new threat to the GOP's 12-year reign on Capitol Hill, according to White House officials, lawmakers and new polling data.

Bush and Congress have suffered a decline in support from almost every part of the conservative coalition over the past year, a trend that has accelerated with alarming implications for Bush's governing strategy.

The Gallup polling organization recorded a 13-percentage-point drop in Republican support for Bush in the past couple of weeks. These usually reliable voters are telling pollsters and lawmakers they are fed up with what they see as out-of-control spending by Washington and, more generally, an abandonment of core conservative principles.

There are also significant pockets of conservatives turning on Bush and Congress over their failure to tighten immigration laws, restrict same-sex marriage, and put an end to the Iraq war and the rash of political scandals, according to lawmakers and pollsters.

Bush won two presidential elections by pursuing a political and governing model that was predicated on winning and sustaining the loyal backing of social, economic and foreign policy conservatives. The strategy was based on the belief that conservatives, who are often more politically active than the general public, could be inspired to vote in larger numbers and would serve as a reliable foundation for his presidency. The theory, as explained by Bush strategists, is that the president would enjoy a floor below which his support would never fall. More

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls
Thursday, May 11 (USA Today) The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: The NSA record collection program

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made across town or across the country to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret. More

Did Gonzales Mislead Congress about NSA Program?
Thursday, May 11 (TPM Muckraker)Reacting to today's news that the NSA is "amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans," Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have put out a statement questioning the legality of the program.

Their statement contains this: "when the Attorney General was forced to testify before the House Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago, he misled the Committee about the existence of the program."

Here's what they're referring to. On April 6, 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the House Judiciary Committee, and in one exchange, Rep. Gerald Nadler (D-NY) tried to nail him down:

NADLER: Number two, can you assure us that there is no warrantless surveillance of calls between two Americans within the United States?

GONZALES: That is not what the president has authorized. More

Monday, May 8
The Grand Old Spending Party: How Republicans Became Big Spenders
Monday, May 8 (Cato Unbound)President Bush has presided over the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson. Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still the biggest-spending president in 30 years. His 2006 budget doesnt cut enough spending to change his place in history, either.

Total government spending grew by 33 percent during Bushs first term. The federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clintons last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bushs first term.

The Republican Congress has enthusiastically assisted the budget bloat. Inflation-adjusted spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in 1995 has grown by 27 percent. More

Don't Feed the Beast
Bush Should End This Tax Cut Myth
Monday, May 8 (Washington Post)George W. Bush is not the sort of president who reads journals such as the Atlantic Monthly. But at least someone at the White House should check out the piece in the new issue by Jonathan Rauch. For honest believers in tax cuts, it's devastating.

It's been a long time since honest believers argued that tax cuts pay for themselves. When you have extremely high rates of taxation -- say, 70 percent-plus -- there may be something to this claim: When rates are that high, the rich go to extraordinary lengths to evade taxes and aren't motivated to earn more, so it's not crazy to argue that tax cuts might boost tax receipts. But you have to go back to the 1970s to find tax rates that high. When the top income tax bracket is in the 30 to 40 percent range, nobody serious believes that tax cuts change behavior enough to pay for themselves.

Instead, tax cutters have clung to a separate faith: that tax cuts will force matching cuts in spending by the government. It's a faith that Rauch traces to the presidential debates of 1980. "John tells us that first we've got to reduce spending before we can reduce taxes," Ronald Reagan declared in reply to the independent candidate, John Anderson. "Well, if you've got a kid that's extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker."

Ever since that debate, the "starve the beast" argument has been a favorite of Republicans. It's an expedient argument, of course, since it justifies the tax cuts that voters are assumed to love. But even the most nakedly cynical politicians need policy fig leaves. "Starve the beast" has allowed tax cutters to feel decent.

Or at least half decent. Everybody knows that the Reagan tax cuts did not actually cause spending to come down in the 1980s; most people have surely noticed that the Bush I and Clinton tax hikes were followed by spending constraint in the 1990s; and the Bush II tax cuts certainly have not stopped Congress from spending like a drunken sailor recently. But then the plural of anecdote is not data, and until the starve-the-beast theory is conclusively discredited, tax cutters won't stop hiding behind it. More

Ed note: read the Atlantic article at the author's website here. You can read the Cato study here. It's doesn't slam Ronnie Reagan, as expected. But about midway through it talks about the fable of tax cuts. I'm not sure if there's another one out there, I'll keep looking.

10:03 amSorry I Didn't Post Over the Weekend....

Laptop battery completely fried, and I couldn't even power it up.

Thursday, May 4
3:34 pmSpeaking of the South, When does the Confederate Flag Stop Being Historical Oddity and Become Code for "good ole boy" and all that it entails? (watchout this is a screed)

Here's the link to a couple of articles on George Allen and his Confederate flag. Apparently it was in his college dorm room (which at my private alma mater would have been date repellent), with him throughout his various political campaigns, usually in the background; and now with him on his apparent march to th GOP presidential nomination.

Now, as a Black man I understand the unstated power of the Confederate flag (CF). Just as Jew understands the power of a Nazi symbol, and the victims of 20th and 21st century genocide understand the symbols of their persecutors.

At what point does the continual referral to the CF become more than a historical hobby, and instead become code an implicit agreement with racist, xenophobic, and anti-semitic behavior?

It is well known that the modern GOP owes a lot to the old "Dixie-crats" who fled the Democratic party during the Civil Rights movement. The CF was a powerful symbol of their region, and their "way of life". "Way of life" is code for slavery and colored people knowing their place just as much as it does Southern gentility, respect for women, politeness, etc. And if you are in politicsthe realpolitik profession of image manipulation, if you've been around the block even halfway, you know the power of the CF.

So I'm going to step out and say the Allen knows he is implicitly courting the vote of the worst America had to offer each time he wears the CF. To parahrase my Repbulican friends, since African-American candidates "can't" embrace the red-black-and green flag of Black Americans, or Hispanic candidates of Mexican decent "can't" embrace the Mexican flag, then George Allen and those of his ilk can't embrace the flag of a immoral and disgraced rebellion. And at the end of the day that's what the Confederacy is. The Confederate rebellion did more to endanger the America than Blacks in the 70's and today's illegal immigrants ever did. Confederates threatened the viablility of the greatest nation on the planet through massive armed conflict. Why should we accept those that support them today as nothing more than modern-day traitors? Robert E. Lee? Traitor. Stonewall Jackson? Traitor. John Wilkes Booth? Traitor and assassin. God bless 2 of the three for being misguided believers, but they are traitors. Unfortunately, the list of Confederates is long and crowded with largely good men who wasted their time on this earth as traitors.

Everyday Americans don't refer to that flag as a symbol of honor. We don't refer to it as a symbol of national unity. We don't refer to the symbol at all. We see it as a relic of racist thinking, of misguided racial supremacy, and of spilling blood for all the wrong reasons. We see it a symbol of failure, no matter how heroic.

8:17 amHeading to Charlotte, NC This Weekend

I'll be at the home of NASCAR, Jesse Helms, and John Edwards. It should be fun, because the entire state is as laid back as it is kooky. I'll report in via the Collective Interest RSS feed.

Wednesday, May 3
2:10 pmFor Teen Girls, the Best of Times and the Worst of Times

From today's Chicago Sun Times I present the best of teen girls:

Girls rule city schools
Girls are soundly beating boys this year when it comes to winning admission to Chicago's prized college prep high schools. The disparity between accepted girls and boys is so high -- almost 70 percent girls to 30 percent boys at one school -- some say it's time to consider giving boys a break at the city's eight selective-enrollment high schools.

At universities nationwide, where female freshmen have been outnumbering males since 1976, the procedure is called "gender weighting." And now Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan wants to explore it here.

In addition to trying to figure out how to better address the needs of boys, "We are considering whether it makes sense to have gender weighting in the [college prep] admissions process," Duncan told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"I've asked staff to look at both the legal and educational ramifications."

Duncan was reacting to a college prep gender analysis performed by the Chicago Board of Education at the Chicago Sun-Times' request. That analysis follows a new University of Chicago study reflecting a gender gap across the city's high schools in grade point averages, ACT scores and eventual college success.

The college prep analysis, however, indicates the gender gap isn't just surfacing among poor, low-scoring kids, said Michael Gurian, author of the book The Minds of Boys: Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. It's apparently reaching into Chicago's top-echelon eighth-graders -- some of them from private schools -- who apply to one of the largest networks of public high schools for smart kids in the nation.

And now it is with a heavy heart I present the worst:

1/3 of girls having sex get pregnant
In a finding researchers called "alarmingly high," almost a third of all sexually active U.S. teenage girls end up pregnant, according to a new analysis to be released today.

Among teen boys who have had sexual intercourse at least once, about one in eight say they have impregnated someone. The difference may be the result of girls having sex with older partners or the boys being unaware of pregnancies.

The disappointing data, produced by the National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy, comes amid encouraging declines in sexual activity and pregnancy among teens.

Still, "If you're a teenager and you're having sex, your risk of pregnancy is very high," said Bill Albert of the National Campaign, which analyzed 2002 data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life is a wonderful and terrible thing at times.

1:53 pm A Better Way to Look Like You're Doing Something While You're Actually Doing Nothing at All

Well, it's pretty clear the GOP plan to give everyond $100 for a tank or two of gas flopped likeMike Tyson's last comeback. So they're back at it again, this time in a way that makes more sense...politically. Realistically, GOP'ers will use it as a stage to crow about what they'll do if reelected. As we all know, once the election is over this batch of Republicans will do nothing they promise to do outside of cut taxes, raise government spending, and generally screw the country sideways coming and going. Check out this great new idea, "floated" by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (with a little help from Karl Rove):

Mineta Urges House Panel on Fuel Standards
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta asked the House Energy and Commerce Committee today for the authority to revamp the system of fuel economy standards for cars, while Democrats insisted that President Bush could move immediately to require more efficient cars if he wanted.

Mr. Mineta acknowledged that the administration does have the right to "set the stringency of the CAFE standard," using the abbreviation for corporate average fuel economy. But he said the system should be changed more broadly.

"What we need is the statutory ability to reform the structure of the program," he said, to avoid problems with the current system. Those problems, he said, have hurt American automakers and endangered safety by forcing manufacturers to make more small cars.

Mr. Mineta said the system should be revamped to set different fuel standards for different sizes of vehicles.

Democrats said the proposal was meant to give the appearance of action on gas prices without actually changing policy. Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois called it part of President Bush's "public relations campaign to distance the administration from oil and gas companies" at a time of widespread public anger.

Mr. Mineta said that revamping the fuel economy process was "an important step toward reducing American oil demand," but he acknowledged that it was unlikely that new rules could be ready within a year, in time to affect vehicles sold in the fall of 2008.

"Our proposal on CAFE standards is not a short-term response" to high energy costs, he said.

Mineta also went on to say that soon GOP'ers will take the committee on a barnstorming tour to all 50 states. However, if it does materialize it will be interesting to see how much talk is about better fuel economy versus drilling in Alaska.

Tuesday, May 2
National Anthem Sung In Spanish At First Bush Inaugural
Thursday, May 2 (Think Progress)On Friday, President Bush blasted the idea of singing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish. But Bushs highly-scripted 2001 inaugural ceremony actually featured a rendition of the national anthem sung in Spanish by Jon Secada. From Cox News Service, 1/18/01:

"The opening ceremony reflected that sentiment. A racially diverse string of famous and once famous performers entertained Bush, soon-to-be First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who watched on stage from a special viewing area. Pop star Jon Secada sang the national anthem in English and Spanish. "


Republican chairman booed at AJCommittee event
tuesday, May 2 (JTA)The chairman of the Republican Party was booed at an American Jewish Committee event over comments on Iraq.

Ken Mehlman, who is Jewish, said Iraq posed less of a challenge now than under Saddam Hussein.

Mehlman was otherwise politely received when he spoke Tuesday at the AJCommittees 100th anniversary celebrations in Washington, and he got warm applause when he said the Bush administration would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb and always would stand by Israel.

The room burst into applause, however, when AJCommittee board member Edith Everett asked Mehlman to take a message to President Bush to stop linking Israel and Iran.

It does not help Israel and it does not help American Jews to appear to be stimulators of any action against Iran, Everett said.

She added that its easy to understand why Iran is not worried about us because Iraq is consuming so many U.S. resources.

Mehlman replied by acknowledging that Iraq was a challenge, but claimed its less of a challenge than when Saddam Hussein was in power.

The room filled with boos and hisses. Link

Phone-list sellers: We help cops
Tuesday, May 2 (Chicago Sun-Times)Earlier this year, Congress launched an investigation into the sale of cell phone records after the FBI and Chicago Police warned that Web-based firms could sell their officers' calling lists to criminals.

Now some of the companies under investigation for fraud are telling Congress they have provided personal information to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

On Monday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) blasted the FBI after learning that Advance Research Inc. sent Congress a letter saying the firm did work for the bureau. Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sued Advance Research for allegedly using fraud to obtain Illinois consumers' cell phone records.

"Not only do Americans have to worry about whether Big Brother is listening to our calls without a warrant, but they must also be concerned that he is working with con artists to obtain our phone records," Schakowsky said. More

Republicans Drop a Tax Plan After Businesses Protest
Tuesday, May 2 (New York Times)Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said he had decided to jettison the provision, which would have generated billions of dollars by changing the way businesses treat inventories for tax purposes. Instead, he said the Senate Finance Committee would hold hearings on the plan "later this year, so the pluses and minuses of the provision can become well known."

The retreat came after a torrent of objections from business leaders and their advocates, who typically view Republicans in Congress as allies. They said they had been blindsided by the inclusion of the proposal as a central element of the Republican leadership's energy package late last week.

The centerpiece of the leadership proposal, a $100 rebate check to compensate taxpayers for higher gasoline prices, continued to receive a rough reception. Members of the public have telephoned and written to ridicule the idea, and even Republican lawmakers are finding fault. More

Skewering comedy skit angers Bush and aides
Tuesday, May 2 (US News & World Reports)Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner won a rare silent protest from Bush aides and supporters Saturday when several independently left before he finished.

"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow." More

Ed note: see the video of the skit that made this Bush want to blow here

Friday, April 28
The Politics of Definition, Part II
Building Blocks of a Progressive Majority: Weaknesses
Friday, April 28 (The American Prospect)The White Working Class

The key weakness of the progressive coalition can be summarized easily: very weak support among white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four-year college degree). These voters, who are overwhelmingly of moderate to low income and, by definition, of modest credentials, should see their aspirations linked tightly to the political fate of the progressive movement. But they dont.

Data from the last two presidential elections vividly demonstrate this problem and underscore its significance for progressives. In 2000, Al Gore lost white working-class voters by 17 percentage points; in 2004, John Kerry lost them by 23 points, a swing of 6 points against the Democrats. In contrast, Gore lost college-educated whites by 9 points and Kerry lost them by 10 points -- not much change. 1

Therefore, white working-class voters were responsible for almost all of George W. Bushs increased margin among whites as a whole in the 2004 election (which went from 12 to 17 points). And Bushs increased margin among whites was primarily responsible for his re-election.

Almost all of the white working-class movement toward Bush was among women rather than men. Bush won white working-class men by almost identical margins in the two elections (by 29 points in 2000 and by 30 points in 2004). But he substantially widened his margin among white working-class women, going from a 7-point edge in 2000 to an 18-point lead in 2004. That 11-point swing against the Democrats among white working-class women was arguably the most important single fact about the 2004 election.

The basic reasons for this stunningly poor Democratic performance among the white working class can also be easily summarized. Among white working-class voters, 66 percent said they trusted Bush to handle terrorism, compared to just 35 percent who said the same about Kerry. That's very bad, but perhaps not all that surprising. What is more surprising is this: 55 percent of these voters said they trusted Bush to handle the economy, and only 39 percent said the same about Kerry.

It's also interesting to note that there wasn't much of a difference in these sentiments between men and women in the white working class: 55 percent of white working-class women said they trusted Bush to handle the economy and 40 percent said they trusted Kerry, while 56 percent of white working-class men said they trusted Bush on the economy and 37 percent said they trusted Kerry.

That helps explain the big shift among white working-class women described above. Not only were these women alarmed about terrorism -- which pushed them toward the GOP -- but they were also, in contrast to previous elections, no more likely to find the Democratic economic message compelling than their male counterparts. In neither area --the economy or terrorism -- did the Democratic program speak clearly to these voters concerns and earn their trust.

It is also important to stress that Democrats did especially badly among white working-class voters who werent poor, but rather had moderate incomes and some hold on a middle-class lifestyle. Among working class whites with $30,000 to $50,000 in household income, Bush beat Kerry by 24 points (62 percent to 38 percent). And, among working-class whites with $50,000 to $75,000 in household income, Bush beat Kerry by a shocking 41 points (70 percent to 29 percent). Clearly, these voters do not see progressives as representing their aspirations for a prosperous, stable, middle-class life.

Progressives difficulties here are underscored by the large size of this group. According to the 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS) Voter Supplement data, white working-class voters are a larger portion of the electorate than indicated by the exit polls -- 52 percent, rather than 43 percent. Based on educational attainment trends and population trends by race, a reasonable guess is that the size of the white working class in another 10 years, even though it is shrinking, will still be around 46 percent to 47 percent -- a very large group among which to be doing very poorly. 2 In fact, a progressive majority coalition is simply not possible if that poor performance continues, despite the many ways in which demographic change and growth favor progressives, including the increasing proportion of single women within the white working-class population.

But is it really feasible for progressives to significantly improve their performance among white working-class voters? That would appear to depend on the extent to which they can they can clarify their views and principles to these voters and begin earning their trust again. Right now, the Democrats are 23 points down to the Republicans among these voters on knowing what they stand for. 3 Narrowing that gap is key to improving performance among this critical group. More

GOP's vaunted unity becomes House divided
Speaker Hastert labors to pull his majority together as important legislation languishes
Friday, April 28 (Chicago Tribune)He tried to pressure oil company executives into bringing down gas prices, looking them "eyeball to eyeball" as he made his pitch. And he tried to protect the GOP majority from criticism by pushing for strict lobbying and ethics reforms.

But gas prices spiked and Republicans balked, leaving House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) struggling to lead a diverse and increasingly restive majority. On one front after another, the speaker finds himself either flummoxed or at odds with members of his Republican conference.

On Thursday, the House had debated legislation to curb lobbyists and tighten ethics rules for just 25 minutes when Republican leaders yanked the measure from the floor, recessed the chamber and called an emergency meeting of its members behind closed doors. The problem: Not enough votes. More

Prosecutors May Widen Congressional-Bribe Case
Cunningham Is Suspected Of Asking for Prostitutes; Were Others Involved?
Friday, April 28 (WSJ Online)Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement. In an interview, the assistant general manager of the Watergate Hotel confirmed that federal investigators had requested, and been given, records relating to the investigation and rooms in the hotel. But he declined to disclose what the records show. A spokeswoman for Starwood Inc., Westin's parent company, said she wasn't immediately able to get information on whether the Westin Grand had been contacted by investigators.

Mr. Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, was sentenced March 3 to more than eight years in federal prison after he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes. The bribes were taken in exchange for helping executives obtain large contracts with the Defense Department and other federal agencies. Mr. Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in November, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts, one of tax evasion and one of conspiracy.

In documents filed in federal court in San Diego, prosecutors listed four "co-conspirators" in the bribing of Mr. Cunningham. The two who allegedly played the biggest role, listed as co-conspirators No. 1 and No. 2, have been confirmed by Justice Department officials and defense lawyers to be Mr. Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, the founder and former head of MZM Inc., a software and computer-services firm that Mr. Cunningham helped to gain federal contracts.

The charges against Mr. Cunningham had alleged that "Co-conspirator #1" -- Mr. Wilkes -- had given the congressman more than $600,000 in bribes, including paying off a mortgage on Mr. Cunningham's house. More

Co-conspirator's possible links to prostitutes eyed
Friday, April 28 (SignOnSanDiego)Federal prosecutors are reviewing records of two Washington, D.C., hotels where Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes rented suites as part of their investigation into whether prostitutes were involved as he tried to curry favor with lawmakers and CIA officials.

Wilkes, whom federal prosecutors have identified as a co-conspirator in the bribery case of former Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham, rented hospitality suites in the capital on behalf of his flagship company, ADCS Inc.

Advertisement As The San Diego Union-Tribune  reported in December, the suites first at the Watergate Hotel and then at the Westin Grand Hotel had several bedrooms where lawmakers and other guests could relax.

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Cunningham and other legislators brought prostitutes to the hotels or prostitutes were provided for them there, according to a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal  and confirmed by the Union-Tribune.

A source close to the bribery case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, told the Union-Tribune  that Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty in February to bribing Cunningham, told federal prosecutors that he periodically helped arrange for a prostitute for the then-congressman. More