Thursday, August 07, 2003

I'm leaving on a jet plane 

Gone to a wedding in Tampa. Back on Wednesday.

This should keep you busy:

C-Span:AFL-CIO Candidates Debate

This report on a production of Macbeth by convicted murderers from This American Life


from the "now you tell us" dept. this report from the World tells us that the power shortages are Saddam's fault and not ours. Whaddya know.

And the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that we are abandoning Operation Bigfoot.


willie and norah and the donnas

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

national defense implies not just defense of real estate, but defense of our values, and our most basic value is the rule of law 

Nat Hentoff in the Voice:

On which broadcast or cable television channel was this said by a regular commentator?

"The attorney general needs to follow the Constitution, whether the Congress authorizes him to or not. And then we will have the rule of law, and civil liberties upheld, and security as well. . . . The bottom line is the government needs to preserve civil liberty. That's why we have this country."

The cable channel is Fox Television News, much lambasted by liberals, most of whom don't watch it. On that network, there is indeed an array of bristling conservative commentators. But also featured in the evenings on Brit Hume's Special Report are two of the most incisively knowledgeable Washington reporters in any medium—Jim Angle and Carl Cameron. But what makes Fox unique in all media is its regular senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who, so far as I know, has the only regular Constitution beat—with emphasis on the Bill of Rights—anywhere in the news media. And that includes newspapers.

...his blistering censure of George W. Bush—" 'Enemy Combatants' Cast Into a Constitutional Hell"—appeared on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page. He wrote:

"The president—using standards not legislated by Congress, not approved by any court, and never made known to the public—has claimed the right to incarcerate enemy combatants until the war on terrorism is over. But when will that be? . . . Who is an enemy combatant? Today, it can be anyone the president wants. And that is terrifying."

On the same subject, during his commentary on Fox, Napolitano emphasized, "There is no basis in law or history for the president of the United States taking away all the person's constitutional rights. . . . National defense implies not just defense of real estate, but defense of our values, and our most basic value is the rule of law."

oh no 

Sydney Morning Herald

Rebels and loyalist fighters embraced at the frontline in Liberia's capital as a build-up of West African troops and United States warships prepared to help end 14 years of murder and mayhem.

But another crisis arose over President Charles Taylor's decision to leave his broken country. Nigeria said Taylor now appeared unwilling to take up an asylum offer unless Sierra Leone's United Nations-backed court dropped war crimes charges against him.

Hundreds of thousands of war-weary people in Monrovia had their quietest day in more than two weeks on Tuesday following Monday's arrival of 200 Nigerian peacekeepers.

This is why it made sense to be cautious about getting involved here, without UN backed troops there first. I still think that Colin Powell should have been at the table for the negotiations with Taylor.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

kerry gets wid it 

John Kerry has been busy courting organized labor. Now he's laboring to organize on the internet.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry plans an Internet-based petition drive that is intended to protest the Bush administration's proposal to tighten overtime pay standards. The Massachusetts senator was using a Monday meeting with labor activists to get the effort under way by putting the first signature on the protest petition on his campaign's Web site. In remarks prepared for delivery at the event, Kerry warns that as many as 8 million workers, including firefighters and police officers, could lose the ability to collect time-and-a-half pay for time they work beyond 40 hours a week.

"laboring to organize" ??? Did I just write that?

profit: it's not just for polluters anymore 

From Business Week:

An investor can be sensitive to the environment and still profit. That's the lesson of the Winslow Green Growth Fund (ABX )(WGGFX), as explained by its portfolio manager, Matthew W. Patsky. Through June 30, his fund was up 52.9% for 2002, vs. 19.3% the benchmark Russell 2000 scored for the same period.

Q: The fund you manage, Winslow Green Growth Fund, was one of the top funds in its category in the second quarter. How come you've done so well lately?
A: We had repositioned the fund in the end of 2002 to be in companies that we felt would grow regardless of the pace of the economic recovery. We really looked for names where we thought the companies were not cyclical plays -- they wouldn't be dependent on a recovery, and we'd see sustained growth. They're niche businesses -- health-care and technology plays where we'd see growth because of any advantage they'd offer, etc. So we really changed the whole structure of the portfolio to get in position for that.

Q: What are the key criteria for being considered "green"?
A: We're primarily looking at the impact of the company's operations from sourcing through disposal of the product, and the life cycle of the product, to measure whether or not they've taken into account every facet of environmental impact. We're looking for companies that have a positive impact on the environment.

Q: What's your largest sector exposure? And can you name the stocks you own in that sector?
A: Our largest sector exposure is still health care. We talked about the largest holdings already, Polymedica, Conceptus, Staar. The second-largest is software, where the largest holdings are Sonic Solutions, Pinnacle (PCLE ), and Akamai (AKAM ).

Q: What are some of the biggest negatives that keep a company out of your screening results?
A: On the environmental side, usually they tend to be weeded out because the manufacturing processes themselves create a lot of harmful residue. An example would be a lot of semiconductor manufacturing companies -- they have not-so-good environmental records.

Q: How do you go about determining if a company's manufacturing process, say, conforms to your criteria?
A: We actually are using databases that capture any kind of environmental infraction, but we also do visits and have meetings with management, which gets us all the information we need [usually]. I should also add that we have a full-time environmental analyst continually doing audits.

This is a growing trend. I'm increasingly hearing of companies that are actively green showing startling profits. Maybe someday we can get past the superstition that the freedom to pollute, low wages and no taxes represent the ultimate business friendly environment. Are Mississippi and Lousiana really such great models of economic development?

AK baby, man moving, man dropping 

From the Guardian:

...a commander, standing on a wooden crate, opened and threw (the contents) into the air. In puddles and in rubbish, his fighters scrabbled for bullets.

"Ammo straight from the executive mansion, lots of it," smiled a fighter.

Watching scornfully from the back of a pick-up was a boy, no more than seven, whose AK-47 clip was already full. Disappearing inside a motorcycle helmet, he banged the cabin roof and sped away.

According to Clausewitz's Principles of War you could describe the battle in terms of forward rushes, supporting fire and tactical retreats but the macabre spectacle was closer to the principles of Barnum's circus.

Seven youths broke cover and emptied their assault rifles in the direction of the other side, a collection of shacks hundreds of metres away. The seven dashed back behind a wall, panting. It was the turn of David Kollie, 12, nicknamed Deputy, to lead the next wave. He wore a red headband, a yellow T-shirt which said "AK Baby, Man Moving, Man Dropping" and a serene expression. "I eat the leaf," he said, "but I cannot disclose its nature because that is a military secret." Then he was on the bridge, firing away and joined by older boys, some with women's wigs and toenails painted blue. On Merclin Street a teenager with a bayonet jigged to the rhythm.

...For the next assault the SSS man found a more effective stick to prod Jungle Fire into action and about a dozen fight ers supported the Land Cruiser. One boy, emotional from drugs or trauma, offered to lend a clump of white hair on a necklace, his juju charm. "This'll bullet-proof you, man," he said.

The rain was hard now and the rebels were replying with mortars but they landed far away, among the city's 1.3 million civilians. The number of dead was not known but the morgue at JFK hospital was full. Staff treated more than 80 people, including a commander with a shattered leg whose men threatened to shoot any surgeon who amputated.

from the department of urban planning 

BOSTON — The latest official maps of Boston's subway system show a brand-new line linking downtown with Roxbury, historic heart of the city's black community. It runs not on steel wheels and steel rails, but on rubber tires and city streets. The new Silver Line is a bus line. So why is it on the subway map?

Because the buses come and go so frequently that riders don't need a timetable — much like rail.
Because, for much of the route, the buses operate in their own, largely exclusive right-of-way — much like rail.

The Silver Line is Boston's version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a concept that encompasses all sorts of innovations aimed at repackaging bus service to make it faster, more reliable, more comfortable and more attractive. In other words, more like rail.

South American cities pioneered BRT. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) discovered it in the late 1990s, promoting it with the slogan "think rail, use buses." Now cities all over the country are building it.

In Seattle, opponents of Sound Transit's $2.5 billion proposed light-rail line are touting BRT as a smarter alternative. "It costs less and it does more," says John Niles, technical coordinator of Citizens for Effective Transportation Alternatives, the leading anti-rail group.

Boston's Silver Line began running last summer. Orlando; Miami; Charlotte, N.C.; Pittsburgh; Los Angeles; Honolulu; and Oakland, Calif., also have opened BRT projects over the last seven years. Projects are in the pipeline in Cleveland; Hartford, Conn.; Las Vegas; and Eugene, Ore.

you need to pledge now because national public radio brings you reporting that you can't get anywhere else. blah blah blah.  

All Things Considered files this hard hitting report.

columbia watch 

All Things Considered has an excellent report on Columbia's attempts to spray coca plants.

i've said it before and i'll say it again 

Unions are prehistoric dinosaurs from another age that have outlived their usefulness.

From the

Hundreds of boutique wineries in Victoria face a union campaign to boost the wages of casual vineyard workers as Australian wine exports rose 15 per cent last financial year to a record $2.4 billion.

But small winegrowers have signalled that the pay push would lead to job cuts, business failure, mechanisation and takeovers by big wine conglomerates.

And that concludes this weeks Blogonaut Labor News Roundup.

from the mail box 

AFL-CIO email:

Tomorrow night, Tuesday Aug. 5, the nine Democratic presidential
candidates working to beat President Bush in next year's
election will join thousands of union members at the AFL-CIO's
Working Families Presidential Forum in Chicago.

You can watch the entire forum when it is broadcast LIVE
on C-SPAN beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

You can watch it live or if there is archived video online, I'll post it.


WASHINGTON -- Less than a week after the powerful Teamsters union endorsed Dick Gephardt for president, one of the union's local affiliates is bucking the party line. The Chicago Teamsters Local 705 announced Monday it is supporting Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for president.

two words: Howard Dean, you retards.

money, money, money - david bowie 

From the Billings Gazette, who beat the Trib to the punch on getting this online:

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Saying working families can't afford four more years of George W. Bush, organized labor is mapping out what it says will be the largest voter drive in its history to defeat the president in the 2004 election. The campaign will roll out this week with television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire -- key primary states -- and an announcement of a new coalition of labor and constituency groups that will coordinate voter-education efforts. And tonight, the executive council of the AFL-CIO will host a candidate forum at Chicago's Navy Pier, where members will grill the nine Democratic hopefuls on their platforms.

"The Reagan years were rough, but it was nothing like this," said Frank Powers, a labor consultant. "The Karl Rove (Bush's chief adviser) crew understand how important the labor movement is to opposing their economic policies. And if they can cut them off at the knees, they will. And that's what they've been doing."

Leaders are debating whether to move millions of dollars into politics from the AFL-CIO's general budget or its organizing fund 

CHICAGO - Former President Clinton rallied the ground troops of the Democratic Party — organized labor — with a pep talk to union leaders gathered Monday to draw up a political strategy they hope will take back the White House in 2004.

Speaking privately to union political directors, Clinton told them President Bush could be beaten next year. What is needed, he said, is the right emphasis on the underperforming economy, unemployment, tax cuts that have benefited the wealthy and Iraq, which has raised questions about the credibility of the Bush administration's case for war. The AFL-CIO's executive council meeting officially opens Tuesday, with union presidents set to gauge whether Democrat Dick Gephardt (news - web sites) can muster enough support for a laborwide endorsement, which has been granted only twice before: to Al Gore (news - web sites) and Walter Mondale.

...Also on the agenda is the cost of the 2004 campaign. Some union leaders want more money funneled to labor's political operations to compete with Bush's growing war chest, expected to reach $200 million. Leaders are debating whether to move millions of dollars into politics from the AFL-CIO's general budget or its organizing fund, and whether to levy another surcharge on its affiliates.

European cows earn more than African workers 

United Nations officials are fond of telling one moralising story with animal characters: The story of the European cow that receives $2.50 a day in government subsidies, while the vast majority of Africans live on less than $2 a day.

The European cow symbolises the farm subsidies in the rich world - amounting to about $360 billion each year - which contribute directly to the impoverishment of Africans especially in the rural areas. Sold at prices below what it costs to produce them, subsidised European and American farm products flood African and Asian markets, undercutting local farmers. This is export dumping, which undermines African development. It includes dairy products, poultry, sugar, wheat, maize and cotton. The subsidies make products by African farmers artificially expensive and less competitive when exported. In addition, agricultural products from Africa such as cocoa, coffee and pineapples face trade barriers and systems of escalating tariffs that increase with each step of processing and value added.

harris throws down 

UNITE, the Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB), and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) today demanded that Fred's Inc. immediately stop selling Burmese goods and make amends for profits made this year from Burmese products. These demands come two days after President Bush signed legislation that severs financial ties to Burma and ends all imports from Burma in 30 days.

'Fred's claimed it 'didn't know'about the situation in Burma back in May, but they certainly do now'declared Harris Raynor, UNITE Vice President and Director of the UNITE Southern Regional Joint Board. 'Fred's should refuse to profit from its bankrolling of a brutal dictatorship and donate the profits to the appropriate agency assisting internally displaced Burmese people.'

I used to work with Harris.

good afternoon, welcome to walmart 

Wal-Mart must be unionized if the 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers Union is to thrive in a labor market dominated by the world's largest retailer, labor leaders told convention delegates Tuesday in San Francisco. Speaking to several thousand UFCW members gathered at Moscone Center for the union's five-year convention, UFCW President Doug Dority portrayed the Bentonville, Ark., discounter as one of the most union-busting companies in the country.

The union has reason for concern. The UFCW added 82,000 members last year, according to its leaders. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart plans to grow by 800,000 employees in the next five years.

...Dority said efforts to unionize Wal-Mart may find their earliest success in Canada, where the chain has more than 200 stores. Efforts to unionize individual Wal-Mart stores are furthest along in Manitoba -- a province known for comparatively liberal labor laws -- Dority and other union officials said.

CWA and Verizon 

From Newsday:

As negotiators in Washington continued past a strike deadline to try hammering out new contracts for 78,000 Verizon Communications Inc. workers, a union representing most of the employees told members yesterday to "mobilize" on the job, insisting, "It's not business as usual."

Members of the Communications Workers of America, which represents all the unionized New York workers, planned several efforts today, including some associated with work slowdowns, to express their unease at working without a contract. The efforts include informational pickets at plants, rallies outside repair garages before employees enter for work, and "work safely" mandates, which in the past have been associated with intentional slowdowns. Verizon said yesterday all its operations were "normal." A spokesman for the company would not comment on the talks except to say they were ongoing.

Citing progress made at the negotiating table with a federal mediator late Saturday, the unions authorized workers who had been preparing to strike at 12:01 a.m. yesterday to report for work yesterday, and they are expected to do the same today. Talks recessed around midnight and are to resume today.

"They're making progress so we'll continue to talk and work, but we still don't have a contract and so we are still going to put pressure on the company," said Jim LaCarrubba, business agent for CWA Local 1108 in Suffolk. "Without pressure, there's no incentive for the company to come to an agreement."

Mark Harrington has done an excellent job covering these negotiations.

Monday, August 04, 2003

labor listing badly in strong seas 

Dick Gephardt is picking up labor endorsements.

"He is certainly high on the list," Steelworkers spokesman Gary Hubbard said about Mr. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat.

Mr. Gephardt is claiming to have won endorsements from nine unions. Among them is the 720,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. He is the only candidate to officially win the support of any major unions.
The Teamsters Union, one of the largest of the 65 federated unions in the AFL-CIO, is also signaling its support for Mr. Gephardt. An announcement from the 1.4-million member Teamsters is scheduled for Saturday. "Representative Gephardt has an unparalleled labor record and has always been a friend of Teamsters' working families," said Rob Black, Teamsters spokesman.

The Teamsters' political action committee is one of the nation's 10 biggest donors to presidential campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, giving $2.4 million to mostly Democratic candidates in the last election cycle.

President Bush has met with leaders of the Teamsters and carpenters unions seeking their support in breaking the Democratic stranglehold on labor. He invited Teamsters President James Hoffa to the State of Union address.
However, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has said the labor federation would target its efforts at removing Mr. Bush from office. Rising unemployment and trade agreements that result in U.S. job losses are among the labor federation's complaints.

The Teamsters endorsed Mr. Bush's father, former President George Bush, and other Republicans, such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

Gephardt is a non starter as a candidate. Labor should be pursuing Dean instead of endorsing a loser who is pursuing them.

steelworkers union shows its metal  

David Moberg writing in The American Prospect:

His union's mission, says Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers of America's international president, is "saving these damn plants for our members, retirees and the next generation of workers" -- not for corporate executives or nonunion subcontractors. With temporary import protections now providing a little stability for the battered American steel business, United Steelworkers is actively encouraging the reorganization of the fragmented, mainly bankrupt industry into fewer, stronger companies.
Many analysts have written off the steel industry as hopeless, and most of those who haven't assume that steel companies can only survive by dumping all of their responsibilities to retirees, drastically slashing employment of union workers, and cutting wages and benefits. But the union believes that the industry can be saved -- and the living standards of both workers and retirees protected -- if owners invest in newly consolidated operations, excess management is trimmed, and workers and the union are given a stronger voice, from a redesigned shop floor on up. In recent months, these changes are precisely what the union has been securing.

If the Steelworkers are showing some smarts and spark in bargaining they aren't showing it in doing politics.

In Europe, government policies such as health insurance and income protection pick up much of the social cost of the recent steel-industry consolidation, rather than imposing it on either workers or the companies. But in the United States, the Steelworkers have had to create an industrial policy for steel through a patchwork of innovative union collective bargaining, bankruptcy-court negotiations and often inadequate government programs. Union leaders want to avoid shifting the social costs of reorganization to either the roughly 188,000 active employees or to the 600,000 retired steelworkers and their dependents who rely on contractually negotiated pensions and, until recently, employer-paid health insurance. But many retired steelworkers are still falling through holes in this makeshift safety net.

...The breakthrough for the United Steelworkers came last year when new outside investors -- the International Steel Group -- bought the shuttered LTV steel operations (and later Bethlehem Steel). International Steel agreed to a drastically different relationship with the union that gave workers more power, dramatically reduced management and subcontractors, and to a large degree protected the jobs and incomes of union workers. In expanding this new model to the rest of the industry, the union has worked hard to protect the livelihood of retired workers as well, but the shortcomings of American public policy, especially the lack of national health insurance, have left too many older workers with reduced incomes and new health-care risks. The union's strategy to save and strengthen a vital and viable industry without making workers and retirees pay the price for both past bad management and the pressures of a globalized economy may still succeed. But with smarter public policy, the odds of this grand gamble winning would be much better.

It great to see the Steelworkers showing innovation and guts in bargaining but I think they are punting in politcs.

It's unanimous. 

Everyone thinks the Greens (and Ralph Nader especially) need to sit this one out and work on winning grassroots elections.

Garrett Epps in the Seattle Times writes:

After the 2000 election, can the Greens risk another spoiler presidential candidacy that sends Bush back to the White House? As a Democrat who wishes the Greens well, I fervently hope the answer is no.

The spoiler question has sparked anguished debate in Green circles, with some Green elders — like veteran Texas populist Ronnie Dugger — begging the party to consider uniting in an anti-Bush front with the Democrats.

...But the stakes are higher in a presidential year, and the temptation to go for the kill in 2004 must be strong. The Democrats are vulnerable, while the Republicans — with all three branches of government in their hands, a brilliant media-spin machine and a lock on the corporate funds they need to stay in power — are a more daunting foe.

And some Greens have shown more animus against progressive Democrats than against Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

"Our responsibility is to the Greens; the broader picture does not matter," one Maine Green official recently told The Boston Globe. Their reasoning seems to be if the phony-progressive Democrats disappear, their voters will have no choice but to turn to the Greens.

But no matter what Green Party activists think, much of the Democratic base doesn't share the party's anticorporate, antiglobal trade agenda — not because they don't understand it or because the "corporate media" have brainwashed them, but because they don't think the Greens are right. These voters will simply never turn Green. Even Democrats sympathetic to the Green agenda might not embrace a party that carpet-bombs their political home. That's particularly true if Green candidates continue saying what every American adult knows is false — that there's no difference at all between the Democrats and Team Bush. Bush himself has sunk that argument, parlaying a minority share of the popular vote into the most radically right-wing administration since John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

...History suggests that Nader, who failed to reach the 5 percent goal for public funding, is likely to fare even more poorly next year. As the politicians say, can a soufflé rise twice? And by then, the Green Party will be irretrievably identified as the hobby-horse for Nader's bizarre personal vendetta. Like other parties that recruit has-been celebrities — remember Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party? — the Greens might find themselves on the fast-track to oblivion.

...The Greens, in fact, don't need to disappear to accommodate the anti-Bush effort. They just need to take another path — one that some grass-roots Green groups already have adopted.

It's the same path, in effect, the Christian right took in the late '70s when it decided to get serious about power. Green candidates have begun to seek — and win — local and county offices. In California, for example, Greens hold more than a dozen mayorships and serve on city councils and local school boards.

Just as the religious right took root in small towns and Sunbelt suburbs, the Greens might find a natural base in America's major cities. Such a strategy will build a party with its own leadership — one that learns to win not by recruiting superstars or trashing Democrats but by promoting the party's own agenda.
The Christian right rose to power not only by fielding its own candidates but by learning to close ranks on Election Day. When it came to a choice between a conservative candidate — George Bush the elder — and a Democrat like Mike Dukakis, the pastors and strategists didn't hesitate; they chose victory over purity every time.

The Greens should learn that lesson.

And Michael Tomasky writes in the American Prospect:
Here they come again. As if the last two and a half years have been some sort of game show with no real consequences for America and the world, the Greens signaled at their national committee meeting this weekend that they have every intention of running a presidential candidate in 2004.

It might be Ralph Nader, they say, or it could be Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia. But short of a megalomaniac whose tenuous purchase on present-day reality threatens to cancel out every good thing he's done in his life, or a discredited anti-Semite, they'll settle for someone less distinguished. The point is to siphon off Democratic votes unless the Democrats prove themselves pure enough to nominate Dennis Kucinich. This development, as I'll show later, presents a wonderful opportunity for a gutsy Democrat to ferociously and immediately attack Nader. But first some background.

During the 2000 campaign, I used to go to bed wishing that the Christian Coalition were as strategically feebleminded, and as psychologically bent on disruption at any price, as the Greens. That way the CCers would have backed Gary Bauer, the laughably unelectable hard-right family values candidate. Then, once Bauer had been winnowed out of the nominating process, they would have claimed that his defeat showed just how corrupt the Republican Party had become from its incurable need to placate the secular humanists and "banking interests." Then they would have run some nut of their own who'd have made Bauer look like Arthur Vandenburg. Finally, with a few million misguided souls behind them, including at least a couple thousand in Florida, they would have cost George W. Bush the election, no asterisks or question marks. What a wonderful world this would be.

...First, if it was the intention of Nader voters in New York or Massachusetts (or any state Al Gore was certain to win in 2000) to send a message to the Democrats, that's an understandable and respectable intention. But as the Christian Coalition model shows, such messages are far more effectively sent inside the party than outside it -- the Greens really influence almost nothing in this country, whereas the Christian Coalition, with its power in the GOP, influences almost everything.

...Second, some voted for Nader because they just weren't inspired by Gore personally. Fine. But it should be obvious today that a candidate's personality is one of the last things serious people ought to be thinking about. No one can survey the past 30 months and conclude, whatever the Democrats' shortcomings, that there's no difference between the parties. We would not have John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, Gale Norton, the USA PATRIOT Act, this Trotskyist war in Iraq, two major class-war tax cuts -- the list goes on and on (and on). And that's only the stuff you hear about. In every agency of government, at every level, there are political appointees who are interpreting federal rules and regulations and deciding how much effort will really be put into pursuing federal discrimination cases, for instance, or illegal toxic dumping. These are the people who are, in fact, the federal government. The kinds of people who fill those slots in a Democratic administration are of a very different stripe than the kinds who fill them during a Republican term, and the appointments of these people have a bigger effect on real life than whether Al Gore sighs too heavily or speaks too slowly.

Third, and most of all, I kept noticing in 2000 that most of the people who lectured me on how corrupt Gore was and how Nader was the courageous choice were people for whom the outcome of the election, on a personal level, didn't really matter...Among people who were directly affected by which candidate won, Nader was seen as the ornament of frippery that he was. I promise you, you could not have gone to the corner of Lenox Avenue and 145th Street in October of 2000 and found four Nader voters. And at that intersection and the many others in America like it, by my lights, the moral case for Nader crumbles to dust.

...So here's a thought for an enterprising Democratic candidate: Attack Nader right now, and with lupine ferocity. Say he's a madman for thinking of running again. Blast him especially hard on foreign policy, saying that if it were up to the Greens, America would give no aid to Israel and it would cease to exist, and if it were up to the Greens, America would not have even defended itself against a barbarous attack by going into Afghanistan. Have at him, and hard, from the right. Then nail him from the left on certain social issues, on abortion rights and other things that he's often pooh-poohed and dismissed as irrelevant. Cause an uproar. Be dramatic. Don't balance it with praise about what he's done for consumers. To the contrary, talk about how much he's damaging consumers today by not caring who's in charge of the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Communications Commission.

...Anyone who did this would automatically look tough. The candidates are running around now saying things like, "I'll be as tough as Bush." Well, you can say that 7,000 times and it doesn't matter. You have to do something to show people you're tough. That's the only way a message like that is delivered in a campaign. Then, people will look at what you've done and say, "Hey, that guy's pretty tough."

...If Dean does this, he doesn't lose his base -- his base is pissed-off Democrats who hate Nader for 2000, so if anything, he augments his standing among them. And, of course, he sends a reassuring signal to the centrist wing of the party that fears his success; it would give them something about him to admire. He can't lose.

I spoke to the issue of the Greens working in local elections and ranted about the implications of political appointments under a republican administration rather than a democratic one in the last couple weeks. It's nice to see the pro's catching up. In fact, I used the headline: it's not easy being green. but that's a no brainer and not at all original. I'm almost embarassed that I did.

Blogonaut online exclusive...sort of 

Rolling Stone has an exceptional and chilling report on the child soldiers in Liberia. Unfortunately it is not available on However it is available here through a little high tech finagling on my part.

More than half of the soldiers were children. The "small boys the units", in
which girls were also active, were considered as particularly cruel, were
known for a brand of cruelty that took on the feeling of apocolyptic nightmare.
In women's dresses, satin suits, rags, church robes or naked, strongly made up,
with blond wigs, strange amulettes or sunglasses they killed, plunder, raped
and maimed. They gave themselves combat names such as Earthquake baby,
Captain Cobra, Rebel King, General Saddam. The roads in Monrovias were given
names such as Crack Alley, Death Row, Highway to Hell. Checkpoints were
decorated with severed heads and human intestines served as fences.

...The former child soldiers were like broken robots into which a human heart had been
transplanted by mistake.

A giant of a man in a wool cap commanded me to,show him my ID and to sell him my
sneakers. He pointed to his leg prosthesis. Another inhabitant had a glaring leg wound.
"NO treatment", "treatment" he repated in a tone that sounded more like a threat than
a lament. A boy in a dirty yellow undershirt pushed his way through the crowd and
held an ID up to my glasses. Moving his rage distorted face so close to mine that I could
smell his sick breath, he shouted several times, "I'm a famous commander. You're arrested!"
It was ten in the morning, and the young soldier was already dead drunk or high - like
most everyone else here. Many were missing legs or arms or a few fingers. Some had
mutilated ears, others a badly dented forehead or a dead eye.

..."The worst offense is FFI: failure to to follow instruction. If you don't obey orders,
you're executed on the spot. Sometimes the commander does the shooting, somtimes
you're forced to shoot a fellow soldier. That doesn't matter to us. Killing is as normal as
eating rice."

"And what did you do with civilians?"

He gave me a penetrating look. "If you and I crossed paths and I was angry, I'd beat
you with my rifle. If I wasn't angry, I'd still beat you with my rifle. For me, you're a nothing
a baby. You understand? You're not a target. I'm a soldier. I kill my enemy. Not civilians.."
He rubbed the stump of his amputated leg.

Then he told me that he had nine brothers and sisters in America, and they didn't like that
he was a soldier. "They are afraid of me,"Darlington said,"as if I''m a leper or a tiger." He
made a face and bellowed like a wild animal. "They want me to come and join them, but they
don't understand what's gone on here."..."I'm staying here. I like it here. It's quiet here.
If I want rice, I have rice. If I want beer, I have beer. I don't want to change anything, you
know for me it would be to tough for me." I looked at him questioningly. "I'm not right in
here," he said, pointing to his head. "My mind is disturbed. But everyone here is like me.
They understand me."

...I met Wallace Mutada (his name has been changed) a smart likeable thirty four year old
Liberian who runs a European funded aid organization for former child soldiers. I asked him
about all the talk I'd heard of magical fighting powers and cannabalism. Mutada who studied
in England, found the subject unpleasant.

"Everyone knows about these things," he responded coolly. "There a disgrace to Africa."

"How could they have happened?" I asked. He became irritated. "A normal person cannot
eat human flesh...They were children who were high on drugs. They were riding a wave and
thought they were rulers of the earth...They're now in the police force or army, and they are
still on drugs. You'd like to get rid of them. But you're not even allowed to look them in the eye...
These things don't happen in Monrovia. They happen in the bush. People in the bush live in
another world. We in Monrovia are educated, we don't engage in such practices."

"Charles Taylor is a cultivated man from Monrovia who has a degree from an American college,"
I said,"Other warlords have university degrees too. They still did these things with child soldiers."

"If it's all right with you, I'd rather not talk about our president."

Apparently, building a civil society in Liberia is going to talk some doing. Unfortunately, my attempt at doing an end run around didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Google only translated about half the story. Oh well, the old college try and all that.

news from liberia 

From the Guardian

Associated Press
Monday August 4, 2003

The first wave of peacekeepers touched down in Liberia's war-torn capital today, raising the hopes of increasingly desperate Monrovians that two months of fierce fighting may soon be over. Authorities said a total of 192 Nigerian troops and 15,000kg of equipment would arrive in Monrovia from neighbouring Sierra Leone today. The advance party's first tasks were to secure the airport and establish a base of operations for the troops to come. Local residents
and refugees bought white T-shirts and gathered white cloths to prepare a welcome for the peacekeepers. It was unclear, however, whether the first contingent of Nigerian troops would even leave the airport.

West African leaders have promised a 3,250-strong peacekeeping force in an attempt to end fighting between government troops loyal to the country's president, Charles Taylor, and two rebel groups that control most of the country.

This good news and I'm glad that it's being headed by West Africans under UN auspices, But what the hell took so long? I really wish the UN had a rapid response Special Forces unit. For two thousand well armed troops; with body armor and nightvision, support by attack helicopters and bradleys, the task of pacify this country doesn't seem especially daunting if you've seen footage of the street fighting. It brings to mind this piece on private military firms.
The Gaurdian has a
profile of Taylor, anexplanation of the civil war and an interactive guide to the conflict. All useful.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

sunday supplement 

In our Blogonaut Sunday Supplement we bring you Humanitarian Intervention: A Forum from The Nation.

It's long, so you may just want go here for the print version.

Don't forget to read the comics down in the left margin.

“we don’t do body counts” , tommy franks 

I was listening to a report on the radio yesterday on the fighting in Iraq. US soldiers and Iraqi civilians had been killed. The reporter duly noted that the number of US soldiers killed since the end of major combat operations but the occupation authority did not track Iraqi civilian deaths. What??? We are running the country. Iraqi civilians killed are citizens under the occupation authority and the authority's responsibility. I don't believe that someone there isn't keeping track.

Nevertheless the number is available at This link is also available in the left margin in "dossier : iraq"

The Guardian had this report:

Some figures are more important than others in keeping a tally on the bloody aftermath of the war in Iraq. There is the triumphant total of cards turned up so far in the deck of the most-wanted. There is the number of mass graves uncovered which proves - as if we did not know it - that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. Unhappily for many US families, there are also the American soldiers killed in the past three months since "major military action" officially ended - more than a hundred, of whom half have died "in combat". The New York Times led a recent front page with the death of just one: "A marine is killed in Iraq, and grief ripples at home".

Much less attention is given to the grief of many more Iraqi families which has become not a ripple but a torrent, propelling a far broader anger against the US forces. Iraq's military dead are un-numbered: as General Tommy Franks said, "we don't do body counts." It is left to unofficial researchers, such as the Iraq Body Count, to estimate the civilian deaths, conservatively in excess of 5,000.

The carnage on Sunday in the Mansur district of Baghdad, when US "elite units" killed at least five innocent people during another botched search for Saddam, should finally focus attention on this reckless disregard for civilian life.

there are skirmishes all over the place 

MONROVIA (.Reuters) - President Charles Taylor's forces were battling rebels on several fronts on Sunday, a day after their leader promised to step down and just hours before African peacekeeping troops were due
to deploy. Defense Minister Daniel Chea said there was fighting in the second city of Buchanan, and in central Gbarnga, although the capital Monrovia seemed relatively quiet after a blistering attack by Taylor's forces on rebel positions on Saturday.

"There are skirmishes all over the place," Chea said.

Chea accused the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) of trying to undermine plans to send in regional peacekeepers. The first 300 Nigerian soldiers are due to arrive in battered Monrovia on Monday. Taylor's troops launched a fierce attack on Saturday to drive rebels back from three bridges in Monrovia and retake the port, but by the end of a torrid, see-saw day at the front, the government offensive had been repulsed. "They
attempted to turn up the tempo but we kept them back. Our guys were under serious fire last night," Chea said. He said government forces still aimed to seize the rebel-controlled port and called on the international community to exert pressure on the rebels as well, saying the port would be needed for the peacekeepers.

As Saturday's battle raged, Taylor announced he would step down on August 11 -- the first time he has set a definite date to hand over control of a country crippled by 14 years of almost non-stop war.

Reuter TV has video from Liberia that shows the fighting in the streets. It shows just how random and casual the fighting is. And of course it's almost all teenagers. Then it shows Taylor meeting with the West African delegation. Then more street stuff. Reuters TV is raw footage, so every clip is like a little Frederick Wiseman film. If you launch from this page it may not load straight to the "Liberia : Gunfight" clip. Just scroll down.

It's as bad as you think. 

The NewsHour takes a look at the unemployment numbers.

Four factors make the real unemployment rate worse than the post depression record or 1982.

There are more "discourage workers". There are more workers on disability. There are more workers in prison and it is an older work force.

The percentage of adults "not employed" reached a high of 17.3%. The percentage last month was 17.8%.

Como se dice "swing vote"? 

CBS News does a quick story on the Hispanic vote in 2004.

The raw numbers: 39 million hispanics in the US.
45% undecided
31% for Democrats
21% for Bush

The Dems better step up.

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