Archive for August, 2006

Specter’s Senate Secrecy Hijinx (8/31/06)

August 31, 2006

Sam Ayers of the Yale did thiscartoon .

While the House of Representatives was distracting me with its antics regarding the estate tax et. al, the Senate was working away to loosen requirements on the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency as the Judiciary Committee held hearings on Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) S.  3001  “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006″ on  July 26 and marked the bill up on August 3, in conjuction with consideration of his S. 2453, introduced March 16.  Jerry Berman, Jim Dempsey, Nancy Libin of the Center for Democeracy and Technology  Information analyzed that bill on March 22. Both of Specter’s bills were introduced, of course, long before  the August 17, 2006  Eastern District of Michigan  ruling  siding with the American Civil Liberties Union in its lawsuit  in challenging the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program.  The Tech Law Journal’s synopsis of the ruling is here.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, founded in 2001,  has posted a copy of Specter’s substitute to S. 2453l submitted at the hearing.  The substitute:

Would (1) make FISA optional and endorse the President’s assertion that he has unlimited power to wiretap Americans, (2) make it even more difficult for Americans to obtain judicial review of extra judicial surveillance activities by establishing a set of rules that make it very hard to get a full and fair hearing on the merits, and (3) authorize electronic surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s requirements of probable cause and particularity and its prohibition against general warrants.

On June 19, BODC had sent a letter to Specter outlining its concerns.  The letter was cosigned by:

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Center for American Progress
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Center for National Security Studies
  • First Amendment Foundation
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • National Committee Against Repressive Legislation
  • National Lawyers Guild—National Office
  • Open Society Policy Center
  • People For the American Way
  • Privacy Activism
  • United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
  • World Privacy Forum

BODC posted a form July 27 to send a free fax your senator opposing the legislation.  It updated the form August 3, reporting that the matter has been tabled until the Senate returns on September 5.

It has also posted these action suggestions.

It looks like rather than limiting the imperial presidency, the Senate is following the bidding of Bush and the Justice Department to change FISA.  Neither the Library of Congress, nor the Government Printing Office has a copy of the bill as marked up, as of today.


Some background on the District Court decision:  The ACLU argued that the program violates both the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Anna Diggs Taylor’s 44-page decision ruled against the  Bush Administration contention that the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks granted the president the authority to order the warrantless surveillance.

It was never the intent of the Framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

A hearing will be held before Judge Taylor on Sept. 7, and her decision will not be enforced in the meantime pending the government’s appeal. At that time, the government must either justify a further stay (pending appeals) or discontinue the NSA program immediately.   The administration has vowed to appeal.

Judge Taylor’s Detroit court is under the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has  historically been less than friendly towards the unitary executive theory. If the 6th Circuit upholds Judge Taylor’s ruling, and the Bush administration will almost certainly appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers are predicting that U.S. Supreme Court will not uphold the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program as it currently stands, based on the decisions in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).


Richard Silverstein as of last month started a peace blog aggregator featuring

35 progressive blogs by Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, and Diaspora Arabs and Jews which focus on the Israeli-Arab conflict. 

You can contact him through a form on his blog, Tikun Olam. 



Started tutoring math and English today at Virginia Western Community College. 


Blog statistics:

During the first six months: 985 individuals viewed 12,053 pages in this blog.
During the next six months another 984 individuals viewed another 14,289 pages. 

 I guesss that’s a case of compounding interest.  Wish there was some way to know who you are.  Email me!


NSA and the FOIA (8/30/06)

August 31, 2006

Cartoon “Spies Like Us” by Arizona cartoonist Russ Moffitt (AKA Russmo) (bio) (archives).

Today, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS)’ s Secrecy News posted a story “NSA Mobilizes Against Leaks” which provides a copy of  the March 20 National Security Agency (NSA) document  “Reporting Unauthorized Media Disclosures of Classified NSA/CSS Information”, as well as the questions the NSA employees are to ask.   FAS filed a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month, but NSA refused to release the unclassified document, which was marked “for official use only.”  FAS obtained it through other means.

Here are the questions:

1. (U) What is the date and identity of the media item that is the subject of the unauthorized disclosure?

2. (U) Is the disclosed information accurate?

3. (U) What are the specific statements that are classified? What is the classification of each of the statements?

4. (U) What is the extent of official dissemination of the information that was disclosed?

5. (U) Has the disclosed information been the subject of a prior authorized official release?

6. (U) Has the disclosed information previously appeared in an open source publication? If yes, identify the publication and date of publication.

7. (U) Have any requests for publication or release (official or unofficial) of the information been made (for example, a FOIA request, a Demarche)? If yes, identify the requestor, date of the request, and disposition of the request.

8. (U) Has the information, portions thereof, or enough background data been published (officially or unofficially) that would allow someone to arrive at the information through speculation?

9. (U) What are the potential short-term and long-term impacts of the unauthorized disclosure?

10. (U) Have any declassification determinations been made regarding the disclosed information? If so, indicate the date, information declassified, and declassification authority.

11. (U) For unauthorized disclosures of Information Assurance-related information, does the unauthorized disclosure potentially put U.S. or allied communications at risk of adversary exploitation? What degree of difficulty could an adversary have in putting countermeasures in place?

So, I wonder, what do they ask about the disclosure of unclassified documents?

By the way, Aftergood credits Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman with the first story on the new policy in his July 23 story, “NSA strives to plug leaks: Employees may be required to search for disclosures. “  

Disaster Relief Privatization (08/29/06)

August 29, 2006

The cartoon is by editorial cartoonist Ted Rall (bio, email).  He’s hard-hitting enough that Time  Magazine killed publication of  his commissioned illustration of the naming of Reagan National Airport.  You can find his graphic novels and collections at  Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing, 

The Toronto-based journalist Naomi Klein has a new article posted yesterday at, “Pay to be saved: the future of disaster response”    More of her writings  can be found at her website,


“Where has all the money gone?” ask desperate people from Baghdad to New Orleans, from Kabul to tsunami-struck Sri Lanka. One place a great deal of it has gone is into major capital expenditures for these private contractors. Largely under the public radar, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction of a privatized disaster-response infrastructure: the Shaw Group’s new state-of-the-art Baton Rouge headquarters, Bechtel’s battalions of earthmoving equipment, Blackwater USA’s 6,000-acre campus in North Carolina (complete with paramilitary training camp and 6,000-foot runway).

I call it the Disaster Capitalism Complex. Whatever you might need in a serious crunch, these contractors can provide it: generators, water tanks, cots, port-a-potties, mobile homes, communications systems, helicopters, medicine, men with guns.

This state-within-a-state has been built almost exclusively with money from public contracts, including the training of its staff (overwhelmingly former civil servants, politicians and soldiers). Yet it is all privately owned; taxpayers have absolutely no control over it or claim to it. So far, that reality hasn’t sunk in because when these companies are getting their bills paid by government contracts, the Disaster Capitalism Complex provides its services to the public free of charge.

But here’s the catch: The U.S. government is going broke, in no small part thanks to this kind of loony spending. The national debt is $8-trillion; the federal budget deficit is at least $260-billion. That means that sooner rather than later, the contracts are going to dry up. And no one knows this better than the companies themselves. Ralph Sheridan, chief executive of Good Harbor Partners, one of hundreds of new counter-terrorism companies, explains that “expenditures by governments are episodic and come in bubbles.” Insiders call it the “homeland security bubble.”

When it bursts, firms such as Bechtel, Fluor and Blackwater will lose their primary revenue stream. They will still have all their high-tech gear giving them the ability to respond to disasters — while the government will have let that precious skill whither away — but now they will rent back the tax-funded infrastructure at whatever price they choose.

Here’s a snapshot of what could be in store in the not-too-distant future: helicopter rides off of rooftops in flooded cities ($5,000 a pop, $7,000 for families, pets included), bottled water and “meals ready to eat” ($50 per person, steep, but that’s supply and demand) and a cot in a shelter with a portable shower (show us your biometric ID — developed on a lucrative Homeland Security contract — and we’ll track you down later with the bill. Don’t worry, we have ways: spying has been outsourced too).

The model, of course, is the U.S. healthcare system, in which the wealthy can access best-in-class treatment in spa-like environments while 46-million Americans lack health insurance. As emergency-response, the model is already at work in the global AIDS pandemic: private-sector prowess helped produce

Entry for August 28, 2006

August 28, 2006

The cartoon is by Mike Konopacki.  See his 2003 graphic fable adapted from Ambrose Bierce,  The Conservative Employer , and a bio  here.

William Greider posted an entry “Course Correction” to the blog at The Nation.  In it he commends today’s story in The York Times, ,  “Real Wages Fail to Match Productivity” by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt

They write,

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

They note that new Treasury secretary,   Henry M. Paulson, in his first major speech, while acknowledging the squeeze, sought to deflect attention from the Republican’s contribution.

 It is neither fair nor useful to blame any political party.

This comes from his August 1 speech at Columbia University.  Greider writes,

Early this month, Bush’s new Treasury secretary Henry Paulsen startled the press by also acknowledging the seriousness of the wage deterioration.

I can’t for the life of me see what is so startling.   Actually, Paulson blame the shrinking earning power on failure to gain an education and praised the President’s tax policies.  In doing so, he ignored the concentration of wealth that is occuring in this country, which the tax cuts have accelerated.

Greider also says

Even the new Fed chairman Ben Bernanke took a swing at the problem last week.

If you follow Greider’s link tothe August 25  “Remarks by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Thirtieth Annual Economic Symposium’ in  Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you’ll see that it’s more of a fan than a hit, to continue the baseball metaphor.  Here’s what Bernanke said,

The challenge for policymakers is to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared–for example, by helping displaced workers get the necessary training to take advantage of new opportunities–that a consensus for welfare-enhancing change can be obtained. Building such a consensus may be far from easy, at both the national and the global levels. However, the effort is well worth making, as the potential benefits of increased global economic integration are large indeed.

In other words, provide some opportunity or face opposition.

Greider also points to Clinton’s treasury secretary Robert Rubin’s recent shift towards arguing the need for more economic security for all American workers in his position paper for the Hamilton Project.  This shift seems more genuine, although one wonders what took him so long.  As Paul Krugman noted in his August 18 New York Times op-ed on Paulson’s speech, “Wages, Wealth and Politics”

since 1980 the U.S. political scene has been dominated by a conservative movement firmly committed to the view that what’s good for the rich is good for America. Sure enough, the rich have seen their incomes soar, while working Americans have seen few if any gains. …

For the last few decades, even Democrats have been afraid to make an issue out of inequality, fearing that they would be accused of practicing class warfare and lose the support of wealthy campaign contributors.

Krugman contrasts this with former policy of Republican Dwight Eisenhower.  Although Krugman doesn’t credit the source, the quotation he uses comes from Eisenhower’a letter of November 8, 1954 to his brother Edgar: 

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.  Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

 My thanks to  Snopes’s urban legend reference page  for identifying the source of the quotation.  As the writer of the entry notes,

One favorite tactic in political debate is to put words in the mouth of a respected elder statesmen to make it appear he presciently anticipated some modern  issue or political personality (and, naturally, took a stand that supported the viewpoint of whoever put those words in his mouth). Therefore, given the recent debate over President George W. Bush’s efforts to alter the Social Security system, one would expect a fifty-year-old quote from a former President (and fellow Republican) labeling as “stupid” certain “Texas oil millionaires” who want “to abolish social security” to be a similar fabrication.

In this case, as in his 1961 speech about the military industrial complex, Ike was prescient.


By the way, looking for a copy of Krugman’s op-ed, I found it at an interesting blog,  Economist’s View, by Mark Thoma, an associate professor of  Economics at the University of Oregon.




Entry for August 27, 2006

August 27, 2006

Image source:  Ken Ashford’s blog.

Spend the morning and early afternoon writing a Sago update for the NRFP which won’t appear due to the fact that there was already enough content by the time I finished, after the late-breaking news of the McCloy and Bennett suits. 

Last night I watched a re-broadcast of watching the first episode of Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO.  (If you missed it, here’s the schedule of airings.)I tuned in at the tail end of the interview with Spike Lee,  Did get to see Elvis Costello, Markos Zuniga (of DailyKos), former  Senator  Max Cleland (D-GA), Dr. Vali Nasr (Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School since 1993) and columnist Christopher Hitchens.

Topics included Katrina, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and the Time cover article on Hillary Clinton.  What interested me most was Cleland’s decrying of the Republican efforts to wift boat John P. Murtha (D-PA) over the War in Iraq.  Yesterday, Murtha’s campaign issued a release about Cleland’s effort to organize veterans against the attack from “radical right-wing forces in the veterans’ community” aimed at “swift-boating Murtha, like they did former Democratic nominee for president Sen. John Kerry”  at a rally 11 a.m. in Central Park in Johnston, PA to  to show their “solidarity” with Murtha’s “courageous stand against this unnecessary war in Iraq.” 

During his 37 years serving in the United States Marine Corps, Jack Murtha led his brothers in arms with integrity and honor. Semper Fi is not a slogan to Jack Murtha, it’s a way of life – in uniform and in the halls of Congress where he’s put the full force of his unyielding support of our military into real leadership for our troops and military families for over three decades in Washington. There’s a reason why Congressman Murtha is one of our most trusted voices on national security and America’s standing in the world – he speaks his mind, he speaks his heart, and he’s willing to speak truth to power.

Cleland concluded

Let’s speak out against the smears and lies against Congressman Murtha. Let’s stand with our brother who has stood with us. This is our call to arms. We’re a little bit older, we’re a little bit grayer, but we veterans still know how to fight for our country.

Cleland had already joined in efforts in support of Murtha, according to the Patriot Project which has launched “Project Opposite Street Corner” in response to the so-called Vets for Truth’s attack on Murtha, Project Street Corner running under the auspices of the Iowa Presidential Watch PAC.

Cleland is also going to attend a September 27 event for Murtha sponsored by Veterans’s Alliance for Security and Democracy.  On August 1, the the groupissued a press release supporting Murtha. had issued an analysis of asttacks on Murtha yesterday, “Misquoting Lincoln:” 

Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime “are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.”

Republican candidate Diana Irey  [my link] used the “quote” recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln’s. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote.

According to an update today, Irey retracted the quote and apologized hours after this article appeared.  Here’s her press release.

And here’s  a sample about what Irey said about Murtha, according to August 25 press release :

Once again, Jack Murtha is putting out ‘facts’ that just aren’t facts. Earlier this week, Mr. Murtha used the announcement of a recall of Marines as an excuse to once again criticize the war effort….each of the four services is meeting or surpassing their recruiting goals, on both a monthly and an annual basis. Which means that once again, Jack Murtha is using ‘facts’ that are not facts to bolster his argument. This is a matter pertaining to the most important issue of our time, and Mr. Murtha has a responsibility to get the facts right.

Now, one of two things is true: Either Jack Murtha knew he was not telling the truth when he misstated the facts, or he did not. If he knew he was not telling the truth, and said it anyway, he does not have the integrity necessary to be a Member of Congress. If he did not know he was not telling the truth, then he is not competent to be a Member of Congress.

Which is it, Mr. Murtha?


Entry for August 26, 2006

August 26, 2006

The grim  photo by Jeff Swenson of Getty Images, showing black memorial ribbons hanging on the Sago Mine security fence, ran in the January 18  French edition of the Epoch Times International, accompanying Joan Delaney’s story, “Lumière sur l’industrie minière”  and was used as the cover image of“The Sago Mine Disaster,” released a month ago, on July 19 by Davitt McAteer. 

Interestingly, the English version of the story, which ran in Canada on January 12, used a much less confrontational image from

Ken Ward, Jr., writing in the Charleston Gazette on July 20, “Sago report proposes reforms: ‘Everything that could go wrong did go wrong’” does a good job of summing up the recommendations.  Jordan Barab posted a perceptive commentary July 19 at his blog on mining safety, Confined Space.

On Sunday, August 20, families and neighbors gathered again  at the Sago Baptist Church in Talmansville, West Virginia to dedicate a permanent menorial to the miners, both those  killed and those surviving, of the January 2, 2006 Sago mine disaster.

An Associated Press photograph and another  and a video show  the memorial designed by Jones Monument Company of Buckhannon.  Ken Ward, Jr.,  in his August 21 Charleston Gazette story, “Memorial honors Sago miners” describes the monument.  It  

stands more than 6 feet tall and features etched photographs of each of the 12 miners who died. It also features the quote, “We’ll see you on the other side,” which was adapted from the note Sago miner Martin Toler Jr. left for his family.

Two concrete sidewalks lead up to the monument, each one surrounded by rock gardens and flowers. One of three benches has a photo of Sago survivor Randal McCloy Jr., along with a likeness of the nearby church. Two other benches list the names of 16 other miners who were working the morning of the explosion but managed to escape the mine.

Ward quotes Debbie Hamner, the widow of Sago miner George Junior Hamner,

I think the monument is just beautiful. But what would be better is if my husband were alive today. We shouldn’t have to be here today.

Ward says many ICG mine officials were at the ceremony.  I wonder how that made the survivors and the families of the victims feel.  You’ll remember that company officials  failed to correct mistaken reports that 12 had survived the blast.  I just found an account by reporter Derek Rose , “Sago mine disaster/media flubub,” on his blog on January 10. 

ICG was back to denying responsibility as it faced suits this week.  Juliet A. Terry’s story in the State Journal, “McCloy, Families Sue ICG, Mining and Equipment Companies” posted August 23, 2006 and updated the next day, has an excellent summary of the suits.

August 23, Randal and Anna McCloy sued International Coal Group and its subsidiary, Wolf Run Mining  in the Kanawha County, West Virginia  Circuit Court in Charleston, West Virginia. In civil action no. 06-C-1684.  Also sued were Burrell Mining Products, manufacturers of  Omega Block, Raleigh Mine and Industrial Supply, the distributor, as well as GMS Mine Repair and Maintenance, the company which constructed the seals and CSE Corporation, who manufactured the self-rescuers. 

Also suing were Judy Bennett on behalf of deceased miner Alva Bennett in civil case number 06-C-1685 and Lily and John Bennett on behalf of deceased miner James Bennet in civil case number 06-C-1686,  The two Bennetts were unrelated.

Reuters new service reported August 24, “Int’l Coal Group stock down as mine survivor sues “  that  International Coal Group (ICG) stock took a dip the previous day

In afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, ICG stock was down 1.13 percent at $6.10.


By the way, back on June 13, several senators rose in opposition to Richard Stickler to head MSHA (See Congressional record starting on page S5737. )

Thanks to a hold on the nomination by Senator Byrd (D-WV)  and invocation of a rule returning nominations to the President upon adjournment, the Senate voted August 3 to return the nomination to President Bush, according to an August 4 news release from Senator Kennedy’s office.

It seems that Bush has appointed Stickler, as recounted by Mike Hall in this blog entry of July 7 for the AFL-CIO.

Looks like Bush made another move behind the back of Congress. The Labor Department recently hired as a mine safety adviser Richard Stickler, whom the Senate in June refused to confirm as head of the nation’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

July 14, Hall reported

The UMWA has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out exactly what the Bush administration and Stickler are up to at MSHA.

In a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao about Stickler’s hiring, Sen. Byrd wrote:

I want to be sure that Mr. Stickler is serving as an advisor only, and is not assuming any of the duties or functions of the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. I take the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role very seriously. To hire an individual as a consultant because the Senate has not yet confirmed his nomination creates the unsettling impression that the Department is trying to circumvent the confirmation process.

Entry for August 25, 2006

August 26, 2006

The cartoon is by Mike Konopacki from March 2oo6, in response to a  reports by the National Association of Manufacturers– “U.S. Manufacturing Innovation at Risk”  by Joel Popkin and Kathryn Kobe.

From Mark Reutter, author of Making Steel, “Gladwell Strikes Out,”his August 24 reaction to the New Yorker’s  Malcolm Gladwell article, “The Risk Pool” in the August 26 issue posted August 21.

Malcolm Gladwell ends “The Risk Pool” where a good reporter would begin. Namely, what has happened since 2003 when New York-based investor Wilbur Ross purchased bankrupt Bethlehem Steel and its once premier steel plant at Sparrows Point, Md. 

Rather than investing in new machinery or seeking new markets for steel, Mr. Ross flipped the properties to London-based industrialist Lakshmi Mittal in April 2005, gaining a personal profit of $267 million. Together with stock earnings from the initial public offering of his company, International Steel Group (ISG), and related trades, Mr. Ross and his Wall Street allies pocketed $1.185 billion. This sum is almost identical to the $1.1 billion that steel retirees lost over the same period in health-care benefits from the sale to Ross and the sum absorbed by the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. 

Rather than “saving” the steel industry by ending unsustainable retiree benefits, Mr. Ross ingeniously diverted the cash flow from the working class to the investment class.


UPDATE:  On August 28, I wrote Mark with my reaction:

I only scanned the New Yorker article, and the odd thing, an first glance, is that while the author  decries the dispersal of the risk pool, he doesn’t seem to offer who will institute a change and how to get there. Wilbut Ross represents not the dispersal, but the evaporation of the pool.  Let me know if your letter appears.  (Couldn’t find letters to the editor online, unlike The Nation..)

Here’s his response of August 29:

about NYer letter, though I will be both flabbered & gasted if they out their star writer. But what the heck, the NYer doesn’t have a monopoly on ink anymore thanks to blogs like yours and all the other web stuff. …

Take care,

Entry for August 24, 2006

August 24, 2006

Ed Stein’s cartoon is from the Rocky Mountian Times.

Slate has a feature today, “How Sorry is Andrew Young?”

Wal-mart, after hiring Andrew Young to head its astroturf group, “Working Families for Wal-mart” is trying to distance itself from his comments to the Black-ownedLos Angeles Sentinel, according to staff writer Abigail Goldman’s August 18 story in the Los Angeles Times, “Young to Quit Wal-Mart Group After Racial Remarks.”

Young has told the paper that mom and pop stores desrve to be run out of business for their price gouging.

Well, I think they should; they ran the ‘mom-and-pop’ stores out of my neighborhood. But you see those are the people who have been overcharging us—selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and retired to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs. Very few Black folks own these stores.

Said Mona Williams, Wal-mart’s spokesperson,

We are appalled by these comments…We are also dismayed that they would come from someone who has worked so hard for so many years for equal rights in this country.

Meanwhile, Wal-mart has sent letters to its employees in Iowa and plans to send letters to employees elsewhere, criticizing its critics who are running for office, according to the story, “Wal-Mart Warns of Attacks by White House Hopefuls” which ran August 16 under the Dow Jones byline on

We would never suggest to you how to vote, but we have an obligation to tell you when politicians are saying something about your company that isn’t true….We urge you to talk with you(r) friends, your family and your neighbors about the good Wal-Mart does.



Public Citizen has declared this Clean Election Week and tout  John Tierney (D-MA)’s  H.R. 3099, “The Clean Money, Clean Elections Act,” introduced June 28, 2006, which would provide public funding of House elections.  The bill, like so many reform measures remains stalled in committee.

According to Public Citizen,

Clean Elections is law in seven states and two cities: Arizona; Connecticut; Maine; New Jersey; New Mexico; North Carolina; Vermont; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Portland, Oregon. Activists in 30 states are working to advance full public financing.

Entry for August 23, 2006

August 24, 2006

The uncredited  photograph of Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan, dates from the time they were working together on Death of a Salesman.  I found it on the British site, Schoolnet.

BlueRidge Public Television aired  “Miller, Kazan, and the Blacklast: None Without Sin”  in its American Masters series

Director Elia Kazan won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement at the 1999 Academy Awards, but his  1952 cooperation with  the House Un-American Activities Committee suring the McCarthy era dlouded his reputation and ruptured his friendship and artistic relationship with playwright Arthur Miller, who fought contempt charges for his refusal to cooperate with the same committee in 1956.

In his autobiography, Timebends,  Miller had this to say about Kazan’s conversation sharing that he intended to testify: 

Listening to him I grew frightened. There was a certain gloomy logic in what he was saying: unless he came clean he could never hope, in the height of his creative powers, to make another film in America, and he would probably not be given a passport to work abroad either. If the theatre remained open to him, it was not his primary interest anymore; he wanted to deepen his film life, that was where his heart lay, and he had been told in so many words by his old boss and friend Spyros Skouras, president of Twentieth Century Fox, that the company would not employ him unless he satisfied the Committee.

I could only say that I thought this would pass and that it had to pass because it would devour the glue that kept the country together if left to its own unobstructed course. I said that it was not the Reds who were dispensing our fears now, but the other side, and it could not go indefinitely, it would someday wear down the national nerve. And then there might be regrets about this time. But I was growing cooler with the thought that as unbelievable as it seemed, I could still be up for sacrifice if Kazan knew I attended meetings of the Communist Party writers years ago and had made a speech at one of them.


Entry for August 22, 2006

August 22, 2006

February 16, 2006, Tom Davis (R-VA) transmitted “A Failure of Initiative: The Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina.”  It concludes:

The preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina should disturb all Americans. While the Select Committee believes all people involved, at all levels of government, were trying their best to save lives and ease suffering, their best just wasn’t good enough….

We are left scratching our heads at the range of inefficiency and ineffectivness that characterized government behavior right before and after this storm. But passivity did the most damage. The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect
its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are. How can we set up a system to protect against passivity? Why do we repeatedly seem out of synch during disasters? Why do we continually seem to be one disaster behind?

Today, in preparation for watching the second half of Spike Lee’s documentary, I thought I’d turn to the Times Picayune to see what’s going on in New Orleans almost a year after Katrina  hit.

Bill Walsh of the Washington bureau reports today in “Most relief money unspent,” 

According to figures compiled by the Bush administration, only about 40 percent of the money available — or about $45 billion — has been doled out by the federal government. And the bulk of that money has gone for the initial rescue efforts, debris removal and the emergency repairs to New Orleans’ ruptured levees, proving that even in Louisiana water flows faster than money.

Meanwhile, signs of storm blight remain: Debris is still piled on sidewalks, tens of thousands of displaced residents are living out of temporary FEMA trailers, businesses are shuttered, hospitals are closed and violent crime is on the upswing.

The Road Home allocation to homeowners will have its first dispersement later this week, according to the Associated Press’s Cain Burdeau’s story today,” 1 year later, grants to start flowing to Katrina-hit homeowners.”    There were already over 100,000 registrants for the program as of an August 10 news release by the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

For more information, see the Center for Public Integrity’s Katrina Watch site.  For pictures, see the archive maintained by George Mason university.