Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Review of Fahrenheit 911
By Michael Ankleman

Keep telling yourself: It's not just a movie; it's not just a movie, it's your country.

No matter what you've heard about Michael Moore's movie, Fahrenheit 911, the truth is that this is an entertain-mentary that rightfully bashes Bush, the Republicans, AND the Democrats, and has fun doing it. It's also sad, disheartening and inspiring all at the same time.

From a technical standpoint, I give it 3-1/2 stars out of four, since it lost steam and direction toward the end.

Politically, I give it four stars. You must remember, that while this movie was being made, much of the information it presents was not known to the general public, proving once again and again and again that there is no such thing as a liberal-biased media. If there were, everything in this movie already would have been common knowledge at the time the movie was made. Actually, let me rephrase that; If there were a hardworking, balanced media, that wasn't comprised of lazy, gutless reporting, everything in this movie already would have been common knowledge.

The criticisms leveled at this movie are laughable in their hairsplitting pettiness, designed to distract attention away from the colossal temerity and deceit of this administration. But this is a common ploy of the right wing.

For example, when faced with the irrefutable disparity of the service records of Bush and Kerry, the right attempted to paint Kerry as a liar because he may have called his ribbons medals, or his medals ribbons. Then they had the audacity to question whether he had been wounded enough to deserve his third purple heart. And no one in the media said, "Wwwwwwhat!!!???"

The movie has also been criticized for only telling one side of the story. DUHHH! That's the PURPOSE of the movie, to tell the side of the story we haven't been getting.

The movie has been criticized for taking cheap shots, but I think it shows great restraint, considering what COULD have been done. One cheap shot I thought needed to be taken but wasn't, would have intercut clips of the administration's fantasized predictions about the Iraqi people hailing us as conquering heroes with clips of the brutal reality.

Michael Moore's answer to the criticisms should be, "Is that the best ya got?" This president was asleep at the wheel when we were attacked, then invaded a country that had nothing to do with it at irreparable costs to our own security, and they criticize the movie because it doesn't list ALL of the countries of the coalition? Because the movie didn't mention a certain congressman has a NEPHEW in Iraq when it states that only one member out of almost 500 representatives and senators has a CHILD in Iraq? Is that the best ya got?

But here's the most important part. Michael Moore takes this information and presents it with such impactful clarity and succinctness that even the old information makes you step back, look at the big picture, and say to yourself, "Damn, that's incredible!" It shakes you out of your media-induced stupor about recent events and makes you ask, "How did we get to this point, and why wasn't it stopped?"

How could this have happened? Why didn't someone stop this? Here's the killer answer to that killer question: Because WE let it happen. Because WE didn't stop it. But now WE can make sure it isn't allowed to continue, in November.

Remember, the same people who didn't want the votes counted in Florida, DON'T want you to see this film. So do America a favor. SEE THIS FILM!

And since, in their attempts to defend the Abu Ghraib inhumanities, the right is now wallowing in the very moral relativism they say they despise, here's an excerpt from a Slate article that puts Moore's film in the context of today's political climate.

Proper Propaganda
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is unfair and outrageous.
You got a problem with that?

By David Edelstein
Posted Thursday, June 24, 2004, at 4:00 PM PT

Fahrenheit 9/11 must be viewed in the context of the Iraq occupation and the torrent of misleading claims that got us there. It must be viewed in the context of Rush Limbaugh repeating the charge that Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered in Fort Marcy Park, or laughing off the exposure of Valerie Plame when, had this been a Democratic administration, he'd be calling every day for the traitor's head. It must be viewed in the context of Ann Coulter calling for the execution of people who disagree with her. It must be viewed in the context of another new documentary, the superb The Hunting of the President, that documents—irrefutably—the lengths to which the right went to destroy Bill Clinton. Moore might be a demagogue, but never—not even during Watergate—has a U.S. administration left itself so open to this kind of savaging.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

In her July column in The Progressive, Molly Ivins says:
Neal Johnston, a New York City lawyer, wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with some interesting questions: "When next you testify in front of a Congressional committee, would we be more likely to get the truth out of you if you were stripped naked, strapped to a board upside down, and occasionally dunked into a vat of water until you thought you were drowning? Would you be more likely to tell the truth at your next press conference if a rolled up copy of the Bill of Rights were stuck up a delicate portion of your anatomy?"

Mr. Johnston is onto something here. That might be the only way we would ever get the truth out of Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney or Wolfowitz. But so what? Who'd believe a confession obtained that way?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

In a column in the Thursday Post-Dispatch recommending that politicians need old time religion if they're to succeed, David Brooks is asking Americans to wa-a-tch the sh-i-ny ob-je-ct and just relax. Remember how important religion is to you and look at your religious president. You're too sleepy to notice him picking your pocket and giving the money to his wealthy contributors. Sl-ee-p. He's born again, so his lies about WMD will be forgiven--just like all your own sins. Of course, you never sent 850 plus American soldiers to die for nonexistent weapons, but don't worry. He's a moral man. Re-la-x. Think about how faithful he is to his wife and how sober and sincere he is. When you awake, you will know that religion is the most important trait in a president. When I snap my fingers, you will awake, and you won't care about any of the behavior a rational person would want from his political leader. Snap.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Unionizing Wal-Mart is more than just a larger than usual challenge. It's a whole different ballgame, according to the June 28 issue of The Nation. United Food and Commercial Workers wouldn't have a prayer working by itself. Labor leaders know that and are discussing strategies, and several "large unions are launching joint campaigns to organize low-wage workers." But "partly because most people in the labor movement are preoccupied with defeating Bush, such dialogue is proceeding slowly."
As far as particular ideas, one of the first is that international cooperation might be useful to an organizing strategy. "As Andy Stern, just back from China, points out ... 'Wal-Mart is second only to our current President in unpopularity around the world.'" Cross-border solidarity might be helpful here from countries where Wal-Mart has been unionized, like Germany and Japan.
Many in the U.S. labor movement believe we'll have to think outside the box on this knotty problem. Joel Rogers, a longtime social-justice activist and University of Wisconsin political scientist, agrees that the traditional model of organizing--by industry, with a focus on getting a majority vote in each shop, which under the law makes all the workers in that shop part of the union--cannot work for Wal-Mart. Rogers advocates an approach he calls "open-source unionism," in which workers could join unions even if the majority of their co-workers had not yet chosen to do so.... Under this model, employers could not insure that by defeating unions in elections, their workplaces would remain union-free. While these unions would lack collective-bargaining rights, members would receive advice from the union on how to protect their rights during disputes, and help in improving pay and working conditions through collective action. They would also benefit from alliances with community groups and other unions in putting pressure on their employer.
This model has been tried by sweatshop workers in the U.S. and Latin America, not to mention New York City taxi drivers. They've used it "both to agitate for rights on the job and to develop political consciousness and become part of a larger social movement." How useful the strategy would be is hard to predict, but it's worth trying.
In the end, though, unless unions can find a way to threaten the company's profits, they will fail. Asking the public not to shop at Wal-Mart is a losing proposition. Even union members shop there because of the low prices, "making at least 30 percent of union credit-card purchases at the retail giant." The only practicable way to hurt profits would be to convince the progressive community that Wal-Mart is damaging laborers as a whole and costing all of us (for example, the medical care for underpaid workers). "Ultimately the entire progressive movement--not just labor--will have to make the unionization of Wal-Mart a priority."
Tackling this Goliath is an iffy proposition. It's encouraging that labor leaders are talking about this problem and entertaining so many new approaches. Yet as Mike Leonard cautions, in the labor movement, "it's a pretty rare day when we go beyond talking about a new idea, and that's part of the problem." And many workers are not optimistic now. Linda Gruen, who tried for several years to organize her Wal-Mart co-workers, is "not sure we will ever unionize Wal-Mart."
In my May 6th blog, I quoted part of an article from American Prospect that bears on the Wal-Mart question:
Enforcement of the Wagner Act, which allows American workers a free choice to vote in a union, has become a joke. Employers find it cheaper to fire pro-union workers, hire fancy law firms to conduct union-busting campaigns, and pay the very infrequent fine.

One happy exception speaks volumes -- the successful struggle by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees to turn Las Vegas into a union town. Today, the most humble workers in Vegas's hotels -- those who clean the rooms -- are paid middle-class salaries with health benefits and have career opportunities. They are becoming homeowners and starting to live the American dream. The higher labor costs are a drop in the casino bucket.

After all, no inherent economic logic required semi-skilled factory workers to earn middle-class wages.

With so many jobs leaving the country, low wage jobs must be successfully unionized if we are to maintain a middle class.

Take a gander at a few sentences from the handbook that Wal-Mart distributes to its managers:
Staying union free is a full-time commitment. Unless union prevention is a goal equal to other objectives within an organization, the goal will usually not be attained. The commitment to stay union free must exist at all levels of management--from the Chairperson of the "Board" down to the front-line manager. Therefore, no one in management is immune to carrying his or her "own weight" in the union prevention effort....
Now that Wal-Mart's in the news because of a class action suit on behalf of its female employees, labor needs to go after Goliath. The June 28 issue of The Nation analyzes the need and the prospects.
The need is that Wal-Mart is more than just a "$259 million retail behemoth". The worst part is that it provides "a business model widely imitated by other corporations, especially its competitors." The California grocery strike, as well as our own last fall, went badly for labor. Management claimed that it had to conserve funds in order to be prepared to meet Wal-Mart's prices in case Super Centers opened up nearby. But Linda Gruen, a former Wal-Mart worker now a labor organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), offers a different explanation: "'Greed. Management sees what Wal-Mart gets away with,'" and likes the idea of more profit. Why not? After all, if other businesses can copy the way Wal-Mart treats its 1.2 million employees, they would only have to pay wages of about $8 an hour and provide health plans so stingy that most employees would have to go without or "depend on the government to pay their medical bills."
That's why a consensus among labor leaders is emerging that organizing Wal-Mart workers is an urgent priority--perhaps the most urgent facing a labor movement that is losing density and influence. Asked what it will take to organize Wal-Mart, Al Zack, outgoing assistant director of strategic programs for the UFCW, points to Wal-Mart's stated commitment to remaining "union free." Says Zack, "When the labor movement...matches that commitment, then it will be successful."
It would be difficult to exaggerate the magnitude of this challenge. Wal-Mart's rhetoric is supported by diligent practice.

Managers are taught how to screen potential employees to weed out the union troublemakers of the future. And before anyone is hired, she must sign a paper saying she'll never try to organize a union. That's illegal, but nobody's enforcing the laws against it. Inevitably, of course, some employees do try to organize. When that happens, a "'labor relations team'" is sent out by private plane to the offending store, "often the very day the call comes in." The only successful group ever to organize in the States was in Jacksonville, Texas, in 2000. Ten meatcutters voted 7 to 3 to unionize. Two weeks later, Wal-Mart switched to prepackaged meat and assigned the butchers to other departments.
Wal-Mart realizes that bending the laws this way will create some legal hassles, but the occasional fine has been well worth it. "Until labor laws make violating workers' rights a criminal offense--punishable by sending managers and CEOs to prison...challenges may be fruitless." The company has tried to forestall the creation of any such laws by becoming the number one corporate contributor to politics, with 85% of the money going to Republicans--who owe nothing to labor.
Considering Wednesday morning's headline about the class action suit, Wal-Mart may be in for some protracted and very expensive labor problems. But as determined as they've always been on labor issues, they won't fold easily.
Tomorrow, I'll summarize the various strategies that labor is considering against the world's number one retailer and its prospects for success.

Monday, June 21, 2004

An analysis titled "The Boys in the Bubble" in the July issue of Harper's quotes a memo written from Iraq. Names are redacted, but it was probably written by Michael Rubin of the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute. Rubin just finished a nine month tour there with the CPA. The writer criticizes the CPA for hiding in the Green Zone and for condoning Governing Council corruption that destroys our credibility in Iraqi eyes.
Throughout Iraq, we are handicapped by our security bubble. Few at the CPA get out of the Green Zone anymore. Most drivers work during the day, but not in the evening hours when Baghdad is most alive. (As an aside, most Iraqi politicking occurs between 9 P.M. and 3 A.M., so the CPA is missing a great deal.) The U.S. government has spent millions importing sport-utility vehicles, which are used exclusively to drive the kilometer and a half between the Convention Center and the Palace. We would have been much better off with a small fleet of used cars and a bicycle for every Green Zone resident.
The CPA's isolation will get worse with the transfer to the State Department. In the view of most Regional Security Officers, the best assurance of safety is to not leave the Green Zone. The irony is that the Green Zone is hardly secure; large concentrations of Americans and Brits make tempting artillery targets. The isolation is two-sided: Iraqis realize that the entrances to the Green Zone are under surveillance by the bad guys. No one prevents people from entering the parking lot outside the checkpoint to note the license-plate numbers of "collaborators." The net effect is that a segment of Iraqi society avoids meeting Americans because they fear the Green Zone.

Since most Iraqis don't meet Americans, they can only form their opinions by observing the results of our policies. In that arena, also, we are failing.
Bremer hesitates to make tough but necessary decisions, instead hoping to foist them onto his successor or international organizations. We need to use our prerogative as occupying power to signal that corruption will not be tolerated. To take action against men like [name redacted] would win us applause on the street. The alleged kickbacks that [name redacted] is accepting should be especially serious for us, since he was one of two ministers who met the Presdient and had his picture taken with him. (Chalabi?)
We share culpability in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. After all, we appointed the Governing Council members. Their corruption is our corruption. Iraqis were assured that their exclusion from the Governing Council did not mean an exclusion from the process. As it turned out, we lied. People from Kut, for example, see that they have no representation on the Governing Council, and many Iraqis predict civil war since they doubt that the Governing Council will really allow elections.
Indeed, many Iraqis are buying guns, often from Iraqi police, who sell their U.S. suppled weapons and are promptly given new ones.
American administrators are huddling in their not so safe hole, ignoring the realities that they should be controlling, meanwhile leaving young soldiers to deal with the worsening situation. Iraq didn't have to turn out this badly.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Thomas Frank, in What's Wrong with Kansas?, points out that it is deranged for people to vote with increasingly fierce commitment for politicians who promise cultural change but fail to deliver it, especially when those same politicians do great economic harm to the middle and lower class. Backlash leaders simply "downplay the politics of economics" and concentrate (watch the shiny object!) on making ordinary Americans feel unfairly persecuted by the liberals. They want old-fashioned values restored.
. . . [B]ut once conservatives are in office the only old-fashioned situation they care to revive is an economic regimen of low wages and lax regulations. . . . The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ, but they walk corporate. Values may "matter most" to voters, but they always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won.
The trick never ages. The illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.
As a formula for holding together a dominant political coalition, the backlash seems so improbable and self-contradictory that liberal observers often have trouble believing it is actually happening. By all rights, they figure, these two groups--business and blue-collar--should be at each other's throats. For the Republican Party to present itself as the champion of working-class America strikes liberals as such an egregious denial of political reality that they dismiss the whole phenomenon, refusing to take it seriously. The Great Backlash, they believe, is nothing but crypto-racism, or a disease of the elderly, or the random gripings of religious rednecks, or the protests of "angry white men" feeling left behind by history.

We've misunderstood the phenomenon long enough, at great cost to ourselves and to this country as a whole--at great cost, indeed, to the very people who espouse it. Understanding it may help us change the dynamic. So, from time to time, I will be summarizing what Frank has to tell us about the details of what he calls "this derangement." Of course, you could beat me to the punch by just buying the book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Anybody that pulls in less than 200K a year and votes Republican has been played, had, scammed. But for this scam to be successful, it must continue to fleece Americans, year after year, all the while convincing them that it's the other guy's fault--the liberal. That's quite a parlor trick, and Republicans have been playing it on people for the last several decades. Thomas Frank's new book What's the Matter with Kansas? details how Conservatives have persuaded much of the American public to vote for its own destruction. The heart of the con is creating a backlash among people who resent feeling one down.
Maybe you were one of those who stood up for America way back in 1968, sick of hearing those rich kids in beads bad-mouth the country every night on TV. Maybe you knew exactly what Richard Nixon meant when he talked about the "silent majority," the people whose hard work was rewarded with constant insults from the network news, the Hollywood movies, and the know-it-all college professors, none of them interested in anything you had to say. Or maybe it was the liberal judges who got you mad as hell, casually rewriting the laws of your state according to some daft idea they had picked up at a cocktail party, or ordering your town to shoulder some billion-dollar desegregation scheme that they had dreamed up on their own, or turning criminals loose to prey on the hardworking and the industrious. Or perhaps it was the drive for gun control, which was obviously directed toward the same end of disarming and untimately disempowering people like you. Or maybe abortion changed your political sympathies, like the man who was persuaded . . . that the sanctity of the fetus outweighed all of his other concerns, and from there he gradually accepted the whole pantheon of conservative devil-figures: the elite media and the American Civil Liberties Union, contemptuous of our values; the la-di-da feminists; the idea that Christians are vilely persecuted--right here in the U.S. of A.
Well, okay, so these folks want abortion halted and raunchy behavior in films, hip hop and MTV reined in. Fair enough, then, to vote Republican--IF the Republicans ever delivered on their promises to change the American scene. But they don't.
The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act. Even the greatest culture warrior of them all was a notorious cop-out once it came time to deliver. "Reagan made himself the champion of 'traditional values,' but there is no evidence he regarded their restoration as a high priority," wrote Christopher Lasch . . . . "What he really cared about was the revival of the unregulated capitalism of the twenties: the repeal of the New Deal."
Members of this Backlash have hurt themselves most of all, yet they continue to vote for their leaders with increasingly fierce commitment. What is this derangement? More on that subject tomorrow.

They like us, they really like us! - NOT

A U.S.-sponsored poll shows Iraqis have lost confidence in the occupying authorities--and that the majority of Iraqis want Coalition troops out of the country ‘immediately’

Okay, I know you are all shocked at this completely unforeseen revelation. You can read all the warm and fuzzy details here

In other can preorder Joe Trippi's new book "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" on Amazon. I can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I'm sorry, but I can't post anything this morning. I'm too busy mourning Ronald Reagan. No, seriously, lefties can moan about his support of death squads in Central America, his implicit racism, his turning mentally ill people out of institutions to wander homeless, his labeling ketchup a vegetable, and so on and so forth. But let's not forget that when Reagan's hawks wanted to keep all our nuclear weapons, Reagan went the other way. The June 21 issue of The New Republic recounts how it happened:
. . . [A]dministration insiders were furious at the president for even broaching the idea of a nuclear-free world. They were right to be concerned. By the end of 1987, Reagan had begun to distance himself from the extreme hawks who opposed any negotiations (the most prominent of them, Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, left the administration in 1987) and was relying increasingly on the pragmatic advice of Secretary of State George Shultz. In December 1987, the president and Gorbachev met in Washington to sign a treaty eliminating intermediate-range missiles. And, by June 1988, Reagan was kissing Russian babies in Red Square and had nonchalantly dropped the "evil empire" label he had affixed to the Soviet Union in 1983.
Now we get George W., who wants new tactical nuclear weapons, who's done far too little to secure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet republics, and who gave us the mess in Iraq. When Reagan was in office, I disliked him intensely. God, how I wish we had him now instead of Bush. So I'm mourning, and I refuse to post today.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Only two people have held the Third Congressional District seat in the last 52 years--Richard Gephardt and, before him, Leonor K. Sullivan. Now that Gephardt is retiring, ten different Democrats are scrambling for the job. As Jo Mannies points out in the Post-Dispatch, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a job that can last a lifetime." So we at Change for Missouri have to take this race seriously.
Only four of the ten have any real shot at it, with funds in the $130,000-$200,000 range. Russ Carnahan has the most money because he has THE NAME. He's not particularly impressive, though, as far as having charm as a public speaker or possessing progressive political ideas. One small but telling example: he buys campaign supplies from union-busting Wal-Mart. Joan Barry, on the other hand, respects unions and will get a lot of union support because her husband is the business agent for the influential Plumbers and Pipefitters union. She states that she is a progressive. Either Carnahan or Barry would be an acceptable nominee. But Steve Stoll would not. He's a Republican in Dem's clothing: a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-prayer in public schools social conservative. And if the progressives in the race aren't careful, they'll knock each other off and give the coveted nomination to the pseudo-Democrat Stoll.
Voters who want the genuine article when it comes to progressive politics need to support the fourth nominee, Jeff Smith, who is one of the Dean Dozen. He's been endorsed by this group and targeted by Howard Dean for help in the election. Indeed, Dean is coming to St. Louis Sunday, June 20th, for a free rally on his behalf. Jeff's campaign is rolling. To quote Mannies again:
Smith . . . captured the Democratic endorsement in Jefferson Township a few weeks ago over the objections of Londe and others who backed Carnahan. Smith's red-meat rhetoric often ignites forum crowds. A standard line: "If John Ashcroft is for it, I'm probably against it."
Until now, Jeff's main outlets for his progressive ideas have been in teaching political science at Washington University, working to improve education for the urban poor, and advising Democratic candidates both locally and nationally. Most notably, he served as deputy political director for Bill Bradley's presidential campaign. To find out more about Jeff's impressive bio, check out his website:
Now he wants to move out of the classroom and use his ideas to change public policy, not just talk about it. Jeff Smith is the man we need in the Third Congressional House of Representatives slot--for the next 25 years and counting.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The smart thing to do if you're running for governor and the Secretary of State offers to help you in your election bid is to take him up on it. And that's exactly what Matt Blunt is doing. He knows most of those St. Louis city folks aren't voting for him, that's for sure. So when the Secretary of State (Matt Blunt himself) offers to nix a plan to make it easier for city residents to vote, the gubernatorial candidate (Matt Blunt) doesn't hesitate to accept the offer.
The new plan offers early voting opportunities in the city this November. In hopes of preventing the confusion and crowded polls of St. Louis on election night 2000, five polling places would be open for two weeks prior to the election. But Blunt and Mayor Slay disagree over the provision of the state election law that lays out the plan. Slay contends the law requires early voting. Blunt insists that early voting is just a proposed experiment--one that will occur only if the state funds it. The brouhaha may well end up in court, just as the fracas did over when the gay marriage amendment would appear on the ballot. In both cases, Blunt has dragged his feet in an effort to benefit Republicans.
And both cases involve doublethink. In the gay marriage case, Blunt lost his argument in the Missori Supreme Court and then accused liberals of manipulating justice by using activist judges--this despite his support for a Republican plank that recommends installing anti-abortion judges as often as possible. Doublethink. In the case of early voting, Blunt has been recommending it for several years. Now that it might work against him, however, he pretends that funding is the roadblock. Hardly. The city itself and the Election Board have set aside $75,000. Money isn't the problem. The problem is that Blunt has two opposite opinions about the same issue--depending on who benefits. And that's doublethink.
Even Paul DeGregorio, a Republican on the federal commission to improve voting procedures, advocates early voting. DeGregorio, a former St. Louis County elections director, worked as a consultant to the city Election Board after the 2000 mess. As long as we're stuck with a Republican for Secretary of State, it's too bad it can't be someone like DeGregorio.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

To complicate attempts to internationalize the war in Iraq, both Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan are, because of past behavior, unpopular with Iraqis. Many Shia and Kurds remember that Brahimi remained silent when, as undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Saddam massacred tens of thousands of Shia and Kurds. And Iraqis have not forgotten U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Frebruary 24, 1998, comment, "Can I trust Saddam Hussein? I think I can do business with him." Iraqis, like most other peoples, are prickly nationalists.
Distrust of Brahimi and Annan is minor, though, compared to outrage over the oil-for-food scandal. Under the sanctions, the U.N. was authorized to issue vouchers for Iraqi oil sales, and those vouchers were to be used for food and medicine for Iraqis. Apparently Saddam paid off U.N. officials to convert the vouchers into cash, which he kept. Our administration, always skillful at shooting itself in the foot, has expressed outrage over the scandal, but has defunded the Governing Council's investigation of it. Likewise, it seems counterproductive, in the wake of this aid scandal, to prevent the Iraqi government from deciding where international aid will flow in its own country. Iraqis see our control as paternalistic.
If Jewish expressions weren't so disdained in Iraq, I would express my frustration with the whole mess by throwing up my hands and exclaiming, "Oy vez!"

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Despite White House denials, part of the reason we're in Iraq is to secure their oil supply. Ironically, it's our presence there that is driving up the cost of oil. In a short, but revealing article in The American Prospect, Robert Reich points out:
You see, oil prices are rising because speculators are betting on shortages to come. They see increasing instability in the Middle East including terrorism aimed at oil pipelines across the region. And they translate that into less oil to meet world market demand.
Click here to read the rest of what he has to say.
Another irony is that Bob Woodward's book reveals that the Saudis promised Bush to increase production before the election in order to improve his chances of reelection. And they're trying. OPEC is pumping out all it can, but with China's booming economy and our own recovery, supplies are squeezed. So even the Saudis can't help Bush out of this pickle he created for himself and for all of us.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Catherine Hanaway waited until the end of the legislative session to sign the gay marriage amendment, hoping to force Holden to put it on the November ballot. When Holden directed it be on the August ballot anyway, Matt Blunt refused and the courts had to settle it. Since gay marriage is already illegal in Missouri, ArchPundit observed that, “we aren’t just having a fight over gay marriage, but over when we should vote over whether gay marriage shouldn’t just be illegal, but really, really illegal.”
Despite their setback in court, Republicans, the moral party, feel duty bound to defend our culture against "activist judges." Matt Blunt, whose disingenuous pronouncements belie his wholesome boy next door looks, told cheering Republicans at the state convention: "'Liberals have a long history of using the courts to get what they're denied' through more legitimate means." The convention goers didn't notice the disjunct between that sentiment and a plank in the platform that recommended an end to most abortions and "'the appointing of federal and state judges (who) respect the sanctity of innocent human life.'" To believe that liberals are wrong to use the courts, but conservatives are moral in doing so, is doublethink. Oh, and by the way, since almost half of all fertilized eggs are washed out in menstruation, doesn't the Almighty's profligacy with innocent human life disturb them? Who got to decide, anyway, that fertilized eggs have souls?

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Maybe one of you can answer this question for me. I wrote my senators to complain about the twin bills in Congress for reinstating the draft. Now I'm assuming those bills are the doing of Republicans, but I just received the following e-mail from Senator Talent:
Dear Mrs. Alwood:
Thank you for your letter voicing your concerns about a resumption of the draft. I appreciate the time you have taken to share your views with me, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
There are currently no plans to reinstate the draft. The U.S. military is an entirely volunteer service. Indeed, throughout most of our nation's history, the military has been composed entirely of volunteers. The first peacetime draft in U.S. history began shortly before our nation's entry into World War II and continued for several decades until the creation of an all-volunteer military in 1973.
A volunteer military is desirable for several reasons. As
taxpayers, we spend tens of thousands of dollars training each serviceman or woman. In order to realize a return on that investment, we must recruit soldiers and sailors who plan to make a career of the service. In addition, because of our reliance on sophisticated equipment, this commitment to service is necessary to allow for training and education.
I appreciate the sentiments of your letter. There is no need for a draft and no reason to coerce young people into giving up several years of their lives.
Again, thank you for contacting me. If I may be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to call or write.

If Jim Talent is a maverick within his party, I wish someone would tell me so. Or is it just that the public isn't supposed to fret about these bills until they're already law? Perhaps I have misoverestimated the Republican desire to reinstate the draft. It's puzzling.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Two Months From Yesterday is an Important Day

First, the primary election day for the 3rd District--we hope you'll all be out there helping out the great candidates including Jeff, but another issue on the ballot is going to be big news that day as the voters of Missouri decide whether to constitutionally ban same sex marriages.

ArchPundit on Blog Saint Louis pointed out the silliness of this legislation:
Now we aren't just having a fight over gay marriage, but over when we should vote over whether gay marriage shouldn't just be illegal, but really, really illegal.

Jeff hates this amendment. We have a stuffy press release up on our blog talking about it, but it comes down to being that simple. Jeff hates the amendment. It codifies discrimination into the Missouri Constitution and discriminates against people for no other reason than because of who they love. There is no room for that in our society.

As mentioned in comments below, we want you to join us during the Pride Fest parade. We'll have more specific information about the gathering times and places closer to parade time, but Jeff will be walking in the parade and invites all supporters out to join him in celebrating Pride.

Scott (one of the campaign press minions)

PS We just updated the web site--more to come on the blog, but take a look when you get a chance.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

What a difference between the two candidates for Lieutenant Governor. Both are good choices but their styles are 180 degrees apart. And don't think that the office of Lt. Gov. is a do nothing job. It used to be, but now it is crucial given the scurrilous behavior of our state GOP legislators. You see, the Lt. Gov. chairs the state senate sessions. He (or she) decides who gets to speak and when. So, running for this prize, we have Bekki Cook, former Secretary of State, and Ken Jacob, retiring minority leader of the senate.
Cook is an excellent organizer and an upbeat person. But don't let her cheerful demeanor fool you. She has backbone too. When asked at the Wednesday night meetup what she would do to encourage state senators to behave more civilly, she described a situation several years ago in which she unexpectedly had to chair a senate session. She had been unaware of the hornet's nest she was walking into, but she kept her cool and held the line against the Republicans. She likened the experience to dealing with a roomful of unruly teenagers. Having had two teenagers herself, she was up to the job. She just kept saying "No." . . . "No." . . . "No." She never raised her voice. Bekki's talk to the group focused on her accomplishments as Secretary of State. She took pride in her record of putting public programs quickly and efficiently into action. She concluded by saying that the Republican candidate, Peter Kinder, is a devil. She's known Kinder since high school and says he's a mean person, much in need of defeat.
Ken Jacob seconded Bekki's opinion of Kinder and joked that she should have killed Kinder in high school and saved everybody a lot of trouble. Jacob's style is confrontational. After college, he counseled troubled teenagers for twelve years--until state budget cuts put him out of work. I'm betting he knew how to confront weaselly excuses. He's been a state senator for 23 years and a lawyer for thirteen or so of those years. For his first nineteen years in the legislature, every year Jacob took satisfaction in accomplishing good for the people of Missouri. But four years ago, right wing extremists took over the lege, and he's been fighting a holding action against them ever since. He holds the record for longest filibuster, not to mention records for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth longest. The Republican legislators don't like him.
Although Cook and Jacob are friends, they offer a distinct choice in this race. Jacob spurns the idea that civility will work with the current crowd. His advantage is his time in the trenches, dealing with their scurvy tricks and radical agenda. Cook would have a steep learning curve as moderator of the senate, but she looks capable of mastering the subtleties of the job. Furthermore, a considerable part of the Lt. Gov.'s job entails organizational matters, Cook's forte.
A fascinating final note is that some in our group have been disappointed that Jacob supported the ban on gay marriage. Jacob says his support was actually a legal maneuver to get some precedent into the legislative record that might eventually help gay activists. He knew Democrats couldn't prevent the proposed ban from being put on the ballot. He also knew that Republicans dislike him so much they'd vote down anything he proposed. So he proposed that Missouri not recognize gay marriages from other states, and, of course, Republicans voted down his proposal just because it was his. Now it's on record that the legislature chose not to ban recognition of gay marriages from other states. Activists can point to that vote in future court proceedings. Sneaky.
In an important primary race, Cook and Jacob present us with two good options and a tough choice.

Dear Fellow Change For Missouri/DFA Activists

Let me take this chance to thank you all personally for voting to endorse my campaign and inviting me to blog here. I'm thrilled about where my race is going. Our candidacy is starting to generate some serious buzz. The Post-Dispatch unofficially kicked off home stretch of the campaign by writing a great survey article about the race so far. Yours and Governor Dean's endorsement was prominently mentioned. Yesterday the pundits of St. Louis On The Air discussed the race and they mentioned your endorsement. However, they expressed some doubt about both how much help Change For Missouri would really offer my campaign and how much "shoe leather" would help any individual candidate. I can think of no greater way of demonstrating the power of the grassroots than to prove them wrong exactly two months from today on August 3rd.

Governor Dean didn't just run for President. He began a movement. His candidacy inspired like minded progressives from every walk of life and brought them together under a common cause of change for the better. We can take Governor Dean's movement one of two ways. We can prove the pundits and doubters right and disappear as a movement or we can commit to a lifetime of progressive advocacy and take our country back one school board seat, one state rep seat, and one Congressional seat at a time. I say we prove that out of Governor Dean's defeat in the Presidential primary a movement was born that put progressivism back into prominence. And we do that one way: hard work. It'll be one phone call, one door knock, and one voter at a time. It's up to us. As for me I don't want to let Governor Dean down. But I can't do it without you. As with Governor Dean's campaign, this race is about you. A candidate without an organization is an empty slogan. But a movement fronted by a candidate is a force to be reckoned with. Let's take out country back for true progressives and start with St. Louis. I look forward to your help.

But I need more than just volunteers to do the legwork, I need active campaigners who have ideas, creativity and initiative. My campaign staff and I are committing ourselves to maintaining a conversation on the Change for Missouri blog and my blog at We need every good idea you have and we'll do what we can to empower you to take this campaign to your friends and neighbors. You tell us what you need and we'll do our best to meet that need. Are we screwing up? Tell us. Are we missing an opportunity? Tell us. Are we doing a good job? We like to hear that too.

Jeff Smith

You gotta love those feisty Missouri Democrats! For all those who heard Ken Jacobs (lt. gov candidate) talk about "motion to move the previous question", here's the impact that it had. A great politcal blog called "Political State Report" has an article in it's archives describing the procedure and the effect.

The Democratic minority in the Missouri Senate used a Parliamentary Procedure to go home early on April 21st, angering the Republican majority who were working in their offices during a filibuster rather than sitting in chambers.

It was posted April 22. Read the whole thing Here.

This one's right up your alley!


He copied the idea pioneered by former Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean and got a Labour activist to invite friends and neighbours round for coffee and biscuits and a chat with the candidate. Pundits predict a record low turnout for the June 10 elections, down from the 24.7 per cent in the last European elections in 1999, possibly even dipping below 20 per cent.

Conventional campaigning has failed to attract much media attention or catch the public’s imagination. But supporters of the European Movement hope its Saturday night pub crawl will succeed in reaching the voters.

They will hand out beer mats produced by the European Parliament with the slogan "I drink therefore I vote".

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Here's a Post Dispatch (Joe Mannies) article on the 3rd district race - 13 people vying for the seat of a lifetime (maybe literally!):

The Story

There's a quote from Janice Londe from the Jefferson Township club, too.
Here's a small excerpt:

That's true for the voters as well as the candidates. Despite limited publicity, the district's candidate forums have attracted wall-to-wall crowds for months.

No kidding? Howard Dean doesn't think there was a media conspiracy against him? No kidding. The June issue of The Progressive features a three page interview with Dean. Naturally, much of what he says, we could predict, but the interviewer asked him twice about the idea that the media had it in for him. Here's his response to the second question: I don't think there's much legitimacy to that. I'm sure there were personal factors involved, but I'm not one who buys the notion of a media conspiracy. I think there are diferent views in the media, from Fox News to The New York Times, from The Weekly Standard to The Nation. But I don't think there's an ideological conspiracy in the media to keep certain candidates out. I really don't.
Well ... he sounds as if he means it. But he hasn't convinced me. Anyway, if you want to read the rest, click here.