Friday, June 11, 2004

Case Dismissed

Via The Liquid List, we hear of good news on the gay marriage front:

A judge Thursday dismissed criminal charges against a small-town mayor for marrying gay couples, saying the state failed to show it has a legitimate interest in banning same-sex weddings.

New Paltz Town Court Justice Jonathan Katz also ruled that prosecutors failed to prove the law New Paltz Mayor Jason West was charged with violating was constitutional.

West had faced the possibility of fines or up to a year in jail for presiding at the weddings of more than two dozen same-sex couples on Feb. 27. The weddings drew the Hudson Valley village of New Paltz into the growing national debate over gay marriage.

West remains barred from marrying same-sex couples under an order issued earlier this week by another judge. But he and his lawyer E. Joshua Rosenkranz called Katz's ruling a major victory for gay rights.

``If history is any guide, this is the beginning of an unstoppable trend in New York,'' Rosenkranz said.


Long Live "Red Ken"

That incorrigible socialist from the "loony left" has won another term as mayor of London:

Ken Livingstone tonight lifted some of the gloom surrounding the Labour party when he won a second term as London mayor on a healthy majority.

Livingstone first caught my eye last year, due to statements on W:

London, 17 November 2003: In an exclusive interview with The Ecologist, London Mayor Ken Livingstone exposes the huge rift between himself and New Labour - all in the week that George Bush comes to London and the London Mayor is rumoured to be welcomed back as the Labour Party's official mayoral candidate.

The US President can look forward to a frosty reception today from the Mayor of London - who is holding a Peace Party at City Hall and is expected to take part in an alternative State Procession in protest against the expected red carpet treatment by Tony Blair and the Royal Family. Ken Livingstone commented:

On George W Bush
'I was in California over Easter and I was denounced by all and sundry for being rude about George Bush at the Stop the War Rally. Some US journalist came up to me and said, "How can you say this about president Bush?" Well, I think what I said then was quite mild. I actually think that Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction.'

'...I don't formally recognise George Bush because he was not officially elected. So, we are organising an alternative reception for everybody who is not George Bush...'


A Useful List

Before one more word is written about Reagan, all reporters need to print out this list and tape it next to their computers:

The House and Senate did not both come under Republican rule during Reagan's time.
The Berlin Wall did not come down when Reagan was in office.
Reagan is not the president who left office with the highest approval rating in modern times.
Reagan was not "the most popular president ever."
Reagan did not preside over the longest economic expansion in history.
Reagan did not shrink the size of government.
Reagan did preside over what was at the time the "biggest tax cut in history" but it was almost instantly followed up by the "biggest tax increase in history."
Reagan was not "beloved by all." He was loved by some, liked by some, and hated by some with good reason.


Compassionate Conservativism in Action

Social Darwinism at work in the South:

How's this for compassion? Mississippi has approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and the disabled that has ever been approved anywhere in the U.S.

The new policy will end Medicaid eligibility for some 65,000 low-income senior citizens and people with severe disabilities — people like Traci Alsup, a 36-year-old mother of three who was left a quadriplegic after a car accident.

The cut in eligibility for seniors and the disabled was the most dramatic component of a stunning rollback of services in Mississippi's Medicaid program. The rollback was initiated by the Republican-controlled State Senate and Mississippi's new governor, Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the national Republican Party. When he signed the new law on May 26, Mr. Barbour complained about taxpayers having to "pay for free health care for people who can work and take care of themselves and just choose not to."

The governor is free to characterize the victims of the cuts as deadbeats if he wants to. Others have described them as patients suffering from diseases like cerebral palsy and Alzheimer's, and people incapacitated by diabetes or heart disease or various forms of paralysis, and individuals struggling with the agony of schizophrenia or other forms of serious mental illness.

The 65,000 seniors and disabled individuals who will lose their Medicaid eligibility have incomes so low they effectively have no money to pay for their health care. The new law coldly reduces the maximum income allowed for an individual to receive Medicaid in Mississippi from an impecunious $12,569 per year to a beggarly $6,768.


Against Hagiography

Krugman speaks out against the many fantastic stories presently being spun about Reaganomics.

Here's a sample version of the legend: according to a recent article in The Washington Times, Ronald Reagan "crushed inflation along with left-wing Keynesian economics and launched the longest economic expansion in U.S. history." Actually, the 1982-90 economic expansion ranks third, after 1991-2001 and 1961-69 — but even that comparison overstates the degree of real economic success.

The secret of the long climb after 1982 was the economic plunge that preceded it. By the end of 1982 the U.S. economy was deeply depressed, with the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. So there was plenty of room to grow before the economy returned to anything like full employment.
There was, in short, nothing magical about the Reagan economy. The United States did, eventually, experience an economic miracle — but not until Bill Clinton's second term. Only then did the economy achieve a combination of rapid growth, low unemployment and quiescent inflation that confounded the conventional economic wisdom. (I'm aware, by the way, that this plain statement of fact will generate an avalanche of angry mail. Irrational Clinton hatred remains a powerful force in American life.)


National Day of Mourning

Master of soul Ray Charles dies at 73


Thursday, June 10, 2004

If He Smiles at You, Run Like Hell

I have said it before; anything Bush extols as worthwhile or exemplary had better watch its back.

Molly Ivins spells it out:

As Lily Tomlin observed, "No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up." But as Con Ed used to say, dig we must. Courtesy of David Sirota at, we find the following matches between word and deed:

Just before Memorial Day, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi said, "Our active military respond better to Republicans" because of "the tremendous support that President Bush has provided for our military and our veterans." The same day, the White House announced plans for massive cuts in veterans' health care for 2006.

Last January, Bush praised veterans during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The same day, 164,000 veterans were told the White House was "immediately cutting off their access to the VA health care system."

My favorite in this category was the short-lived plan to charge soldiers wounded in Iraq for their meals when they got to American military hospitals. The plan mercifully died a-borning after it hit the newspapers.

In January 2003, just before the war, Bush said, "I want to make sure that our soldiers have the best possible pay." A few months later, the White House announced it would roll back increases in "imminent danger" pay (from $225 to $150) and family separation allowance (from $250 to $100).

In October 2003, the president told troops, "I want to thank you for your willingness to heed the important call, and I want to thank your families." Two weeks later, the White House announced it opposed a proposal to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon's health insurance system, even though a recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one out of every five Guard members has no health insurance. What a nice thank you note.

A month before the war started, the White House proposed cutting $1.5 billion from funding for military housing. The House Armed Services Committee had concluded that thousands of military families were living "in decrepit and dilapidated military housing." Progressive lawmakers counter-proposed an amendment to restore $1 billion in housing funds and pay for it by reducing new tax cuts Bush was proposing for the 200,000 Americans who make more than $1 million a year. Instead of getting $88,000 in tax cuts, the poor millionaires would get only $83,000. The House, with White House backing, voted the proposal down. (All thanks to Sirota.)

And it goes on.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004


I had imagined that I would let Reagan's death pass as just another death. I have had little desire to comment to any great extent, and the task of commentary has been thoroughly addressed by vast hordes of well- and ill-wishers. On the one hand, we have the endless encomiums of the mainstream media, and on the other, critiques of the man and the politician, ranging from insightful analyses of his failures to crass celebrations of his ultimate debility.

All this is to be expected when such a man dies. But as the days creep along and Reagan's corpse makes its grisly rounds, I find myself less and less able simply to let it go, for one reason.


History planted Reagan right smack in the perfect position to head off a health crisis. A disaster. And Reagan shrugged. And laughed.

And so these days have been going by, since his death, and I have been reading words and words and words about him.

Here are mine:


They are dead now.

I don't recall when I first happened upon the bar where Bob worked, and where I would end up working much later. But I do recall that he owned that place with his presence, and we became friends quickly and remained friends for months and months.

And then he went on home to South Carolina for a visit, and then all of us were hearing that he had died of AIDS there in his parents' home.

And I don't recall when first I met JJ, who was crass and ornery and generally a pain in the ass, and who let me stay in his studio apartment as my first marriage was going down in flames. JJ, whose fevers kept getting hotter and hotter as he tried so many different regimens of drugs.

And I have no idea where Jay came from. Clever, and bitchy, and surprisingly kind. Journalist and drag queen and con artist. Jay was known as "Goddess" when performing, and it fit, on and off the stage.

Silence equals death.

When you are the president of the United States, your silence equals the death of hundreds and hundreds of thousands.

Some of them were my friends.


Leopoldo or the Bloom is on the Rye

That's chapter ten, line 524, for those keeping score.

But for a smaller though no less passionate audience, word that a new screen version of James Joyce's "Ulysses" is about to surface is of even more import.

Its appearance couldn't be more timely. June 16 marks Bloomsday, celebrated annually by Joyceans as the anniversary of the day that Joyce's fictional Leopold Bloom took his Odyssean stroll through the streets of Dublin, encountering the author's literary alter ego Stephen Dedalus before returning him to his lusty wife, Molly. And this coming Bloomsday is particularly significant because it will be the centennial of the date set forth in the novel -- June 16, 1904.

For first-time director Sean Walsh, it also will be the day on which much of the world -- or at least that part of the world that cares ardently about Joyce -- gets its first view of his new film, "Bloom," with Stephen Rea playing Bloom, Angelina Ball as Molly and Hugh O'Conor as Dedalus.

There's just something about unfilmable novels that makes people want to film them, I think.


Pure Evil

They need to throw away the key on this one:

A Jefferson Parish anti-abortion activist pretends to run an abortion clinic while using fear and delays to keep women pregnant until an abortion would be illegal, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
The suit accuses Graham of pretending to set up appointments at bargain prices, but stringing women along until it is too late. The plaintiffs — four women and a physician — ask the court to make their suit a class action.

They also say Graham should be forbidden to tell women he will arrange abortions, or to advertise under headings such as "abortion provider" or "abortion referrals" — or to use the name "Causeway," because a nearby abortion clinic has the same word in its name.
One plaintiff, Priscilla Cabrera, said she decided to get an abortion when she learned she was pregnant, and got Graham's number from the telephone book under "Abortion Services," according to a 46-page memorandum filed with the suit. She said Graham used an alias and told her he put women who want abortions in touch with private doctors who perform them for $125.

"Graham told Cabrera that, unlike the doctors he worked with, clinic doctors were unable to make it in the real world and that the clinics generally were unsafe. Graham told Cabrera that if an abortion was performed too early, it could be harmful to her health," it said.

Her first call was December 26, 2003. Graham said he would set up an appointment Jan. 10, but did not call Cabrera back for weeks, even though she called him repeatedly, the suit said.

When he finally spoke to her, he said a later abortion would be better for her health, and he could arrange for an abortion up to the 30th week of pregnancy, according to the memorandum.

Louisiana law allows abortions only during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.



They just keep coming, don't they? No matter how important the issue, the Bush administration will distort everything to their advantage, to the detriment of the nation.

The State Department is scrambling to revise its annual report on global terrorism to acknowledge that it understated the number of deadly attacks in 2003, amid charges that the document is inaccurate and was politically manipulated by the Bush administration.

When the most recent "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report was issued April 29, senior Bush administration officials immediately hailed it as objective proof that they were winning the war on terrorism. The report is considered the authoritative yardstick of the prevalence of terrorist activity around the world.

"Indeed, you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight" against global terrorism, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said during a celebratory rollout of the report.

But on Tuesday, State Department officials said they underreported the number of terrorist attacks in the tally for 2003, and added that they expected to release an updated version soon.

Several U.S. officials and terrorism experts familiar with that revision effort said the new report will show that the number of significant terrorist incidents increased last year, perhaps to its highest level in 20 years.


Stem Cell Conundrum

All of Bush's attempts to be dragged up to glory on Reagan's coattails this week have a bit of a hitch. And I am wondering, will Bush go along with the cult of Reagan, alienating his madly pro-life base?

Fifty-eight senators are asking President Bush to relax federal restrictions on stem cell research, and several said Monday that the late President Reagan's Alzheimer's disease underscored a need to expand the research using human embryos.

The senators' letter to Bush was sent Friday, before Reagan died after a long struggle with Alzheimer's.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said: "This issue is especially poignant given President Reagan's passing. Embryonic stem cell research might hold the key to a cure for Alzheimer's and other terrible diseases."


Reagan Memorial Orgy

They just need to simmer down a bit, I'd say:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, offered amendments on Monday to a defense bill to rename the Pentagon as well as the U.S. Missile Defense Agency after the former president.

Reagan is credited with helping win the Cold War with a massive defense build-up, including a space-based missile-defense program, that also contributed to record federal budget deficits.

Several Republicans, joined by a couple of Democrats, offered an amendment the same day to rename the pending defense measure the "Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005."

A Republican aide predicted the amendment to rename the authorization act would be overwhelmingly approved, but said it was unclear if Frist would push for a vote on his amendments.

On another front, Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, introduced legislation on Tuesday to have Reagan bump former Democratic President John F. Kennedy off the 50-cent piece.

Reagan would replace another Democrat, former President Andrew Jackson, on the $20 bill under a proposal by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, suggested Reagan appear on the $10 bill, now graced with a likeness of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first U.S. treasury secretary.

"The $10 bill is one of a number of options we are considering to honor Ronald Reagan," said McConnell, declining to elaborate. Others include a stamp, a commemorative coin or a medal to those who champion international peace.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Like Father, Like Son

Little W went into Iraq to avenge the attempt on his daddy, and while he's at it, he may as well continue the good work of the Elder Bush as regard the Kurds:

A crisis for the new Iraqi government loomed Tuesday as Kurdish leaders threatened to withdraw from the Iraqi state unless they received guarantees against Shiite plans to limit Kurdish self-rule.

In a letter to President Bush this week, the two main Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, wrote that the Kurds would "refrain from participating in the central government" in Baghdad if any attempt was made by the new government to nullify the interim Iraqi constitution adopted in March.

Shiite leaders have said repeatedly in recent weeks that they intend to remove parts of the interim constitution that essentially grant the Kurds veto power over the permanent constitution, which is scheduled to be drafted and ratified next year.

The Shiite leaders consider the provisions undemocratic, while the Kurds contend they are their only guarantee of retaining the rights to self-rule they gained in the past 13 years, protected from Saddam Hussein by United States warplanes.

Hell, it's so obviously mendacious that even Safire takes notice of it:

President Bush may be double-crossing the Kurds, our most loyal friends in Iraq.

Not a single U.S. soldier has been killed in the area of northern Iraq patrolled by the pesh merga, the army of Kurdish Iraqis who have brought order to their region. Savaged by Saddam's poison-gas attacks in the 80's, Kurdistan was abandoned by the first President Bush to Saddam's vengeance after the first gulf war. When our conscience made us provide air cover in the 90's, the Kurds amazed the Middle East by creating a free, democratic mini-state within despotic Iraq.


Protesting Too Much

Heightening the general level of maddening absurdity, Republicans are all upset because they claim that Democrats are playing politics with the new Medicare plan which just went into effect:

Republicans on Capitol Hill are accusing Democrats of deliberately trying to undermine the Medicare prescription drug discount program, saying they are playing on seniors' confusion for political gain.

In a finance committee hearing today, several GOP senators criticized Democrats Tuesday for their continued attacks on a program they say is designed to deliver much-needed prescription drug discounts to Medicare beneficiaries. Democrats counter that the program has delivered lower discounts than expected, is too complicated to help many seniors, and does little to force drug companies to lower their prices.

The attacks were perhaps the first sign that the drug card program has become fully politicized between political parties vying for support in the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.

The Democrats are playing on confusion for political gain?

At least they aren't illegally using public funds to do so, unlike some:

The Bush administration's promotion of the new Medicare law through videos made to look like news reports violated a prohibition against using public money for propaganda, the General Accounting Office said Wednesday.

The materials in English and Spanish did not identify the Health and Human Services Department as their source. The videos, or parts of them, aired on at least 40 television stations in March, the department said.

The GAO report was issued just as the administration was trying to blunt criticism of the new law by trumpeting discounts for people who use Medicare-approved drug cards when filling their prescriptions.

While there were several components to the video news releases, GAO faulted the administration for distributing seemingly independent, ready-to-air reports that did not inform viewers that they came from the government.

The story packages violated the law because the government "did not identify itself as the source of the news report," said GAO, Congress' investigative arm.

UPDATE: Clonecone comments (over at Atrios) on the Medicare situation:

BushCo's lies about the drug cards make my blood boil. I work on the team running the drug card system and I can tell you that the entire program is getting exponentially worse by the hour. It's a huge political time bomb and it will go off sometime in July or early August. Only a few thousand people have their cards and they are all pissed. Millions more will get their in the next few weeks. Medicare isn't ramped up enough to cover the complaint calls. Bush could lose on this issue all by itself.

I look forward to the show.


War on Terror?

The right-wingers have repeatedly mocked Kerry inaccurately as being a wimp when it comes to the "war on terror" because he has stated that it is more properly approached as a matter for investigative and enforcement bodies than for armies.

Well, Kerry's right.

In a coordinated strike across Europe, police arrested 17 suspected Islamic militants, including an alleged mastermind of the Madrid train bombings who authorities say was planning further attacks, officials said Tuesday.

Fifteen people, mostly Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan and Egyptian nationals, were arrested in raids on about 10 locations in Brussels and Antwerp, said Daniel Bernard, Belgian federal prosecutor.

Italian police picked up two suspects, including a 33-year-old Egyptian described as the ringleader who allegedly helped plan the March 11 attacks in Madrid that killed 191 people.

Playing nice with other countries certainly does come in handy in rooting out Islamic militants. Too bad it isn't an approach this administration considers all that interesting.


Subliminal Condi

I have no idea why, but the ads for the remake of The Stepford Wives show a fleeting image of Hillary morphing into a Stepford Wife and one of Condi Rice appearing as though she is topless.

Very odd.
Link via BlogJosh.


Greater Sexual Freedom

I know certain pharmacists who aren't going to like this one bit:

A potentially groundbreaking cultural shift is afoot thanks to Barr Pharmaceutical's new oral contraceptive, Seasonale. Woman who choose to use this product choose to menstruate only a few times a year.


Ashcroft: Contemptuous

I know, that is hardly news. But he may end up being called on it this time:

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, warned that he might be risking a contempt citation from Congress, told lawmakers he won't release or discuss memoranda that news reports say offered justification for torturing suspected terrorists.
Senator Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, challenged Ashcroft to say whether he was invoking executive privilege in refusing to give Congress the Justice Department memos. Ashcroft said he wasn't invoking executive privilege.

``You might be in contempt of Congress, then,'' Biden replied. ``You have to have a reason. You better come up with a good rationale.''

Later, Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Ashcroft had to cite a federal statute to justify not sharing the requested information. Ashcroft replied that his refusal was ``protected by the doctrine of separation of powers in the Constitution.'' Durbin shot back, ``You are not citing a law.''

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and chairman of the committee, asked Ashcroft whether the memos in question are classified. After consulting with staff members, Ashcroft replied, ``Some of these memos might be classified in some ways, and for some purposes.''

Durbin called that answer ``an evasion.''

I'm not saying I expect it to happen, but I would love to see Ashcroft cited for this latest bit of arrogance.


Ad Nauseam

How many more times will two such paragraphs have to be juxtaposed?

But the White House's cautious hope that violence had diminished in Iraq was shattered in an eruption of violence Tuesday.

Two car bombs exploded in separate cities, killing at least 14 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier. Dozens were wounded, including 10 American soldiers. A U.S. Marine was killed in action west of Baghdad, and elsewhere, six coalition soldiers -- two Poles, three Slovaks and a Latvian -- were killed while defusing mines.


Escalating the Desecration

I hope this never comes to pass:

An Ohio state representative wants to see President Ronald Reagan's image added to Mount Rushmore.

Rep. Ron Young, R-Painesville, introduced a resolution Monday requesting Congress to add the former president's image to the South Dakota landmark.

The Native Americans have suffered enough without having to look at Reagan's face carved into sacred lands stolen from them:

The insult of Rushmore to some Sioux is at least three-fold:

1. It was built on land the government took from them.
2. The Black Hills in particular are considered sacred ground.
3. The monument celebrates the European settlers who killed so many Native Americans and appropriated their land.


Our Success in Afghanistan

I have noticed of late that people who are still convinced that the Iraq misadventure was worth it often bring up Afghanistan as evidence of the benevolence and competence of America as Bringers of Democracy.

The realities, of course, are much less simple and much less pleasant:

President Hamid Karzai has accepted the support of powerful mujahedeen leaders for the presidential elections scheduled for September, indicating he will continue an alliance with them in a future government. His move has dismayed many Afghans who were hoping that the nation's first democratic elections would herald an end to the power of the warlords, who have dominated politics for the past decade.

Meanwhile, certain sectors of the economy are flourishing:

Ismail is only 10, but the horrors of his kidnapping ordeal will probably be with him to his grave, according to Monday's China Daily.

Rescued by Afghan authorities on Friday after three months in captivity along with his six-year-old brother Ibrahim, he quietly recounted seeing the bodies of four boys of about his age that had been cut open.

"They took us to a mountain where I saw the bodies of four dead boys," he told Reuters on Sunday at the intelligence headquarters of Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan.

"They had taken out the organs from the bodies. They were on the ground at the bottom of this mountain, then the men took them away to bury them. They were boys of about our age. I thought I would not live long when I saw them. I was scared."
"We have information that they (the kidnappers) killed five children, cutting their heads off and opening their stomachs to extract their kidneys," Laghmani told Reuters in an interview.

He believes the kidnappers, involved in a worrying rise in the number of disappearing children across the country, planned to sell the kidneys in Pakistan where people are prepared to pay large amounts of money to get hold of healthy organs.


A United Nations top anti-drug official on Saturday described the rampant poppy cultivation in post-war Afghanistan as a complex issue and expressed his deepest concern over it.

"What I see is the situation became more complex because the drug economy is becoming much more sophisticated," Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drug and Crime, told reporters at a news conference here.

Having toured several Afghan provinces and held talks with Afghan transitional government president Hamid Karzai as well as local officials, regional leaders, religious figures and commanders, Costa said the drug economy was on rise in the war-ravaged nation.

"The situation is not worse but it is much complicated than that," he stressed.

Advocating his argument, Costa said that up to three years ago the country was exporting about 3,000 to 4,000 tons of narcotics, of which between 8 percent and 9 percent was opium.

"Today between 8 and 9 percent is heroin, that is a dramatic change," he argued.


Nazi Tactics

According to the tail end of a New York Times story, we have been emulating the most skilled of fascist states:

But forced nudity of prisoners was pervasive in the military intelligence unit of Abu Ghraib, so much so that soldiers later said they had not seen "the whole nudity thing," as one captain called it, as abusive or out of the ordinary.
Nudity is considered particularly shameful in Muslim culture, a violation of religious principles. While nudity as a disciplinary or coercive tool may be especially objectionable to Muslims, they are hardly the only victims of the practice. Soldiers in Nazi Germany paraded naked prisoners in daylight, and human rights groups have documented the use of nudity during conflicts in Egypt, Chile and Turkey, and in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Central Intelligence Agency training manuals from the 1960's and 1980's taught the stripping of prisoners as an interrogation tool. Nudity and sexual humiliation have also been reported in American prisons where a number of guards at Abu Ghraib worked in their civilian lives.


Monday, June 07, 2004

The Death of a Great American

No, no. Not that guy that all the networks have been fawning over for days now.

Victor Reuthel.

Victor Reuther, the last of three brothers who helped unionize Detroit amid the labor strife of the 1930's and remained central to the growth of industrial unionism for the next third of the century, died on Thursday in Washington. He was 92.

His death was announced by his family and Ron Gettelfinger, president of what is now the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America in Detroit, which says it has 710,000 active members in the United States and Canada.

Victor, along with his older brothers Roy and, especially, Walter, was at the center of a momentous struggle for union contracts to improve wages and working conditions. Victor Reuther, the more intellectually oriented, left-leaning sibling, came to represent the union's educational aspirations for its members. More important, he was its envoy on the international stage.

The Reuther brothers helped to build the union, originally known as the United Automobile Workers and still known as the U.A.W., as an agent representing assembly-line workers. While their work initially focused on automobile workers in the United States, it had a national and international impact both within and beyond the labor movement.

The U.A.W. now represents workers in disparate sectors of the economy, ranging from small manufacturers to multinational corporations, as well as colleges, hospitals and nonprofit organizations.
During his years as a trade union activist," Mr. Gettelfinger, the union's president, said yesterday, "Victor displayed great personal courage and endured great personal risk for the right of workers to organize. He faced tear gas and billy clubs during the U.A.W. organizational campaigns of the 1930's, and was a victim of an assassination attempt in 1949."

On that occasion, Mr. Reuther and his wife, Sophia, had just returned from Europe. A shotgun was fired through their living room window as they sat reading one night, in an attack that resembled an attempt on his brother Walter's life the year before.

Victor was struck in the face and neck and blinded in one eye. Weeks later he addressed the U.A.W. convention. The crime was never solved.


Spreading Literacy

Well, I suppose this plan is better than f*cking chickens:

In a bid to lure men in Britain away from TV soccer games and into book shops, publisher Penguin Books will send out a sexy model to offer 1,000-pound ($1,837) prizes to males spotted reading a selected title.

The publicity ploy, launched Monday, aims to boost sales among men, who on average buy fewer books than women.

"It's to sex up the book industry, which probably needs it, but also to address the more serious issue that reading has fallen off the radar of younger men," said Neil Griffiths, author of Penguin-published "Betrayal in Naples."


Great Sucking Sound

The Iraq misadventure now involves redeployment of some troops from South Korea to the Middle East. Of course, Iraq is not the sole reason for the decision to move troops out of South Korea. However, the reasons they are giving--that we need to make the transition to fewer troops and rely more on technology--are strikingly reminiscent of their failed dreams of a cakewalk in Iraq:

The United States plans to cut its troops in South Korea by a third by the end of next year, as part of a worldwide shift to use higher technology in defense, the two countries said Monday.

Although communist North Korea's 1.1-million-strong armed forces dwarf the 37,500 U.S. troops currently in the south, any reduction is closely watched because the contingent's symbolic value outweighs its numerical strength. Ally South Korea has 690,000 troops.

"U.S. officials told us last night that under their Global Defense Posture Review they are planning to reduce the number of U.S. troops here by 12,500 by the end of December 2005," Kim Sook, head of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's North America bureau, told reporters.

That would include 3,600 U.S. soldiers already earmarked for deployment to Iraq from South Korea in the coming months.

The Pentagon in Washington and U.S. forces in South Korea confirmed that the reduction "concept" had been presented to South Korea and that a concrete timetable was being worked out in bilateral consultations.

Washington announced late last year that it aimed to transform its forces worldwide and use advances in military technology and smaller more mobile units to better respond to new security needs and fight the war on terrorism.


Utterly Vile

I normally don't pay much attention to the "big celebrity stories," since they tend not to matter at all. But this story is so phenomenally over-the-top that I have to post it here:

O.J. Simpson marked the 10th anniversary of his ex-wife's death with a series of crass and hurtful comments about Nicole Brown Simpson, her family and the accusers of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson.

His outbursts ranged from anger at his slain ex-wife for not being around to help with the kids to a flippant remark that Fred Goldman - whose only son died next to Nicole - "got such opportunity from this with TV exposure."

The disgraced former football great also revealed he may get his own practical-jokes reality show - a takeoff on MTV's "Punk'd" that might be called "Juiced."

Simpson talked with Fox News Channel in anticipation of the upcoming anniversary of his ex-wife's murder. His unfeeling comments reopened old wounds with Nicole's family and left Goldman stunned with fury.

"No one should give any credence to a lying...low-life like he is," Goldman told the Daily News.

Some of Simpson's most inflammatory remarks were made in defense of Bryant and Jackson, saying both would win their cases. He said Bryant, who is charged with bending a 19-year-old hotel receptionist over a chair and raping her after she came to his room at night, may be a victim of his NBA fame.

Many high-profile athletes "have found themselves in a situation like that before. I have, certainly, in my life," he told Fox's Greta Van Susteren.

"And when I was a kid growing up, just about every girl said 'No,' once," Simpson said with a laugh. "You know they had to because you'd think they were a slut or something." In his politically incorrect outburst, Simpson even made light of the rape allegation. "In my opinion, 'date rape' and 'stranger rape' are two different things entirely," he said.

In an apparent reference to the sexual positions of Bryant and his accuser during the alleged rape, he said, "Any adult who has an active sex life understands that you can't have sex that way without both parties helping out. It's impossible."

These statements are flat-out sociopathic. With such beliefs, I am truly amazed that Simpson has not committed (another) felony (yet).


So Much for the Constitution

Josh Marshall reports that we now, in fact, live in a dictatorship, with all authority concentrated in the person of George W. Bush:

I quote from the piece ...

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

Rule of law? Who needs it!

UPDATE: Billmon at the Whiskey Bar offers up an interesting concept to help us understand this position:

I used a term in an earlier post - Fuehrerprinzip - that probably should be defined. This one is as good as any:

A concept outlined by Hitler in his book Mein Kampf. According to this concept the new German State must be an authoritarian State with power emanating from the leader at the top. Already in 1921 Hitler insisted that the Fuehrerprinzip be the law of the Nazi party. He denounced democracy as nonsense, and argued that parliamentarism would be succeeded by the absolute responsibility of a leader and an elite of assistant leaders.


Star Wars

David Ehrenstein has an interesting post up about Reagan's acting career, but he neglects to mention what may well be one of the most significant movies of the past century, given its substantial influence on American nuclear policy.

The movie? Murder in the Air, starring Ronald Reagan. In the movie, Reagan's character is given the mission to protect a device (the "Inertia Protector") that can destroy all bombs before they hit the U.S.

What more can one say?


Everything's Bigger in Texas

Especially the intolerance. Look at what those wacky Texas Republicans are up to now (and wonder silently to yourself that there is such an organization as the "Texas Log Cabin Republicans"):

A group of gay Republicans brought to President Bush's back yard Thursday a TV commercial opposing the constitutional gay-marriage ban that the president has endorsed.

Appearing at the Texas Republican Convention, where their group has been denied space in the past, leaders of Log Cabin Republicans also pledged to fight GOP members who use the gay marriage issue to divide voters.

"The radical right wanted a cultural war, and now they have it," said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the national group. "We simply will not remain silent during this election year if gay and lesbian families are being used as wedge issues."

Mr. Guerriero said gay and lesbian Republicans have supported Mr. Bush's other policies, including the war with Iraq and his tax cuts.

As Log Cabin Republicans made their pitch, a party committee recommended that the state make it a felony for a government official in Texas to license or perform a same-sex marriage.

The party's Permanent Platform Committee, then the full convention, will consider that and other recommendations.

"I don't understand them," Houston delegate and platform committee member Norman Adams said of the Log Cabin activists. "They are probably attracted to the party because of our stand against increased taxes and other issues. But we believe that marriage should be between a natural man and a natural woman."


One-Issue Liberals

I am all in favor of anyone who chooses to work to further the cause of social justice, compassion, and basic humanity. However, I sometimes do get sick of conservatives who work for intolerance in every way they can think of, but have a "change of heart" about one issue because it happens to affect them or someone close to them, and fail to generalize their newfound compassion and wisdom to any other area.

For example:

Mrs. Reagan, whose early White House years were marked by her interests in designer clothes and social events, turned into nothing less than an advocate for Alzheimer's causes and stem-cell research. Supporters say such research could aid the fight against Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and other serious health problems. The Bush administration has limited how government money can be spent on embryonic stem-cell research because it involves the destruction of human embryos.
Though Mrs. Reagan never publicly criticized President Bush on the issue, several friends of hers said Sunday that Mrs. Reagan had been especially disappointed that Mr. Bush, and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, were not as supportive on stem-cell research as she had hoped. "It angered her," Mrs. Ribicoff said. "And I think when Nancy gets her body and heart back together, she's going to work feverishly for stem-cell research and the Ronald Reagan library."
Mrs. Reagan grew interested in the issue through Douglas Wick, a film producer who was named a pallbearer for the funeral and whose ftather, Charles Z. Wick, ran the United States Information Agency under Mr. Reagan. One of the producer's daughters, Tessa Wick, became ill with diabetes in 1999 at the age of 8. Mrs. Reagan soon became engaged in the stem-cell issue after talking to Mr. Wick and his wife, Lucy Fisher, also a producer.

Three years ago, Mrs. Reagan quietly wrote to Mr. Bush saying that she hoped to spare other families what hers had suffered and that stem-cell research could be part of her husband's legacy. Since then, Mrs. Reagan has operated discreetly, making phone calls, sending letters and trying to avoid colliding with the Bush White House.

But early last month, in an unusual public appearance, Mrs. Reagan told a dinner sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this, I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."

Stem-cell research has been blocked for years by fundamentalist, right-wing Christians. These same conservatives dictated a great deal of Reagan's policies throughout the eighties, setting women's reproductive rights back substantially. But now, suddenly, Nancy Reagan has had an epiphany. Again, that's all well and good.

But it'd be nice if conservatives could also practice empathy, and work for what is right before it becomes purely a matter of personal loss.


Sunday, June 06, 2004

Bill Clinton, Heretic

How dare he?

He had one sharp line about W. that got the biggest applause — "Politics is not religion and we should govern on the basis of evidence, not theology."


Perhaps We Should Take a Lesson

from Bangladesh:

"We always have worked under the blue helmet," [Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan] said, referring to the trademark headgear of international peacekeepers operating under the auspices of the United Nations.

"We also always said that we'll go to any country at the call of that country and when we know that we are welcome," Khan said.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh is one of the world's largest providers of peacekeeping forces, with 7,000 soldiers currently deployed on 10 U.N. missions.

But then again, I doubt the present trip to Bangaladesh is what you'd call a "teachable moment" as far as Rumsfeld is concerned:

Thousands of anti-American protesters took to Dhaka's streets on Friday and Saturday to renounce Rumsfeld's visit, calling him a war criminal.