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Friday, June 30, 2006

World Cup Open thread


Friday, June 30, 2006
Jun 30 11:00 ET Germany v Argentina
Match 57
Jun 30 15:00 ET Italy v Ukraine
Match 58

In Italy, a Scandal Overshadows a Quest

Published: June 30, 2006

THIS World Cup may well be defined not by a goal scorer with flashing feet but by a man who was found broken in a driveway in Italy, clutching rosary beads. Nothing that happens on the 12 playing fields of Germany in this tournament may compare with the sad story of Gianluca Pessotto, a world-class player for Italy, apparently leaping out of the office of his club, Juventus, on Tuesday.

Pessotto was in serious condition in Turin yesterday, his life in doubt, according to hospital officials. Italian soccer is also in serious condition, plagued by a scandal involving the possible fixing of matches, including those of Juventus.

There is no suspicion that this World Cup, involving national teams, is dirty, but with one of the great leagues being investigated, the entire sport is under a pall, even as the Italians play Ukraine tonight in Hamburg and host Germany plays Argentina in Berlin, in the quarterfinals. If the Italian scandal is really that bad, what can we think about any league?

The trial began yesterday in Rome, but was adjourned until Monday, not in deference to Pessotto but to give people more time to prepare. The trial is to be held in a conference room in Olympic Stadium, the beautiful arena used for many of the 1990 World Cup matches, including the grim final between West Germany and Argentina. The stadium they call Olimpico is in a beautiful setting, above the Tiber River, with gardens and pools and marble patios. Now it is the scene of an inquisition.

Pessotto is not under investigation in this scandal, but his apparent suicide attempt is a symbol of the dark side of soccer. After retiring as a player last year, Pessotto, 35, was elevated to the job of team manager in the wake of the departure of Luciano Moggi, known as Lucky Luciano to Italians who are into English-language alliteration.

Moggi resigned amid allegations that he had sought favorable referees to work matches of Juventus, the team of the Agnelli family, the team of Fiat, the team of 29 Italian championships. I have been watching Serie A on Sunday mornings since the late 1980's, when civilization (that is to say, Italian soccer) finally arrived, all fuzzy and scratchy, on my UHF channel, before cable made it all clear how marvelous European soccer is.

•On some of those Sunday mornings, I saw strange sights. Juventus often seemed to get one extra break a match — a dubious offside call, a phantom foul, an inexplicable out-of-bounds decision. Yankee Luck, we used to call it back in Brooklyn.

There are prosecutors who think they have evidence, some of it on wire tap, that Juventus — and maybe A.C. Milan and Lazio and mercurial Fiorentina — had an edge in some of their matches.

It isn't hard for the lone ranger of a referee to have an impact on a match. Assuming the best of motives, we've seen some strange calls in this World Cup: One ref couldn't process the three yellow cards he had shown to the same player, one more than the normal limit. Another ref handed out 16 yellow cards because he had lost control. Another ref called a highly marginal penalty kick against an American defender. (I recalled Casey Stengel's famous explanation about why the umpires called plays against his dreadful Mets: "They stick it to us because we are rotten," Casey said, sort of.) Another ref called for a penalty kick against an Australian defender who was sprawled on the ground — a call that gave Italy a 1-0 victory and a spot in the quarterfinals.

posted by Steve @ 10:53:00 PM

10:53:00 PM

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Lee Siegel: I'm, an insane lunatic

I wear this nearly every day, Siegel.


There are few places on earth, as far as I'm concerned, where the light, especially in late afternoon, in summer, is more beautiful than on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It's a river light, soft and gently diffused. It gets delicately soaked into the sides of buildings, splashes the windshields of the yellow cabs coasting down Broadway, washes up against the green wall of the park that runs along the Hudson.

Come evening, everyone pours into Riverside Park from the Upper West Side's hybrid neighborhoods: older couples from the squat elegant buildings on West End Avenue, students from Columbia's carefully patrolled Morningside Heights, Hispanic kids and young couples from Amsterdam Avenue's brightly awned streets, young professionals recently moved into the new luxury high-rises that have sprouted up along the Upper West Side's left-liberal alley--the glassy new buildings like lost guests who've wandered into a noisy party meeting instead of the stiff, reserved dinner party they were headed to. And everyone covered in golden light in the green park. You feel the possibility of naturalness in humanity, and of humanity in nature. You feel at ease.

And then you go to a nice restaurant and sit down next to some troglodyte wearing... A BASEBALL CAP.

Oh how I hate these things. I didn't mind them when a few people wore them. Then it served as the rudimentary expression of taste, or as the vague outline of identity. But soon everyone began putting them on their heads. It's gotten so black kids from the ghetto have to wear them with the bill pulled down over their eyes just so they won't be mistaken for yuppie bankers


What are you doing? Why is this in your magazine? I know you run fake e-mails and all, but come on, no editor should have let this lunacy see the light of day. I mean, attributing words to me I didn't write and then offering up a churlish apology is one thing, but this?

I mean this reflects rather poorly on your editorial judgment. This is nonsense, drivel, the kind of thing us proto-fascists are laughing at, turning your magazine into an online laughing stock.

Come on, didn't some editor ever tell you not to jerk off in print? Now, we have to mock this insane column because it is insane. It didn't need to see the light of day. But it did.

Baseball caps. Fake e-mails. What's next, naked women, the hottest babes of the hill?

posted by Steve @ 11:44:00 AM

11:44:00 AM

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Why teachers have unions

Dignity matters

I posted up on this earlier in the week. Here is the UFT's post from their edwise blog. The details here are freaking amazing

Do charter schools need unions?

Filed under: Charter School, Labor — Leo Casey @ 12:30 pm

Ask Nichole Byrne Lau. Ask her former students.

A second career teacher with a M.A. from Teachers’ College, Nichole taught English for the last two years at the Williamsburg Charter High School in Brooklyn. She received laudatory evaluations and recommendations from the principal, from the school’s director of instruction and from the school’s director of special needs and academic support. They commended her “hard work and dedication,” and described her as “a passionate, high energy teacher” and “a dedicated and caring teacher.” They praised her work with “special needs students to help them make great gains in their reading and writing ability.”

Students were no less lavish in their praise. Formal student evaluations placed in Nichole’s personnel file describe her as a “great,” “very good,” and “wonderful” teacher. “She is always on task and keeps us interested in our lessons,” one student explained. “She is so organized and helps us to do better in class,” wrote another student. “She always has everything planned out so well and everyone is able to pass the class.”

“Your relationship with the students is what is really stellar,” Principal Marsha Spampinato wrote to Nichole in a year-end evaluation. “Students know when people care for them and are not paying ‘lip service’. They understand that you are interested in them as individuals as well as students. This helps greatly in the rapport that you have with your classes…”

Nichole’s supervisors at the Williamsburg Charter High School thought so highly of her work, that when Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein came to visit this spring, they showcased her class. In his March newsletter to New Yorkers, Klein wrote about a lesson Nichole taught to her ninth grade English class on Homer’s Odyssey which engaged the students to think critically about the gods of Greek mythology.

But that was March. Shortly thereafter, Nichole shared with other teachers in the school the salary schedule for teachers in the New York City Department of Education. Although teachers at Williamsburg had many more teaching contact hours, and far less preparation time, than NYC school teachers, they found that they earned considerably less than their public school counterparts. Nichole reached out to the UFT, through this blog, asking what her rights were and how she might secure them. She and a second teacher asked Eddie Calderon-Melendez, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Williamsburg Charter High School, how salaries were set, and if there was a schedule for the school. A third teacher began to ask questions about why the quarterly reports of teachers’ 401-K plans did not show that the school was depositing the funds that were part of their remuneration for their work.

The response to these inquiries came in the form of a June 8th memorandum from Calderon-Melendez to all Williamsburg staff on the subject of “Personnel Policies.” He wrote: “I am resolute on the vision and mission of the school as designed, developed and articulated by me. It is particularly important to understand that this requires a clear understanding of what the school is, will be and what it will and won’t be as articulated by Myself and the Founding Principal.” [Capitalization and syntax from original.] “Feel free to make an appointment to see me,” he went on, “if there any questions or concerns you have in regards to anything involving your employment or the school.”

Shortly before the issuance of this memo, Calderon-Melendez began a series of meetings with school staff. In the meeting with Nichole, he told her that he was ending her employment at the school. She asked for a reason. He replied that he did not have to give her a reason, as she was an “at will” employee who could be let go for any reason whatsoever. He did allow, however, that it had nothing to do with her teaching. [Charter school management who oppose unionization often argue “at will” employment is essential for ensuring the quality of their teaching staff.] “I was devastated,” Nichole says. The teacher who had inquired about the missing 401-K contributions was also dismissed.

UFT President Randi Weingarten has written letters to Calderon-Melendez, Chancellor Klein and the Associate Commissioner of the New York State Education Department, Sheila Evans-Tranumn, condemning the firings and calling for a full investigation of improprieties at Williamsburg Charter High School. [The State Education Department has responsibility for the oversight of charter schools.] “As president of the New York City teachers union, a labor leader and an educator, I am appalled by what you have done,” Weingarten told Calderon-Melendez, “and will do everything in my power to both publicize and right this wrong.”

Nichole applied for a position teaching English at one of New York City’s very best public high schools, Brooklyn Tech, which hired her last week. Having quickly landed on her feet, Nichole now says “I will never again work in a school where I don’t belong to a union.” Her dismissed colleague was hired at a top private New York City school.

Today, all of the New York City daily newspapers have reports on her firing. See the New York Times article, the New York Daily News article, the New York Post article and the New York Sun article.

For the most part, Calderon-Melendez ducked reporters’ calls on the firings. But he did speak to New York Daily News reporter Erin Einhorn, and engaged in the type of gutter smear that says everything about the sort of person who makes it. “She hates children and she’s a racist,” he said by way of explanation for his actions. [A later print edition of the Times also carried the accusations.]

Amazing, isn’t it, that the same person who was highly praised by both her supervisors and her students for her caring, her dedication and her relationship with her students, could “hate children” and be “a racist”? Just as amazing, isn’t it, that students would hand in a petition with four pages of signatures demanding the re-hiring of a teacher who “hates” them? Nichole, who is a Quaker that feels so strongly about opposing bigotry that she agreed to be the unpaid faculty advisor for Williamsburg’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said she “was floored” by Calderon-Melendez’s slander.

But we have to admit that having seen what had already taken place, we at Edwize were not surprised. There are reasons why the Calderon-Melendezes of the charter world don’t want their teachers represented by unions. Those reasons have nothing to do with the quality of teaching the students receive, and everything to do with the exercise of absolute, unquestioned authority by Those In Power.

That is why teachers in charter schools, like teachers in other public schools, need unions. And it is also why, as the case of Nichole Byrne Lau so pointedly illustrates, students in charter schools need to have their teachers protected by unions. If there was a union at the Williamsburg Charter High School, the students in that school would still have one great, wonderful teacher of English.

Charters were sold as a way to have "school innovation", but in reality has more to do with cutting costs than innovating anything. For Bryne Lau to be hired at Brooklyn Tech pretty much refutes the crap her former boss has been libeling her with. To call a Quaker a racist without proof? Wow. That sounds like petty, spitful, libelous behavior to me.

Oh yeah, not funding the 401K is more than a labor dispute, it's also actionable.

There is a LOT of bullshit going on with these schools, from NEST+m inexplixable student selection standards which wind up with a school 48 percent white in a school system 81 percent non-white, to the Boys Choir of Harlem protecting a child molester, to this.

Then Pataki and Bloomberg go to the state and demand more charter schools because they provide the illusion of progress while cutting wages, benefits and protections. If Charter schools provided a massive advantage over public schools, this could be defended, but there is no evidence that it does.

Union protections are only one needed step to ensure these schools are run with some oversight. Clealy, there needs to be better fiscal oversight of these schools as well. Part of the reason that charters were formed was because of the perception thatthe UFT was a roablock to educational reform, an idea strongly pushed by the right-wing Manhattan Institute.

The problem seems to be, however, that the kinds of nepotism and less than honest dealings which come in it's wake seem to outweigh any advantges that not following a few union rules brings.

With Spizter likely to win in a landslide, and the State Senate likely to turn Democratic this term or next, a lot of these rules are going to change, like the long term miserable relationship between the workers and the MTA. New rules need to be put in place to end the nonsense which has been created by employer-friendly Republican governments

posted by Steve @ 10:08:00 AM

10:08:00 AM

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Are you kidding me?

G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times
The draft picks Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins,
with team president and coach Isiah Thomas, should
help beef up the Knicks' defense.

What's the Deal? Thomas Is in No Rush to Trade

Published: June 30, 2006

REENBURGH, N.Y., June 29 — Isiah Thomas the coach surveys the roster assembled by Isiah Thomas the president and likes what he sees — so much so that the Knicks might be unusually quiet this summer.

The Knicks won just 23 games last season, and their two draft picks — forward Renaldo Balkman and guard Mardy Collins — are not expected to make a major impact. Yet Thomas, the man with two job titles and a one-year ultimatum, said he was satisfied with his team.

"If we have to open the season today, I'm pretty comfortable with what we have," Thomas said Thursday, after the Knicks introduced their two rookies.

It was a curious assessment, or maybe just a spectacular smoke screen. For months, N.B.A. executives have speculated that the Knicks were collecting chips — big-name players, expiring contracts and prospects — to make a blockbuster trade. The names of Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Allen Iverson and Al Harrington have been floated as potential targets.

"And my job still is to check into those names that have been floated about," Thomas said. But, he added later: "I'm not here waiting for Santa Claus to come save us. I was told early on, we didn't have any money and there was no Santa Claus. And I'm not looking for this great player to come save the day for us. The guys that we have, we'll make them better and we got a job to do. Nobody's coming to save us."

The wrong man got fired.

I would say more, but you can only curse for so long before people get bored.

Dolan and Thomas deserve each other.

posted by Steve @ 1:05:00 AM

1:05:00 AM

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So when does the race card comes out?

Playing the race card?

Kean Is Preparing a Campaign Film Against Menendez in the Style of a Swift Boat Ad

Published: June 30, 2006

The Republican candidate for the United States Senate in New Jersey, Thomas H. Kean Jr., intends to make a campaign film that accuses his Democratic opponent, Robert Menendez, of "being wrapped up in the rackets for 30 years" despite public records and statements by former federal prosecutors that contradict Mr. Kean's most serious charges.

Mr. Kean's chief campaign consultant, Matt Leonardo, a strategist for Republican candidates, disclosed the plans in an interview and said the film would be "very similar" in purpose to the commercials used to attack the military record of John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race.

Kean campaign officials have sought to erode their opponent's public biography, charging that virtually every moment of Mr. Menendez's career has been mired in graft and bossism. That includes his early days in Union City, where Mr. Menendez has said that he acted to thwart a racketeering scheme involving his own political associates and organized crime figures — a claim that is documented in public records and corroborated by independent authorities.

Nevertheless, the Kean campaign will challenge that biography in "a long-form film," Mr. Leonardo said, just as commercials broadcast in 2004 attacked Mr. Kerry's military record. Those commercials, relying on claims by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, purported to expose Mr. Kerry's military decorations as exaggerated or fraudulent. Although the premise and many elements of the Swift boat advertisements were strongly disputed, as a whole they were seen as successful in hobbling the Kerry campaign.

"The similarity between the Swift boat ads and this movie — you have two individuals who have told stories for a political purpose and the facts just don't jibe," Mr. Leonardo said. "And these two individuals were able to get away with telling it their way for more than a decade and a half. I would say it's very similar in that way."

Mr. Kean's most serious charge is that Mr. Menendez was "part of a massive illegal kickback scheme" as a Union City official in 1978, and not the courageous truth teller depicted in his résumé. Mr. Kean charges that Mr. Menendez cooperated with prosecutors to keep himself out of jail.

Mr. Kean's charges are not, however, supported by the public record and were repudiated by independent authorities including the four assistant United States attorneys who prosecuted Union City officials of that era for racketeering and corruption. There is no truth, those former officials say, to the Kean campaign's charge that Mr. Menendez made a deal to keep himself out of prison.

The prosecutors said the actions of Mr. Menendez, as the secretary of the Union City Board of Education from 1978 to 1982, were "gutsy" and "courageous." They said he was never in legal jeopardy. During a four-month trial in 1981 and 1982, the corrupt contractor at the center of the scheme testified that Mr. Menendez created headaches for the plotters when he balked at processing fraudulent paperwork needed for a kickback scheme.

He said that the film would not rely on money from a 527 committee, the type of tax-exempt but politically active organization that financed the Swift boat commercials attacking Mr. Kerry.

Both he and Ms. Hazelbaker said that the source — campaign money as opposed to a 527 committee — was the primary distinction between the Swift boat commercials and the planned film on Mr. Menendez.

"They're similar," Ms. Hazelbaker said, "in the sense both intended to expose facts about biography."

The Menendez campaign said the film would damage Mr. Kean.

"A lie is a lie, no matter how many times Tom Kean Jr. repeats it," said Matt Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Menendez. "He already has been exposed as a fraud. He has destroyed his credibility, and he is on a fast track to ruining a respected family name."

I, personally, never heard a word about Bob Menendez being corrupt. I covered northern Hudson County, my friends covered Northern Hudson County. Never heard a word of the man being on the take. Jim Dwyer never heard a word either and he covered the corruption trials.

And Hudson County was jammed packed with crooks, just filled with them. To go after Menendez in this way not only reeks of stupidity, but of racism. Tom Kean is making up shit contrary to the record and I can only believe it is to convince central Jersey independents that they can't trust the Latino from crooked Hudson County.

There can't be any other strategy behind this. It's Willie Horton, 2006.

Tom Kean is playing with fire. Because North Jersey pols do not play easy. He better not have a girlfriend or a crooked buddy in the mix. And he better watch the Spanish language media. Because Bob Menendez has friends, and they are not the easygoing people Kean grew up with. They play for keeps. And this unwarranted attack isn't going to go down like the Swift Boat, Menedez is going to come out swinging and he should. This stuff borders on libel.

The one thing I can say is that when everyone was around Menendez and stealing, he wasn't. He helped the cops, which could have gotten his corspe left in Liberty State Park next to the dead dogs and roosters from the Santeria ceremonies.

posted by Steve @ 12:43:00 AM

12:43:00 AM

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Run, Rudy Run

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press
Former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik
in September 2003.

As Ex-Police Commissioner Goes to Court, Questions Persist About Background Check

Published: June 30, 2006

If Bernard B. Kerik admits today, as expected, that he failed to report a gift that investigators say came from a city contractor with ties to organized crime, it will likely settle a criminal inquiry that has trailed the former police commissioner.

But the legal proceeding in State Supreme Court in the Bronx is likely to leave one major question unanswered:

Did city investigators, who knew of Mr. Kerik's relationship with the contractor, ever raise it as an issue in 2000 when they were asked to check his background?

At today's proceeding, Mr. Kerik is expected to acknowledge that while serving as correction commissioner, he paid only a fraction of the cost of a $200,000 renovation to his Bronx apartment that was started in 1999 by associates of the contractor, Interstate Industrial.

While the renovation has come to light only recently, the city's Department of Investigation had long known of Mr. Kerik's relationship with Interstate.

City records show that two months before he was made police commissioner by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, city investigators knew that Mr. Kerik was friendly with the owner of Interstate, a New Jersey construction company that was seeking a license from the city. And investigators knew the company had recently hired both Mr. Kerik's brother and the friend who was best man at his wedding.

Mr. Giuliani has said that none of this information was brought to his attention before he made his decision to appoint Mr. Kerik.

Most of the information did not surface until 18 months ago, when Mr. Kerik's nomination as Homeland Security secretary unraveled in a swirl of questions. At the time, city investigators said they would review the way Mr. Kerik's background check was conducted when Mr. Giuliani promoted him.

After the court proceeding today, the city's investigations commissioner, Rose Gill Hearn, is scheduled to join the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, at a news conference, where they may well address some of the remaining questions.

Mr. Kerik plans to plead to two misdemeanor charges, and is expected to admit failing to report accepting the renovation, a person with information on the agreement said yesterday.

He is also expected to admit failing to report a $29,000 loan from a friend, a real estate developer, that he used as the down payment on the apartment, the person said.

The Bronx grand jury that investigated the matter originally reviewed possible felony bribery and corruption charges.

Under the arrangement, Mr. Kerik would not serve any time in jail and would keep his private investigator's license and his pistol license.

Nonetheless, the criminal inquiry has been a considerable setback to Mr. Kerik, a former police detective who rose quickly in city government under Mr. Giuliani. His service in the police post, during which he directed the city's response to the World Trade Center attacks, was the basis for President Bush's decision to nominate him for the Homeland Security job in 2004.

Mr. Kerik quickly withdrew from consideration for the federal job, citing possible tax and immigration problems involving his family's nanny. His withdrawal was followed by a stream of accusations about personal, financial and ethical improprieties, as well as disclosures about his relationship with one of the owners of Interstate, Frank DiTommaso.

Did Giuliani know about his corrupt police commissioner?

posted by Steve @ 12:36:00 AM

12:36:00 AM

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God loves idiots

This isn't secure

V.A. Laptop Is Recovered, Its Data Intact

Published: June 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 29 — The government has recovered a stolen laptop computer and external hard drive that contains the birthdates and Social Security numbers for millions of veterans and military personnel, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement from its Baltimore field office that it appeared that the data had not been copied or misused.

"A preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic teams has determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen," the statement said.

Michelle Crnkovich, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Baltimore, said the computer was turned over to agents there on Wednesday. The person who delivered the laptop has not been charged, Ms. Crnkovich said. A $50,000 reward had been offered for information related to the computer.

Ms. Crnkovich said the United States Park Service had helped in the recovery of the equipment, which will be further tested by F.B.I. officials in Washington.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said on Capitol Hill on Thursday that there were no reports that the stolen data had been used for identity theft. But he acknowledged that the situation had "brought to the light of day some real deficiencies in the manner we handled personal data."

The laptop computer and a detachable hard drive were stolen in a burglary on May 3 from the home of an agency employee in Aspen Hill, Md. Some officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs learned of the theft almost immediately, but Mr. Nicholson said he was not notified until May 16.

Because of the delay, the F.B.I. did not find out about the theft until about two weeks after the burglary, which was under investigation by the police in Montgomery County, Md.

Officials at the veterans agency have said the employee violated department procedure by taking the information home. But The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that agency documents showed that the employee had approval to work on his laptop from home.

A spokesman for the agency, Matt Burns, said the employee had been put on administrative leave while the agency sought his dismissal. Mr. Burns declined to comment on the report by The A.P. "because it is an ongoing personnel matter."

Mr. Nicholson has said he wanted to dismiss the employee outright but was told he could not because of federal job-protection rights.

The records included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for millions of people, although the exact number has not been clear. At first, the department said information on 26.5 million veterans was affected. Later, it said the number included forces on active duty, as well as veterans.

It is amazing that this happened. It is even more amazing that the data wasn't hacked and used.

posted by Steve @ 12:25:00 AM

12:25:00 AM

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Begging for the donkey

Gimmie some money

Grassroots Campaigns Inc's Great War of 2004: MoveOn Succumbs to the Cycle of Shrum
by greggish
Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 06:53:37 AM PDT

First off in this series, I want to send those who followed my previous series toward Lockse's 'In Response to Strip-mining the Grassroots.' Lockse was an upper-level director for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc's 2004 Democratic National Committee fundraising canvass, and 'In Response...' is an essential counterpoint to 'Strip-Mining the Grassroots.'

Though the post doesn't draw any conclusions, it does corroborate the fundamental critique made by myself and others: this model might be a cost-effective way to fatten the donor rolls of its clients, but its hidden costs are anathema for the progressive movement. Rather than cultivate the grassroots, it burns through the grassroots like cheap fuel. (This critique is specific to GCI's DNC campaign, but its implications run wide--as GCI is merely the newest branch of the Public Interest Research Groups/Fund for Public Interest Research network, a corporate family that dominates the bottom-most level of the activist industry.) I want thank Lockse for speaking with both experience and a willingness to engage with criticism from below. I also want

A number of times in the course of the series, defenders of the GCI/PIRG/Fund model tried to dismiss my posts as the axe-grinding rants of an ex-employee who 'had a bad experience.' Now, it is true that 'Strip-Mining the Grassroots' was born of my experience working for GCI. And yet, I only raised money for the DNC for three weeks -- they were intense weeks, but ultimately not enough to leave a lucid impression of systemic failure. Rather, my 'bad experience' with GCI and its model was in doing Get Out the Vote for MoveOn PAC.

Now, as I take off my calm, methodical armchair-analyst hat and put on the hat of a young, idealistic progressive who is telling the story of his first intensive experience with political activism, I hope (perhaps in vain) that the impact of the following qualification is not lost amid the din of the blogosphere: the 2004 MoveOn PAC Leave No Voter Behind was not just a 'bad' experience. It was a soul-crushing experience.


I'll have to back up.

Like many others, I originally came to work for GCI by responding to an advertisement for its MoveOn field organizer jobs. It's hard to overstate how potent those ads were in the summer of 2004: 'Get paid to do GOTV for MoveOn!? Where do I sign up?'

At the time I was hired on, the MoveOn campaign wouldn't begin for several weeks yet -- until then, all new recruits were to work as Assistant Directors in the DNC canvass office. (This wasn't mentioned until well into our interview, and at that point, like most people, I was already sold.)

During those three weeks raising money for the DNC, I experienced the same cycle that the vast majority of PIRG/Fund canvass veterans will describe: intimidation followed by exhiliration, hard work increasingly beset by frustration, and then finally (as the priorities of our operation came into starker relief) disillusionment. If for some unlikely reason I had taken that job on its own, without the MoveOn campaign dangling in front of me like a lure, I would probably have lasted the average career span of a PIRG/Fund/GCI canvasser--two weeks--and then I would have walked out, brushing my hands of it, probably writing a sardonic little essay about the experience.

But I stuck out that long extra week for the MoveOn campaign. I could see that GCI was ruthlessly effective at getting to the bottom line -- and if it was this good at raising money, I figured, it would be able to use us to turn out some serious votes. When we finally got to the swing states as MoveOn organizers, I already had misgivings about GCI, but I was thrilled at the opportunity to work a hundred hours a week or more on the true 'frontline.' I figured that three weeks in the canvass trench had prepared me for it. I was mistaken.

Things went wrong, as things always will in a campaign. Then things got worse, as things often will in a campaign. But what happened next was a breakdown that went beyond miscommunication, disorganization, and Acts of the Campaign God. What happened next was a deliberate top-down action, and our campaign fell apart beneath it. Crucial objectives were abandoned; efforts to fix the problems were thwarted; those organizers who tried to independently rescue their own operations were intimidated and threatened. The human infrastructure was so poorly treated that virtually none of it lasted two days beyond the election. Altogether, it was a profound crisis of leadership.

Before anyone goes skipping down, torch aflame, to the comment box, I'm going to get further into the details in my next posts. Of course, I hope that veterans share the nature of their experience, good and bad -- each office has a different story, after all. But I'm quite secure in making this generalization.

After the election, I spoke with as many of my acquaintances (from both the DNC and MoveOn campaigns) as possible. Then I spoke with their acquaintances. I worked far enough into our network to confirm that the experience of my office was typical -- if anything, in fact, ours was one of the better units. Other offices saw up to three quarters of their staff quit -- at least one major office was summarily disbanded -- and only a handful of people (less than one in ten) reported that their experience had been positive on the whole. Some were still proud of what they had personally accomplished, though not one person believed that our campaign had turned out a significant number of votes (let alone the 476,000 voters who, according to GCI and MoveOn leadership, 'checked in' with us at the polls on election day). The general conviction fell somewhere between two points: the people charge of the operation were either wholly incompetent, or they were frauds.

But that was an unsatisfying conclusion for me. After a long 18 months spent trying to reach a better understanding of the philosophy and history (short- and long-term) behind Grassroots Campaigns, Inc, I don't think that either of those characterizations are accurate. I don't question the commitment of the people in charge, and I don't believe they were profiting off of our labor; I even believe that they are quite capable. In much the same way that GCI 'succeeded' for the DNC, the company crashed 'Leave No Voter Behind' right into the bottom line. But the crisis of leadership erupted because that bottom line wasn't votes -- the bottom line was the model, which was protected at the expense of the soured efforts of hundreds of organizers and tens of thousands of volunteers.

Why didn't I try to make this story public by blogging about this earlier? By the time I had pieced together enough of what happened, GCI was neck-deep in a post-election struggle for its life. 2005 was a scarce year for work--since after all, most of this sort of business (non-electoral, at least) is already dominated by its big sister, the Fund. With GCI on the verge of collapse, this story would have been hardly more relevant than the many sites already devoted to exposing the hypocrisies of its sister organizations.

In 2006, things changed: both the DNC and, to my surprise and disappointment, MoveOn PAC renewed their contracts with GCI. These new campaigns aren't near the massive scale of 2004, and one would hope that the company learned from its mistakes. But one cannot learn from mistakes if one will not recognize that mistakes were made. Regardless of how many people it burned along the way, GCI implemented the model -- and internally, that was considered a success. Apparently, its clients were also satisfied.

Does that sound familiar? It's the Cycle of Shrum. The experts run campaigns that lose -- but they're experts, and it's always those dastardly Republicans who out-spend and dirty-trick us, so the experts keep getting more campaigns to run. That system of self-preservation-through-unaccountability is now being threatened by the nascent progressive movement. This system must be threatened as well.

This series will look back at the failures of 2004 in order to better understand why this model needs to be checked going forward, to November 2006 and beyond. In my next post, I will describe the structure of the model in 2004, detail its initial failures, and provide some insight into what might be different now (and what hasn't changed)

.The PIRG model for raising money sucks ass. Having adults beg for money in the street? This is ridiculous in the extreme. This kind of thing should be professional and not leaving the workers feel screwed.

I've done field work in the past and it was an interesting experience, but it was professionally done. Not this nonsense. We have to do things differently, and a good start would be to force PIRG's to raise money in a safe, responsible manner. Which wouldn't include streetside begging.

posted by Steve @ 12:11:00 AM

12:11:00 AM

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Why don't minorities get to choose the president?

Oooops, maybe Iowa was not a good

Iowa and the primary process
by kos
Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 04:43:45 PM PDT

So it was established earlier that New Hampshire rubber stamped the Iowa results in 2004, laying waste to the claim that Granite Staters were somehow better able to make decisions based on their up-close access to candidates, the so-called "retail politics" that romantics think drive decisions in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But what about Iowa? This says it all:

Iowa had roughly 2.2 million voting eligible adults in 2004, of whom (as of last month) approximately 1.9 million are considered "active" registered voters by the Iowa Secretary of State. But only 124,331 participated in the 2004 Democratic Caucuses for President (according to the subscription only Hotline). That number amounts to roughly 6% of all registered voters [...]

Six percent. Six. And we're supposed to trust Iowa with this decision because they are "more engaged" and have "experience" vetting candidates? Six percent seems to be the opposite of "engaged". Those arguments are utter bunk.

Iowa didn't decide our nominee. Six percent of registered voters in Iowa decided our nominee, a decision then rubberstamped by New Hampshire.

Put another way, 124,000 people in Iowa decided for 60 million or so Democrats who the nominee would be.

That's not a fair system. It's not a democratic system. And even though the DNC is just tinkering around the edges for 2008, it's a system that needs to be changed in subsequent cycles.

Update: Larry Sabato has a solution. There are many possible solutions, so I don't want to focus on that. What I do like is how he identifies the problem:

Why should two small, heavily white, disproportionately rural states have a hammerlock on the making of the president? Together, Iowa and New Hampshire are a mere 1.4 percent of the US population, and about 40 percent of their residents are rural—double the national proportion. Their average population of African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos is 3.6 percent, while the nation as a whole is 24.6 percent minority. Even if one assumes, incorrectly, that the two states are somehow representative of their Northeast and Midwest regions, the South and West (containing 55 percent of the country’s people) are left entirely out of the critical opening window of presidential selection [...]

Why aren't California or Florida the first states to choose the candidates? Why is California left until the end of the process.

You want to change this democracy, there ate two things which could help. One, have the first primary in a larger, more representative state. Two, change elections from Tuesday to weekend elections like they have in most countries.

posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 AM

12:00:00 AM

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thank God for the Supreme Court

This is not legal

SCOTUS: Military Commissions on Guantanamo Illegal
by Adam B

Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 07:40:08 AM PDT

In a 5-3 decision this morning (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), the United States Supreme Court ruled that neither Congress's post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), nor the inherent powers of the President gave the President the authoirty to establish military tribunals on Guantanamo Bay to try and convict alleged enemy combatants in the war on terror. The Court found the commissions illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention.

Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion, supported in its entirety by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter. In a separate opinion, Justice Kennedy joined enough of it to count. Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas all dissented, with the Chief Justice sitting out because he ruled in this case when it was previously heard by the D.C. Circuit.

I will update this space once the written opinions are available online, but wanted to open up the discussion now. You can read some background about the case via this link, and read the oral argument transcript here.

[first update]: Read about what the Geneva Convention ruling apparently means for interrogations and torture.

[second update]: The Opinion of the Court is now online. It is 185 pages long.

posted by Steve @ 11:17:00 AM

11:17:00 AM

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Making the trains run on time

He stays afloat

Keeping Bloggers Afloat
by BooMan23 [Subscribe]
Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 05:22:47 PM PDT

There has been a lot of recent controversy over bloggers that take on different roles. For example, bonddad, Chris Bowers, and thereisnospoon have recently launched a consulting firm called NetRoots Research, Strategy & Analysis. Peter Daou has taken a job with Hillary Clinton. Obviously, Jerome Armstrong's role within the Warner campaign has been a hot topic recently. The cold hard reality of political blogging is that it doesn't pay very well. Only Duncan Black and Markos Moulitsas make what I would consider a decent living off their websites. The rest of us struggle to pay the rent. (This is a reminder that you can help me pay my bills by visiting the Booman Tribune store).

A decision to use the skills and influence we have gained as bloggers to make some income is one that must be weighed against the loss of independence that comes with creating a conflict of interest. Peter Daou now has the job of making Hillary Clinton palatable to the netroots (no enviable task) and no amount of disclosure will restore his prior freedom to tell it like he sees it. Yet, anyone that would be critical of Peter for taking a job with the former first lady that actually pays real money and (hopefully) comes with medical benefits, is being grossly unfair. As long as everything is disclosed, we should be happy that Peter has this opportunity.

If we want bloggers, particularly community bloggers, to maintain their independence we need to make sure they can make a living. When I was down in DC for the Take America Back 2006 conference, I was talking to Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla about our financial woes. We started brainstorming ways that smaller bloggers can increase their income, and we came up with the kernel of an idea.

If you have ever visited you've noticed that they require you, if you want to read an entire article, to either pay for a subscription or watch an advertisement. We thought, eureka, can't we create a monthly e-zine of some of the more popular bloggers where bloggers can contribute exclusive material not available at their own websites?

One of the problems with the diary format is that it is quite limiting. We have to make our points in no more than about 1500 words or people will lose interest and not make comments in our threads. But, a lot of us would like to do more comprehensive and well researched pieces that are not designed to encourage lively feedback. Without the pressure to constantly provide fresh content, we can put our writing, reasoning, and research skills to greater use and do more wonky or hacky pieces.

We could create a kind of co-operative, where the contributors would make an equal share of the proceeds each month from the proceeds of subscriptions and advertisements. The model would be Do you think that we could succeed with such a model? Would you be interested in reading longer exclusive pieces from your favorite bloggers on a monthly basis? Would you subscribe to such a publication? If it helps more bloggers maintain their independence, would that be something you see as desireable? Do you have any ideas for how to improve the business model? Would you volunteer to help write the software or sell subsciptions and advertising? What bloggers would you like to see in such a publication?

Actually, I don't think that a brokerage would fund this like Salon was, but something has to give. I mean, it's great Clinton hired Peter Daou, but there are people who want to report and not work for pols and they need options as well.

We can build our own media, but we have to build it.

This is what I wrote to the annoying posters on Kos shooting at this idea.

Folks, this is a discussion where most of you don't know what you're talking about.

Booman wants to make a living so he can give YOU a better product. I can take money and buy books and pay for services like Times Select, so you don't have to. I can support other bloggers. I can buy equipment. But I am still far from paying for reporting.

I've been very lucky, but y'all need to get over the idea that this can be done for free. Slashdot is a profit making enterprise for a reason. It costs money.
So does blogging. Because it takes time to actually research topics, go places and the like.

Reporting is expensive. It cost money to go places and the more people who can do this full time, the better the work you'll get.

If you want punditry forever, this is a perfect system. But if you want real reporting, from trained people, it isn't going to be cheap and you need to realize that now.

Here's what a full time blogger can do: not worry about a boss, post on a constant basis, actually report on stories away from their desk.

You want the benefits of blogging, but act like it's some kind of sin to actually invest time and money in it.

As far as building the site, the man is asking for help, and the people who jumped on him should be ashamed. How many of you work this hard at anything, including a blog? Why should he have to take a vow of poverty to keep you informed, because you can't make extra money when you have a blog to keep up, no side jobs and blogging. You can't exactly work, blog and freelance.

Oh yeah, speaking of freelancing, check on TAPPED's rates and see how many pieces they would have to buy for you not to be broke.

I refused help and money for a long time, until my readers said I needed to get paid for what I did. It wasn't my idea. But they were right.

And the people who say get a job should try full-time blogging, and then we can talk about what a job is.

People cannot do this for free. Money makes for a better product and if you want to build a new media, it has to be built. And you have to help do it, not jump down someone's throat because they came to you for help.

This isn't about the model, although I think a real publication by bloggers could blow Salon and TNR out of the water given the quality of the work here, but about the idea.

And instead of ripping it apart while you sip Starbucks at work, why not think of a way to make it happen?

posted by Steve @ 2:23:00 AM

2:23:00 AM

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Holy Jesus, hell is too good for this guy

This is the trustee for child molesters. Leatherface,
we need more kielbasa.

Down with Tyranny has the grusome details


Although many of us may have forgotten, we don't need to hear from a judge and jury to know that Republican operative Carey Lee Cramer is a lowlife right-wing monstrosity who has long ago earned what's in store for him. But a judge and jury did speak today and they found the Republican consultant guilty, very guilty. A typical example of the Republican Party's family values in action, Cramer has become something on a posterboy for the GOP's "Leave No Child Untouched" policies.

I'll get into the specifics of Cramer's child molesting trial in a moment. First I want to remind everyone of the last time we ran into this Republican sack of dung. Think back to 2000 when Karl Rove's and George W. Bush's team was throwing every lie they could at the Clinton-Gore Administration. Rove's close friend Cramer became very wealthy as a Republican Party consultant who came up with a made-for-television lie claiming Clinton and Gore were secretly selling nuclear technology in return for Gore campaign contributions. Remember now? Obviously only insane people believed this silliness-- but that's the Republican base, the 29% of Americans who still insist that the absolute worst "president" in American history is doing an acceptable job.

Cramer’s repugnant TV ad showed a young girl picking daisy petals and ends with a nuclear blast, a remake of a 1964 ad that helped focus attention of what a kook and extremist Barry Goldwater was when he ran for president. Cramer’s ad made national news, though he refused to admit that he got the money for the commercial from Rove and Bush.

Interestingly, one of the girls he used in the ad was one of his rape victims. She lived with Cramer and his ex-wife for 8 years in Mercedes and McAllen in Texas. Cramer started molesting her when she was only 8 years old.
(Do you know what they do in prison to dirty Republican men who molest little children?) Anyway, the inappropriate touching escalated to all sorts of Limbaugh/O'Reilly-like perversions and, finally, serial rape. On top of that, a second young girl, a 15 year old, came forward and also testified that the Republican slime bucket also molested her.

The jury found him guilty and Cramer faces up to 149 years in prison. He was taken into custody on a $4 million appeal bond after the verdict. All 29% of Americans who are still Bush supporters are going to need to pray that Cramer makes it through his first month in the pen.

Hell is way too good for him. Luckily he's going to Huntsville.

posted by Steve @ 2:07:00 AM

2:07:00 AM

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Resign and fight

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Mayor Ron Gonzales of San Jose, Calif., center,
with his wife, Guisselle Nunez, outside City Hall
on Wednesday after the City Council's vote.

San Jose Council Asks Mayor to Resign, but He Vows to Fight

Published: June 29, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO, June 28 — In a sharp rebuke, the City Council of San Jose, Calif., formally asked the city's mayor to resign Wednesday, just days after he was arraigned on fraud, bribery and conspiracy charges.

The mayor, Ron Gonzales, rejected the request for his resignation, which came on an 8-to-3 vote of the Council. "I plan to complete my term as your mayor," Mr. Gonzales said to a smattering of boos from audience members in the Council chambers. "I say this because I am innocent."

Mr. Gonzales, 55, was arrested Thursday, along with his top budget aide, Joseph Guerra, on charges of secretly arranging an $11.25 million contract with Norcal Waste Systems to provide garbage services for the city, and lying to cover up the deal. Mr. Gonzales has repeatedly denied the charges, though he previously apologized to the City Council for arranging the deal without consulting it.

The Council censured the mayor in December. On Wednesday, members went a step further, quizzing the city attorney, Richard Doyle, about ways it could punish the mayor, including limiting such things as travel expenses and freezing the hiring of any staff members.

In an odd twist, Mr. Gonzales presided over the meeting and also spoke, asking his family and staff members to stand and thanking them for their support. "This afternoon is not about Ron Gonzales," he said. "This is about our family name."

Mr. Doyle cautioned the Council that it could open itself up to accusations of violating Mr. Gonzales's civil rights if it tried to remove him from office before he is convicted of anything. "The Council has to establish grounds, and grounds have not been established," Mr. Doyle said.

On Wednesday, some of those residents rebuked the Council for rushing to judgment. "Council members, please stop," said Bill Chew, a former fringe candidate for mayor. "Today's actions make you look like a lynch mob."

Lynch mob my ass. People elect honest officials. When their character is questioned by a multi-count indictment, they need to resign. This isn't about innocence or guilt, but character. It is selfish and unfair to try and do the city's business in good faith with this question hanging over him. The city isn't your defense committee. Go fight on your own dime and if found innocent, run for reelection next time.

I have no opinion about his innocence or guilt. I do know he can't help his defense and run a city.

posted by Steve @ 1:57:00 AM

1:57:00 AM

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Kerik to take guilty plea

Yeah, I find it funny as a motherfucker as

Kerik Described as Close to Deal on a Guilty Plea
Published: June 29, 2006

Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, is close to reaching an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to having accepted improper gifts totaling tens of thousands of dollars while he was a city official in the late 1990's, two people with information on the plea negotiations said yesterday.

Under the proposed agreement, Mr. Kerik would plead guilty to failing to report accepting roughly $200,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment — a violation of the city's administrative code. The work, officials have said, was paid for by a New Jersey construction company that the city had long accused of having ties to organized crime.

Mr. Kerik, 50, who accepted the gift when he served as correction commissioner under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, will not face jail time, but is expected to pay a substantial fine, those with information about the case said. He is also expected to admit having failed to report receiving a loan.

A guilty plea would represent a further fall from grace for a public official whose dazzling ascent in city government took him from the rank of third-grade police detective in 1993, when he served as a volunteer campaign bodyguard and chauffeur for Mr. Giuliani in his mayoral campaign, to becoming the city's police commissioner in 2000, a post he held at the time of the Sept. 11 terror attack.

Mr. Kerik nearly rose higher still, to the rank of cabinet secretary, when President Bush nominated him to head the Department of Homeland Security in December 2004. But he was forced to withdraw a week later, citing possible tax problems involving his family's nanny.

A lawyer for Mr. Kerik, Joseph Tacopina, would not say whether an agreement had been reached. Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, whose office conducted the inquiry along with the city's Department of Investigation, declined to comment.

Both people who spoke about the plea negotiations cautioned that some issues remained unresolved, but they said Mr. Kerik could enter his guilty plea before a Bronx judge as early as tomorrow. The two people demanded anonymity because the case involved grand jury proceedings

Mr. Kerik, who withdrew from Mr. Giuliani's consulting firm in the days after his failed Homeland Security nomination, has been doing security consulting work in Jordan. He was expected to return to the United States last night.

The corrupt former police commissioner of the City of New York pled guilty to accepting nearly $200,000 in gifts from friends while corrections comissioner.

Bwaaaah. Run, Rudy, Run. Please.

posted by Steve @ 1:46:00 AM

1:46:00 AM

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A lack of faith

Sometimes you just gotta jump

I dropped out of psych graduate school and don't know what to do!

I majored in film and media, but thought it was too impractical.

By Cary Tennis

June 28, 2006 | Dear Cary,

I'm 26 years old and I recently left a doctorate program in clinical psychology abruptly after only one semester. I quit school for several reasons but primarily I was feeling burnt out (I had recently completed a two-year master's degree in the field), I no longer felt excited enough about the field to justify 10 hours of work per day, and I hated that I was going to be spending five to six years of my life in a part of the country (typically referred to as the "armpit") that I absolutely hated.

I moved to New York City and searched for jobs outside of psychology to no avail. I thought I could go into ad copywriting, perhaps to use my psychology training for evil instead of good. However, after two months spent without work, school, or any friends to speak of, I became desperate. I eventually had to swallow my pride and ask my father for help; so when he put me in touch with an old business friend who offered me a job, I jumped at the chance. Fast-forward three months and I am utterly miserable here. The job is not challenging, the office environment is lonely, and frankly, I feel diminished working in a position that doesn't technically require a college degree. The icing is that it pays so poorly I have to get financial help from my parents, which truly bothers me.

I am in an existential panic -- I have no idea what field or career I would like to pursue at this point and yet I want to be there already. I went to college for film and media studies but I have absolutely no faith in my ability to become any kind of writer. In fact, I entered into psychology because it appeared to be a safe and secure career path (as opposed to trying to make it as a creative). My girlfriend is trying to convince me to go to law school so that I will have more career options, but I can feel the same forces of practicality that sent me into psychology pulling me toward that decision. I'm not OK exploring lots of different careers at this point in my life; I feel like I had that opportunity and I used it on psychology. So I guess my question is: How do I even begin to figure out what to do with my life ... simple, right?

Ph.D. Dropout

This guy's problem isn't ability or skill, he could do anything. He just has no faith in himself. His head is saying be safe, and his heart says take a risk, be creative. Psychology, like the law, requires committment. You have to want to do it. Looking to the law for a safe job is a mistake.

God, this guy is 26, and single. Why not take a risk and see how it plays out. I'd like to know why he's so scared of trying to be creative. It's where his heart is. and I doubt he lacked writing skills when he completed a masters program. This is a lack of faith, his head wants security and his heart is saying take a risk.

posted by Steve @ 1:23:00 AM

1:23:00 AM

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

How to beat a Republican stupid

George Allen doesn't have
one of these, right?

This is a press release from the Jim Webb campaign. I normally don't run these things, but this is a fucking work of art. Pure beauty,

Webb Campaign Blasts Allen Campaign for “Weak-Kneed Attacks” Against Men and Women in Uniform

Arlington – The campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb today called the attacks on Webb’s patriotism by Allen’s campaign, “weak-kneed attacks by cowards” and demanded that Allen and his campaign apologize.

“George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb’s position on free speech and flag burning. Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb they are attacking every man and woman who served. Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards. George Felix Allen Jr. needs to apologize to Jim Webb and to all men and women who have served our nation,” Webb spokesman Steve Jarding said.

On Tuesday, George Felix Allen Jr. and his campaign issued a press release in which the Allen campaign, through Wadhams, implied that Webb’s position in support of the Free Speech Amendment to the U.S. Constitution amounted to a political act and not a defense of our Constitution, which Webb fought for and for which he was highly decorated. George Felix Allen Jr. did not serve.

“I believe it is precisely because of bush-league attacks like this that John Zogby, a highly respected, independent polling expert just this week said that Dick Wadhams is not fit to serve as a campaign manager and that George Allen should find a new manager,” Jarding said.

“While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.’s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield,” Jarding said.

“Is Dick Wadhams willing to publicly say that Colin Powell, John Glenn and Bob Kerrey are unpatriotic for having the same position on the flag burning amendment that Jim Webb has? Ask him,” Jarding said.

Jarding continued, “The following is why George Felix Allen Jr. has not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb in his support of our Constitution and its free speech provisions:

Jim Webb was first in this class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.

--Jim Webb served with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam, where as a rifle platoon and company commander in the infamous An Hoa Basin west of Danang.

--Jim Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts while fighting in Vietnam.

--Jim Webb served as a platoon commander and as an instructor in tactics and weapons at Marine Corps Officer Candidates School.

--Jim Webb served in the US Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981, becoming the first Vietnam veteran to serve as a full committee counsel in the Congress.

--In 1982, Jim Webb first proposed, then led the fight for including an African American soldier in the memorial statue that now graces the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall.

--In 1984, Jim Webb was appointed the inaugural Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, where he traveled extensively in, and worked closely with, our NATO allies. As Assistant Secretary, Webb directed considerable research and analysis of the U.S. military’s mobilization capabilities.

--In 1987, Jim Webb was appointed Secretary of the Navy becoming the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and be appointed Secretary of the Navy.

In addition to his wartime medals, Jim Webb has been awarded the following medals and citations:

-The Department of Defense distinguished Public Service Medal

-The Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award

-The American Legion National Commander’s Public Service Award
-The VFW’s Media Service Award

-The Marine Corps League’s Military Order of the Iron Mike Award

-The John Russell Leadership Award

-The Robert L. Denig Distinguished Service Award.

Read on how he just smacks Allen stupid and reminds everyone he's got a Navy Cross for serving in Vietnam, while Allen marched around wishing it was 1863 again. A work of beauty from a campaign. Notice also he uses Allen's full name to diminish him, implying daddy was the real man of the family. To Virginians, George Allen is a legendary name, head of the Washington Redskins, which is a cult there. It would be like using Ted Williams in Boston or Joe Namath in New York.

Webb also is allowed to play on the chickenhawk meme and call Allen a coward for not serving in Vietnam, something he couldn't do to someone on his left who opposed the war.

This is the kind of attack press release campaigns should thrive on and use often.

posted by Steve @ 8:27:00 AM

8:27:00 AM

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For Valor

Plain medal still honours rare mettle, 150 years on
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor

THEY were the youngest ones there but the respect and awe for Private Johnson Beharry and Lance Corporal Christopher Finney was none the less undiminished.

The pair were among Britain’s most courageous men and women who gathered at Westminster Abbey yesterday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross and the 50th anniversary of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.

The service was in honour of their outstanding courage but, as the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, put it, acts of selfless gallantry were often performed by ordinary people. He said that the medal instituted by Queen Victoria in January 1856 and described by The Times as “plain” suited “the modesty that often accompanies great courage”.

The service and the reception at St James’s Square were attended by 8 of the surviving holders of the VC and 22 of the 24 surviving holders of the GC. They were joined by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and families of medal holders who had died or been killed in action.
Private Beharry said: “When we all meet, I don’t ask what they did (to get the VC) and they don’t ask what I did, but they are all great people and they give me good ideas about how to deal with things.” He admitted that winning the VC had changed his life.

Private Beharry and Lance Corporal Finney carried a wreath down the aisle of the Abbey and handed it to the Prince, who laid it on the VC, GC memorial. At the reception in St James’s Square, the Prince met all the VC and GC holders.

“Circumstances may change, technology may change, but the capacity for some very rare human beings to act in an utterly exceptional and selfless way remains unchanged by the passage of time,” he said in an address to the 1,600 guests.


Private Johnson Beharry, of the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, who saved the lives of 30 comrades in two individual acts of heroism in al-Amarah, southern Iraq, in May and June 2004

Havildar Bhan Bhagta Gurung, of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles, who cleared four enemy foxholes on his own in Burma in March 1945

Flight Lieutenant John Cruickshank, of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No 210 Squadron, who attacked a German U-boat in July 1944, while piloting a Catalina flying boat, persisting with the assault despite being seriously wounded.

Lieutenant-Commander Ian Fraser, of the Royal Naval Reserve, who commanded a midget submarine in a daring raid on the Japanese cruiser Takao in July 1945

Private Edward Kenna, of the 2/4th Battalion Australian Imperial Force, who, under fire, destroyed a Japanese machinegun post in New Guinea in May 1945

Havildar Lachhiman Gurung, of the 8th Gurkha Rifles, who single-handedly fought off wave after wave of enemy attacks on his position in Burma in May 1944

Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne, of the Royal Australian Infantry Regiment, who defended his men and rescued wounded while under fierce attack by North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War in May 1969

Captain Rambahadur Limbu, of the 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, who saved his men during an enemy attack in Sarawak, Malaysia, in November 1965

Private William Speakman-Pitts, of The Black Watch, who led a grenade charge against the enemy in the Korean War in November 1951

Lieutenant Tulbahadur Pun, of the 6th Gurkha Rifles, who charged a Japanese position on his own in June 1944 in Burma

Lieutenant Sir Tasker Watkins, of The Welch Regiment, who charged two enemy posts in August 1944

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Wilson, of The East Surrey Regiment, attached to the Somaliland Camel Corps, who managed to beat off an enemy attack in Somaliland in August 1940

posted by Steve @ 8:12:00 AM

8:12:00 AM

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Hillary hires a blogger

I'm not jogging with Bush

Cenk Uygur

The Daou Index

Peter Daou is one of the most astute and aggressive bloggers in the country. Senator Hillary Clinton is the poster child for equivocation and triangulation. So, it was interesting news when we found out that Senator Clinton has hired Peter Daou to be her web consultant. Hillary hiring Peter Daou is a little like Nixon going to China.

I know Peter and consider him a friend. I know for a fact that he understands the problems with the Democratic establishment and what needs to be done to fix it. And as much as anyone, Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party establishment.

So, that sets up an interesting question. Will Mohammed go to the mountain or will the mountain come to Mohammed?

There are three possibilities:

1. Hillary will actually listen to what Peter has to say and adjust her views and actions.

2. They will not be able to see eye to eye and Peter will be ignored and then will eventually leave the job.

3. Peter will become an apologist for Hillary’s current stances on things like Iraq, which are hideous and morally repugnant.

I would be really disappointed if option number two were to happen. I would be crushed if option three did. I was thinking of talking to Peter before writing this, but decided it would be better just to write it because I would feel bad even writing option number three down after I talked to him personally.

But that possibility must be mentioned because it is a critical question that is likely to face a lot of the prominent bloggers soon – how much do you accommodate the establishment without being co-opted by them?

There will be a struggle. The establishment won’t simply lay down their arms and run into the waiting arms of the netroots and ask for forgiveness. It is hard to get people out of a pattern they’re used to. On the other hand, there will be a lot of pressure on the bloggers hired by campaigns to serve their new employers faithfully.

It’s an interesting tightrope. I think it’s a phenomenon that should be tracked. Will the bloggers be co-opted or will the establishment finally see the light? Who doesn’t love a fun drama like that?

So, I propose The Daou Index. The scale of the index will be 0-100. 100 is when the Democratic Establishment understands the concerns of the netroots perfectly and does their best to faithfully address them. 0 is what we had when the Kerry campaign sat Peter Daou in a corner and didn’t listen to a word he said during 2004.

I believe the index has already risen from that 0 point in 2004. Presidential candidates came to Yearly Kos (the first bloggers convention held earlier this month) in droves. John Kerry and Russ Feingold frequently go out of their way to meet with bloggers now. Mark Warner is famously courting Jerome Armstrong of MyDD and Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos. And now Hillary has hired Daou.

So, by my estimation, we’re at about a 10 out of a 100 right now.

Of course, the score can also go down if there are signs that bloggers turned consultants have been co-opted or Democrats backtrack on the issues. Another confirmation proceeding like Sam Alito's or General Hayden's can bring the score back down to zero. Issues and action matter most.

Hiring bloggers as consultants isn’t a panacea that automatically boosts your score. That’s not the end of the job, that’s the beginning.

Remember, bloggers aren’t the netroots, they’re the rough representatives of the netroots. The netroots are actual people all across America that are sick of the way the Democratic Party has been handling itself over the last five years.

But talking to people who talk to the netroots every day is a positive first step. The next step would be to listen to them.

If you listen to them you could understand what their real concerns are. A good starting point is to stop buying into the hype that people who are active on the blogs want Democrats to be more leftist. Understand that their primary concern is that you learn to stand up and fight. And fighting doesn’t mean pounding your chest over how many wars you supported. It means standing up for principles you and your voters believe in.

No one understands this better than Peter Daou. If you asked me to pick one person to send into the teeth of the Democratic establishment to deliver this message, I couldn’t name anyone better than Peter. If Hillary doesn’t listen to him, then there’s no hope for her and no chance for reconciliation.

We’re not looking for a pat on the head or an acknowledgment of our relevance. We are looking for actual action. We know the job is done when Democrats start fighting for what’s right rather than calculating what is expedient (and often grossly miscalculating it at that).

That would be when The Daou Index hits a 100. But we have long way to go to get there. But to her credit, Hillary’s taken the first step.

I like Peter, I'm glad they reached out to him. It's not that I think Hillary has a chance in hell of winning, but for bloggers who would work for pols, it's a good sign that pols hire the best around and not just get some clown on staff or ignore him.

Personally, I will never work for another politician again. I'd rather set myself on fire and run through a gas station first. But it's important for people to get campaign experience and to work for campaigns doing what they know.

posted by Steve @ 7:38:00 AM

7:38:00 AM

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It;s the same story

REUTERS/Pilar Olivares(PERU)

People have been wondering why I haven't written much about the Duke case lately.

For a very simple reason: it's still the same story.

Defense goes over documents, defense finds flaws, defense goes to media.

However, defense doesn't move for dismissal. Defense doesn't offer up alibi witnesses. Defense doesn't offer a timeline. Defense doesn't release all of the documents.

So no matter what new tidbit they come up with, it's still the same story with different details.

It's an old trick, and because these boys are rich, and have PR help, they get listened to. But the story has not changed. If they thought they had enough, they would move for dismissal.

It really doesn't matter if a traumatized rape victim says she saw three or five men, eyewintess testimony of victims can be unreliable. It may make people think the case is about to be dropped, that it's weak, but we have no idea what the DA has. Stan Goldman raised that point in an article: what does the DA have?

It's more than her word. She's a sex worker, they are not the greatest of witneses under any
cicrumstance. No DA would rely on her word alone.

There has to be more than her word for three men to be indicted. I do find it amusing how people are so quick to exonorate these young men despite only hearing the defense story for months.

I've heard this story once before. The defendent was rich and popular and the vicitm was called all manner of whore in and out of the media. She asked for it, why was she there? The defense PR machine went into overdrive.

But the man was convicted to the surprise of nearly everyone, His name?

Mike Tyson.

posted by Steve @ 3:15:00 AM

3:15:00 AM

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Charter school roulette

Teacher Says Charter School Fired Her for Organizing to Improve Pay Scale

Published: June 28, 2006

In May, Nichole Byrne Lau received an evaluation saying that her students at the Williamsburg Charter High School were "lucky to have you as their teacher." This month, she was fired.

Ms. Byrne Lau, 33, said she had been singled out for distributing copies of the pay scale for teachers in New York City's traditional public schools and organizing her colleagues to press for better salaries and benefits. "I'm devastated," she said yesterday.

Eddie Calderon-Melendez, chief executive of the school, in Brooklyn, did not respond to several telephone messages seeking comment. Kelly Devers, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Education, said it would investigate.

Charter schools are supervised by the state and receive public financing, but are run by outside groups. Under state law, new small charter schools are not bound by teachers' union contracts. To unionize, charter teachers must go through a multistep process and a formal vote.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, has taken up Ms. Byrne Lau's case, saying it illustrates the obstacles to unionizing in charter schools. Ms. Weingarten's position was central to the State Assembly's recent refusal to allow more charter schools in New York State, against the wishes of the governor and the mayor.


Ms. Byrne Lau said she had tried to organize a forum for teachers to share their grievances and push for a public and consistent pay scale to replace what she described as a hodgepodge of individually negotiated salaries, some comparable to public school pay, and some below. In fact, the school recently released a pay scale for 2006-7.

When she met with Mr. Calderon-Melendez on June 5, Ms. Byrne Lau said, he said that whoever distributed the city's teacher pay scale "obviously doesn't know how to run a school." He then told her he would not renew her contract, Ms. Byrne Lau said, but refused to say why, saying the school, an at-will employer, did not need to give a reason.

Charter schools sound like a great idea, until you hear about the games the schools play. Nest+m finally didn't have to share their school with the minority kids, but it cost them their principal. Which is the new deal many of these schools cut: you get your way, but you lose the principal.

I think that with Spizter likely to be the next governor, a lot of these rules are going to change. I think the UFT can make a major stink about this.

And before anyone goes off on an idiotic rant about teachers unions, they need to understand, without a union, teachers can be fired for any reason at any time, regardless of the stability of the school.We're talking basic worker protections here.

posted by Steve @ 2:58:00 AM

2:58:00 AM

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Playing at history

Captured by Americans

Necessary War?
by sputum [Subscribe]
Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 05:54:07 PM PDT

Listening to Bill Mahr deride United States leadership about war, I heard him state that the 20th century World Wars were "necessary". Perhaps.

It takes very little imagination to twist history slightly and remove any involvement of the United States from major war in the 20th century. Of course if history is changed in the slightest, a whole series of unforeseen consequences begin, but I will assume that none of these would be worse than the actual history.

WWI began over the assassination of a royal heir, in an unstable European environment created over the previous forty years, then rapidly became a savage stalemate in northern France and Belgium. Ignorant Generals persisted with a casualty producing strategy of artillery barrages and mass human charges against entrenched machine guns. With truly lethal tanks and airplanes too far in the future to make an impact, without United States involvement (with 53,400 killed) it is very likely one side or the other would have sued for peace and everyone would have gratefully gone home.

Or not. Too many people have an incomplete knowledge of history. After the 1918 Michael offensive, it was likely that the two sides would have staggered into a stalemate lasting into 1919 or 20. After the Nivelle mutinies, which nearly saw the French Army collapse in the field, the French couldn't attack, but wouldn't surrender. Turkey was also likely to collapse after the successful offensive from Arabia and up the Levant.

Germany had also held off the British in East Africa. What is most likely, is that colonies would have been traded and the internally weak Germany would have collapsed into revolution. The American Army forced a surrender to a Germany unlikely to accept one without it.

If the United States had shown patience and kept their ships out of harms way, this was the probable outcome. Russia would still have been drained over the fighting which paved the way for their revolution, but this would hardly have affected the United States. The largest impact of no clear winner would be the lack of the brutal restitution imposed on Germany, creating the environment necessary for the rise of Adolph Hitler to power. No Hitler, no European WWII.

But the fact was that Hitler came at the end of a violent process of political change, which led to rioting in the streets and armed mobs. Hitler didn't come from air, he came out of a right wing political structure backed by the army and police. It easily could have been any number of rightwingers. Or there could have been a full-blown civil war between the right and the left. The potential was certainly there.

A revolutiionary Russia was an aggressive promoter of exporting it's ideology as well.

The European WWII quickly enveloped France, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia because France lacked any resolve in stopping Hitler's invasion of the Rheinland. Hitler's army and political position so weak in comparison to France's that any resistance at all would have toppled Hitler's regime. Britain probably could not have reacted to topple Hitler's regime before they were strong, but nevertheless were safe from an invasion as Germany lacked the naval capability and logistics to move an army across the channel for a successful campaign. But for vengeful reactions on both Britain's and Germany's parts in the air bombing campaign, it is very likely that Britain's remaining air defenses would have been crushed and they also would have surrendered.

Again, this is a gross simplificiation of what happened. France was politically weak and divided, with a great deal of support for the fascists. There was no political will to stop Hitler. Once Churchill became prime minister, a deal labour forced on the government, surrender was unlikely. Britain had three massive colonies, India, Canada and Australia, which all ultimately suppled forces to them in Europe

Without possibility of a second front in Europe, Stalin would have been on his own against the ruthless Nazis. Once mobilized, Russia had the manpower and natural resources to outlast Germany. Germany was rapidly trying to perfect their rockets or invent a nuclear bomb, but it would be unlikely that a rocket would be perfected that could deliver the payload required for a nuclear bomb (early bombs were 9 to 10 thousand pounds), and neither side possessed a heavy bomber. It also would be unlikely that Germany could produce enough nuclear bombs to have changed the outcome, as Stalin would be unlikely to surrender regardless of the loss of life.

All of this came late in the war. Germany was unlikely to develop an atomic bomb because the talent had gone to the US and UK, being Jews and all. Russia nearly collapsed. Without the Arctic convoys, Russia couldn't have fed their troops or mechanized their army. Stalin reportedly wanted to make a deal in 1943, but the German territorial demands were excesive. Again, it was US industrial production which provided the cushion for both the UK and Russia.

Once the Nazi regime fell, Britain and France probably would have survived the war significantly weakened by the loss of foreign colonies. The lack of a West Germany would not have impacted the United States in any manner, other than a base for the cold war, also unnecessary as Stalin and his successors would not have viewed the United States as a threat.

Which is it? Surrender or survival. Why wouldn't Stalin view the rich, powerful US as a threat? West Germany provided millions of pounds of chemicals for US industry after WWII per year, including pharmacuticals. It served as a major market for US goods. It allowed the US a window into the east becauseRussia was still an aggressive power.

WWII in the Pacific was a much different war. Japan's territorial conquests were aimed at China (Manchuria), and France's and Britain's colonies, recognizing Britain's occupation with the war in Europe. With half of Japan's army engaged in China, the United States imposed an oil embargo on Japan which as we discovered was an unacceptable circumstance, which provoked a desperation attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and drawing us into the war.

Actually, the Japanese had seen the US as their main rivals since 1922 and the Washington Treaty. China was a long standing ally of the US. We supported their government and gave them aid, which included military training.

The United States could have sat this one out without putting the embargo in place, however a bitter pill it would have been. Recognizing that Britain and France were unable to defend their Pacific colonies and having to give them up would have been nothing more than for-sidedness based on history. It certainly isn't clear how things would have shaken out, as China wouldn't have been able to mobilize the way Russia did, but perhaps when Russia collapsed the Nazis they would have turned against Japan, as they also claim Manchuria?

Uh, the Japanese would have controlled vast natural resources which the US needed, like rubber. And the Russians did turn on Japan.

Here again, without Hitler's rise to power the European WWII would not have existed and Britain and France could have dealt with Japan without involvement from the United States (with 291,500 killed in Europe and the Pacific).

Really? The British barely held on to India as it was. They faced an open rebellion in 1942, the Quit India campaign

The Korean War? 33,700 killed, and for what? No one knows any reason for this one.

Uh, because South Korea was attacked by the North is the reason for the Korean war.

Where in all of this would have been Ho Chi Mihn? The United States didn't like Ho because of his shoulder rubbing with communism in Europe, but Ho approached President Roosevelt for support and modeled a constitution after that of the United States. Roosevelt opposed any colonialism in the Pacific which put him at odds with Churchill, and unfortunately Roosevelt died leaving an ambiguous President Truman to let Churchill have his way. Granted, Ho would have to have beaten two other political parties to install a democracy in Vietnam, but standing by and then funding France's effort in installing a puppet government and hauling out the natural resources was only the way to get sucked into another 58,200 dead.

No, it was the labor government of Clement Atlee which perpetuated the colonial regimes after WWII. After the Red Fort trials of 1946, they were forced into negotiations to leave India, but still launched a 12 year colonial war in Malaya and by the UK 1953 was fighting a brutal war in Kenya.

Truman was afraid of the influence of Mao and the Chinese communists on Vietnam, which is why he allowed the French back into Indochina.

Since no United States involvement in WWII would by default mean that the United States would not have developed a nuclear weapon, it may very well have been that nuclear weapons were not developed at all. It seems logical that without nuclear weapons, world policy would have remained regional, where "you stay out of my yard and I'll stay out of yours" would have eliminated the cold war.

Uh, there was already a great deal of academic development towards an atomic bomb, the war just sped up development of nuclear weapons. Most of the major powers had a nuclear development program.

A weakened Britain and France doesn't appear to have a downside, viewing the mayhem caused by colonial territorial division in both Africa and the Middle East. Arbitrarily drawing a country's borders without regards to the tribal implications has proven to be a recipe for genocide and war. A prime example is Kuwait, carved out of Iraq and always disputed territory, the without British backing the takeover and subsequent 1991 conflict would never have happened.

A weakened Britain and France is what led to the colonial wars of the postwar era. Their inability to control their colonies led to war.

Need I go on?

posted by Steve @ 12:18:00 AM

12:18:00 AM

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